by Brady Hensington
I have included some photos from a couple of this year's tracks. One of the photos is from a Dept of Natural Resources Special Handicap Hunt where we volunteered to track this season. The hunt was unusually slow this year with only 3 deer being taken during the entire weekend. Two of those fell within sight of the hunter.
The 3rd deer was shot by John Mease, a young man with cerebral palsy. John shot the deer with a muzzleloader from about 60 yards away. The deer was angled towards him, and due to the smoke of the muzzleloader, neither he nor his guide were sure of where the bullet had struck, but they were convinced that the deer was hit as it bolted from the food plot. An initial search of the area did not reveal any blood or other sign, so they radioed for us to help out.
I had brought along both Caliber, my 3 year old wachtelhund and Chloe, my 14 month old BMH (Bavarian Mountain Hound). I opted to start the track with Chloe in order to continue her training. I started her where the deer had been standing at the time of the shot. She made quick work of picking up the trail, and following the deer's path into the woodline 50 yards away. We traveled on course another 50 yards into the thick timber when we jumped up the bedded doe. I was encouraged that the deer had bedded so close to the shot sight, so we continued on. In another 50 yards we jumped the deer again. Chloe tried to give chase, but I held her back. Up to this point the only evident blood was in the wound beds and appeared to be consistent with a muscle hit. We decided to back out and take up the track later.
After an hour I restarted Chloe at the second bed. She took the trail up well, but angled sharply right just after starting. I was sure that I had seen the deer run further ahead, so I was concerned with her change of course. We had also jumped several turkeys in this area about the same time the deer had jumped up. I decided to let her figure things out on her own and followed along. She led into some 6' tall Johnson grass and began running through it excitedly. I was concerned that she was scenting some small game, and as I suspected she flushed a rabbit from the grass. My 13 year old son, Caleb was also helping on the track, and he called out to me as the cottontail flew past him. Still, Chloe seemed undeterred and remained in the grass. After a minute or two, I pulled her from the tangle of Johnson grass and attempted to restart her where I thought the deer had gone. She had a difficult time restarting and took a few different paths, but kept wanting to "play" in the Johnson grass. Eventually, I became frustrated and took her back to the truck.
I decided to restart my more experienced wachtelhund at the hit sight as well. He tracked well up to the point of the second bed. He became momentarily distracted by the turkey scent, but quickly corrected when I verbally questioned him. Then, he too made a hard right turn into the Johnson grass. At this point I believed that he was "cheating" by following our earlier trail rather than the deer's trail. Again, I humored him and let him work out the track on his own, while my own frustration level was rising. When he entered the Johnson grass and began pushing through it, I thought that I saw something run out the back side of the thicket into the adjacent corn field. Caliber apparently did not notice and continued to track. When he got to the edge of the field he became noticeably excited and began tracking at a very quick pace into the standing corn. That's when I saw the deer run through the corn! At that point I saw the wound, which was a large hole along the deer's right shoulder blade. The leg was completely severed, though no vital organs were struck. I called for the guides to come up with the gun, but they were still 100 yards behind us in the woods.
Let me note that typically in Missouri, neither tracker nor hunter can carry a bow or firearm, however on this DNR sponsored hunt, we had received clearance by the Department that wounded animals could be dispatched with a muzzleloading firearm. In the meantime, the deer broke off deeper into the corn. Caliber and I were in hot pursuit and he aggressively bayed up the deer. While the deer was bayed and the guide tried to hurry to our position, I got the bright idea that I would slip up behind the deer and make a fatal wound with my hunting knife. I closed to within a few feet before the deer turned and hit me in the chest like an NFL linebacker. That was enough for me to back away and count my blessings that it was a doe, rather than a buck! When the guide arrived moments later, I was able to call of Caliber, allowing him a shot. Retrospectively, Chloe was on the right track all the time. However, Caliber was instrumental in the recovery as he had the determination to bay up this wounded deer. I think that it is safe to say that this deer would likely never have been recovered without the use of a tracking dog. Everybody was elated that we had recovered John's much deserved deer.
|The picture includes both of my dogs, Caliber and Chloe, as well as my 13 y/o son, Caleb |
and the hunter John Mease.
The other picture is of my BMH Chloe with her first recovery. After several difficult tracks without a recovery, we were finally able to make a successful recovery. I had shot this doe earlier in the morning with my recurve. The shot looked very solid, and I thought the track would be a simple ego booster for the dog. I waited 2-3 hours after the shot before putting Chloe on the track. Because I thought that the track would be too simple for her, I started her where I had seen the deer enter the woods about 50 yards away from the hit sight. Chloe quickly sorted out the trail and tracked up to my arrow. Smelling the blood on the arrow obviously excited her and she progressed another 50 yards or so before we jumped up the deer. I was very surprised to see it alive. We backed out of the area and returned a couple of hours later. It was nearly 90 degrees on that day, and we had worked on some projects while waiting on the deer to expire. When I put Chloe back on the track she refused to track. Instead she kept crawling into the bushes to lay down. No matter how hard I tried I could not get her to progress. Looking back, I think that she was hot and tired from our work out in the heat. After combing the area for sign unsuccessfully, I decided to walk Chloe beside me as I searched for sign. Several minutes into our search I looked over to see and hear her sniffing at a spot on the ground. She had found blood! She took up the trail immediately and led me another 100 yards or so to the liver shot doe who was long dead by the time we found her. Chloe had found her first deer and again had recovered a deer that due to the thickness of the area where it had expired would likely have gone to the coyotes without her assistance.
|Chloe, a Bavarian Mountain Hound, with her first recovery|