Sometimes hunters make a shot that doesn’t drop the deer on site. Sometimes they have to follow a blood trail to find the animal. If you’re faced with tracking a trail, have no fear. We’ve got some blood tracking guidelines to help you through the process.

What Kind of Shot was it?

If you know you hit the deer broadside, you can start tracking it after 30 minutes. If the shot wasn’t as clean, you’ll need to wait before you can venture out. Pay attention to what the animal does after it’s hit. It will likely run away, but it may not be able to go far. Note whether it’s stumbling or limping. If the deer stumbles away, that is an indicator of a lethal shot and it will most likely go down nearby. If it was limping, it probably got hit in the leg and may be able to travel farther. If it walked away but was hunched over, it was most likely a shot to the gut.

If the arrow passed through the deer, the trail of blood will be thicker. The animal will be bleeding more profusely and will most likely be close-by. If the blood trail is thin and sparse, the arrow might still be in the deer. Narrow trails of blood on one side of a path are also an indicator of a shot that did not pass through the animal.


Blood that is pink and frothy with bubbles indicates a lung shot.

Bright red blood is a sign of a shot to the heart or any other area that contains large tissue and multiple blood vessels.

Both of these trails indicate hits that should drop the deer quickly. The trail of blood from a shot to the heart will be at least two feet wide.

Dark, burgundy blood indicates a hit to the liver or kidneys. If you have a trail of this color, wait two or three hours before tracking any further.

Blood with a green tint is likely from the stomach. You may also find bits of plant among the blood which indicates food from the contents of the deer’s stomach.

These shots take even longer to be lethal, so you should wait up to five hours to track. Though shots to the liver and stomach areas will ultimately do the job, they will unfortunately take longer to drop the animal. Try to avoid these shots if possible to ensure the deer’s death is humane.


Blood droplets that are perfectly round with very little splatter means that the deer is still walking. If the spots become more erratic, then the deer is close to collapsing. A good way to tell which direction the deer was running is by the blood splatter. The fingerlets of splattered blood will be pointing in the direction the deer was travelling.

If you don’t find blood immediately, that doesn’t mean the deer wasn’t hit. Sometimes the blood doesn’t start flowing until the deer has been moving for a while, getting it pumping. If you don’t find any blood, start searching in a wide arc, moving back and forth.

The blood may spray in less obvious places, so don’t focus all of your attention on the ground. Look at tall blades of grass or on the sides of tree trunks. Blood in these areas indicates a shot higher on the back or shoulder.

Once you’ve found the trail, try to work quickly so that you can find the deer before any other creature gets to it first. Be prepared to shoot again if you find the deer alive but suffering. A large part of hunting is ensuring you are being ethical with the animals. If you work quickly, you’ll be getting your deer back to your car and feeding your loved ones, or donated, in no time.

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