Are you going to hit that deer or miss it?
We've all been there, even the most experienced hunters. I've been hunting for 30 years and I still run into this conundrum every once in a while. I know I shot that deer. I'm pretty sure I hit it too. So why did it keep running?
If I only wounded it, maybe it's a bad enough wound that it'll drop soon and I can still find it. Or maybe I really missed it all together and I only thought I hit it. The longest time I've searched for a deer that I thought I'd shoot was three hours. I even went back the next day to see if I could find it but after about an hour, I figured if I really did hit it, it was bad enough to take it down.
The Kill Shot or "Money Shot"
So what types of shots should hunters go for to avoid missing what they're aiming at? If you're an ethical hunter, you won't take a head shot. Even though a bullet in the animal's brain is guaranteed to put the animal down, it's a tough shot to make.
The only other shot that guarantees a kill is one that severs the spine. But trying to make a shot that's about the size of your thumb is probably pretty rare, unless you're an ace marksman. But it's not a very convenient target to aim for unless you're in the movies maybe.
So what do hunters consider the "money shot?" Where do you aim for on the deer that will pretty much guarantee you'll be taking that deer home? There's really only one way to guarantee you'll take the animal down, but it may not always be instantaneous. If you take aim and put a shot through the heart and lungs, this will be the kill shot, the "money shot," if you will.
Don't Underestimate The Animal
But don't try and gauge the animal's reaction to being hit once you pull the trigger. Even with a kill shot like that, the deer might not even flinch. It might run like the wind and you may never find it. Then again, it might drop in its tracks.
Is there a way to be sure you won't ever have to go searching for the animal once you've made the shot? No. Even the most experienced hunters will still be out tracking an animal they've shot. But you can try and give yourself an edge by doing a couple of things.
If It Runs, Watch Where It Goes
If the deer takes off a like shot, even after firing that second bullet, keep an eye on the direction it takes. Go to where it was standing when you hit it and mark that spot with some orange tape. Then start looking and tracking blood droplets. That might mean getting down on your hands and knees, but if you you want your deer bad enough, you'll do what you have to do.
If It's Down, Keep It Down
Keep a close eye on the deer after you pull the trigger. If it goes down and stays down, you should be okay. Although my uncle shot a deer once and as he was roping it up to take it up to the truck to field dressing it, the thing got up and ran off with the rope still attached! Anything can happen!
The only way to really ensure that if you hit the deer once and it doesn't run is to put a second bullet in it. And even then, the animal might get back up or even try to get back up. In that case, you may have to shoot it a third or fourth time to keep it down.
Remember, these are large animals and they can get pretty mean and do some real damage if they happen to get back up and want to take out some kind of revenge for being shot.
Two key things to remember – ammo is pretty cheap, so firing some extra shots to keep the deer down is one way to make the difference between taking your deer home and spending hours tracking it down.
And you don't want your fatally wounded deer to run off where you can't find it, only for another hunter to come up on it and take it home.