Whitetails are tough critters
As I stood over the handsome Adirondack 8-pointer, it was clear where the the single 170-grain bullet from my little Winchester .30-30 Trapper had exited the buck. It was a double-lung shot, but that wasn’t the wound I was looking for.
Three hours earlier, one of my hunting partners had hit a buck as it came through a deer drive. Some patient, methodical tracking and planning on our part had led to us pushing the mountain he’d headed for in hopes of getting another look at him. I was the center driver, and when a buck came running up from the hunter to my right, it presented me with a quartering away shot.
Looking the buck over, sure enough, on the upper part of the back side of the buck’s right front leg was a fresh bullet wound. This was the buck we were after and all of us breathed a sigh of relief. It doesn’t always work out this way.
My partner’s bullet did no bone damage. Still, the buck lost what the hunters who tracked it said was a fair amount of blood. Before we confirmed he was headed up the mountain, they expected to possibly find him dead near the brook in a swamp that we had surrounded, but the deer had already been through the swamp and was over a half mile away up on the mountain.
My examination, however, was not done. A week earlier my brother had also wounded a buck in this area that we tracked nearly a mile up an even bigger mountain. There was white hair at the shot spot, indicating a low, brisket hit. It bled dark red blood that eventually fizzled out. After failing to catch up to him, we surmised that this buck was not severely wounded.
When I flipped the buck over on his right side another bullet wound was blatantly obvious in the buck’s left front leg, almost in the same spot as the new bullet wound on it’s right leg. The wound was clean, also missing the bone, and the brisket was bruised but had healed to a scab. This was obviously the same buck my brother had hit.
Had I only seen, and not shot this deer, I never would’ve guessed it had not one, but two leg wounds. Although it wasn’t on a straight out run, it was hustling up and over the mountain at a pretty good trot and showed no sign at all of being wounded. There have been a number of times where we’ve tracked wounded bucks and never caught up to them before sunset. Had I not encountered this buck, or had it gotten through that deer drive, I believe that would’ve been the case here.
The point is just how tough whitetails really are, especially their ability to take a hit and live to see another day, another year, and beyond. I know of two deer I’ve watched the past few summers that I’m sure were hit, and not recovered, on early archery hunts the year prior. One had a big knot in its shoulder, exactly where the shooter told me he’d seen the arrow hit, the other limps only when it runs. Both initially left good blood trails following their hits, that eventually dwindled and the deer were not recovered.
No one likes wounding and losing a deer, it’s an awful feeling. But if you do all the right things following a hit and still don’t recover a deer that continues to move, take some resolve in the animal’s natural healing ability and that you may encounter it another day.