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Friday, November 20, 2015

Tracking wounded deer across river yields some surprises

By Darren Doran

I had a track today for a hunter that I tracked for last year. Last year we tracked his deer to a river that we didn’t have permission to cross. It took the hunter 4 days to get permission, and he found his deer 75 yards on the other side with his head cut off.

This year permission to cross had been secured just in case. Anyway the hunter shot the deer at 45 yards with a crossbow, and only had a split second to observe the deer through the foliage before it was gone. He thought the shot was good. He got down and didn’t find his bolt or any blood at the hit site. He didn’t search any further and called me.

I started Theo where the hunter thought the deer had been hit and Theo took a line. We went down into the bottom and started hooking around and heading behind the hunter. I hadn’t seen any blood and we had gone far enough. I told the hunter I wanted to re start and went back to the hit site.

Theo restarted and took a different line and the hunter thought that this was the way the deer had run. After some distance I marked a drop of blood and knew that: 1) the hunter actually hit the deer and 2) we were on a right line. Theo tracked into the bottom and to a bed. I had found about a shot glass of blood to this point and the bed was blood free.

We continued on and I knew the deer was heading for the river. Sure enough we tracked in ankle deep water and muck to the river’s edge. I sent Theo up and down both banks as far as we could go in the mud to make sure the deer didn’t turn but it was evident it swam across. This river is not real wide but too deep and muddy to get across. I flagged the spot and marked the GPS, and we went back to the trucks to drive around. The hunter called the landowner and told him we were coming on his side.

Once on the opposite side of the river where the deer crossed, I noticed a gas pipe line across the river. The weeds and brush along that bank were mowed about 30 feet wide where the pipe went under the river. I restarted Theo and he was checking all around. He was sniffing the grass and all the weeds along the edge on our side.

When Theo can’t find the scent he is looking for he will circle and go back to a spot he knows he had it. Today was no different. He jumped into the river and swam back to the side we had just left. Here’s where a 50 ft. lead comes in handy. I was able to wade out some with the water below my boots and give him enough lead to do his thing. He checked around on the bank by my flag and satisfied the deer crossed he swam back.

The river in this spot made an S bend and Theo then swam out to the belly of the S. He was standing in the water at the bank sniffing the weeds and grasses at the edge. Here’s where it started to get a little messy. I didn’t have enough lead to let him get up the bank and this was the way he wanted to go. I had to wade out to my knees to give him enough lead to get up the bank. Theo’s really pulling now and I’m stuck I can’t go any further forward. I told the hunter that we need a boat.

The hunter called the landowner and just so happened he had a jon boat. It took about 20 minutes to get the boat and the whole time Theo wants to go. In my training with Theo I’ve trained an EASY command. What this means is that I’m coming but you have to give me time. I use it a lot when I’m crawling and snipping my way through briars or navigating dead falls. I told him EASY and he just stood slightly pulling on the lead. We got into the boat and paddled across and Theo took of down a run on the ox bow of the river. We were tracking along on a run in about ankle deep water. I hadn’t seen any blood and suddenly he turned right into some thick swamp grass and brush. Next think I know all hell is breaking loose. I thought for sure the deer was getting up and I yelled to the hunter there he goes. Only thing it wasn’t a deer it was a giant gobbler that flushed out. I’m not used to seeing turkeys in a swamp like that and that was the last thing I expected to see.

I corrected Theo and continued to search the rest of the ox bow for the deer or sign while the hunter paddled down the river looking. Theo wanted to go back down the run he was on before he got side tracked by the turkey, but the water was getting too deep and muddy to get through. I do believe the deer went that way but I also believe the deer was still alive.

The hunter didn’t track or attempt to pursue the buck the night before and I believe him. We should have found the deer in the first bed or another one very close if he was mortally wounded.

I called the track, got in the boat and we went back to the pipe line. I searched the rest of the river bank and brush back to the bridge at the road just in case we missed something.

And so it goes I told the hunter if he finds the deer or sees him alive to give me a call.

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