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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Trust your dog?

posted by John Jeanneney

I like these stories about the good things that happen when you trust your dog. Almost always I will take my dog’s opinion about where the deer went before I blindly trust a hunter. I still don’t understand how hunters can be wrong so often. You have to be diplomatic and let the dog, not you as handler, point out his mistake.

But even dogs have their limitations; even a dog can make a mistake, and this is especially true for young dogs. Don’t blindly trust your dog for 100s of yards; keep looking for that speck of blood to confirm your trust. And read your dog.

I remember when Sabina tracked a bear from the hit site for a half mile. Then she gave me a look that said, “This isn’t the right bear.” We went back to the hit sight and this time she took a line in another direction….to the right bear.

Chris Barr from Indiana send us this report from his last deer call. He is tracking with Gerti (Gwen von Moosbach-Zuzelek), a six and a half month old daughter of Billy and Gilda.

"Saturday night we finally got the call we'd been waiting for. The hunter, a good buddy, was sure he had a double lung on a broad side deer 15 yds away. Shooting from a tree stand the hunter was sure entry was high on right side and anticipated exit low on left side. We gave the deer almost 3 hours before getting to the hit site. The deer took off to the south in standing corn after the shot. The only blood was about elbow high on corn leaves on the right side of the row. We found about 10 inches of the fletched end of the arrow shaft at the hit site.

Gerti and I took off on the track with her pulling hard. We went about 220 yards when the deer left the row and we lost the blood. The hunter was "100% sure" that he heard the deer go to the right towards the middle of the field while he was still on stand after the shot. We marked the point of loss and the 2 hunters started fanning the rows to the right. I backed Gerti up 20 yards or so on the known track and let her go again. This time at the point of loss she turned hard left and headed out of the corn. Did I mention that the hunter had said that he was "100% sure" that he'd heard the deer make a right turn?

Anyway, Gerti was pulling as hard as ever when I found a drop of blood on a corn leaf as we were leaving the field. When I found a spot of blood on the leaves about 10 yards into the woods I called the hunters over. This was the last visible blood. Gerti took us another 50 or so yards into the woods right to the deer.You can imagine my excitement. Some things I was happy about first of all was that the only visible blood in the corn was about 3 feet above Gerti's head. As we found out later, there was no exit hole!!! Surely there was some blood on the ground but you couldn't see it so I give Gerti some props for that.

Second, Gerti took the track the polar opposite direction out of the corn than the hunter swore he heard the deer run. This point I must gloat about for a second. My buddy was afraid that Gerti was destroying evidence at the point of loss by winding up the corn leaves with her leash. The second time he voiced his disapproval over this it kind of ticked me off which is why I picked her up and backed up the known line and re-started her. He's a very accomplished hunter but he lacks much confidence in Gerti, at least before tonight. I'm not sure what puzzled him more, the fact that he was wrong, or that Gerti was right?? He'll never tell.I feel that we'd have found this deer eventually without a dog but Gerti definitely found it first and much more quickly than we would have, so I'm calling it a find.

Chris Barr with Gerti and a doe she found

Don Dickerson from Michigan shared another story along the theme "trust your dog". Don is tracking with Gerti's brother, Gunther.

"I got a call from a good friend on Tuesday morning. He had hit what he described as a very nice big buck at 8 am Tuesday morning. The shot was 35 yards with a crossbow. He thought he had hit the deer to far back, no lungs but also had what he described as a lot of dark blood and was almost sure had hit the liver. He tracked the blood for 300 yards before losing it and called me.

I wanted to get tracking right away because the weather was suppose to get dry, hot and windy, not good tracking weather at all. I left the office and drove home and picked up Gunther (6 1/2 mo Billy/Gilda pup). Gunther picked up the blood trail right away and tracked the first 300 yards right to the spot where the blood trial was lost by the hunter. My buddy was amazed at how fast Gunther and I got there, he said it took him and another guy 45 minutes to track what Gunther did in about 10 minutes.

There where no bubbles in the blood, the blood was fairly dark and there was a fair amount of blood, but it tapered off quickly after the first 300 yards. I was convinced and convinced my buddy that it was not a liver shoot, the deer just went to far for it to be hit in the liver. Gunther veered to the North across a short grass open field, not on a deer trail, although there were several trails crossing at the last blood sight. All of the heavy cover was to the South of the last blood. We were all convinced that the deer had to have gone to the South towards the heavy cover and not crossed the open field where Gunther was taking us. But I allowed him to go that way about 100 yards or so past a small bush, right up to 3 coyote dens! At that point I was convinced that he was on the coyote track and not the deer, having seen no blood and not being on a deer trail, so I pulled him off the line and took him back to last blood at the 300 yard mark and started him again, only to have him take the same line right past the bush right up to the coyote dens again.

At this point, thinking we were all smarter than the dogs nose, I took Gunther down into the South swamp, after finding nothing after an or so search I took him back to the 300 yard mark and he again took the line to the small bush right by the coyote dens.....and low and behold this time we found a small drop of blood on a piece of grass next to the bush right by the coyote dens! Guess what? We were wrong and Gunther's nose was right! "Trust your your your dog" I have read it over and over in John's book and on these I my dog. I let Gunther continue on the line up a hill down a deer trail and guess what? More blood about 200 yards further, Gunther was right on.

To make a long story short, Gunther tracked the buck over 1/2 mile, and the buck did eventually go to a swamp and near a creek. We lost all sight of blood and after about 5 1/2 hours of tracking at 3 pm, after looking in all the swamps and bedding areas, the weather now hot, dry and windy, we called the search but also now convinced that the buck was not mortally wounded. I at one point found a fair amount of muscle tissue, I am convinced the shot was high on the deer, likely not hitting any vitals. John says"...the next best thing to not finding a hunter's deer is being able to assure him/her that the deer is alive and will likely live". Thus, although we did not find the buck, the hunter was happy to know it was still alive, Gunther got a lot of valuable tracking time and he never gave up and I learned a valuable lesson....TRUST YOUR DOG!!!!!

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