This past Sunday I had elected not to bow hunt in the afternoon so I could get some projects done around the house I had been putting off. Just a couple minutes before 6 o’clock my phone rang and it was my brother-in-law. I knew the reason he was calling before I answered. “I just shot a buck” were the first words he said. After that he asked if I could come down and help him track it. I gathered my spotlight, headlamp, and license before heading out.
I got to his house at about 6:30. As I walked up to the house, he emerged from the edge of the yard on his way back. I asked the standard questions of how far was the shot, could you see where you hit him, and what did he do after getting hit? After waiting a little longer at the house, we headed up to the stand where he shot from. Once there I asked to go to where the deer was standing when he shot. I tied a piece of flagging tape up as reference. We followed the direction the deer took after being hit and found some blood after 10 yards or so. The blood was a rich red, no bubbles to show a lung shot but no stomach contents to indicate a gut shot. We continued to follow the blood trail and after 75 yards or so, we found the arrow on the ground thanks to the lighted nock. We carefully inspected the arrow and kept on tracking as the arrow was covered in blood, meaning it had worked its way through the body cavity of the deer. As expected, the blood trail got better as the arrow was no longer plugging the wound channel. However, after another 50 yards the trail started to get lighter. As I was inspecting the blood on the edge of an ATV trail, my brother-in-law had gone forward some to look for the next blood when the deer got up and bounded off. I marked the trail edge with more flagging and we backed out for the night.
Monday morning, we picked up at the last blood. After looking around the downed tree where the deer had taken off from, we found where it had been bedded down. The buck had headed out into a large goldenrod field. Remembering where it sounded like he headed, we looked out in the goldenrod and found some more blood. We followed spotty blood (if you have ever tracked a deer through goldenrod you know how tough it is) for another 50 yards before it began to really peter out. Knowing the general direction he was headed from the previous blood, we slowly worked that way. We had pretty much given up and had left a voicemail with someone who has a tracking dog when we found a tiny spot of blood that gave us a final bearing on the path he took. We had almost walked out of the goldenrod when I noticed a trail going from an apple tree out into the alfalfa field bordering the goldenrod.
I went over to the trail, looked in the field, and spotted something on the ground. After another two steps, I realized it was a deer but it was beat up. My first thought was that it was a deer that had been hit by a car and made it that far from the road (about 100 yards) but I noticed that the deer had antlers. After shouting that I had found it, we convened at the carcass. The deer had been discovered and fed on by coyotes. Both hindquarters had been chewed as well as the body cavity. Before moving the carcass, we located the exit hole and I grabbed a stick to check out the shot angle. The stick passed less than an inch behind both lungs and had put a triangular hole in the liver. The shot was lethal, the coyotes just happened to find the deer before we could. It just goes to show that you can do the right things, like backing out after jumping a wounded deer and waiting until the morning just to have something bad happen like coyotes finding the carcass.