There are lots of things that go into nailing that trophy buck: Scouting, training, patience, careful aim, and a steady hand. But what happens after the shot can be just as important to bringing home that buck as all the work that goes in beforehand.

After the shot

If you follow these steps, recovering that wonderful deer will be just a little bit easier:

  • Mentally take a ‘snapshot’, mark the spot where the deer was standing the instant you shot,
  • Follow the deer’s course of travel as long as it is visible. Use markers like, he ran to the left of that burnt out stump, and then veered right towards that small aspen stand and up the trail by the old red oak on the top of the hill,
  • Load another arrow.

Mental Snapshot

Let’s go over these steps in some detail. The deer is relaxed and hasn’t a clue that it is about to experience silent death from above. As you are getting ready to draw back your bow, LOOK! Note where the deer is standing, the angle it is presenting and pick the smallest group of hairs you can see behind it’s near side front leg. Follow through normally and watch the deers reaction and listen to the sound of the hit. Both the deers reaction and the sound of the impact can be telling clues as you prepare to start your tracking job.

The deer is HIT, watch it.

You made a great shot, saw the arrow blow through the vitals and heard a solid whack! There it goes, it didn’t drop like a bag of rocks. It is blasting around that burnt out old stump, just to the left and it is making for the aspen trees. Hear that tink, tink, tink noise? Now that stopped but the deer is still running. I think you know where you will find your arrow. He has crested the hill by the old red oak. You cant see him anymore, but it sounded like the deer piled up just over the hill.


I cannot emphasize this enough. Often times, if you set up is quite, even a wounded deer will circle back to find out ‘what the heck happened?’ Also, if you are hunting in an area with multiple tags, the noise often times will bring in another deer. We all have heard the story about the guy who shot a nice buck only to see a deer of a lifetime come through moments later and they weren’t prepared. Don’t get caught with your arrows stuck in the quiver when lady luck is trying to shine on you.

If you take a mental snap shot, visually follow a track the escape path, and reload, your chances of recovering your deer have just gone up dramatically. Take a deep breath, say a prayer of thanks and let the woods quite down for a moment. If you are anything like me, this is where the shakes kick in, so 5-10 minutes of regaining one’s composure is a good thing.

Conditions vary, wind, rain or snow, morning or night-time. It is usually a good practice to let the deer have a half hour to expire before you start tracking and making noise.


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