Friday, October 31, 2008
In Darby's own words:
"We love Frida - she is a great dog, I can see she has what it takes to be a great tracker. I was getting her on at least one practice trail a week. The first trail was around 1 week after we got home, I put blood out around the lawn about 75 yards and waited 4 hrs, that was too easy she ran around it.
Before the season she was on 24 hr 300 yard trails, she could do them depending on the weather, how dry it was. Sometimes I think she would lose her focus and search out everything else in the woods but that wasn't a surprise. She has trouble on 90 degree checks but after a while she realizes she is off, then checks every trail sometimes finding her way back sometimes not. But that got me used to seeing the way she acts when she loses the trail and when and if she can find it again. She works to fast and needs to slow down, we are working on that.
Now for the tracking season so far, we have been busy - I had 13 calls the first 2 days. I did go on 4 took Tasha and Frida on the first one, I had a good idea we would find it. It was hit a little low and back angled forward, a pass thru, hunter tracked it 70 yards and got it up after 2 hrs. It was someone I worked with and he knew I wanted an easy trail to put Frida on. I put her in the lead position. She stayed right on from the hit, thru the bed, down a corn field, out of the field the deer made a 90, she made a small circle and was back on the trail going down the end of the corn field. Half way down the field the deer jumped into a hedge row and a golden rod field but Frida missed that, went straight got about 40 yards and she realized she wasn't on it. My stepson had Tasha she took the right trail and the deer was in there about 20 yards, he got up, went about 100 yards and we got the hunter close enough to shoot it with his bow. So I give that find to Tasha. Probably her last, I had to carry her back to the truck. And Joyce says she is retired. Frida would have found it if I didn't have Tasha. I was pretty sure where she missed the trail, and would have taken her back but I wanted to see what she was going to do.
Now for the one I'm calling her first deer. It was pretty much the same hit a little back low and 1/4 away only the arrow didn't pass thru. Hunter lost the trail after about 150 yards in some pretty thick brush. She missed a turn before where the hunter lost it, but it was thick and you could only walk on trails and she just shot right past the turn. I got her back on the trail and got to the site of loss. She took a couple of trails before we found some blood and 1/2 the arrow about 30 yards away. We followed a faint blood trail about 100 yards and got the deer up, the chase was on. She stayed on the trail, the deer was leaving good blood, and he laid down probably 5 times in 1/2 mile. The last time it was about 40 yards from a house, the only shot I had at him and I couldn't. After I looked at him a minute at 20 yards, he got up and walked across a road towards a river. In the chase I had gotten away from the hunters (they were still looking for blood) so I called my house and had Joyce call them and tell them to come down to the road. I went to the house and talked to the lady there and told her what was going on. She said I should have shot it, I told her she might hear me shoot across the road. When the deer crossed the road I saw where he went into the swamp grass and we found a drop of blood there. Frida circled a couple of times then headed to the river. I figured he would be on the bank, but he was standing on the edge of the water. I shot it, almost straight down 1/4 away in the back top of ribs. The darn thing took off across the river; I could have shot again but wanted to wait till it got to the other side. It never made it, rolled over about 10 feet from the far bank. Well, the hunter was still up by the road looking for blood, I yelled up to him I got your deer, but he's floating down the river. I picked up Frida and ran along the river to keep an eye on him till the hunter got there, we got to a spot where the water slowed down and the hunter said guess he'll have to get wet. I told him not to worry; they drag easy in water I've done it before. Everything worked out he got wet but he got his deer, not that big a rack 5 point but a big deer I would guess 175 -180 lbs. It seems like every call is a story."
Thursday, October 30, 2008
A first for Emmy and Emmy
Last evening “Chloe” had her second chance to recover a deer. An exciting evening for two Emmys. My sister-in-law, Emmy shot her first deer with a bow and my pup Emmy “Chloe” recovered her first archery kill.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
After a quick breakfast and his "dog chores" John drove to Westerlo to look for the deer. He did not find it, but he certainly got his exercise for the day (or two).
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
We had been planning for Indian Summer, but on this October 28 we were met with a driving snow storm instead. Now we have 8 inches of snow with more coming. This is not good for old boys and dogs who were born to track.
The only excitement we have had today was a raccoon incident. Eight month-old Joeri, one of our German imports, was checking out the dense hedgerow in back of the garden when he ran into a rabid raccoon on the ground. He bayed it with enthusiasm, and the raccoon went into convulsions. We don’t think Joeri had contact, but as a precaution he will have a booster rabies shot tomorrow. I shot the coon (not in the head) and it will go to the State Wildlife Pathology in nearby Delmar tomorrow.
I talked to the hunter on the phone yesterday and told him that a chance of finding this deer was next to zero. Boy, was I wrong. Congratulations Kevin on this great recovery!
"We found this deer 87 hours after it was hit! The hunter hit the deer last Friday (10-24-08) and gave it up for lost on Saturday. Over the weekend he read about tracking dogs in Deer & Deer Hunting magazine. Through contact information in the magazine he managed to get the call narrowed down to me. Tuesday morning I left at daylight in a hard cold rain with little hope of recovering the deer nearly 4 days after the hit. The hunter was sure he had a body hit and he was willing to tag the deer if we found it. It took 2.5 hours of cold trailing, then area search and wind whiffing. Our adventure included an unplanned dip in the Clyde River but what the heck. Anyone crazy enough to take up a 4 day old trail is crazy enough to ... well. Long story short, we found him. Hunter, human tracker, and K9 tracker are all cold, wet, and tired. None of us could be happier!
Kevin & Karma "
The pictures above were taken in the morning. In the evening the view was like this:
Hopefully all this snow will melt soon as in a couple of days we should be back to the weather that is more typical of late October.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
In America we call them Bavarians although the official German name, translated into English, is Bavarian Mountain Bloodhound. There are about three dozen of them working now in the United States, and they’ve generated a lot of interest. Basically they are a smaller, lighter version of the Bloodhound as we know it, and they are indirect descendants of the European hounds that were used for tracking in the Middle Ages.
We’ve written about Bavarians in this column before. Each year even more information on Bavarians comes to light. This will be one more of many updates. Last December, after the snow in upstate New York closed down most tracking, I went to Alsace in eastern France. I saw some very fine tracking by a Labrador Retriever, but I also went out on 11 calls with Meyer Didier, who has an experienced, truly excellent Bavarian bitch named Tikka. Tikka weighs about 45 pounds and she is a light Redbone color. Most of the time we were tracking wild boars, but we also found a roe deer that a less experienced dog had been unable to locate.
We found two boars, and as I explained last month these boars are tough to track. They don’t bleed much, they are very tough and they go a long way. The younger ones are most comfortable in a herd so often it is hard to keep track of the wounded animal, not bleeding, that is running with a half dozen healthy animals.
In France and Germany they have the manpower and the dog power to check out “possible” hits. This is surprisingly productive. Typical was a case when a good-sized sow had been shot at while crossing a wood road during a drive the day before. There was no sign on the road but scuff marks. The sow went up a steep slope of the type you climb hanging onto tree trunks. There was no visible blood on the way up, but Tikka found the sow dead on top. No problem.
In a somewhat similar situation we tracked a wild boar in very rough terrain for a good three miles and never caught up with it. Approaching darkness closed down the operation, but we knew by this time that there was no possible chance of catching up to this boar.
What impressed me about Tikka was the quality of her nose combined with intelligence and responsiveness. She worked with her handler on the long leash, but she did not drag him around. One of the complaints I hear about some 100 + pound American bloodhounds is that they take their handlers for a very rough trip.
Tikka was a hound that adjusted to the needs of her handler and also to the scenting conditions. We tracked a boar that had been hit down in the plains the day before. Wind was blasting across the open fields and Tikka had to search hard for scent in the short mowed grass that the boar had traversed. She took the leg-hit sow a long way before she finally ran out of line. Often you learn most about a dog by seeing her work in nearly impossible conditions.
Every breed of dog has characteristics that will not appeal to all handlers.
Americans are drawn to the big nose, convenient size and responsiveness of the Bavarian. One of the downside aspects is the delayed psychological maturity. Everyone I talked to in France and Germany agreed that you don’t see most Bavarians settling down to do consistent focused work until they are at least three years old. We Americans, who like to see results fast, are not prepared for this.
Didier Meyer was working a three-year-old Hanoverian Bloodhound along with Tikka, the Bavarian. Sometimes he let young Agna track along side Tikka off lead. If a line looked like it would be easy, he would work the young dog on it solo. If he had doubts about Agna’s work, he would recheck it with old Tikka.
The European method is to release the tracking dog from the leash when a game animal is bumped from its wound bed and takes off. A good bay dog is required and bay power is not something that comes early to Bavarians and Hanoverians. They need time to mature in this respect also.
It’s standard procedure for French and German handlers to have an understudy dog that works with the old dog. This takes extra time and patience on the part of the handler, but it pays off in the long run. When the old veteran dies or has to be retired, there is a mature but younger dog ready to take over.
Another drawback of the Bavarians is their comparatively short life span. They live longer and have fewer problems than American bloodhounds, but nonetheless they are usually ready for retirement at ten. Earlier maturing, longer-lived dogs like Labs or dachshunds will probably gives their owner three or four additional years of good work in their lifespan. Of course these breeds don’t have the nose power of Bavarians, particularly in arid conditions. If someone is likely to get 60 hour old calls to track trophy bucks, even if the venison is spoiled or destroyed by coyotes, then a Bavarian is a particularly good choice. The Bavarian doesn’t make much sense for the ordinary guy who wants a household companion with which he will track two or three deer a season for his buddies. This is a breed for the tracking specialist who takes thirty or more calls a year and has the patience to develop the dog’s potential.
The Bavarian Club of Germany has very tight breeding restrictions. Hounds used for breeding have to be judged sound in conformation. Then they have to prove their tracking ability on both artificially laid blood lines and on actual tracks of wounded game. The standard for Bavarians suitable for breeding is set very high, and the Club does everything it can to prevent indiscriminate breeding.
Bavarian puppies are bred and sold in other countries, and registered with the FCI, the same international registry that the German club uses. However all of the rigorous controls of the German Bavarian Club are not applied in other countries. Most of the Bavarians being imported into the United States are now coming from Poland and most of these dogs are doing very good work here. I know of a number of Americans who have been well pleased with these dogs once they had passed through adolescence.
The best source of current information on Bavarian imports is Ken Parker of Williamson, GA. Ken uses Bavarians himself for tracking and he is a discriminating breeder. The waiting list for his pups is a long one, but Ken is generous with his experienced advice. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Part of the problem grows out of the very restrictive policies of the official German Bavarian Club. For most serious blood trackers in America there is simply no way to get a Bavarian for tracking work from sources approved by the Klub Bayerischer Gebirgsschweisshund. The parents may be registered by the FCI, but they have not been validated by the working tests and real hunting. Some of these dogs may be good; some are purely ornamental.
When the demand for a breed exceeds the supply, a bell rings for the puppy mill people. If they can find some dogs to breed together, they are ready to start cranking out puppies for buyers inexperienced enough to buy on the basis of a breed labels. Today you can buy Bavarian pups on the Internet that have nothing going for them but the names of their untested parents. I know of two that were purchased from a German web site for the modest amount of $1800 each, plus transport from Germany. It’s possible that they will turn out to be good blood trackers, but it’s a big gamble!
Years ago I went to a big dog show in Dortmund, Germany to check out the dachshunds. In the great hall of the dog show I ran into a German gentleman all decked out in a traditional loden green hunting suit. He had a Bavarian on a leash and I stopped to chat with him. “No, he didn’t really track with his Bavarians, but he liked the way they looked.” He was into the whole bit of German hunting folklore; he liked the atmosphere and the tradition of it all, and he was obviously not too concerned about working ability. There are people like this in Europe, and they breed and sell puppies too.
Mike Petrillose (left) with his young Bavarian "Cooper" and the buck they have found just few days ago.
Friday, October 24, 2008
He showed a great promise on artificial blood lines, but his multiple recoveries of wounded moose have proved his extraordinary talent. Some trails were very long and challenging. Alain e-mailed us several pictures, which we are happy to share.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
The article mentions several dogs out of our breeding who track in Illinois. The first picture is of Nadja (Nettie von Moosbach-Zuzelek) owned by Jeff Richardson. Nadja is just a year old but has already made quite a few recoveries. Al Diehl's Bella is actually registered as FC Briska von Moosbach-Zuzelek and now she is nine years old. Neal Meyer's Chloe is Bella's daughter. Neal who is an outfitter http://adamspikeoutdoors.com/ hosted a very successful Trackfest two years ago. Chloe was the first dachshund certified for blood tracking in Illinois.
It is rewarding to see that these dogs do what they were bred for. We believe that they make a difference and inspire other hunters to get involved in blood trailing.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
And then we received a phone call from Rob Miller who tracks wounded deer in Michigan with Scout. It was nice to hear how much John's book helped him with selecting and training his pup. Rob has a blog where he writes about his blood tracking adventures. Check it out at http://scouttracker.blogspot.com/
Scout is a very talented tracker and has a hig percentage of recoveries. This blood tracking team is based in Linden, Michigan, and you can reach Rob at 810-240-4891.
The picture shows Scout's first recovery of the 2008 deer season. According to Rob's description: A nice 8 point that was shot in the rear hip during the youth hunt. Eric P. of Brighton shot the 8pt. on 9/28/2008 some time during his evening hunt, he started tracking that night. They jumped the buck up while tracking so they decided to pick up the blood trail the following morning and had no luck in finding any more blood. The buck ran approximately 250 yards leaving virtually no blood and made three hard 90 degree turns and even ran down their tractor path that we walked in on. Scent trail was about 20 hours old. Scout did a A+ job in the recovery which took little more than an hour.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Like many teckels Elton loves to chew and tug on the hoof of recovered game.
And he also loves to sleep on his back (as many dachshunds do).
Thank you Jim for using Elton to blood track wounded game - he was bred specifically for this purpose.
Monday, October 20, 2008
There were shouts of joy when the hunter came over and saw the buck.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Today our day started early as we drove 20 miles to Rensselaerville to track wounded bear that was shot yesterday evening. It was a short and easy track.
Friday, October 17, 2008
We had very high hopes for Amy, who was born in March 2003. You can read more about her at http://www.born-to-track.com/dogs/amy.htm though that page has not been updated for a while. She was the only female we kept from the first breeding of Alfi and Elli, and we were planning to include her in our breeding program. Oddly, the timing of her heats was always inconvenient for us so we never actually bred her. Last winter we were running out of time as she was already almost five years old. We took her for her CERF eye exam as we do every other year with all our dogs. This time we were shocked to learn that Amy had started to develop cataracts. Her cataracts may never progress to the point of affecting her vision, but breeding her was not advisable. It would be an understatement to say that we were very disappointed. We waited several months, and then went to Cornell to get a second opinion. The outcome did not change. Even though her cataracts did not progress, she was not a breeding prospect. As breeders with a multigenerational family of dogs, limited by the number of dogs we can work with, we had to make a decision. Should we keep Amy or should we find a new home for her? After much thought and discussion, we decided to find a good working home for her. It was a very hard decision! Amy was with us since the day of her birth, and she belonged to our pack. She was particularly close with her brother Billy. We knew that it was not going to be easy to let her go.
In summer when Emma had only two puppies and several people waiting for pups had to be turned down, we approached one of them (Dwayne) whether he would be interested in Amy. Dwayne jumped into the opportunity of owning a mature dog ready for some serious work. The transition time was not easy for Amy but after several weeks she fully adjusted to her new life. Now she is a member of the family with two teenage kids and only one other dog. She gets plenty of attention, affection and work. She gets to run rabbits in her backyard and track wounded deer for hunters.
Life is good for Amy, and we are proud to hear how well she has done. We know that we made a right decision, but we will never stop missing her.
Amy has found already two deer this season; this is one of them.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
This was Mooses first bear found dead. Moose was 15 months old. We found two before this one but they were less than dead and ran hard, and I believe recovered from their wounds.
This bear was found 22 hours after being shot with an arrow. The hunters had looked the previous evening and the next day until the blood went to nothing visible.
Moose found the arrow within one minute and the bear within 15 minutes. The terrain was very thick and had logs/brush etc. Moose manuvered through it like it was nothing but I didn't. I had to keep stopping him so I could get through. Most of the meat was recovered along with the hide.
Chuck and Moose
A short answer is “Good blood trackers (and poor blood trackers) can be found in all sizes and coat varieties of the breed”. A long answer is more complicated.
In the United States and Canada dachshunds have been bred for many generations purely for their pet and esthetic characteristics, without any selection for the working qualities such as hunting drive, nose, line sense, gameness, voice, focus, perseverance and so on. Even though the AKC treats three coat varieties as one breed (and does not specify the coat variety on the registration certificate), we know that the most popular dachshund on our continent is of the smooth type, followed by longhaired, and the wirehaired variety is a distant third.
On the other hand, in Europe wires are most numerous; longhairs are second followed by smooths. According to the DTK (Deutscher Teckelklub) records in 2007, 7080 puppies were registered, and 5105 (72%) were wirehaired, 1207 (17%) were longhaired and 768 (11%) were smooth. In 2008 in Bundessiegersuche in Chorin, Germany (National Blood Tracking Competition for dachshunds) there were 17 entries, of which 13 were wires, three were smooths and one was long. The winners of the competition were all wires but two smooths did very well as well and got 100 points:
Also according to the long tradition, the German foresters and hunters have used wires mainly, but there are some excellent European bloodlines that have been bred for hunting in the two other coats. And as I mentioned, excellent blood trackers can be found in all three coats. A great deal depends on breeding priorities and selection criteria that a breeder applies. Patt Nance from Ohio has been breeding her ”von Dorndorf” standard longs for a long time, and she selects for dachshunds who “are smart, sound, spurlaut, of functional size, stamina, and speed, and who own a spirit of cooperation as well as a will to succeed”.
One of Patt’s longs, Odie, is used for tracking wounded deer by Alecia Wenner from North Carolina.
One of the most talented smooth blood tracking dachshunds I have ever seen was Boris owned by Anatoly Sarser. Boris was half German/half American, and he had a superb innate tracking instinct.
Just recently I received a report describing a nice work done by an eleven-week-old smooth coated Jake. Sian Kwa wrote: “I have placed a pup with a experienced bow hunter about a week ago. Hunter shot a deer on Friday. Deer fled. Hunter and his friend followed the deer and tried to look for blood. It poured that day... They could not find any blood and could not find fresh tracks either. The hunter thought of getting the pup out of the truck just for fun. Pup followed scent exactly where they saw the deer disappeared. Then turned a direction that they thought the deer did NOT go. Hunter put pup a few meters back on scent line. Pup went again to the same direction. They just let him work. About 20-30 yards down they finally saw some diluted and spread out blood. They found more blood later. About 150 yard down the pup all of a sudden stood still and refused to move. Nose up in the air. Due to this behavior, the 2 hunters started to search around. They found the deer hidden in the thickets in an overgrown ditch.”
Jake looks like an excellent blood tracking prospect: “Joel shot another deer last week and saw it fall down in the brush about 90yrds further. He went home, waited about 4 hrs and took Jake with him to the beginning of the track. Put Jake on the trail where he shot the deer and Jake again found the deer.” Check with Sian, she still has two puppies available.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
I would like to track multiple species. Can I do this with one dog? Do I need blood for all the species I want to track - deer, wild hog, elk, bear, etc...
I have trained dogs to track wounded deer and found that there was no big problem when I presented them with their first bear line. They knew it was something different, and they gave me some funny looks as they started. I have heard of dogs refusing to track bear, but I never had this experience personally. I know that elk are no problem.
In Europe dogs are trained on deer blood and deer feet. Later they track wild boars without any problem.
Elton von Moosbach-Zuzelek is used for tracking wounded elk and deer.
Monday, October 13, 2008
The first e-mail was about Michael Ocetnik's Eddie. Eddie is just a 7.5 month old pup from our E-litter. He is full of energy and very eager to track. This is what Michael wrote:
Today the deer was hit in the abdomen area and little blood was found except for the arrow near the hit site. Eddie was fired up; he gets very excited when he gets in the truck. When I arrived I tried to walk him but that was no good, so I wore his butt out with a tennis ball for about five minutes of playing fetch. This really relaxed him so the walk to beginning was good. Eddie actually took his time, he even spent a few seconds smelling the arrow and the leaves! It was enjoyable watching him track at a walk. He was very deliberate and didn't wander off like he would normally. The deer had been hit just a few hours earlier so the trail was very fresh. Eddie found the deer in tall grass at the bottom of a ridge, in fact I wasn't sure why he had stopped until I saw the deer. He wasn't to sure what to make of it. After much praise he was like a hungry wolverine. I let him eat pieces of the liver and kidney. He knew I was very happy with him.
Michael, this is a very creative approach to use the ball to take some excessive energy off Eddie. What an excellent idea! Good luck with future calls.
The second e-mail came from Dave W. whose Arlo found two deer on one day. Arlo is 5.5 years old but Dave got him just few months ago. This talented dog was not a right fit for his first owner. We got Arlo back and after holding on to him for a over a year, putting a field championship on him, we looked for a working home for him. Well, it is not easy to rehome a dog with some issues (extreme possessiveness). Luckily, Dave saw a lot of promise in Arlo and with some help from Andy Bensing, a professional dog trainer and president of the United Blood Trackers, he persevered. It was such a pleasure to read Dave's message: "Arlo made me so proud. Thanks again for him and keep tracking." Below there is a picture of Arlo with his first find of the season.
Friday, October 10, 2008
The politics of Tracking Dog Legalization never cease to amaze and confuse me. And I am supposed to be an expert, involved in this since 1976 when New York State permitted me to begin an experimental program. Now there are 17 states that have legalized leashed tracking dogs under various regulations. And of course some use of tracking dogs has existed in the South and in Texas, where states simply gave official recognition to an existing practice that had grown out of hunting tradition.
To a hunter from Georgia or Louisiana, it is hard to explain why there was initially such an uproar of opposition to what would seem to be a logical conservation activity. Europeans find this equally confusing. In much of Europe it is illegal to hunt big game UNLESS a tracking dog is available. In the United States, north of the Mason Dixon line, the closely held traditions of deer hunting developed in their own way. Back in the early 1900’s deer were all but wiped out. There were many factors involved, but hunting deer with dogs got most of the blame. In reaction, laws and regulations were passed stating that dogs were not to be involved with deer hunting in any way. These rules became articles of faith.
The success of the leashed tracking dog experiment in New York State led to a law and regulations establishing a licensed, closely regulated system in New York State. This turned out to be good public relations with the non-hunting public and did not lead to deer jacking cases by outlaws using tracking at night as a cover for poaching. The New York story went a long way toward opening the door in other states, where Fish and Game departments were open-minded to change.
Some states were holdouts, and the most notorious of these was Pennsylvania. It did not matter that the wheel had been invented and successfully used in other states. Pennsylvania would have to figure things out for itself, when the time was right. And of course the time was never right. There were always too many other issues catching fire on the front burner of the Game Commission’s political stove. The biggest of these issues, of course, were the introduction of antler restrictions and the heavier harvest of does in areas where the deer population had outgrown the browse supply in the woods where the under story had been stripped clean.
As the dust began to settle from the antler restriction wars, the Game Commission wanted to avoid any another issue that might be controversial. To brush aside the tracking dog annoyance they had an “expert” write a report maintaining that the presence of leashed tracking dogs in the woods would terrorize the deer and make hunting difficult. They chose to ignore all the experience with leashed tracking dogs that had been gained in other states. They raised other theoretical possibilities of what might go wrong in Pennsylvania, even though no such problems had arisen in other Northeastern states.
In Pennsylvania the Game Commission and the State Legislature are not always on the best of terms, but the House of Representatives cooperated with the Commission in keeping two enabling bills bottled up in Committee until they died a silent death.
Contributing to the problem of getting tracking dog legislation passed in Pennsylvania were the policies of the sportsmen’s lobbies. They were reluctant to stick their necks out. For example United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania did shift from a position of neutrality to one of “support”, but they did not take a public stand and lobby for it. As in many other states, bow hunters in Pennsylvania feared that overt support for leashed tracking dogs would be bad PR. “You bowhunters are such lousy shots that you have to call for a dog to find your deer.”
In 2008 Pennsylvania, with nearly a million deer hunters, is the major holdout of the leashed tracking dog movement. If you are a Pennsylvania resident and this situation troubles you, contact Andy Bensing from Reading, who is President of United Blood Trackers (610-926-7778). To win in Pennsylvania, Andy knows that concentrated pressure from outside the system will be required. The Game Commission and the Legislature seem unlikely to move on their own.
Where are the anti-hunters in all this? This time they are not the troublemakers. In all of the 17 legal states organized anti-hunters never tried to block a leashed tracking dog bill. One of these antis told me, off the record, “Tracking dogs make deer hunting a little less bad. Until we outlaw hunting, we’ll leave you tracking dog guys alone.”
United Blood Trackers never expected to see much progress in New Jersey, Pennsylvania’s neighbor to the east. For a long time the official position of New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife was that they didn’t have any wounded deer. Check Station searches with metal detectors had demonstrated that wounded deer were not a problem in New Jersey! This was not very good science, but it was a good political way to hold off the anti-hunters in a state where they are very aggressive.
The UBT leadership was amazed to learn recently that even New Jersey is advancing past Pennsylvania in investigating the feasibility of using leashed tracking dogs. Under special permits a small number of trackers and their dogs will be used to find any wounded deer shot in controlled hunts on certain designated areas of New Jersey. The man who had the right combination of contacts and diplomatic skills to get this moving is John Hoinowski, owner of a Catahoula tracking dog. John attended the United Blood Trackers Trackfest last spring and fed off the enthusiasm of that event.
The door has been opened just a crack in New Jersey. It sounds a good deal like the opening that came in New York State back in 1976.
List of 17 states that have legalized the use of leashed tracking dogs to find wounded big game: Alaska, Delaware, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Vermont, Wisconsin.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
I have an 8 year old dachshund that loves to hunt. Do you think it's possible to train her to blood trail at that age?
A hunting dachshund, who has used her nose in hunting, will certainly be able to transfer these abilities to tracking wounded deer. She simply needs to be shown what is expected through some training. The downside of all this is that she won’t have very much time to learn from experience. And a really good dog reaches a high level of performance through experience. By the time she reaches 11 or 12 she may have this level of experience, but then she will be too old to profit from it.
If you begin to work with her now you will certainly find some deer with her. If you want to get into tracking over the long term, I think that you should be starting a well-bred puppy at the same time.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Asking a seven month old pup to track long difficult scent lines of wounded deer always disturbs me a bit. Recently I’ve heard such tales relating to deer, bear and moose. Would you send a 12 year old boy out on a long difficult combat mission?
However, exposing the seven month old puppy to safe, non-demanding tracking of the real thing is another story. There is no better way to turn on a puppy, bored with fake blood trails, than to let him “find” an easy deer that you or one of your friends has already shot, found, gutted and tagged.
There are two caveats. First, the original tracker must stay off the blood line as he goes to the downed deer. You don’t want to have the pup confused by blood that has been spread around by the hunter.
Second, it is preferable to wait at least two hours until the air scent over the blood line has dissipated or blown away. You don’t want your pup wandering around all over the place in a big “tunnel” of scent that is just as strong to him when 10 feet off the blood line as when he is right on. This could encourage excited, sloppy work.
The reward and the motivation comes when Pup finds this huge deer and is encouraged to approach, sniff and then pull hair to a big round of applause and praise. Then he will realize that there is more to this blood tracking stuff than he had ever realized.
Recently we received two e-mails from trackers who are doing it right.
Thought you'd like to see this pic of my pup, Cedar and her first "find." She's 15 weeks. Actually, there wasn't much tracking involved, but she had fun pouncing on it, then sat beside the door for an hour whining to get back out!
I am attaching a few pics of Mika's latest finds - 40-50 yd trails, hunters knew deer were down and called me to give Mika the real experience. She lead the way, and her eyes never left the ground until she bumped her head into the deer before she realized it was even there.
One of the trails went through a swamp, and the blood trail on the grass was about 2 feet above her head and swirling in the wind, but she got it worked out sooner than I thought she would.
Monday, October 6, 2008
I am interested in starting a deer tracking club in Md .I live in Pasadena, which is about central Md . I have been training a beagle pup for about 10 weeks now and he is only 18 weeks old. He has found 4 of 5 deer in the past 3 weeks of our bow season. They have been trails that decent hunters could have followed and found, but we have left it up to him and he has done great.
I talked to Jolanta the night I was going to go look at the dogs and she gave me great advise. He is from an award winning breed of rabbit Beagles but at this time doesn't know what a rabbit is. He is our house pet and has just amazed me and others at his skills during training exercises and on live trails. I have only read a little about training a dog like this. I have heard that many people in my area have been trying to train dogs to track. I figure this would be a fun thing to start a club and get these folks together for the common cause.
Please enjoy the photo of Gunner and his first find.
Thank you, Dustin Hoover
Thank you Dustin, and congratulations on such a promising puppy. There are quite a few people tracking in Maryland and I would suggest that you contact Andy Bensing 610-413-7094. Andy is in Germany now and we’ll back in the next few days. Even though Andy lives in PA, he tracks in MD and he knows other trackers there. I would also suggest that you join http://www.unitedbloodtrackers.org/ yourself. No need to re-invent a wheel; information and support are available for people who want to get involved.
This e-mailmade me realize that it would be a good time to post John's article on blood tracking with beagles. Here it is.
I get many questions concerning beagles as tracking dogs. Usually they come from people who have not been very much involved with beagles. But they do know that there are a lot of good beagles around; they sense that this talent could be used for tracking wounded deer and bear. And they are right. My own personal preference, in my part of the country, may be for properly bred wirehaired dachshunds, but I’ve admired beagles for a long time. I personally own a very good “gun dog” beagle. I’m currently in a beagle club, and I have been a member of a beagle club for most of the past twenty years.
One of the things that surprises me about my fellow beagle club members is that most of them can’t even think about a beagle as anything else but a rabbit hound. If they can’t sell all their pups to rabbit hunters and field trialers, they let them go as simple suburban pets. So much talent going to waste at a time when there is a crying need for tracking dogs!
The biggest plus of a good beagle is nose. You can get more nose in a thirty pound beagle package than in any other comparably sized dog. Nose is very important in a tracking dog, although it’s not the only thing. What is done with the information the nose brings in is even more important. Still, superior nose is very nice to have when you are working a 24 hour line, with no visible blood, on a dry, windy day.
The whole subject of beagles is far more complex than a lot of people realize. You can’t talk about all beagles as if they are clones of the same basic dog. Of course there are “good” ones and “bad” ones. But going beyond this, there are different types of beagles with very different, genetically based, working styles. At one end of the spectrum you have the brace trial beagle, which tracks a rabbit at a slow, walking pace, tonguing on every footprint and boring a hole in the ground with his nose when he comes to a difficult check or a point where there is no scent. At the other extreme there are the hare hounds, sometimes called large pack beagles, which run like a hurricane with terrific drive to overtake their prey. The hare hounds do better on a strong-scented northern hare than on a cottontail.
In the middle, between brace and hare hounds are the “gundog” beagles, which are judged in a small pack format at field trials. Ideally they are supposed to drive the rabbit at a moderate pace while maintaining good line control.
Many good beagles are never field trialed at all, but it is worth discussing field trial hounds to make the point that beagles have enormous variability. You can’t just say “I want to buy a good beagle, as you might say “I want to buy a five pound container of oatmeal.”
What you need for tracking wounded game is a beagle between the extremes of brace and large pack working styles. The hound must have enough initiative to reach a bit if it runs out of scent line. On the other hand you don’t want a hyped-up speed demon that might fit into the large pack scene, but lacks patience and responsiveness to the handler.
What you are looking for is a calm, steady beagle, the type that rides around with the boss in the cab of the pick-up, a dog that can adjust to circumstances, walk out a tough line when he has to, but drift it at a good pace when the going is easy. The hound has to love his tracking work and at the same time stay calm and focused.
Ronny Smith, down in Washington, Georgia had a beagle that could be taken as a model. When hunters in the area couldn’t find a deer, they would just go over to Ronny’s. If Ronny wasn’t home, the tracking leash was always hanging by the kennel. The local custom, which seems pretty laid back to us uptight Northern types, was to take the beagle out yourself is Ronny wasn’t around. The old beagle would ride out in the hunter’s pick-up, do the job, and then get driven back to his kennel. He loved his work so much that he would do it for anyone. Such beagles are not easy to find these days.
Once you realize that you can’t select a beagle on the basis of its AKC brand name, there are still some problems. Even great beagles are not the fastest learners when it comes to staying on the right scent line. And in wounded deer tracking, the essence of the art is being able to stay on the right scent line, overlain as it may be by a crisscrossing of hot lines and with no visible blood. You have to keep in mind that the beagle was developed as a pack hound, relating more to his pack mates than to his handler. At first he is not as likely to be all that concerned about what his handler’s desires; a beagle’s first priority is to run game with no special concern about whether it is wounded.
Tim Nichols, of Granville, New York has for seven straight years found more deer than any other handler in Deer Search. His fifteen inch beagle, Mickey, is quite a hound, and it’s unfortunate that he is nearing the end of his brilliant career. Tim admits that he had trouble with Mickey at first, because he would often go with a good scent line, even if it wasn’t the right deer. Mickey wasn’t a boy wonder, but once he got his lesson straight he was formidable. With beagle tracking hounds you have to be patient, but it can be worth the wait.
Tim Nichols with Mickey in 1998, when Mickey was a young hound.
Dana McLain in Arenzville, Illinois is a deer guide and outfitter, who got a started tracking beagle from Tim. Shiloh found a lot of wounded deer for Dana’s clients before getting run over in a tragic accident right on the farm. That beagle not only learned to stay on the right line; he was also smart enough to tune out rabbit scent when he was wearing his tracking collar and lead. Otherwise in the off season, Shiloh usually had a good rabbit run every day on Dana’s farm. It was a good way to keep him in shape.
Of course not all tracking puppies measure up to expectations, and with the scent hounds there may be more wastage than with Labs or curdogs for example. There are exceptions to this of course, but this seems to be a consensus among houndsmen, especially when they are talking about someone else’s breeding. One of the good things about a small hound like a beagle is that you don’t have to put him down if he doesn’t make the grade. It is nice to know that if your pup does not work out, there will be plenty of beagle pet lovers to take him. They will be much less critical than you are. Just hope that the new owner won’t breed him to a pug and start selling high-priced “puggles”.
Beagles are bred to tongue on the trail, and unlike a dachshund, a Lab or a curdog they will open while tracking a wounded deer. Tim Nichols tells me that Mickey opens if the scent line is less than a half hour old under good scenting conditions. In Georgia I saw Randy Vick’s beagle/treeing Walker hound Bob tongue continuously on a line that was six hours old. Tim and Randy both work their hounds on a 30 foot tracking leash.
Tim and Randy have no problems with their talkative hounds, but every individual has to decide what is best for him. Personally, I have tracked through suburban woods at midnight when I was happy to have a tighter mouthed dog. The Michigan regulations state that “A dog that barks while tracking the deer shall not be used on public lands.”
If you are planning to buy a beagle for tracking work, it pays to do some research. The sire and dam may not be tracking dogs, but you can learn something about the prospects of the pup by observing the working style of the parents on a rabbit or hare. You don’t want something wild and crazy; on the other hand you don’t want a hound that can only track from footprint to footprint. He will be more useful if he can put footprint and body scent together.
Some beagles are not especially responsive to their handlers, and I don’t think that this is all a matter of genetics. When beagles spend most of their lives in isolated kennels, this doesn’t help them to relate well with humans. The most important time for developing dog/human relations in a puppy is between seven and twelve weeks. If your beagle pup has spent those weeks in a kennel with little human contact, it will be difficult to repair the damage later on.
Effective tracking requires closer handler/dog communication than other types of hunting. Don’t overlook this point as you acquire and develop your future tracking partner.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Andy Bensing, President of United Blood Trackers, found the first deer to be legally tracked by a tracking dog in New Jersey with his dog Arno. The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife had just set up an experimental leashed tracking dog program under special permit in certain counties of the state.
The bowshot deer tracked by Andy was not a big one, but it was very important, nonetheless. Andy and Arno found it dead in thick brush 25 yards behind a house in the suburbs. Dead, stinking deer, lost by hunters, are very bad PR in a state like New Jersey. The find strengthened the case for legalizing leashed tracking dogs there.
New Hampshire is only in the second year of its leashed tracking dog program. Barbie Wills of Concord tracked and found this buck for her husband with their German import Veela. Ed was the point man in the campaign responsible for legalizing leashed tracking dogs in his state.
Alaska is beginning to enjoy the fruits of its tracking program, which was legalized in 2004. Kevin Breaux of Copperas Cove, Texas got this letter from an Alaskan who bought one of his German wirehaired dachshunds:
These photos are from a bear hunt with my brother Bob at the end of May. The boar was with a sow, but Aggie stuck with the boar's track and made recovery a snap. Moose season is open now, but I have had no calls. I don't know if deer season will be much better as the last 2 winters have hammered the deer population. I don't want to wish anybody bad luck on a shot, but it sure is fun working the track with Aggie!Bob (my brother that had the rattlesnake skins) was impressed with the ease that Aggie sorted out the bear tracks and is possibly interested in getting into it himself.
Maine and Ohio are two legal tracking states from which we get very little news. The enabling laws have been in place for several years now, but apparently few people know in these states about the techniques of training a dog and actually finding big game in the woods.
The leadership of United Blood Trackers believes that our two-day tracking workshop would go a long way in helping hunters and dog people in these states realize the potential of leashed tracking dogs.We have given such workshops in Illinois, Louisiana and Pennsylvania, and we have had large turn-outs of people enthusiastic about these “Trackfests’.
We need contacts with people who would be willing to help organize a tracking workshop on the local level in these states. They would be needed to find a location with a club house and at least 500 nearby acres for field work. If you have any ideas about the right person to do this please contact me by phone (518-872-1779) or e-mail. I’m Vice President of United Blood Trackers.