Be Careful Where You Cut!

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We all take every precaution when we are hunting and harvesting our animal.  Well, what about after the animal is down?  Do we know what has happened to that animal over it's lifetime?  The following is an example of why we should be careful when we cut.

2 years ago, my father shot a nice 8 point on opening morning of the rifle season in Vermont.  It was a beautiful, 2 1/2 year old deer, looked really healthy and moved normally.  When my father went to skin it for butchering, he found 4 inches of an aluminum arrow, complete with broadhead, imbedded just under the spine.  The deer had shown no ill effects, and the woundhad healed over and was not even visible from the outside.  There was no infection, and no meat was wasted.

Whitetails are resilient animals, and nature has a way of healing itself.  So, remember, careful when you cut, or it may be your finger.


hunter25's picture

A really good tip and

A really good tip and strangely something I have seen for myself also. A number of years ago I helped some other hunters skin a deer they had hanging from a tree. We recovered and arrow with the broadhead completely encased in gristle and totally healed up. Whats amazing is the arrow was completely through the chest right behind the shoulder from the skin on one side through to the other, you would have sworn it was the perfect shot.

Anyway under normal conditions we are probably far more likely to cut ourselves than for something like this to happen. But you never know and must be aware and prepared at all times.

ahamel's picture

Archery vs. firearm - recovery rates...

I must speak out about one point in this post that I strongly disagree with. I don't believe for an instant that archery hunters have a worse chance of recovery than the rifle hunters. I have seen many animals mortally wounded with both, and typically have found the recovery more difficult for deer I have shot with a rifle. Here are a couple of examples to illustrate.

Years ago when I first started bow hunting I under-estimated the range of a mule deer doe in a pasture. When I released the arrow I saw that it was perfectly aligned with the rear of the shoulder. The bright knock rose above the back then came back down across the whole chest. I felt pretty good until I saw daylight between the bottom of the chest and the knock. I was mad at myself for the mistake. The 6 deer took off across the pasture and entered a thicket about a quarter of a mile away. Fortunately I had followed them through my binoculars and saw that the one trailing the others had a bright red front leg. I waited an hour then followed the trail. I found my deer stone dead within 10 feet of the edge. The arrow had entered the front leg just above the elbow, missing the bone. The rasor sharp 2-bladed broadhead must have sliced through an artery. There is no doubt in my mind that had it been a bullet that hit that spot, the deer would never have been recovered.

I also hunt with a 30-06 using 165 grain loads. Very accurate and effective. I have shot several deer where the bullet hit both lungs midway through the chest. In all cases the deer "bucked" hard and took off. Several of them left absolutely no blood trail, just a few hairs. Where I hunt in the North the deer are very fat by the time rifle season starts, often in excess of an inch of fat. When the bullet hits it creates a small hole (0.30") in the entry side, and a slightly larger hole in the exit side. Quite often the soft fat immediately oozes out the wound and congeals to plug the hole due to the cold temperature, preventing the blood trail. On a dead run a deer will cover a considerable distance (over a hundred yards) in the 15 to 20 seconds before it expires. Only a very persistent search has allowed me to recover these deer.

My conclusion is that a well placed broadhead is much more effective than any bullet. However, it is a lot easier to deliver a bullet in the right place than an arrow.  Happy hunting!

groovy mike's picture

a good reminder, thanks

This is a good reminder, but  I have no idea how you can guard against it, other than proceeding slowly and gently whenever you are using a knife. 

I generally assume that if there is no visible wound then there is nothing to fear from foreign objects, but even if the animal has no visible wound except the one that you inflicted, you should still use caution.  While butchering, I have encountered bits of bullet jacket that have broken off and spun like shrapnel away from the obvious wound path and the same is true of bits and splinters of broken bone from where my bullets have hit.   I remember one chunk of rib about an inch long that spun clean through all four chambers of a doe’s heart like a ninja throwing star.   

I don’t think that I have ever harvested an animal that was previously wounded except those that had wounds which were easily seen.  I recall a white tail buck that I collected late in the regular rifle hunting season that had a badly broken leg (probably from a bullet) and my coyote that had a broken leg that had healed together badly at some point in prior years.

I know it happens though.  My hunting partner collected a spike buck just a few hundred yards from my back door that he saw acting very sickly during the late muzzle loader season.  That buck had been gut shot.  After my friend put it down and tagged it, we back trailed the buck up and over the hill to a neighbor’s property line (that was posted against trespassing so we couldn’t track any farther).  We were thinking that we would meet up with someone tracking the wounded buck, but we never did and we didn’t even see another human track.  What is worse is that no one except us ever did follow that buck’s tracks.

Archery hunting ups the odds not only of broad heads being found in your game, but in my opinion of deer escaping wounded.  Let me be clear that I am not against archery hunting.  It is an honorable tradition.  A bow and arrow can be used to cleanly take game quickly and ethically, but I am of the opinion that far more deer are lost after being hit with an arrow than those hit with a bullet.  The deer simply don’t die as quickly even when they are lethally hit.  If they are not lethally hit I think they are far more likely to recover (as your story so vividly illustrates). 

So what to do?  I guess, like you said all that we can do is use caution and proceed slowly and carefully any time you are reaching into the unknown.  Thanks for the reminder.

Good reminder.  A dozen years

Good reminder.  A dozen years or so ago a buddy killed a raghorn bull elk during rifle season.. When we butchered it we found a 125 gr Thunderhead & 2 - 3 inches of arrow shaft in the shoulder blade, a present from a hunter in the previous archery season.  Tom watched the bull for a couple of minutes & the bull looked perfectly fine right up to the moment the .338 bullet hit it.  We discarded a couple of pounds of shoulder meat for safety sake & Tom has a momento of the hunt on the kitchen window sill as a reminder.

Critter done's picture

Awesome tip

That is a great tip and could save a finger

ManOfTheFall's picture

Thanks for the tip.

Thanks for the tip.

numbnutz's picture

great tip, thanks

great tip, thanks