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Friday, October 24, 2014

Handling tracking dogs off lead

She is called Mossy Brooke by her owner Judy from Gergia, and she turned six months old on October 12. The pup's registered name is Viola von Moosbach-Zuzelek, and her parents are Tommy and Tuesday. Mossy has been tracking now for a week on this Georgia Plantation, and she has already recovered seven deer. Some deer would have been found without her but others would have been lost. 

Mossy is worked off lead and she wears a GPS collar. Judy is not new to blood tracking as she has tracked for many years with a very talented Jack Russell Terrier, Bear, and recovered hundreds of deer for the Plantation that her husband Craig manages.

I post almost daily updates on Mossy's adventures on our Facebook. The latest e-mail from Judy is included below. This was the first time when Mossy found a wounded deer still alive.

Tracking "Off Lead" is legal only in certain southern states and in Texas. Georgia, where Mossy tracks is one  of these "legal off lead" states.

Tracking off lead has its advantages and its risks.  The recovery rate, off lead, is higher than we would expect with dogs working at all times on a long leash. They can better penetrate very thick cover without a leash and handler in tow. Also the unleashed dogs can catch up to and "bay" some deer that would probably escape and survive in the North. We all know that the legalization of unleashed tracking dogs is politically out of the question in the North.

One risk of tracking off lead is that  the dog can be gored by an aggressive buck. This is more likely to happen if the tracking dog is young and inexperienced or too game aggressive. And of course small dogs like dachshunds have less "Bay Power" than a 90-pound tracking dog like a Southern Black Mouth Cur or Lab. In general a dog unencumbered by a tracking lead is more agile and better equipped to stay out of trouble when baying an angry, aggressive buck.

In some situations it makes sense to start the dog while it is on lead. Once the dog has clearly established herself on the right line, she can be released. Training preparation for work on older, colder lines is also more feasible if the dog is worked on lead.

Well, we have the answer to how Mossy will react to a live deer.  The opportunity presented itself yesterday evening.  She trailed a deer that we assumed was dead.  When she found it, it jumped up, Mossy backed off a couple of steps and immediately began baying it.  When I took a step, the deer turned and ran with Mossy in hot pursuit-- yipping.  I was in hot pursuit (for a 62 year old)--which meant I was no where close to Mossy or the deer.  The deer ran to a swamp.  Shortly, I could hear Mossy's yipping turn to a bay--a very loud and deep bark.  I finally made my way through the thicket to Mossy.  Weeds/grass were above my head.  I could finally see little Mossy when I was standing directly above her and separated the grass to get a view of the barking.  The deer way laying about a yard in front of her.  I picked Mossy up and then shot the deer with the pistol I carry.  The shot did not phase her one bit--(coffee cans on the kitchen floor work).  Craig had made it to us by then and he and I pulled the deer out of the swamp with Mossy either riding on top or tugging at the deer the whole way out.  The picture of Mossy by herself with a deer is this deer. 

Another hunter had shot a doe and could not find it--on the Plantation--so he had called Craig to bring Mossy. When we got to the field that the deer was shot in, there was a good blood trail.  The hunter said there had been around 10 deer on the field when he shot.  I put Mossy down on the blood trail, but she did not immediately follow it.  She wanted to run around in the field and investigate I suppose.  I think there was just too much scent there for her.  I called her back to me and took her to where the blood entered the planted pines and briar thicket.  She went one way--I thought from blood that I saw that the deer had gone the opposite way.  I have learned from Bear to not second guess a good blood trailer, so I did not try to call Mossy back.  About 200-300 yards from the entry into the woods from the field, my GPS said Mossy has Treed Quarry.  I made my way through the briars to Mossy and there she was with her deer.  Another celebration with Mossy.  We would definitely not have retrieved the first deer without Mossy and probably would have found the 2nd deer only when we saw buzzards on it 2 to 3 days from now--due to the thickness of the briars and weeds.  The first time Mossy was in briars this past weekend, she stopped and came back to me.  I told her to find blood and dead deer--she started hunting again, and the briars have not bothered her since then.

Mossy is quite the blood tracker --This is # 7 for her in her short career of tracking.  There is no doubt in my mind that because of her love for tracking that she will continue to learn and become more efficient.  I just am not sure how I am going to explain to Mossy that we can't go track a deer every day of her life.  If I even walk close to my boots or her collar, she thinks it is time and she begins to beg to go.

Just so glad that we have Mossy.


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