This, under normal conditions, would be obvious to everyone. But shooting a deer can cause your adrenal gland to squirt gobs of high-octane, liquid dopiness–or epinephrine–up into your frontal lobe. So instead of staying on a hit deer’s blood trail, way, way too many hunters go bumbling out ahead, muttering things like “I’ll bet he went on this trail” and “He’s probably going to water” and “Are those scuff marks in the leaves up there?”

None of you do this, of course. But you know someone who does. You must, if the fairly shocking number of blood-trail bunglers I’ve run into is any indication. In the understandable excitement and stress of trailing a hit deer, some folks need something very simple to remember. Here’s what I suggest: STAY…ON…THE…BLOOD!

Even when the blood trail seems to end, stay on it. Because when you’re standing over the “last drop” and wondering where the deer went, nine times out of ten the answer lies not somewhere out in front of you, but somewhere near your feet. Look closer. Get on your hands and knees. Be very, very patient. The deer may have taken a hard turn or doubled back a little. Comb the immediate area and take all the time you need to find that next drop. It may lead to another, which may lead to your deer.

Now, we all know that this does not always lead to the deer, and we can discuss what to do after you’ve exhausted any hope of finding more blood. But the point for now is this: Folks would put a lot more venison in the freezer if they began each blood-trailing session with a simple determination to stay on the blood.