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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Brady Hesington's Wachtelhund Caliber recovers two deer in one day but there is more to this story

A big thank you to Brady Hesington, a United Blood Trackers member from Missouri, for sharing his recent tracking experience.

I'd like to share one of our more memorable tracks of the year.  I received a call on a Monday afternoon from a gentleman who lives about an hour from me.  He related that his son had shot a nice buck the previous evening, and they needed help locating it.  Unfortunately, I was working and wouldn't be available until the following morning.  After taking a phone survey of the shot, I felt that we had a reasonable chance at recovery.  I was also impressed that the father shared his desire to instill in his children the importance of making every effort of recovering animals that they shot as a way of honoring God, their Creator.  The details were as follows...

The father and son were hunting together on a ridge, with the father sitting not far behind his son, Luke.  A buck came up along the opposite ridgeline, along the edge of a field, and Luke took the shot.  The buck ran into the field and the hunters could hear him taking loud, sucking breaths.  Luke asked his dad if he should take another shot, but his father, Jayson, an experienced hunter, told Luke that the shot was through the lungs and that no further shot was necessary.  The buck then dropped his head and laid down.  After several minutes the two stood up to go look at the deer, and much to their surprise it rose and took off into the woods.  Expecting the deer to be down, they followed the blood trail for about 100 yards and heard more crashing, which prompted them to back out.  

The following morning, they scoured the woods along with two additional searchers.  They progressed the trail by about 200 yards, but did not find the deer.   Later that day a large rainstorm blew through washing away all the blood.  That's when I got the call.  The track had led them within 75 yards of a small river, and they had not searched on the opposite side, as they had not received permission.  My hope was that the deer was not far on the other side, and that we would be able to find it quickly if they received permission.  I told Jayson to do his best to gain permission, and an hour later he called back to tell me that he had it.  Later that night he called me back to tell me that his daughter, Sydney, had also shot a deer and after tracking for about 100 yards they decided to back out since I would be arriving in the morning...good idea!  He was unsure of where young Sydney had struck the deer, but informed me that there seemed to be a lot of blood.  

The next morning I arrived at the sight with both my wachtelhund, Caliber, and my BMH, Chloe.  Most of my time tracking this year has been spent with Chloe, as I am trying to develop her skills.  Caliber, sadly, has not gotten a lot of tracking time in the woods, and I was anxious to get him on the 15 hour old track and save Chloe for the 40+ hour old track.  Caliber has shown great ability on tracks of all ages, but is not as motivated on really old tracks with no or minimal sign.  Chloe on the other hand, will dig for scent to track no matter the age of the track.  The problem is she is less discriminating on what scent she takes at times, which is why I have spent so much time working with her this season.  

We decided to start with the "easy" track.  I started Caliber at the hit sight, and true to the report, there was plenty of blood.  Caliber took off without a hitch.  We covered the first 100 yards easily, then progressed the trail another couple of hundred yards past the point of loss.  There was intermittent blood along the way to reassure us.  At that point, Caliber began acting like he was on a hot scent and really began to track fast.  I slowed him down and restarted him a couple of times to get him to focus.  He took the trail to about 600 yards into a field, then made an abrupt turn along the field edge.  After another 100 yards I hadn't seen any sign, so I set him down and searched the field edge for a bit.  Unable to find any confirmation, I allowed him to work the field edge into a thick, brushy area.  He was searching through the area when I heard a LOUD crash up ahead of us.  My brain immediately screamed "leg shot deer" because of all the racket.  Then I saw him jump up out of a deadfall and run into a field.  It was obvious that he was wounded when he ran, and I felt certain that it was a leg shot, but could not see his wound.  Caliber and I took off in pursuit, and after a short chase, I allowed Caliber to bay and hold the deer so that I could put it down.  Caliber was able to pull it down, but suffered a cut along one leg in the process.  He held it while I quickly dispatched it.  A quick inspection showed that the deer was hit just inside the hind leg, dislocating the joint and entering the groin area.  The deer, no doubt, would have had a lingering death had we not recovered it.  This was Sydney's first deer, and she was very excited by the whole were we all!  When Jayson approached, he initially thought that this was a different deer than what Sydney had shot because one of the deer's antlers had broken off somewhere along the way.  When everyone was gathered, Jayson and Sydney said a prayer of thanks for the deer and for the recovery.  It was special to be a part of this family's traditions.  

Sydney and Caliber with her first buck
After loading the deer, we loaded up and headed to the sight where Luke had shot his deer.  I started Chloe on the track and she followed it "perfectly" along the trail where they had previously tracked the deer.  Unfortunately, there was absolutely no sign remaining after the previous day's deluge, and the hunters had not flagged the trail.  Still, there were plenty of landmarks, and by accounts Chloe was doing a good job of staying on trail.  We proceeded up to the area where the hunters had lost the blood previously.  At this point, there was some confusion about where the deer had made a hard left had turn.  Chloe wanted to track straight where they thought the deer had turned, so I redirected her into that area.  She tracked around in the area, but didn't make me very confident that she was on the deer.  I then let her track in the area where she wanted to go and we ambled along the woods for a ways, and ended up at the end of the small peninsula of land along the deer.  After several restarts we weren't making any progress.  As Jayson had obtained permission to cross the river, he and the rest of his crew went back to the house to pick up a canoe to help us cross. 

I decided to put Chloe in the kennel box and give Caliber a shot at the trail while I waited for them to return.  It took little time for Caliber to pick up the trail and begin tracking aggressively.  He was very motivated after getting to catch the other deer.  Caliber would prefer to bay deer and wild hogs than just about anything in life, so he was highly motivated on the track.  I wondered if he was "cheating" and following our footprints rather than tracking the 2 day old blood scent, but that was soon put to rest.  The deer had run through a large downed tree which had a 4 foot section cut away.  It was an obvious landmark where they had actually found blood on their second tracking attempt.  Chloe, had missed that section and tracked a line 20 yards around it before coming back onto the correct trail.  Caliber, however, nailed the track without missing a beat.  He was definitely not tracking us as we had not walked that route!  Like Chloe, Caliber, also didn't take the hard turn where the hunters had thought the deer may have detoured, but rather took me about 50 yards further before making a sharp left into an area that looked similar.  He then led me straight down to the river.  

As he searched our edge of the river bank, I began looking at the far edge for an area where a deer may have exited the creek.  The river wall was nearly vertical on the opposite side, so there was no way that a deer was going to climb out at that point.  That's when I noticed the brown lump laying on the gravel bank.  I was so excited, that I took off my shoes, rolled up my pants, and waded across the river in 35 degree weather!  Caliber followed along as well.  When I got to the deer, I couldn't see a wound, but upon further examination there was a bullet hole low in the chest just in front of the near leg...a low lung shot.  This would explain the "sucking" sound that Jayson had described to me, and the low forward shot would explain why the deer had not expired more quickly.  

There was just one problem.  Jayson had told me that his son had shot a "big buck," "at least an 8 point, but possibly a 10 or 12,  and I was standing over a 3 point.  The deer was untouched by any predator or birds (prior to Caliber pulling out all its hair), but looked to have been dead about the right amount of time.  I called Jayson to confirm, and he assured me that it could not be the right deer.  When he arrived on the river by canoe, he again assured me that this could not be the right deer.  Oddly, if this deer had been shot on the opposite side of the river it would have had to jump to its death off a 10 foot sheer bank with a maze of exposed tree roots below.  Not impossible, but questionable.  We did walk down the bank to a point where we were able to climb up and searched the area for a bit, but did not recover another deer.   It's difficult to believe that a seasoned hunter like Jayson would have thought that a 3 point was a 8, 10, or 12 in the heat of the moment, but equally difficult to believe that Caliber would lead me straight down a track that would end up at someone else's wounded deer.  Either way, it made for a great day of tracking!
Caliber and the 3 point...his buck

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