By Willette Brown
I got out of the passenger seat and adjusted my coat and hat. We were parked in a graveyard and heading for the field and woods just beyond. Susanne handed me a headlight and a coat because we had hurried from another location to the hit site and I didn't have any tracking gear with me. I was thinking to myself that I hoped there wasn't any swamp because I only had my sneakers on… but I wasn't going to whine about it in front of everyone else.
As we got our equipment together Susanne recapped the information with the hunter… half the arrow still in the buck, no blood at the hit site, blood fifty yards later on. Buster, Susanne's dog, was all business, quiet, thoughtful, and patient as she got him fitted with his harness and light. He has been here and done that. He knew the drill.
We moved towards the field and out into the night. Susanne's headlamp illuminated the path, light banter and Buster's businesslike trot drew us on. It was probably a four pointer the hunter explained, best he could tell in the heat of the moment. As we approached the hit site, Susanne hooked Buster to his tracking lead. "Game on!" as far as Buster was concerned. Nose down he began to work. Suddenly, we were off into the tall weeds, thick and thin, with paths here and there that appeared to be game trails.
Buster moved across the uncut field and spent some time looping. We paused and watched him work. Well, we actually couldn't see much except Susanne's shoulders and headlamp following through the rustling, dried weeds. Down the edge of the woods he went, then back up to last blood where we were standing. Then he locked on and headed or the woods and we followed. After maybe thirty seconds we hear, " I got it!" and about fifty yards into the woods, hidden in thick brush, lay the dead buck. It was a 17 pointer! Wow! The hunter was now REALLY pumped up. He had brought his son and a friend to help get the buck out of the woods. He was completely confident that Buster would find the deer. He had worked with Susanne before and knew that if it was "gettable" they would get it.
In fact, he had quietly remarked as we set off into the night, that he wished he had met her 20 years ago. I laughed, and knew that this was high praise, as well as backhanded marriage proposal. Of course I think he would have to get in line, a very LONG line, as she has admirers all over Maine who have come home with a deer that might otherwise have become coyote food.
We then let my young dog follow the track and "find" the deer. Susanne patiently guided him as he had an excited but muddled start. Once on the line he quickly headed for the woods and "found" the deer, his first. Initially he was surprised and unsure what to do with the dead deer, and he cautiously tugged on the ear, then looked around like, "Is that OK?" We laughed and praised his efforts. He was getting very proud of himself.
It was full dark and the party, with dressed deer, moved back through the woods and fields. Bow season, warm weather, lots of night tracking. I knew that I had watched a truly remarkable team at work and I couldn't help but admire the amazing partnership. So sure of each other and focused on the job. And out of the maze of deep dark woods we were able to find this one deer. Wow.
Pools of light from headlamps guided us back and the relief and accomplishment was palpable. The hunter had done the right thing, and the Buster had made short work of what might otherwise be a long, possibly fruitless search.
Tracking season had officially begun and "that look" was now in Susanne's eyes. It is a hungry, razor focused, adrenalin laced look that might be terrifying if you were a wounded deer, but is unadulterated nourishment for her partner, Buster. The look in Buster's eyes was a bit more ho hum, and as he settled into the car he quickly curled up. Only eight more weeks to go!
|This 17-pointer shot by Paul McFallin was recovered by Susanne Hamilton |
and her 11.5-year-old dachshund Buster.