Bowhunting Failure

35-acre

5 year old buck +
I hope this helps some...

Your pic with the blood seems to be a spot where the deer stood or is moving SLOWLY. There is a gap between the majority of the blood indicating that it's bleeding out of both sides.

1635865593859.png


Comparing this to one of my blood trails, your deer is bleeding out of both sides but it's not "spraying all over the place". In my example, this deer that I hit through both lungs left a 2-3 foot wide blood pattern with other clues in it.

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I think your deer was hit in muscle. Are these pics from the one you you hit high and it fell?

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Derek Reese 29

5 year old buck +
Two of the largest bucks I have ever hit were lost due to bad shot placement..one was at 7 yards trying to spine him..hit the edge of his shoulder and he ran for a mile before we lost blood..
We saw him 2 nights later chasing does with a small skin flap still hanging..felt terrible about that one but better knowing he was hurting but still moving.
The second was a 40+ yards shot at a hard quartering away buck..hit the shoulder and didnt get much penetration...the neighbor found him 150 yards from where we lost the blood trail.
Recovering deer is a challenging part of hunting and can be within seconds extremely and painfully disappointing and ridiculously joyously rewarding.
I have missed more bucks than I care to comment on and now try to as everyone above suggests "pick a spot/hair/tick" on the deer's side and try to hit it.
With a crossbow it's a little more forgiving, but I would suggest not giving up just yet. There will be more opportunities and it's my opinion that alot of bucks fall in archery season before the guns start roaring.
 

Bill

Administrator
Bill - Here all along I thought it was “Aim small, miss small” like Mel Gibson taught us in the Patriot??? :emoji_grin:
LOL. I guess that is correct.
 

Catscratch

5 year old buck +
It happens to the best of us. This is my 34th year of bowhunting. Just last season I lost an antlered doe that I really wanted. It was an easy shot and I should have knocked it out of the park. Was surprised she didn't fall within sight. Waited an hour and walked to where I last saw her. She got up 30yds away and took off. Barely any trail after that point but I did trail her to a small creek, where I lost all sign. Went back later in the afternoon with the kids and the dog. Nothing. :( Still ruins my day to think of it.

I figure you have two options; deal with it and take measures to prevent it the best you can in the future, or go back to strictly gun hunting. Your call, but I do understand your frustration.
 

Doublewide

Yearling... With promise
I hope this helps some...

Your pic with the blood seems to be a spot where the deer stood or is moving SLOWLY. There is a gap between the majority of the blood indicating that it's bleeding out of both sides.

View attachment 38267


Comparing this to one of my blood trails, this deer is bleeding but it's not "spraying all over the place". This deer that I hit through both lungs left a 2-3 foot wide blood pattern with other clues in it.

View attachment 38268

I think your deer was hit in muscle. Are these pics from the one you you hit high and it fell?

View attachment 38269
WOW, You can track for me anytime!
 

Snowshoe Acres

A good 3 year old buck
I hope this helps some...

Your pic with the blood seems to be a spot where the deer stood or is moving SLOWLY. There is a gap between the majority of the blood indicating that it's bleeding out of both sides.

View attachment 38267


Comparing this to one of my blood trails, your deer is bleeding out of both sides but it's not "spraying all over the place". In my example, this deer that I hit through both lungs left a 2-3 foot wide blood pattern with other clues in it.

View attachment 38268

I think your deer was hit in muscle. Are these pics from the one you you hit high and it fell?

View attachment 38269
First of all, thank you! Great analysis. All of these pictures are from the second deer. I have pictures from the first as well that I will post. I definitely have a lot more to learn about trailing, I learned just from your examples. Thanks again 35-acre! First deer pictures attached, this is the arrow the next morning after 1/4 inch of hard rain. I shot him right at sunset and spent the evening searching the woods for any sign. None. Rained in the middle of the night, nothing in the morning.
 

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Snowshoe Acres

A good 3 year old buck
Two of the largest bucks I have ever hit were lost due to bad shot placement..one was at 7 yards trying to spine him..hit the edge of his shoulder and he ran for a mile before we lost blood..
We saw him 2 nights later chasing does with a small skin flap still hanging..felt terrible about that one but better knowing he was hurting but still moving.
The second was a 40+ yards shot at a hard quartering away buck..hit the shoulder and didnt get much penetration...the neighbor found him 150 yards from where we lost the blood trail.
Recovering deer is a challenging part of hunting and can be within seconds extremely and painfully disappointing and ridiculously joyously rewarding.
I have missed more bucks than I care to comment on and now try to as everyone above suggests "pick a spot/hair/tick" on the deer's side and try to hit it.
With a crossbow it's a little more forgiving, but I would suggest not giving up just yet. There will be more opportunities and it's my opinion that alot of bucks fall in archery season before the guns start roaring.
Thanks Derek, very encouraging comments and I appreciate it.
 

buckdeer1

5 year old buck +
I would aim lower and that blood looks like liver to me.That grass is way thick enough for you to walk by a deer without any blood.If legal even a bird dog down wind of a deer can lead you to it
 

MRBB

5 year old buck +
first off, thousands kill cleaning with archery gear be it vertical bow or horizontal bow
the name in killing anything is you have to hit a vital to do so
there is a LOT of deer parts that are NOT vitals and will bleed
so placement, is key to killing period!
maybe time to rethink where your aiming? NO bash, just saying!


and
in your first case, if the deer was in front of you, IMO< you should have shot again?
when you have the chance too!

me I have hit and lost or struggled to find deer, there strong animals with a serious will power to survive
I have looked for days at a time, and THEN found them and also NEVER found as few
I have also seen deer get shot with rifles up to 50 bmg caliber and RUN off, so its NOT just archery gear that they can do this!

tracking is a skill, , and some times poor hits, require more skill, and or even HELP, many places dogs are legal to be used and worth the hassle to find one that tracks, I keep phone numbers for a few that do so, in several states I hunt!
maybe worth looking into if you care too
as you'd be surprised what a dog can track that humans cannot! even a day or two old they have a high rate of finding deer!

another thing to consider is , how far your tracking before giving up, a wounded deer can cover a LOT of ground in a short period of time, over a mile isn't un heard of before dying! all the more so on lesser hits!

but there is IMO< also nothing wrong with stopping a type of hunting if your not enjoying it or finding success in it, all weapons are not for everyone!
 

yoderjac

5 year old buck +
In 2016 our family purchased 134 acres for hunting. We have had some great rifle hunting even though we have not had time to plant food plots. This last week I was out hunting with my crossbow. Tuesday, I shot a nice buck. Rolled it over at 20 yards. After a couple minutes he got up, I watched expecting him to fall over dead, but he walked away into the woods, no trace of blood. I searched for hours and hours, finally determined I must have hit it in the shoulder. Yesterday, same stand, I shot another buck at 10 yards. I was VERY careful to hit him in the power house. He ran 20 yards and stopped on the edge of the field. Blood was flowing from both sides (the arrow was in the ground, went through him). My wife and I searched for 6 hours and never found him, we tracked him to the edge of a brook, that was the last sign. I am quitting bow hunting. This is the 4th time this has happened to me in the past 3 years. I want a humane kill, and that doesn't seem possible with a crossbow. I would love to hear if I am doing something wrong or if others have had this experience

Failure to recover deer is part of hunting and ,even more so, bowhunting. I always fell sick at the stomach for a couple days after a failure to recover. However, we need to keep things in perspective. Every deer will die. Those not harvest by hunters will die of disease or predation, or being hit by a car. We a deer, or any animal dies, it goes back into the cycle of life. If you don't recover it and eat it, other wildlife will, and what is left will decay and go back into the soil nourishing plant life.

No one who has bene bowhunting long has a 100% recover rate. Here are a few things I've done and learned over the years.

1) Start by favoring a quiet bow over a fast one. No bow is fast enough to beat the speed of sound and the reaction time of a deer. You can't beat string jumping with speed.

2) Restrict yourself to short distance (20-30 yards) broadside or slightly quartering away shots.

3) keep your aim point slightly low (heart). If the deer doesn't jump the string, you will be fine. If it does, you still have a good chance of hitting lungs.

4) Don't ever give up looking for a deer on your own. Always get an experienced buddy (or wife) to join you. Don't quit until both people agree there is not chance of recovery.

5) It cost me a few thousand bucks, but I purchased a FLIR device. I have found deer using it by walking circles after loosing a blood trail that I never would have recovered without it. It has also really helped with a wounded deer. I've been able, using it, to spot a deer before bumping it. You can tell if they are alive using it. If so, I simply mark my spot and back out and go back the next day. Either the deer will die in that bed if not disturbed, or the wound was not fatal.

6) If your state allows it, a tracking dog, on a leash, can be an amazing way to recover deer when they blood trail ends.

7) Get a really bright flashlight (at least 2,000 Lumen) That is what I use by default. In tough cases consider a coleman type lantern. It seems to make blood "glow" and easier to see and identify than a flashlight.

8) Luminal is a pain to mixup, but can be effective for finding tiny amounts of blood.

We do everything we can to make a good shot, but we all make mistakes. Even when we do everything right, things beyond our control happen in the field. At some point, we need to rest on the knowledge that we have done our best.
 

Derek Reese 29

5 year old buck +
Thanks Derek, very encouraging comments and I appreciate it.
No problem! I have just had so many positive experiences with a bow and it is, in my opinion, so much more challenging and rewarding. (Not that I don't rifle hunt I just like the bow more).
You are not the first person who has contemplated giving up the bow after losing a few deer.
I would like to say it gets easier in time, but that's not true as each situation and deer is unique.
Keep your chin up and your sights low...good luck!
 

Someday isle

5 year old buck +
Hard to tell from a picture but that looks like dark blood from the liver. Maybe shot was a little back. Sounds like you’ve got plenty of hunting experience so you already know it’s tough to lose a deer - unfortunately, it happens sometimes. Stick with it.
 

35-acre

5 year old buck +
First of all, thank you! Great analysis. All of these pictures are from the second deer. I have pictures from the first as well that I will post. I definitely have a lot more to learn about trailing, I learned just from your examples. Thanks again 35-acre! First deer pictures attached, this is the arrow the next morning after 1/4 inch of hard rain. I shot him right at sunset and spent the evening searching the woods for any sign. None. Rained in the middle of the night, nothing in the morning.
The arrow doesn't look like it penetrated that far. I know crossbow bolts are short but this almost looks like the full shaft in this picture and there isn't blood on the shaft. It appears to have broken off at the tip and/or just the broadhead stayed inside. Can't tell much more other than blood is red (no bubbles) and it seems consistent with a body hit and contact with bone (as a hit somewhere else would likely have greater penetration). If these pics are from the one you shot on Tuesday where you think that you hit the shoulder, I would agree. You hit shoulder or leg joint.

Taking deer with a gun, the point of impact is less crucial than with deer (In my opinion) as the shocking power and ability to break/shatter bone are much more likely by any shooter. Many may disagree with that - they are entitled too. I actually keep some anatomy images at my camp and as I'm reading hunting mags and looking at pics, I'm always looking for where I would aim (as practice).

The way I was taught to aim was follow the back of the front leg up and align that midway through the body as you point of aim. I think we've learned a TON about deer since the time I was taught and would say that aim point is a bit high when it comes to broadhead equipped devices:

We've learned things like aim for an exit hole. Also said as Aim for the offside
Elevation changes aimpoints.
Reading a deer's body language and adjusting accordingly (or passing the shot).

In my opinion you're still learning. And the deer that you have shot are now educated but I don't think that either are dead. Take your self-imposed lumps, take your time on picking your aiming point and drop one. Stay quiet after you shoot, mark the last spot that you saw it mentally. Give the animal enough time to expire. Shoot straight. Enjoy the time afield.

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Ben.MN/WI

5 year old buck +
I agree that your first buck was shoulder. I hit one years back that did the same thing and I never found it - the buck was knocked off his feet when he was hit and flopped around for a few seconds then got up and ran off. I saw that buck later in the year with a triangle of hair missing on his shoulder, but no other sign of injury. I think your first buck is likely chasing does right now.

The second shot seems like liver to me. Deer that walk off slowly tell me liver and/or guts were hit and I give them 12 hours to die (even then i've found liver shot deer alive after 12 hours, but he was so sick he couldn't run much at that point). If you give the deer all night it will likely be there in the morning, but if you go in an hour you may bump the deer and never find him. I'm guessing that second buck died.

This morning I helped my dad trail a buck he shot last night. He said he shot the buck a little farther back than he wanted, but the height was good. We waited until this morning and the buck went less than 100 yards and was dead. The arrow entered the liver and exited guts. The deer left the field where it was shot and only went 30 yards into the woods where it bedded down and expired.
 

spaniel

5 year old buck +
I'd critically look through your equipment. Is your bolt/broadhead heavy enough? Once many years ago when I was younger and more foolish I briefly got caught up in the fast/light arrow craze. In a single season I lost three deer hit in good locations due to lack of penetration. I know this because one showed up later with a visible scar, one was found too late to save the meat, and the other was one of the biggest bucks I've ever seen and the arrow was sticking out of his shoulder blade as he ran, the broadhead clearly not having penetrated.

I went back to heavy arrows that same season and haven't lost a deer in the ~20 years since. Same bow same draw weight, went from not penetrating a whitetail shoulder blade to shooting through an elk's and far enough into the spine to paralyze him.

I'm pretty new to crossbows myself, second season, and not sure the proper gear yet. My experience so far is that penetration is typically greater than a conventional bow, but the bolts are more fragile. They clearly take a tougher target block to stop them. The first shot I took at a deer last year with one, shot at the buck of a lifetime and the bolt exploded coming out of the bow. I can only surmise it was somehow damaged in the few target shots taken with it. I use cheaper bolts to discharge the crossbow when I'm done hunting for a few days, typically into a soft pile of dirt. I had one of these bolts come apart after a number of these shots. Can't say I've EVER made an arrow come apart out of a conventional bow. This experience makes me a little worried these bolts may come apart on bone before doing their job. But I have insufficient experience to know if this is true.

If not equipment, most probably simply shot placement. The fact of the matter is that if you double lung a deer with an arrow it's not covering 100 yards. I've probably killed 50 deer with arrows and never seen an exception to this. With the crossbow I've killed two deer this season. The first was a small doe sharply quartering towards at 40 yards. The bolt entered just inside the near shoulder as the deer faced me, traversed both lungs, and was poking out the far side near the last rib. It fell over and never got up. Second was a quite large 8pt buck, 50 yards and he finally gave me a sharp quartering away shot. Bolt entered right behind the last rib, angled forward through both lungs and the broadhead was just breaking the skin poking out the offside shoulder. Given the steep angle I gave him half an hour before cautiously trailing; there was zero blood, but he was piled up 30-40 yards from where I shot him.
 

H20fwler

5 year old buck +
Like others have said, anyone who bow hunts long will loose a deer or two.
That said…taking the right shot for your ability is a must too. I’ve seen people that love to deer hunt but are new to bow hunting go through the same situations. A guy I work with new to bow hunting used to stick one or two bucks every fall and never find them…and talk about it at work.
Guns have a ton of kinetic energy and crush through about anything made of flesh and bone. You shoot a deer it acts hurt bad usually goes down within sight even not so great shots, the shock helps.
With an arrow it’s all about hemorrhage. Blood loss wether internally or spraying all over is what kills it.
New bow hunters often take not perfect angle or in range shots because they have killed a bunch of deer with a gun, also have never really needed to learn how to track.
Limit yourself to taking only perfect shots until you get a few on the ground…broadside/close/right behind front leg center mass. Watch the deer after the shot, and listen. Use your ears after the shot.
Don’t be in a rush to get on the track, let it bleed out. Many are dead within twenty seconds, some need a couple hours.
Never rush a deer, let them die..let them bleed. Even a gut shot deer will bleed out close by if it’s not pushed.

Learn how to track, find someone that can track a leaf across a tin roof and listen to what they tell you.

Bow hunting season is one of the most beautiful times of the year, you see everything in nature relaxed and acting natural. You can watch the season change.
Funnest time of year to be out.

Don’t give up!
 

Telemark

5 year old buck +
The only deer I ever lost was the first deer I shot with an arrow/bolt. I was not experienced with archery hunting and didn't understand how critical shot placement is when it comes to arrows. I shot a nice buck quartering to, and he fell down, got back up, and ran off. The blood trail looked like someone punched a hole in a can of paint and carried it through the woods; it was almost a solid line rather than drops. Then, after about 100 yards, the blood just stopped.

We backed out and came back the next day. I bumped him over on the neighbor's property after a few hours of searching. He jumped up from his bed and ran off, and I never saw him again.

About 3-4 months later my aunt's dog found the deer dead with the bolt still in it. I was really bummed out and gave up archery hunting for a very long time. Eventually, I got up the confidence to try again and took the biggest whitetail buck of my life. And now I'm hooked.

The confidence came from studying a lot about shot placement for arrows and learning to pass on shots I wasn't sure about. As mentioned previously in the thread, these are crucial for archery gear and can make or break an entire hunting season.
 

Snowshoe Acres

A good 3 year old buck
The only deer I ever lost was the first deer I shot with an arrow/bolt. I was not experienced with archery hunting and didn't understand how critical shot placement is when it comes to arrows. I shot a nice buck quartering to, and he fell down, got back up, and ran off. The blood trail looked like someone punched a hole in a can of paint and carried it through the woods; it was almost a solid line rather than drops. Then, after about 100 yards, the blood just stopped.

We backed out and came back the next day. I bumped him over on the neighbor's property after a few hours of searching. He jumped up from his bed and ran off, and I never saw him again.

About 3-4 months later my aunt's dog found the deer dead with the bolt still in it. I was really bummed out and gave up archery hunting for a very long time. Eventually, I got up the confidence to try again and took the biggest whitetail buck of my life. And now I'm hooked.

The confidence came from studying a lot about shot placement for arrows and learning to pass on shots I wasn't sure about. As mentioned previously in the thread, these are crucial for archery gear and can make or break an entire hunting season.
Thanks for your comments, very helpful.
 

Snowshoe Acres

A good 3 year old buck
Thanks everyone for participating, good insights and very helpful. I have scheduled time after the rifle hunting season with a very experienced bow hunter to walk through what happened on site, then talk about shot placement. Based on all the comments, I am convinced that I am the problem, not my gear, and am going to do exactly what a number of you suggested…study a lot about shot placement, spend more time practicing and try again!
 

TenPoint

5 year old buck +
I'm sorry if this was asked and answered. Were these deer standing still when shot or walking?

I ask because I've went through this agony twice recently. Last year and earlier this year I hit bucks and fail to recover them. Last year was an easy cut and dried shoulder hit. The broadhead was the only thing I didn't recover. I saw the arrow sticking all the way out when he turned and ran after the shot. Had the bright muscle blood for 100 yards and then it pittered out. Flash forward to late October this year. Same stand, same opening, heard a good "thwack", the deer turned, ran 20 yards hard then just started walking. It was getting dark so I had no idea where I hit him but the thwack had me optimistic. The fact he walked away after a bit and up a 150 foot hill didn't, however. We tracked him 2 hours that night and 3 the next morning then lost the blood. He never bedded down either. Neighbor texted me 5 days later and sure enough he was still alive. Wound was still in the rib cage but at the very bottom. Likely no vital organs hit. Since then, I've gotten him on our cameras twice. Doesn't seem any worse for the wear. I'm hoping we'll see him during rifle season next week.

After those two mishaps, I was ready to buy a crossbow. But I had rushed both shots (just stupid) knowing they were walking and my opening wasn't very big. I usually stop them with a grunt but for whatever reason, did not either of these times. 1 week later I have the biggest deer of my life at 12 yards. He stopped, I settled in and made an accurate shot. He went maybe 40 yards. But he was stationary and I made it a point to find both my anchor points (I know a crossbow is different) and actually aim at something, not just fling wildly. And just like that, the confidence was restored. Having the deer standing and not moving made all the difference.
 
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