By Andy Bensing
Cold, late season hunting draws very few hunters in MD and NJ where I do my tracking so a January 16th call in the snow was a pleasant surprise. Maybe because it had been 3 weeks since my last track, but I got great pleasure from this call, and there were quite a few interesting aspects to it. The doe was gut shot with a 20 gauge slug from 180 yards the night before. The amazing report from the hunter started like this,
" I started tracking the deer 45 minutes after I shot and to my amazement I found her just inside the woods 50 yards from where I saw her leave the field and she was just STANDING there wobbling in some thick stuff. I stood there 15 feet away for a few minutes in amazement that she did not run off and expecting her to fall over and die. When she didn't, I made my way up to her through the thicket and decided to try and push her over. I actually touched her and when I did she just kind of wobbled away into the dark. I went home, waited 2 hours and went back with my wife to hopefully find her dead a short distance away. We tracked a fairly easy blood trail about 100 yards past where she had been standing but the blood ended and that was it."
Here is a photo the hunter took with his cell phone while he stood there before he touched the standing deer.
When got the call that night I decided to wait until morning before
tracking. I expected a pretty easy find of the gut shot doe. The hunter
reported he got an excellent look at the location of the hit when he
walked up to the standing deer. I doubted she would travel very far
if she did not even want to run off when the hunter approached. Well,
for some reason when I started my dog, Eibe, she had a very difficult
time picking up the line through the 4 inches of heavy wet snow that had
come down during the night. I knew there was good blood under the snow
as reported by the hunter but Eibe just could not lock in at first. I
actually restarted her 3 times at the hit site in the first 45 minutes.
She could not even make her way all the way down the path the hunter
had tracked visible blood the night before. On the 3rd restart, I had
the hunter dig down under the snow and find some visible blood.
had tracked in the snow maybe a dozen times in the past and I never had
to do that before but I gave it a try and it worked. Getting a good
nosefull of that blood seemed to set things in motion, and we started to
make some progress. We got to the hunter's point of loss with a little
steering help from me and then Eibe picked her way along independently
in a logical direction. She would lock in and zip along for 50 yards or
so, then the scent would seem to dry up, and she would search a few
minutes, pick it up again and zip right along for another 50 yards or
so. Four or five places along the way I was able to see a comforting blood
smear on a branch or a dot or two of frozen blood coming up from the
disturbed snow off Eibe's footprints.
After Eibe finally was able to
lock in on the trail it took her 45 minutes to find the deer dead about
500 yards past where it had been touched by the hunter the night before.
The deer took one last jump across a creek and died on the other side.
With the snow partially covering the deer, I thought at first she was
just a rock but when Eibe dove into the frigid water, grabbed her tail
and yanking, the snow fell off and there was no doubt.
When I got to the deer I could see the bullet sticking out her side, and
it looked like it smacked into her, mushroomed but never entered her.
What the ?????? Further investigation revealed that I was looking at
the exit side of the shot. The 20 gauge Remington slug had mushroomed
nicely and tumbled around in the deer as it passed through the guts on a
45 degree angle from back to front. It had just enough energy left to
punch the tail end of the bullet through the deer's skin but the lip
from the mushroom hung up in the skin and prevented the bullet from
exiting. I have seen arrows clog an exit hole but never a bullet doing
the same. Not amazing but pretty interesting to see.