Deer Tracking

Joe Schuster | February 2, 2024

For many, shooting the buck of a lifetime is an incredible feeling. However, not every hunter gets that chance every season. Many of us are simply pleased to be outdoors enjoying time in nature. Sometimes that reward may be a doe or a younger buck that will provide a lot of meat for a family or is donated to a family in need. As exciting as the hunt is, the hard part begins after the shot, especially when it involves tracking a deer that has run off.

Very few things will make a hunter’s heart sink like it will when they can’t find the deer they just shot. We owe it to every animal we shoot (even if we’re not sure of a hit) to go look for that animal. My sons and I have looked for hours on end, sometimes even getting out the next day to look. Sometimes early season warm weather plays a factor, while late-season colder days offer a better chance to go back and look. Over the years, we’ve enjoyed that aspect of “detective work,” by following blood trails and trying to decipher the deer’s direction of travel.

A deer that has been shot causes a surge of adrenaline and drives them away from the threat. This can also make them thirsty. We always check water sources, like a creek or a pond, and have found them nearby. Sometimes they will run to find the heaviest and thickest cover to bed down.

This season, we found my son Jackson’s buck dead under a snarl of timber. My daughter-in-law Courtney shot a buck that we tracked into the night and found bedded down. We left it overnight, and four of us came back to that same spot the next day to begin the search. We jumped it the next morning, trailed it again and was able to finally sink another arrow into a fine 8-pointer. Did I add that she was five months pregnant at the time? Quite a hunt for sure.

Some hunters will reach out for additional tracking help. There have been some great stories of tracking dogs this year being employed to locate deer that have been shot but not located. The owners and their dogs work hard and are proud with every successful recovery. Social media also points out that drones are now being used at times in the effort to locate a deer that has been shot and wounded. Certainly, there are many technological advancements that have aided hunters these days. I’d wager that it would make some old-timers head spin, talking about using a drone to find a downed deer.

As a hunter-education instructor, it also led me to consider the legality of such usage. I reached out to the Georgia DNR’s Derek Dillard, Tim Butler and Matt Kiracofe for more information. You can find the current status of using a drone to aid in the recovery of a deer in GON’s Conservation Law Enforcement Corner this month.

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