Bowhunting Tip: Memorize the Exact Spot You Last Saw a Hit Whitetail

For a head start on finding the blood trail and recovering a hit whitetail, memorize the exact spot you last saw a hit deer.

Bowhunting Tip: Memorize the Exact Spot You Last Saw a Hit Whitetail

This South Dakota buck ran out of sight after being hit, but the author found it without any problem because he immediately memorized the exact spot where he last saw the deer. (FYI: This photo was not taken at the recovery spot.)

I’ve killed my fair share of whitetails through the years, yet I often repeat one mistake over and over again, year after year. And because I have trouble remembering this tip right after shooting a whitetail, I’m highlighting it here in hopes you can learn from my repeated mistake.

The tip is easy to write but hard to implement: Memorize the exact spot you last saw a hit deer.

The reason I fail to remember the tip is because there’s so much happening in the seconds immediately following hitting a deer. Sure, I’m watching the deer run, but my brain immediately begins trying to decipher the location of the hit, and the animal’s behavior — how it reacted upon arrow impact, how it’s running, etc.

All of these factors are certainly critical to consider. That said, I’d argue that I repeated forget my most important task, which is memorizing the exact spot I last see the deer as it runs out of sight. By “exact spot” I mean exactly that — burn into your mind the stump, tree, clump of grass or whatever object you can identify that is just to the right or left of the deer at the very last moment you see the animal.

It’s the same as finding a golf ball that bounces into the long grass or forest bordering a fairway. You’ll have a much better chance of finding that golf ball minutes later if you memorized the sapling or weed clump at the exact spot your ball disappeared. If you don’t, then by the time you walk 100 to 150 yards up to the area, you’ll be standing there looking over a forest or weed edge that is 10 or 20 yards wide. Good luck in finding your golf ball.

I have one buddy who somehow has mastered this skill. Not only does he memorize the last spot, but he then immediately takes out his phone and snaps a photo of the scene in the distance if the lighting allows. I’ve even known him to use a couple of intermediate objects in a line (like rifle sights) to point toward the last spot he saw the deer. For example, he’ll spot a stump 20 yards from his treestand, then line up that stump with an 8-inch-diameter dead tree at 80 yards, both of which are in a direct line with the cattail edge where the deer disappeared. That way he can walk from his stand to the stump, then the stump to the dead tree, then keeping that line, right toward the cattail edge. And more often than not, he’s finding blood at that spot. 

Let me be clear: In time he’ll go back to where the arrow impacted the deer, and find his arrow (if possible) and look for other clues on the ground (amount of blood, color of blood, etc.), but all of that takes a backseat to finding blood or tracks from his hit deer at the farthest spot he could see from the treestand.

A head start such as this is even more important during those days when it’s misting or raining, when following blood is difficult. I’ve also seen this “trick” help eliminate 100 yards of difficult blood trailing on a forest floor covered by hardwood leaves, when many maple leaves have traces of red and orange as they change colors during fall.

This might sound silly for someone who has bowhunted for 45 years, but this fall I think I’ll place a small sticker or piece of tape on the rear of my compound’s riser that states: Last Spot!

If I see it — and notice it — every time I wait on a whitetail, maybe I’ll commit it to memory when it matters most.

In the three-photo collage above, I killed this South Dakota buck from a natural ground blind shortly after the deer entered an alfalfa field. Shot distance was only 17 yards. After the hit, the buck ran straight away from me, then turned 90 degrees right, jumping the barbed-wire fence and racing through the shelterbelt you can see in the background. Thankfully, I remembered the exact cottonwood tree that the buck passed before disappearing from my sight. I took the center photo immediately after the buck disappeared to help me remember. About 30 minutes after releasing my arrow, I walked a straight line to that specific cottonwood, which was 90 yards from my blind. On the ground next to that tree I spotted a few drops of blood, then less than 5 minutes later I followed blood to my buck in a distant pasture.

The photo at the top of this page is my field-dressed South Dakota buck from the alfalfa field.  The pic was taken the following morning back in deer camp, not where I recovered the animal. The quick recovery the night before was much easier than having to find the buck in the morning after a half inch of fresh snow had fallen.


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