Monday, January 31, 2011

Doe tags and deer tracking.


.223 at 125 yards with Remington softpoint. Exit side up.

The Good Doctor and I both shot deer that didn't go down in place. We had to follow blood trails and sign. Very important to note EXACTLY where the animal is when the shot breaks and very hard to train yourself to do that. I noted where the deer was up against the treeline and after the shot EXACTLY which trees she ran between leaving. When I got to the site there wasn't a trace. No blood and a jumble of old and new tracks.
I went into the woods between the two pines she had run through. Nothing. I'd seen her cut left and then straight back before disappearing. After a minute I noticed a few hairs nearby- long ones. I could see some torn up leaves in the forest floor but it could have been anything. Squirrels make the same sign. The dot sight at 125 yards was about at the functional limit and I began to worry about grazing her. Further in was a bigger clump of dry hair. No blood. I did a semi-circle sweep about five yards in, (being very careful not to step on any sign), without result. I scanned the woods ahead looking for a body, (sometimes you can see the white belly hair shining on a downed animal). Nothing. Back to the clump of hair. I shucked off my hunting sack and thought about what I had seen after the trigger broke. I double checked the position of the tower from the hair pile. Another sweep a little further in. Back to the hair pile. I was about to decide I had grazed her with a .223 softpoint when I noticed a very small fleck of blood on a leaf. It was smaller than the head of a paper match. A hit.
On the same line about two feet away was another very small fleck of blood. I followed the line and found another about five feet away, all on the same line. I'd looked this area over just a minute before- these were just VERY small flecks. 15 yards in I began to get a trail I could follow walking. She ran in a straight line, sometimes going between trees close together for about 60 yards and was in the bottom of a small crease. (never seen a mortally struck animal climb) When I tracked I stayed a yard or so to one side of the trial so I wouldn't disturb it and didn't move forward until I saw the next blood ahead. She was actually very well hit. The .223 went through both shoulders breaking a bone on the entry side and leaving an impressive exit wound. Heart shot, low. The clump of hair must have blown off the exit side or she bit a chunk off in the seconds after the hit. Most of the trail was over pine needles.

The doctor's deer was a riverbirch-thicketed area. All the sign was on very dry curled softwood leaves. He had tracked and marked the trail until it disappeared. When I got there we went to the last blood and looked around. I picked up the trail on the same line and we kept it between us, calling out and pointing to blood sign and never moving forward until we saw the next mark. His deer was shot in the front chest with a 270 at about 225 yards and went about 200 yards. She left "wipes" where she left blood on an upright sapling as she pushed past. She was down at least three times and got up and kept going. We found her in thick brush that she had gotten through but we had to go around.

I've heard Coleman lanterns work best on blood at night though I have never used one. I've tracked deer that laid down and died on their stomachs- head laid down like a dog, that you couldn't see until you were just a few feet away. Also spotted them ahead in the dusk by the shine of their white bellies. The most important thing is to notice EXACTLY where the deer was when the shot broke and the EXACT place they went into cover so you can get started.

I've looked at deertracks and people tracks a lot. It's mostly just seeing a deer walk by and going down and looking at the tracks that day, the next day, after the rain and dew, et. Very uncertain business. I've watched my own tracks age in sand and clay. Sometimes very fresh looking sign can be a week old. I wipe the tracks out of scrapes and smooth them over just to get a date-certain reset. Very tricky business.

12 comments:

Paul said...

I've taken deer with the .223, using 73 gr speer SPs handloaded.

I am NOT a fan of the .223 for deer as a result. No, never lost one but unless it's a neck shot they sure don't drop right there.

Hence I use a .308 or .270 WSM now days.

Old NFO said...

Good primer and a good reminder that 'blood trails' usually AREN'T big splashes, nor are they easy to follow... East Texas, SW Arkansas doesn't give you the 'option' of standing there and watching them till they fall.

hsoiblog said...

Nice work!

Aaron Spuler said...

I didn't know it was legal to hunt deer in TX with .223, I thought that it had to be at least .243 -- am I wrong?

Paul said...

Aaron,

In Texas any centerfire cartridge is legal. From .25 ACP to .470 Nitro and on up!

Robert Langham said...

Plenty of wound from the .223 out of a carbine-length barrel. After field dressing the holes inside the ribcage were 1 inch in diameter entering and a little bigger exiting. Hunk of hair evidently blew off the back side.

Groundhog said...

Thanks for posting this. It answers some questions I, as a novice never got a deer yet in my life kinda guy, have had about the .223 round.

Oh, and I was just wondering, does putting a wood stock on an "ebil black rifle" counter things like a pistol grip or bayonet lug? I was thinking maybe the anti's could see that as like a -1 modifier like they have in those fantasy roll playing games :)

Somebody will get that bit of nerd humor there...

phlegmfatale said...

Nice deer, and nice detail on tracking.

Anonymous said...

You don't get to Heaven without wood-stocked rifles.

Paul said...

The wounding potential of the .223 is not the question. It's the penitration if you hit any kind of bone or if you have to take a south side shot at a north bound deer.

And that is why cartriges larger than .223 are the preferred way to go.

Not saying the .223 won't take a deer, (I've done it with a Mini-14) but your shots are very limited both in range and shot placement.

Robert Langham said...

We have a couple of young hunters that use the .223. They are getting all-the-way-through shots. This one went through- just found a little piece of the jacket in the exit wound. Hit a bone on the entrance side. Blew ribs out coming and going. Ruined a shoulder. I need to scope it with something though, dot is just too random over 50 yards.

Anonymous said...

I think so far we have killed about 6 deer with the .223 Rem. Carefully placed broadside shots have all been thru and thru. That is with 60 grain bullets thru a standard barrel rifle. These are all youngsters shooting guns they zeroed and hitting the mark plus knowing where to shoot and keeping the range 175 yards or less. No losses yet and not terrible bloodshot damage as happens with the bigger, faster projectiles. Someone has always been there to back up the shooter with another rifle but so far backup hasnt been necessary.