© Rankton LLC Copyrighted Material 1988,1990-1998, 2000 - 2016

Tracking Your Game

by Kip

So, whether we like it or not, this means there will be some shots taken where you and I will hang our heads and wish we had had one more round of practice, when we've taken what we think is a good (or great) shot and all we have to show for it is a blood trail, or not. email: Kip@abZorba.com

Patience, Practice, Persistence

I believe in One shot, One animal harvested - an ideal, right? I have a few hunting buddies that truly believe and aspire to that ideal also. Sadly, that doesn't always happen. As much as a hunter tries, there seems to be a shot that just doesn't work out right. It happens with firearms and archery. I know an archery hunter that regularly takes Minnesota Whitetail at 60 to 100 yards. How? He has absolute confidence in the shots he takes. He tells me why he is successful and the reasons are simple. Practice and patience. On the patience side of the equation, my acquaintance will pass on a shot if there are obstacles in the flight path of the arrow. He won't take a marginal shot. He will not allow himself a snap shot. "Buck fever" doesn't exist for him, so I suppose self control is a big part of patience for him.

Practice Brings You Closer To Perfect

When it comes to practice, it's all the time for him. He regularly practices shooting at decoys at all distances. He always has a rangefinder on him to keep his eye trained for distances. He uses known size objects to estimate distances. Car tires, barrels, trees, deer, turkeys, things he's measured for size, like the width of the creek from his kitchen window.  He knows what things look like "from a distance". When he paces out from a point, he regularly turns around and looks at the size of everything, from sticks and bushes to trees, tracks, and animals. For myself, I have a .308 that feels like a part of my body from the many thousands of rounds I've flung downrange. I have muscle memory and can feel the shot before I take it, or at least, I did once upon a time. I used to be able to hit the bullseye with every shot at 100 yards. What am I saying? I may not be that good anymore? If that's what you're thinking, you're right. Now, I work an 8 to 10 hour, 5 to 7 day a week desk job. It seems the most archery practice I get is with an exercise band 15 to 20 times a day to keep a sense of muscle tone, though I do get to the archery club once a week to really practice. Sadly, I haven't shot my rifle in about two years. That means I don't get eyes on target and arrows (or bullets) in the bullseye nearly enough. I still quiver when I hold my bow too long and I work to get a full round of 30 arrows downrange. I humbly accept the sage advise of other writers that tell me to build up from the fallow of winter into the strength of summer and the confidence of fall for hunting.

Chalk It Up To Experiences, Good and Bad

So, whether we like it or not, this means there will be some shots taken where you and I will hang our heads and wish we had had one more round of practice, when we've taken what we think is a good (or great) shot and all we have to show for it is a blood trail, or not. Here are three shortened examples. I have more if you ask nicely. 1) Thirty years ago, I borrowed a .44 Ruger rifle and hadn't test fired it. I took it out of the case and walked into the woods with it. I shot a deer at about 60 yards. It dropped like a rock. I waited for about 20 minutes, though it felt much longer. When I creeped up to the spot, the deer bolted like a grouse under foot and I didn't get a parting shot off. When I looked at the ground, there was so much blood that I had hard time believing the deer could move let alone bolt like it did. Fellow hunters dropped the deer in the morning, noting that the deer had almost no blood in it. When I carefully looked at the deer, it had a notch in the breastbone from a bullet, sadly, my bullet. Looking at the rifle I used, I found the front scope mount was loose allowing the scope to rotate, just enough to account for my poor shot. 2) I shot a buck from a new stand not knowing the distances, but trusting my rifle. I know I hit the deer and waited those crucial 20 minutes for the deer to expire. I walked out to where I was sure the deer had dropped, looking for hair, blood, bone, feces, or shucks, a deer on the ground. Nope, I found nothing. I looked for trail and signs and blood for a good hour. I gave up and went back to the cabin. Tom, in the hunting group, volunteered to walk the area with me in the morning, just to make sure. He walked out to the spot I estimated the deer was hit while I stood in the stand. He waited for me and we both walked the area. He then walked about 30 yards further out and told me to search in the direction the deer went, while he stayed in one spot. I found the deer 20 yards off the trail. 3) A fellow hunter's son shot a deer while with his dad. We think it might have been a high shot just at or above the lungs. It went through the body as there was blood on both sides of the trail the deer walked and ran. The blood ran freely for while and then slowed and stopped as the wound clotted. I think the whole crew tracked that deer for an hour after dark and for about a mile. This is in the time of mantle gas lanterns and "D" cell flashlights. We ran out of fuel in the lantern and came back to the cabin on a pair of dim flashlights. It helped that the crew knew the land to find the cabin. We all felt badly the deer was lost, but not nearly as much as the new hunter did. Yes, we retraced our tracks the next day, with the same results.

What Did I Learn From The Above Examples?

1) Check your gear. I mean really, really check your gear. The rifle I used was a "tried and true" gun. The hunter I'd borrowed it from had shot more deer than I can tell in the nose and out an ear, with that same gun. Honestly!! I personally know of three that I dragged out of the woods with no wound but a bloody nose. He wouldn't have a rifle stock if he notched it for each deer over the previous 50 years of hunting. I trusted his rifle, and why not?? Well, I proved we have to prove the gear ourselves, because when it comes to the end of the day, our missed shots are the ones we have to own up to. 2) Carry a range finder, binoculars, surveyors tape, and don't be proud refusing to ask for a second set of eyes on a situation. a. Wait long enough to ensure your deer has expired and no longer running. b. Mark your way to the supposed shot site with tape. c. Mark you way into the woods and significant blood marks. Remember, you will take your orange tape down as you drag your deer out of the woods. d. Don't be afraid to work late into the dark to find your downed deer. e. Figure out that a tree can look like any other tree in the woods, day or night, from 60 to 90 yards away. The surveyors tape will help keep the night frights down. My deer laid in the woods overnight 30 years ago. Then, the only overnight vermin in that hunting area were mice and voles. Now, my trail cams show bobcat, wolves, coyote, red and gray fox, a possible cougar, and a very large black bear wandering around two days before the 2016 firearms opener. Those apex predators would quickly ruin a deer if left out overnight. I found this out second hand, hunting elk in Colorado in 2010. My wife and I watched another crew drag out an elk cow severely mauled by a black bear. I'm not sure what the end result was, but they were negotiating with a Game Office on what to do. Sometimes we can't find our prey and it lays in the woods overnight, but in good conscience, we do need to try to find our prey. I'm certain to get discussions on this topic. 3) Referring to the first hunting example from above, much of what I know of tracking came from that hunting crew and from that specific example. What did the deer do when it was shot? Did it leap and kick it's hind legs, which can imply a gut shot? Did the deer jump straight up, meaning a lung / heart shot? Did it simply drop? That buck was a two year old and dropped like a first year buck with no spots. I learned how blood will travel to twigs and branches depending on the wound and how badly the deer is bleeding. A pumping arterial open wound will travel inches to nearby twigs, while a dripping wound will flow down the fur all the way down the side of the deer to catch on grass and twigs in a long swath, then drip to the ground, leaving a trail to follow, if you are observant and careful. A deer will drag a wounded leg and leave hoof marks on logs, moss, and on snow if you're lucky to have it. Did the deer rub against a tree or fall and recover, only to keep walking? What kind of blood trail did it leave? A running and leaping deer will expel a lot of blood in a spray when it lands, as long as the wound is from the liver forward. This brings us to gut shots. Those tend to clog rather than clot. Gut wounds will often bleed profusely at first, but then the opening will fill with debris from the gut. There won't be much blood leaking out. What blood does come out will often have a foul smell and be dark. Sadly, this wound will often lead to a slow and painful death for the deer. The meat will foul and you may need to reach out to your local game officer on what to do. You can read about that kind of hunting in my article about Rodney. This is neither kind to your prey, nor a testament of proper hunting as conservation.

Remember And Pass The Knowledge

Reflecting on tracking in general shows that it's easy to generalize and make assumptions on how to track our game. Every situation is unique and gives the opportunity to show just how wrong we can be. A swamp buck could keep walking through the swamp, recover into the next season, leaving the hunter frustrated. A yearling antlerless deer that drops in its tracks (done that) can give us false confidence in how great a hunter we are. All these experiences build us into good and great hunters and trackers. We can pass tales and real experiences on to the next generation of hunters, if we're honest and open to ourselves and our younger charges.
abZorba Hunting - Camping - Fishing
© Copyrights 1988, 1990-1999, 2000-2006, 2010-2016 Leatrice Productions Unlimited, Inc

Tracking Your

Game

by Kip

So, whether we like it or not, this means there will be some shots taken where you and I will hang our heads and wish we had had one more round of practice, when we've taken what we think is a good (or great) shot and all we have to show for it is a blood trail, or not. email: Kip@abZorba.com

Patience, Practice, Persistence

I believe in One shot, One animal harvested - an ideal, right? I have a few hunting buddies that truly believe and aspire to that ideal also. Sadly, that doesn't always happen. As much as a hunter tries, there seems to be a shot that just doesn't work out right. It happens with firearms and archery. I know an archery hunter that regularly takes Minnesota Whitetail at 60 to 100 yards. How? He has absolute confidence in the shots he takes. He tells me why he is successful and the reasons are simple. Practice and patience. On the patience side of the equation, my acquaintance will pass on a shot if there are obstacles in the flight path of the arrow. He won't take a marginal shot. He will not allow himself a snap shot. "Buck fever" doesn't exist for him, so I suppose self control is a big part of patience for him.

Practice Brings You Closer To Perfect

When it comes to practice, it's all the time for him. He regularly practices shooting at decoys at all distances. He always has a rangefinder on him to keep his eye trained for distances. He uses known size objects to estimate distances. Car tires, barrels, trees, deer, turkeys, things he's measured for size, like the width of the creek from his kitchen window.  He knows what things look like "from a distance". When he paces out from a point, he regularly turns around and looks at the size of everything, from sticks and bushes to trees, tracks, and animals. For myself, I have a .308 that feels like a part of my body from the many thousands of rounds I've flung downrange. I have muscle memory and can feel the shot before I take it, or at least, I did once upon a time. I used to be able to hit the bullseye with every shot at 100 yards. What am I saying? I may not be that good anymore? If that's what you're thinking, you're right. Now, I work an 8 to 10 hour, 5 to 7 day a week desk job. It seems the most archery practice I get is with an exercise band 15 to 20 times a day to keep a sense of muscle tone, though I do get to the archery club once a week to really practice. Sadly, I haven't shot my rifle in about two years. That means I don't get eyes on target and arrows (or bullets) in the bullseye nearly enough. I still quiver when I hold my bow too long and I work to get a full round of 30 arrows downrange. I humbly accept the sage advise of other writers that tell me to build up from the fallow of winter into the strength of summer and the confidence of fall for hunting.

Chalk It Up To Experiences, Good and Bad

So, whether we like it or not, this means there will be some shots taken where you and I will hang our heads and wish we had had one more round of practice, when we've taken what we think is a good (or great) shot and all we have to show for it is a blood trail, or not. Here are three shortened examples. I have more if you ask nicely. 1) Thirty years ago, I borrowed a .44 Ruger rifle and hadn't test fired it. I took it out of the case and walked into the woods with it. I shot a deer at about 60 yards. It dropped like a rock. I waited for about 20 minutes, though it felt much longer. When I creeped up to the spot, the deer bolted like a grouse under foot and I didn't get a parting shot off. When I looked at the ground, there was so much blood that I had hard time believing the deer could move let alone bolt like it did. Fellow hunters dropped the deer in the morning, noting that the deer had almost no blood in it. When I carefully looked at the deer, it had a notch in the breastbone from a bullet, sadly, my bullet. Looking at the rifle I used, I found the front scope mount was loose allowing the scope to rotate, just enough to account for my poor shot. 2) I shot a buck from a new stand not knowing the distances, but trusting my rifle. I know I hit the deer and waited those crucial 20 minutes for the deer to expire. I walked out to where I was sure the deer had dropped, looking for hair, blood, bone, feces, or shucks, a deer on the ground. Nope, I found nothing. I looked for trail and signs and blood for a good hour. I gave up and went back to the cabin. Tom, in the hunting group, volunteered to walk the area with me in the morning, just to make sure. He walked out to the spot I estimated the deer was hit while I stood in the stand. He waited for me and we both walked the area. He then walked about 30 yards further out and told me to search in the direction the deer went, while he stayed in one spot. I found the deer 20 yards off the trail. 3) A fellow hunter's son shot a deer while with his dad. We think it might have been a high shot just at or above the lungs. It went through the body as there was blood on both sides of the trail the deer walked and ran. The blood ran freely for while and then slowed and stopped as the wound clotted. I think the whole crew tracked that deer for an hour after dark and for about a mile. This is in the time of mantle gas lanterns and "D" cell flashlights. We ran out of fuel in the lantern and came back to the cabin on a pair of dim flashlights. It helped that the crew knew the land to find the cabin. We all felt badly the deer was lost, but not nearly as much as the new hunter did. Yes, we retraced our tracks the next day, with the same results.

What Did I Learn From The Above Examples?

1) Check your gear. I mean really, really check your gear. The rifle I used was a "tried and true" gun. The hunter I'd borrowed it from had shot more deer than I can tell in the nose and out an ear, with that same gun. Honestly!! I personally know of three that I dragged out of the woods with no wound but a bloody nose. He wouldn't have a rifle stock if he notched it for each deer over the previous 50 years of hunting. I trusted his rifle, and why not?? Well, I proved we have to prove the gear ourselves, because when it comes to the end of the day, our missed shots are the ones we have to own up to. 2) Carry a range finder, binoculars, surveyors tape, and don't be proud refusing to ask for a second set of eyes on a situation. a. Wait long enough to ensure your deer has expired and no longer running. b. Mark your way to the supposed shot site with tape. c. Mark you way into the woods and significant blood marks. Remember, you will take your orange tape down as you drag your deer out of the woods. d. Don't be afraid to work late into the dark to find your downed deer. e. Figure out that a tree can look like any other tree in the woods, day or night, from 60 to 90 yards away. The surveyors tape will help keep the night frights down. My deer laid in the woods overnight 30 years ago. Then, the only overnight vermin in that hunting area were mice and voles. Now, my trail cams show bobcat, wolves, coyote, red and gray fox, a possible cougar, and a very large black bear wandering around two days before the 2016 firearms opener. Those apex predators would quickly ruin a deer if left out overnight. I found this out second hand, hunting elk in Colorado in 2010. My wife and I watched another crew drag out an elk cow severely mauled by a black bear. I'm not sure what the end result was, but they were negotiating with a Game Office on what to do. Sometimes we can't find our prey and it lays in the woods overnight, but in good conscience, we do need to try to find our prey. I'm certain to get discussions on this topic. 3) Referring to the first hunting example from above, much of what I know of tracking came from that hunting crew and from that specific example. What did the deer do when it was shot? Did it leap and kick it's hind legs, which can imply a gut shot? Did the deer jump straight up, meaning a lung / heart shot? Did it simply drop? That buck was a two year old and dropped like a first year buck with no spots. I learned how blood will travel to twigs and branches depending on the wound and how badly the deer is bleeding. A pumping arterial open wound will travel inches to nearby twigs, while a dripping wound will flow down the fur all the way down the side of the deer to catch on grass and twigs in a long swath, then drip to the ground, leaving a trail to follow, if you are observant and careful. A deer will drag a wounded leg and leave hoof marks on logs, moss, and on snow if you're lucky to have it. Did the deer rub against a tree or fall and recover, only to keep walking? What kind of blood trail did it leave? A running and leaping deer will expel a lot of blood in a spray when it lands, as long as the wound is from the liver forward. This brings us to gut shots. Those tend to clog rather than clot. Gut wounds will often bleed profusely at first, but then the opening will fill with debris from the gut. There won't be much blood leaking out. What blood does come out will often have a foul smell and be dark. Sadly, this wound will often lead to a slow and painful death for the deer. The meat will foul and you may need to reach out to your local game officer on what to do. You can read about that kind of hunting in my article about Rodney. This is neither kind to your prey, nor a testament of proper hunting as conservation.

Remember And Pass The Knowledge

Reflecting on tracking in general shows that it's easy to generalize and make assumptions on how to track our game. Every situation is unique and gives the opportunity to show just how wrong we can be. A swamp buck could keep walking through the swamp, recover into the next season, leaving the hunter frustrated. A yearling antlerless deer that drops in its tracks (done that) can give us false confidence in how great a hunter we are. All these experiences build us into good and great hunters and trackers. We can pass tales and real experiences on to the next generation of hunters, if we're honest and open to ourselves and our younger charges.
abZorba Hunting - Camping - Fishing