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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Blood Tracking Adventures

by Jolanta Jeanneney for DCA Newsletter, October 2007

I have no doubt that the fall is my favorite time of the year. No more hot and humid days which prevent us from working with the dogs. We live in north-central New York, surrounded by the Helderberg Hills, where strong winds and deep snow do not make winters dachshund-friendly either. But September and October can be simply gorgeous when maple leaves change their colors and the woods entice with a wonderful scent of wet, decomposing leaves on the ground. This is also when dachshunds get a chance of real work – tracking wounded deer and bear for hunters. Our deer hunting season opened this year on October 13 and it will close on December 18. John, who is a principal tracker in this family, has distributed cards advertising our tracking services in local stores with hunting supply, coffee shops and any places that might be frequented by hunters. Also, as members of Deer Search ( and United Blood Trackers ( we get referrals through these organizations.

Last Sunday (October 21) was beautiful with temperature over 75 degrees. Leaves were spectacular, at their peak of color. We were tracking a wounded deer for a hunter in Rensselaer County, an hour drive from our place. Just when we were coming back from the field, another hunter called. By pure chance, he was only 20 minutes from us and he could not locate a deer wounded too far back in the early morning. Dogs can usually track successfully deer with this type of wounds. Even though there might not be much blood to work with, the scent left by the deer from the stomach wound is quite strong. After we met the hunter, Steve, who led us to the hunting grounds, it was quite a surprise to see his friend Jeff there. Jeff is an avid and experienced bowhunter but he has never seen tracking dogs in action. He had a camcorder in his hand so the pressure was on.

We had Elli and her son Arlo with us. Arlo is a littermate to Henry Holt’s Bear, Sherry Ruggieri’s Auggie and Dixie and our Amy and Emma. He is now four and a half years old and we got him back last December when his owner could not keep him any longer. For a while we were thinking about evaluating him and if he showed a good potential, re-selling him as a tracking dog. He was not worked at all by his previous owner but he was very promising as a puppy. We really liked what we saw last spring/summer in training on artificial lines, and also we have grown fond of him. Then this fall he finished his field championship with ease and three first places. We made a decision to keep him as we got attached to him; he seems very happy here and he is a hunting dog with a wonderful personality. Anyway, we decided to let him lead on his first natural deer call.

We started to track at 5:30 pm. The hunter showed us a short trail of sparse blood and Arlo followed it well. He was calm, tracked at a pretty slow pace and started to advance trail with a lot of confidence. Jeff thought that the deer must have veered off to the right but Arlo turned left to the field of golden rod. We did not see any blood but it is usually the case with a deer hit in this way. At this point we had no choice but to trust Arlo. The scent trail came very close to where our vehicles were parked. For a short time I had some doubts whether we were on a right track, but Arlo showed no hesitation. Jeff and Steve moved to the side, scouted the field ahead and saw that the bedded buck got up and started to move away. We saw the buck; his tail was down and his back was hunched up.

Arlo continued to track the cold scent methodically but then he hit the hot trail. It was not easy to handle Elli and trying to take pictures at the same time! When the dogs got on the hot line, they both opened and a quick pursuit followed.

The next 20 minutes were pretty hectic. Steve tried to arrow the deer, which bedded again, but unfortunately he missed. We got close to the buck several times but every time he would get up on his feet and run again. Even when we thought that he expired and Arlo jumped on him, deer got up, shook Arlo off, and ran again.

Finally Steve caught up with the buck again and put in another arrow. What an incredible will to live this deer had! Arlo, usually extremely possessive, pulled on the buck's leg but was not overly aggressive. Perhaps having been thrown off the deer cooled his appetite for a direct confrontation.

Elli was very possessive of the deer so we let the dogs enjoy their find one at a time. Jeff and Steve were very happy with getting this deer. We got back home at 9 pm very happy with dogs’ work. An e-mail from hunters was already waiting on our computer: “Steve and I wish to thank you very much for the exciting and successful search. The dogs worked amazingly well and Steve never would have recovered his deer without you guys and the dogs. You made a believer out of Steve and I with those dogs. Great way to end the day - don't you think.”

It is going to be a memorable call, and I posted some pictures at

Two days later, we received a call from another distressed hunter. He arrowed a deer the previous evening at 5:30 pm. He was sure that the deer was shot in the stomach. We started to track at 10:30 am and John handled a two-year-old Bernie. It was a warm day, temperature around 70 degrees, and overcast sky. There was a good blood trail even though red leaves on the ground made spotting blood drops a bit difficult.

Bernie showed a good desire to track but he was too fast and not very focused. It was good to have a long blood trail to work with so we could actually evaluate Bernie's work as we were sure of where the deer went. After 150 yards of veering through the woods, the deer went into patches of goldenrod. Bernie was pulling ahead, and he was not very accurate. When we ran out of blood line, we did not have much confidence about whether Bernie was on the right track. We searched and searched but could not see more blood. After one hour we decided to take Bernie back to the car and bring a more experienced Billy.

It was not an easy task for Billy to track through the terrain already trampled by three people and one dog. I was getting a bit discouraged as we could not find more blood and advance the trail. I could not believe that the deer, which was bleeding so much, all of sudden, would stop leaving any blood behind. While John was working with Billy, the hunter and I decided to look a bit to the right of the track - the only direction not explored yet. We were successful and found more blood at the edge of another goldenrod field.

We marked the blood and called John with Billy. This time we were very optimistic about finding the buck. This new blood trail was not disturbed by us or another dog and in the very thick cover Billy should not have had problems with following it. We were right! Now Billy was pulling with a great strength and he acted very sure of himself. Forty yards later (and two hours from the start with Bernie) we found the deer. It was a very sad site as unfortunately coyotes got there first! The damage was severe and the meat was not salvageable. It was a lesson that these days in our area a hunter risks losing a wounded or dead deer to coyotes if he chooses not to track at night. Billy got his reward by tugging on the deer and getting a piece of venison.

This deer call illustrates well how blood tracking relies on a partnership of handler and his dog. We found this deer thanks to Billy but on the other hand he would have a very hard time locating the deer by himself given the circumstances.

Pictures from this call are posted at

Laurel Whistance-Smith has been breeding dachshunds out of German bloodlines for at least 15 years. Last year she sold one of her puppies, Josy, to Christian Elwell, who is a big game outfitter in Alaska with a passion for hunting whitetails around and working with dogs. He spends late falls in Ithaca, NY. Recently he reported about his experiences in New Mexico.

“Hello Laurel, I’m in between trips for a couple of days and wanted to update you on Josy. What a dog. She had a ball this summer on my float trips. I got a life jacket for her and she rode on top of the gear while we floated.

We had no trouble with bears this summer thanks to Josy. A three year old Brown Bear had been terrorizing rafters at the head waters of the trip. No one had had the opportunity to pepper it with bird shot and it was becoming quite cheeky. When it came into our camp one night Josy lit out after it and chased it over a mile down stream at which point it dove in and swam for the other side, not to be seen again. This was only one of the many times she kept our camp and perimeter free of bears. She has a zero tolerance policy for them.

The big news is the time we spent on the Vermejo Ranch in northern New Mexico. The ranch itself is over 900 square miles and it has the best elk hunting in North America. This year was the first year New Mexico has allowed blood tracking with leashed dogs. Josy and I were invited to come down and see how we could do during bow season. Nothing like starting at the top. There were quite a few chuckles when people first saw the scurfy, short dog. A few people had heard of the breed, but no one really had any clue.

Our first call for elk was a gut hit bull we followed up 24 hours after it had been hit. We worked for six hours on hot, dry, rocky ground with almost no visible blood. Almost three hours later, through lots and lots of fresh elk tracks, we found the bull. Amazing how she worked. She is so determined.

The last elk we found was also hit really far back. She lost the line in the middle of the track and took 45 minutes to figure things out before she began to tug hard on the leash. We would find pin drops of blood every 10 meters or so. After three miles she stopped and made a hard left and started going up hill. Two miles away we found the bill, a large 6X6 so it was 3.2 miles and 1200 feet in elevation gain. There is no way in Hell any human could have found either of these bulls.

As for the people that laughed. I think that there might be a little corner in northern New Mexico where the cowboys have dachshunds instead of heelers.

Season total on recovered animals is: three elk and one black bear – not bad for seven days”.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Appreciation for Deer Search tracking services

The letter below was written by Kevin Harris to Kevin Armstrong from Deer Search. Kevin and Ron Betts recovered a trophy buck (159 5/8 score) on November 11, 2008.

May 14, 2009


Here is a copy of the official score sheet I just submitted to New York State Big Buck Club for their next record book. I hope it makes a nice addition to Karma's scrapbook which I know is full of great success stories and adventures.

No words can express my gratitude to You, Karma, Ron, and DEER SEARCH for helping me recover that magnificent buck. It is an experience I will never forget as long as I live! The work you do on behalf of hunters and the wonderful creatures they pursue is priceless.

The support you provided to me after the recovery is most appreciated as well. Your guidance and advice helped me pursue things the honorable way, and all has worked out positively. (We) have a record book buck to show for our honest ethical efforts! You have been a great mentor and friend. Thanks.

Sincerely -

Kevin Harris"

Kevin Armstrong with Karma and Ron Betts with Effi

Monday, May 11, 2009

New Field Champion Joeri vom Nonnenschlag

I spent last weekend attending dachshund field trials, which took place at the Central New Jersey Beagle Club, Sergeantsville, NJ. As I was judging field champions on Sunday at the Dachshund Club of America Annual field trial, I took only two young males with me - Joeri and Tommy. On both days Joeri placed first in a stake of open all-age dogs, and since he already had one placement from the last fall, he met all the requirements to get a title of the AKC Field Champion. You can see pictures taken on Saturday at the trial here.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The French Connection - Blood Tracking Workshop in Quebec, Canada

by John Jeanneney
Full Cry June 2009

One of the North American hot spots for tracking wounded big game with tracking dogs is certainly going to be Quebec. They shoot a lot of moose up there, and with their early season starting in September many of these moose are not found until after the meat has spoiled. If a moose is shot in the late afternoon of a warm day and left to be found in the morning, chances are that the meat will be inedible. That means that the equivalent of 400 pounds of deboned meat is wasted. Because the body mass of a moose is so great, and the heavy coat is such good insulation, the animal spoils from its own body heat.

Quebec’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Wildlife decided that their existing laws did allow for blood tracking, although their interpretation, as it was written, is not very practical. For example a firearm cannot be carried while tracking with a dog.

In good part because of the influence of guides and outfitters, interest began to grow among hunters in general. When I gave a workshop last June at St- Apollinaire near Quebec city, there were about 35 enthusiastic people in attendance. An organization was formed after the workshop, and it was called the “Association of Tracking Dog Handlers of Quebec”. (The French acronym for this jawbreaker is ACCSQ.) This year’s workshop, which I attended as a member of the Association, drew 66 people who paid $100.00 or more for the two days. The Association had also opened up discussions with the Ministry about improving their regulations in various ways. A representative of the Ministry was present at the workshop.

The new Association in Quebec had made fruitful contacts with the French, multi breed tracking organization, UNUCR, which has over 2000 members. Some of these, like Patrice Stoquert, a forester whom I accompanied in 2007, take 100s of calls a year. Certainly the big game species in Europe are quite different from those of Quebec and there is a wild boar problem much more serious than the wild hawg issues of our American South. In France wild boars tear up the agricultural fields as if they had been invaded by a drunken gang of giant rototillers; wild boars even invade the suburbs to raid garbage cans. Boar hunting drives go on in France through most of the year, and this makes for a lot of tracking. But despite the differences in game species almost all of the French experience is valid for Quebec and the rest of North America.

The Association brought over from France my friend Patrice Stoquert, who uses Labs, and Philippe Rainaud, who tracks with European wirehaired dachshunds of the type I use myself. Wirehaired dachshunds are the most widely used blood tracking dogs in France, and it looks like dogs of this breed, also known as “teckels”, have already become the most popular dogs for this work in Quebec. No one seems deterred by the fact that moose or even a black bear are considerable bigger that a 20 pound dachshund or that the handler and accompanying hunter cannot carry a firearm. I hope that the regulations are changed before someone gets hurt.

Stoquert and Rainaud are old hands at giving workshops in France and they have a smooth, well-organized presentation. I have presented a few workshops myself on the subject, but there were important new things that I learned from them.

One of the first things to be learned in wounded game tracking is to evaluate the hit site for information about where the animal has been hit. This is pretty straightforward, but Stoquert and Rainaud showed that there is more to it than meets the ordinary eye at the hit site. They hung a road-killed deer up in a standing position about ten feet in front of several different lightweight tarps of white plastic. Then they shot through the deer with various high power rifles, a 12 gauge slug gun and bowhunting arrows. The holes and splatters on the tarps showed that there was actually a cone-shaped spray of metal particles, tissue and bone fragments around the bullet hole in the tarp behind the deer. It could also be seen that the projectile sometimes changed its trajectory by as much as 30 degrees in passing through the animal. Observers could see that a wider and more careful search for sign at the hit site would yield a better sense of what the tracking task ahead might produce.

Road killed deer hung up to demonstrate how bullets and particles exit from an animal that has been shot. Yves Martineau, ACCSQ President is holding rifle.

Rainaud also pointed out that an experienced dog, one with a hundred calls or so in his memory bank, can also inform us about the condition of the animal being tracked. If you know how to read your dog, his body language and the looks that he gives you over the first few 100 yards of track, you will know whether to forge ahead to the end, or on the other hand, pick up the dog. Stoquert and Rainaud, pointed out again and again through the weekend just how important practical experience is for both the handler and the tracking dog. Breed and genetics are an important base, but great tracking dogs are made on the trail, a trail that may be 24 hours old with little or no blood.

As previously stated, Stoquert and Rainaud are Lab and dachshund men, respectively. Therefore, they are thankful that they are licensed to track in France rather than in Germany. In Germany, using these two breeds, they would not be qualified to become licensed trackers. In Germany only handlers of the specialized blood tracking breeds can acquire a state license, subsidies and the authorization to track onto any property, even without landowner permission. In most of the German states this means having a Hanover blood hound, a Bavarian mountain blood hound or a dachshbracke. There is a lot of politics behind these state preferences and prejudices.

Actually Stoquert, a French forester with a British Lab, is invited to track at the big state sponsored drive hunts in Germany across the border from where he lives. The hunt managers are most interested in what a dog can accomplish!

Both Stoquert and Rainaud praised the nose of the bloodhound-based Hanover blood hound and Bavarian mountain blood hound. But they pointed out that both dogs are slow to develop psychologically. Their period of wacky adolescence often extends to three years. At the other end, their lives are comparatively short; they are usually dead or too old to work by the time they are eight. On average they have only about five years to fulfill themselves in the tasks for which they were bred. In contrast a dachshund or a Lab will be useful for double that length of time.

Patrice Stoquert, French workshop presenter from UNUCR, giving advice to Jacques Dion on handling his wirehaired dachshund.

The workshop was divided about equally between indoor discussion and field work using a few demo dogs at various stages of development. There was a tendency for even the more experienced Quebec dogs to work too fast. If you have to run to keep up with the dog at the end of the tracking leash, you are going way too fast to see the blood sign that will help indicate the condition of the deer. They pointed out that an excessively fast dog wastes more time than he saves. Tracking dogs in Europe are trained to point out blood sign, and some do this naturally with little training. Partnership and cooperation between handler and dog are at the heart of tracking wounded big game. Obedience training is important, but “command and obey” are not enough.