Deer Hunting Tracking Tips: Shot Placement Matters



Hunters spend a lot of time preparing for the fall whitetail deer hunting season, but sometimes the most important thing is not the gear, it’s not even the deer, but it’s shot placement that is the deciding factor on whether or not one takes a deer home or not. After decades spent in the field, I’ve learned a lot about deer hunting and tracking these animals, not that I’ve had to track that many, at least not that far.

Most of my deer hunting tracking trips have been fairly short, typically about 35 to 50 yards. And for those that aim for heart and lung shots, this is about the distance you should expect a hit animal to run before it runs out of gas, or better stated, oxygenated blood. In my opinion, the lung shot is my favorite place when it comes to shot placement. Even when I don’t need to track the animal, because I see it collapse within eyesight, I still make sure to take note of the blood trail.

I go to the point of impact and observe the sight, noticing the details of the blood such as color, splatter direction and other interesting things. Once a hunter has examined several sites where deer have been lung shot, one comes to know what to expect. This is good, because when things don’t look normal, that may be all you need to know that the situation may be different, maybe the animal was not hit “on the money.”


Today I went out looking to fill one of my whitetail doe tags. The weather had been warm, but the last two days had overnight temps getting down into the low 30’s, which is pretty good for deer hunting in Texas. I had been doing a little hand-throwing of corn to hopefully attract a few animals for potential harvest. As luck would have it, about 20 minutes after sun up and into my deer hunting trip I had two “shooter” does in range.

I watched them for a while, even though they were quite spooky, sizing them up. However, before I was able to take the shot they were scared off by something. Not sure what happened. After about 10 minutes, the animals reappeared on the other side of me. Finally, one of them turned broadside and offered me a good shot from about 80 yards out. The cross hairs of my scope found the mark and I squeezed the trigger. Boom!

The doe jump, and she actually started running toward me. The sun was shining on the side facing me, through the scope I could see blood pumping out of her side. I knew the shot was pretty good, though it looked a little higher than where I was aiming. The doe ran about 20 yards and then went into the brush.

I waited about 15 minutes to just in case. Then I went to investigate the spot where the doe had been standing when I shot. There was a generous amount of good colored, clean blood. I followed the trail, looking at the blood splatters and at the locations where the hooves dug into the soil. I could see where she turned and how the blood would angle off at different directions. The blood trail actually thinned out after about 15 yards, but I picked it up intermittently.

About 45 yards from the doe had been shot, there she laid. As suspected, the shot had been a little higher than desired, but the job had been done just the same. Deer hunting and tracking go hand-in-hand. Next time you shoot a deer, pay close attention to the blood trail and do some practice tracking, even if you see the deer fall within sight. It may help you with tracking wounded deer, or better yet, dead deer, in the future.



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