Color Blind Blood Tracking

112413 - wi deer opener

It came out of my brother’s mouth rapid-fire:

“There’s blood.  There’s blood.  There’s blood.”

Each time pointing another 5-10 yards ahead of us in the woods.  I’d been searching on my hands and knees, finding drops of blood within a few feet of each other before he arrived.

“Where do you see blood!?” I asked exasperatingly.

Trying to follow a blood trail when you have a red/green color blindness can be a painstaking process, luckily I had help.

At first glance, I see the picture on the left, you see the picture on the right.  After focusing on it, then the red finally shows up.

At first glance, I see the picture on the left, while you see the picture on the right. After focusing on it, then the red finally shows up.

I had wondered for a few years why I struggled at tracking wounded deer.  My brother, Wade, had more experience with it and really enjoyed the challenge of following a fresh trail.  None of us ever want to lose a deer and even with a good clean shot, you might have to track for awhile in thick cover.   I finally realized that the red just wasn’t standing out for me like it did for Wade.  It seemed to just pop for him, while all I was seeing were various shades of brown.

It might say 15, maybe 17 or maybe nothing depending on your colorblindness.

It might say 15, maybe 17 or maybe nothing depending on your colorblindness.

I found out in 8th grade science class that I had a common form of colorblindness.  A red/green deficiency that was discovered through a series of tests featuring bubbles, colors and numbers. When I was in high school, I kicked for the varsity football team.  The tee that I used was bright red and you’d expect it to be easy to find among the lush, green grass right?

Nope.

Honestly, most days I don’t even notice it.  Of course, without the tests, I’d have no idea that I was seeing the world a bit differently than most. Also, it’s not like I can’t see the red on the head of a canvasback or the green on a mallard, but when you start to mix them all together, it all blends right in.  There may be some shades of red and green that might not look the same to me, heck bright red might look different to me than you, but we’ll never know I guess.  All I know is that when I see red, you see red too.  Even if it doesn’t stand out right away.

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I shot two deer this weekend in Wisconsin and both times I hoped for a visual on where the deer dropped.  Neither time it happened.  After waiting a short time to give the deer a chance to lay down, I began the search.  Initially I couldn’t find blood either time.  How my .30-06, bolt action Remington 700 could have missed boggled my mind.  I could shoot that gun with my eyes closed, behind my back with one hand and it will shoot straight and usually drop a deer in it’s tracks.

Finally, like a crowd jumping out from behind the couch at a surprise birthday party, a splotch of red appeared.   I followed the trail, ten yards at a time before coming to a dead end each time.  I was about to give up on the first deer and made a long sweeping search around the radius and finally spotted the buck laying in a thicket on the edge of the tall pines I was hunting.  In some cases blood trails do dry up, but now I wonder if I just can’t see it!

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Deer number 2 didn’t go far either, but luckily I had enlisted Wade and his son Danny, to help in the search.  That’s when Wade began pointing out red spots up ahead while I strained to see the spots right at our feet.  Tree trunks that had been stained red, stuck out like a sore thumb for him, but until they were pointed out to me just looked like another sapling.

“There she is.”

Soon he was walking towards the furry, brown animal that was laying up ahead.  A quick drag and then we had another package headed for the freezer.

My color blindness won’t keep me from spending a few hours in single digits targeting whitetails, but there’s no question it helps if someone is there to lend a hand in the tracking.  Until someone develops some glasses to correct my deficiency, I’ll need to follow some tips like this one.  Here’s another thread about it with some products that might help.

I didn’t realize there were others that might suffer from the same issue until I showed up at the Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener in Madelia this year.  I walked up at the sporting clays course at the same time as Bill Sherck.  We ended up shooting together and halfway through the course we came across a tough shot, where the orange clay dropped below the horizon and both of us lost it.

101113 - BillScherk sporting clays

“I’m red/green colorblind so I struggle on shots like this,” Sherck informed me as I was thinking the same thing.  We shared stories about our issue as we worked our way around the course, both surprised that we had a common affliction that affected us differently than most in the world because of our chosen job profession.

It’s hard to complain about anything when your job is to spend time in the outdoors, hunting and fishing, but there’s no question that tracking deer is an important part of the gig.  We never want to lose deer so anything we can do to make that job easier will be a welcome addition to our backpacks!

It's no giant, but it was the biggest deer I saw and I like to eat venison.  I respected the deer enough to take a picture with it and post it.

It’s no giant, but it was the biggest deer I saw and I like to eat venison. I respected the deer enough to take a picture with it and post it.

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4 thoughts on “Color Blind Blood Tracking

  1. My boyfriend hit a doe in the shoulderblade with his arrow earlier this season. He enlisted a couple coworkers to take a field trip and help him track it. One of them was trying to track with RG Colorblindness. He thought every shiny spot on the leaf was blood. He ended up becoming the marker for the last blood spot found.

  2. A blood tracking dog would be of great help to you! Unfortunately Minnesota is one of those few states where the use of blood tracking dogs is illegal. Perhaps the time has come to legalize leashed tracking dogs in your state.

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