We often talk about the benefits of scouting for deer, the mechanics of the shot process and other general tips for how to find and harvest a deer, but what about after the harvest? How do you find the deer? What do you do with it once you find it? Here are some tips and tricks for what to do after you’ve harvested your deer.
Wait a While
Wait about 30 minutes before going to trail the deer. If you start tracking it too quickly, you’ll only scare it and push it further away, deeper into the hunting area. This will make it harder to find. Giving the animal time after the shot helps ensure an ethical harvest. You can wait out the deer in your insulated Stump blind no matter what temperature it is outside.
Find the Blood Trail
It’s important to find the blood trail of the deer you’ve harvested. The color and quality of the blood will tell you where you struck the deer, which in turn tells you whether the harvest was quick or whether the deer might still be injured somewhere. Vivid, red blood and bright pink, frothy blood are both signs of a shot to the vital organs, the heart and lungs respectively, and should indicate that the deer hasn’t gone far. Crimson blood indicates a liver or kidney shot which is fatal, but will take longer. Hunters should wait a couple hours before tracking the deer if they find this type of blood. Yellow-green blood indicates a shot to the stomach, which takes even longer and demonstrates why making shots to the vital organs is so crucial to making an ethical shot. You should wait at least a few hours before tracking this one. You won’t have the luxury of letting the deer sit overnight if the temperatures are above 40 degrees. Waiting all night only works when the temperatures are consistently in the 30s or lower. Otherwise, the meat will begin to spoil.
You can also tell how vital the hit was by the way the blood lands. If the blood droplets stay in line with their prints and/or follow a uniform pattern or line, then the deer was still walking normally while it was bleeding. Sporadic droplets that are all over the trail and don’t follow any sort of pattern mean the deer was zig-zagging as it was running.
Field Dress it Quickly
It’s important to field dress your deer as quickly as possible. Field dressing the deer and properly storing the meat will keep it from going bad. Properly handing and maintaining the venison will ensure that you can enjoy your harvest in your freezer for months. If you’re not going to field dress it yourself, take it to a processing facility as soon as possible. Once it’s field dressed, store the deer in a walk-in cooler at about 34 degrees. If you don’t have access to a cooler, you can either ice down the field-dressed deer in-tact, or skin and quarter it on the spot and pack it into game bags.
Taking these necessary steps after harvesting your deer will ensure that you can use every bit of the meat from the harvested animal. Whether you keep the venison for yourself or donate it to a processor, food shelter, friends or family, using the meat ensures an ethical harvest.
What steps do you take after you’ve harvested an animal? Let us know in the comments below!