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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Last day of tracking season

by John Jeanneney

Our hunting/tracking season in the Southern Zone of New York is over. I don’t know whether to cheer or cry. There was a flurry of activity on the last day of black powder season. Two calls came in last night, long after dark, when the temperature was 8 degrees. I elected to take them the next day because of the temperature…cold enough to kill scent…and old men too.

Well, of course it had to snow on the tracks overnight so there was nothing to confirm a dog’s work. Joeri seems to be learning how to work these situations.. Now he get his nose down in the track of the scent and works like a snow plow.

The first scent line was pretty easy because the deer was down in front with two broken forelegs. However, the hunters had been unable to follow it by eye earlier in the day because of the snow cover. Joeri had no difficulty over the 200 yards to the dead deer. Unfortunately, the coyotes had found it first and collected their 30% tax.

Hunter and Joeri with the deer damaged by coyotes.

We failed to find the deer on the second call about 30 miles away. It was colder now, 10 degrees, and there was more snow. This deer had been hit too far back the previous afternoon. The hunter had been able to track blood for only 50 yards on the hard crusted snow; then he lost it. The next morning he attended a Christmas party and afterwards, well fortified, he came back and searched some more in the deepening new layer of snow.

When Joeri and I got there we worked over what had been the blood trail to the hunter’s point of loss, and then, what! more blood,… a gut pile and a bloody swath under the snow where a deer had been dragged out a few days before. We cast back, started again….another blood trail and another gut pile and drag. Truly it was a great spot for hunting, but a mighty tough spot to start a scent line under the snow, in cold conditions. We were never able to find the right line.

Joeri and I started the drive home from that second call with mixed feelings. Somehow it seemed appropriate that we got slightly lost on the way home in the fog of snow. Our last day of the tracking season summed up a whole season of good and bad luck… 9 finds out of 35 valid sorties. But it was Joeri’s first season, and I kept that in mind. He had come a long way. Because we are both afflicted with the tracker’s disease, it seemed like fun and a challenge we couldn’t pass up.

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