Something happened to me a week ago that has only happened one time before in my life. I lost a deer. Not only that, but it was a really nice deer. I can feel good in the fact that the loss was not my fault, but rather the complete malfunction of a mechanical broadhead-tipped arrow shot from a crossbow.
Posts Tagged ‘Game Recovery’
Ticks and the outdoors are simply a fact of life. Even if you are not an outdoorsman, ticks can easily present a problem when one infiltrates your home when it hitches a ride on your pet or the pant leg of a family member. As awful as that may sound, tick prevention is possible. As the weather warms, ticks become more active. They will remain active through midsummer and well into the fall for many areas of North America. Hunters and outdoor enthusiasts or those simply venturing beyond the concrete jungle, can take a few common sense steps to prevent becoming a host to one of these blood-sucking hitchhikers and the various diseases they may carry.
When I started bowhunting in the late ’80s, distance to the animal didn’t really matter. I did not know much about bowhunting and as long as I aimed at the animal and it did not move, it would live a long healthy life.
Pepper spray or Oleoresin of Capsicum is a great defense against bears if deployed properly. Of course a .300 Weatherby or .454 Casull is preferential, but not always as practical or legal. For instance, when bowhunting elk with an archery-only permit—even in bear country—could result in legal troubles if you were caught with a sidearm. There is also the factor of accuracy when teeth and claws are coming your way at 30 mph.
Field dressing, or gutting a deer can be a messy job, but with a little practice, a sharp knife, and some patience, you can be back at the deer camp sipping a beer and relaxing in front of the campfire in no time.
Always remember that speed is important. Depending on the temperature outside, you will want to clean the deer as soon as it is dead. This will prevent a loss in body heat and won’t allow much time for bacteria to grow on the surface of the meat. Always don proper PPE. Wash your hands with soap and water before and after you clean your kill. Remember to wear disposable plastic gloves to reduce your risk of disease or infection. Always remember to clean your knife frequently during the gutting process, this will prevent cross contamination in the meat should some nasty critters be lurking around in your deer. There are several ways to position your kill for field dressing. If you don’t have a vehicle, you can use a length of rope to tie one of the animal’s legs to a tree to spread open the hind legs for gutting. If you have a truck or a four-wheeler, you can tie a slip knot around the deer’s neck, and throw the rope over a sturdy tree branch while tying the other end to your tow hitch, drive forward a few feet and the deer will be hanging from the tree. This will allow the organs to fall out of the carcass easier.
To start the cutting process, start at the bottom of the breastbone, and make a shallow cut by lifting the skin and muscle together. Turn the knife with the blade facing towards the sky. Insert two fingers on either side of the knife blade in the shape of a “V”. Use those fingers to push the organs and entrails away from the knife blade. Do not cut into the entrails, as this could spoil the meat. Continue this incision all the way down to the pelvis. Once you finish that cut, remove the reproductive organs with your knife. While holding the knife upwards, split the rib cage and cut through the breastbone. You can use your knife or a small saw for this step, especially if the animal is larger. Follow your previous incision from the pelvis to the anus. Using your saw, split the pelvic bone and cut around the urethra. Be careful no to sever the urethra. Carefully remove the anus by cutting around it’s connective tissues. You can tie off the anus with a string or rubber band. Next, hold the rib cage open and reach in to cut the diaphragm from the rib cage down to the backbone. At this point, be sure to avoid cutting the stomach or intestines as this will spoil the meat (and smell bad too). If the deer is on the ground, roll it over to dump out the entrails, you may have to help some of them along. Remember to cut connective tissue as needed, and remove the windpipe and esophagus.
Once you are able to remove the entrails, check the meat for any foul smells or greenish color. If anything looks or smells out of place, then DO NOT EAT THE MEAT. If you have access to a hose, use it to clean out the inside a bit and then dry it out with a towel. If you plan to take the carcass to be processed, do this a quickly as possible. I’ve had processors stay open a few minutes late after an evening hunt so I can get the deer into a freezer. You want to keep the meat below 40° F to prevent spoilage. Some processors will remove the hide for you, some won’t, it’s best to call your local processor ahead of time to find out what his requirements are.
Field dressing a carcass is definitely takes some practice and it’s better to have someone there who have some experience, but it can be done by a first timer with proper preparation. Remember to wash you hands afterwards to prevent catching any diseases. Happy hunting to all this season and we wish you the best of luck!
Call me a softy, but when I shoot a deer, I like to kill it immediately. I hate tracking deer in cold, muddy environments, and I especially hate to cause unnecessary suffering on the part of the deer. I usually hunt in south and east Texas, so our whitetail deer are not normally very large. I use a .270 or 30.06 caliber round with one of a couple scoped bolt action rifles, so as long as my gun is properly sighted in, I usually do not have a problem. There are occasions however, that despite a perfectly placed shot, the deer just seems to be able to run forever. I chased a deer that had a hole in its heart 200 yards in the thickest, briar patch infested scrub brush you have ever seen. Tracking deer is something that most deer hunters will have to do eventually, so it is best to be prepared.
Preparation starts at home. Gather some supplies together before you leave for your hunt and put them in a bag. Any small pack or dump pouch will do, my backpack/hydration bag works perfect for me. Gather up a flashlight, some snacks, water, hydrogen peroxide in a squirt bottle, and a roll of biodegradable flagging ribbon. If nothing else gets packed, the flagging ribbon and the flashlight are the absolute must have’s.
When you first take the shot, and the deer doesn’t go down, watch its reaction, if it jumps when it’s hit, it might be a heart or lung shot. It will most likely not get very far if this is the case. If your shot went awry, and you hit it in the leg, you might see it go down, and try to stumble away. Should this happen, it would be a good idea to deliver a finishing shot before you attempt to approach your prey. A gut shot is the worst type of scenario. The deer is going to be wounded and frightened, and will probably run quite a distance before it decides to bed down. If it is a gut shot, the deer might run with its tail down.
When you shoot, don’t jump out of the stand immediately. Make a note of where you shot the deer and watch where it runs. It will most likely head to thick brush to hide. If you follow the deer too soon, it will hear and smell you coming and keep running. Go to the spot where he took the hit. If you see a great deal of fur, you might have grazed the deer. If you don’t see too much hair, you probably have a body shot. If you see bits of bone, a leg shot is probable.
When looking at blood, take note of where the blood lies. If it is up high, in tall grass, you might have a shot to the heart or lungs. If there are air bubbles in the blood, you have a lung shot, and you won’t have to track your prey very far. Blood that is very dark red with bits of green in it indicate a gut shot, and you might be in for a long trek. If the blood trail gets thin, or you aren’t sure that what you are looking at is actually blood, use your hydrogen peroxide spray bottle, the blood will bubble up just like it does on an open wound. As you get into the woods, liberally use your flagging ribbon. Tie it around trees or branches at eye level or higher. Keep your ears open too, a deer falling on the ground can make a very audible “thud.” Remember not to let yourself get thrown off by tracks. If it is a trail often used by deer, you may be following the wrong buck.
While on the trail, don’t move forward until you see the next drop of blood. If you loose track, and don’t see any blood, move back to the last spot and search for more sign. Should you not see any blood at all, try to look for the path of least resistance. You could get lucky and pick up the trail again, if you still don’t see any, move back again and use your spray bottle. Take your time and don’t try to rush, if it gets dark, who cares, you have your flashlight and flagging ribbon, right? If the blood trail abruptly stops, look around for a spot with heavy brush. A deer on the run will try to bed up in order to hide, especially if it is running out of energy. Typically, this is where the deer will expire. Once it lies down, it usually won’t get back up.
Keeping these simple tips in mind will make it a bit easier to track your prey the next time it runs off. I figure there is no reason to shoot an otherwise harmless animal unless you intend to eat it, so recovering your prey is the most essential part of your hunt.
Only once in all my years of hunting and in going along with my dad as he hunted have I ever been in a situation where an animal that had been shot made a run for it. I am very thankful for this, as the situation is not one that any hunter wants to be in; not only does it feed into the image of our sport among non-hunters as superfluous and cruel, but no hunter worth the tag wants an animal suffering because of a botched shot. It’s also a terrible waste if the animal cannot be recovered.