Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tracking and Trailing: After the Shot

© 2009, 2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
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Even with every preparation, proper equipment choice, and skill, there are always times when game is not killed outright. A moments inattention, or perhaps premature congratulation may allow an animal to run off when the hunter should have been preparing for a follow-up shot.

Recovering game that doesn't drop immediately after the first shot, requires a moment of thought, and the acknowledgment that the work is just beginning.

The first thing you need to do, even before taking the first shot, is to be aware of the surroundings. You have to know where you are, and where your quarry is. When you have the shot, and take it, know where the quarry is exactly. As the range increases the difficulty of finding the exact spot becomes more difficult.

Also watch the reaction of your game. Deer will take off at a dead run, or jump straight up and kick when hit in the ticker. Hogs turn on the afterburners when shot and then either pile up or get into cover. Watch where the animal goes and try to remember where you lost sight of it.

After taking the shot, crank your scope down as low as it goes. You'll thank me for it later if you need to get an animal in your sights quickly.

When you make your way to the spot where the animal was, carefully note any sign such as hair or blood. Also sight along the path it took on its way out. The blood left at the initial site may provide clues to determine where you hit. Bright red, frothy blood indicates a lung shot. Dark colored blood could mean the liver was struck. A heart shot will be bright red blood. Look for signs that may indicate a poor shoot. If there is digested vegetation mixed in with the blood it could very well indicate a paunch hit.

When an animal takes off, the direction it went will frequently be marked by blood spatters. At times it may diminish to drops. This is all too common with hogs, where the fat and hide will frequently stop the external bleeding. It is important to follow up slowly and carefully, noting every drop of blood and every disturbed leaf. Blood can be anywhere from the sides of the trail to the ground. Wild Ed of Wild Ed's Outdoors, reminds us also to keep an eye on the brush or grass on either side of the track, not just at ground level but higher. The height can indicate where an animal has been hit. Mark your observations with tissue paper or surveyors tape, (Make sure you pick it up when you are done!) so that if need be, you can retrace your steps.

If you lose the track, go back to the last sign you found and carefully start again. Remember look at it from the animal's perspective. This means get down on your hands and knees. You will be surprised what it looks like from down there! Follow the path of least resistance.

Always be on the lookout for your game. It could be that dark spot there, or the light line there. Always be ready.

Tracking a wounded animal is hard work and a grave responsibility. Every effort should be made to recover a lost animal. In many states there are tracking services available that use blood tracking dogs to find lost game.

Born-To-Track News and Views
covers the Blood Tracking dog world, and in particular the Wire Haired Dachshunds. Look through the archives and you will find several posts on deer that have been found by these amazing dogs. And golly, they are cute as can be!

In those states where dogs cannot be used, then you must use every sense and every clue to find your animal. Perseverance and patience are the keys to recovery.

Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member: Shindand Tent Club
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
The Hunt Continues...

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles

Albert Rasch,HunterThough he spends most of his time writing and keeping the world safe for democracy, Albert was actually a student of biology. Really. But after a stint as a lab tech performing repetitious and mind-numbing processes that a trained capuchin monkey could do better, he never returned to the field. Rather he became a bartender. As he once said, "Hell, I was feeding mice all sorts of concoctions. At the club I did the same thing; except I got paid a lot better, and the rats where bigger." He has followed the science of QDM for many years, and fancies himself an aficionado. If you have any questions, or just want to get more information, reach him via TheRaschOutdoorChronicles(at)MSN(dot)com.


NorCal Cazadora said...

Nice tips, Albert. I'd like to think it'll never happen to me, but I know it will.

Doug said...

Glad you mentioned those dachshunds. They're cool little dogs!

Harris' Hawk Blog

hodgeman said...

Very nice post. Something we don't like to think about but we should. Tracking a wounded animal is a grave responsibility that should be taken very seriously.

I need to look into tracking dogs for sure.

Anonymous said...

Very good post Albert, some of which the ordinary hunter might forget about in all the excitement.

Native said...

Excellent editorial Albert!
I have always been a proponent of learning how to track even "before" learning how to shoot.

I can't even begin to tell you how many hunters who come through our gates (Ironically, especially Archers) who have not a clue how to track or even follow a blood trail.
They most certainly know more about the subject when they leave our gates though, as we will spend a great deal of time teaching them while at our ranches.

We also are in the process of heading up a "donated" program where we will spend a few weekends a month teaching boy/girl scouts the basic fundamentals of Tracking and Nature Awareness.

For instance: A Fox is the only mammal which will leave a direct register (rear foot print placed directly into front print) thus making it extremely difficult to determine it's sex simply by print.

All other land mammals will be easier to judge because of the wider pelvic region of females.
This will cause a female rear print to fall slightly outside of the front print.

This science can also be applied to humans as well, just watch how most women will sort of duck walk as opposed to a mans more straight and narrow gait.
(not meaning to sound sexist but it is a scientific fact).

Would love to see more of this type of education going around because it will certainly lead to less, lost animals after being shot.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Mmmmmm... duck walk. You make us sound so hot!!!

NorCal Cazadora said...

But seriously, that was some interesting stuff. I need lessons.

Albert A Rasch said...


Duckwalk... remind me to walk two or three feet to one side of you;-)

I've been working on a couple of more posts on outdoor activities, I've been kind working on things from the SHOT show and some other journalistic endeavors, but I sat down this week with the express purpose of working on expressly outdoor things.


Long Ridge Deer Camp said...

Good post, and some good advice. Much of our game is taken in the last half hour of light, so a good first shot is the 1st rule! And to not have a decent knowledge of tracking, or hunting with someone who does, can have dangerous consequences, let alone the loss of valuable game. Good one! Jack

Wild Ed said...

Many hunters forget that sometimes the blood will spray from the wound and not be on the trail but up off the ground on the vegitation to the sides of the trail. Don;t forget to check the height of the wound on the animal as you follow the trail. Wild Ed

Phillip said...

Great post, Albert...

And good point, Ed. Tracking isn't always about looking at the ground. Trailing an animal, either wounded or not, means paying attention to all the signs... not just footprints or blood droplets.

It's a great and useful skill, and one I really should spend more time honing. Haven't really put it to work lately, and it's something that definitely benefits from practice.

Dennis A Carroll said...

Great post.
I had a hunter who had been to Mongolia hunting sheep. One of his party shot and wounded a sheep, but never recovered it. Although it wasn't the official law, the locals considered the hunter "done," and wouldn't let him hunt again.
Since then I have wished many times that Americans had that same ethic.
Maybe more shots would be taken with more care.

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