Search This Blog

Saturday, October 12, 2013

When a track is a success?

We all get that question, "What's your success rate?".  In the leashed tracking dog states we have to tell them, "Around 35%" because we know that what they are asking for is the frequency with which we find the deer and tag it. It goes without saying that the non-productive 65% are FAILURES.

If you have tracked for a while you come to realize that it's not that simple. Some of those FAILURES, when you didn't get the deer, actually become sources of pride and satisfaction. Our tracking adventure this afternoon is a good illustration.

We got the call this morning. The buck had been hit behind the shoulder late the previous afternoon with a Rage expandable broadhead. As happens, all too frequently, there had been inadequate penetration, four to five inches. The one thing that made me take the call was detail that the buck was occasionally blowing fine droplets of blood from his nose; a lung had been penetrated, but it was impossible to know how much damage had been done. A deer can go on one lung, and the damaged lung can eventually heal and become functional again.

Another slight complication was that the hunter's son was playing that morning in a high school football game. A good father knows that family comes first! It wasn't until 1:30 PM that Jolanta, Tommy and I  started on a long ATV ride back to where we were to begin tracking. We didn't start at the hit site, which is the normal thing to do, because the buck had been eye-tracked so far the previous night. Tommy, our tracking dog, started on a drop of blood and took off across the very dry leaves and pine needles.

Occasional drops of blood reassured us that we were on a right track.
The hunter and his buddy had done a superb  of eye-tracking, the best I've ever seen, and Tommy stayed on the line for a quarter of a mile into some very thick brush that involved crawling on my hands and knees. It was a hot mid-afternoon, but I was thankful for my heavy nylon coat and chaps. I had to plow along where Tommy  was tracking. Jolanta zoomed in whenever the brush cleared to give Tommy water and encouragement to us both. Tommy was hot, but totally focused on his  work. He was "locked in" on the scent line now 22 hours old. We broke out into an overgrown field where the deer had bedded the night before.

John's worn out tracking coat.
In the field of dry grass and goldenrod we found no blood at all, but Tommy seemed to have footprint scent to work with. Clearly the scent line was fresher now, even though scenting conditions were at their worst. Tommy worked down through the deer runs, checking carefully to make sure at each intersection. This was a hot deer area, but Tommy seemed positive that he was on the right line. "Trust your dog!"

Tommy tracking the lung-shot wounded deer that we could not get.
I began to realize that there would be no "successful find" on this call. This buck had come too far and had stayed strong for too long. If he had been fatally gut shot, things would have been different, but clearly this buck was not  losing blood now  and he was in a condition to keep going, back into the thick stuff, as long as we wanted to follow.

The decision to quit is a delicate matter. I like to have the hunter participate and  agree that there is little chance of catching up to the deer. Would the hunter believe that we were  still on his buck and not just rambling around on hot lines of healthy deer? Then the hunter's buddy, who had been following us closely, found blood, a tiny drop, but it was fresh and still wet. I checked Tommy for briar scratches, which might have left that drop. Tommy was clean, and Tommy was right. We were still on the wounded buck, and the buck was still strong after 22 hours. We pushed on for another 200 yards with Tommy pulling confidently.

We came to an ATV trail through the thickets. Tommy pushed on across but the humans were ready to stop. The hunter knew that the trail led back to where we had originally left the ATV. We called  back Tommy and he seemed to understand. There was no getting this deer even though  he had done his best. The whole tracking adventure seemed  a success, not a failure,  both for Tommy and for the folks who had supported him from  the other end of the long tracking leash.

What do you think? Success or failure?

Going back to the ATV.


Andy Bensing said...

Absolutely a success. just not a find. As I have been saying in our conversations John, we need to come up with a word to categorize some of the none recovery "finds" we as leashed trackers are often left with. When a deer is "found" and jumped like happened to you today but the deer is not wounded well enough to be recovered we should have a term for that.

Jo said...

Definite success ...

Ron Schwartz said...

I put my Taiga on 6 tricks last season. All were cases where the hunter was unable to recover the deer on their own. We recovered 3 of the deer, but we found all 6 of them. In 2 of the cases we jumped the deer and it was obvious that it was still strong and that we would not be able to catch up with it. The other case we jumped the deer, but it seemed weak. We tracked the deer for 3.5 miles occasionally catching up with it. But it kept going. Eventually Taiga and it got too tired to keep going.

Lindsjö taxar said...

Of course a success. Grat job. It was like Trym last week, trust your dog you wrote. We should have trusted him. He wanted in that direction where my hunting friend found the buck fighting for his Life with a fox eating on him.
Will practice some more with Trym next year, now is hunting practice and trials on the schedule