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Hit or Miss?

Back To "Ask The Biologist?"QUESTION: I just want to ask your theory on the whitetail deer tail. I live in Maine. I shot at a deer, a 40 yard shot with a 30-30 Winchester with open sights, he tucked his tail and ran 60 yards, then ran into deep cover with his tail up. I found no blood, but tracked him and never found him. So I thought I missed. I talked to other hunters and some say if he tucked his tail and ran, I definitely hit him. Just wondering what your thoughts are on this and why no blood if I did hit him? - Gerald P.

Hit or Miss?ANSWER:  So, you’re asking was it a hit or a myth?

The best I can do is speculate. First, even with open sights a 40 yard shot is hard to miss, but it happens. I know because I’ve done it myself, with a 12-gauge shotgun. Open sights and an excited hunter are not a particularly accurate combination.

The tucked tail suggests, but hardly confirms, a hit. Wounded deer will often tuck their tail while running away. However, they also occasionally tuck their tail when alarmed by a sudden, close threat of danger - like a rifle shot at 40 yards. And they sometimes flag, even when mortally wounded.

The fact that this deer flagged once it reached deep cover suggests, but certainly does not confirm, it may have been alarmed but not injured, and upon reaching safer distance and cover, reverted to a less excited mode of escape.

It is also quite possible you hit the deer, but not in an area that would result in a mortal wound. I experienced something very similar this year while hunting a green field in Alabama. The deer reacted initially as if hit, but upon reaching the woodline, bounded off with its tail held high. We found a patch of hair at the point of impact, but searched the area thoroughly with tracking dogs and found neither blood nor deer.

In the final analysis, it’s difficult to say what happened in your situation. There are very few certainties in deer hunting. One is, if you hunt long enough, you will miss deer, and you will hit deer and not recover them.

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