A Hunters Best Friend

Until the early 1900’s, dogs were a part of big woods deer camps in Wisconsin. Typically, dogs would be turned loose on a fresh deer track to chase deer and get them to move past posted hunters. Hunters would take their best shot at a fleeing whitetail, that all too often, would have drawn fire from other hunters nearby. This practice was a hunter safety nightmare, which led to many accidental shootings of other hunters, and eventually contributed to outlawing the use of dogs for hunting deer. To this day dogs may not be involved in hunting deer but they can be legally used to track wounded deer. There are rules to allow for the legal use of blood trailing dogs, and anyone who attempts to use a dog for this purpose needs to be aware of them.

A friend of mine, Chris Noll and his dog Gander, have been called on each of the last three archery seasons by myself and my son to find bucks we’ve arrowed. Gander is a German Drahthaar, a breed well suited to blood trail, and trained by Chris to pick up the scent of a wounded deer and lead him to them. Having access to a qualified handler who uses a good blood trailing dog is something everyone who hunts deer would benefit from. All three of the deer Gander has tracked for us were fatally hit but didn’t leave much of a blood trail. Archers aren’t the only ones who benefit from a good blood trailing dog, gun hunters do also. Not all fatally hit gun shot deer drop dead upon being shot, or leave a good blood trail. A case in point was an eight point buck our 2010 gun hunting party found dead in a cornfield. It appeared to have been shot opening day, and by the time we stumbled on it the following day the coyotes had claimed it. No blood trail was visible in the vicinity. What a waste. Had the hunter who shot this buck, put a dog on the trail he likely would have recovered him.

The time to locate a blood trailing dog handler is before the season begins. Gun and Archery shops, sporting goods stores, and the internet are good places to find out about people who offer this service. Once you’ve located a handler, contact them to learn more about how to utilize their services during the deer season. Handlers have a lot of time and money invested in their dogs so expect to be charged a fee to track your deer. Whatever they charge, it will be less than a pair of good boots and well worth it.

Determining whether you need to use a dog to trail your deer depends on the blood trail left after the shot, or what type of weather conditions have occurred prior to taking up the trail. If it rained or snowed after the shot, and the blood trail has been obscured, a dog will likely still be able to pick up the scent. Dogs can smell what the human eye cannot see. It is important to leave the trail as pristine as possible so the dog can pick up the subtle clues of the scent trail. Don’t walk all over the landscape looking for a pin drop of blood because that can ruin the scent trail the dog needs to follow. Once you’ve lost blood, mark the spot and bring in the dog. You’ll be amazed how the dog will pick up the invisible trail if you haven’t ruined it by walking all over and through the scent left behind by the wound.

My experience this past bow season had me calling Chris just hours after I hit a twelve pointer. I arrowed the buck just below the spine from a steep angle, the arrow drove down into the vitals but did not pass through. Without an exit wound, I figured this blood trail would be sparse so I lined up Chris and Gander for the job. The only visible clues the buck left for the first 150 yards were a few tracks and a pin drop of blood about every 30 yards. Since I didn’t foul up the trail before Gander had a chance to get on it, he had a virgin scent trail to follow. 200 yards and 20 minutes later we found the buck. Only the last 50 yards left enough blood visible for a human to follow.

 

Until the early 1900’s, dogs were a part of big woods deer camps in Wisconsin. Typically, dogs would be turned loose on a fresh deer track to chase deer and get them to move past posted hunters. Hunters would take their best shot at a fleeing whitetail, that all too often, would have drawn fire from other hunters nearby. This practice was a hunter safety nightmare, which led to many accidental shootings of other hunters, and eventually contributed to outlawing the use of dogs for hunting deer. To this day dogs may not be involved in hunting deer but they can be legally used to track wounded deer. There are rules to allow for the legal use of blood trailing dogs, and anyone who attempts to use a dog for this purpose needs to be aware of them.

A friend of mine, Chris Noll and his dog Gander, have been called on each of the last three archery seasons by myself and my son to find bucks we’ve arrowed. Gander is a German Drahthaar, a breed well suited to blood trail, and trained by Chris to pick up the scent of a wounded deer and lead him to them. Having access to a qualified handler who uses a good blood trailing dog is something everyone who hunts deer would benefit from. All three of the deer Gander has tracked for us were fatally hit but didn’t leave much of a blood trail. Archers aren’t the only ones who benefit from a good blood trailing dog, gun hunters do also. Not all fatally hit gun shot deer drop dead upon being shot, or leave a good blood trail. A case in point was an eight point buck our 2010 gun hunting party found dead in a cornfield. It appeared to have been shot opening day, and by the time we stumbled on it the following day the coyotes had claimed it. No blood trail was visible in the vicinity. What a waste. Had the hunter who shot this buck, put a dog on the trail he likely would have recovered him.

The time to locate a blood trailing dog handler is before the season begins. Gun and Archery shops, sporting goods stores, and the internet are good places to find out about people who offer this service. Once you’ve located a handler, contact them to learn more about how to utilize their services during the deer season. Handlers have a lot of time and money invested in their dogs so expect to be charged a fee to track your deer. Whatever they charge, it will be less than a pair of good boots and well worth it.

Determining whether you need to use a dog to trail your deer depends on the blood trail left after the shot, or what type of weather conditions have occurred prior to taking up the trail. If it rained or snowed after the shot, and the blood trail has been obscured, a dog will likely still be able to pick up the scent. Dogs can smell what the human eye cannot see. It is important to leave the trail as pristine as possible so the dog can pick up the subtle clues of the scent trail. Don’t walk all over the landscape looking for a pin drop of blood because that can ruin the scent trail the dog needs to follow. Once you’ve lost blood, mark the spot and bring in the dog. You’ll be amazed how the dog will pick up the invisible trail if you haven’t ruined it by walking all over and through the scent left behind by the wound.

My experience this past bow season had me calling Chris just hours after I hit a twelve pointer. I arrowed the buck just below the spine from a steep angle, the arrow drove down into the vitals but did not pass through. Without an exit wound, I figured this blood trail would be sparse so I lined up Chris and Gander for the job. The only visible clues the buck left for the first 150 yards were a few tracks and a pin drop of blood about every 30 yards. Since I didn’t foul up the trail before Gander had a chance to get on it, he had a virgin scent trail to follow. 200 yards and 20 minutes later we found the buck. Only the last 50 yards left enough blood visible for a human to follow.

 

Thanks to a blood trailing dog we found my buck before the coyotes did. Every deer hunter should have the peace of mind that comes with having a knowledgeable handler and a good blood trailing dog available when you need them

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