Lost a Nice Buck


Sponsored by: Whitetail University, Atsko Products & Swhacker Broadheads

The arrow penetrated about 6 inches and was flopping as the buck ran away. The blood trail ran out after 30 yards. He was really depressed.

What I said next surprised him. I asked him if he was shooting a particular, very popular Open-on-Impact broadhead. He said ‘yes’. I then explained that design had flaws and that he certainly wasn’t the first, nor would he be the last, to lose a buck because of poor penetration. Then he said it was the second this year he’d lost. Oh well, if a broadhead opens to 2-inches wide before penetrating hair, hide and ribs, you shouldn’t be surprised that the kinetic energy is used up before it gets to the internal organs. It’s just basic science.


I offered him the Big Five Tips on blood trailing and he went to work.

Tip #1 – Did you hear him leaving? After being hit deer often circle back to the last place where life was safe. That may not be the direction he was heading when shot. Listening is important. Mark where you last heard him.

Tip #2 – Look for your arrow. Is it bloody or covered with guts? Is it covered with fat? Did you find a part of the arrow. An arrow is around 28 inches long. How much of the arrow penetrated the deer? Did you find the broadhead?

Tip #3 – Begin following the blood trail. It may begin 20-30 yards from where he was standing if you didn’t get a pass-through. Take a single paper towel. Tear off a dime sized piece and drop it on every sign of blood. It will give you a cookie crumb trail to reference. If the blood gets scarce, you can look backward and see the general route the deer was following. This will help you stay on track. Deer have amazing clotting abilities and wounds may stop bleeding externally quickly.

Tip #4 – If you lose the trail. Stop. Mark the last blood and back track 3-4 yards. Begin to make small circles in the direction of travel route of the deer. When you get back to the starting point widen the circle, go slowly. Then widen the circle more until you find the blood sign. The deer had to intersect your circles somewhere. Go slow and don’t be a quitter.

Tip #5 – If you lose the trail completely don’t despair. You may be at the end of the trail. During the last moments of consciousness, a dying deer often get a burst of adrenalin and jump wildly, maybe in a totally different direction than they were traveling. It is a panic reaction that sometimes occurs as they fade to black. Many times, we find a buck off at 10- 25 yards and to the left or right of the last blood.

The scouting, set-up and shooting part of bowhunting is unparalleled fun but finding the deer we shoot is an important part of our craft. Offer to help friends trail deer. Experience is valuable. In addition, remember this; No blood trail – No deer. They are incredibly hard to locate if you do not have a good blood trail. You get a blood trail by getting a pass-through with a low exit wound. You can get this good blood trail by selecting a broadhead that will enter, cut internal organs and leave a big exit wound.

Author has shot a lot of broadheads, his choice - The Swhacker.
Author has shot a lot of broadheads, his choice – The Swhacker.

I shoot a Swhacker Broadhead that cuts a 1-inch hole going in then scissors open to 2-inches with virgin blades as it cuts internal organs and exits with an embarrassing large hole. I tipped over two whitetails this season so far. One went 20 yards and the other 6 yards. All of the kinetic energy was available for cutting organs and exiting. If you’re wondering…my friend lost the buck.

You can stage better blood trails by selecting the right broadhead. After you do stick them…look for them like it matters.