Blood Tracking Wounded Game
Ideally you want to deliver the perfect shot and drop an animal where it stands. But this is not always the case especially if you are new to the sport. In such a case the skill of blood tracking is an invaluable resource. It is much better to successfully blood track and find an animal than for it to become coyote food. Here is an introduction to an art that is not commonly taught in the sport of hunting. Blood tracking.
Always give the animal a 20 to 30 minutes minimum to get down trail and hopefully expire. The time you take exploring the shot area will only help. When you get out of your stand after the initial wait always bring your gun or bow with you because the chances of you jumping or walking up on a alive animal is high. Ease in perpendicular to the animals trail slightly backtracking him/her to pick up on its tracks before the shot occurred. Be careful not to disturb anything. Get on your hands and knees working toward the shot location and only progress when you have studied the whole area and pieced together a all that the sign and tracks tell you. Place your hand or knee in predetermined spots free of sign on the side of the tracks not to disturb them as you crawl along. Move slowly you do not want to pass the shot area and accidentally ruin the trail. The shot area is the most important spot to find and read in full detail. You will learn so much valuable information from this spot that will be of help in the future. Continue to work toward it confirming the correct entrance route and set of tracks.
Once in the shot area, think small, and look around the tracks small hair clumps noticing the color, blood drops noticing bright or dark in color, fluids, tiny bone fragments noting with or without marrow, or small pieces of meat. Many times a few single hairs or spot of blood on a leaf smaller than a pen point is all you need to confirm a hit. Examine closely, did the bullet or arrow pass through? Look for you arrow or bullet explosion in the leafy ground behind the tracks. How far did the projectile go from exiting the animal and align this with your firing location to get the shot angle. Line it all up and consider the height of the animal in comparison to the shot angle to determine where you hit it. Now compare the color of hair, texture of meaty pieces, and color of the blood to put the pieces all together. If the blood is bright it may be a lung shot if it is very dark it may be hit in the liver. If there are fluids the animal may be gut shot. The actual angle of impact, location of the hit, exit point, organs possibly hit, and escape route can all be determined by this small piece of ground giving you a better idea of what you are up against in your tracking.
Now it is time to get the rest of the animals story. The exit rout will be clearly defined by “kicks” deep cutting tracks with dirt kicked out of them opposite of the direction traveled. This is caused by the immense power of the panicked animal running off and usually taking a straight path then veering off on a trail. However as the animal goes the tracking may become more difficult. Mark the trail as you go and look back at the trajectory from time to time to keep it lined up. Use sticks to keep the last blood spots marked moving them as you go. Track the trail slowly keeping your eyes on the horizon for you could walk up on the animal and jump it. At this point the animal could be a few yards away or a mile off.
Tracking blood is an artform. If you have good blood ie dumping buckets it is easy to stroll along following it but it is not uncommon for the blood to be light or just stop. Many times the animal will hold its breath for several yards not bleeding and begin bleeding again yards later. There are times where it stops all together. There are also times when the blood is minimal and require you to stay on you hands and knees to find the next drop. Look at the trees that you pass the animal could rub against it and leave blood on the side or short grass and briars may scrape the body as they pass leaving blood sign. Leaves are the best blood tracking medium and if you condition your eyes for the color of the blood it will stand out clearly to you on leafy grounds. Occasionally pick up a bloody leaf and stare at it to condition your eyes again once the trail gets thin. However a grassy field and bare areas can extremely hard to track on. If you loose the blood trail find the last!
blood get on your knees and track slowly crawling till you find the nest speck. Mark the last blood as you go and if you cannot find the next spot slowly make a circle from the last local progressively widening it being careful not to cover any tracks or sign. The animal may have taken an abrupt turn. Never follow tracks alone without the confirmation of blood if you do so be skeptical until you positively confirm blood with the set of tracks. Only then do you proceed. It is counter productive to get off on the wrong trail. Always return to the blood and piece it all together if blood is found press on. After the shot a wounded animal will usually take a trail and find cover. If there is a water source near by a creek, a river, a pond I almost guarantee they will head in that direction. They get into the cold water and it sooths the pain and stops the bleeding. If they are wounded bad they will hit whatever cover is available look for a tree top, some brush, or thicket to attempt to rest and recover and many times this is where they die. Keep this in mind as you they may be piled up in an old tree top ahead of you. If you are completely stumped follow the most used trail or walk horizontally through the woods crossing the trails looking for the next blood or the game. If there is a creek near by it would be a good idea to stalk up to it and check the banks of it where the wound may open up when they cross the banks and bleed again. Chances are it is close by if not in the creek just stalk quietly and be ready to shoot.
You will need to become proficient in bare tracking- reading not only blood or pristine clear tracks but noticing such as kicked leaves one or two turned over here and there where tracks are not available. This includes rock roll or where the animal crossed over rocky areas and slightly rolled the rocks exposing the moist side of the pebbles showing its trail. Another track in grassy areas is pushed or slightly bent vegetation grass my shine in the sun or be dull if the dew is knocked off by the animals trail. If the area is marshy look for small cloudy spots in the water signifying a recent crossing. Look for skids from the animal jumping over obstructions or going down into gullies. If you are lucky there may be wallows or lays where the animal slips down or takes a break and there will be scratches, skids, and usually blood. Remember many times an animal will not bleed for quite some time after being wounded and may stop bleeding altogether at some point during the blood tracking and this is where basic tracking skills are invaluable. Well I hope this helps you out the next time you have to track an injured game animal
Submitted by Zeb Clark
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