By Bob Yax
I learned a big lesson on these last two recoveries. The 1st on Nov 2nd (my birthday and the 4th year in a row that we’ve recovered one on that day!) was a suspected liver hit pass thru. The hunter waited two hours and then jumped the deer out of its 1st bed after about 200 yards of good blood. He went a little further thru the woods until he came out to crop fields that extended about as far as the eye could see. At that point, he turned around and called Deer Search. We came in the next morning, 18 hrs after the hit.
It had rained hard overnight, so there was very little visible blood sign up to the 1st bed and none visible after the bed. Thor covered the first 200 yards, thru the hardwood to the first bed, with no problem. When we came out of the woods and I saw the huge crop fields ahead, I was concerned. Besides the standing corn field to the right, the only heavy cover was about a half mile in front of us – big woods off to the left and a thick brushy gully a half mile ahead on the right. In between all of these were large clover fields (about 10 inches high) and large standing soybean fields (about two feet high).
Thor continued strong out of the woods and into the clover field. He jogged the full 600 yard length of the clover field, with only a short circle into the nearby soybean field. At the end of the clover field was a paved road which he quickly crossed. On the other side of the road was another standing soybean field with the thick brushy gully off to our right. As this was the only nearby thick stuff, I was hopeful that Thor would take us in that direction where we would find our buck dead in its 2nd bed. After entering this 2nd soybean field, Thor proceeded about another 150 yards down the middle of it before finally heading down towards the brushy gully. Here we go I thought! but instead of going into the thick brush, Thor took a farm road into and out of the gully. On the other side he continued down the farm road another 100 yards as it passed between brush on one side and a standing corn field on the other. He, and hopefully the deer, seemed to be taking the easiest path possible, but he still seemed very determined on the trail. Once we got past the end of the cornfield, another huge standing soybean field lay ahead of us for another 400 yards! A wood lot was at the far end of it.
Thor again headed into the soybeans and at one point took an exactly straight path down the same row of soybeans for about 150 yards. During this part I really had my doubts. Since we were now about a mile from the last bed, I’m sure the hunter behind me also had his doubts. We continued down the soybean field towards the woods for about another 150 yards when Thor turned and headed uphill toward the standing corn lot. While crossing the rows of soy beans I looked towards the woods and saw an unusual bump between the rows about 50 yards ahead. I stopped and pointed it out to the hunter. “What’s that” I said, a few seconds later we figured out it was his nice 9 pt. Thor continued up to the edge of the corn lot and then back down to the buck. From the torn up dirt and downed soybeans, it was obvious that’s exactly the way the buck had gone. (See Gorham photo attached – you can see the woods that I think the buck was trying to get to at the far end). Upon examination, we found that the 2 blade Rage had clearly passed thru the liver. Thor was dead on this buck the entire way, no matter how unusual the buck's path had seemed. I thought, “I really should trust Thor more than I do”.
|A complicated track that ended in a recovery of this liver-shot buck|
Well, this new found trust came to burn me the very next morning! We took a call in Scottsville for what sounded like a pure intestine hit. After hitting the buck and watching it slowly walk out of sight, the traditional archery hunter had quietly backed out without following the buck at all. We started on the trail, Monday morning, 25 hrs after the hit. After the hit, the buck had walked down a mowed 4 wheeler trail for about 50 yards until the hunter lost sight of it. We started at the hit site and found no arrow and no blood. As Thor tracked down the 4 wheeler trail, I searched for any sign of blood, but didn’t find any.
At the curve in the trail where the hunter had lost sight of the deer, Thor veered left down a trail into thick brush. For the next half hour, as Thor eagerly tracked through thick brush and a standing corn field, I kept saying to myself “trust the dog”. After the previous day, it was obvious that he knows what he’s doing, but after he started yipping (which he only does when he’s close behind a live moving deer) I decide to pull him off the trail and head back to the hit site. On the way back, he put his nose high in the air and headed off into another area of thick brush; 20 minutes later when he started yipping, I again pulled him off and headed back to the hit site.
Back at the hit site, we again started down the initial 50 yards of the 4 wheeler trail. This time when we got to the curve in the trail, I made sure he took his time checking all the directions the deer might have gone. I was happy when he chose to go in a new direction into the thick brush. After only about 30 yards in the brush, he showed me a bed. I thought I saw a little blood on a leaf, and was thrilled when I dabbed the leaf with a wet paper towel and came up with blood. A few yards later we found another bed and after another quick 50 yards we found the dead buck – about 125 yards from the hunters tree stand.
How could it be that Thor was so wrong on this one ? Then it hit me. This was the 3rd pure intestine hit that Thor has recovered in the past few years. On the other two, the hunters also immediately backed out, there was no blood trail, and Thor did exactly the same thing. He initially went way off on the wrong trails before I brought him back to the deer’s last known location. There, after a short area search we found the deer within 200 yards of the hit site.
My revelation was – without any blood trail to get started on, Thor didn’t know which deer scent to follow. Not sure why it took me so long to figure this out. I discussed this with Gary Neal and he confirmed the same thing. He said that his past three dogs have needed at least 40 or 50 yards of a known blood trail before they get hooked on the correct /wounded deer.
In the future, with pure intestine hits and no blood, I’ll assume that Thor won’t lock onto the deer and we will instead focus on doing an air scenting area search around the deer’s last known location.