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Owning a Deer Tracking Dog: Is There a Blood Trailer in Your Future?

November 09, 2011
Owning a Deer Tracking Dog: Is There a Blood Trailer in Your Future? - 4

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The girls call him “cute” and the guys just nod and stare, but last week our whitetail tracking dog “Radar” recovered his first deer of the 2011 bow season. This 20-pound, whiskered wonder may not look like much but is a vital part of our whitetail hunting program.

The doe was well hit and would have been relatively easy to find for the bowhunter who shot her, but he knew I was eager to get Radar on his first blood trail of the season. Eager to see if our little wirehaired “dachsy” could do more than parlor tricks, our friend marked the shot and eased out of the woods. After dinner we made a quick call (by law) to the NY DEC to inform them of our intent to track a wounded deer with a tracking dog. Then we were off. My son Neil and I are both licensed to work leashed tracking dogs in NY. That night Neil would do the handling.

One sniff of the bloody arrow and “cute” little Radar was off like a shot.  A few minutes later he was at the recovery site. Our “lap dog” had morphed into a snarling, tugging, fang showing pit-bull/wolverine cross intent upon transforming the doe’s tibia into a well used chew bone.

The recovery is always the best part.

Like so many other blood tracking wirehaired dachshunds, the smell of fresh deer blood had transformed our little buddy into a 100 percent DNA driven hunting dog capable of tracking a wounded deer all night and into the next day if necessary.  Forget that he shares a bed with his owner, watches TV, eats yogurt and begs for treats from the bank teller.

I became exposed to whitetail tracking dogs a handful of years ago at a QDMA national convention. Dr. John Jeanneney gave a convincing presentation on the remarkable abilities of well bred and well trained deer tracking dogs. John and his wife Jolanta have been raising and training deer tracking dogs for more than 30 years and are national authorities on tracking wounded deer. He pointed out that dogs are used extensively for tracking wounded game in Europe but the practice is just catching on in the US.  The dogs come in all shapes and sizes but the common denominator being they are amazingly effective in recovering deer that visual trackers (us hunters) would have lost.

Since then I had talked with a number of whitetail enthusiasts who kept and trained tracking dogs. I also became aware of the amazing work of Deer Search Inc.(a group Jeanneney help establish) and similar groups who volunteer their time and their dogs to track wounded deer that hunters are unable to find. The more I learned about deer tracking dogs, the more I liked the idea of having one.

I got hold of a copy of Jeanneney’s book Tracking Dogs for Finding Wounded Deer and started drilling deeper. It convinced me that some of the deer I had lost over my 50 years of hunting could have been recovered if I would have had access to a well-trained tracking dog.

For starters, good tracking dogs don’t necessarily need blood to work out a track. John has recovered hundreds of deer that left little or no blood trail on a trail that “dried up” within 100 yards of where the deer was hit. Seems deer give off all kinds of scent (especially a wounded deer) that a tracking dog will key on. These dogs can easily follow a day-old trail, work in the rain, or follow a snowed-covered trail with no visible sign of a deer.

John’s favorite tracking dog is the wirehaired dachshund from European tracking lines. But, he is quick to comment that he and Jolanta have been breeding them for more than 30 years so he might be a bit partial to them. He further notes that many successful deer trackers use labs, pointers, beagles and bloodhounds. Curs are used in the south and “cow dogs” in Texas.  In other words, many hunting and some working strains can be trained to track wounded deer. 
      
I phoned John up and learned that wirehaired dachshunds are by far the most popular in my neck of the woods. He says that these small (20 lbs. or so) dogs are smart, adaptable and make great house and companion dogs. He also made sure I understood that a trained tracker is no substitute for a well-placed shot. A poorly hit deer is still going to escape. Over half of the tracking calls John answers end in a “non-fatal” conclusion.

I wasn’t looking for shortcuts or simple solutions. Neil and I were looking to upgrade our hunting experience by avoiding as many lost deer as possible. By adding a tracking dog to our hunting program we were strengthening our commitment to conservation and ethical hunting. We were sold! 

As hunters we are all aware that not all shots lead to a piled-up whitetail at the end of a bright red blood trail. We all lose deer, it happens. It’s the uncertainty that kills us. That’s what Radar is all about, reaching the end of the trail, knowing how it ended; that and having someone to share the couch with.

Note: You don’t have to own a tracking dog to have one in your future. Volunteer organizations (and some paid private owners) with highly skilled dogs are turning up in whitetail country. Check them out and keep the number handy. Also, be sure to check your state’s regulations before using a tracking dog.

Comments (4)

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from ironsight wrote 2 years 36 weeks ago

In the jungles of coastal s. carolina a good tracking dog can be the difference between taking home the meat or watching for buzzards the next few days. Havn't tried out my tracker (carolina dog) yet, and like quake insurance, I hope not to have to. We used deer tails from processor to train pups.

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from bpolavin wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

My dad has a wire haired Dauchund named Maggie, the article could have been written about her. She has been an amazing addition to the hunting experience in our deer camp. Poor hits can happen no matter the reason or how hard you prepare, she has brought peace of mind and several pounds of venison to us over the years. In fact, in the past few weeks alone she has "finished" three different exhaustive searches, where experienced guys had spent hours on hands and knees tracking wounded deer. She is one of our MVP's(or MVD's) in our deer camp! I know there are some rules about referencing John and Jolanta, but she is one of their dogs. Thanks guys for a great dog!

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from benmaggoswd1 wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

My dad owns a Jagd Terrier and the first year having here she saved me a ten dollar broadhead. I shot the doe at 15 yards and new she was hammered so we grabbed the dog to test her instincts and sure enough she trailed that deer. On the way she stopped at a spot and was transfixed to it. Upon investigating that spot my broadhead with about 4 inches of arrow was found covered in blood, and she continued on down the trail right to the deer. The next year I hit a deer to far forward on the shoulder and we grabbed the dog for some trailing and never recovered the deer. The dog, I believe was on the trail as the last area that we were able to traverse legally was where the tiniest bloodspot was found.

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from JM1993 wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

In missouri in order to be able to use a dog: must search tirelessly until no idea where it could be, then you must call a game warden who must a accompany you and your dog(not allowed to bring your firearm along so if deer is wounded and gets pushed your out of luck).

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from JM1993 wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

In missouri in order to be able to use a dog: must search tirelessly until no idea where it could be, then you must call a game warden who must a accompany you and your dog(not allowed to bring your firearm along so if deer is wounded and gets pushed your out of luck).

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from benmaggoswd1 wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

My dad owns a Jagd Terrier and the first year having here she saved me a ten dollar broadhead. I shot the doe at 15 yards and new she was hammered so we grabbed the dog to test her instincts and sure enough she trailed that deer. On the way she stopped at a spot and was transfixed to it. Upon investigating that spot my broadhead with about 4 inches of arrow was found covered in blood, and she continued on down the trail right to the deer. The next year I hit a deer to far forward on the shoulder and we grabbed the dog for some trailing and never recovered the deer. The dog, I believe was on the trail as the last area that we were able to traverse legally was where the tiniest bloodspot was found.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from bpolavin wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

My dad has a wire haired Dauchund named Maggie, the article could have been written about her. She has been an amazing addition to the hunting experience in our deer camp. Poor hits can happen no matter the reason or how hard you prepare, she has brought peace of mind and several pounds of venison to us over the years. In fact, in the past few weeks alone she has "finished" three different exhaustive searches, where experienced guys had spent hours on hands and knees tracking wounded deer. She is one of our MVP's(or MVD's) in our deer camp! I know there are some rules about referencing John and Jolanta, but she is one of their dogs. Thanks guys for a great dog!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ironsight wrote 2 years 36 weeks ago

In the jungles of coastal s. carolina a good tracking dog can be the difference between taking home the meat or watching for buzzards the next few days. Havn't tried out my tracker (carolina dog) yet, and like quake insurance, I hope not to have to. We used deer tails from processor to train pups.

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