After the Shot…

You’ve worked all year, hunted all season, and finally here’s your shot, get down on your rifle, control your breathing, line it up and slowly squeeze the trigger. What do you do now?

Once your rifle rings out, there are a few signs to look for that can tell you if an animal is hit. These things do not take the place of going to check for blood and hair or any physical sign on a hit, but they will be able to help you differentiate between the perfect shot and a sub par hit.

Falling Over

The best case scenario after pulling the trigger is that our deer is lying there in a pile already expired. That makes the tracking job pretty easy! But we cannot always assume that if a deer falls after the shot that it is the perfect shot and that animal is dead. That is not always the case. Especially with gun shots, a great deal of trauma is inflicted on the animal and depending on where that is located it can called temporary paralysis. That will cause the animal to momentarily fall but get back up and run off.  The most common I’ve seen of these scenarios  is a high shoulder or brisket shot.

The “Mule Kick”

This is one of the more common things to look for. Generally when a deer has been shot his first instinct is to jump and kick his legs. There’s a lot of speculation out about how the higher the kick the better the shot and what not, but I don’t find that to always be the case. This is a great thing to look for after the shot because usually this is a pretty good sign the deer has been hit.

Tucked Tail and Running

Another great tell as to whether or not a deer may be hit or not is the way it holds its tail. Usually a deer that is hit will tuck its tail. That generally means something is happening within the deers body and he’s just not sure what. Along with this a deer will generally flick its tail. I’ve seen this many times right before a deer begins it’s stumble.


Watching is one of the most important things to do after a shot. If you find yourself hunting areas similar to me, you probably won’t have a very far field of view. This means your ears are your next greatest tool. Just be quiet and listen for a few minutes. Now this may be hard to do because of the excitement and what not but often if a deer is hit good he will generally go down within ear shot. If you do hear the famous “crash” don’t be too eager to get up and chase him. Be sure to give the animal time as anything could be happening.

We have a responsibility as hunters to make sure we give every effort to find an animal once it has been shot at. Simply by stopping, looking, and listening we can help ourselves be much more efficient at this and much more effective.


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