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Sunday, October 30, 2016

A long track for Darren Doran and his dachshund Theo leads to successful recovery

A big thank you to Darren Doran who wrote this report a week ago. Following Monday he had a rotator cuff surgery. The surgery went well and Darren is recovering home. Darren's tracking partner is Theo (FC Theo von Moosbach-Zuzelek).

A hunter called about a deer he hit on Friday morning, October 21, about 7:30 am. At the hit the deer walked off about 60 yards and lay down. The hunter thought that the deer was going to die right there. After about 20 minutes the deer got up and slowly walked away. The hunter stayed in the stand for a while, then climbed down and snuck out. He came back around noon to check the arrow and look for the deer. During this time it had rained heavily and was threatening the rest of the day.

When the hunter checked his arrow he smelled gut on it and saw white hairs on the ground. Despite the rain, there was a substantial amount of blood in the bed. He began to track the deer and eventually lost the blood alongside the creek. The hunter looked me up on the UBNJ web site and called me. It turns out that the hunter was a new resident to the town I work for and was hunting right out of his back yard.

At this point I would like to say that this swamp buck was a mature deer over 3 ½ years old. I have seen this behavior in this age class of a buck many times. At the hit the deer doesn’t run or panic. They don’t elevate their blood pressure by running, and by bedding quickly they slow their blood loss. With the onset of the rut, this type of buck with this type of hit can be very hard to kill and recover.

I made arrangements to meet the hunter after work and I was at his house by 4 p.m., 8½ hours after the shot. We went to the hit site and I got Theo ready. The arrow had a slight gut smell and the white hair was there just as the hunter had said. I started Theo and he took the track and ended up in the wound bed. I could see good blood indicating it was a liver hit. Theo tracked to the creek to where the hunter had quit and began searching. He kept going up and down the bank and then just jumped in and swam to the other side. The creek was about 15 feet wide and I just kept feeding out my lead. Theo got to the other side and after a quick check started up a little draw away from the bank. 

It looked like we were going to get wet. The creek was mid-thigh deep and a little chilly but had a pretty good bottom. We got across quickly and tracked along the top of the creek to an ox bow. Theo started down towards the creek again and stopped on a log that was in the water. He was stretching out and sniffing but hadn’t committed to taking the plunge. The creek was deep here but not wide and if we went in we were going to have to swim.

Theo came back up to the top and began searching the bank. All of a sudden he took a line right over our track in. The deer had back tracked. He bedded high on the creek bend with the deep water at his back looking over his back trail where he crossed the creek the first time. It’s quite possible that the deer saw or heard the hunter from this vantage point looking for him earlier in the day.

Theo then tracked out of the flood plain and up to higher ground. I hadn’t seen any blood since the bed at the creek and we were heading right for a housing development in the neighboring municipality. Theo was tracking right behind the backyards of the houses and I was praying that the deer stayed in the woods. All of a sudden Theo’s tempo picked up and the hunter said he saw a deer get up and go to the right. Theo was really excited and tracking left towards the road. I just held back on the lead and let him settle a bit. It was obvious that there was more than one deer here and they left in different directions. Theo took a line that was straighter, and the hunter said that the deer went right. I asked him to stand by and wait. When I saw a small drop of fresh blood 30 yards later I knew he had the right deer. I went about another 30 yards, found another spot of blood and called up the hunter. Theo was tracking towards a mowed retention basin behind the houses and he was pulling hard. I planned to track up to the edge and look across and check for the deer. The basin was about 125 yards wide and there was no dead deer in it. I pulled Theo back and it was time to discuss our strategy with the hunter.

I was afraid to push the deer because of the houses. I’ve lost big deer to the developments before and did not want it to happen now. I laid out our options. We could continue and risk losing him in the development, we could come back around midnight and re-start, or we could take our chances with the rain and start in the morning. I reassured hunter that Theo could track after a rain and it wouldn’t be a problem, but I didn’t realize how much we were going to get.

We decided to resume tracking in the morning. It had poured over night and was raining hard in the morning. I sent a text to the hunter to make sure that were still on and he said yes. I was a little apprehensive about tracking to the deer but felt confident that if it stayed in the woods we could find him. I picked up the hunter and we started at the first creek crossing. I swear when Theo saw the hunter he knew we were going to finish what we started. 

I brought Hip Boots for the crossing and just made it. Theo swam across and was dragging he short lead following the exact same track to where we stopped yesterday. I hooked up Theo about 50 yards from the edge of the basin and started. He ran down yesterday’s line and into the basin and began searching his way across.

At the other side he began checking runs. I was really hoping to find the deer just inside the edge but it didn’t happen. We had the wind in our face,a and I was sweeping Theo in a search mode from the houses to our side of the creek in an effort to pick up the trail of the deer or air scent a body. Theo was working nicely through the thick green briars and brush and we went about another 500 yards sweeping through the bottom without any luck. Now the plan was to work the creek back and have Theo check the runs leading up to a crossing. We had gotten about 150 yards from the retention basin when Theo started sniffing the briars while standing up on his hind legs. When he does this it usually means he’s confirming the scent of our deer or has caught a piece of familiar scent. Theo started to take this run towards the creek and worked down to the bank and was looking across the water. I happened to look downstream and there was the deer floating in the middle of the creek stuck against a fallen tree. As soon as I saw him I shouted out my favorite saying “I gottem”. The hunter came running over and because of the briars and the creek bank he couldn’t see him. He said “where, where “. I said "he’s in the creek, you got him".

Theo got him!
By now Theo had seen him and was swimming over to him. He climbed up on the deer and began to pull out his hair. I waded out and dragged the deer back to the bank. The deer died about 100 yards behind the hunter's stand and looked like it was headed back to where it had come from. We had a heck of a celebration, and I was genuinely happy for this hunter. He was a good guy and I’m glad we could find his deer. The deer was hit low in the liver and because of the way it acted after the hit, it lived a long time.

This kind of track makes believers out of hunters and legends out of tracking dogs. This may be my last track this season and if so it was a great one. Theo is still learning and getting better every time we track. We have developed into a team that knows what to do to get the job done. I love working this dog and finding deer with him.

Darren and Theo at the end of successful track

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Wired To Hunt podcast with John Jeanneney on how to track and recover wounded deer

Few days ago Wired To Hunt posted a podcast with John Jeanneney on the topic of deer tracking and recovery. The podcast can be accessed HERE. The whole podcast is about 90 minutes, and the first 30 minutes or so are on other topics. John's part starts around the 60-minute mark and lasts an hour. We hope you enjoy it.

This is the first year when John is not tracking. He turned 81 in April! He still stays very much engaged, dispatching hunters' calls to local handlers and advising hunters on the phone and over email.

Few days after the podcast had been aired we received this email from a hunter:

I was fortunate enough to have been able to listen to Wired to Hunt Podcast #124 with John’s infinite wisdom filling the hour.  I wanted to express my thanks for opening my eyes to the “let it lay overnight” theory.  I let a buck I hit in the shoulder lay overnight when I knew he was close by last year.  To keep a long story short, I ultimately saw him dragging his front leg (shattered at the shoulder) by a camera then out of my life that next morning.  I believe I would have continued pushing him had I learned this information earlier, and definitely would have done nothing but increase my odds of harvesting the animal. I know he died in a very thick, impassible portion of my property.  I never recovered the animal, and think about it very often.  With this new found knowledge I gained from a short listen to John, I firmly believe I will in the future have a much better chance of finding a deer in various situations, as well as be much more inclined to contact someone with a tracking dog to assist me in the harvesting of the animal.

I know that was a lot of rambling, but I wanted to say THANKS!