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Joined: 06/03/2010

          After the shot it falls to the hunter to insure he bags his kill or determines no wounded animal is left to die a painful death or that it was a clean miss. Tracking can be easy or hard depending on many factors, weather, snow or lack of, dry leaves that hide blood drops or any other condition like rain or new snowfall that hampers tracking. A good shot and a big wound mean lots of blood to spot and follow and usually a dead deer at the end of the track. But a good shot may not leave much blood or any at all so the tracker must follow sign until the quarry is found or until it is impossible to follow any longer.
          I shot a deer with the bow one season and scored a very good hit in the chest and when I retrieved the arrow which had shot through; it was broken at the tip end and covered with bright red blood. I sat for a bit to allow the deer time to settle and began trailing the wide blood trail. I followed it through dry woods and then into a swale and finally a swamp with plenty of puddles and standing water. The blood began to fade away and soon I was deep in the swamp and found no more blood, no fresh tracks, no blood and no deer. I retraced my trail looking for any sign of the deer turning off or a point where I might have missed something. No luck by dark so I left for the night determined to return the next morning and continue the search. No deer was ever found and I even visited the area several more times during the season in hopes of finding some clue to what happened to that deer.
          Another episode clearly illustrates the exact opposite of the previous track. I shot a six-point at about fifty yards with my rifle and the deer simply looked at me for a second and calmly walked away before I could get another shot. I figured a clean miss but went to the spot to check for blood or hair. Again, I saw no sign and no deer. I was about to give up when I saw his clear tracks printed in the dirt and decided to stalk in case the deer was a simply watching me and might give me another shot. After following the tracks for about fifty yards or so I spotted a small drop of red on a leaf. Looking closer I saw more droplets and as I followed this blood sign the trail soon showed more blood and finally a nice dead six-point. The lesson here was that I didn’t give up just because I thought I had missed. In this instance it was more luck than not but it paid off.
          One incident happened when a relative shot a deer and couldn’t find it and called me to help track it. He had shot it with a bow and lost the blood trail when the blood played out. I tagged the last visible blood with my red handkerchief and began a slow, painstaking careful search of the ground from that spot in the direction the trail had led. No blood and sparse tracks gave me fits and I was about to give up when I saw a small pine tree with very low bottom branches. On a whim I looked under the tree and there was his deer, dead but all curled up under the tree so hidden it would have been missed if I hadn’t thought to check. Deer are very crafty when in danger and this one had figured to hide but didn’t survive to escape.
          Deer aren’t the only crafty species to try to outwit a hunter when shot or wounded. Several times I have had to trail a partridge by chasing feathers to a clump of grass or under a fallen branch to find a wounded bird. While quail hunting in New Mexico we routinely had to follow feather trails to uncover a bird snuggled down deep in the dry grass in some of the overgrown fields we hunted. A rooster pheasant I shot in a Milo field burrowed under a cluster of fallen stalks and was damn hard to spot until I saw that pretty head.
           The moral of these tales is too never give up the track until all hope is lost and there is no possible way to find a downed animal.