Reading Sign After the Shot

Reading Sign After the Shot

The skill it takes to execute a perfect shot is only a part of being an ethical hunter – blood trailing is just as important

Everyone knows it takes a lot of skill to be a successful bowhunter. A lot of hunters focus on scouting, stand placement, and executing the shot–as we should.


Additionally, bowhunters need to be skilled in blood trailing, as deer shot with a bow rarely fall within the hunter's field of view.

Even if the deer only traveled 100 yards after the shot it can be difficult to recover if it goes into thick cover or steep terrain.

I've hunted with a bow for decades and my hunts have been filmed for years. Even with all this experience I'm always eager to recover the deer and experience some anxiety after the shot.

This is true even when I think the shot is well placed. After years of filming I've learned that what I think I saw may be totally different than what happened.


Don't Trust Your Eyes

Hunters often misjudge the shot placement because our eyes tend to track the fletching and not the broadhead. The flashing fletching draws our attention and that's what we tend to see.

However, due to angles, the deer moving, etc., the fletching may give the appearance that the arrow hit the deer several inches from where the broadhead entered.


This buck moved a lot during arrow flight resulting in a liver hit.

The first step after a shot is looking for and interpreting sign. Finding sign seems easy in ideal conditions when there are large spots of blood on leaves, short grass, etc.

However, finding sign can be difficult if the deer runs through tall grass or across a recently plowed field. Some surfaces simply don't show blood well.

In most cases, reading sign begins by recovering the arrow. Bloodsport has made blood trailing much easier by adding a "Blood Ring" to their arrows.

The Blood Ring is a special material that shows plainly what kind of hit was made using scientific knowledge of how blood appears from different organs/parts of the body.

Four Types of Sign

When the arrow is recovered there are basically four possible types of sign. The first is the type of blood sign every bowhunter wants to see.

It's a light, frothy blood, with what looks like air bubbles. When a bowhunter finds this sign on the arrow they should have much confidence the arrow passed through the lungs.

The Blood Ring covered with light colored frothy blood is a good indicator of a lung hit.

Unfortunately, every now and then bowhunters experience a situation when the deer jumps string, or for whatever reason, they're not 100% confident about their shot placement. That's where the Blood Ring can save the day.

The second type of blood to look for is a dark, thick, almost heavy looking blood. Recently I had an experience where I found the second type of sign on the Blood Ring.

The recovered arrow had a Blood Ring that was covered with a dark, thick, almost heavy looking blood with no air bubbles. That's a good indicator the deer was hit in the liver. It's best to allow deer hit in the liver to lay for at least three hours and maybe more.

Blood is often very easy to see on dried leaves.

Factors that determine how long the hunter should wait before taking up the trail depend on the weather conditions. If there's a strong chance of rain or snow in the forecast, it may be wise to take up the trail 30 minutes or so before the precipitation is forecast to start.

No hunter wants to find the third type of sign. This is when the arrow is covered with a green or brownish, gritty substance. That's an indication the deer was hit in the gut.

That sign means it's best to back out of the area for three to six hours or more and give that deer plenty of time to expire. If that deer is jumped it will likely be extremely tough to recover.

The fourth type of sign is one that no hunter wants to talk about. It's when there is no sign of blood on the arrow, although sometimes there may be a few hairs in the broadhead. This is an excellent indication of a miss. If there is no sign on the arrow or Blood Ring, the arrow did not penetrate the body cavity of the deer.

When the Blood Ring is covered with dark blood it's best to not trail for several hours.

If there is no sign of blood on the arrow, no sign on the ground - pack that arrow up, put a new broadhead on it and try another day.

These are a few reasons why Bloodsport's Blood Ring gives hunters a huge advantage. Checking out the sign on the ground and, just as importantly, the sign on the Blood Ring gives the hunter all the information they need to know when to take up the trail.

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