Hunting involves a lot more than shooting and taking down your prey. It is just as important to approach and manage your prey properly, once you took it down. All hunters want a clean kill and approaching a downed animal is an essential detail to consider.

If you want to approach a downed deer or any other large animal, your method becomes that much more important. So, let’s see how you can approach a downed deer so you can have a successful and clean hunting session.

How should a downed deer be approached?

So, you reached your prey and got down the deer you were hunting for. Now, it is time to claim it and do so safely so you can enjoy it. Your safety should come first but you will also want to finish the animal in a humane manner as well, so they don’t suffer. And you want to have, overall a fast and clean kill which matters a lot for further processes you need to complete before you enjoy it.

There are two major aspects you need to consider when you approach a downed deer. One is directly related to your safety and securing your prey, while another one is about checking the animal’s vital signs. Both of these aspects are just as important and you can’t have a successful hunting session by neglecting either one of them.

Approach the deer with caution

It is important to approach the prey carefully because you can’t be sure if it is dead or alive just yet. If the animal is alive and it smells like you approaching them, they could get back on their feet fast and either attack you or run away. Both these scenarios are bad as if they attack you, your safety is compromised and if they run away they will most likely die from the wound and decay, which is not good for the environment.

Make sure to get closer to the deer from a downwind direction so you reduce the chances of being smelled. A major “don’t” is approaching a deer head-on. This can be a tragic mistake because if the animal is not dead and it gets up to flee, they will take off in the direction where their head is pointed and your risk of being injured is significantly higher.

Check if the animal is dead

Deciding if your prey is dead or alive is a crucial step in this process. The first thing you want to look at when you give the verdict is the deer’s eyes. Animals die with their eyes open so if their eyes are closed they are definitely not dead. After death, there is a certain grey-blue haze that appears in their eyes as well so you can look for such a sign too.

The next aspect you want to check is if the deer is breathing. You will look at the chest cavity for any signs of breathing and you will have to stay still and observe this area of their body for about 30 seconds to one minute.

A common practice to check if the animal is dead is to touch it or bump it at the base of the tail. This area is rich in very sensitive nerves and it usually generates a reaction if the deer is still alive.

What to do if the deer is alive

Depending on where you hit the deer, you might be surprised to see that the animal is not all the way dead, even if they are severely injured. If the animal is still alive, you can evaluate the possibility of a second fire to kill it. If that is an option, you want to shoot them at the base of the ear in order to kill them fast. You can also shoot them in the heart-lung area which will be very efficient too. Plus, aiming for the heart area will allow you to mount the head if you so desire. If you are a bowhunter, your only option will be to aim for the heart and lungs area.

There are situations when you might not be able to get a second chance to finish the hunt. Your wounded deer could flee quite fast even if it is injured and you will have no way of shooting at it again. Another situation when you will not be able to kill your prey is if you run out of ammunition. This is why it is important to be ready for second shoots if that is necessary. So, always get some extra ammunition when you prepare your hunting equipment.

What to do if the deer is dead

If the deer is dead, you can proceed to further norms that apply when a kill is made. These norms will differ from one state to another so you will have to be aware of the local hunting regulations and apply them accordingly. The most common norms that you will find in most states refer to registering and reporting the kill. This means that you will have to add a tag on the deer with the date and time of death. After you do that you can proceed to field dressing tasks right there or you can choose to relocate the deer.

Final thoughts

Approaching a downed deer could be tricky but if you follow this guideline, you have chances to end your hunt successfully. It is important to mention that you should follow the same procedure if you are approaching any other downed pray of large dimensions. Your safety should always come first and animals are difficult to predict especially wounded ones.

Make sure to think a little ahead as well and decide what you want to do with your prey. If you want to mount it, save the areas that will be used for aesthetic benefits. This is even more essential when you are finding yourself in the need of a second shoot.