As mentioned earlier, most deer do not die instantly. Most run for some distance after being shot. The actual distance covers is largely a function of where they were hit, but there are no hard and fast rules. Well-hit deer occasionally will travel much further than expected based on where they were hit.
However, most well-hit deer travel less than 150 yards before being recovered.
Most experienced deer hunters advise hunters to wait a few minutes to calm down and collect their thoughts before taking up the track of a deer that you shot at. A novice hunter, taking shot at their first deer may need a few extra minutes to calm down.
Once the hunter has calmed down, they should “re-think the shot” in their mind. Jotting down notes about the shot may help.
Questions to review include:
- Where was the deer standing when the shot was taken?
- What was it doing when the shot was taken?
- How did it react to the shot?
- How was it running? Were there obvious injuries?
- Where was it last seen?
- Where was it last heard?
The answers to these questions will help recover the deer and influence what should be done next.
The first step, after gathering up your hunting equipment (or at least the necessary equipment needed to recover and field dress a deer), is to go to the location where the deer was standing when the shot was taken and look for blood and hair. What you discover at that location will determine how long you may wait until taking up the blood trail and will be the basis for developing a deer recovery plan. In the resources below you will find several guides to blood trailing and deer recovery.
In addition, the deer’s reaction to the shot will also effect the development of a recovery plan. In areas where there is high hunting pressure, most experienced deer hunters recommend trailing the deer more quickly than they would on private land or in areas with limited pressure to make sure no one else recovers the deer before you do.
Ideally, the mentor/guide will assist the novice hunter develop a recovery plan, and let them take the lead in blood-trailing and finding the deer, rather than recover the deer themselves. In any case, the mentor/guide should review all actions or suggestions, as well as why those actions or suggestions are being recommended, with the novice hunter.