By Rich Miller
When a hunter goes into the woods, all he can think about is making the perfect shot. We’d all like to have the deer come up the trail or into the food plot – just the way we imagined it – then turn broadside and offer us the shot we’ve dreamed of. Whether with gun or bow, when this moment of truth comes, sometimes the shot isn’t as perfect as the rest of the scenario was. Not a lot of people like to talk about it; or if it happens on TV, some of the people act like it didn’t happen or the shot was a “little back” and they make a short recovery. The hard truth is bad shots happen and we as hunters must be prepared for them when they occur.
The other Saturday afternoon, right after dark, I got a phone call from dad telling me about a deer he had just shot. He was hunting with a muzzleloader and the deer was about sixty-five yards away when he took the shot. He said after the shot, the deer just hunkered up and walked out into the field and laid down. He was still in the stand when he called me and told me he could see the deer, but couldn’t get another shot at him. He wanted to know if he needed to get down and try to sneak up to the deer and get another shot into him. I told him definitely not; I felt like the deer was gut shot and he should just wait until it got dark, sneak out and we could find him the next morning. Early the next morning my dad and I headed out with my little boy and nephew in tow to find the buck. Once we got there and were recreating the shot, my dad filled me in that he tried to sneak up on the deer after we talked and jumped him. I immediately became worried because after a deer beds down and gets back up the blood trail gets very sparse. We found where the deer had bedded down in the field and there was a little blood there, but we couldn’t find anything after that. After showing me the direction the deer ran after he was jumped, I started looking along the fence and found some tracks. After a lot of searching I found one small speck of blood, but the same heavy tracks were there, also. I stayed on the tracks until I couldn’t find them anymore, but I realized they were running down hill toward a pond that was a couple hundred yards away. I walked straight down the hill about thirty yards from where I lost the sign to a real thick spot in a gully and found the deer.
The reason my dad said he got down and went after the deer was that he had seen a coyote earlier in the hunt and he thought it would find the deer if he didn’t. We did find the deer, but we got really lucky and it was a lot of unnecessary work in doing so. Bad shots will be made, and over the years I have learned the best friend a hunter can have is patience. Don’t get in a hurry, take your time and make sure you’re on something before moving forward and messing up any sign you may have. It’s not easy and it will be time consuming, but if you’re going to hunt, tracking wounded game is part of the game. It’s like they say, “the works starts after the shot.” Be prepared for a bad shot – but don’t expect it – because we have all made them; and if someone hasn’t, that’s only because they haven’t been hunting long enough.