by Gary Huber
Standing in my driveway, exhausted from the hunt on the last day of muzzleloader season master handler Dale Clifford said he got a call from a friend whose friend had shot a nice buck nearby. Dale gave the call over, he needed some sleep.
I called the hunter to see what he had. It sounded good because he had “jumped” the buck off its bed 80 yards out. The hunter begged me to come that night because he had lots of coyotes around. Who doesn’t now days? I then called new handler Tim Pence who needed one more sortie to become a Deer Search certified handler. He agreed to meet me in the morning as soon as he could; he works third shift. We met the hunter around 11:00 am. This time the weather people where right. They said heavy rain by 7:00 am. And boy where they right, it poured hard. The hunter was upset with us because now it was raining and all sign was gone. I told him “rain or shine”, the deer needed some time. If we came in to soon we would have pushed the deer to the next county.
The trail from the night before was marked nicely and we worked in some mature hardwoods. I chose my Dachshund “Kita’’ for the job as she is the senior dog, and Tim is used to working with Dachshunds. Tim took the trail at the hit site and handled Kita just fine. When we passed the last blood marker we hit a deep ditch. Then Kita went cold on us and started doing circles. She took on a false line for 80 yards. I decided to have Tim pick her up and go back to the marked line and give a try again. This time Kita went more to the right to the edge of the 18 mile creek gorge. We carefully walked the edge looking into the gorge. I noticed a steep deer trail going down with kicked up leaves. Well that could be from any deer traveling last night.
I scanned the river below and its banks when the hunter said to me, “doesn’t that one rock in the middle look like a deer”? Where? I asked .“There, the middle”. I saw what he was looking at and called Tim over. Tim said “it kind of does”. I could just make out an ear sticking out of the water rushing over its body. I asked then the hunter “I thought you said the deer you shot had a huge rack”? I don’t see a rack! But the head is under water. It might be another deer, perhaps a doe. The hunter had bad knees so I looked at Tim. Tim said “don’t look at me, I am scared of heights and water”! So I guess it’s going to be me going down too see. I put together a rope and my tracking lead, and headed down the cliff. I had to see if that was the deer. At the bottom I had Tim yell down which way to wade across to the deer under the water. The current was getting stronger and deeper as I approached the deer. Still I could not see a rack. Standing now over the sunken deer I could make out a bullet hole. I reached under its head and lifted it up and out. “It’s a buck"!