If I were to give one piece of advice to a new deer hunter who is trailing a mortally wounded deer he or she has just shot or arrowed, I would say, forget the blood trail. Just find the lowest, most difficult spot of ground and look there. That’s where your dead deer will be – provided the lowest spot of ground is at the base of the steep hill your vehicle is on the far side of.
To be clear, this is not even remotely good advice or even a hard and fast rule of what the species does when mortally wounded. It’s just what they do to me.
You see, every mortally wounded deer I have ever recovered has forced me to drag it uphill. Sometimes more than once.
If you think I’m exaggerating, consider this. I once had to drag a deer up hill in the middle of Saskatchewan. That basically meant the deer had to go out of its way to find a patch of low ground in the middle of the prairie, just so I would have to drag it uphill.
Frankly, I thought that was a bit spiteful.
Worse still, I once dropped a deer on a hilltop on level ground that led to where my vehicle was parked. The buck died instantly on the spot – and then rolled down a nearby slope to the base of the hill – in slow motion.
I have tried outsmarting deer by hunting the lowest ground in the area. But they still find a way to make me drag them uphill. I can’t explain it.
Also, for some reason when they roll downhill, there is not a tree in the way, but when you drag them uphill, the path is suddenly blocked by tree trunks, thickets, huge boulders and blow-downs.
I’m guessing this isn’t a coincidence.
Honestly, I think the deer have it out for me. Call me paranoid, but I suspect that when they meet at their Annual General Meeting prior to the hunting season an old doe will, at one point, say, “Item two on the agenda: What about Galea?”
That’s when a sage old buck will answer, “I suggest we use the standard protocol. If he shoots or arrows you and you have any life left in you at all, run as fast as you can, straight downhill away from where his vehicle is parked. And, as always, if you are about to die immediately, find a way to roll down the steepest slope you can. His back can’t hold out forever…”
Look, I understand this is not the kind of column that a non-hunter will enjoy – after all it deals with pre-death experiences and pain and suffering. But, don’t worry. My back usually heals up after a week or so.
And yes, I wouldn’t have back pains, if I just bought myself an ATV. But I also know that the minute I buy myself an ATV, the deer would change their protocol and die in downhill places where ATVs can’t go. So, I would still have to drag the deer uphill to the ATV.
My only real option, as I get older, is to mentor a young hunter with a strong back or start hunting in areas where the land is so flat that this is no longer an issue. But I don’t hold out hope.
Not as long as sinkholes exist.