Most of the time handlers of blood tracking dogs write about their successes when they find a wounded deer or bear that the hunter could not find on his own. After reading these success stories novice handlers might have unrealistic expectations and become discouraged when their own tracking attempts do not always end up with recovered game. There are many potential reasons why a tracking team fails to recover wounded game. The account below of 36 hours in a life of tracker John Jeanneney will present the reality of occasional failures.
This story starts at 1 PM on October 17 when John and Joeri started to track for Bill Cafariella of Charlton, NY. Bill shot a really nice buck at 6 PM on Sunday, October 16. He thought that he had a gut shot deer that probably had not gone too far. He tracked it for a while but then it started to rain. There was probably half an inch of rain overnight, and next morning all signs of blood were washed away.
|On the approach to the hit site.|
John and Joeri started to track on Monday at 1 PM, and I went along to take pictures. Joeri with difficulty carried the line for 300 yards, and after that he no longer seemed to be positive. Around 3 PM I asked John whether he was ready to go home as I had to go to a post office to ship some books. His firm and very emphatic answer was “no”. I drove to a nearby post office, which was closed for an afternoon break, and when I got back to, 45 minutes later John was still in the woods searching. He searched the area until 5:30 PM, but Joeri never picked up the line again. We left disappointed feeling that the buck was lying dead nearby.
Bill and his eight friends resumed the search and found the deer next day, totally devoured by coyotes, in the brambles, probably 65 yards from where Joeri had lost the track. Coyotes left only the deer head intact. When we started to track we were under the impression that the deer was gut shot through the stomach as Bill found some corn on the ground. Actually the arrow had come down through the shoulder blade, passed through the chest cavity and exited out of the bottom of the stomach. The deer must have died very quickly, and coyotes must have destroyed it during the first night. We are not sure whether the abundant coyote scent in the area was a problem for Joeri.
|Bill with the remains of his buck.|
While John was working on Bill's buck, another call came in. This one was from Fernando Gonzales, for whom we tracked a bear two years ago. He needed John to track a bear for his friend. Fernando was sure that Andrew Torres’ bear was dead or mortally wounded as they found 15 feet of small intestine. Under normal circumstances John does not track bears at night. But knowing that the bear would be dead, he decided to go. So we drove back home where John got a quick meal, and after a short break he drove to Rensselaerville and took Billy with him. John was taken to the point of loss rather than the hit site, and it was heavily tracked up. The cover was very thick with dead falls. Billy was unable to take a positive line out of the area so John decided to come back home and resume the search next morning. When John and Billy went back next morning they made a large 200 yard radius circle around point of loss and managed to pick up the line. They tracked 150 yards to the dead bear. The 200 pound bear was wounded low in the abdomen, and he would have not been found without Billy.
|Andrew Torres (hunter), John and Billy (the tracking team) and the bear.|
The same morning that John and Billy found the bear another hunter at the lodge, Ron Burris, had shot a large buck too far back. Material on the the arrow showed that it had passed through the stomach. Ron had waited a couple of hours, then jumped a deer from a bed, but here was not enough blood for him to track. John and Billy began to track this deer shortly after noon. They jumped the deer still strong and tracked it through rough cover for 2 miles. The deer remained strong so when he crossed the road John marked the line. With the intention of returning a few hours later John drove back home, luckily in time for dinner.
He did not get much rest as the phone rang again, and this time it was Dan Hardin, a licensed handler who does not have a tracking dog yet. Dan needed tracking services as he had wounded an eight pointer that evening. So it was agreed that John would take two dogs, Billy and Joeri, and with Dan's assistance he'd finish tracking Ron's deer first.
Around 8 PM that evening John and Dan resumed tracking. Billy started because he knew the line and the scent of the deer. Joeri who had rested more took over, and the handlers worked both dogs while getting occasional drops of blood to verify the line. They followed the buck for three more miles through rough wooded country, returning within a thousand yards of where the deer had been shot. To their amazement the deer had shown no sign of weakening after 13 hours and five miles of travel. It is very unusual that the stomach shot buck will be on his feet and moving strongly 13 hours later. But it happens. Finally the handlers picked up the dogs and headed for the road where they were picked up by another hunter from the lodge.
John and Dan then drove about 10 miles to Greenville, where Dan lives and where he had shot the deer. It was now shortly before midnight. John handled Joeri, who found the deer in 200 yards. The deer was shot in the back part of the ribcage and the arrow had passed through the liver.
John was in his bed at 1:30 AM.
|Joeri with Dan's deer.|