by Darren Doran
I took a call from an experienced hunter who had made a good hit on a buck last evening, but bumped him out of his bed and across a road. The hunter had followed good blood to a dead fall and green briar thicket and found multiple beds there very close together. After he had put the buck up he left the area. This is usually a good sign and I figured we would find the deer dead right on the other side of the road and I told the hunter that. Being somewhat superstitious I certainly jinxed myself with that statement.
We met at 7:30 next morning and went to the hit site. There had been turkeys everywhere and they were right in front of us. Theo got a whiff of them, and I corrected him hard right away. This was our first exposure to them this year and I needed him to know I wanted nothing to do with them. We started tracking and the blood was just as the hunter said. We tracked through to the road, which was so busy that I carried Theo across. I set him down on the other side, which was an old dilapidated house. Theo went around back and across the front yard and into the woods. After some searching he showed me some blood and we were off tracking. I kept looking ahead expecting to see the buck at any minute but it didn’t happen and I hadn’t seen any blood in a while. We were tracking to a thicket and I thought this is where he is. Theo checked all the runs into it but didn’t take a line. He went back into the woods then across a rail road track into a brushy field next to an occupied house. We didn’t have any weapons because the road we crossed was the dividing line of two hunting zones. The hunter didn’t have a permit to hunt on this side of the road. I really didn’t think this dear was alive anyway so it didn’t matter to me. The way Theo was working I actually thought the deer would be in this field.
Theo searched every inch of this area and went to the backyard of the house and started pulling across the mowed yard. I told the hunter that we couldn’t cross without permission, but I would pick up Theo and walk down the tracks and set him down in a controlled search on the other side of the yard. Theo worked the brush along the yard and in about 10 yards took a hard right into the woods. We hadn’t seen blood in a long while but he was tracking like he does when he’s got it so I went with him.
All of a sudden the hunter called out that he found blood. He had found a pin drop on a yellow maple leaf. I don’t know if he was good or just lucky but it didn’t matter -- we had the deer. Just when I was feeling good I looked up and the woods looked like someone had gone through it with a leaf blower. The turkeys had torn this part of the woods apart, there was no leaf left untouched. This worried me more than Theo and he tracked through it like it wasn't there.
We were soon heading back into thick swampy brush and green briars. I thought any time now the leash will stop and he’ll be on the deer, but it didn’t happen. He did track to a bed with blood in it and I knew we had to be close. I was working through the briars and all of a sudden the leash stopped. Finally I thought we got him. I worked around a corner in the briars and Theo’s standing on the bank of a river. There was blood at the bank and Theo jumped in. He went right under and I knew it was deep. He popped up and swam back to the bank. There was no way across. We would have to go back out of the woods to the train tracks and cross the trestle to get on the other side.
I marked the spot on the GPS and hung a ribbon but before I left I told Theo to “search”. I wanted to make sure the deer crossed and didn’t back track away from the deep water. Theo went up and down the briar choked bank and didn’t find anything he liked. He came back to the crossing so we made our way out of the wood and to the trestle. I carried Theo across and we started to navigate to the spot where the deer had crossed.
The rail road had cut all the trees at the bottom of the tracks and killed all the vegetation on the slopes. It was nasty but we found a spot we could get down to the river and we slid down the bank of the tracks. We got to about where the crossing was and I started Theo. He went down a run away from the river and in twenty yards the leash stopped. I wasn’t even paying attention and I walked right up to Theo and the deer.
When I called out “I got em” I don’t think the hunter believed me. This track was almost 2 miles including the searching and the river crossing. I believe the deer actually traveled 9ths of a mile before dying. When we gutted this deer it was hit through 1 lung, through the center of the liver, and the 2 inch rage had cut the back lobe of the second lung. The deer was dead for a while. I firmly believe the rut plays an important part on their ability to stay alive when they should be dead.
Those of you who know me from this blog know I’m big on training. Some of the things I train for I used today. Theo is 2 ½ now and try as I might I can’t duplicate on a training line the experience he’s getting this season. The only way to finish a dog is to get him in the field and work him. This is his second tracking season and we’ve taken 39 calls so far. We’re getting to the point that we’re becoming a true team. He knows what is going on when we cross roads. He understands when we have a live deer why we stop and wait. He understands how to restart a line after he’s been picked up and set down. He knows how to do a controlled search. He knows how to stay with the right deer and search till he finds the right deer. He knows how to accept my help when he needs it, and I know what is going through his mind while he’s working. This season is going to truly develop and cement Theo’s foundation as a tracking dog and "us" as a team.
|Recovery #27 of the 39 tracks.|