What search pattern do you think is best?

SlimTim

Member
Joined
Mar 4, 2021
Messages
55
When searching for an animal, with limited or no blood trail, what search pattern do you generally use?

I've found a zig-zag pattern in the direction of travel where the zigs and the zags get larger as you move away from the last known location works pretty well. I've heard others use an increasing spiral too, though I think that somewhat wastes some time as you tend to cover ground that is unlikely to contain the animal (at least I think anyway).

Do you change the way you search depending on the animal, the type of country you're in or something else?
 

Wellsdw

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Jul 11, 2017
Messages
340
Location
Belews Creek NC
A dog. In the event you loose the trail and start zig zagging spiriling, grid or what ever you choose you will likely still not find anything enough to continue. You will also really screw up the scent field for a dog by getting it on you and spreading it. If a dog is unavailable then I would search slowly i ln a general direction of travel. Most animals run in fairly straight lines when hit.

United blood trackers is a good starting place for tracker. Most charge little or nothing and have tons of experience. (Leashed) Tracking dogs are now legal in almost every state. And states don’t allow it, rarely enforce it.
 

Wvroach

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Nov 23, 2020
Messages
665
Fairly straight direction of travel generally. I do stake last blood in the cases I have to track with no or little blood to ensure I don't lose the trail.

I've had whitetail lay down and clot up with leaves and looked hours afterwards to only come back to my last blood and find them 10 yards away in some heavy brush or a creek bottom.

A lot of it is the angle you are looking for them from.
 

Jethro

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Mar 2, 2014
Messages
496
Location
Pennsylvania
When there is still hope but blood is just hard to find/follow I will start at the last blood and take each possible path the animal may take. Based on current travel path, tracks, visible trails. Do that couple times going farther out each possible direction each time. If find next spot of blood, then start that process over.

If that doesn't work and have no more clues then start an ever widening zig zag grid out from last blood.

If grid doesn't turn up anything and have no clues to work with, I'll usually pick the direction I most think a hit animal would go. At this point its just a guess and luck.
 
OP
S

SlimTim

Member
Joined
Mar 4, 2021
Messages
55
A dog. In the event you loose the trail and start zig zagging spiriling, grid or what ever you choose you will likely still not find anything enough to continue. You will also really screw up the scent field for a dog by getting it on you and spreading it. If a dog is unavailable then I would search slowly i ln a general direction of travel. Most animals run in fairly straight lines when hit.

United blood trackers is a good starting place for tracker. Most charge little or nothing and have tons of experience. (Leashed) Tracking dogs are now legal in almost every state. And states don’t allow it, rarely enforce it.
I'm in Aus and dogs are not allowed in some hunting areas. I also struggle to get enough time to hunt, let alone train up a dog to help me search for an animal.

I may have not of been too clear: my post was more about trying to improve my searching tracking skills as opposed to currently needing help tracking an animal.

I too have noticed animals tend to run in a somewhat straight direction though not always if thicker vegetation or terrain is in their way. A lot of the area's I hunt have very dense bush and an animals track can be somewhat erratic
 

Btaylor

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Jun 3, 2017
Messages
2,307
Location
Arkansas
I was taught early on to do two things from the shot. Note the last spot where I could see the animal and then listen to sound of travel and take a compass bearing for the last direction I could hear sound. From there I will follow available blood. If it runs out or there is no blood to follow, I now use onx and first work the line of the compass bearing for last sound for 150-200 yards. Work outward in a radius from last blood or last spot seen in 10 yard increments out to 90 degrees to both sides. If no recovery, advance to the 200 yard mark on the first line and repeat. All of my recoveries with this method have been in the first 200 yards. Thankfully I have only had to do this a small handful of times, 5-6 in 42 years of bowhunting. Dont rush trailing a bad hit. Stay focused and methodical.
 

Gutshot007

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Apr 28, 2021
Messages
589
Whatever techniques you use SLOW WAY DOWN . Most of the time there is blood there . We just miss it. I have recovered game and then backtracked and sure as shootin there was blood that I missed. It's weird after you find the animal follow the trail backwards to where you shot it and you think" man that was easy. How did I miss it?"or you could just put your ear to the ground and listen for hoof beats. ( i Don't claim to be "Joe tracker")
 

pk_

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Jul 30, 2017
Messages
348
Location
Florida
If I have to boil it down it would be take the trail, then zig zags, then circles.

But the type of animal, shot placement, terrain and other circumstances dictate a lot of what the animal (and I) will likely do.
 

bozeman

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Dec 5, 2016
Messages
2,254
Location
Alabama
Similar to @Btaylor above....I always carry flagging tape to mark where I shot and where I last saw and then approx where I last heard........
 

WCB

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Jun 12, 2019
Messages
2,496
After I get off my hands and knees I will usually do a couple general directions of travel checks hopefully find a pinch point that the animal basically "had" to go through. If that don't pan out and terrain dependent I am normally not doing circles....just zig zag and use my binos A LOT to look for the animal or sign of it. When all else fails I then just start looking in stupid places or make a couple big arcs as a hail mary.

It seems pretty basic but pay careful attention to direction of travel and that animals gate or tracks. I have tracked deer just by dew on wet grass or through a maze of tracks in snow just by the consistency of their stride or general direction of travel sometimes with no blood for 100 yards + then boom look down and I am right on the track.
 
OP
S

SlimTim

Member
Joined
Mar 4, 2021
Messages
55
I've got to start carrying flagging tape.

One of the problems I seem to run into is running out of daylight, particularly when hunting pigs as they only become active in the late afternoon. Sometimes it seems using a torch helps, as your only focussed on the beam, and others it seems to hinder.
 

roosiebull

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Aug 23, 2014
Messages
3,294
Location
oregon coast
When searching for an animal, with limited or no blood trail, what search pattern do you generally use?

I've found a zig-zag pattern in the direction of travel where the zigs and the zags get larger as you move away from the last known location works pretty well. I've heard others use an increasing spiral too, though I think that somewhat wastes some time as you tend to cover ground that is unlikely to contain the animal (at least I think anyway).

Do you change the way you search depending on the animal, the type of country you're in or something else?
I rarely use the tracker on my gps/onX, but the first thing I do when tracking, if I don’t see or hear it die, is mark my location from where I shot, hang a piece of flagging tape… wait as long as I’m going to wait, mark where the animal was standing… only if I’m positive, some times the eyes lie… find that kicked up spot it was standing when hit, there will be something, don’t trust your memory here.. verify

I turn on my tracker, and am very meticulous here, disturbing ground around you is not good, the goal here is staying on the right track and not getting ahead of yourself crashing around important clues

If I lose a track at some point, mark last verified sign, look at my track line to that point and start grid searching using my track line as a reference… using the tracker is a very valuable tool, makes grid searching much more effective, reel yourself back and be thorough

Pre onX, grid is last resort, because gridding with no reference is tough, especially considering the emotions that go with it when it comes to that, it’s hard to stay meticulous, you just want to find it, and that can be counterproductive
 

Pony Soldier

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Dec 31, 2021
Messages
666
Location
Montana
Growing up I was told that elk don't go up when hit. That's mostly true but I did have one go straight up the hill and die on the flat above.

Another thing is watch for brushy holes. I had a cow disappear on an open hillside. On about the fifth cycle I noticed a hoof sticking up in a patch of horizontal junipers. The juniper had grown in a hole and made it look level.

Another place to look closely are those nasty thick patches of second growth fir and pine. I lost an elk in a patch of firs that was 30 ft across and about 8 ft high. It was so thick you almost had to cut your way into it. In the center was a little hole about 8 wide with a dead elk in it. The only thing tougher than getting in was getting the elk out.

The toughest task I have found is shooting an elk where they have been milling around and then having to follow each track till you sort out one that is bleeding. It takes patience and determination - especially at snowline.
 
OP
S

SlimTim

Member
Joined
Mar 4, 2021
Messages
55
I'm relatively new to bow hunting so haven't had a great deal of experience, though my experience has been growing of late. I've been having a fair bit of luck.

I always seem to get the same advice from others with not a lot of experience and that seems to be:
  • Animals always run in a straight line (or down hill)..... I haven't found this to be the case. The last pig a shot ran around in circles and goats seem to go up (though I have also had them go down)
  • You're not looking for the blades of grass flipped over.... I simply suspect they've watched too many Daniel Boon movies or something. I can follow a blood trail, and maybe some obvious tracks, but I can't notices changes in the grass orientation.
  • You're not searching in a perfect grid pattern.... Not always easy when there are rivers, cliffs and really thick brush to search in.
Hence my question on this forum. I was hoping to probe the collective knowledge.
 

long hunter

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Jul 27, 2021
Messages
948
Roll of orange surveyors tape watch the direction the animal took off from if possible wait about 1/2 hour then go to where its was when you shot, every time I see blood tie a strip of tape above the blood keep a eye on the trail if the blood stops refrence back at the tapes they are usually in a pretty much straight or some what straight line, if the blood stops go back to the last marker and do a zig zag search about 100 yards from the last marker, and continue from there, Will find one of two things either the animal or will pick up blood again. being nearly deaf even with hearing aids it is difficult to listen for the crash, so it is slow and constantly scanning the ground first and ahead second. This system works for me on whitetails.
 

Elkhntr82

Junior Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2022
Messages
23
Fairly straight direction of travel generally. I do stake last blood in the cases I have to track with no or little blood to ensure I don't lose the trail.

I've had whitetail lay down and clot up with leaves and looked hours afterwards to only come back to my last blood and find them 10 yards away in some heavy brush or a creek bottom.

A lot of it is the angle you are looking for them from.
Same.
 

SoloWilderness

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Apr 5, 2013
Messages
300
Location
Pine, CO
@SlimTim they also make reflective push pins if at night you can stick in trees.......they reflect a flashlight very well and will show a path to/from......
I use the push pins, and they also make little 2" long reflective clips. Those together with some flagging tape are very helpful seeing a direction of travel. I mark blood/ track regularly so if I have to work back and pick the track back up it's easy to find, light or dark. As far as a pattern goes: I flag the shot location with tape + ON-X, up high so it's easy to see, mark a compass bearing to last sight/ sound, then start circling the last seen location until I find blood or a good track (usually one with some skidding/ scuffing is what I look for. Then line up the shot location and last sight/ sound, I have 3 points to determine direction of travel. At that point I stop and glass hard/ listen, often get another sound to add a bearing. Then start tracking, with arcs in the last known direction of travel if I lose the track. If I go 100 yards without finding sign of some sort, I may work myself back to the last marked track/ blood. Or just sit and glass. I've had several recoveries where glassing turned up animals faster than tracking... like a hoof sticking up in the timber.
 

SoloWilderness

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Apr 5, 2013
Messages
300
Location
Pine, CO
I'm relatively new to bow hunting so haven't had a great deal of experience, though my experience has been growing of late. I've been having a fair bit of luck.

I always seem to get the same advice from others with not a lot of experience and that seems to be:
  • Animals always run in a straight line (or down hill)..... I haven't found this to be the case. The last pig a shot ran around in circles and goats seem to go up (though I have also had them go down)
  • You're not looking for the blades of grass flipped over.... I simply suspect they've watched too many Daniel Boon movies or something. I can follow a blood trail, and maybe some obvious tracks, but I can't notices changes in the grass orientation.
  • You're not searching in a perfect grid pattern.... Not always easy when there are rivers, cliffs and really thick brush to search in.
Hence my question on this forum. I was hoping to probe the collective knowledge.
You may not see blades of grass flipped over, but disturbed/ broken brush and dirt clods kicked up by a running animal can help keep with the trail.
 
Top