Trailing Wounded Deer – Hard Lesson Learned

My brother Shed Hunting in all his glory

My brother Shed Hunting in all his glory

Late Season Scouting:

I said in my last article, that because of the nice 9 point buck I shot when I was 16 that I have been snake bitten ever since to shoot a nicer buck. Ironically, this past weekend, I discovered that I may have actually broken my curse.

Deer Beds

Deer Beds

‘Tis the season to hunt for shed antlers, look for heavy deer trails, and deer bedding areas. Well, my brother and I were doing just that this past weekend in Central Delaware and I even brought the .22 in case we ran into a fox. We did in fact see two beautiful foxes that were too far away to hear our calls, so that part of the story ends right there. However, we did find some really good deer trail intersections, which is what getting out there and scouting in the snow will show you. With the woods so open this time of year, it is so much easier to identify soft edges in the woods where deer like to travel. A soft edge is where a certain type of cover merges with another type of cover gradually. This is obviously different from a hard edge, which simply would be a field butting up to a wooded edge. We found some great new areas that I never realized would be key to hunt.

As my brother and I were walking, he spotted something in the woods and he started to run towards it excitedly almost jumping up and down as he went. All I heard him screaming was “dude, dude, dude!” So, I ran over to the scene where a beautiful buck laid, which had clearly been dead for a few months. This buck was laying only 150 yds from where I took a shot at a stud buck back on November 3, 2014. We stared in awe of the size of his antlers and how magnificent of an animal he was. I couldn’t get it out of my head,Y if this was the buck I shot. That night, I was hunting a field edge with the wind blowing directly from the woods into the field. I was hunting a section of the woods that jutted out into the cut cornfield. 15 minutes before last light, I spot a tall tined buck headed my way and if he stayed his course would pass at 25 yds right in front on me. I drew my bow as he came into my shooting lane and let my Mathews rip. I heard a loud smack as the deer tore away from me and ran back into the woods. After about 30 minutes I got down and found my arrow which had burger meat on the broad head, but no blood on it! One of my arrow blazers was blown off and the arrow was 8-10 feet behind where the animal stood. This didn’t make any sense, no blood!

Tall Rack


I called a couple of friends that night and told them what happened. No blood on the arrow is not normally a good sign at all, but the missing blazer boggled my mind. We suspected somehow I shot him in the shoulder and the arrow bounced off. The next day I came back and inspected the shot site where I found 2 different patches of hair, and my blazer with a small amount of light flesh on it. I looked about 150 yds in an arc in the direction where the deer ran and still found no blood. What was I supposed to do; no blood, no trail, & no clue?

Well, this past summer I read an amazing book from an amazing person named William Vale from outside of Battle Creek, Michigan. His book, Taking Pressured Trophy Whitetails is one of the most informative and tactical bow hunting books I’ve ever seen. Bill has the record to prove his strategies. He’s been bow hunting for 40 years and has taken over 30 record animals. In the back of Bill’s book, there is about a 30 page section on trailing wounded deer. I can honestly say, I had no idea that anyone ever got this intense about trailing deer. Bill has collected hair samples from most of the deer he’s shot to compare them once he has found the deer. He has since made a deer hair analysis chart (some included in the book) that by simply analyzing the different patches of hair one can tell where they hit and exited that deer. I believe his independent research is phenomenal.

Bill Vale's Book

Bill Vale’s Book


So, with all that said, after finding this buck last weekend, I really wanted to know if that was in fact my buck. So I took a chance, emailed Bill, and gave him my scenario. He graciously offered to talk on the phone the next morning, which I quickly agreed to. He asked me all the circumstances with my shot including how high I was in the tree; how far the animal was; what broad head I was using; the wind direction at the time of the shot; how the animal reacted; where he ran; what I heard; what my arrow looked like; where my arrow was laying; and what hair I found. What! Who is patient enough and pays attention to all of that when attempting to recover a deer? I can tell you one thing, I’ll never track another deer the same way.

With the information I gave him and our discussion of events, it was our determination that I did in fact put a solid shot on that deer, but for some reason or another I didn’t get a good blood trail or blood on my arrow. I definitely should have been more diligent on my shot recovery, but we were lucky enough this time to find him. So after I have him measured, I’ll tell you if I broke my curse!

My Lessons Learned:

  • Look for hair samples, 2 or more separated hair samples means you entered and exited that deer.
  • Consider the wind, almost all deer will head into or across the wind when shot especially if they stay alive for a length of time.
  • Just because you don’t find blood, doesn’t mean he’s not dead
  • Set up a grid search of the woods, a deer that dies within 200 yds of your stand should be found regardless
  • Some lessons are learned the hard way
  • Read Bill’s book again
Red Pin = deer shot Blue Pin = deer recovered Yellow - wind White - searched area

Red Pin = deer shot
Blue Pin = deer recovered
Yellow – wind
White – searched area

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Posted in: Pro Staff Blog
Jonathan Fassnacht

About the Author:

Follow me on Instagram @BowHuntCulture - I am Jonathan Fassnacht! I have been married to my amazing wife Ashley for 5 years and have two beautiful children, Reed and Lillian. I am an active duty Officer in the U.S. Coast Guard and originally from South Central Pennsylvania. I give credit and thanks to my Father who always ensured that my brother and I grew up with wholesome experiences in the outdoors both hunting and fishing. My roots as a child were lake and pond fishing for bass and bluegill, and small mouth bass fishing the Susquehanna River on summer nights while battling the emerging evening insect army. Those electric experiences of watching the sun setting and having a massive smallmouth bass attack my top water lure hooked me for life! My early field/woods adventures included dove hunting in September and white-tailed deer hunting in the beautiful Pennsylvania woods. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to travel a bit and have been able to hunt and/or fish in Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina, Maryland, Delaware, and Montana and pray that list keeps growing! Oh I forgot, I caught a catfish in Argentina! My true passion is archery hunting whitetails and most recently chasing big urban bucks around the Wilmington, De suburbs. I take pride and find great enjoyment in introducing others to experience the joy that I do while experiencing God’s special gift of the great outdoors. I’m so happy to be a part of the MHAF team!
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