By John Jeanneney
After a stretch of calls where we could not catch up to the deer, our luck has changed. Tommy and I have had three challenging finds in a row. Our find this morning confirms an important principle. Start at the hit site.
The 10 point buck was gut shot, and Dan, the hunter, had done an amazing job of tracking it a good quarter mile on very sparse blood. Finally he ran out any blood and backed off. Dan didn't want Tommy and me to come and track at night in that god-awful swamp of bush and briars, so we scheduled the search for the following day. When we started, the scent line was 26 hours old.
Now the easy and attractive option would have been to avoid a quarter mile of brush and brambles by beginning at the point of loss. We could have driven right to it. But my 40 years of experience told me to begin at the hit site. Then Tommy would gain a clear recognition of the buck's individual scent, while we had a few drops of blood to confirm that we were on the right line.
It took us about 40 minutes to work over the line tracked by Dan. It had taken Dan several hours. It was slow going in the thick stuff. When we finally came to the well-marked point of loss, there seemed to be no scent left. Tommy worked for 15 minutes through the deadfalls before he became positive on a scent line. He never would have been able to recognize and pick up this line, after that long check, if he hadn't memorized the scent over that first quarter mile.
We moved on wondering whether Tommy really had it. Then Dan found a drop of blood, and a few moments later Tommy found the buck, dead. Trust your dog! And start at the hit site.