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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Poppy's second deer; advice for new handlers

Derek Harris from Texas wrote that Poppy found her second deer on Saturday. "A hunter had made a shot too far back. We gave it a couple hours and then made a go at it. We went out with the hunters but she did not seem to be able to focus. It seemed like if she heard them talk or make any noise she would get distracted. I picked her up and took the hunters back to the lodge. Poppy and I came back alone and she was focused. After a little more than an hour we found the deer still alive in a draw. He was about 80 yards from us. We circled back around to get behind the deer. When we got about 30 yards from the deer I tied Poppy to a tree and got a little closer so I could make a good shot with the pistol. She is still very possessive of her treats at the end of blood lines and of deer. I am going to call Kevin Breaux this week for advice because I am having trouble with my lead in this terrain. Poppy has done well but I still don't have that much confidence in myself. Hopefully with more practice and experience that will change."

My response to Derek was: "Like with anything in life, you get better at things when you practice and get more experience. Poppy is just eight-months-old and you are a novice blood tracker. You both have a long way to go but you will be getting better and better.

A good idea to call Kevin. If you track in a very thick cover, you may need to use a longer lead – around 40 feet. It has to be stiff so it can snake on the ground without getting hung up."

Derek's e-mail brings up important points. First tracking experiences for novice trackers with inexperienced young dogs may be very frustrating and daunting. There is a steep learning curve involved for both, a dog and handler. Sometimes people who plan to get a tracking dog think that blood tracking is simple and easy, and that a tracking dog will take them straight to the dead deer. If they have never seen a tracking dog in action, why would they think differently? Then they learn that usually in the beginning things are more complicated than that. This is when having a good support system can really help.

It is a good idea to:
  • Re-read John's book; now with some experience you will get more out of it. What was abstract few months ago, now after some tracking will make more sense.
  • Join United Blood Trackers to network with other trackers in your area or online. Don't hesitate to ask questions. Read other trackers' posts and articles, you will learn from them.
  • If you live in New York, join Deer Search.
  • Attend blood tracking workshops and seminars as you will always learn something new.
  • Talk to a breeder of your dog. If this person is an experienced blood tracker, he/she will be able to advise you.
  • Have realistic expectations. Because even young tracking puppies can look so brilliant on difficult artificial tracks, it is tempting to expect them to do really well on natural lines. But there is so much more to real tracking.
  • Keep on socializing your dog. Tracking dogs have to work with hunters around and be at ease with strangers. They need to be exposed to a variety of situations.
  • Avoid situations in which your young dog might suffer traumatic experiences. Make sure that your pup is exposed to gun fire and she is OK with it before you take her on a real deer call where hunters will be shooting. Don't let your pup come into a close contact with a deer that it is still alive. Plan, anticipate, and patient.

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