The moment you have been waiting for all season is closing the distance.\u00a0 Attempting to calm your nerves, you settle your pin directly behind the shoulder and SHWAACK!\u00a0 The arrow plunges through the animal and emotions are running at an all-time high.\u00a0 After several minutes of personal fist pumping and phone calls to your buddies saying, \u201cI got him! I just shot a giant!\u201d, you finally settle down. \u00a0Thirty minutes later you climb down out of the stand\u00a0and what you do next can be the difference between that ‘story book ending’ or the dreaded \u2018one that got away\u2019.\u00a0 It is your duty as an ethical hunter to do everything in your power to find that animal and it starts by meticulously analyzing the scene of the shot.The sniff test is one way to check your arrow if you suspect you hit too far back.Everyone has seen it done in some hunting show, following the shot they head back to the lodge and gather around a 50\u201d+ HDTV.\u00a0 Here they analyze the shot placement before making the decision on whether to pursue the animal or give it some time to expire.\u00a0 Man, what a great luxury.\u00a0 However, the fact of the matter is the overwhelming majority do not have the luxury of reviewing video following their shot.\u00a0 Most of the time emotions are still running high and you want to lay your hands on that animal A.S.A.P., thus, leading\u00a0to foolish decisions.\u00a0 I have been on both ends of this decision-making process, which lead to unfound\u00a0game and plenty of sleepless nights. Trust me, if you hunt long enough, inevitably you will too.\u00a0 Since then I have learned from my mistakes and have become a better hunter for doing so, and it all starts with analyzing the bloodied arrow or first specs of blood.Scenario 1:\u00a0 Bright Red\/Pinkish Blood with BubblesYou have landed a pass-through shot and the arrow is covered in bright red blood and even a few blood bubbles are laying on a nearby leaf.\u00a0 This is exactly what you want to see after every shot, aside from actually seeing the buck fall.\u00a0 Bright red blood almost always indicates a shot to the vitals (lungs or heart).\u00a0 Chances are he didn\u2019t make it too far.\u00a0 If this is the case, you are usually safe to track the animal 30 minutes after the shot and it should be dead upon arrival.\u00a0 Great shot!One word of caution, there is still the possibility that you hit only one lung, in which case they can run a LONG way.\u00a0 I remember a hunt I had in Northern Wisconsin that is still today the most memorable track job of my hunting career.\u00a0 This was back in the days of the jumbo aluminum arrows and slower bow speeds.\u00a0 The image of the buck turning and running through the tightly spaced poplars with the pinging of the 20\u201d+ inches of aluminum shaft bouncing off every tree still remains vivid as ever. I had caught part of the shoulder, which limited the penetration to one lung at most.So, what did I do?\u00a0 Knowing there was very little penetration, we went back to the cabin, cooked up some dinner and headed back into the timber 3 hours later.\u00a0 After tracking solid bright red blood for \u00be of a mile through the thick nasty, we finally found the mature 8 point in his final resting place with all 3 inches of the arrow still in him.\u00a0 There were no signs of bumping him or beds along the way, he was simply hell-bent on getting as far as he could on one lung.\u00a0 Moral of the story is if you suspect a single lung hit based upon shot angle or observance of little penetration, give the animal at least 3 hours to expire.Scenario 2: Dark Red BloodEvidence at the shot site depicts an arrow laden with dark red blood.\u00a0 Chances are if you saw your arrow enter the deer, you knew the shot could have been better.\u00a0 Certainly, not all hope is lost, you just have to have a more methodical approach.\u00a0 This is likely still a lethal shot, but will require agonizing patience on your part.\u00a0 Dark blood is a strong indicator of a liver or venal shot.\u00a0 With these dark red results, it is best to wait a minimum of 3 hours before pursuing the wounded animal.\u00a0 Usually, this is enough time for the animal to bed down and expire.\u00a0 To play it safe I would advise waiting until the following morning if weather conditions permit.Here’s an example of a shoulder hit blood trail. Notice the dark blood coming from non-organ wound.\u00a0Recently, a buddy called me after he just shot a whopper of a buck.\u00a0 He described his shot as being a bit far back and the arrow was covered in dark blood.\u00a0 Immediately, I thought liver shot.\u00a0 I remember saying to him that the buck was going to die, he just needed to give him some time.Apparently, our understanding of \u2018some time\u2019 differed.\u00a0 He called me back two hours later telling me the news that no hunter wants to hear, \u201cI just jumped him from his bed\u201d.\u00a0 My head dropped while on the phone with him, feeling helpless as I was 6 hours away.\u00a0 He went on to tell me he trailed it for about 125 yards before he saw it stand up and wobble a bit before making his escape.\u00a0 The fact that it wobbled told me the buck was very close to dying and with another hour of waiting on my buddy\u2019s part, he would have been able to wrap a tag around him right then and there.\u00a0 Nonetheless, the buck was still alive and it was his duty to find him.We discussed the situation and decided he should wait for the following morning to continue the search.\u00a0 I had no doubt that the buck was dead, but finding him may be near impossible if the blood had clotted while he was bedded.\u00a0 Knowing my buddy, I knew he would give every ounce of effort to find this buck and he did.\u00a0 However, it was not from following a blood trail, but rather searching the area tirelessly until he found it lying on the creek bank.\u00a0 An extra hour of waiting would have saved him from the emotional rollercoaster, nonetheless his search efforts were rewarded for being an ethical hunter.Scenario 3: Green SlimeThump! The arrow hit center mass and you are almost as sick to your stomach as that deer is going to be.\u00a0 You climb down and just as you thought, the arrow reveals a dark green and brown slime with a gut-wrenching stench.\u00a0 Yep, you guessed it, the arrow sliced through some part of the digestive tract.\u00a0 There is likely to be some blood as well, but these shots result in some of the toughest tracking missions of all.\u00a0 If weather conditions allow wait at least 7 hours or until the following morning to pursue.\u00a0 A daunting task lies ahead, but if you allow time for the deer to expire before tracking, the odds of recovery increase significantly.The waiting game is extremely tough, especially if rain is on its way.\u00a0 Since so many of us hit the woods hard before a major front this is often a challenge you will undoubtedly have to face at some point in your hunting career.\u00a0 I was rudely reminded of this \u2018should I stay or should I go\u2019 decision at the ripe young age of 15 when I took a sharp quartering away shot on a young forker I had grunted in.\u00a0 After being picked up by my mother following the hunt (isn\u2019t that what mothers are for?) I remember the raindrops hitting the windshield and thinking I need to go look now!\u00a0 So, I got home, called my buddy who could drive and we set out after it.\u00a0 Well, we ended up jumping it not 70 yards from where I shot.\u00a0 Of course, we backed out, but were left second guessing ourselves.\u00a0 Luckily using the grid search method and my uncle\u2019s tall height, we recovered that buck the next morning in a CRP field.\u00a0 Now grown up and having had many tracking missions under my belt, I\u2019m still not sure I can give a good answer as to whether or not you should pursue a marginally hit animal if unfortunate weather is on its way.\u00a0 I do however, know exactly what I would do if the forecast remained favorable or if there was snow on the ground and the answer is WAIT!This arrow broke off and the other half of the arrow was still in the deer. \u00a0By comparing it\u00a0to another arrow in my\u00a0quiver\u00a0we were able to determine how much penetration there was.We Owe it to the SportObviously, these are not the only 3 situations that are possible, but they are a good representation of most shots.\u00a0 You know as well as I do that some strange and unexplainable things can happen during the shot and recovery.\u00a0 Almost every lethal shot will have some sort of blood sign to analyze and make the appropriate tracking decision.RELATED: Is there really a “No Man’s Zone” in Deer?We owe it to ourselves and ancestors as participants of the hunting heritage to tirelessly seek any wounded game.\u00a0 Perhaps the aforementioned scenarios were the reasons our Native American ancestors were phenomenal trackers.\u00a0 Surely, they had many marginal hits simply due to the equipment they were using.\u00a0 Pass through shots were near non-existent, but they understood the animal and the difference of recovering or not recovering could have been life or death.Nowadays, we are fortunate to be using phenomenal equipment. \u00a0Ultra-fast bows and razor sharp broadheads should be: Advantage Hunter…But if a lazy, unethical approach to game recovery slips between us and our game, the sport of hunting is tarnished.\u00a0 For this reason, I choose to use lighted nocks and white fletchings.\u00a0 An illuminated nock helps you see the point of impact and the white fletchings on the arrow displays the content of the shot \u2013 bright red and bubbly means go, dark red or a nasty slime means wait.\u00a0 Both are great and inexpensive options to add to your arsenal, which will benefit not only the sport of hunting, but your trophy room as well.