Hunter following up sign. Image Mick Matheson

Reading Blood Sign

Blood sign
Blood sign

Q: On a recent hunt I wounded a deer and set out to follow the blood trail after the Barnes 130gn XSX bullet from my .270 went clean through. There was quite a lot of blood on the ground where he was hit, but after that it became difficult to pick up smaller spots of blood on the leaves and ground. I followed him for about a kilometre, but eventually the trail ran out and I lost him. Most of the blood on the spot where he was hit was light coloured and streaked with green. Where do you think I hit him?
Roy Kellow

A: It is possible to get an idea of how badly the animal is wounded and how far he is likely to go by the colour of the blood it leaves.

By and large, blood from heart, arteries or liver will appear dark maroon; a flesh wound is light red, just like you’d expect blood to be; bright frothy blood which contains pink foam or tiny bubbles indicates a lung shot; dark viscous blood, is a heart shot; and light coloured blood mixed with undigested grass or green bile is a gut shot.

Spurting blood means an artery has been hit and dragging marks are the sign of a broken leg. I’d bet your deer was gut shot. Sometimes it is wise to wait for half an hour before starting to follow, as it gives the animal time to either lie down and die or to stiffen up.

Often, if a wounded animal is hotly pressed right from the start, adrenalin pumped into the blood stream gives it renewed energy, allowing it to run a lot farther. A deer that is heart shot takes off with a mad rush but usually drops within 50 metres or less while a lung shot deer may drop on the spot or go only a short distance, but deer that have been gut shot or have a broken leg seem able to keep on going for ever.




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Nick Harvey

The late Nick Harvey (1931-2024) was one of the world's most experienced and knowledgeable gun writers, a true legend of the business. He wrote about firearms and hunting for about 70 years, published many books and uncounted articles, and travelled the world to hunt and shoot. His reloading manuals are highly sought after, and his knowledge of the subject was unmatched. He was Sporting Shooter's Technical Editor for almost 50 years. His work lives on here as part of his legacy to us all.


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