Despite the following differences in opinion, every source we reviewed agrees that you must identify the type of hit you made before pursuing an animal. Depending on the amount and type of blood, a blood trail can indicate a fatal hit or a hit that might cause a deer to bleed out if pushed. Never push a gut- or liver-shot deer.
An excerpt from the curriculum approved in 45 states: “You should wait for at least a half hour to an hour before trailing a deer, unless the downed deer is in sight.”
NATIONAL BOWHUNTER EDUCATION FOUNDATION
The NBEF states that “a wise bowhunter gives the animal time to expire,” and that the normal waiting period after arrowing a big-game animal ranges from 30 to 60 minutes. A caveat to this is quick pursuit in the event of a poor hit outside the chest or body cavity (neck, leg, rump, or back). In such instances, the deer might run away quickly but then calm down, stop bleeding, and possibly survive. “If you can follow the animal rapidly and aggressively, it will continue to bleed, even from a relatively minor wound…it may lose enough blood to get careless and give you another shot. It may even die from a wound that would not normally be considered fatal.”
Tracker, tracking-dog breeder, and author John Jeanneney is an advocate of taking advantage of the onset of shock in an animal immediately following a shot. He recommends carefully approaching wounded game for a finishing shot. Allowing an animal shot in the heart, lungs, shoulder, or leg time to collect its wits could result in a wounding loss.