Paper Trail

Lots of hunters I know use surveyor’s tape to mark the last known sign when trailing a wounded animal, but there’s a better alternative: toilet paper. TP has several advantages in this situation:

  • It’s easy to attach to leaves and branches, even if your fingers are too cold to tie a knot. Just poke a hole in the middle of a square and stick it on.
  • It will be readily visible in all conditions except solid snow.
  • TP is biodegradable. If you forget to pick up everything you’ve left–easy to do when you’re dragging out a deer in the dark–TP will eventually take care of itself.
  • During the fall, many kinds of leaves and vegetation can look as if they have drops of blood on them. When in doubt, apply the corner of a piece of toilet paper to the spot. If it absorbs a red stain, it’s blood.
  • Finally, it’s easier to use toilet paper to do the job of surveyor’s tape than vice versa.
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About the Author:

E. Donnall (Don) Thomas, Jr. is the Co-Editor of Traditional Bowhunter Magazine. He and his wife Lori divide their time between rural homes in Central Montana and Arizona. You can find many excellent books written by Don at


  1. Phil May 17, 2017 at 8:44 am - Reply

    TP is fine to mark a bloodtrail, IF, you know where other hunters are. Waving white paper around could easily be mistaken for a deer’s tail-some hunters don’t verify their target before shooting.

  2. Ted Smith May 17, 2017 at 9:32 am - Reply

    Excellent tip! That has been my solution for quite a few years now, for all of the stated reasons. The biodegradability of TP does not relieve me of the obligation to pick up after myself, but it certainly makes it less of an issue if I miss a piece.

  3. DEREK RENAULD May 17, 2017 at 10:29 am - Reply

    Might I add if you store it in a water proof bag in emergency situations it can also be utilized to add layers to wound dressings and to help start a fire.

  4. Larry D. Scarborough May 18, 2017 at 6:03 am - Reply

    Toilet Paper is the Best for marking Blood Trails. I have been using it for over fifty(50) years. I also use a close-pin with reflective tape or Bright Eyes attached to mark the beginning and end of the trail if I have to leave it to go get help. I pick up the close Pins when we leave the woods. Toilet Paper kept in Zip lock bags can also be used to help start a fire, to remove items from yours eyes, and many other uses while Hunting or Fishing, or just out enjoying the Outdoors.

  5. sky May 18, 2017 at 8:35 am - Reply

    You have to be careful using this method, we ran in to a situation this year where the tracking went on for a long time and quite some distance. This could result in you retracing your steps quickly if you run out of tracking materials as this does serve another purpose. I would also say that you would want to check the weather to ensure rain or snow is not in the forecast.

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