Saturday, February 28, 2009
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
The day started early and brought a surprise outside the window. I was having my morning coffee when I spotted a coyote trotting outside, thirty yards from the house. All the dogs were inside and quiet, and the coyote was acting with confidence. I am not fond of coyotes, but it was a beautiful specimen, full of grace. It investigated our yard, and then slowly trotted by our pond, back to the woods. Of course, my camera was in another room, so I just watched. Later I went to investigate the tracks:
We have had a really bad winter here this year, so today was a pefect day to take our puppies outside. They are just five and a half weeks old, and it was their first real trip outside. Pups had a great time, and did not mind snow or cold wet grass.
Dogs enjoyed exercise outside; they ran, and they played. Below you can see Keena and Asko chasing each other.
Joeri is one of these dogs that love to roll in the snow. It was warm, and he surely had fun.
Not too many people know that besides 11 dachshunds we also have a beagle. Rip is almost ten years old now; we got him when he was just eight weeks. There are many types of beagles, and Rip is a 15" SPO (Small Pack Option) hound. We have never tried to blood track with him, but he is very good on rabbits. Tommy and Rip are good buddies, and they both can play pretty rough. So far so good, but sometimes Tommy goes too far, and then Rip just gives a loud growl. It was not the case today. They just played and did a lot of chasing and body slamming.
Monday, February 23, 2009
The standard sized dachshund, at 9 or 10 kilos, is the smallest dog regularly used for tracking wounded big game in North America. In 2009 they are the most widely used dog in the midwest and northeast, where state laws require that the dog be kept on a tracking lead at all times. Most of the dachshunds being used are of the wirehaired coat variety, and the great majority of these are directly descended from European hunting stock. As you can see from the photo they are higher on the leg and shorter in the body than the type of dachshund favored by American and Canadian show judges.
Above - FC Billy von Moosbach-Zuzelek comes from the European hunting stock. He does not have excessive length of the body, and his ground clearance is very functional.
Ch. Raydachs Do Me A Favor SW is a good example of the American show type (longer body, shorter legs) Source: http://www.raydachs.com/boys.htm
Dachshunds bred for field work have the stamina and the agility to work long, difficult tracking assignments in rough terrain.
Advantages of the European type dachshund are:
- It is a small, user-friendly dog that fits well into family life;
- It is relatively easy to train and develops faster psychologically than some of the larger breeds;
- Its small size lends itself to easy transport on a pack horse, ATV or bush plane;
- With training and experience they learn to track individual game animals when there is little or no visible blood. Under normal conditions they are good for scent lines up to 24 hours old on deer and 48 hours on bear.
- It has insufficient size and power to bay or pull down deer-sized game;
- Due to small size it loses body heat faster in icy water than larger dogs;
- Not all wire coated dogs develop the warm double coats that are important for cold weather conditions;
- They do not make a good outdoor kennel dog. To work well in partnership with the handler, this breed needs considerable personal attention.
There is currently a strong demand for dachshunds as tracking dogs, but they are easier to find and purchase than individuals of the specialized European tracking breeds.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Thursday, 28 May through Sunday, 31 May
Agnès de France – FCI conformation judge, hunting test judge and President of the French Dachshund Club (Club Des Amateurs De Teckels)
Presenters (in alphabetical order)
- Andy Bensing – dog trainer, DTK/NATC hunting judge, and President of the United Blood Trackers and Deer Recovery of Pennsylvania
- John Jeanneney – author of Tracking Dogs for Finding Wounded Deer, DTK/NATC hunting judge and founding member of the NATC, Deer Search and United Blood Trackers.
- Lisa Kennell – retired Canine Enforcement Officer, Canine Procurement Officer, Instructor & Course Developer at the Canine Enforcement Training Center of the US Customs and Border Protection Agency
Topics will include canine scent work, blood tracking, obedience, gun steadiness and water retrieval. Training and testing will be offered for blood tracking, obedience, gun steadiness and water retrieval.
A Zuchtschau (conformation show) where dachshunds can receive written critiques from an FCI judge will be held on Sunday.
The seminar and show will be held at Winnebago Scout Reservation, 102 Timberbrook Rd., Rockaway, NJ.
Additional details along with a schedule of events and registration forms will be posted at the NATC website http://www.teckelclub.org/
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Huge congratulations are in order to Sian as her Enyo got Prize I.
I asked Sian for her impressions and this is what she wrote:
"During the test, I saw many fresh deer tracks. It was fairly straightforward to keep Enyo on the blood trail in the beginning despite the deer tracks. A mixture of deer and hog blood was used.
The terrain in Georgia did not consist of much ground vegetation. No briars. Mostly planted pine forest that is thinned out, with some creeks and areas of red clay and some with sand covered with pine needles, stumps and branches. The test weather was beautiful. Sunny, around 60s, but it had drizzled and lightly rained the night before. Great scenting conditions! Blood was visible at fairly regular intervals.
In other words, fortunately the test situation was not too difficult. However, at some point I did not recognize Enyo's behavior. She repeatedly returned to a certain area where the top soil was visibly dug up in the vicinity of some holes. After the test I heard those were armadillo tracks and dens. Enyo had never smelled an armadillo before, so she was very intrigued by the scent. She started checking out each hole... I had a tough time getting her on the blood trail again. It took me some minutes and picking her up twice to get her to work the blood again. It always feels a lot longer than in reality.We reach the dead feral pig in 35 min.
Later, apprentice-judge Forrest Moore who kept count of the performances of the dogs and handlers, told me Enyo was only 20m parallel off the track only once but corrected herself and went back on the trail shortly after. The rest of the time she was exactly on the blood trail when she was working.
The judges thought the team work could not have been better. They complimented me for my calmness and confidence (but meanwhile my back was soaking wet...
Sian Kwa with Enyo and JGHV Sw judges Karl-Heinz Kraus from Germany and Lynn Whiteley from Utah; senior judge Frank Wagner from Germany; apprentice-judge Forrest Moore from Georgia
Monday, February 16, 2009
Max was an old wirehaired dachshund whose gray grizzled coat matched my own head. Neither of us could escape the truth that the hills were getting steeper, but for both of us finding wounded deer for hunters in the fall was the adventure which bound us together and around which we organized our lives. We jogged regularly, linked by a short leash as we built and measured our strengths for the fall season when we would search once more together on the long leash as blood trackers. On our sedate runs along country roads, I eyed and Max smelled the wildlife in the green fields. The woodchucks, sitting up like sentinels near their dens were one of our diversions from the boredom of the road. We would charge the ramparts of their earthworks, arrive puffing and panting only to find that our quarry had dropped down and out of sight. Max was too big to enter, adrenalines at ebb we would return to the road. Still, the surge of the chase assured us that the old team was still alive and ready to take on the next wooly mammoth or great cave bear which blocked our path.
Near the start of our morning jogs we sometimes stopped in the yard of my neighbor Arnold to stretch stiff muscles. Arnold had complained of an enormous gourmand woodchuck, old and gray as ourselves, but much fatter. This woodchuck was ravaging Arnold's garden and mocking all defensive efforts. Plunge holes were his temporary escape but he never stayed near the lawn and gardens to await serious retaliations. His favorite tactical retreat was through a culvert under the road and into the wide green field beyond.
Max and I were returning from one of our three mile loops past the green field approaching Arnold's and there was the gourmand chuck, huge and self-satisfied. I held Max up so that he could see above the wall of unmowed grass at the road's edge and then unsnapped the leash. We launched our charge and sped the fifty yards. Sped? Well, anyway we scrambled just as fast as we could, two old boys as carnivores converging, the fat prey fleeing....all in slow motion...so slow, so desperate...straining, the distance closing, closing... flat out. We had him! Right at the edge of the woods, a faltering stride from his den under the old maple. Max grabbed first and rolled him. I took the tail hold, quickly swung our prey in hard orbit to the tree. It was over.
I thought for both of us of good lives, well-lived and of quick death.
Max' last deer (Max' registered name was FC Sherif du Bellerstein)
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Zin was purchased as a companion dog, but he proved to be a very gifted scent hound, and was a tireless bloodtracker and hunter. As a member of N.J. Beanfielders, an all-breed hunting club, Zin helped farmers rid their fields of destructive woodchucks. In doing so he earned a Working Certificate from American Working Terriers Association. Zin then earned his Junior Earthdog title in July 1996 and his Field Championship in October 1996. He was twice in the Dachshund Club of America top ten for field trial dachshunds.
A natural bloodtracker, in 2003 Zin won the Deer Search Annual Blood Tracking competition. He was the only mini dachshund to ever do so. He weighed only 9 pounds but he had a big heart and enormous tracking drive. He recovered 42 deer in his tracking career, which started when Zin was 6 years old.
In Stephen's own words: "Those of us, who are fortunate to have owned many dogs, know that only one or two become that special one – a dog of one’s lifetime. Zin is that dog. He is and will always be my Hero".
Zin with his canine family.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
The hardest thing about tracking wounded deer is staying on the right line. Dogs get excited and confused just like we do sometimes, but they do have the ability to recognize other individual animals by scent just as they do people All cats and all coons don’t smell alike, and the same is true for deer. I didn’t read this in a book; my dachshunds taught me right in my own back yard.
At one time we owned a cat; I’m kind of embarrassed to admit this, but it was my daughter’s idea. I remember this cat named Hofstra well, mainly because she preferred the flower pots in our house to her kitty litter box. Aside from that she was plain as mud, sort of a gray tiger, and she looked pretty much like half the cats in the village. The dachshunds didn’t like her, but they learned to leave her alone. Even outside the house they never gave in to the temptation to do away with her.
One day I was working in the garden down below the house when I saw old Hofstra come prowling across the lawn. Then I realized it couldn’t be Hofstra because Hofstra was in the house. Anyway this cat was a dead ringer for Hofstra and dachshund Clary got fooled too…. until she trotted over and cut the cat’s trail. Then there was some fast action. I can’t remember all the details; it was so long ago, but it seems to me that the cat got the worst of it.
Then we had a baby “house coon” which grew up to become a yard coon that lived in an empty dog kennel. Her best buddy was our dachshund Oslo. Sometimes they would play pretty rough together, slamming one another around, but it was all in good fun. Oslo was a pretty good coon dog for a dachshund. He ran silent and treed hard .I saw him come in low on a big boar coon once and throw him right over on his back. But Oslo never tried this real rough stuff with our Cecily Coon. He knew the difference and never went for her when she roamed around the place. The two got along fine; she was not like an ordinary woods coon. All was bliss until Cecily came into heat, but that is another story.
This ability to discriminate comes in handy when a dog is tracking a deer.
I remember once we were tracking or trying to track a leg-hit deer in dry, dusty snow. We could see the tracks all right, but it was an averaged-sized deer running with a small herd of other average sized-deer; there was not enough track definition in the loose snow to tell which deer was which. Clary the tracking dachshund was the only one who knew what she was doing.
The tiniest drop of blood would have shown up on that pristine white snow, but there wasn’t any blood at all. One deer cut off and left the rest, and that was the one that Clary followed. Trust your dog! We followed and the long tracking leash kept us together. After a hundred yards we saw one drop of blood. Of course the dog knew the scent of that individual deer.
A tracking dog often has to deal with cross trails where a deer has been dragged out of the woods. Even young dogs learn to handle this pretty well. There was one case last year that was tougher than this.
Aunt Sabina dachshund was tracking behind her young nephew Alec. There was some tidying-up to be done, but basically we let the young dog do the work. I wrote a year ago about how disappointed Alec and the hunters all were when we tracked up to a still-warm pile of guts. It was from a paunch shot deer just like the one we had been tracking. The only one in our group who understood the situation was Sabina. She trailed past the pile of guts, went another 50 yards into real thick stuff, and there was the deer we had been trailing, also shot in the paunch.
I have one more pile of guts story, and then I’ll let you go. Years ago I was tracking with Clary, the best dog I ever had. We went out to find a deer that a buddy in my gun club had shot and lost track of the afternoon before. We got started on the line at first light, tracked about 300 yards and you guessed it; there was the pile, but no deer, and no drag marks. Dachshund Clary was the only one who could figure out what had happened. She tracked on through a big patch of cedar trees and into a trailer park. There was the deer hanging in a tree. It wasn’t a very big deer, and the finders-keepers boys had simply tied the legs together, strung it on a pole and carried it out on their shoulders.
John and Clary von Moosbach (1974-1985)
Monday, February 9, 2009
Pictures were taken at the Fun Follows Function Workshop in 2008.
Friday, February 6, 2009
Putting down a wounded buck can be a risky business. When I first decided to offer my blood tracking services in Maryland, I knew that there would eventually come a time when I would track down and find a mortally wounded deer that was still alive. “Humanely dispatching” a wounded deer in Maryland is not always a simple matter.
Starting in 2002 the Maryland law allowed the use of a leash tracking dog for the recovery of wounded deer, but the law only permits the hunter to accompany the tracker, carrying the weapon of the season, during normal hunting hours. That leaves the hunter without any easy way to dispatch a deer at night or on a Sunday when hunting is not allowed. Since blood tracking is often done at night, or on Sundays, it was just a matter of time before a problem would arise.
It was 6:30 PM when we got to the hit site of my second Maryland deer call of the day. This one would be under the lights. After calling the Maryland DNR to let them know I would be in the woods tracking with my dog, we got started. Mat Fortuna was the hunter, and I had tracked a deer for his friend a few weeks before. When Mat, who is color blind and doesn’t see blood well, ran into trouble with this deer, he thought to call me right away. Mat, a very experienced and successful bowhunter, reported to me on the phone that he had arrowed a very large 8-point buck about 8:30 AM that day. It was a quartering away shot from a tree stand about 25 yards away, and he saw the deer run off with the fletching of the arrow sticking out just behind the ribs where he aimed. Mat had waited 45 minutes before looking for the deer. He easily tracked the blood trail almost 100 yards to a bed that had a “massive” amount of blood in it. The blood trail coming out of the bed was quite sparse and hard for him to follow, being color blind, so he just looped ahead another 100 yards or so to the area he thought the deer would be lying dead, It was there he saw the buck jump up and run up a hillside in the hardwoods. Knowing the deer needed more time to expire and that he would need a better set of eyes than his for the tracking, he wisely backed right off the deer to give it more time and to get a friend to help track it. Back in the woods with his friend a few hours later, they came to the end of the blood trail that could be followed. Mat realized he needed my help to find this one, and he gave me a call.
I started Arno at the hit site, and he easily followed the trail to the wound bed. I could hardly believe how much blood was in it. Hunters always seem to over-estimate the amount of blood they report to me on the phone, but this bed truly had a “massive” amount of bright red blood in it. It was puddled in the leaves 2½ feet wide and 4 feet long and even squirted up a tree. I would estimate there had to be 16 or more ounces of blood there. Piecing together what the hunter reported with the sign I observed, my best guess was that the arrow must have been deflected off a rib to travel straight forward, cutting only one lung instead of traveling through the deer at the quartering angle that would have taken out both lungs. I had learned from the experienced leashed tracking dog handlers in New York that a deer like this can present a difficult problem. When hit in one lung that lung can collapse and the heavy bleeding from it can stop quickly. These deer, shot in one lung, can go a very long way and some certainly survive.
Arno continued tracking the dwindling blood trail out from the wound bed and began to start circling back and forth. We would occasionally see blood sign to confirm we were on the deer but there was no consistent direction to the track. At one point Arno was going straight down a hill past a very unique deadfall, and Mat assured me he had seen the deer going up that hill in the opposite direction from the deadfall. I turned Arno around, which he didn’t like, and forced him up the hill in the direction that Mat indicated. After going up the hill in the direction Mat thought was right, Arno circled back a couple hundred yards to the original wound bed and re-ran the line again his way.
When Arno took me the “wrong” way past the deadfall again, I was smart enough this time to let him do the tracking. All the blood up to this point was partially dry indicating the deer had passed through this way earlier in the day. All of a sudden Arno’s body language changed, and I knew we were on a hot line. We were definitely moving a deer out in front, and a few fresh blood droplets confirmed it was the right one. The hot line continued for about ¼ mile and led us down a very steep hill to a big creek. There, to our great surprise and elation, was the big buck lying five yards up the shore on the other side about 50 yards away. There was one problem though; his head was still up, and he was clearly still alive. Well, here I was, in the situation I knew would eventually come. We had to deliver the coup de grace without a firearm or a bow because it was after legal hunting hours.
Up in New York my leashed tracking dog license allows me to carry a firearm day or night, but in Maryland the regulations are different. Mat was not allowed to have his bow along for the track, and I could not carry a weapon either. I had talked this potential situation over many times with a good blood tracking friend of mine, Larry Gohlke from Wisconsin. In Wisconsin the hunter or tracker is never allowed to carry a bow or firearm, so Larry has gotten a lot of experience over the years finishing things off.
My first instinct was to just sit tight for a while and hope the buck would expire on his own. We sat anxiously for awhile, kept the light on the deer and hoped for it to end. The hunter made a few cell phone calls to his friends announcing “we got him”. I think that was just about the time “Murphy’s Law” started to come into action. I warned the hunter, “We don’t have him yet.” knowing that Murphy might be lurking near by. After 15 minutes it became apparent that we couldn’t just leave the buck there to suffer; we would have to try and finish it.
Plan “A” was for me to wade across the three foot deep creek, tie my dog off to a tree downstream, and make my way up to the buck from behind him, jump on him keeping his legs and feet underneath the deer and deliver the fatal blow with my knife while the hunter waded straight across the creek keeping the buck’s attention on him. Plan “A” was going great until I got within about 30 yards of the massive 200 pound, high-racked buck. When I got a good look at him, common sense, and I am not ashamed to say, fear, got the better of me and plan “A” went right out the window. It was time for Plan “B”.
Plan “B”, learned from my Wisconsin friend, was to lasso the deer with the 30 foot tracking line, pull him to a tree and kind of tie him up from a distance by snubbing him around a tree. I figured that this would be a safer way to approach the deer and dispatch him. That all sounded good in my head, as I had thought it over many times in the past, but there was one problem. I had never practiced this.
I quickly tied a makeshift lariat out of my tracking line and cautiously eased along side of the buck, sort of hiding behind the big tree that was next to him. Here I was, standing maybe 8-10 feet away from this big boy, hiding behind a tree, hoping he wouldn’t get up and come after me and not having a clue how to throw the rope so that it would lasso him. No other options were available so I just gave it a toss like a frisbee and the whole mess landed on his rack. The leash looked like a garland hastily thrown on a Christmas tree at the last minute. When the rope hit the deer I was surprised he did not even move; it was as if he were frozen stiff. I carefully reeled the slack in on the line and was disappointed to see that all I had lassoed was one tine on the horn closest to me. I knew it would never hold, so I began to kind of the flip the leash around hoping to better entangle it so I could pull him into a tree. I was surprised how much jerking around the buck tolerated, but after my third attempt to jiggle the leash the buck had had enough and adrenaline pushed him through his shocked state. He got up, pulled free of the leash, and took off. He ran down the streambed, passing within 10 feet of Arno tied to a tree and was gone.
Mat was understandably disappointed, but I assured him we would eventually get this buck. The fact that he allowed us to approach so closely and tolerated so much once we got there clearly showed he was mortally wounded. No deer would have allowed us to approach so closely if he were not mortally wounded. Our goal now was to stay on this deer and track him down and finish him as quickly as possible. I switched my long line from “lariat” mode back to “tracking leash” mode, untied Arno from the tree where he was going nuts, and away we went after the deer.
Fog was coming in as we looped across a field and through the hardwoods again. Then Arno barked; there was the buck, not 20 feet away, lying down head up. I tied Arno to a tree with the short leash, but the buck took off before I could get another lasso throw.
The buck led us across the big creek again, this time a hundred yards farther down stream where the current was much faster. Arno swam out into the current, which swept him down stream. I didn’t want to let go of the leash and have him swept away. As I reeled Arno in, the current pulled him under. This didn’t please him very much.
I was carrying Arno the rest of the way across the creek when I saw the buck lying down 30 yards up on a steep hill at the far side. Arno must have gotten a good whiff of him too because he started to squirm in arms, trying to jump into the water again and swim toward the buck.
I tried to climb the hill to get above the buck, but he slipped away through the briars. Again we tracked him; the buck was weak, but his instincts were still sharp. Eventually Arno seemed to indicate that he had crossed the creek again but he did not seem sure. I wasn’t sure either. We could see eyes on the far side, but in the fog we could not be sure it was the right deer. We had been seeing live deer all over the place all night long. No one, including Arno, was very eager to cross that creek again. Arno had never been a big fan of water even as a puppy and in his first tracking season he had taken a good dunking after becoming tangled up in hemlock roots in a swamp while tracking a bear. But that’s another story.
By this time it was 11:30 PM, five hours after we had started the ordeal. Arno, Mat, and I were all exhausted. Mat asked if I would come back in the morning and continue. I said I would have to think about it and would call him at 6 AM the next morning to tell him if I were coming or not. I had to work on Sunday starting at 10 AM, and I wanted to digest all that had happened that night with regard to the deer’s condition. The buck seemed to be tolerating our close approach less and less. Could it be possible he was gaining strength and not weakening? Should we call off the pursuit completely? Might he recover if left alone? These were all questions I wanted to sleep on.
I thought about all this on the 1½ hour drive home. Oh, did I mention I live in PA where the use of leashed tracking dogs is not legal yet, and I can’t work my dog? That’s another story too. When I got home and to bed it was 1:30 AM. Even though I was really beat, I still woke up twice during the night thinking if I should go back on this deer or not. My alarm went off at 5:55 AM, and while I was lying in bed struggling with the decision, Mat called begging me to come back. I told him if I came back the first thing we would do was wade across the creek again and put Arno down on the “eyes” we had seen the night before. Mat said he was game for that, and I agreed to go. I woke up my loving and tolerant wife at that point, asked her to start calling my appointments for the day to clear and reschedule them so I could go get back on this deer.
She happily agreed to make the calls. Thank goodness for me. As all hunters know, life is so much better when you have an understanding wife. I know my wife hates making those kinds of calls, but she does it for me all the time because she understands how important blood tracking is to me. But that’s another story too.
I was back in Maryland with Mat by 9 AM Sunday morning. Sunday is a no hunting day for Maryland, which meant that again no bows or firearms were allowed, even in daylight. We waded across the creek, and I put Arno down on the stream bank, right where we had seen eyes the night before. The bank was covered with deer tracks, and
Arno immediately started putting his nose down into all of them and sorting them out. He remembered exactly why we were there; he picked out the largest ones and started cold tracking down the creek bank, slowly and methodically following the scent left behind by the big hooves. At this point I had no way of being sure we were on the correct deer, but my gut told me we were right. We tracked downstream several hundred yards crossing both places our buck had crossed the stream at night. Then Arno carefully made a left turn and started tracking away from the stream.
As Arno crawled through some branches, the forest floor exploded. The massive buck leaped from his bed, three feet in front of Arno, and ran off again. I never saw him lying there just 20 feet in front of me. I excitedly called to Mat, who was trailing about 50 yards behind me looking for sign. Mat could hardly believe that we had jumped him again. There was not one drop of blood in the buck’s night-long bed, and we had not seen more than five or six drops of blood the whole way since the hunter’s point of loss the previous afternoon; this little dog has now found our buck 26 hours after he initially arrowed it. Mat was astonished, and I was glowing with pride over Arno’s work.
We got back on the buck’s trail. Things were coming to a head now. A fast 150 yards later, there he lay, 30 yards out in a cut bean field, still alive but with his chin on the ground this time. I tied Arno off once again to a tree; Mat and I started our approach to the buck. Mat wanted to just jump on him, but I convinced him, for his own safety, to give me another try at lassoing him. The buck was lying with his legs under him and his chin on the ground like a cat waiting in ambush. Arno was tied off in the woods to the side; Mat and I approached the buck quietly from behind.
We got closer; I had my rope in hand, and Mat had his knife drawn and ready, I could see the buck breathing slow, labored breaths. His ears twitched each time Arno, off to his right, barked extra hard. This time I planned to throw the rope like a minnow net, with two hands, to maximize the chance of capture. Mat was poised to jump on him should the rope miss its mark. I got within a few feet of the buck’s tail and my instincts told me to throw the rope. The instant the rope touched the buck, before the rope has even finished falling, the great buck jumped to his feet, turned around and faced us in the barren bean field. I pulled the slack out of the rope as quickly as I could to get tension on it.
I hoped that this tension toward me would cause the buck to instinctively pull away rather than try to attack us. To my great elation the lasso closed down around the base of both huge horns. I was amazed at the good fortune of the toss. I also caught one of his front legs in the rope, but even with one hoof pulled up between his antlers, the buck managed to come to his feet. At this point I know my job was to get him over to the woods where I could snub him around a tree with the rope.
Standing on only three legs, with the fourth caught in the rope, he fell twice as I played tug of war, pulling him toward the woods. He jumped to his feet both times after falling and the second time his entangled front leg came free. Now he had all four feet to resist with, and the battle became tougher. Mat wanted to jump in for the kill, but I told him to wait and he complied. I told Mat to distract the buck from behind so that he wouldn’t try to charge me. In this open field there was nowhere to hide if he came at me. I remember thinking, if the buck charges, I will just grab for his horns, close my eyes, and hope for the best. Mat did a great job yelling and kicking dirt at the buck as I struggled to drag him to the trees. At one point the buck tried to turn towards Mat, but I yanked harder to keep him moving towards the woods. At this point the buck, Mat, and I were all working on instinct, figuring things out as we went. I could hardly believe I was standing eyeball to eyeball with a 200 pound buck, 20 feet away on the end of a rope in an open field. Finally I got a few feet of rope past the first tree; I locked the rope around the tree.
I think the buck sensed the end was near and he really dug in; I couldn’t budge him any closer to the tree to tie him up as I had planned. At that point, unable to tie him any better, Mat cautiously lunged in a few times, delivering the finishing blows with his knife. The scene reminded me of a film I watched once showing wolves finishing off an old elk.
The buck quickly toppled and it was finally over. I stood quietly over the now still buck, admiring his size, his structure and his will to survive. We then dragged the buck over to the nearby creek to use it as a background for picture taking. I finally untied Arno; he dragged me over to the buck, and I gave him his just reward. Arno dove into the rear end of the deer, and I allowed him a few minutes of joy pulling the buck’s tail.
Upon closer examination the buck turned out to be a ten pointer, not an eight pointer. We also discovered what had actually happened when Mat released his arrow. Mat’s arrow had been a few inches farther left than he realized, and at the hard quartering angle he was shooting, the arrow did not hit behind the ribs as he had thought but instead, had actually struck the deer at the base of the ear. Mat did see the fletching back at the ribs as the deer ran off, but in the excitement of the moment what Mat didn’t see was that the rest of the arrow was outside the deer, not embedded inside. The fixed blade broad head had skidded along the skull at the base of the ear, penetrating only about six inches. When I slipped my finger into the hole made by the broadhead, I could feel small bone chips, most likely from the mastoid process and the back of the jawbone. But the skull itself had obviously not been penetrated. Apparently a small artery had been cut in this area, resulting in the initial massive blood loss that mortally weakened the deer. The blood flow clotted off before the buck could expire. I am sure this deer would have eventually died from the combination of the initial blood loss and the difficulty of eating and drinking with a busted-up jawbone. Still, it’s anyone’s guess how long that might have taken.
I have deep respect for the strength of character displayed by this great buck. Arno and I are grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of his inevitable demise at the end of his natural cycle of life. It is an experience that we will never forget.
Andy Bensing, who wrote this feature story, represents the sort of people now being drawn into blood tracking. His commitment is overwhelming.
Andy comes to blood tracking with a background as a professional dog trainer; he is also a serious bowhunter. Andy has led the struggle to legalize the use of leashed tracking dogs in his home state through Deer Recovery of Pennsylvania (DRP), which he founded. He is also President of United Blood Trackers, a national organization promoting the use of tracking dogs to find wounded big game.
Since Pennsylvania has not yet legalized tracking dogs, Andy fulfills his passion for tracking in the neighboring states of New York and Maryland.
Those of us with experience realize that Andy took some big risks in finishing off the Maryland buck as he did. In a sense this is part of hunting, but certainly it would have been better for everyone, including the deer, if Andy had been permitted to use some sort of firearm.
In many states, especially in the Midwest, the wildlife officials drafting regulations for leash tracking dog handlers had little sense of reality in this aspect of hunting. It seemed simpler to keep weapons out of the picture, and to assume that all wounded deer tracked would be dead or docile as sheep. As someone who has had a dog torn up, and who has been knocked down by a buck, I can empathize with Andy. Adrenaline carries us forward, as it does the deer, but unnecessary risk is senseless.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Those who are interested probably know by now that dachshunds are tracking wounded deer in many states. The total number of wounded deer found by dachshunds now exceeds 2000 (in 2003) and their reputation is established. What remains a quasi secret is the role that dachshunds have been playing in assisting Conservation Officers and other Police Officers.
Many dachshund trackers have received a cheery invitation at midnight to come out and track an illegally shot deer. It is difficult for a Conservation Officer to make a case for conviction if the deer shot by the poacher or “jack lighter” is not found and sent to a forensic lab for examination.
A tracking dachshund can find a deer that runs off into dense cover to die, but we have learned that they can also follow the scent of a deer that has been carried to a house or vehicle. Poachers will do this to avoid incriminating drag marks, but there is plenty of scent coming down from the carcass, which a dog can follow. Even the threat of calling in a tracking dog has resulted in confessions and guilty pleas.
Often one Conservation Officer in an area will have a trained dog for enforcement work. Usually these are German Shepherds trained to scent game hidden in vehicles or outbuildings so that there is “probable cause” for a search. These dogs are also trained to deal with uncooperative suspects, but as a rule they are not trained to track wounded deer in the woods. These are the situations in which a handy little dachshund is very useful.
This summer an enterprising Conservation Officer called me to come and try something that I had never even considered. A large male bear had been found dead about 50 yards in from a populated country road. The bear had died from a gunshot wound and had been dead for at least two days. The Conservation Officer’s idea was to track the bear backward to determine the location where it had been shot.
The trick was to get into the woods and pick up the line without letting my dachshund Sabina either see or scent the bear. Fortunately the wind was favorable and the line was old enough so that Sabina could not determine its correct direction. The bear had not gone far because it has been hard hit. The line backwards seemed to terminate on a lawn behind a house, and there was evidence that a shot had been taken out of the back door. The bear, including a thousand blowflies, went to a forensic lab for analysis.
Deer hit by motor vehicles often flounder off the highway and go some distance. It is important to determine their status and put them down if they are suffering. Legal authorization is required for this. A deer can have broken legs and be badly broken up inside, and yet produce no external bleeding. The dog must track the individual deer, which is of course something that an experienced dachshund can do.
In the late 1980s a young bull moose wandered down into southern New York State, where he was definitely out of place. It was almost inevitable that he would wander in front of a car on a well-traveled highway. It appeared that the vehicle sustained more damage than the moose, but just to make sure two Deer Search dogs and their handlers, Don Hickman and Roger Humeston, were called in by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The two wirehaired dachshunds had never smelled a moose, but it was not difficult for them to make the adjustment from wounded deer. They took the DEC Officers along the track for about a mile. There was just enough blood to identify the line, but the moose seemed to be moving well on all four legs. There was sufficient evidence that the moose would be all right, and the tracking operation was terminated.
Bear are also hit occasionally on highways. In the summer of 2000 Bob Boccolucci of Stockton in western New York was called in to track a bear, which had been struck by a truck-towed flatbed trailer. The public was concerned not only for the bear, but for their own safety.
The Conservation Officers had only been able to track the injured bear a hundred yards, but Bob’s wirehaired dachshund Vrena picked up the scent line much later the same day. Vrena led the Conservation Officers about a half mile through swamps to where the bear lay severely injured but not dead.
My favorite bear story involves a brave little dachshund that breathed her last breath this past week at the age of 14. In honor of Crystal I would like to present the story full-length in the form that it was originally written.
Crystal was a little old wirehaired dachshund, 18 pounds little and 13 years old. She didn’t quite fit the image of the dog to track a bad, wounded bear, but this is the true story of what she did on July 22, 2002. Her owner and handler is Gary Huber of Hamburg in western New York. Crystal and Gary were a tracking team for 12 years and found many wounded deer together.
The story takes place in North Harmony, Chautauqua County, beautiful farming country, which hasn’t changed much since the 1950s. Currently this is a “no bear hunting” part of New York, but this restriction may change. Right now some of the bears of Chautauqua County lack respect for humans.
On the morning of July 22, a bear came right into Dennis Stratton’s barn and grabbed a big Holstein calf that was tied up there. Mrs. Stratton was in the barn working, and she saw it all. Her presence didn’t seem to bother the 250-pound male bear a bit. He broke the rope on the calf and dragged it out into the pasture where he killed it. The bear was still out there enjoying his veal when the deputy sheriff arrived at Mrs. Stratton’s call.
The deputy took a shot at the bear from 90 yards with his 12 gauge slug gun; the bear spun around, ran a few strides and then walked slowly out of the field, across a road and into a big woods. As happens so frequently, the bear hair soaked up most of the blood and very little made it to the ground. The sheriff’s deputy was able to track the bear for only about sixty yards before it crossed a road and went into a big woods. At this point the bear stopped leaving any blood trail at all.
The next step was to bring in reinforcements and a canine unit. These German shepherds had never been trained for tracking wounded deer or bear, and they did not seem much interested. Neither the dogs, nor the men, could make any progress tracking the bear. Then the authorities turned to the Western Chapter of Deer Search. They called Gary Huber who lives an hour and a half away.
At 13, Gary’s dachshund Crystal was a little past her prime, so Gary invited another Deer Search handler, Craig Frank, to come along too with his tracking dog, a big German wirehaired pointer named Fritz. The bear’s departure route through the woods had been pretty well muddled up by the sheriff’s crew and other helpers, and then there had been a heavy rain shower.
First Big Fritz was placed on a mark where there had been some blood before the rain. Fritz either couldn’t smell anything or he just wasn’t interested. The final option was to try Old Crystal. Bears do leave a lot of scent and Crystal picked it up right away.
She worked through a couple of points where blood had been marked earlier, and then she tracked across the road into the big woods. She followed the scent trail down a ravine into a creek bed, in and back out of a tangled deadfall, and then into the timber again. At this point a call came in on the cell phone. A bear, “running at full gait”, had just crossed a road about a mile ahead where spotters had been posted. It seemed like this bear couldn’t be hit very hard, but there was just a chance that it was a different bear than the wounded one. Gary wanted to keep going and verify that the bear seen was the one that Crystal was tracking.
They went about a half mile more; the briars got thicker and it was getting dark. Gary had Conservation Officer Frank Lauricella right at his shoulder with a slug gun. There were shells in the magazine, but at Gary’s request the chamber was empty. Gary moved up close to Crystal on the 30 foot tracking lead so that all but about eight feet of it were dragging out behind him. Then the bear stood up out of the briars right in front of Crystal who backed up barking. As Gary went for his handgun, he heard a click from Frank’s shotgun. The chamber was empty, and for a moment things were a bit tense. The bear seemed about ten feet away, but he was wobbling and obviously pretty sick. Frank got a shell into the chamber, made his shot and it was all over.
The original wounding shot in the field near the barn had entered the chest cavity about six inches behind the shoulder. But because of the angle it had not penetrated deeply enough into the chest. Still it was surprising that the bear went so far with a wound that would have eventually killed him. The bear’s big head and small ears suggested that he was fully mature, but he was very thin. If he had carried the normal amount of fat, he would have weighed much more than his estimated 250 pounds. The whole carcass was sent off to the wildlife pathology lab at the other end of the state to be checked out.
Crystal liked the bear dead more than when he was alive. She had a good chew.
Crystal is already a Deer Search Hall of Fame dog and this was an impressive performance to wind down her tracking career. Gary’s underwear checked out fine, but he was pretty wound up and had some trouble sleeping that night.
Monday, February 2, 2009
I do think that everyone has to be very cautious about predicting what a wounded deer is going to do. I don’t know how many deer calls you have taken, but after 35 years of experience and 895 calls, I am not very comfortable with the generalizations you make.
You say, “My golden rule is to wait over three hours before leaving your stand or looking for any blood.” The problem here is that you make the common mistake of treating all wounded deer cases alike. What you say may be good advice on a gut shot, but it is all wrong for a leg hit. It is important to go to the hit site if the deer is not in view. Observe the evidence at the hit site and then decide what your strategy should be.
Your statements about the behavior of different aged bucks do not hold up, in my opinion. Even a 1 ½ year old buck tends to move when wounded to his own secure area, which may be quite close or miles away. During the rut a buck may be out of his home territory looking for does, and he will then try to get back “home”. Before the rut he is much more likely to be in his home territory when he is shot.
Bucks and does after their first year tend to go where they want to go as long as they have “gas” in their tank. After an initial shock period, when they may stand and drip, they go where they want to go to be safe and secure. This often means going up hills, or passing right though good bedding cover or across fields to get where they want to go.
The important thing to realize is that deer don’t read the hunting books written by experts who are repeating what other experts have previously written. If the tracker keeps an open mind and takes what comes, he will be more successful.