Recovering Gut Shot Deer

By Will Allen

No one wants to put an arrow in the guts of a deer. It takes much longer for a deer to expire from this type of wound which is obviously not a good thing for the animal and it’s mentally excruciating for a hunter. We strive for quick, clean kills. Preventing gut shots is the first step but if you hit a deer too far back, recovering the deer should be your number one priority. The good news is with today’s broadheads, the chances of recovering a poorly hit deer are still pretty good.

If you believe you hit a deer too far back the first thing you should do is nothing at all. Sit tight and watch the deer walk away. Most deer will bed down within 100 yards of where they were shot. If you climb out of the stand right away, you will probably spook the deer further from your location. The further the deer goes from your stand, the less likely a successful recovery becomes. Wait at least a half hour before climbing down. If you can see the deer, wait even longer.

After climbing down from your stand, locate your arrow. An arrow will almost always pass completely through a gut shot deer. There simply isn’t anything to stop an arrow in a deer’s abdomen. An arrow that passes through the guts may be covered with brown or clear fluid. There will be little if any blood on the arrow and it will smell horrible. Once you find the arrow, the best thing you can do is move away from the area as quickly and quietly as possible.

A gut shot deer should be given as much as 12 hours before tracking. Even then, you should bring a weapon with you when trailing. If you can bring help and they can carry a weapon do so. Gut shot deer springing from their beds even after 12 hours is not uncommon.

When it comes to trailing, marking the deer as it walks away is imperative. A gut shot deer will bleed a little but you won’t have a huge, easy to spot blood trail. Start walking toward where you last spotted the deer and keep one eye on the ground and one eye ahead of you. Move slowly and be prepared for a possible follow up shot. Bring a long some trail tape to mark blood and places you’ve checked.

Work in concentric circles from the last place blood was spotted. If it seems like the deer has disappeared, check water sources. A gut shot deer will experience flu like symptoms before expiring. It will likely crave water and look for a place to cool off. If a gut shot deer isn’t found bedded down close to where it was shot, it will often be found in or near water.