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Friday, January 30, 2009

Charlette Curtis and Jenna from Deer Search - part 2

I asked Charlette Curtis to tell me how she got involved in tracking. Her bio is followed by a report from one of the calls she took in 2008. Thank you Charlette!

I grew up in Central NY near Suny Morrisville College. The environment in this area in the seventies held many small farms that were still being worked by families. The area was abound with many different species of animals and this still holds true today. I cannot even remember when I started enjoying hunting and tracking, but I can say that my brother Raymond Curtis was my mentor.

To start, Ray had twin boys that were my age. We were his helpers so to say. We carried all the carcasses out of the woods while checking his trap lines, and I will always cherish those moments. It would be nothing to take out over 10 to 12 animals a day. I will never forget the day Dean, one of the Twins, found a worm on himself from one of the animals, and he freaked out because it was so big. It was so funny, and we laughed for days.

Trapping was in high demand in this era and pelts brought very good money. Ray had no problem getting people from the city to buy the carcasses for $5.00 each. Of course, the health department would have had a cow over the whole ordeal. All I can say is, “NOTHING” had gone to waste.

In 2000 my brother was killed in the line of duty as a correctional officer. It was the most devastating day of my life. In his memory I became a Hunter Education Instructor in Western NY. I also joined different organizations along the way - NRA, SCOPE, local hunting clubs, Women in the Outdoors, and the local Wildlife Federation in Wyoming County along with Deer Search. I did all this to help further my knowledge not only of the environment, but of conservation as a whole.

Three years ago, a fellow Hunter Education Instructor introduced me to tracking wounded big game. I had no knowledge of tracking or how to train a dog. The first year I only watched and learned not only from the handlers but the dogs as well. I was asking myself, “What did the dog miss while tracking, what would have made it better”. I took common knowledge of what a coyote would do if it was tracking, and used the interdigital scent of the deer along with other scents to simulate a normal wounded deer and the patterns it may produce within 500 yards.

There are some patterns that I have come to understand while tracking a wounded deer. First, depending on the age of the buck they react differently. Such as a yearling buck normally will get out of the area and take the path of least resistance before bedding down and often they bed down quickly. A doe will often produce the same pattern. But, remember she may have fawns. A mother’s instinct takes over to protect her young so they may travel much further.

A buck that is two and a half years old or older will bed down quicker, within 100 to 200 yards from the hit site. Within the first 100 yards this deer will often check the area by stopping, listening for any danger and waiting to see if anything is in pursuit. The mature buck does not put any more effort that it has to before it disappears. It does not go far, and it watches. This changes everything. It is close and it will hear and see the hunter's movement (such as the slightest sound when a hunter sits down or calls a friend). “Hunters beware”. I have seen this pattern often. And the biggest mistake that many bowhunters make is that they start to track the buck within the first hour to an hour and a half. My golden rule is to wait over three hours before leaving your stand or looking for any blood. “Be patient”. If you shoot a buck in the late afternoon you can still wait after dark before searching for it as long as you’re following DEC rules.

Charlette with her miniature dachshund Jenna, the buck they recovered and Andy Addes (hunter).

Hunter’s Name: Andy Addesa
Location: Curriers/ Java, New York
Deer type: 7 point

Summary: My phone conversation with the hunter started out with many doubts in my mind. He had only one spot of blood the size of a dime, ten to twenty feet from the hit site. And he attempted to track it, but did not have much to go on. He thought, that he may have hit it in the gut, but was unsure. I was a little skeptical of trying but I knew that Jenna would do her best. I set a time to meet with the hunter the very next morning. It had only been four hours since the hunter gave up. I wanted to give the deer some time in case it was still alive.

When I arrived at the hit sight, I was even more skeptical due to the range the hunter stated that he had taken for the shot. I told the hunter to get in the tree and guide me and Jenna in the direction were he believed the deer had gone before it disappeared. I had his brother follow behind me, but just before we got out of sight; I waited for them all to catch up.

Jenna at that point started to pull and almost run to get to her destination. I let her work this way for over 1,500 yards. When we had gotten to the top of a ridge, I did not say anything but I thought that I could smell the deer. Jenna then slowed her pace and worked her way along the edge for about 60 to 75 yards. She then worked her way down to what appeared to be a damp hallow with some brush and crab apple trees that were growing along a small creek. At this time, Jenna appeared to be working harder to find her deer. She backtracked over and over along the trail. She acted almost like she had doubted herself. I then called off the sortie and informed the hunter that I would like to start over.

I asked hunter's brother to carry Jenna due to the distance that we all had traveled. I wanted to give Jenna a little break. After walking about 20 feet, to my surprise she started whining and wiggling really badly in his arms, so badly he almost dropped her twice. I could not believe she was acting this way. She had never done this before. The biggest surprise of the day was when we had stopped and I was tending to Jenna. The hunter spotted his deer 25-30 yards away. I should have believed in her. She then ran to her prize along with everyone else.

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