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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Women as handlers of blood tracking dogs

by John and Jolanta Jeanneney
updated November 13, 2013
Many women love to work with dogs, and we  have long wondered why they have dominated the field of Search and Rescue but rarely became involved with dogs for tracking wounded big game. Now the old pattern  is beginning to change, and some of the most active "blood trackers" in the USA are women. Some of them are taking calls and finding deer in numbers that any man would be proud of.

For male hunters it may come as a surprise to learn that the majority of female trackers are not hunters themselves. So how did they become involved in blood tracking in the first place? And what keeps them going? We asked the question some women handlers who are very active in the field and included their answers below.

For some women their starting point was a deep love for their dog. They tried to honor and realize their dog's full potential. Willette Brown, who is not a hunter, described it well in her post about Trackfest when she said: "I have this totally awesome dog, and when I watch her work my pride is bigger than all of my misgivings or fears, and all I want is to understand her more deeply and help her become the best she can be."

Later the challenge of  finding the game might motivate the women trackers even further. Males who hunt can well understand and appreciate the psychology of this.  Tracking together in cooperation with a  dog is important for these hunter/trackers too, but they also find that tracking becomes, in a way, an emotional extension of hunting.

Let's make it clear that the new wave of  women can't be boxed into a single category as non-hunters. Some women are passionate hunters, like most men who track. Pam Maurier, Paulene Eggers and Lee Behrens are good examples. They  hunt and track with passion.

So let's hear what the women said themselves.

Susanne: I originally got a dachshund from Germany just because I loved the breed.  Little did I know that this dog would change my life for ever! I got involved in blood tracking when Buster was about six month old. My friends from NY, the Jeanneneys, convinced me I had an awesome dog, who was born to track and I got hooked.
     Blood tracking is unbelievably complex. You never know where you end up, what the terrain might be like, what people you meet, and what the circumstances of the hit are until the track is over and you have put together all the many pieces of the puzzle...  does that make me an adventurer??
Perhaps yes, but for sure none of this would pull me to go out there at all hours, at night, early cold mornings, or wet and windy days or getting stuck waist deep in swamps, except that watching my little dogs work is the most amazing and rewarding experience and it fills my heart with pride and joy.
     Over the 11 years I've been tracking wounded game, I have met the most amazing people in my journeys and I've made many friends for life!  I have had some incredible mentors who never tire to give me information when I ask them about something I have not encountered before! John Jeannenay, Tom Di Pietro and Troy Wallace are largely responsible for helping me understand "the game" so much more every year.
     While I am still learning something from every track, I have started mentoring a new generation of Maine trackers and hope to pay it forward.
     What keeps me going when I'm tired or cold or the weather isn't inviting is compassion for the hunters out there who search for days and days for a deer they think is laying dead. To me putting them at peace of mind is almost as important as finding the deer.

Pam: My passion for hunting got me into it and knowing there was a better chance out there to help with recovering game. I am all for helping my fellow hunters and I love meeting new people. Seeing Tucker doing what he loves most and the amazing work he does, and seeing the reward at the end of the track - it can't get any better. Just love helping out as much as I can.

Judy: I must say that I got involved with blood tracking only by coincidence years ago.  I used to be an avid deer hunter and I had a JRT puppy named Bear.  Bear would go hunting with me -- staying in my vehicle for the couple of hours I was in the stand.  If I ever shot a deer, I would always go and get Bear to go with me to find the deer.  With time and repeated trials, Bear seemed to understand what was to be done and became more and more efficient at finding deer.  His love for doing this along with my enjoyment of it have kept me motivated.  Also, finding deer for a hunter who has been unable to track the blood has been very rewarding. I love being in the woods and love to have a companion (Pup) enjoying it with me.  The communication that Bear and I have in tracking wounded deer has continued also to keep me motivated.   I talk with Bear as we try to find the deer--his vocabulary and understanding me--makes this a team effort.  Don't really know why, but I had rather track a deer these days than hunt a deer myself.

Joanne: I have always loved hearing my friend Susanne's stories about tracking. Tracking was legalized four years ago in New Hampshire. I attended a UBT clinic in Laconia. It was very interesting and the speakers shared passion, adventure, technology and enthusiasm. I came home and started laying lines. Angie loved following the lines and I so enjoyed watching her. It was fun and games. Our first track was a success on many levels and I never looked back. You can't make these stories up! Nobody mentioned the waist deep swamps.

Paulene: I saw an article in the outdoors news about five years ago about a Deer Search member 
who was a woman and had a long haired dachshund. I saved the article as I was so fascinated with it. I mentioned it to Laura my partner and she then gave me a 10-week-old WHD puppy with John's book as a Christmas gift. That was a year later. I was hooked completely after attending a Deer Search competition in Campbell. I only went there to observe and did not even plan to try Braylee out as she had such minimal training but the FLC members encouraged us to try to certify her. She did wonderfully and was certified before I was even a member or certified myself. What keeps me going is how much Braylee loves to go tracking and how thrilling it is to have a recovery. Often times it is overwhelming and very exhausting but I love it.

Claudia: I am married to an avid hunter and tracker. Listening to Ray's tales about his tracks made tracking sound interesting. After we bred Rosco we decided to keep one of his pups (Razen) knowing that I would be her handler. There is lots to know about tracking, every track is a learning experience for both myself and Razen. Ray and I keep each other going hoping to find that deer? We also have our tales to tell whether we successfully find the deer or not. What keeps you going back for the next track is knowing that you are going to find that deer (hopefully) and if you do, seeing your dog with its prize and seeing how excited the hunter is seeing his hunt completed. You meet  a lot of nice, friendly people along the way. Besides having a tracking dog you have the best friend and companion you could ever ask for.

Sally: My motivation for getting involved is pretty simple.  Dogs and being out in the woods are two of my favorite things.  About 8 years ago, a friend of mine told me how he had someone with a dog find his deer which was the first time I’d heard of dogs tracking wounded deer.  Of course, the person who found his deer was Tom with Musket.  To me, there’s nothing better than being out in the woods with a dog, and the thought of doing that with a purpose really appealed to me.  
     I’ve never been interested in hunting, so that part of it doesn’t interest me at all.  In fact, the hunting part is actually something I struggle with.  We only get called with things go wrong, and it can be pretty ugly.  It’s difficult for me to see what sometimes happens to these animals, and it stays with me for days.   As you can imagine, having to shoot a deer myself is not my favorite thing, but the alternative is worse.   At least I can do it now without my hand shaking.  
     As far as what keeps me going, most of it is the sheer fun of working a dog who loves his work.  It drives me nuts how some people treat their dogs like spoiled children.  Dogs are happiest when they’re allowed to be dogs, and when Petey tracks, he is a dog doing what he is supposed to be doing.  It’s very satisfying to me and just seems right.  
     The challenge of it also keeps me going.  If we found every deer we tracked, it would be boring and not nearly as meaningful.  Even though it can be pretty frustrating, I stubbornly keep at it because you never know – the next track could be that epic find you’ll be talking about for years.  It’s kind of like gambling – the jackpot could be just around the corner.
     I also like meeting and working with the hunters.  This came as a surprise to me as I’m not much of a people person.  Talking deer and dogs with someone I just met is so much easier than making awkward small talk at a party.  It gives me a comfortable way to interact with people and actually enjoy their company.  
     Of course, when you find a deer, it’s like winning a gold medal.  The hunter is happy, I’m proud of my dog, and Petey and I get to be heroes for the day.  You can’t beat that.
     One last thing that makes tracking fun for me is being friends with Tom and Chris.  I called Tom out of the blue when I decided to get into tracking, and from the very beginning, they’ve been nothing but helpful and friendly.  Tom can talk tracking for hours, and he’s always been more than willing to answer questions and give advice.  We talk every few days during tracking season to swap stories, complain about bad calls, etc.  They’re a lot of fun to be around and don’t take themselves or tracking too seriously, and they definitely make tracking more fun for me.
Chris: The original motivation for tracking was to spend time with my husband, Tom, who loved tracking more than hunting.  I love to be in the woods and he would always ask me to go with him, so I would go and help him spot blood.  I also love a working dog and truly enjoyed watching Musket unravel the puzzle to find the deer.  My motivation to continue is to train our newest tracking dogs, Scout (WHD) and Addie (BMH) and to help the hunting community find their deer.  It is very rewarding to find a deer that the hunter could not find him/herself. My favorite weekend to track is our Youth weekend.   It makes you feel so good to help a young hunter find his/her very first deer.  Other motivations are that it keeps me in good health and you meet so many interesting people.  I remember my first years of tracking, I would be so exhausted.  Running up & down mountains and through swamps and thickets is very tiring.  Tom and I started training for sprint triathlons to keep us in shape for the "tracking" season. Just another thing we could do together.  Now I can track for hours and still get up the next day and do it all over again.  The hunters are very appreciative when we come out to help them and we have made many friends through our tracking connections.  I love the time I get to spend with Tom, in the woods with my dogs.  It's my favorite time of year.

Pictures are presented in alphabetical order according to women's first name. Names have links to websites or more info about the women's tracking services.

Barbie Wills from Concord, NH, tracks with wirehaired and shorthair dachshunds.
Claudia Holohan lives in Ashkum, Illinois and she tracks with a wirehaired dachshund Razen. 
Cheri Faust and her dachshund Danika live in Madison, Wisconsin. Cheri is a Secretary and Board member of the United Blood Trackers. 
Chris DiPietro lives in Jericho, VT and she her husband Tom track with 
wirehaired dachshunds and a Bavarian Mountain Hound.
Joanne Greer from Chester, NH tracks with wirehaired dachshund Angie. 
Jolanta Jeanneney from Berne, NY, usually tracks with her husband John and their wirehaired dachshunds. She is on the Board of the United Blood Trackers.
Lindsay Ware from Ellsworth, Maine, tracks with her black Lab Gander.
Louise La Branche from Maricourt, Quebec, has imported four wirehaired dachshunds from Germany. She uses them for tracking and breeding.
Pam Maurier from Manchester, NH is part of Lightning Mountain Outfitters and she tracks with a wirehaired dachshund Tucker.
Paulene Eggers from Syracuse, NY  is a member of Deer Search Of Finger Lakes
and her tracking partner is a wirehaired dachshund Braylee.
Sally Marchmont from Fairfax, VT tracks with a wirehaired dachshund Petey. 

This is Shannon Smith's from Fowlerville, MI, first deer tracking season.
Her black Lab River has been in training since January 2013.
This is a first tracking season for Sherry Ruggieri from Mantua, NJ, and her wirehaired dachshund imported from Hungary Niya. What a great first recovery! 
Susanne Hamilton from Montville, Maine tracks with two dachshunds, Buster and Meggie. She is on the Board of the United Blood Trackers and is a recipient the Maine Bowhunters Association Award. 
Willette Brown from Union, Miane, tracks with wirehaired dachshunds Quilla and Bridger.
Be safe in the woods and keep on tracking!


Ray Holohan said...

Great article Jolanta, enjoyed reading it

Lindsjö taxar said...

Yes, great written, how interesting....
Great job everyone do, hat off!!