Deer tracking tips


12 pointer
May 10, 2003


* After shooting the deer, stay in your stand and be quiet for the recommended time. A noise might push your deer away. He could be bedded down less than 100 yards away.

* It is very important it is to keep your eye on the deer and solidly mark in your mind where he was when you last saw him. Find some landmark that will mark that point. This way if the initial blood is sparse, you may pick up a better trail at this point and eliminate some ground to track. Immediately after the shot , really concentrate on that deer and where you lose sight of him. Very important.

* I have found it very helpful to tie a piece of pink surveyor ribbon around my stand tree at eye level from where I shot. After noting several terrain features near where the deer was standing and where it ran too, I tie on the ribbon before coming down. From the ground looking back up to the ribbon, I can get a better visual for locating exactly where the deer was and went.

* Before beginning the tracking, mark where you shot the deer with a piece of white toilet paper hung on a branch.

* Mark the trail periodically with more toilet paper as you track. This will give you a line on the deer's travel.

* When you find the arrow, check for hair, tallow, blood, etc. This will give you a good clue on how to track. Example: Tallow and slime means you should wait 4 hours.

* Check for blood carefully, walking off to the side of the run.

* Look for blood on trees, saplings, and leaves that are about the same height as the wound. Blood will sometimes rub off the body.

* If tracking as a group, spread out a little. Keep noise to a minimum. In tracking, sometimes "too many cooks can spoil the stew." It would be better if only 2 or 3 people tracked the deer. If the blood trail runs out, you can always get more help to search for the deer

* While tracking a deer that you have shot and you jump a deer and it flags its tail, it's probably not your deer. A wounded deer will very seldom "flag." BUT - check it out anyway.

* Gut-shot deer have a habit of going to water. If you lose a gut-shot deer's trail, check out the water holes in the area. He could be down by

* Tracking at night presents special problems with visibility. The blood and the deer will both be hard to see. A Coleman gas lantern will help a lot in both cases. If the deer is not hit well, and no rain is forecast, wait until morning. If he is dead in 10 minutes or 4 hours, he will still be dead in the morning.

* I like to track every deer I shoot from where it was standing when the arrow hit. Even if I see or hear it go down, I start tracking from the starting point. I figure the experience of following the trail has to be good practice, and may be helpful someday if I do get a poor hit.

* Take a compass or GPS bearing to where you last saw the deer, and another one to where you last heard any noise from it's flight. It might prove very helpful.

* A GPS unit could be a handy tool to mark and plot the trail of the deer. If the search has to be discontinued for the night it could put you back at the exact spot where you left off to finish the job

* It helps to have someone who did not shoot the deer to help with the blood trial. Many an experienced hunter in his excitement misses things.

* Stay off of the blood trail, and use a small piece of tolled paper to mark each spot

* Get down on your hands and knees when a blood trail is hard to see it helps. From this angle while night tracking you can shine the light in the direction of travel and often see blood that does not show when standing over it.

* If the blood trail ends start looking off to the sides of the trail as a lot of the times a deer will double back.

* Look at the bottom of leaves on branches at deer body height. Sometimes as the branch slides along the body of a deer it is the under side of the leaf that picks up the blood.

* You will often find a gut shot deer or liver shot deer dead in the water not just beside it. so look for an ear or the side of the deer in deeper water too.

* Some shots that look good may be one lung or a poor liver hit because of the angle. These deer can take several hours to die. Be careful about pushing them to soon, since they will rarely leave much blood sign if they are jumped when bedded.

* Look ahead as you blood trail for deer parts and movement. Your deer may still be alive and you might be able to get a second shot or back off with out spooking it.

* Look for disturbed leaves and broken twigs as well as for the blood sign on hard to follow blood trails.

* It is often hard to follow a blood trail in grass. It seems that the blood can fall all the way to the ground without hitting a single blade of grass.

* Look for clusters of ants, flies and daddy longlegs. You can find small drops of blood because these bugs are feeding on it.

* Often times when the blood trail seems to end you will find the animal off to one side and not in the same direction of travel.

* Listen for birds like magpies, jays, and crows. Sometimes they make a ruckus where the animal lies dead.

* Be persistent!

* A dog can often prove very useful if legal. Even your house pet. They can see with their nose what we can’t see with our eyes.

* Use your nose. Sometimes you can smell a deer you can't see. A gut shot is even more likely to have a smell.

* When trailing at night use a couple of the Chem Lights that you can get at WalMart for less than a buck. You don't use these as lights to see blood, but they are hung on limbs at the last blood found. That way nobody has to stand on the last blood and everyone can easily see where the last blood found is at

Did I say be persistent!



10 pointer
Jul 28, 2014
DO NOT let anybody and everybody help you track a deer. Sometimes, less is more.
Unskilled trackers can do more harm than good and ruin signs by barging through the woods.
Disturb as little as possible with as few people as possible.

Also, when you think it's time to give up, spend another 30 mins.


6 pointer
Aug 25, 2009
Laurel County
A great thing to have while tracking is toilet paper... Hang it up at every spot just a piece after a bit of tracking you can look back and see which way the deer ran and plus you don't have to pick it up because it dissolves

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


Aug 4, 2015
Best advice i can give you about tracking a deer is to call me and Lucy.she doesn't need blood,but a little is great because it boosts our enthusiasm and confidence that the deer was hit,she is 80% on broke leg deer,and 100% on gut shot deer,not counting when the hunter jumps the deer and runs it out of the country or into property that we cant trespass.

" willies quote which is good advice
"When a deer is shot in the stomach area, he will usually take several short jumps and commence walking or running. His back will usually hunch up and his legs will be spread wide. The hair from this wound is brownish gray and short. The lower the shot is on the animal, the lighter colored the hair will be. The blood trail is usually poor with small pieces of ingested material (stomach contents). If the intestines are punctured there will be green slimy material or feces Take your bow with you because a second shot
might be required.

Some good advice from Willie,Why i like to track gut shot deer is because of our success and A gut shot deer is DEAD.A deer cannot live/recover from being shot in the gut,the gut fluids/materiel's will get into the blood stream causing ?septic infection? which leads to septic shock. and eventually the deer will Die." where he dies is dependent on the hunter.We usually wait 6 hours on a gut shot trophy deer and less hours depending on weather and other circumstances on a meat deer.

the procedure we wish all hunters would follow is:
If you suspect you gut shot a deer,wait an hour or so.then very very quietly sneak over to the hit spot don't talk loud whisper, and look for gut matter. very quietly look for your arrow,if you find it check it out very closely for any green or gut matter ,some times the arrow gets wiped prettty clean coming out of the deer and its very hard to see or smell anything on the arrow.
so if you have determined it was a gut shot for sure or pretty sure it is. BACK OUT VERY QUIET. and leave the area. if your vehicle is even close to same direction the deer went circle around and sneak to your vehicle and leave, Gut shot deer generally don't leave any sign to track anyway,like blood or gut materiel.
The reason for this is normally when a deer is gut shot and not bothered, He will go out between 180 and 300 yrds find a good hiding place and lay down,Lucy has found ones that have crawled into some very thick stuff or found a hole or wash out to crawl could walk rt by the deer and not see it ,He has a very bad tummy ache.After the deer has bedded down he will sit there listening all around him especially his back track, if nothing alarms him he will lay there and die.Ive witnessed some that took 20 hours to die.
The thing is if lucy is out there looking for him,she is very quiet and if after waiting the 6 hours if he isnt dead he will either hunker down or jump up and take off. If he hukers down she will circle him waiting for me and trying not to jump him,but if he jumps up then she will stay with him,we've had them die on their feet while she was trailing them and we had her catch up to them and stop them so we can dispatch the deer. If a hunter jumps the deer he has slim to none of ever seeing him again.Ive seen gut shot deer that were jumped run and walk 3miles before laying down again.

willies quote again"
A neck-shot deer will either die in 100 yards or he will recover from the wound. The lower portion of the neck contains the windpipe, neck bone (spine), and carotid (jugular) arteries. If the arteries are hit, the deer will run hard and drop in less than 100 yards. The blood trail will be easy to follow. A shot above the neck bone will give you a good blood trail for about 150 to 200 yards before quitting. The deer will more than likely recover to be hunted again.

Willie is rt on with this one. The track i hate going on the most is a neck shot deer. Like he says it either dies rt away or recovers.Weve spent 5 ,6 hours trailing neck shot deer and have never recovered them.I can only think of a few that we were successful at recovering these she put into a pond,swamp,river or lake and we had to dispatch them.
trailed this buck 6 hours never caught up to him.he showed back up three weeks later,arrow fell out and they witnessed him breeding does,he is still out there.
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12 pointer
Apr 7, 2015
I shoot em and let em lay! Go back to the truck, get a drink and samich, then go back with one of my Drahthaars' and put them on the track.
Greatest conservation tool in the world is a Dog!


Aug 4, 2015
I shoot em and let em lay! Go back to the truck, get a drink and samich, then go back with one of my Drahthaars' and put them on the track.
Greatest conservation tool in the world is a Dog!

DD's are nice dogs,I was in Iowa last March for DD testing I was a rabbit beater,lol,my buddies DD from Georgia had the highest scoring dog,I believe.


Nov 12, 2016
Southeast Ky. I have a deer tracking dog. call if you need help with a deer recovery . 606 594 9197


8 pointer
Feb 2, 2010
Not all shot placements are seen, wait time should be alot longer if its dead you will find it within 200 yards
I have a tracking dog and I can assure you that not all dead deer are laying dead within 200 yards. Gut shot deer will go a lot further and can live for up to 6 hours before the infection sets in. Our furthest track was in Tennessee where the deer made it 4.8 miles from where it was shot with 1 lung taken out with a .270. Our average distance is probably around 1000 yards tracking with a bloodhound. When in doubt call out the dogs. I guarantee they can track a lot better and faster than any experienced hunter can. And their success rate is much better than just walking around aimlessly through the woods hoping to find one laying down.


Sep 28, 2008
Meade Co
We lost a nice doe. Tracked 300 yard, lots of blood. It went down then up an a,10ft embankment?!? Then lay down, then moved on and 30 yards later disappeared going up hill. We did concentric circles around the last spot the rest of the day to no avail.

I'm going to try luminol/bluestar & some UV light next time.. I'll report back.


12 pointer
Sep 9, 2018
Barren county
I know this is old thread but good advice from everybody. I have nothing to add but do have a ? What do guys charge for tracking a deer with their dog?

Hoosier Sasquatch

6 pointer
Sep 11, 2017
Madison, Indiana
A couple of things:
I use TP for marking bloodtrails. Cheap, highly visible, and if you miss some bio-degradable. I keep it in a ziplock bag in my pack.

Chem lights: I'm sure someone else has done this, but at the time I started I hadn't heard of it. I got the idea while watching footage of some of our brave soldiers in Afghanistan mark safe driving paths with those glow lights that you snap and shake. Mark your stand when the light fails as a frame of reference when looking for your arrow or where the deer was standing. Hang one at last blood when you have to go back for help or something. Finally, snap one over the deer itself when you find it and have to go back for help or equipment. It makes it much easier to find in the dark!


Jul 29, 2017
Rowan County
Not bragging, but I've always been VERY GOOD at tracking deer. That being said, I've learned more in the past 3 years than in the previous 27 years combined! I'm gonna cover myths about deer behavior when hit, then a few tips.
MYTH 1: Deer won't run uphill when hit. I've personally been on a track 2 years in Idaho and instead of running down the logging road to the right, it ran to the left and STRAIGHT UP a mountain.
MYTH 2:. Deer will run to water when shot. In relation to water, vegetation is generally thicker than where water isn't present. They're actually running for heavy cover, not the water.
Myth 3: Deer when hit will get as far away from the area as possible. We lost the track of a little forkie mule deer I arrowed in Idaho. As my buddy was marking"Last blood" while standing on a log, there wasn't ANY blood past said log. As I was standing there looking around, I turned and looked at said friend standing on the log. I told him to look behind the log and downhill slightly. The buck had doubled back and was expired BEHIND us and down the hill 30 yards. He was heading STRAIGHT FOR where he was arrowed!
TIPS I've learned being in Texas: This one works better at night when you can see eyes. If you run out of blood, watch the ground for spiders or grandaddy long legs. They're drawn to the blood as well! In the daytime, look for concentrations of ANTS. They go towards blood as well. If you're having trouble finding blood, thanks, etc, hold your light 12-18 inches off the ground and tilt your light slightly horizontal. Many times, even the smallest drops will glisten like a diamond! I learned that from a game warden who used to search for illegal immigrants in South Texas. I keep a compass handy for after the shot. If I lose track of where a deer runs, I pull out my compass and get an azimuth (heading) of where I last spotted it. I pick out a landmark and general distance from my location. Once I get out of the stand, I reacquire the azimuth I took to the landmark. This has been especially helpful because once you get down from an elevated location, and EVERYTHING seems to look the same!
"They may even circle and I've read or have been told that a deer will circle to the direction of the side he's hit hardest on. I don't know this to be gospel but it's worth mentioning."

I have seen them circle left when hit on the right side. I have seen them run up hill and down hill. I have only rarely had to track a deer cause I try to avoid making bad shots. I have only lost one which was hit hard enough to bleed and that was early in my hunting career and I was young and stupid then. As opposed to old and stupid now. I once took a rushed shot on a buck which was facing me. The bullet hit the right shoulder and bone and glanced upward blowing a huge hole in the right side of the upper back blowing out most of the right tenderloins and damaging one lung. That deer ran right past me across a 100y field and into the briars. I failed to wait long enough because a buddy arrived and wanted to track him right then. Since he was the land owner and it would be dark in a couple of hours I agreed. That was a big mistake. It was bedded not more than 200y away and we jumped it. It ran up hill and then circled left and backtracked. We jumped it two more times. This was dumb. We stayed on the trail, finding huge amounts of blood and even parts of lung tissue. I was amazed how far it went. Well over 1/4mi. We stopped at dark because I had a family gathering to attend. We picked up the trail a few hrs later and found it in the dark about 100y from where we had stopped at dark. Another deer shot at dusk the same day was not found until the next morning and the coyotes had eaten about half of it. That was the worst shot placement I have ever made and the only deer that travelled more than about 80y, with exception of the one below...

I like the TP idea and the use of HV incandescent lights for tracking in the dark. The advice to wait at least 30min to 1hr even when you know you broadsided it with a 300mag is still great advice. The biggest buck I have hanging on the wall is one I call Terminat-deer. It took five shots of .308 and a Gerber LMF across the throat to kill it. I broke every rule known when I shot that one. I was headed to camp to pick up the meat-wagon (a 4x4 side by side) and some ropes to help a buddy recover his deer. I was fast walking along a fire road with my rifle slung on my shoulder and topped a rise to come face to face with the TD. I was as shocked as he was and we stood staring at one another for a few seconds. I pulled my rifle off of my shoulder and fired a snapshot but he ran over the hill and out of sight. I knew bucks are curious and will often run 40y and stop to look back and so I ran after him and sure enough he was on the top bench looking back at me. I dropped to one knee and fired off a well aimed shot (a broadside shoulder shot which killed him after a while). He ran over the hill. So, I ran too. As I got to where he could be seen (belly up in a ravine), I saw him jump up. So, I shot him again. This shot cut off a front leg. He ran down to the next bench and I followed. When I spotted him, he ran and I fired a shot at his rear (a miss as best I could tell). I ran down to the next bench and spotted him as he jumped up and fired again hitting his right hip. He jumped and fell over a steep bank. I ran and spotted him on the next flat near the meadow. He was standing looking up the him at me. I knelt and fired the 5th and last shot, another broadside that destroyed both shoulders and dropped him in the grass at the edge of the meadow. I ran to the spot, took my Gerber and while holding the rack, slit his throat from one side to the other. I know it was unnecessary but I was beginning to think that my choice of ammo that year was not working. I switched ammo the next year and never had a failure like that again. Needless to say, He would have died following the 2nd shot but I was committed at that point, lol. I think I got about 10lbs of hamburger from that deer and a nice shoulder mount which the taxidermist did a great job of sewing up the cut throat. It was not the best job I ever did but it makes a great story. And serves to illustrate how following too soon and too closely will pump the deer's adrenaline and yours leading to their travelling far longer than necessary.
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