This huge North Woods buck, with an estimated live weight of 280 pounds, ran more
than 150 yards on a double-lung hit.
By Daniel E. Schmidt, D&DH Editor
Avid D&DH reader Mike Andruch asked an interesting question the other day…one that
I’m surprised we have not received over the years. Mike asked, “If you shoot a big
deer and a little deer in the exact same spot, with the exact same equipment (broadhead,
etc), will they run the same distance before falling?”
Great question, which deserves a little bit of explanation on my very quick answer
of “no.” In short, I told Mike that the old adage “the bigger they are, the harder
they fall” rings true in the whitetail woods. I say this after trailing many dozens
of deer of the years and always being amazed at how far a fully mature buck can travel
on a solid one-lung hit, and even sometimes on a vital liver shot or back-lobes-of-both-lungs
shot. I’ve also seen rare occasions where mature deer easily survived bow-shots that
center-punched, and broke, a scapula. On the other hand, I’ve seen doe fawns and even
some yearling bucks drop in their tracks from similar shots with bow and arrow.
Over the years, I’ve discussed this general topic at length with whitetail behaviorists
Charles Alsheimer and Dr. Leonard Lee Rue. Both agree that the whitetail’s muscular
and skeletal development comes into play, as does the animal’s “will to live,” which
they say increases as a deer ages. Anyone who has tracked a marginally-hit mature
buck can attest to this incredible stamina.
Of course, this is not to say that a big deer shot through the heart or both lungs
will greatly outlive a young deer with the same wound (elapsed time). So, I believe
it is all a matter of scale. A bigger deer can, and often does, run greater distances
before falling simply because they are stronger, faster and know the landscape better
than, say, a young deer that might have dispersed onto new a home range that fall.
For example, I’ve seen mature deer run 150 yards or more after a heart shot …covering
16 to 20 feet per bound. I cannot recall tracking a young, heart-shot deer that ran
more than 75 yards.
In researching this a bit more, I unearthed some fascinating data we published in
D&DH in the 1980s. The research showed that a white-tailed deer must lose 35 percent
of its total blood volume before dying. This equates to about 2.75 pints for a 150-pound
deer. True, the measures of scale would mean a young-of-the year deer would only have
to lose half that — and an identical shot through, say, the lungs would achieve the
same result — but the bigger picture is that smaller deer are on a more delicate
equilibrium, so to speak.
The final analysis? A killing shot is a killing shot, but bigger deer will often leave
a longer trail for you to follow.