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Deer anatomy & recovery reminder pics/diagrams...


Staff member
Basic but effective!!! After 25 years of this - I still like sending out one of these... “where exactly did u hit? Penetration and angle?” Use em multiple times a year in helping buddies, etc. Or a good reminder before the shot. That shoulder blade is always a good one, for example, to look at & think about yearly. Here’s some good ones to come back to anytime. Good shooting- relax as much as u can, slow it down a bit & make that shot count!!!!.

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Decap Nation
Skip this is always great information if things go bad. Can this be a sticky till deer season is over?


Decap Nation
To go along with the photos that Skip posted is a cheat sheet on tracking deer.
This is a copy and paste from another site and I’m not sure really who the author is.
This info is very valuable to the novice and seasoned deer hunters.

I have this info saved to my notes on my iPhone so I don’t have to rely on cell service if ever needed.


Less than a minute has elapsed since you've shot one of the biggest bucks you have ever seen. It happened so fast it's hard to believe. What you do now may determine whether or not you'll recover your buck.

Your first impulse is to bail out of your treestand and take off after him. Depending upon your arrow placement, this could be a big mistake. If a deer is not hit well you could spook him and make recovery next to impossible.

Knowing where the animal is hit makes a difference in how you track him. For this reason, a bowhunter should use brightly colored fletching, such as orange or red.

The chest of the deer contains the lungs and the heart which, when hit, produce the quickest kill. The lungs are easily reached by an arrow, protected only by vulnerable rib bones. The heart is low in the body and somewhat protected by the deer's leg bone.

The following describes types of hits and how you should track for each.

* A lung-shot deer will run hard 50 to 65 yards. After that he will
usually walk until he falls. The blood will sometimes have tiny bubbles in it. This blood trail usually gets better as you track the deer. However, if the deer is hit high in the lungs, the blood trail may sometimes become light and even disappear completely. The deer could be "filling up" inside with blood, showing very little external bleeding. The hair from the lung area is coarse and brown with black tips. The deer will usually go down in less than 125 yards. Give the deer 30 minutes before tracking.

* A heart-shot deer will sometimes jump wildly when hit. The blood trail may be sparse for the first 20 yards or so. A heart shot deer may track as much as a quarter of a mile, depending on what part of the heart is damaged. The usual is less than 125 yards. The hair from this shot will be long brown or grayish guard hairs. Again, a 30 minute wait is advised. But, if while trailing you find where he has bedded back off and wait an hour before taking up the trail again.

* A liver-shot deer. The liver lies against the diaphragm in the
approximate center of the deer. It is a definite killing shot. The blood trail will be decent to follow and the deer should bed down and die within 200 yards, if not pushed. A one-hour wait is best. The hair from the liver area is brownish gray and much shorter than the hair from the lung area. If you push the deer out of his bed, back off and wait another hour.

* A gut-shot deer is probably the most difficult to recover because of the poor blood trail and the hunter's impatience to wait him out. A lot of bowhunters want to hurry up and find the deer. Since the liver and stomach are close together, it is possible that the deer will go down and die quickly if the shot also penetrates the liver. If the deer is dead in an hour, he will still be dead in 4 hours. Have patience, he will not go anywhere. Wait him out for at least 4 hours. Wait overnight if the deer is
shot in the evening.

When a deer is shot in the stomach area, he will usually take several short jumps and commence walking or running. His back will usually hunch up and his legs will be spread wide. The hair from this wound is brownish gray and short. The lower the shot is on the animal, the lighter colored the hair will be. The blood trail is usually poor with small pieces of ingested material (stomach contents). If the intestines are punctured there will be green slimy material or feces Take your bow with you because a second shot might be required.

* A spine-shot deer will usually drop in his tracks or hobble off. Either way, a second shot will probably be required to finish off the deer. If a spine-shot deer hobbles off, wait a half-hour and track slowly and quietly. Look for the deer bedded down.

* A neck-shot deer will either die in 100 yards or he will recover from the wound. The lower portion of the neck contains the windpipe, neck bone (spine), and carotid (jugular) arteries. If the arteries are hit, the deer will run hard and drop in less than 100 yards. The blood trail will be easy to follow. A shot above the neck bone will give you a good blood trail for about 150 to 200 yards before quitting. The deer will more than likely recover to be hunted again.

* A hip-shot deer. A large artery (femoral) runs down the inside of each deer leg. This artery is protected from the side by the leg bones. The femoral artery is most often severed from the rear or at an angle. If this artery is cut, the bleeding will be profuse and the deer will usually be found in less than 100 yards. The ham of a deer is also rich in veins with a lot of blood. A hip-shot deer should be tracked immediately. Track him slowly and quietly to keep him moving (walking). If you jump him and he runs, back off for a few minutes then continue trailing. You want him to walk, not run. A walking deer is easier to trail.

* An artery-shot deer will almost always go down in less than 100 yards. The aortic artery runs just under the backbone from heart to hips, where it branches to become the femoral arteries. The heart also pumps blood to the brain through the carotid (jugular) arteries.

Sever any of these arteries and you've got yourself a deer. There is one catch, these arteries are tough. It takes a sharp broadhead to cut through them. A dull broadhead will just push them aside. Keep your broadheads sharp! Give the deer half an hour before tracking.

* After shooting the deer, stay in your stand and be quiet for the
recommended time. A noise might push your deer away. He could be bedded down less than 100 yards away.

* I have found it very helpful to tie a piece of pink surveyor ribbon around my stand tree at eye level from where I shot. After noting several terrain features near where the deer was standing and where it ran too, I tie on the ribbon before coming down. From the ground looking back up to the ribbon, I can get a better visual for locating exactly where the deer was and went.

* Before beginning the tracking, mark where you shot the deer with a piece of white toilet paper hung on a branch.

* Mark the trail periodically with more toilet paper as you track. This will give you a line on the deer's travel.

* When you find the arrow, check for hair, tallow, blood, etc. This will give you a good clue on how to track. Example: Tallow and slime means you should wait 4 hours.

* Look for blood on trees, saplings, and leaves that are about the same height as the wound. Blood will sometimes rub off the body.

* While tracking a deer that you have shot and you jump a deer and it flags its tail, it's probably not your deer. A wounded deer will very seldom "flag." BUT - check it out anyway.

* Gut-shot deer have a habit of going to water. If you lose a gut-shot deer's trail, check out the water holes in the area. He could be down by one.

* Tracking at night presents special problems with visibility. The blood and the deer will both be hard to see. A Coleman gas lantern will help a lot in both cases. If the deer is not hit well, and no rain is forecast, wait until morning. If he is dead in 10 minutes or 4 hours, he will still be dead in the morning.

* Take a compass bearing to where you last saw the deer, and another one to where you last heard any noise from it's flight. It might prove very helpful.

* It helps to have someone who did not shoot the deer to help with the blood trial. Many an experienced hunter in his excitement misses things.

* Stay off of the blood trail, and use a small piece of tolled paper to mark each spot

* Look at the bottom of leaves on branches at deer body height. Sometimes as the branch slides along the body of a deer it is the under side of the leaf that picks up the blood.

* You will often find a gut shot deer or liver shot deer dead in the water not just beside it. so look for an ear or the side of the deer in deeper water too.

* Some shots that look good may be one lung or a poor liver hit because of the angle. These deer can take several hours to die. Be careful about pushing them to soon, since they will rarely leave much blood sign if they are jumped when bedded.

* Look ahead as you blood trail for deer parts and movement. Your deer may still be alive and you might be able to get a second shot or back off with out spooking it.

* Look for disturbed leaves and broken twigs as well as for the blood sign on hard to follow blood trails.

* It is often hard to follow a blood trail in grass. It seems that the blood can fall all the way to the ground without hitting a single blade of grass.

* Look for clusters of ants, flies and daddy longlegs. You can find small drops of blood because these bugs are feeding on it.

* Often times when the blood trail seems to end you will find the animal off to one side and not in the same direction of travel.

* Listen for birds like magpies, jays, and crows. Sometimes they make a ruckus where the animal lies dead.

* Be persistent!

* Use your nose. sometimes you can smell a deer you can't see. A gut shot is even more likely to have a smell.

* When trailing at night use a couple of the Chem Lights that you can get at WalMart for less than a buck. You don't use these as lights to see blood, but they are hung on limbs at the last blood found. That way nobody has to stand on the last blood and everyone can easily see where the last blood found is at.

remember these are only suggestions that should be considered .....remember NOTHING IS IN CONCRETE WHEN DEER HUNTING.

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PMA Member
Great photos and thread. I used the numbered and lettered photo last season after it was posted here to get input from lots of guys on a deer my wife hit with her bow


PMA Member
Great info. After every kill I try to assess the damage done to organs to learn what I can. The last two does I killed were double lung shots from fairly steep angles, but the pass through shots were on the 1/3 outside portion of the lung lobe. Although the shots killed both does within 50 yds, I definitely could have centered those shots better. There is always something that can be learned and improved upon, and minimizing the margin of error is a good practice.

I've noticed that for some reason I have a natural tendency to aim for a heart shot, so I have to take my time, slow down and make sure to aim for the exit that I want. The best thing I ever did was start killing more does; fresh experience helps out tremendously.

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Staff member
So ironic!!! This didn’t take long to use this. Further down past all this, do think he’ll find it. He rushed shot but way better than thought after talking to him. Just ironic & quick timing on that.

**yep- blurred the name out - It’s DONALD TRUMP. He didn’t want anyone knowing. Huge bowhunter.

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In other words, C1

Above the spine in the shoulder, deer lives unless he gets really lucky


Staff member
I talked to him after. He said it was a little lower and arrow was sunk in there. So- it sounded like it wasn’t a case of hitting shoulder and popping back out.


Active Member
I shot a doe this weekend. She was slightly quartering to and was close. She stepped right as I squeezed the release.
Hit her slightly above F1, exit was G4. I immediately thought, ooh....too far back. She went 20 yards and stopped and fell over expired.
Field dressing exam showed I'd just clipped the back of both lungs. About as far back as I would say is a quick lethal shot.
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