By Darren Doran
A local hunter that I know called me Monday morning of November 16 after he had shot a good buck. He thought he had hit forward, and after the shot he just snuck out of the woods. He was going back after lunch to look for sign. I told him I would hold a spot for him in case he needed Theo.
He called me back and said that he tracked to a bed about 50 yds from the hit site and then he found another bed very close. The blood was wet in the second bed, and he thought he might have bumped the deer. He backed out. We discussed the hit and our options and decided that the hunter would look again the next morning and give the deer more time.
In a lot of places in New Jersey the properties are very small. A pushed deer, especially a mature buck, can cross many properties, all of which we need permission to enter before we can track. I always tell a hunter to give the deer time as if he’s dead he’ll be right there. If he’s pushed too soon and knows he’s
being tracked by a man, the recovery can get very difficult.
The hunter called at noon on Tuesday and said he had advanced the line to another bed but thought the deer might have crossed the railroad tracks to another property. He marked his last blood and gained permission to enter the property just in case. I got there at 3:30 pm, 32 hours after the hit.
We went to the hit site and I looked at the arrow. There was white hair at the hit. The hunter described a hit forward with what looked like a long gash on his side. The shot was 32 yds from a stand about 22 feet high.
I started Theo and he circled the hit, took the trail the buck came in on, then turned around, tracked through he hit site and took the buck’s line. We tracked to the first bed and on through to the second and continued on. Theo was tracking with the intensity that usually accompanies a recovery, and he was extremely focused. The hunter pointed to his last blood as Theo tracked about 20 yds to the left and straight past it. Theo continued on and I marked another drop of blood and soon we were at the railroad tracks and on across. We tracked to a sandy deadfall, and Theo located 3 more beds. The hunter had never tracked to this point and had no idea the deer had gone this way. Theo then worked the line back to the tracks and across once again and back into the woods we just left. Theo tracked to the hunter’s last blood mark and past. It became evident that the hunter during his searching had found this blood by accident and cut of about 200 yds of the track.
We continued on paralleling the railroad and crossed a water filled ditch into some briars and swampy brush. Theo marked another bed with dried blood and then started out of the briars back to the tracks and across once more. We already had permission to enter so we just kept tracking. In a short while I heard a deer get up in front of us. I hadn’t seen any blood since the last bed and this was a typical deer bedding area. I wanted to make sure we were tracking the right deer and was holding Theo back and telling him EASY. He was barking and I had him close. All of a sudden the hunter says “I have blood”. I asked him to bring it to me and sure enough it was blood. I moved forward with Theo and soon we were on the deer’s bed. Theo was hot now and the deer started to bleed again. I also noticed a strong smell of rotten gut. The hunter could also smell this. We tracked about 300 more yds and started to lose the light. We decided to come back next day and restart the track. I marked the GPS and flagged the spot.
We started Wednesday afternoon about 3 pm and picked up where we left off. Theo started right away and we had gone about 100 yds when we ran into a large flock of about 25 turkeys. Theo jumped up on a log and looked at the birds flapping and yelping in front of us. I told him in a stern voice to “get back on the line and find the blood”. Immediately he forgot about the birds and resumed tracking. We had gone about another 100 yds right through the turkey distraction and started to turn to the left. I was familiar with this property and knew the deer was going to turn to get around the corner of a deer fence that went around a large nursery. We came to the corner of the fence and there was a T shaped water filled ditch that followed the corner and went out into the woods. Right at this spot the deer stopped for a while and there was a hand sized amount of blood. The deer has never lain back down since we jumped him yesterday.
Theo worked this check for a good while. He checked the banks of the ditch on our side. He went across and checked the other side. He came back to the blood a few times. Eventually he took a line into the woods away from the fence and in about 20 yds we found the deer next to a log.
This deer was finally recovered about 55 hours after it got shot, and would have never been found without a dog team. The arrow actually hit low on the left side just above the sternum. The arrow somehow bruised the left lung but never cut it. It went between the sections of liver and out the gut. That counts for the strong rotten smell we had when we put him up the day before.
Theo is now 3 and a half and is maturing into a very honest and efficient tracking dog. I love handling this dog and watching him work.