It was a Saturday morning on November 8th when Beth and I decided that we would go on a deer call that day. We let Barbara, the Deer Search dispatcher, know that we were available for the day. After half an hour the phone rang.
On the other side we heard Barbara's voice all exited and anxious. She was exited because the call was for a bobcat, and nobody from Deer Search had ever searched for a wounded bobcat in the thirty-two year history of organization. She was anxious at the same time about what the results from the call would be. It is to be said that we were surprised and did not know what to make of it, but after talking to the hunter we decided to take the call.
We got our stuff together and off we drove the old Range Rover to the hunters location right outside Rhinebeck, NY. When we got there the hunter told us that he had used Deer Search before and we could tell that he was happy to see our little dachshunds get out of the truck. We have two dogs, and we try to be as fair as possible with them. On every call we go we use one dog at a time. That day was Mariel's turn.
The hunter told us that the previous day when he was deer hunting he saw the bobcat. Sitting in his tree stand he did not miss the rare chance and took a twenty yard shot. He thought he had gut shot the animal.
The conditions were almost perfect. It was 60 degrees and the sky was full of scattered clouds. When we got to the spot where the bobcat was first shot Mariel reacted like I had never seen her before. I don't know what it was but as soon as I put her down to smell the blood from the wounded animal she just froze. She stayed at the same spot where I put her down initially for about 25-30 seconds and smelled the blood from the bobcat. She did not react like that a week or two before when we tracked a bear, which we did not find. With deer, as soon as I put her down and put the tracking collar on her she would go crazy and start tracking right away. Not this time though. I don't know why she was behaving in that particular way, but from reading her I could see something I had not seen in her before. I could tell that she was a bit intimidated and cautious from the scent she was smelling and the animal she was about to track. Maybe because she knew that she had to deal with a formidable predator.
After her initial investigation of the area where the bobcat was shot Mariel got started. At first, there was a continuous flow of blood. After the first 20-30 yards the terrain became very difficult. There were tons of briers and dead trees laying ahead of us. Still, Mariel was advancing slowly and cautiously. Her hair on her back was up at times. In a way, seeing her like that kind of scared me. As mentioned I had not seen her like that either when I tracked a deer or when I would go rabbit hunting with both our dogs. A thousand things were going through my mind.
What if the bobcat is still alive and attacks my dog? What if it jumps out of nowhere and attacks me? With these thoughts on my mind we had gone about 70-80 yards into the briers. Beth and the hunter were following behind me. At times the briers were so thick and there were so many thorns that I could not get through where the little courageous dachshund was going. I would have to wait for Beth to catch up with me and then hand her the leash until I could get around the briers and grab the leash on the other side.
At one point Mariel's body language completely changed. There was no more blood. Mariel now was not cautious as before, and was much faster. I kept following her, and left Beth and the hunter at the last spot we had seen blood. After a couple of minutes I realized that Mariel's body language was telling me that she was after a deer, her favorite passion.
I stopped and picked her up, tried to calm her down and told her “no deer”; this is what I tell her every time when we are not hunting, but just walking in the woods. After getting back to the place where we had last seen blood, Mariel calmed down and right away she concentrated on what she was tracking before. The briers got even thicker as we went ahead. By now we had tracked the bobcat for about 45 minutes and covered about 200 yards. There was not much blood to go with anymore, except a spot here and there. In the last 50 yards I had not seen any blood but Mariel's body language was telling me that she was working hard and that she was right on it. Suddenly, she stopped and she would not move. She was looking ahead of her and was growling at something. Right away I realized that the bobcat was behind that tree. The question now was: Is he dead or alive?
I waited for about two-three minutes while Mariel was by now barking and her body posture was aggressive. I handed the leash to Beth and once more went around the briers, so that I could see what was in the hollow tree that the dog was barking at. When I got there I saw that the bobcat died inside the hollow trunk of the tree. I can not describe how I felt at that moment. The bobcat looked majestic. In a way I felt bad and I apologized that we had taken his life. On the other hand, we had reached our goal. Once more we had recovered another animal for a hunter that we did not know. Another wounded animal that was not wasted in the woods. On our way home Beth called Barbara to let her know that our sortie was successful.
I was very proud, as every tracking team out there would be!
Left - Gentian with Mariel, right - Beth with Mae