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  • Did I Hit It?? : by Bill McLeod

Did I Hit It?? : by Bill McLeod

20/03/2023 10:13 AM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

You’ve sneaked around stealthily like a ninja warrior and finally found a deer. Made the shot. Now what? Difficult as it may seem, take a moment to check some things. If you can, take a mental photo of what your sight picture was when you released the shot. On your first few deer you may well ask yourself, what shot? The intensity of the moment may be overwhelming. I find that having that clear mental picture of what the shot looks like helps in determining subsequent actions. One particular time springs to mind. A shot at the head of a wild bull didn’t look right. The bull disappeared but my mental picture was wrong. I was too scared to go straight to the bull. Just as well. As it turned out the bull was only stunned. This mental picture should include the part of the animals body where the crossfire was when the shot was released. This determines the likely distance the animal may travel after being hit.

Have a think, did I hear the whack of a bullet striking the animal. Sometimes the strike is clearly audible, a good indication of a hit. I’ve found that a number of factors can prevent you hearing the strike. The blast reflected off a nearby tree may be the dominant audible result. I think my advancing industrial deafness may be relevant.

Have a think about what you heard after your shot which may give an indication of the deer's direction of travel. Any crashing, hoof sounds?

No big deal if you don’t have that image or sound in your mind, you still have to go through the checklist to locate your deer. Check exactly where you are when you fired the shot. Next to that whiteywood, near that big rimu. If there’s nothing that distinctive in the vicinity I will scrape the heel of my boot on the ground, just to leave a start point for any search in case you have difficulty locating the deer. Then carefully note the location of the animal when you fired at it. It is important to start the search in the right place.

If my shot was placed in an area which is immediately fatal, I will then go to the place I’ve marked as the deer's location when I fired at it fully expecting to find it. A clean headshot or a properly centered neck shot will drop the animal on the spot, no mucking around. If the animal is not there with either of those bullet placement there is a high likelihood you missed. They don’t run off with either of those hits. A body shot is a different kettle of fish. The animal may drop like a stone or it may run some considerable distance. I’ve found that the caliber of rifle, weight of bullet, velocity of bullet or brand name of bullet makes very little difference in this respect. If my sight picture is of a thoracic cavity strike I will go to the deer's location and look for indications of the deer's direction of travel. These are primarily hoof marks.

Two things you are looking for, actually seeking the dead deer or direction of its travel. If you don’t see the dead deer immediately make a mark for a start point for your search. I’ve been surprised when I haven’t found a dead deer that on restarting my search I’ve started in the wrong location. Shooting across a big gully on the Ohutu, dropped a Rusa stag. Went down to the river, made my way upstream, climbed the spur, absolutely no sign. Climbed to where I could see where I fired from, no difference. Climbed down the spur, back down the river, up to my firing point. Looked across to where the deer had been standing and it was immediately clear that the deer was on a spur twice as far as the one I had climbed. Back down to the river, up the river twice as far and climbed that spur. There was my stag.

A well hit deer may leave good indicators of the hit. Deep hoof marks and a blood trail. When you find a blood mark you know that the deer has run there. You can often get an impression of which direction it’s traveling by looking back to the start point. Follow the blood trail. If necessary, break a fern frond to mark your trail. If you lose the blood trail you can circle back to pick it up again. Don’t be surprised if the animal has travelled a considerable distance, it happens. The cause of death from a thoracic hit is the deer running out of blood. Also, don’t be surprised if there is little or no blood. The bleeding may be mainly internal.

The mistake you can make is racing up to where you think you hit the deer followed by a blind search which has little chance of success. Take your time, think things through and be prepared to be vigilant. A favoured technique of mine when hunting redskins in crown fern country was to clomp along, not trying too hard to ninja, then spook a deer. You had to really ninja then, sneaking along in the direction you’d seen them take, to where you could see them. A shot to the lungs with the 222 left almost no blood so your tracking skills were important.

It’s a real buzz when you locate a deer after a protracted search. Sighting the downed animal is the result of using your observation and skills.

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