For hunters the time from when the initial shot takes place until the deer is recovered can be an emotional roller coaster. Determining how long to wait before beginning the recovery process can vary depending on the shot placement, blood characteristics and reaction of the deer after the shot. Understanding the various time frames necessary for the deer to expire will help immensely with a successful recovery process.
The heart shot is what all hunters strive for as it is the fastest and one of the most ethical ways to harvest any animal. Thirty minutes should be an appropriate wait time if you are confident you made a clean heart shot. In many instances with a heart shot, you may even witness the deer expire.
Besides the heart shot, the lung shot is the next best case scenario. Due to the larger target area, a lung shot has a high percentage success rate with a relatively short waiting period. Typically I will give the animal thirty to forty five minutes if I am confident with a solid lung shot. Before beginning the recovery process, determine whether it was a single or double lung shot as this will greatly affect how long to wait. If the shot was a single or high lung shot, be prepared to wait a minimum of two to two and a half hours.
With any kidney or liver shot I tend to wait a minimum of ten to twelve hours, and will usually leave the deer overnight if able to. Kidney or liver shots are definitely lethal but will take longer for the deer to expire compared to a heart or lung shot. Starting the recovery process before the deer has expired will only make for a longer and more difficult tracking job.
A gut shot deer is one of those scenarios that every hunter wishes they could rewind time. In many cases where a gut shot deer was not recovered was most likely due to prematurely bumping a wounded deer. With any gut shot, the best case scenario is to leave the deer overnight. If leaving the deer overnight is not possible for whatever reason, do not begin the tracking process for a minimum of ten to twelve hours. As the age old saying goes, when in doubt back out.
A shot to a major artery is not ideal, but many hunters make the mistake of panicking believing they need to anchor another shot, resulting in a long night of never ending blood tracking. Although a major artery shot is not preferred, it can still result in a successful harvest as long as you give the deer enough time to bleed out while not pushing it to the next county. If waiting overnight is not an option, a minimum of ten to twelve hours should be adequate time for the deer to expire. Alike with a gut shot deer, the odds are in your favor for a successful recovery if you wait and back out.
Determining how long to wait after the initial shot can be a mentally draining process for any hunter. However, educating yourself on the most appropriate wait times will greatly aid with your recovery process. A lot of time and energy has been invested to get to this point, don’t blow the opportunity by being impatient and rushing to recover your harvest. Patience is a virtue, but it can also be your meal ticket.