The cedar swamp that crowds the banks of Michigan’s Manistee River is eerie country–gnarled roots, twisted paths, and pointed spires that stand as brooding silhouettes. There’s a plot of grass here graced by a single tombstone. Nearby, a deer had left its last drop of blood after my friend Martin’s arrow had found its mark. At least, we could find no more in the milky circle cast by my headlamp. We searched for the deer that warm night until the batteries gave out, then returned to find it dead the next morning, at the end of a thin blood trail, no more than 75 yards from the stone.
It smelled when we butchered it, and it smelled on the plate. We ate it anyway because those were poor times. But had we carried a high-tech tracking aid like the ones available today, we would have found Martin’s buck before it spoiled.
A BRIGHTER, HOTTER TRAIL
Gerber’s new Carnivore blood tracking light ($60; 800-950-6161; gerbergear.com) utilizes a cluster of colored LED bulbs calibrated to cause blood drops to “blink” or appear to “jump off the ground.” My tests with it showed that a blood trail could actually be easier to follow at night than in low light. That makes this product ideal when the trail goes cold at dusk.
Another good option is a heat-sensing device, such as the Game Finder ($225; 800-459-3463; game-finder.com), which analyzes heat sources and displays a bar graph essentially telling the hunter whether his search is hot or cold. By slowly scanning the Game Finder from side to side, you can locate a dead deer that hasn’t lost its body heat from as far as several hundred yards away.
Either can be a great help if you commonly get shots when the light is waning, leaving little time to track a wounded animal before darkness falls. One of these can save your hunt, or at the very least make your venison taste a lot sweeter.