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How To Approach Downed Game

How To Approach Downed Game
In spite of what you might see on hunting shows, there are some very serious dos and don'ts when it comes to approaching a deer, or any wild animal, that you presume to be dead.

In spite of what you might see on hunting shows, there are some very serious dos and don’ts when it comes to approaching a deer, or any wild animal, that you presume to be dead.

The first rule is to approach the deer from downwind. If it is still alive and it smells you, it will panic and try to get on its feet to flee. Approach the animal quietly from a downwind direction to make sure it doesn’t smell you.

As you get close to the deer, try to get a look at its eyes. If they are closed, it is definitely not dead. Animals die with their eyes open, and after death a blue haze appears in them.

Never approach a downed deer head-on, no matter how dead you think it is. If it is still alive and it tries to escape, it will move in the direction its head is pointed. So if you’re standing in the way, it might run over you or even gore you with an antler. Attempting to poke it in the eye to see if it blinks puts you far too close to the head! This is an unwise practice.


Approach the deer from downwind and observe the chest cavity for any sign of breathing. Hunters touch or bump animals at the base of their tails because of the nerves located there. If the animal is alive, hitting those nerves will cause it to react in some way. It’s fine to bump the animal on the rump above the base of the tail with a stick, but doing it with a rifle barrel and an arrow leaves you in a fairly helpless position if the animal should jump up and run.


It is better to stand slightly away from the animal and toss a piece of wood so that if it moves you are in position to take an additional shot. Have your arrow on your string or your rifle ready to shoulder while you’re making the final determination of whether or not a deer is alive.

This article was published in the September 2005 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.

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