This Monday I've recieved a text message from my uncle telling me about how he lost a 6 pointer in Webster, MA. He shot it a little low, followed the blood trail until he lost it. I figured, I'd write something on how to track down that deer to ensure you never lose a buck no matter the time of day.
Rule #1 Giving up is not an option.
A lot of hunters will take a shot, go look where the contact was made and assume they missed the shot. Giving up in this situation can result in a lost deer. There's a handful of hunters who have told me they've heartshot their deer and it never left a trace of blood.
Tracking STARTS with preperation. You should always be prepared to track your buck, bring along some markers to help you follow the trail. You will also need a flashlight (depending on the amount of light).
When the initial shot is taken it's very important to keep your eyes and ears on the deer at all times. Try your best to follow the deer for as long as you can when you can't see the buck, try listening for the fall.
If you're bow hunting NEVER leave your stand earlier than an hour after the shot. I was in the woods last November and I shot a small 6-pointer, I came out of my stand about 40 minutes after the shot (which was high) and I went looking for the buck only to find a large blood pile and no deer. I left the area for an hour then returned to find the buck dead about 50 yards away.
If you're in a tree stand at time of contact this is a huge advantage. Use the height to your advantage and follow that deer as long as possible. Keeping in mind where the buck was shot, where he ran, and try to remember the last "landmark" you saw the deer running past. A "landmark" will most likely be a rock, stump, tree, small path, anything that you can remember seeing the deer run past or near. This will be helpful if the blood trail is difficult to follow, due to light conditions or rain.
When you get down from your stand be on high alert, use your LED flashlight for assistance if needed. It also helps to have a hunting buddy to help you mark spots and keep his eyes out. Four eyes are better than two.
When you have lost the trail, start creating a 10-15 foot circle around the last blood spot you've found. If you find blood spots about the size of a basketball there's a good chance you have a dead deer nearby. If it's more the size of a golf ball, you're going to have to look a bit harder.
If you're serious about finding your deer it's a good idea to mark each peice of "evidence" like you're a CSI guy. After all, you're as close as you're going to get.
Be sure not to walk on the same path as the deer. Chances are you will be able to see the ruffled leaves along the blood trail where the deer has been running. Sometimes the leaf prints are easier to spot and can help you when the blood trail isn't visible.
Keep in mind, you WILL find that deer, it's a percentages game, the longer you look for that buck, the greater the chances you will find the buck... dead or alive. Giving up too soon can cost you meat in the freezer.