If there is one thing that aggravates me more than anything from my fellow outdoorsmen, it is when they don't take the time to look for a downed animal. I have done my fair share of big game hunting and when you do that long enough you will eventually wound an animal with a nonlethal shot. There is no worse feeling to me, not only as a hunter but as a human.
Over my hunting career I have not recovered three deer that I have shot. Just to show the ratio I believe I have shot and recovered close to 20 big game animals. Two of the three deer that I shot were because of a bad shot on my part. The third animal was a perfect shot but for some reason my arrow did not penetrate far enough into the body to make it lethal. Just bad luck. That buck lived until later in the rifle season when the landowner’s son shot him. The landowner contacted me because he knew I was thinking about that deer. I don't know how many times I replayed that shot and wondered what went wrong. It was only 10 yards away, perfectly broadside and when I pulled the trigger on my crossbow I remember the arrow going into the death pocket and he kicked like a mule. But as he ran away I could see three quarters of my arrow sticking out. We searched for that buck for a couple hours until we realized he was going to live.
The two other deer that I did not recover, wasn't because we did not try. I remember the one buck we looked for over two days and actually used a dog. But there was no luck. A couple buddies of mine found that buck the spring after I shot it. We assumed it went across the river. But evidently it backtracked and died less than 100 yards from where I shot it. I am still sick over that one. We searched for the other buck over course of two days also. We found where he laid down numerous places but could never catch up to him. These two deer would be the biggest that I had ever taken if I had found them. Not that that matters. Maybe there was some buck fever on my part.
It really irks me when people do not take the time to find something they shot. A lot of the time you hear, "I must've missed him." If you don't go and check the kill spot you'll never know for sure whether you missed or not. You should go to where the animal was shot and see if there's any blood, hair or feathers. And remember sometimes the animal won't start bleeding for a while. So track the direction it went and keep searching until all leads are exhausted. Also, find out which one of your buddies are good at tracking and set them loose. Some people think they are good at tracking and some people are good. It doesn't take long to figure out who is which.
Some people will take more time looking for a big game animal than a small game animal. I wonder why this is. We should give the same amount of respect to all animals we plan to bag.
Every season you will hear hunters say we shot four pheasants but could only find two. I always ask, "Did you have a dog?" Most of the time they will say no we didn't. But even having a dog doesn't mean you're going to find the bird but it sure as heck gives you a better chance. If you don't have a dog, try to not hunt the heavy stuff. You know cattails, thick brush and the like.
I know I am preaching to the choir for most of you, but it is sad to say some people need to hear this. Sometimes things happen and no matter what you do you won't be able to find the game you shot. But for the respect of the animal and just being a good sportsman, please take the time to search and recover every animal you pursue.
Thanks for reading, Clint