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The "DRT Cartridges" article by Craig Boddington in the January G&A got me thinking about how it works where you hunt if you hit a deer and it runs a ways?
Hunting where I do in the National Forest hasn't been an issue, but back in NE WI. where I have hunted in a more crowded woods, it could have been. Have you ever had a dispute over whose deer it was or how do you think you would resolve it if you did?


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As far as I'm concerned the deer belongs to the person that put the first lethal bullet in. The fact that the deer ran is irrelevant



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I had one over a cow elk.

The guy already had punched his tag so I let him have it.

Ended up eating tag soup that year.

It wasn’t the standard:

Ok lady it’s you’re elk…….

But can I get my saddle off of it?


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Originally Posted by jwp475
As far as I'm concerned it the deer belongs to the person that put the first lethal bullet in. The fact that the deer ran is irrelevant

I tend to agree with this. My definition of lethal being a bullet through the vitals. A gut shot may be fatal after many days but the person shouldn't be rewarded for it.


I heard a story (could've been on this forum,can't remember) about two people arguing over an animal. The person in the wrong just would not give up their claim, so the other guy walked over to the animal and put a bullet into each quarter and said "Now you can have it" and walked off.

If things got too heated, I'd just walk away. No sense getting shot over a dead critter.

I guess you could always call the game warden and let him decide.

Last edited by JayJunem; 12/11/22.
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Shot a big doe in the front shoulder with a 7 x 57 with a 175 grain power point at about 40 yards back when I was 13 or 14. Seen hair explode, watched her stumble, almost go down, then stagger up onto the bench above me. I waited 5 minutes, went to where she stood, found hair, blood, chunks of shoulder blade. I picked up a big piece of shoulder bone and put it in my pocket. I snuck up to that bench…no deer. Trailed her the length of the ridge, jumped her 3 times but no shot. At the far point of the ridge, about 100 yards from me there was a shot. Trailed on out, there’s a goofy dude from neighbor’s group(who had permission to hunt out there) standing over MY doe. He had shot her straight across the hind quarters to put her down. I told him I hit her about 30 minutes ago and trailed her out to him. He said, “ya musta shot her in the ass, because I just shot her in the shoulder. I said I’m glad you got her. I wasn’t, but I said it. I’m thinking that was a mess to skin and butcher. I was young and stupid and did a lot of things wrong that morning, but that was one thing I did right. Should have shot her again when she was stumbling, should have left her lay and not pushed her. In our family/hunting group it’s who puts it down that counts…unless you’re anchoring or finishing off a wounded one for a junior or senior hunter. May not work for some and might be wrong, but that’s the way we do it.


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Among fowl the bird goes to the person that brings it to the ground. Among big game the person that puts it down. Wounded and fleeing animals are still available for the taking.

If one is on a guided hunt, do clarify policy. With many outfits, if one draws blood the hunt is over.

Never personally had an issue.

Last edited by 1minute; 12/11/22.

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Laws and locations vary, but ...

Reduction to possession

Edited to add:

Which is to say, know your laws, because if you come upon “your” game animal, and someone else has reduced it to possession already, there is a better than average chance that the other party has LEGAL rights to that downed animal ... hunter’s ethics aside.

Last edited by RickBin; 12/11/22.

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When I was around 16 or 17, I was sitting on my stand when I heard a single rifle shot quite a ways off. About 20 minutes later, a buck came running down the fence line in front of me about 150 yards out. It was going hard, but it had been hit in the front left leg. I put one 6mm rem in the boiler maker and down it went. Let it sit for about 10 min then walked over to the fence line to get it. Just as I got to it, a man and his 10-11 year old son walked up on me. The dad didn’t have a gun and the son had a brand new marlin 336 30-30. The man said his son had shot the deer about a mile away and they had been driving around looking for it. He was honest and said he knew it wasn’t a lethal shot. But he asked if his son could tag it. I didn’t care, so I said yes and started walking back to my stand. The dad stopped me and asked, “what do we do now?” I said, I usually gut it and I started walking again. He asked, can you show us how? I was in a little disbelief at the time, but I did it and they both watched with intent. It was clear neither one of them could have done it. That was over 35 years ago and to this day, I wonder what the hell they would have done if I hadn’t bee there. I was happy to help that kid tag his first deer but when he thinks about it, he has to wonder why I was so helpful.


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A quick anecdote on this. Opening morning about 2 1/2 miles into wilderness, I heard a muffled shot, sounded funny...kinda like a shotgun, just a minute or two later here comes a 3 pt at a pretty good lope, steeper than a cows face, I donged him (at an awesome 30 yds) and he piled up another 60 yds down the bluff. Gutted him, went back up to get my rifle and daypack, here comes a guy about my age packing a Remington 1863 replica. We conferred, yes he fired at a buck 30 minutes ago, yes I fired and killed one, yadda yadda. The guy was about to leave and I told him he got first blood and his buck was 60 yards down the hill, gutted...he was very grateful, he offered it back, but finally relented. Six or seven hours later I returned to the pickup and the trailhead, skunked, he had packed that buck all that way and put it in the bed of my pickup with a note. That stranger and I have been good friends, hunted, fished and camped for 30 years now.

Last edited by flintlocke; 12/11/22.

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When I was a young teenager 13 years old at the time. I was taught by my grandfather and uncles, If deer is moving by on all four's its fair game, wounded or not. If its stumbling and falling down, finish it off for the guy who shot it. Its his deer. I am now 65 years old. I have never had to deal with this situation. But I think If saw a deer that was obviously hit I would shoot it and give it to the guy that shot it first.

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My Great Uncle told me that back in the 60s and 70s in PENN that often two or more hunters would be shooting at the same deer. Often there was a question of who the deer belonged to after it dropped. If one of the hunters was a kid, the other hunter would congratulate him and walk away. If both hunters were grown men, a simply coin toss would decide who the deer belonged to. Of course in the age we live in now, Im sure there would be a fist fight or worse over a dead deer........

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I’ve never had a hillside dispute but I’ve left carcasses on the mountain several times. An old cowboy told me to leave a coin under the eyelid and that’s what I do.

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If someone else put a reasonable shot into it (anything even close to reasonable if it’s a kid or senior) then down it goes, shake their hand and help gut/drag their game if it’s needed.

Don’t want someone else game just because I put it down.

In fact just this year I had a cow elk tag and was working towards some hidden meadows that I knew were holding elk when i heard a shot from the road up above the meadow. Walked into the meadow and found a well hit but not yet dead cow (would have died shortly) Put her down and walked back to the trail head about a mile and 1/2 back out where we were met by a busted up old timer with a disabled tag. Me and a buddy grabbed the dragging gear and his tag and told him we would be back with his elk in a few hours.

Got a cold beer and a thank you for the effort and I was good with that.

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Originally Posted by PintsofCraft
I’ve never had a hillside dispute but I’ve left carcasses on the mountain several times. An old cowboy told me to leave a coin under the eyelid and that’s what I do.

Hmmmm, so it can pay the ferryman? Penny for it’s thoughts? Down payment in a post mortem cataract removal? I give up 🤔

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coin would be left on the dead animal, and if someone happens on it, and claims it, then runs into coin owner…it’d be tough to explain for thief😜


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I've gave a bunch of deer away and one bull. When you party hunt off air boats, swamp buggies and use dogs it gets confusing who actually killed the deer. Hunting and fishing has always came easy for me, and when everything is said and done, it's only a deer or a fish.


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If a deer or elk comes by me and is obviously hit , I will try to put it down and wait for the original shooter. I have never been in a situation where two hunters are actively shooting at the same animal so can't say there. I'd say whoever puts it down is the owner.

If I shoot and it goes it goes off a short distance and another hunter tires to claim it and has not fired a shot.There will be a discussion.If it ends up being a rather long tracking job and at the end another hunter found it, I would tend to let him/her have it, as I might not have found it and would feel relieved that they did.

Years ago I came up on a kill sight. 3 dead cows gutted and tagged. Over in the brush I found another cow, not tagged,not gutted. I gutted it out , waited awhile then tagged the elk. I explained the situation and he says they didn't know they shot the other one and tanks me for talking care of it.

They could have known about the 4th cow and were going to pack the other three out and come back and tag it with one of their three original tags..

I have come up on lone hunters just finding their elk and have helped them process it and the thought never entered my mind of trying to claim it. I have let a few youth hunters claim elk that I obviously shot and they thought they did.


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What if you don't know if the wounded animal was what they were shooting at? I only had a bull tag and I heard a volley of shots off to my right, then out came a cow elk with a newly broken front leg. It haunted me to not put it down and could only hope that someone with a cow tag didn't waste it.

On a drive one of our guys hit an 11 point low just in front of the hind quarter. Only a few drops of blood and he didn't look for it very far. Snow on the ground, so I did. Half a mile and a trout stream crossing later I cracked him running out of that stream bottom. I kept the antlers, but split the meat with the other guy.

Six days into our deer season I was still hunting and found a deer bed with some blood in it and a buck looking track leaving. That late in the season that was the only game in town and took up the track. If sweat equity counted for anything, it took me two days to run that 8 point out of blood from a front leg shot. I'm not sure how I would have felt if someone shot "my" buck up ahead.


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I didn't shoot or tag this one, but if it had been wounded and ran by me, I'd have probably let it go.

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Originally Posted by Windfall
What if you don't know if the wounded animal was what they were shooting at?

This happened to us when I was in high school. Hunting in northern MN with my buddy and his dad.

We heard Jim (buddy's dad) shoot and went over in his direction. He was standing on a stump at the edge of a clear cut and a buck came loping towards him. It got close enough to shoot and dropped at Jim's shot. By the time we got there he had it gutted and told us it was wounded. Probably about 15 minutes had passed from the shot to when we got to him.

After talking for a few minuets a guy came across the cut the same direction as the buck. He came over to us and said he'd been tracking it for some time. It was clearly hit by the other guy. Jim gave him the deer. We BS'd for a few minutes and he asked where we stayed. We were in a camper about a mile from where we were standing, at the beginning of the logging road. The guy shook our hands and went on his way with the buck.

Later that night he pulled into camp and gave Jim a backstrap from that buck.

Plenty of deer to go around. Not worth arguing over one. Even a big one.

Last edited by tzone; 12/13/22.

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