Attention to Clues
Like a detective collecting clues to pursue a suspect, a bowhunter must gather a variety of "hit data" to help track the animal after it's shot.
The first important piece of information for a successful recovery is noticing where your arrow strikes the animal.
Knowing where your arrow hit is a rough indicator of:
- How long it will take your animal to die
- How long to wait before beginning the recovery process
To track your arrow after release, remain perfectly still—don't even lower your bow down the tree if you are hunting from a tree stand.
In addition to noting where the arrow strikes, notice:
- How far the arrow penetrates—in some cases, it may pass through.
- Where the arrow hits the ground if it passes through the animal.
- How the arrow strike sounds—a "crack" may indicate a broken bone, a "thud" may signal a solid chest hit, and a "plop" may indicate a gut shot. Or you may hear the arrow slapping branches.
- How the deer reacts after the strike. Does the deer collapse instantly, run away, or hump up and walk away? If the deer humps up, there's a high likelihood of a gut shot.
- If the animal instantly collapses (spine shot), immediately shoot it again.
- If the animal remains upright and leaves the area:
- Watch it as long as possible to determine the direction of travel.
- Listen as the animal flees—you may hear it fall to the ground. Also listen for a death moan, breaking brush, or rolling rocks.
- Note the time, landmarks around the shooting area, and where the animal was standing or last seen.
- Take a compass bearing.