Time to get back to the topic of tracking dogs because we really fell behind with our blogging and emails. I apologize to all our contributors and those who are still waiting for our replies.
We received this letter from Judy Catrett on December 10. As you recall Judy lives in Georgia where it is legal to track with a dog off-leash. Mossy (aka Viola von Moosbach-Zuzelek) is an eight-month-old daughter of Tommy and Tuesday. Thank you Judy!
Just a note to let you know how Mossy is progressing. We have now started doing a fair amount of tracking for hunters other than those that are guests of the plantation which Craig manages. I had read John's books, Dead On! and Tracking Dogs for Wounded Deer prior to tracking season, but have found myself using them as a reference after several tracks recently. I am always wondering what we (Mossy and I) did not do when we were unable to retrieve a wounded deer--so I dig into the books hoping to obtain a little more knowledge along with rethinking what we did and could have done differently on each track.
Mossy Brooke continues to be an excellent tracker and her name has become well known around our little town and county as well as into some neighboring counties. Since I last emailed you, we have been on several tracks that we were unable to find the deer. One deer had a broken front leg--the hunter shot the deer straight on into the brisket area. Leg bone, a fragment of the bullet, and muscle tissue were found at the site of the shot. Mossy and I arrived approx. 5 hours after the deer had been shot and after 2 inches of rain. She immediately picked up the trail and actually jumped the deer within 100 yards of the last blood the hunter had found (this had been washed away by the time we arrived). She was tracking off leash as she was in an area that was safe for her to do this and the briars were so thick and tall that it was almost impossible for me to keep her on leash. I was 40 yards behind her when she bayed the deer. The deer immediately ran and she bayed it twice more during her trailing, for only a few seconds each time. The deer had stopped bleeding and crossed 2 creeks during this tracking. We trailed this deer for 1 1/2 miles and it was showing no signs of slowing down, so I stopped Mossy as I felt that this was another wound that would not slow the deer enough for us to retrieve it.
We had a similar experience with a buck that I think was shot above the spine and stunned for a few minutes. This was the second buck that we have tracked this year with this type of injury. Mossy tracked it on leash for over 1 mile. This track was 11 hours old when we arrived. On arrival, she immediately picked up on the blood trail which dwindled to no blood within 150 yards. She continued to pull strong on the leash throughout the entire track. I finally had to stop her around midnight as this seemed to be a nonfatal injury with no bleeding being noted along the trail past the first 150 yards and I had to work the next day.
We then tracked a deer that was gut shot 24 hours previous to our arrival. This deer was probably shot in the stomach as acorns and corn were noted at the shot site. I certainly thought that this buck would be found. There had been 2 to 3 inches of rain during the 24 hours that had passed since the shot. She trailed the buck for approx. 1 to 1 1/4 miles total, off leash. She bayed the buck in a very thick pine thicket with terrible briars for a few seconds, but when the buck heard me coming it ran. Mossy trailed it to a large pond which neither she nor I could cross. The hunter's (age 12) father owned this land and decided that there was no easy way to get to where the buck may have gone if he was able to cross the water and that he would watch for a floating deer or buzzards in the next few days. This is one track that I am still puzzled over. I certainly thought that the deer would be in the edge of the water and that the wound would be significant enough that Mossy and I could catch up with the deer. I am still mulling this over in my head trying to decide what should have been done differently.
Craig took Mossy on a track in which the deer was tracked for 1 1/2 miles. She was on leash on this track and Craig did not have a gun as the hunter was carrying a rifle and going with them. After 3/4 mile, Mossy walked into a briar thicket and actually put her nose on the deer's hip. The deer was still alive --shot through the flank areas (gut shot)--and it stood up when Mossy touched it. The hunter had been unable to keep up with Craig and Mossy in the briars and when Craig had to yell for him to come with the gun, the deer ran another 3/4 of a mile at which time Craig had to stop tracking due to property lines. Craig has not tracked as much as I have and did not realize the importance of being self sufficient and having his own gun. A lesson well learned he said after being dragged through 1 1/2 miles of briars by Mossy.
I am realizing that wounded bucks will let Mossy Brooke get fairly close to them and they will have a stand off with her if they still have enough life left in them to possibly survive. This I think occurs because of her small size and bucks detecting her as not being threatening. If I try to approach a buck with a wound that may not be fatal, it immediately bolts as soon as it detects a larger creature approaching. It is almost impossible for me to get to the buck without making noise due to the thick vegetation and briars. I would appreciate any feedback on how to handle these situations. I think that this is one reason a lot of trackers in the south use larger dogs who actually catch the deer and keep them at bay until the person with a gun can get there. Don't worry, I would never trade my Mossy Brooke for a larger dog.
Mossy Brooke is an awesome little dog with a love for tracking that cannot be described. I consider myself very lucky to have her--for tracking and more so as a companion. She is almost 8 months old and has now found a total of 26 deer (December 10).
Hope you and John have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,