Better Blood Trailing With Help From HuntStand

Trust the process. Use these tips to increase your odds of a quick and successful recovery on your next big game hunting adventure.

by Jace Bauserman

HuntStand Pro Contributor MORE FROM Jace

BloodTrail 12 900The opening in the plum thicket was small, but the arrow looked good. After release I’d heard a distinct plop and then watched the buck sprint over the ridge. Not 100-percent sure of the arrow’s impact, and because I couldn’t find the arrow after climbing out of my stand, I opted to give the buck six hours before taking up the trail.

There was some blood about 20 yards from the impact site—it wasn’t much; a dab here and a dot there. I was worried. My good buddy and owner of Oklahoma-based Croton Creek Outfitters, Scott Sanderford, however, was not. Scott was calm, cool, and collected. He had me climb back into the stand, and he walked through the opening where I took the shot. Together, we decided that the arrow, based on what I had to shoot at, had hit vitals. For the next three hours, I watched Scott put on a second-to-none tracking display, and then, a full 300 yards from where I took the shot, we found my Sooner State buck lying stone dead. That was the day I learned how to track hit game. Up to that point, I considered myself pretty good at it. I wasn’t. There’s a science to it, and if you follow the tips to come, you’ll find more hit animals. BloodTrail Five 900Slow Down & Replay. Bowhunting is a game of inches, and the moments after a shot can be some of the most anxiety filled of your life. They are also some of the most important. It’s during these moments that bad decisions get made. I’ve guided hunters who had a complete mental meltdown and went on a grid search before even looking for their arrow. Then there are those times I’ve shown up to help look for blood, and the hunter can’t even remember where the animal was standing. Yikes!BloodTrail Two 900If you don’t see the animal go down, even if you’re confident the shot was perfect, stay in your stand, blind, or the spot on the ground where you took the shot, for at least 30 minutes. Focus your eyes on the location where the animal went and listen intently. More than once, I’ve caught another glimpse of a hit animal sneaking out of cover, and multiple times I’ve heard timber crash as the animal toppled to the ground. This is especially true with large animals like elk. These steps are all essential pieces of the process, and will make finding the animal much easier once your search begins.BloodTrail 14 900Your next move is to visually mark in your mind, the exact spot you saw the animal disappear. Then, pull up your HuntStand hunt area and drop a pin at this exact spot.

Next, have a seat, chug some water and get a snack. Let your mind calm down for a minute before doing anything else. Now, replay the shot in your mind—over and over again. Was the animal perfectly broadside, or was the angle quartering-to or away? What was the reaction of the animal after the hit? The more data you can recall, the better. Plus, doing these things helps that critical half-hour go by all the quicker.

At this point, you’ve already done a lot, but each of the following steps will help expedite the recovery process.BloodTrail 6 900Find The Arrow. Some time has passed. You haven’t heard or seen anything. As long as it doesn’t expose you to the area the animal may be in, look for your arrow. When doing this, don’t wander about aimlessly. Go to the exact spot you think the arrow should be, and look closely. Don’t get frantic. Relax and focus your eyes on the ground. This is where a lighted nock and brightly colored arrow wraps are helpful. If you don’t recover the arrow, don’t take up the blood trail. If you do recover the arrow, scrutinize it. The type of blood on the arrow, married with what you remember about the angle of the animal, and how it reacted to the shot, will tell you how long you need to give the animal.BloodTrail One 900Bubbles are always a good thing, and indicate the arrow passed through at least one lung. This is, however, why it’s so important to be able to recall the body position of the animal. One-lung hits can be bad, and animals can go a long way. Many hunters report one-lung-hit deer living up to 36 hours and traveling miles. One time, I shot a doe from a treestand at a super-steep downward angle. The arrow caught one lung, which I later discovered while cleaning the animal. I found her 24 hours later, still alive but unable to get up. If you believe the hit to be a one-lung hit, give the animal plenty of time and keep your eyes up during the tracking process. You may have to put another arrow in the animal.BloodTrail three 900Dark-colored blood typically means the arrow passed through the abdomen. If you believe your arrow caught liver, you can take up the trail after about six hours. Traces of blood mixed with the brown smear of stomach matter mean a paunch hit, and you should give the animal even more time. The arrow will stink, and your stomach will sink, but the good news is, animals hit in this area typically bed down quickly and will die. If you slip out of the area quietly, you’ll often return to find the animal dead in its first or second bed. I like to give paunch-hit animals at least 12 hours before taking up the trail.BloodTrail 10 900Don’t Bring An Army. One of the biggest mistakes I see bowhunters make when tracking blood, and one of Sanderson’s pet peeves, is bringing an army into the field. A bunch of buddies is excellent for a grid search, but not for tracking blood. When monitoring blood for the first time, return with only one person. BloodTrail four 900I’ve seen it happen too much. A pile of guys and gals show up to track blood and start wandering this way and that. What happens is that one or more of the trackers misses a drop of blood and kicks dirt or debris over existing blood, or someone steps on a heavy track and blots the track out. More people tromping means a better chance of blood molecules getting on boots and clothing and getting spread about the landscape. What happens if a tracking dog needs to be brought in? The dog will have trouble getting on the right trail.BloodTrail 15 900When you first take up the blood trail, pull up HuntStand and mark the first blood with the app’s blood marker. Then, turn on HuntStand’s helpful Tracer feature. This feature (see image above) tracks your movements by dropping a path on the map that can be saved and color-coded. Have one person run the app while the other leapfrogs ahead, to search for the next bit of blood. The person on the app doesn’t move until the next spot of blood is found. In addition to using the app, I also recommend using flagging tape or toilet paper to mark the blood trail. Doing this, in combination with each marked spot of blood on the app, and the use of the Tracer feature, provides a great visual reference you can go back to time and time again.BloodTrail 13 900During the blood-trailing process, be sure to stay on the trail and try and stay behind the blood. If you move too fast, there is a risk of covering up blood, making it difficult for the dog if you need to use one. During the process, flip-flop the roles of blood tracker and app runner. Fresh eyes are a good thing, and often, the next man up will find a speck or fleck that was missed. Keep this process going until you find the animal, or lose blood completely.BloodTrail 9 900If Blood Is Lost. If you get to a point in the tracking process where blood can’t be found, don’t throw in the white towel. Instead, take a look back at your HuntStand app blood markers and Tracer, as well as the surrounding landscape. Many times, using this process, I’ve been able to make an educated guess about where the buck may have gone. Upon predicting a possible path of travel, I move slowly to that spot, while the app runner stays put on last blood. Often, this method will put you back on the blood, and you can resume the search.BloodTrail 8 900Other Helpful Sign. Don’t get wholly fixated on seeing only red. Pay close attention to every detail. Get a good picture in your mind of what the animal’s track looks like. Many times, especially when trailing elk, I’ve been able to stay on the track and recover the animal, or that track ends up leading me to the next spot of blood. Also, keep a keen eye peeled for pieces of stomach or gut content on the ground. Hair may also be visible. In addition, take particular interest in bushes or trees that show a new break at the body level of the animal. Disturbed grass and leaves are also tell-tail signs that the hit animal passed through.BloodTrail 11 900Take Breaks. Tracking blood can be an exhausting process. It’s hard on the body and the mind. Time spent inching along the ground on hands and knees is difficult, and your eyes, as previously mentioned, can get tired. A tired body and mind lead to shortcuts, and shortcuts lead to not finding your animal. Don’t be afraid, if temperatures allow, to abandon the search for a bit. Head back to camp and grab a bite to eat, or if you’re on the mountain, prepare a freeze-dried meal before resuming the search. More than once, I’ve returned to the scene with fresh eyes, and uncovered something I’d previously missed.BloodTrail 7 900Make A Decision. Sometimes all the blood-trailing in the world won’t be enough, and you’ll be forced to make a decision. Do you go with a dog or do a grid search? First, you need to check local game laws and make sure a tracking dog is legal. Second, if you’re leaning toward using a blood dog, you’ll need to contact the owner and check on availability and give them the 411 on the situation. If you decide to do a grid search, now is the time to bring in the army.

Pull up HuntStand and take a look at the area. Be sure to note likely places the animal may have headed, such as water sources, bedding areas, and thickets. Now, have the team fan out and start searching. Be relentless in the search. Leave no stone unturned. Never call it off until the animal is recovered, or it becomes glaringly apparent the hit wasn’t vital. Good luck out there!



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