I just finished my 50th call of the year with a live jump of a non-mortally wounded deer. I thought it was a gut shot by the hunter's phone interview, but when I got to the hit site it was quite clear what really happened. The ground hunting hunter reported a line of white hair on the ground making me think a low belly opening slice like I have seen often before with big mechanical broad heads. The big mature buck reportedly acted like a gut shot as well. He jumped slightly at the shot and stopped 30 yards away and stood with tail down and breathed heavily for 15 minutes as he milled around "acting oddly" before walking slowly away.
The hunter reported a lot of blood where the deer stood for 15 minutes and an easy blood trail leading away. I had tracked successfully for this novice hunter before so he called me from the hit site at 9am an hour after the shot and I advised him to wait until 2 hours before dark (3pm) which would be 7 hours after the shot before tracking. The hunter called back after dark and reported the blood trail petered out after 600 yards with one big puddle along the way. From the phone conversation I believed he had pushed him unseen in the dark when he tracked him that night.
When I got to the hit site in the morning the real story was there to be seen. The "line" of white hair was actually a big oval "puff" of white hair and some of the white hairs had brown tips indicative of the white hairs at the border of the white and brown on the back of a deer's rear legs under the tail.
The hunter had been unable to find the bolt from his crossbow even though he reported a double thump when he shot. I assumed one thump hitting the deer and a second one with the bolt likely striking a tree behind the deer a split second later. When my dog Eibe surveyed the hit site before taking off down the line she found the bolt embedded in a tree 15 yards behind the puff of hair. The bolt had deflected left 30 degrees from the original line of travel after striking the deer. With the 25 yard shot hitting the deer so far off the point of aim and so many small branches in the line of sight I lined up from the puff of hair and the stump the hunter was leaning on for the shot I suspect the first thump was a deflection off a limb before the bolt hit the deer rather than the striking of the deer.
The puff of hair and the brown tips on the white hairs told the story but the bolt confirmed it. It appeared to be perfectly clean but when I sprayed it with peroxide, as you can see in the photos below, it showed a glancing blow. The shaft between two of the three fletchings foamed up but the opposite side did not. Also the rest of the shaft did not foam at all except for a very small spot on one side of the shaft just behind the broad head an inch or two. After wiggling the broad head out of the tree, only two of the three blades of the Grim Reaper mechanical broad head foamed as well. Also the large amount of blood reported by the hunter where the deer milled around for 15 minutes was just a bunch of drops. Lots of small drops but nothing even approaching "a lot" of blood.
Note wet spots of peroxide with no foam on shaft between fletching.
Note white specks of foam from peroxide. The shaft appeared perfectly clean before the peroxide was applied. I was surprised to see it foam up.
Not seen in this photo but only 2 of the 3 blades foamed from the peroxide and a small speck of material foamed on the shaft 1 or 2 inches back from the broad head on the same side of the shaft as the 2 blades that foamed.
Looking at the small specks of foam from the peroxide on the bolt I could visualize 2 of the 3 blades of the mechanical opening as they contacted the back edge of the rear legs of the buck and sliced the skin open barely touching the muscle underneath and lightly spraying a little tissue on one side of the bolt's shaft. As the blades created drag on one side of the shaft the back end of the bolt would kick away from the animal and as soon as the blades passed out of the skin the bolt would try to true itself thrusting the fletching back towards the deer's rump and smacking 2 of the 3 fletchings against the wound in the skin. This would cut an enormous amount of white hair as the blades raked across the back of the rear legs.
After evaluating the shot I told the hunter there was almost no chance of recovering the deer but since I had driven 90 miles and was there any way I would give it a shot. I was personally curious if this big buck who reacted so conservatively to the glancing shot would lay up and rest. And there is always the chance that somehow I miss interpreted the sign and he was more severely hurt. At the very least since I was so sure of what had occurred from the available sign I planned on using the call as a training exercise and learning more about my dog.
Well I started my dog and she easily followed the 600 meters the hunter had tracked and just kept on going through the point of loss without missing a beat. 165 meters past the hunter's point of loss the trail made a J-hook and we jumped the buck unseen but it was clear from my dog's actions that the trail had gone hot. He was laying 50 meters off his back trail. We chased him about 1½ miles in easy terrain just for the fun of it and to observe the pattern he would take. As expected for a minimally hurting deer he took minimal evasive maneuvers at first feeling little threat from his pursuers being he was really not that hurt. He did make one small t
ricky move but that was pretty much it. He ran out into a field and made a 50 meter
circle and then cut back at a hard angle across an opposite field. At one point after that he busted through 5 or 6 bedded does. We saw the does running hard ahead of us and
tracked his single tracks across their
beds. I wonder if he did that on purpose? The does ran down the same trail he did for
awhile. I was quite proud of my dog in that when the buck's single tracks
branched off from the group at a Y in the trail my Eibe never missed a beat and
was right on him and ignored the does' heavy, hot line. When I was sure Eibe was just on him by
himself I picked a convenient place to quite the trail when the buck veered in
a direction that was not back towards the truck.
We had chased the buck live for an hour over a distance of about 1 ½ miles and he had shown no signs of weakness. I had seen my dog negotiate the buck's evasive circle maneuver effortlessly, and I gained even more confidence in her ability to concentrate on the correct line when we busted through the bedded does. This was a productive day for my dog and I salvaged out of a non-gettable call. And a nice fat tip from the hunter topped it all off!
Thanks Andy for the great post!