About the Study Guide

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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.