Bowhunting: How Long to Wait Before Tracking a Deer

Video how long to wait after shooting a deer

Bow and arrows do not produce the massive trauma and shock that high-powered rifles do, so bowhunters rarely see deer drop dead. Even animals that are mortally hit often instinctively run after the shot, as do wounded animals that can go for miles if pushed. Without the luxury of knowing whether an animal is dead, bowhunters must make judgment calls.

While bowhunters should hedge toward patience when following-up deer, factors like weather that can spoil meat or wash away blood trails, predators that can steal the animal and personal obligations sometimes make waiting impossible. Generally, the sooner you can find and claim your animal, the better, but often this is easier said than done when the only clues to the animal’s condition are a few drops of blood. While every situation is a little different, here are some general suggestions for knowing when it’s best to go in.

Heart/Lung/Major Arteries are EasyIf you double-lung a deer, hit its heart or sever a major artery like the jugular or femoral, you’ll often see the deer go down or at least hear a crash in the woods. You’ll likely have witnessed your arrow hit where you aimed, and you’ll be able to skip along the blood trail without stopping. If you see the deer dead, by all means go get your prize now! But for all situations where you can’t actually see the animal down, your best bet is to wait 30 minutes to calm your nerves, assess the shot in your head and give the animal a few minutes to expire in peace. (You can also use this time to snap a few pictures of the last place you saw the deer, use your binocular to look for blood and your arrow, text your hunting buddies and check the weather forecast.)

See also  .308 Winchester for Black Bear Hunting? Best Ammo (Round, Load, Cartridge) for a Successful Black Bear Hunt Hunting Calibers 04 Apr, 2020 Posted By: Foundry Outdoors Is the .308 Winchester a viable caliber/load/round/cartridge for black bear hunting? The accurate answer is “it depends”. However, the goal of this article is simply to address the question of whether the .308 Winchester is within the ideal range of suitable calibers to harvest black bear. As with anything, the devil is in the details. To answer the question completely, we would need to evaluate the downrange distance to the black bear, the bullet type, the grain weight of the bullet, the physical condition of the firearm, the size of the black bear in question, the shot placement, the local wind conditions, the expected accuracy of the shooter, the ethics of the ideal maximum number of shots – the list goes on. [Click Here to Shop .308 Winchester Ammo]What we can do is provide a framework to understand what average conditions might look like, and whether those are reasonably viable for a shot from the average shooter to harvest a black bear in the fewest number of shots possible, i.e., ethically. Let’s dive right in. In the question of “Is the .308 Winchester within the ideal range of suitable calibers for black bear hunting?” our answer is: Yes, the .308 Winchester is A GOOD CHOICE for black bear hunting, under average conditions, from a mid-range distance, with a medium grain expanding bullet, and with correct shot placement.Let’s look at those assumptions a bit closer in the following table. Assumption Value Caliber .308 Winchester Animal Species Black Bear Muzzle Energy 2620 foot-pounds Animal Weight 340 lbs Shot Distance 150 yardsWhat is the average muzzle energy for a .308 Winchester? In this case, we have assumed the average muzzle energy for a .308 Winchester round is approximately 2620 foot-pounds. What is the average weight of an adult male black bear? Here we have leaned conservative by taking the average weight of a male individual of the species, since females generally weigh less and require less stopping power. In this case, the average weight of an adult male black bear is approximately 340 lbs. [Click Here to Shop .308 Winchester Ammo]What is the distance this species is typically hunted from? Distance, of course, plays an important role in the viability of a given caliber in black bear hunting. The kinetic energy of the projectile drops dramatically the further downrange it travels primarily due to energy lost in the form of heat generated by friction against the air itself. This phenonemon is known as drag or air resistance. Thus, a caliber that is effective from 50 yards may not have enough stopping power from 200 yards. With that said, we have assumed the average hunting distance for black bear to be approximately 150 yards. What about the other assumptions? We have three other primary assumptions being made here. First, the average bullet weight is encapsulated in the average muzzle energy for the .308 Winchester. The second important assumption is ‘slightly-suboptimal’ to ‘optimal’ shot placement. That is to say, we assume the black bear being harvested is shot directly or nearly directly in the vitals (heart and/or lungs). The third assumption is that a projectile with appropriate terminal ballistics is being used, which for hunting usually means an expanding bullet.Various calibersA common thread you may encounter in online forums is anecdote after anecdote of large animals being brought down by small caliber bullets, or small animals surviving large caliber bullets. Of course those stories exist, and they are not disputed here. A 22LR cartridge can fell a bull elephant under the right conditions, and a newborn squirrel can survive a 50 BMG round under other specific conditions. Again, the goal of this article is simply to address the question of whether .308 Winchester is within the ideal range of suitable calibers to harvest black bear - and to this question, the response again is yes, the .308 Winchester is A GOOD CHOICE for black bear hunting. [Click Here to Shop .308 Winchester Ammo]This article does not serve as the final say, but simply as a starting point for beginner hunters, as well as a venue for further discussion. Please feel free to agree, disagree, and share stories from your own experience in the comments section below. Disclaimer: the information above is purely for illustrative purposes and should not be taken as permission to use a particular caliber, a statement of the legality or safety of using certain calibers, or legal advice in any way. You must read and understand your own local laws before hunting black bear to know whether your caliber of choice is a legal option.Foundry Outdoors is your trusted home for buying archery, camping, fishing, hunting, shooting sports, and outdoor gear online.We offer cheap ammo and bulk ammo deals on the most popular ammo calibers. We have a variety of deals on Rifle Ammo, Handgun Ammo, Shotgun Ammo & Rimfire Ammo, as well as ammo for target practice, plinking, hunting, or shooting competitions. Our website lists special deals on 9mm Ammo, 10mm Ammo, 45-70 Ammo, 6.5 Creedmoor ammo, 300 Blackout Ammo, 10mm Ammo, 5.56 Ammo, Underwood Ammo, Buffalo Bore Ammo and more special deals on bulk ammo.We offer a 100% Authenticity Guarantee on all products sold on our website. Please email us if you have questions about any of our product listings. Leave a commentComments have to be approved before showing up Your Name * Your Email * Your Comment * Post Comment

After 30 minutes, quietly go find your arrow, verify it has bright red arterial blood or pink, bubbly lung blood on it and then mark the spot just in case. Then follow the blood trail to your deer. If, however, at any time you begin seeing significantly less blood, the trail goes cold or you don’t find the animal within 200 yards, stop immediately, mark the last blood you found and reassess the situation. Chances are, you didn’t heart/lung the deer, and so now you must figure out which of the following tactics to employ.

Gut-Shot Deer Can Be RecoveredIf you know you gut-shot a deer either because you clearly saw the arrow strike too far back or you found the arrow and it smells foul and/or is covered with bits from the stomach or intestine, wait six to 12 hours before following up. If it’s in the morning, wait until midafternoon to go back—unless it’s raining. If it’s raining heavily, wait 30 minutes then follow the blood trail as quietly as you can while keeping your head up to look for the deer. The advantage here is that you will have a blood trail leading to the deer and the deer won’t be able to hear your approach thanks to the rain—if you’re sneaky.

If you shot the deer in the evening, consider leaving the animal overnight and recovering in the morning—unless it’s hotter than 50 degrees outside, rain is forecasted or the area is known for its predator population. In any of these cases, venture back out with flashlights and friends between 10 p.m. and midnight. In all cases of tracking a wounded deer, be as quiet and sneaky as you possibly can.

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Marginal Hits: Less than 50/50The toughest scenario in bowhunting is when you are unsure where you hit and the animal has left few clues. You didn’t see where the arrow struck, and the little blood if any you found is too sparse to tell what type of hit you made. If neither the blood nor your arrow smells foul, it isn’t gut-shot. And if it’s not bleeding profusely with bright pink or red blood, it wasn’t hit in the heart, lungs or major artery. Therefore, you’ve got to assume muscle, limb or liver, and you’ll have to play your cards right to recover this deer.

LiverIf you believe it’s liver hit (possibly its tail clamped after the shot, with sparse, darker-colored blood and/or you saw the arrow go farther back than you aimed) you should wait three to six hours before following up. This animal will die and can be recovered if you use patience and do not press it.

One LungPerhaps the trickiest hit of all to assess is a one-lung shot. The blood is pink and bubbly and so you think it’s a mortal double-lunger, but after taking to the track, the deer is nowhere to be found. In this case it’s usually best to continue on the track, but have a partner follow the track while the hunter keeps his eyes ahead. Listen for sucking (chest wound) sounds, be sneaky, and be prepared to shoot the deer on sight.

Non-Vital Muscle/Limb HitsIf you believe the deer was hit in muscle or bone of the high back, neck, leg or any other non-vital portion, you must use extreme skill to find this deer. While most people wait in hope that the deer bleeds out, the reality is, if there is little blood and it’s not hit in a vital organ, the deer likely will not bleed out. Your best bet—if you can determine with reasonable certainty that the hit is non-vital—is to follow up after the initial 30-minute wait. By doing this, you’ll give it a chance to lay down while minimizing the deer’s head start on you. As you follow the blood trail, hunt for the actual deer as much as looking for its trail. Sneak along the trail while using your binocular to scan ahead. Your goal is to see the deer before it sees you to get another shot at it. If you exhaust the blood trail, daylight or yourself, chances are good that the deer will survive to be hunted again.

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In every case, if you do not find the deer initially, go back the following day and grid search. Use a tracking dog where legal and do everything possible to recover that deer—it’s your duty as a hunter.

Should You Stay or Should You Go?1. Observe: Observe the animal’s behavior after the shot.2. Mark: Mentally note or take a photo of the spot where you last saw the deer.3. Communicate: Text your partner what’s going on and check the weather.4. Wait: Wait 30 minutes before you do anything.5. Initial Search: Find your arrow and first blood.6. Assess: Assess blood and clues for next step.7. Recover or Wait

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>