Editors Blog

Want to Find More Sheds? Look for the Blood Trail

Deer & Deer Hunting Editor Dan Schmidt followed this blood trail on a hunch that a buck had just shed an antler in a lowland feeding area. He found the feeding area -- and a lot more blood -- but no antler.

Never thought I would see the day when I would be taking up a bloodtrail in an attempt to find a whitetail shed. Well, that’s exactly what I did today.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find the shed.

This was truly a first for me. I left the house this morning simply to get some fresh air after spending the last two weeks pent up in hotel rooms and convention centers. It is way too early to be thinking about finding sheds, but I thought I would do some investigating anyway. The morning went by quickly. I walked the equivalent of 4.5 miles through the woods, meandering through hardwood ridges, a couple of swamp holes and some thick (deer friendly) pine plantations. And that’s where it started. I was nearly at the end of my foray when my eyes did a double take of what lay atop the snow near a fresh set of buck tracks.


At first I didn’t think anything of it. I actually blew past it and kept going. Then I stopped and literally said out loud, “Wait a minute!” Yeah, it took a couple of kickstarts to get my mind thinking about what actually caused that deer to bleed.

I backtracked the blood to the buck’s tracks and followed a drip-here-drip-there blood trail for about 75 yards. He had come up out of a small hollow before I found that blood. To my surprise, the blood got steady as the buck was down in that hollow. At one point, he bled quite heavily as he stood at the base of that hill. Some detective work showed that he fed on berry brush and grasses at that spot. Despite trailing his backtrack for more than hour, I could find no antler. I did, however, find the spot where buck had started bleeding. I’m not real good at identifying my weeds, but he had been feeding on something that looked like goldenrod or yew — something like that — when he must have bumped his head (perhaps intertwining it) on a tangle of berry brush. The ground was pawed up, and there was a splatter of blood on the snow in that spot. It looked as though someone took a cup of blood and sprayed it across the brush and snow.

I can make one of two assumptions here … the buck either had already lost his antler and reopened the wound while foraging, or he bumped the pedicle enough to make it start bleeding without actually losing the antler.

Either scenario is possible, but the first (having already lost the antler) would only be plausible if he had lost the antler very recently. Knowing what we know about deer physiology, I do know that deer are incredibly rapid healers. It takes but a day or two for the open wound from a freshyl exposed pedicle to scab over to the point where the buck won’t bleed much, if at all, even if he bumps his head.

Deer can thank their high levels of Vitamin K1 and K2 for that marvel of nature. These vitamins (which are at their highest in summer and fall because of the green vegetation) allow a deer’s internal system to literally be a working hospital. Healing is quick and clean. It is what helps deer survive the myriad things that Mother Nature serves up over the course of the year.

We also know that, even though deer can bleed profusely, they don’t feel pain, really, in the way that we do. High levels of B-endorphins within their bloodstream allow them to deal with high trauma. That’s precisely why a buck can run so far after he’s been shot by a bullet or arrow.

Absolutely amazing stuff, in my opinion. Well, I didn’t find the shed in this case, but that doesn’t mean I won’t stop trying.