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December 18, 2007

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BuckTracker: Why Waiting Works

Despite what we see on TV and video, not all arrows loosed at deer pass through both lungs, and not every gunshot results in a buck dropping in its tracks. Hunt long enough, and you WILL make a marginal hit on a deer. So how do you handle the situation when you know your shot wasn't immediately fatal?

My friend Dan Schmidt -- a veteran whitetail hunter with many deer to his credit -- faced just such a situation while hunting during Wisconsin’s firearms season last month. Dan spotted a great buck following a doe through the woods, and used calling to lure the pair within shooting range. When the buck stopped just over 40 yards away, Dan aimed his bolt-action shotgun (central Wisconsin is shotgun-only) and fired. Both deer ran off, and though Dan was sure he’d hit the buck, he didn’t feel confident in his shot placement. He inspected the area where the buck was standing and had his suspicions confirmed; a few spotty patches of dark-red blood, some white hair, and not much else.

So it was dilemma time. Taking up the track was tempting; hunting pressure is intense in this area, and someone else could stumble upon Dan’s buck and finish the job. Also, the tract he hunts is small; just over 40 acres, surrounded by private land that is also hunted. If the buck laid down shortly after disappearing, going in to finish it off would spare him having to ask the neighbor’s for permission to track the buck. And, finally, the universal motivation we all experience; shoot a deer, and the natural inclination is to rush in and claim your prize.

Fortunately, Dan ignored all that. “I felt the most likely scenario was that I’d somehow gut-shot the deer,” Dan says. “And experience has taught me to wait a minimum of 10 hours before tracking in that situation. It was difficult, but I decided to wait. It helped me that it seemed the buck had run toward a 3-acre mini-sanctuary we’d established on the property. I felt if he got there, he might lie down and die.” So Dan left the woods, came back the following morning, and found the dead buck after tracking it to the sanctuary. And guess what? The carcass was still warm, indicating the animal had died only hours before. Had Dan pushed the issue, this is one trophy that might have eluded him ... but died eventually.


Perhaps Buck Tracker readers have similar tales to tell. How do you handle wounded deer? Do you trail alone or with companions? Any tips you can offer that will help readers as they blood trail deer? Write ‘em in our comments section.

Buck Stats
Date: November 17, 2007
Location: Waupaca County, Wisconsin
Weight: 200 lbs, field dressed
Points: 13
Green Score: 161”
Firearm: Marlin Model 512, bolt action shotgun
Shot distance: 42 yards.
Method: Tree stand


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Frank Fox

I know one of the things that drives me to go after a poorly hit deer is the desire to give the critter the quickest and most painless death possible. I hate the thought of some whitetail suffering through the night. BUT I've learned that if you push a gut shot deer, you will rarely get another shot at it. The animal will still suffer, only now it'll be pursued and not bedding down, and you won't get it. No, it's better to wait. This guy did it right. Nice buck!


Probably one of the hardest and most misunderstood concepts of hunting. Keep preaching, it's gonna help somebody, somewhere, at sometime!



Hunting is waiting.

11 months for the season to come around again.

Waiting 3 months for the catalogs.

Waiting for the sunrise.

Waiting for the scope to stop fogging.

Waiting for a 'shooter'.

Waiting for the clean shot.

Waiting for an animal to bed down and expire.

If a guy can wait 8,400 hours for the season to start, I suppose he can wait a few more hours for a deer to drop close by instead of chasing it across the county.


The two bucks locked and that moron shooting it like that was the most unsporting thing i've ever seen or heard of in my entire hunting time, which has been 40+ years. TOTALLY DISGUSTING: That dude isn't a bowhunter, he's a wanabe bowhunter.


Everyone has had a shot go wrong but too many are from hunter laziness. It seems the older the hunter the more shortcuts taken. No need to site in before the season etc. There are also hunters who have no woods experience whatsoever and struggle to identify game properly. Many pieces have to fall exactly into place to humanely harvest an animal and the odds increase with the rack. Over the years I have found several "guess I missed" animals others gave up looking for and the morons resume hunting after admitting they have no idea as to the accuracy of their weapon. The thought of losing or wasting one of our majestic Whitetails forces me to rarely hunt unless there is snow and if I do I take no marginal shots on anything big. Proud to say I have no regrets after several decades hunting, a room full of racks and usually only shoot pics of anything under 160.

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