How Should a Downed Deer or Other Large Animal be Approached?

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There are lots of hunting shows that can sometimes be misleading. The truth is when approaching a deer and other large animals that you might presume is dead you must do so with caution. There are some serious do’s and don’ts that you must consider before approaching any downed wild animal. 

Conventional wisdom dictates that you at least wait for close to half an hour before embarking on the pursuit of your deer. The idea is that the wounded animal rarely dies right away, and patience gives it space and time to expire. It means that you will not spike its system with adrenaline that might cause it to run farther. By waiting, the deer beds down and eventually bleeds out which helps your recovery if you follow the blood trail. 

Approaching Downed Game

The animal may appear to be dead when it is not and this makes it very dangerous. The rule to safety is to never approach a downed deer head-on, no matter how dead you think it is. If it is still alive, when it tries to escape it may run in the direction its head is pointing. And that is towards you. If you stand in the way it might gore you with its antlers or run you over.  

You should also never attempt to poke it in the eye to see if it will blink. 


Always approach deer from downwind. The rule of stalking applies when trailing wounded deer. If it is still alive and it catches your smell, it will panic and flee. 

When approaching the deer from its rear, stop at a reasonable distance. You can stand slightly away from the animal and toss a piece of wood or any object to see if it moves so that you can take an additional shot. 

You should always prepare for a second shot and that is why your rifle or bow and arrow should be in place as you close the distance.

Observe its Rib Cage 

If the chest of the deer or animal is heaving, then it is still alive. If you cannot detect rib cage movement, check the animal’s eyes. Dead animals do not close their eyes and they should be wide open. If the eyes are closed, then it is not dead and you should take a second shot.  Deer die with their eyes open, and after death, a blue haze appears in them.

Check for Nerves

Hunters often bump or touch animals at the base of their tails to check for nerves. If the animal is still alive, hitting the nerves will make it react and you will know if a second shot is necessary. You can use a stick to bump the animal above the base of the tail. Using a rifle barrel or an arrow leaves you defenseless and in a helpless position if the animal jumps up and takes off. 

If you see any movement from the downed deer, you must take another shot, and from a close range, you should be able to deal a final blow. Aim at the base of the skull where it meets the spinal column, or at the heart and lung area.

Some hunters are tempted to pose with their catch. But the safest way to do so is by confirming that the animal is dead. You can then rush in and field dress your deer to ensure the venison meat is preserved well.

How to Get a Deer Out of the Woods

If your primary objective of hunting deer is to catch tasty meat that will last for the long haul, then you must get well versed with field dressing your animal. The importance of this critical step is undeniable and must be followed to the latter if you want to avoid risks to your health. It is also the best way to ensure the longevity of the meat.

Normally when you get your deer after shooting it there are factors you must consider. First, you will want to field-dress the deer, drag it out, load it into a truck, and drive it to a processor. Through all these steps you must ensure you keep the meat clean and protected.