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Tracking Tips

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Tracking Tips

Postby WapitiTalk1 » 02 17, 2013 •  [Post 1]

I'm sure many of us have had difficult tracking experiences. It goes with the game. What are some of your tips for tracking elk once the arrow (or other projectile) has found it's mark? Let's skip past the standard ones that most big game hunters know (try to determine what type of hit it was, mark where you shot from, mark where the elk was standing, wait XX minutes before proceeding, mark every spot of bood). I'll throw out a couple.

1. Move slowly when tracking a hit elk. Stop often and listen.

2. An elk, even when hit well, may not bleed significantly for some pretty long stretches (depends on the hit, the hit angle, going uphill, downhill, etc.). Learn to tune in to the tracks of the target elk as much as the blood sign. This is crucial.

3. Realize that bright red/frothy blood does not necessarily signify a lung shot.

OK, these are just a very few. Tracking an elk after the shot is kind of an art and something that is learned through many years of doing it. Please throw out a few of your after the shot tracking tips.
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Re: Tracking Tips

Postby easeup » 02 18, 2013 •  [Post 2]

I wished I had some more for you.
keep your spirit up when things are not looking good.
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Re: Tracking Tips

Postby cnelk » 02 18, 2013 •  [Post 3]

I have found that 'hard hit' elk will not run uphill far.
If they do, they quickly turn
Most hard hit elk will run downhill or slab the hill

On one lung hits, the elk tend to bed up fairly quickly.
The key is to give them LOTS of time.

Learn different hair types on the elk, it can help you determine where on the animal it came from
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Re: Tracking Tips

Postby ElkNut1 » 02 18, 2013 •  [Post 4]

After the shot do your best to know where the animal was hit, go with what you saw or first thought of impact. Stay very quiet & do not celebrate, your work has just begun! Do not run after him. Watch the elk as far as you can, do your best to mark where you last saw him mentally & now listen intently, you may hear him crash or struggle, this can give you a direction if there's little blood & tracks to follow.

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Re: Tracking Tips

Postby elkmtngear » 02 18, 2013 •  [Post 5]

If you are relatively sure you are close to where the elk should have gone down, and you still can't locate it, move downwind and use your sense of smell to track your way to the animal. We have found a lot of elk in this manner, the smell of a bull is unmistakeable.
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Re: Tracking Tips

Postby Huntrgathr » 02 18, 2013 •  [Post 6]

Lot's of good tips so far ! I agree that focusing more on the tracks can be a better tactic than just looking for blood. Blood trails can start and stop but tracks are constant.

Gathering as much info as you can at the shot and directly following the shot - I haven't killed as many elk as some guys but I've tracked a whole lot of them. Listening right after the shot, like Paul said is an easy way to gather a lot of info about how far the animal went and which direction. Save the celebration until after all the commotion stops.

I've noticed that people are often mistaken about where they thought they hit the animal (I have been guilty of this on occasion). It can be really hard to tell in the heat of the moment so I wouldn't put too much stock in that indicator, unless you have video you can slow down.

Hydrogen peroxide will foam up when it comes into contact with blood, even dried blood. I've only used this technique once but it did give me confirmation on a few spots of blood that I wasn't sure about.
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Re: Tracking Tips

Postby Swede » 02 18, 2013 •  [Post 7]

If you shoot a bull, or any other elk from a herd, he will try to follow when they escape. Tracking can be dificult if there is little blood to follow. Watch to see if one leaves the herd and goes off to the side. It has been my experience that the bulll will turn to the side they were hit on. I.e. If you hit the elk on the left, then they will turn to the left when they leave the herd. This is just something to watch for. A mortally wounded elk will likely turn when they can't stay up with the herd.
BTW: I found my bull last year doing exactly what Jeff suggests. By getting down wind, on a cool evening, I was able to smell and then walk right up to where the bull was, by just following my nose.
I know experienced hunters all have different experiences. Here is mine: I have had mortally wounded elk go well uphill and die. As a young bow hunter I followed a hard hit elk down hill, as it followed the herd. I looked the remainder of the day, most of the night, and the next morning for it. I knew it was dead somewhere, and followed it down hill for a couple hundred yards. There was little blood to follow and it soon was gone, but the tracks the herd made were plain to see. I went with them as far as I could. Then, a little later with a couple friends, we spread out all through the drainage below. We finally had to give up. Several days later, by chance when I was well upslope from where I the last blood spot was; I saw my elk. It still had my arrow in it. It was dead and as big around as an oil barrel. Since that episode I have found a couple of my elk up-hill from where they were, when they were shot. Sure, an elk will likely go down hill after being hit hard, but don't bet too much on it.
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Re: Tracking Tips

Postby >>>---WW----> » 02 18, 2013 •  [Post 8]

Hydrogen Peroxide was going to be my tip but Huntrgathr already covered that. It is always good to have a 1 oz. spray bottle of it in your pack. I have used it on blood trails a day old with good results.
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Re: Tracking Tips

Postby Trophyhill » 02 18, 2013 •  [Post 9]

i notice a couple of you said "don't celebrate". i remember the first deer i killed with my rifle and as soon as he went down i started fist pumping and hooping and hollering. he jumped up and ran off. i found him an hour later and a mile further in. all my celebrating has been rather quiet since that first deer:)
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Re: Tracking Tips

Postby Huntrgathr » 02 18, 2013 •  [Post 10]

Trophyhill wrote:i notice a couple of you said "don't celebrate". i remember the first deer i killed with my rifle and as soon as he went down i started fist pumping and hooping and hollering. he jumped up and ran off. i found him an hour later and a mile further in. all my celebrating has been rather quiet since that first deer:)


Reminds me of a story. It doesn't have much to do with tracking, but it illustrates another good reason not to celebrate too soon :

Two years ago my son shot his first deer with a rifle. It was a doe. When he shot , she reared up and flipped over backwards and landed flat on her back. We started high-fiving and hugging and celebrating but then the deer managed to get up on it's front legs and hobbled down into some really tall grass where we couldn't see her. We waited for a few minutes and every once in a while we could hear movement in the grass. After about 25 minutes it was almost dark and a doe came walking out of the grass totally unscathed. I told my son not to shoot as I believed it to be a different deer and obviously I didn't want him to shoot two. As she crested the hill and dropped out of sight, I noticed a small tuft of hair sticking up right on the ridge of her back. We went to the scene of the "kill" and there was not a drop of blood anywhere so I tracked her into the grass and still no blood. We searched into the night, gridding the big grass patch (this was on the edge of some agricultural land) and never found her. The patch was small enough that we stepped on every square foot of it and still - no deer. As near as I can figure, the deer we saw leave the grass patch must've been the same deer. The shot must have grazed her vertebra and shocked her spine, causing the reaction we saw. Craziest thing I've seen in a long time.

Anyway, our celebration was over. My son was absolutely crushed. But then we went out a few days later and got him another one (25 yrd shot through the heart :D ). Now we both agree that the experience of seeing that doe back flip and then get up and walk away was a much better story than killing her.
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Re: Tracking Tips

Postby Lefty » 02 18, 2013 •  [Post 11]

dont move untill you see the next sign
I tracked a missed bull a few years back, early morning light. A couple of guys watched me for an hour 1/2 they couldnt belerve I could trail in the rock
go slow
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Re: Tracking Tips

Postby flystrait » 02 18, 2013 •  [Post 12]

If you are in brushy area "thick and nasty" flip over the vegitation and look under it for blood, if you are having trouble. It does not matter even if it rains there will be blood there. I found that tracks alone can steer you in the wrong direction. If its warm look for flies they will find it before you this can help as well if blood seems sparse. Don't always think they go down hill as already mentioned.
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Re: Tracking Tips

Postby POk3s » 02 18, 2013 •  [Post 13]

huntrgathr I had the same thing happen to me as a young(er) lad. Hit a deer and watched it drop. it was kicking its legs as I stood up and started my celebration. I looked up and the deer was on it's feet. I sat back down and proceeded to miss 3 more times as the deer bounded away. Never found it and lost blood after 50 yards. My guess was the same as yours. Enough to shock it but too high to do to much damage and it gained another life!
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Re: Tracking Tips

Postby POk3s » 02 18, 2013 •  [Post 14]

.....for a tip the only thing I care to add is to call after you shoot. Most of the time I forget as I'm in the moment but there's nothing better than watching a hit elk stop, turn, wobble and fall.
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Re: Tracking Tips

Postby Sean_TeamNWHunting » 02 24, 2013 •  [Post 15]

In my opinion, three factors will determine your tracking plan: 1. Shot Placement, 2. Type of weapon used, and 3. Weather. Elk are very big animals, they have a lot of blood in them and a great looking blood trail initially may turn out to be a dead end. As a general rule, marginal shot placements require a lot of patience and time. You want the animal to lay down fairly quickly and expire without being pressured else you will most likely lose them. Weather can certainly change how long you wait between making the shot and following the blood trail such as rain or snow starting to fall, or extreme heat that could spoil a carcass fairly quickly. Once you are actually on the blood trail, think like an animal in terms of their path through the woods. Use your experience following tracks through the woods as you hunt but keep in mind that the animal is most likely stressed and will not always react like a healthy animal on a leisurely stroll. Mark key blood sign so you can return back to that point if you have lost the trail. I believe that we owe the animals our very best effort to find them after making a marginal shot. Good luck and happy hunting!!!
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Re: Tracking Tips

Postby >>>---WW----> » 02 25, 2013 •  [Post 16]

Lots of good tips here. But to be the very best tracker you can be. you should read and study the book (Field Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking) by Tom Brown. It will open a whole new world to you!
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Re: Tracking Tips

Postby JohnFitzgerald » 02 25, 2013 •  [Post 17]

Sean_TeamNWHunting wrote:In my opinion, three factors will determine your tracking plan: 1. Shot Placement, 2. Type of weapon used, and 3. Weather. Elk are very big animals, they have a lot of blood in them and a great looking blood trail initially may turn out to be a dead end. As a general rule, marginal shot placements require a lot of patience and time. You want the animal to lay down fairly quickly and expire without being pressured else you will most likely lose them. Weather can certainly change how long you wait between making the shot and following the blood trail such as rain or snow starting to fall, or extreme heat that could spoil a carcass fairly quickly. Once you are actually on the blood trail, think like an animal in terms of their path through the woods. Use your experience following tracks through the woods as you hunt but keep in mind that the animal is most likely stressed and will not always react like a healthy animal on a leisurely stroll. Mark key blood sign so you can return back to that point if you have lost the trail. I believe that we owe the animals our very best effort to find them after making a marginal shot. Good luck and happy hunting!!!

Once again, glad to see you made it to the Forum Sean. I've always thought you were part blood hound! Maybe, in the near future you can share some of your spot-n-stalk tactics that your so well known for!
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Re: Tracking Tips

Postby otcWill » 02 25, 2013 •  [Post 18]

Expect to find a live bull! In other words, be quiet and have an arrow nocked and ready while you are trailing. Also, don't lose faith. The moment you let your guard down could easily be the moment he blows out of his bed. And the obvious, NEVER stop looking for a well hit bull. He is out there and it is your duty to find him!
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Re: Tracking Tips

Postby welka » 03 03, 2013 •  [Post 19]

A couple that haven't been mentioned....
1) Use tp (instead of flagging tape) to mark the blood trail as wounded animals often follow a somewhat straight path.
2) When you lose blood, go back to the last spot and get on your hands and knees and look for specks/splatters that you won't see from on foot.
3) Tall guys need to bend at the waist for difficult tracking as you just can't see specks from too high.
4) When (1) above fails, go back to last blood and assume he didn't go in a straight line and look in different directions.

Good luck to all.
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Re: Tracking Tips

Postby ctdad » 03 03, 2013 •  [Post 20]

On one difficult track, blood was sparse and many steps between drops. I would get down on a knee and use my binos to look for blood. I could see the blood very easily through my binos. Took me to a carcass.
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Re: Tracking Tips

Postby ElkNut1 » 03 03, 2013 •  [Post 21]

ctdad, that's the tip of the day bud!!! I really like that one!!

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