JUST ANY BULLET WON'T DO
There was a time when I thought if you hit a deer in the lungs—with any type of bullet—you would find a dead deer at the end of a big blood trail. However, there were many times I was severely disappointed because I used ammunition that wasn't up for the task. Long track jobs with little blood was a big sign of not using the right bullet.
It wasn't until I was old enough to start doing my own research that I realized you have to select bullets for what they are designed for. Not all bullets are created equal. But there are a few that perform better than others, and all due to a variety of variables.
There are plenty of bullet manufacturers out there. Some of those companies state they design foolproof, do-all bullets. That isn't possible. You might need a bullet that expands a little faster for deer. What if you decide to shoot an elk or moose? Bigger animals need more penetration. A bullet that expands too fast might not get the penetration needed to pass through the vitals. Match the bullet to the animal.
Some bullets expand quickly. Some bullets expand slowly. Some bullets don't expand at all. Hunting bullets are designed to expand differently. The perfect bullet would shoot into the intended target, expand to twice its original diameter, maintain all its weight, and pass through the other side with hardly any energy left. But we don't live in a perfect world.
I was just out of high school when I made the mistake of buying the wrong type of bullet for my muzzleloader. What I meant to buy was the .44 caliber, 240-grain Hornady XTP. This particular bullet is designed to expand with velocities ranging from 1800 feet per second (FPS) all the way down to 900 FPS. That's a wide margin of muzzleloading velocities. The mistake I made: I purchased .45 caliber, 230-grain bullets. That particular bullet is destined to work in velocities in the 750- to 1275-FPS range. Those bullets expanded too fast. I wasn't getting good penetration. They left me with little blood and long track jobs.
The Hornady XTP and Speer Gold Dot ammunition have always been solid performers for me. I don't push them past their intended boundaries, and I make sure I use them in the velocity range for which they are designed.
Pick the right bullet for the particular task and make sure it shoots accurately. You'll have shorter tracking jobs with better blood trails if you do.