View Full Version : Ever lose one? I'm chagrined. (Long)

November 20, 2001, 10:11 PM
Last Wednesday I was out bow hunting. About 9:30am a nice six point buck walked past my stand at less than 20 yards. I let him pass and took what I thought was a perfect quartering away shot. He flinched slightly and kept moving, but didn't seem particulary spooked. "Good kill" I thought.

Unfortunately, it had been raining earlier in the day, and it picked up again about that time, so I decided I could not afford to wait the requisite 30-45 minutes before starting the trail. I climbed down and retrieved my arrow. Straight away, good covering of bright read blood; no green. "Good pass through shot to the chest" I thought.

Pretty good blood trail for a quarter of a mile to the edge of the private property I hunt. I knocked on the door of the home on the adjacent property and received permission to track their land. Unfortunately, the trail began to weaken as I crossed their property; good news was the rain let up again so I had less concern about losing the trail. But the deer was not to be found. Trailed him all the way across the property and across a road. Now we're a good half mile from where I shot it.

On to the next property (again with permission of the land owner). Through a field of fairly high grass. Now I'm getting suspicious. Blood was less evident than I would have liked, and I noted that it was only on the left side of the deer's path. Hmmm. If it was a pass through shot, the exit must have been through the chest, which would explain the lack of blood on both sides of the trail.

So across the property into dense woods, across a four-foot-wide stream . . . pick up the trail again. Down through a marsh. Blood trail is becoming a drop or small splash of blood only every few yards rather than a constant drip. I had to spend a lot of time marking my last sighting and then circling to find further sign. I began to suspect I had crossed another property line just because I was so far into the trail; but I never saw an obvious line and no posted signs, so I slogged on.

Got all the way to the bottom of the valley and the buck had crossed a creek, about 10 yards in width and a good foot or two deep at the crossing point. I went east until I found a place I could wade across, counting on the Gore-tex liners in my leather boots to keep my feet dry. I managed to pick up the trail again on the far side, but now the blood was pretty sparse. The buck followed the creek for some 70 yards.

In the thick weeds/grass/rushes along the bank, I jumped him. He was up and gone in a flash. There was blood where he had been lying, but nowhere near as much as I would like to have seen. I trailed him another fifty yards or so, and he crossed the stream again . . . or at least entered it.

. . . and that's the last I saw of the trail. I spent another hour looking along both sides of that creek, painstakingly, both sides, for 100 yards in either direction. No dice. I called it quits at 4:15pm, almost seven hour after the shot. It took me 40 minutes of brisk walking to get back to where I left my bow on the original property I was hunting on, and another 20 minutes to get from there back to my truck.

I still can't figure out just what happened. My best guess is that the angle the buck was at when I shot, as he turned away, was more acute than I thought, so that I grazed or penetrated the left shoulder and missed the chest cavity and anything vital. The one thing I'm confident in is that I didn't gut shoot the animal; absolutely no evidence of that on the arrow or on the trail.

But boy does it feel bad drawing blood and not being able to recover the animal. Just hoping that he was taken by another hunter during gun season, which started yesterday.

November 20, 2001, 10:23 PM
I lost my first buck. The rancher who had the grass lease on my grandfather's ranch found the carcass a month after I shot it not far from where I took the shot. I don't know how I didn't find it. I kept the horns as a reminder. I am not proud of them and do not display them. Every time I shoot at a deer I remember the one I lost and hope it will never happen again, but I know it might. It will happen to almost every hunter from what I understand.

It still sucks though. Fifteen years later, every time I walk into that pasture I can see that buck, see it jump when the bullet hits it, see it run into the trees and disappear, feel that sickening as it gets darker and darker and you cannot find the deer.

You'll get the next one, I did. But, you won't forget this one.

Keep hunting and hopefully things will be better the next trip. Good Luck!

Art Eatman
November 20, 2001, 10:36 PM
I've told the grimy details before and won't now repeat them, but I still remember the two deer I've lost. Both from near 30 years ago. I imagine I could go back to the places on that ranch where I was, and where the deer were, darn near right to the very spots. I stil remember the circumstances, the rifles, the loads, the weather...And I'm still POed about it.


slick slidestop
November 20, 2001, 11:00 PM
Lost my first in 25 years of hunting last year....Terrible feeling of guilt.

Huge splatter at impact.....large pool where he evidently stopped after jumping a fence to check his 6.....another large pool with clotting and lung matter where he changed direction while obviously trotting......a couple of drops, then nothing:mad:

Just like that it stopped. I guess it clotted up enough for him to get a change of direction that I couldn't find. I looked for over 1 hour then went and got 3 other hunters from the cabin and looked another 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Disappeared without a trace.

Even though I know he died fairly quickly, I thought it a huge waste. :rolleyes:

Fred Hansen
November 20, 2001, 11:21 PM
Yep. The event is the same, only the details change. The same sick feeling pervades them all. Don't let it get to you. I have personally tracked deer over 600 yds. worth of meandering trail, only to find that the animal was shot straight through both lungs.

How can an animal go that far with an arrow through both lungs? I doubt that I will ever know. Some times the shot is textbook, and it still isn't enough. Sorry.:(

November 21, 2001, 08:47 AM

I have been through that twice now. Both times I tracked the deer for 7 hours. I know the feeling.

November 21, 2001, 11:06 AM
Sorry about your lost deer. I believe there are two kinds of deer hunters; those who have lost a deer, and those who are going to lose a deer. What I mean is, sooner or later it happens to us all. The difference is in the way the individual hunter handles the situation. Too many times around hunting camps and campfires I've heard stories about deer which were hit and lost, but the amount of work towards recovering the animal just wasn't up to the standards which I believe the animal deserves. You (and others who have posted in this thread) are an exception. Your story is an example to all hunters, in my opinion, of what kind of follow up should take place after shooting an animal. It sickens me when I hear about fellows who walk over to the spot where the deer was, take a quick look around, shrug their shoulders, and forget about it. Last season, as a guest at a friends lease, I met another "hunter"; this guy was also a guest of one of the members of the lease. He had been placed in a stand overlooking a food plot one afternoon, and proceded to shoot five deer in a row, one at a time as they stepped out from the wood line. He fully expected them to drop dead right where he shot them, and when they ran off, he was satisfied that he had missed and took the next opportunity which presented itself. He never went over and looked for signs of a hit, and neither did his friend who had invited him. The others in the club simply took his story that he had missed five deer "matter of factly" and kidded him about being a poor shot. I had to bring up the obvious (to myself anyway) fact that someone with more experience should follow up on these deer to be sure that none were hit or killed. While it is possible that he did miss, first time hunter, buck fever, etc., it is also possible that he hit all of them.

I, too, have spent many hours looking for wounded deer. But the one which sticks out in my mind the most is the only one I didn't recover. It was probably the best buck I have ever shot, and I trailed it until the blood trail finally petered out to nothing, at the edge of a very thick cutover, nearly a mile, and around seven hours, from where I shot him. I'll never forget it.

Although this probably won't make you feel any better, I'm proud of the effort you made and wish all hunters were more like this.

Art Eatman
November 21, 2001, 12:23 PM
Back around 1983, I went out dove-hunting with my old Model 12. 30", full choke--but full choke with paper shells. With the "new" plastic, it's extra-full.

I got a triple on passing doves, with "crumple, flop" on each. Found feathers. Never found any of the birds, even with an hour's looking! Mad? Take a guess.

Sure, the coyotes got a meal off me, but I still remember the frustration at what in a way was a "waste".

Got a few quail stories, for that matter. Out here, there is a metamorphosis which occurs when a blue quail hits the ground: They turn into rocks; the little critters become invisible. The moral is, don't shoot doubles; you'll lose the first one.

:), Art

November 21, 2001, 12:39 PM
Thanks, all, for the moral support. I'm a hunter safety instructor, Keano, and believe I should model the behaviors I expect of my students. Guess at least I'll have a story to tell of the way one should follow up on a wounded deer.

As an addendum, I shot a nice 6-point this morning at 7:05am (pic attached). First thing I checked was to see if it was the same deer. Apparently not. Interesting, though, that given the one lost, this otherwise successful season (I also took a doe opening morning) remains bittersweet.

Hunt safely.

November 23, 2001, 02:07 PM
Two years ago down in unit 29 in NM I shot a nice 4X4 Muley he went down to the shot at less than 100 yds. He then struggled got up and slowly started walking away and up a hill from me I gave him two more bullets and put him down on the last shot, again. As I got up to retrieve my deer he got up and disappeared over a ridge. That was the last I ever saw of him. I found a good blood trail initially then it slowly vanished to splatters then it was gone. I circled, pushed, crawled,and threw rocks into ever piece of cover for what had to be 3 or 4 hours. I never found that buck and it's stuck in my mind clear as the day it happened on replay over and over. About all I can tell is that the first shot went through the ribs a little far back and highand it should have been fatal. I still believe that that buck was down and dead within a 200 yard square and I just couldn't find him. Go figure! And yes I still think about it and it still agravates the hell out of me!!
The weirdest one I've ever seen however,ocurred last year in the Valle Vidal on Elk. We had a client shoot a nice bull at about 150yds with a .300 weatherby 180gr sierra (guys don't use soft bullets with high velocity rounds on elk it's a bad bad combination, Ballistic tips included!!!) In any case the hunter scored a good hit half way up the shoulder in line with the front leg. At the shot the Bull took off, knowing that he was hit hard we waited aboue 20 minutes then started tracking him. Not a drop of blood was found none nada zippo. Fourtunatley there was fresh snow on the ground so tracking was easy even with out blood. About 500 yds into the timber we found were the bull had bedded still not a drop of blood. In any case this went on for about a mile he'd bed down every 1/4 mile or so untill we finally found him standing out in a meadow, he was unable to move and gave us the chance to finish the job. On further inspection we found that the first shot had entered the muscle in the left shoulder and fractured the head of the humorus the bullet had completely failed and come apart in the shoulder muscle stopping in the bone but not penetraiting. the Bull had broken his remaining front leg trying to run through the snow and that's what stopped him. If it hadn't been for the snow we would have never found him, and never known what [email protected]!

November 23, 2001, 09:54 PM
I feel your pain. I have lost two deer and it sickened me both times. Mostly because I knew they probably died and did not recover. One was with a bow, the other a rifle. Both had good blood trails to start with, both petered out before finding the deer.

My guess is that one of two things happened. Either the angle was more accute than you realize and you only got one lung (near side, exiting in front of the far shoulder) or so high that the entry/exit holes sealed up and he bled inside only from there on.

Looking back on how it happened for you, I think I would have stopped the tracking job the minute it stopped raining. You'd already gone a good ways by then. Maybe if you had, the deer would have died where you jumped him up. That's what happened to me too.

Don't let it discourage you. I almost stopped hunting because of the last one. In fact, if it hadn't been with a borrowed rifle, the rifle probably would have stayed in the field too! That was a very long ride home. :(