Art of Recovery

Posted on February 19, 2013

Properly trailing up arrow-hit game is a part of ethical bowhunting. Here are some specific tips to get the job done right.

bow hunting

It was early morning as I left the truck and began my ascent up some towering foothills on a giant cattle ranch located in central California. I was in search of wary wild hogs.

I eased across a gurgling creek, then found a well-used game trail that angled along some steep slopes to make the hike that much more tolerable. After 45 minutes or so, I came to a small meadow, absolutely littered with fresh tracks and trails, and then began to still-hunt a bit. A few moments later, I noticed a small group of hogs feeding into the area.

Smoothly but quickly, I nocked an arrow and got ready to shoot. The largest pig was about 30 yards away and drawing closer. He’d stop, then take a few steps, then stop again. The other pigs were doing the same. I came to full draw when the 200-pounder was a bit closer and timed my shot the moment he stopped to lower his head to nose something in the dirt.

The angle seemed well enough when I triggered the release, but then during that last split second, the hog took a quick step to the right, shifting his body more quartering-to. This obviously was not good.

The arrow and fixed-blade broadhead hit with a resounding “thwack,” but then penetrated only 10 to 12 inches toward the liver and paunch area. I watched the hog race wildly away with orange fletching protruding from its hide.

Later, as I came upon the hit sight, I found blotches of blood and began trailing the crimson for about 100 yards or so. Eventually it dried up. I decided it was time to sit down and wait. After years of blood-trailing game, I’ve learned that if you suspect a paunch hit, never follow-up immediately—or else you could push the animal and lose it for good. It’s always best to wait several hours before searching further. This gives the animal time to hopefully expire, or weaken enough so that it stays put for a follow-up shot.

Excerpted from a recent issue of Bow and Arrow Hunting.

By Joe Bell

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