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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Deer Search's Annual Dinner

On Sunday, March 30, the Founding Chapter of Deer Search held the Annual Dinner at Copperfields, Pleasant Valley, NY. According to my count, 29 people attended, and some members traveled from as far as New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It was truly great to see everybody. I don't attend regular meeting of Deer Search any more as their schedule collides with meetings of New Scotland Beagle Club, where I am a treasurer. This was a great opportunity to see my good friends. Deer Search was formed 32 years ago so there was a lot of collective blood tracking experience gathered in the Copperfields dining room!

Penny Hickman, our President, welcomed everybody and encouraged us to attend the Annual Meeting that will take place on April 1. At present Deer Search is dealing with some important issues and members' active participation is critical.

Bill Siegrist, Chairman of the Blood Tracking Committee, reviewed the 2009 tracking season and thanked all the trackers for their hard work and dedication. Unfortunately, Tim Nichols who took the highest number of calls, 61, could not attend the dinner as he has been sick with Lyme disease. Tim - get better really soon! All in all, members of the Founding Chapter went on 324 sorties, and they recovered in total 72 wounded deer, bear, moose and bobcat. Bill reminded us about upcoming DSI Blood Tracking Competition, that will take place on April 17-18.

Barbara Schmidt, our Secretary, presented new Certified Handlers with their certificates. Deer Search has a certification program for both, handlers and dogs. In 2009 three new handlers were certified, and they fulfilled their certification requirements in one year. This is a great accomplishment. The pictures above show Beth Shero and her husband Gentian Shero, who both got certified. It was recognized that Beth is a third-generation Deer Searcher. Her Grandmother Faye Robinson is a Deer Search member and a dedicated dispatcher. Beth's Father, John Robinson, a former Presient of Deer Search, is still an active tracker.

Marc Niad is the only tracker we have in Westchester County, and he has been a great asset to our organization. Marc's tracking partner is Dakota, a Jagdterrier, and to read more about this team click here.

The only dog that was certified in 2009 was our FC Billy von Moosbach-Zuzelek, who was handled by John Jeanneney. John, at 75, is the oldest member of our chapter, and he took the 2nd highest number of calls - 35. Congratulations to John and Billy!

It was good to see old friends and to make new ones. Above you can see Fred Zoeller, Roger Humeston Jr and his friend Debbie, Pete Martin with his girlfriend, Gentian Shero, Andy Bensing, Rich Stollery, Darren Doran, Ray Hickman. Below: John Robinson, Faye Robinson, Ray and Ruth Hickman.

To be able to participate in the DSI Blood Tracking Competition, dogs have to be pre-tested. The pretest line must be from 20 to 24 hours old, 500 meters long, and 125 ml. (1/4 pint) of blood must be laid on the line. The pretest line must have two  90 degree turns, and the bloodline must be laid by the pretest evaluator.
After the dinner was over, three dachshunds who are going to compete in the Blood Tracking Competition, socialized in the parking lot. They just passed their pretests. These were Andy Bensing's Eibe and Beth and Gentian Shero's Mae and Mariel. We wish best of luck to the handlers and their dogs.

Mariel is a good eample of the correct FCI-type wirehaired dachshund. She was bred by Dale Clifford, and is a granddaughter of our Sabina.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Steve Durocher and Whiskey - a blood tracking team from Quebec

Here are some photos of Steve Durocher with “Lapisterouge Whiskey Jack”, a wirehaired dachshund out of European FCI bloodlines. Steve is a member of ACCSQ Association des Conducteurs de Chiens de Sang du Québec (Association of Blood Tracking Dog Handlers in Quebec). The whitetail bucks are chevreuils, named after the much smaller deer of France.

When I saw Whiskey's pedigree, it brought many memories. When John and I went on the two-week trip to Germany and France in 1999, we saw two dogs that are in Whiskey's pedigree. Both were superb hunting dogs - Oberst von Rominten and Magot du Domain de Chambord. They both are Whiskey's great grandfathers. We have never met Whiskey in person, at least not yet, but in the pictures he looks beautiful and very correct.

Actually, we'll take a walk down the memory lane, and in a couple of days I will post our report from the 1999 trip. It was an important event that had a big impact on our breeding and introduction of new lines into the American gene pool of European wires.

It looks like Whiskey is going to be a father soon so if you are interested in his puppies, contact Steve at 819-353-1837 / 819-350-8803, He lives in Warwick, Québec, which is half-way between Montreal and Québec City, and he speaks English.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Why We Track

by John Jeanneney for Full Cry March 2010

At some point all of us dog folks have to step back and consider what we have done with our lives…and what we are going to do with the rest of life that lies ahead. This is not always easy. Whatever you have been doing, beyond earning a living, seems like an empty time-waster to someone else who doesn’t understand it. Well, you do what you have to do, and you don’t live just to please someone else. But sometimes it firms up your own determination and gives you some comfort if you can explain your passion to yourself and recognize it in others. I began stewing about all this at New Year’s Resolution Time, and now in March the stew is starting to thicken into something that tastes pretty good. As regular readers of this column know by now, my own strange passion is working with a good dog to track and find wounded deer and bear.

      One of the things that has helped me understand myself better comes from communicating with other trackers, The United Blood Trackers organization has on its website ( a forum where member trackers swap stories, give advice and share their thoughts. Through this forum I learned that I was not alone in my extreme fascination with tracking. As a matter of fact I learned that some of my friends there were even more extreme! I would like to quote some of their confessions to being an addict, so passionate for tracking wounded whitetails that it becomes even more important than hunting them from a deer stand.
      The majority of serious tracking dog handlers were serious hunters to begin with. They were avid deer hunters; many of the best also had a strong background of coon hunting at night. It is difficult for a “normal” hunter to imagine that a tracker, who was once a dedicated deer hunter, could actually become so carried away that he prefers tracking to waiting in the woods on a deer stand.
     Money doesn’t seem to be a big motivator for most of the trackers I know. They may take gas money, but they don’t see tracking as an important way to increase family income.

A good example of this psychological transformation was expressed on the United Blood Trackers discussion forum. Greg Accardo, who lives in Louisiana, wrote:
      The other day I tracked a six pointer for a hunter who wanted to pay me for finding the deer. I told him "no need to" because what I do is a volunteer service, and I enjoy working with my dogs. Then he asked me something that was shocking, only because of my response, or, lack of response. He asked "do you hunt", meaning he wanted to invite me to come and hunt on his place with him for my service. And I had to think for a minute, Do I hunt? The question really put me on the spot because it forced me to think back to the last time I hunted.
     Four years ago I looked into buying a blood tracking dog for the same reasons most people do. I was tired of losing deer that were hard to track. Before that time nobody hunted more than I did. And when I wasn't hunting, I was preparing for hunting season. Then I bought a dog from Andy Bensing, trained it, and now I have a good and loyal tracking dog, But when someone asks me "Do you hunt", I have look at my self after four years and say "not much at all". This experience with blood tracking has changed me. I can honestly say, this dog thing has changed my life. Instead of sitting in a bow stand for hours, I sit at home waiting for the phone to ring. Instead of spending the off-season working with hunting gear, I work with my dog. Do I miss the hunting? I don't think so because my passion has shifted. Is that a good thing or bad thing? I guess it depends on the individual. This I do know, after all the deer I've killed in my life time, maybe close to 200, nothing tops the feeling of excitement I get working with my dog and finding that deer and watching her act like she's conquered the world. The final question is, Will I ever hunt again with as much drive and passion as before, I don't know. All I do know is I've found my new passion, and I'm not ready to trade it for something else.
Greg Accardo on right after a worthwhile day with his tracking dogs.

 Joe Walters in Indiana responded, I couldn't have said it any better. I agree totally. I gave up deer hunting to also sit by the phone after finding my hunt site was a dead zone for my cell phone. I track in seven different counties. All I ask for is gas money. Never over twenty dollars. I've also had many hunters ask why I don't charge for my services. I then ask them if they get paid to hunt. I get more enjoyment from a find by my dachshund Doc than any big or small game that I've ever shot. Sunday I refused gas money from a young lad that arrowed his first deer. You have the same feelings I have and I believe it extends through all the members of UBT. 
Dick Blythe and Joe Walters' Doc

Jeff Murphy of Michigan wrote, I thought that I was the only one that felt this way. I have only been tracking for a couple years but (I find) myself sitting in the woods hoping that someone else will get a shot at a deer and call me. It is addicting and amazing how much a dog bonds with you when you start tracking as a team.

What are the explanations for this shifting of priorities from hunting to tracking? First let’s recognize that tracking is psychologically, if not legally, hunting in another form. Our hardwired passion to hunt has not been lost; it has been transformed.
      We can speculate that part of this is the fascination of bonding with our tracking dog, another social species that extends our own capabilities and understandings as we track lost game. Dog and man search together and become more than the simple sum of two individuals. For me personally, this is a very big factor.
      Part of our new fascination may be in response to a declining interest in, killing game animals for ourselves. In the first decades of a hunting life we have something to prove. “The bigger the trophy buck, the better the man”. Later in life the killing and claiming part of hunting becomes less important to us. But in its new form, as a passion for tracking, the desire to hunt remains very much a part of us.
      We continue to seek the human camaraderie of the hunt, and we learn that there is no better way to make a new friend than to help him find his game and share his joy.
      Finally we know that tracking and finding wounded big game animals is the right thing to do. We know that we reduce animal suffering and prevent the waste of a valuable natural resource. This final, politically correct reason for tracking is probably the one that we mention first to outsiders. Fortunately this reason is reinforced in our own minds by the powerful and primitive motivations we have to go out on a cold, rainy night to find someone else’s deer.

Monday, March 22, 2010

In defense of blood tracking

This e-mail came to Deer Search, and it was not anonymous:
"Dear Sir/Madame:

I think your organizations tracking and killing of injured deer and beers is inhumane and very disappointing. New York State and many other states, have programs for trained and certified wildlife experts to rescue, rehabilitate, and release wild deer and bears. I will contact the State DEC, DEP, influential politicians, animal welfare organizations, etc. to express my strong disapproval of your organization. "

John's response to the letter was:

Mr. G....., you are certainly naïve. I am sure that you would like to outlaw hunting and let coyotes, automobiles and starvation control the over-population of deer. However, the abolition of hunting is not about to happen.

Deer Search tracks deer and bear with leashed tracking dogs only in cases when they have been injured by hunters or motorized vehicles and can not be found by other means. Would you prefer to let these animals die a slow, lingering death? At present there are no public services available to take wounded deer and bear on stretchers out of the woods to veterinary hospitals. Perhaps you would like to donate your time, muscle and fortune to this cause?

John and Joeri on the track of wounded deer

Saturday, March 20, 2010

First day of spring - still plenty of snow

Our first day of spring was beautiful - warm and sunny - and you could feel spring in the air. On the ground, however, we still have at least 8 inches of snow. Today, for the first time in a month I ventured to our enclosure to check whether any rabbits survived and if the fence needs any repairs. As it turned out, the fence is in a good shape, but rabbits are not.
There are patches of bare ground but it is still very hard to walk. I took Elli along, and I could see her disapointment. She could not smell any rabbits and I could not find any sign of wildlife - there were no tracks on the snow, no droppings, nothing.

Elli worked hard to find rabbits but she started only one in the 11 acre field.

It looks like most of the rabbits that we had seen in January did not survive the four-five foot snowfall in February. Only in the small patch of brush near the gate to our yard I noticed some signs of life - some sumac that rabbits (or maybe just one rabbit) chewed on. The sumac was at least four feet, but was chewed up to the very top.
At the end of my walk I found some sign of spring - catkins are out. There is hope that spring will come soon, but it is not here yet. Blood tracking training has to wait...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Problems with coats in wirehaired dachshunds

The post about Charlie reminded me about problems with coats in wirehaired dachshunds. It would be a good opportunity to recall the below post from our puppy blog from almost a year ago.

I received some questions about wirehaired coats from Chris S., who is picking up his puppy in few weeks. Chris writes: "You wrote that there are more softer coats than the ideal wire coats. What makes one type of coat more desirable over another? Can you tell from the pictures or is it in the feel? I have heard that the smooth, smire coats, seem to be preferred by a lot of hunters now a days. What makes them more popular? Is it because the coat is less maintenance over the longer wire coats?" 

Chris, because of the time constraint my answer will have to be relatively short, but I'll try to do my best. The AKC standard for the breed gives a good description of the wirehaired coat:

"With the exception of jaw, eyebrows, and ears, the whole body is covered with a uniform tight, short, thick, rough, hard, outer coat but with finer, somewhat softer, shorter hairs (undercoat) everywhere distributed between the coarser hairs. The absence of an undercoat is a fault. The distinctive facial furnishings include a beard and eyebrows. On the ears the hair is shorter than on the body, almost smooth. The general arrangement of the hair is such that the wirehaired Dachshund, when viewed from a distance, resembles the smooth. Any sort of soft hair in the outercoat, wherever found on the body, especially on the top of the head, is a fault. The same is true of long, curly, or wavy hair, or hair that sticks out irregularly in all directions. Tail-Robust, thickly haired, gradually tapering to a point. A flag tail is a fault."

The FCI dachshund standard (description of the ideal) states: With exception of muzzle, eyebrows and ears, perfectly even close fitting, dense wiry topcoat with undercoat. The muzzle has a clearly defined beard. Eyebrows are bushy. On the ears, the coat is shorter than on the body, almost smooth. Faults include: 
  • Soft coat, whether long or short.
  • Long coat, standing away from body in all directions.
  • Curly or wavy coat.
  • Soft coat on head.
  • Flag on tail.
  • Lack of beard.
  • Lack of undercoat.
  • Short coat.

Joeri would be a good example of ideal wirehaired coat - a nice bushy beard, yet tight wiry, harsh body coat, no hair on his ears. Wirehaired dachshunds need to be groomed, and Joeri is not an exception. This will be a topic for another post, but I just would like to mention that Joeri looks good when his coat is stripped 2-3 times a year.
Real wirehaired coats do not breed true, and this is a big problem when it comes to breeding wirehaired dachshunds for the field. Even when both parents have ideal coats, most likely their pups will have a whole range of coats. Those who have been following this blog, probably remember that Joeri and Emma's four pups included smooth Olive, Ollie with a very good coat, and Olana and Oak with softer coats.

When it comes to hunting dachshunds, who do you think will have a more functional coat - Bernie or Angie?
Above - Bernie came out of parents with ideal coats. He has a double coat typical for wires (true smooth dachshunds have a one-layer-coat), but his topcoat is very short, and he does not have a beard, eyebrows or leg furnishings. Technically he is a smooth dachshund.
Angie has a soft and fluffy coat, which has not been groomed. If she went like this into a thick cover, her coat would be a complete mess. If she were to be used for field work, her coat would have to be clipped and kept very short.

Both Bernie and Angie have faulty coats, but Bernie's coat is much more functional than Angie's. His coat is double layered and provides good protection; there is no grooming required. Angie's coat does not provide protection and would be a liability in the field. However, some people love the look of wirehaired dachshund with a beard, and would choose Angie over Bernie, if they were basing their decision exclusively on the coat type.

Different registries and breed clubs treat the smooth coat coming out of wires differently. In the USA there is only one breed - the dachshund - and a registration certificate does not even state the coat type. If Bernie were to go to a show ring - he would be shown as a smooth dachshund. In the FCI countries such as Germany, where crossing various coats of dachshunds is forbidden, individuals like Bernie are disqualified from breeding. There is some flexibility in the system in some FCI countries though. In France individuals like Bernie could be incorporated into the wire or smooth breeding depending on the qualities of individual dog.  In other countries, like Canada, he would be re-registered as a smooth.

The problem of smooth and soft coats does not exist only in wirehaired dachshunds but it is encountered in other wirehaired breeds such as Deutsch Drahthaar or Wirehaired Pointing Griffon. A good discussion of problems with coats in the latter breed is at
In my opinion in Germany, since smooths out of wires are penalized and disqualified from breeding, many breeders try to avoid them and tend to breed softer, fuller coats, which are not very functional in the field. By the way, "smires" is just a made up term used by enthusiasts of this type of coat.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What is going on in Berne?

It seems that the snow that we got three weeks ago is not going to go away...ever. Recently it has been quite warm, and today the temperature was around 50. But the two pictures taken yesterday and today show the amount of snow that is still around.

We have not seen any rabbit activity, and I really hope that we did not lose all the rabbits beacuse of too mcuh snow at the end of February. On a personal note, two weeks ago, while shoveling snow, I fell and hurt my knee and today was the first day when it felt OK again.

We both have been very busy. Three of our female dachshunds came in season at the same time so it is quite a challenge to manage all the dogs (we have five intact males). We are going to have two litters of pups this summer, and more info on this is posted at

John and I are working on the new book Dead On! Gun and Bow Hunting Tactics to Shooting, Tracking and Finding Deer, which is an expansion of the chapters 10-11 from the book on tracking dogs. This new, much shorter book is not going to deal with dogs and should be of interest to all deer hunters. It should be done soon, hopefully before puppies arrive.

I hope to be able to get away for few days and attend a couple of field trials in April and May, but because of the upcoming pups most likely I won't be able to make it to Trackfest in Michigan. John will be there for sure, and it looks like quite a few people will be coming.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tracking wounded deer with Marty and Mikki's Drahthaars

We wrote about Marty and Mikki Vlach and their Drahthaars over a year ago, and it is time to post an update.

Mikki: Sorry it has taken so long to get this to you, but we have been very busy with Roxy's litter of 8 pups. She whelped 4 males and 4 females on Jan 22. All the pups are doing great. We are hoping for some nice weather SOON so we can get them outside to do some exploring. They have all been purchased by hunters and a few plan to do some tracking work with them. Here is Marty's story from this season in his own words.

Marty: Charlie did some tracks this past season, 9 recovering 5. I quit on 1 track because it crossed a major highway coming into town and just too much traffic and too many distractions for both of us. All the calls I took were, I believe, liver/paunch shots from 4-16 hrs old. He did well on most, stayed on line.

With 2 ACL repairs it really started showing this season, steep inclines, downed trees and thick deep mud being a real challenge for us. I can't count the times I picked him up to get him up, over or through it. His heart is into tracking but physically he's slippping. The longest track for Charlie this year was around 3/4 of a mile. I will see how he is doing this fall, but I am sure I will do a track or 2 with him if he's capable.

Charlie is an eleven-year-old Drahthaar

Roxy was out 5 times recovering 5. These tracks were 4 to 24 hours old, longest being 1/2 mile. Her first track in Sept was 13 hrs old after 1/2" of rain. She really surprised me on this one. Put her nose down and went. There was no visible sign anywhere. About 500 yds later there lay a gut shot doe. I think a light quartering wind helped her out but she never had the head up much. Roxy went into heat mid-November and spent a week in South Dakota with the stud dog. Shortly after she returned it snowed 12 inches and got really cold. Very few calls after that.

I don't know about where you track, but most of the calls I go on in the night, when I get there, there are 5 to 30 head of live deer within 100-200 yds of the start of the track. And at times I feel 1/2 of them came down the trail I am tracking on. sometimes the dogs stay on the line, sometimes I have to restart quite a few times. I wonder if they have a tendencey to follow hot tracks because I have let them bring down wounded deer. Even during the day, if you have a little wind, they will pull you to bedded deer sometimes.

I turned down 4 calls from UBT. 1 from KS, 1 in IA, 2 others 250+ miles from here in NE. All sounded like high back or neck hits. You know the story, hit the deer, it fell down, got up and ran off. Very little blood.

Took both Charlie and Roxy on a track with 100% snow cover, 4 degrees, no wind. Neither dog acted like they could smell much of anything. I visually tracked for 1/2 mile but the dogs never got into the groove.

Here is the pic from the track that Charlie did when he recovered the buck in the first picture. It exemplifies why the fuzzy coat is not ideal. It also shows that the tracking game is not for the faint at heart. Most dogs with their face matted like that would refuse to go on....

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Trackfest 2010 in Michigan - more info on the workshop

More information has been posted about the upcoming Trackfest 2010 (May 15-17 in Marshall, MI), which is an annual event sponsored by United Blood Trackers You don't have to be a member to attend, and the workshop is open to all breeds. For more information call John Jeanneney at 518-872-1779 or e-mail him at .

Pictures from previous events are available at


Last minute reminder: This upcoming weekend there is a three-day workshop (two days of blood tracking training)  in North Carolina organized by Sian Kwa. For more info go to

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Monday, March 8, 2010

Blood tracking leash and collar now sold by the United Blood Trackers

John and I get a lot of inquiries from handlers looking for a blood tracking leash and collar for their tracking dog. In the US it is not easy to get the specialized equipment so easily available in Europe, but this situation is changing. United Blood Trackers has started to carry the ten-meter tracking leash that comes in three colors. The leash is made from the unique very durable material that will not stretch, hold water or pick up briars as it slides along the ground. It cleans up very easily with just soap and water. This lead feels like leather but without all the leather drawbacks. There are two snaps available to choose from: one is a standard snap, and the other one is a super secure alligator snap.

Above - standard snap, below- alligator snap
The UBT store also carries a blood tracking 2-inch wide collar with a solid brass swivel. It comes in brown only. The edges of the collar are rounded. This collar is suitable for mid-and large sized dogs. A lighter 1.5-inch-wide collar for smaller breeds will be available soon. These items are available for online purchase at the UBT store. A big thank you to Ken Parker who has worked really hard on this project!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A sea of snow

In spite of recent warm days with temperature in the 40s, we still have the abundance of snow. In fact now it looks like a sea of snow as the waviness set in.

Buster and Quilla's honeymoon

This picture was sent by Willette Brown, and it shows her Quilla (FC Quilla von Velbert) and Susanne Hamilton's Buster (FC Clown vom Talsdeich) on their honeymoon. The marriage got consummated recently over the period of eight days (it must be a record!), and now we have to wait two months to see the outcome of this union. We'll keep you posted. Willette is not taking more reservations as her waiting list for puppies is full.

Friday, March 5, 2010

My favorite article on passion for tracking dogs

The article written by Kevin Armstrong is one my favorite ones. Originally it was published in 2006 in New York Bowhunters Full Draw, and later reposted on Deer Search's website. Regular readers of this blog are familiar with Kevin, a former President of New York Bowhunters, and his tracking dog Karma, who soon will celebrate her 5th birthday.

Karma, a sister to our Keena, was born on April 7, 2005. I remember the date very well as John's birthday is on April 7 too.The sire of this litter was our Billy, who back then was a very young dog himself. The dam was Gilda. This combination proved to be very successful, and we repeated this breeding later two more times. The two pictures show Kevin and his wife Kathy when they came to our place to pick up their puppy.


Passages of a Well Seasoned Hunter and a Little Rooky Dog

by Kevin Armstrong,  for Full Draw 2006

There have been two constants in my life. Number one is a nearly obsessive interest in deer and deer hunting; the other is an abiding love for dogs, especially hunting dogs. Unfortunately, for the first fifty three years of my life these pastimes had to remain distinctly separate. In my world it was taboo to think of dogs and deer hunting together.

A connoisseur of hunting literature I had thrilled to the nineteenth century accounts of hounding deer in the Adirondack Mountains. I’ve spent countless fireside hours captivated by the deer hounding yarns of “Old Flintlock” (Archibald Rutledge) and his Christmas morning horseback deer drives. Where aided by a pack of fine deer hounds he and his cronies chased great stags through dense southern swamps, harvesting the noble bucks with heavy loads of buckshot fired through fine double barreled shotguns. I savored the works of Robert Ruark and William Faulkner, picturing in my mind the colorful characters, lanky tri-colored hounds and great bucks that inhabit their tales.

In the late 20th century New York sportsmen had the notion that deer and dogs mixed like oil and water, but despite this I long harbored a secret desire to blend my two loves. Alas, my deer/dog fantasies were doomed to remain in the closet. In most deer hunting circles I dared not even express my heretical interest.

Over the decades I assuaged my interest in dogs by hunting small game and upland birds. For rabbits and hares, I used my trusty, stubborn, little beagles. For upland birds I began with English Springer Spaniels eventually coming to favor pointing dogs, especially Brittany Spaniels.

I pursued big game, especially deer, with an assortment of firearms but early on developed a preference for the bow and arrow. After 15 years of deer hunting with compound bows equipped with all the bells and whistles I ended up where I began; using a bare recurve bow and heavy arrows. Life was good. I was nearly content. As the years went by I surrounded myself with serious bowhunters. I spent my autumns in deer camps and springs in bear camps where I gained a good deal of experience and a degree of expertise as a tracker.

Sometime in the early 1980’s I attended a New York State Conservation Council Big Game Committee meeting where Don Hickman and Roger Humeston gave a presentation on a revolutionary new concept: Deer Search. A perfect gentleman, Don laid out a very professional presentation. After the meeting Roger and I talked about recovering arrow wounded deer. I asked him a loaded question; what did he consider “the best” broadhead? Without hesitation he gave me an unambiguous answer. His answer and his reasoning delighted me. These guys were the real McCoy. They were savvy deer hunters and they were doing it! They had found an honorable, ethical way to combine dogs and deer hunting. The seed was planted.

Years passed, and as they passed I met other sportsmen and women who were finding great fulfillment in tracking wounded deer with their funny looking little dogs. I pestered Walt Dixon, John Engelken and others for stories of their tracking seasons. The devotion these folks showed for tracking impressed me. Unwilling to forgo my own bowhunting time I hesitated to get involved for nearly two decades. Then in 2004 John Jeanneney donated a copy of his new book Tracking Dogs for Finding Wounded Deer to New York Bowhunters, Inc. (NYB) to be used as a fund raiser. I was the lucky high bidder for the book. Before I was half way through I was sending John and Jolanta email. I found myself spending time on the Deer Search Inc. (DSI) web site and the Born-to-Track web site. I filled out an application and got myself on the waiting list for a puppy.

The Jeanneneys and I agreed that a female pup would keep peace in my pack of male housedog/hunting dogs. She was from the Jeanneney’s “2005 K litter”. My wife (Kathy) and I spent weeks before we brought the puppy home discussing various names, knowing all the time that puppies have a way of naming themselves. A couple of days before we were to pick up the pup Jolanta told us we needed a name beginning with K so she could fill out the pedigree papers. I asked Kathy for a name beginning with a K. Without hesitation she said “Karma”, Jolanta replied “that’s a wonderful name” and so it was.

The name stuck. In July 2005 I brought Karma home and introduced her to her new family; Punky the beagle, Magic the Brit, and Mohawk the bull/boxer mutt.

I was determined to get my DSI certification in the fall of 2005. In June we attended a DSI seminar. In August Kathy and I passed our New York tracking dog license certification tests. Gary Huber took me under his wing and became my Master Tracker. We started out the first weekend of the archery season. On our third call we found a nice eight pointer for a happy bowhunter in East Otto, New York. I was handling the more experienced lead dog when we made the find. What a thrill! After a difficult trail I spotted the dead buck first. “We’ve got your deer up here!”

As the bow season passed we followed quite a few trails. Most of them were clearly superficially wounded deer. I met and tracked with a number of fine dogs and experienced trackers as the weeks went by. I learned from each of them.

It was growing late in the bow season when I decided I had better get serious and shoot something or go skunked this year. On a sunny Saturday morning a spike horn that I had been passing up all season looked mighty good. He was ten yards away when I passed a razor sharp Woodsman broadhead between his ribs. Even though I knew he was fatally wounded and even though I had heard the deer crash fifty yards into the thicket, and even though the blood and arrow told the tale of a solid lung hit I could not resist the opportunity to go home and get Karma. After the last ten trails without a reward at the end I wanted her to follow a trail with a deer at the end of it. After the requisite calls to the Environmental Conservation Officer, Karma and I took up the short, hot, trail. Kathy tagged along and took photos. Karma found the deer in minutes fiercely attacking the carcass.

We had a couple more fruitless calls that week. Then one late afternoon near the end of the bow season the phone rang. The hunter had heard I was training a pup for deer search. He had a fatal hit on a nice buck but he had no blood. Rain was in the overnight forecast and the deer was in a coyote infested valley. Prudence dictated we wait at least six hours before taking up the trail. At 10:30 PM Karma and I met the hunter. At the hit sight the hair told us the arrow had entered the deer’s back and exited the paunch. The arrow showed evidence of a paunch hit but there were also a few tiny air bubbles near the fletching. There was not a drop of blood to be found.

The night air was cool, damp, and still. Seven month old Karma was straining to go as I switched her from her everyday collar to her tracking collar. As soon as I gave her a bit of slack she was off. The hunter confirmed that she was going in the right direction. My instinct told me to let her have her way for awhile. I asked the hunters to hang back a little way and look for blood. Karma nearly dragged me one hundred yards up hill through acres of dense thorny rose and wild grape tangles. Then at a low ridge she turned a hard right angle. We fought our way through another fifty yards of thorn and vine when my headlight caught the reflection of a deer’s eye. There he is! A fine buck lay crumpled between twin blow-down tree trunks, his antlers entangled in vines where he died on the run. “I’ve got your deer up here!” I called.

The next hour was one of the most pleasant hours of 2005. Photos were taken, tags were cut out and filled out, the deer was dressed and dragged and Karma and I basked in the praise of the hunters and the glory of the moment. That was the hour where I came to understand why the men and women of Deer Search so willingly give of themselves. Young Karma had passed a milestone with her first serious solo find. I had passed a milestone where I realized that my time spent working with my funny looking little dog, in service to a fellow hunter, to help find their deer, was at least as rewarding as my own hunting time. My deer/dog preoccupation had found a healthy outlet. Now I knew why all the DSI folks I had met along the way so happily go to such extremes to track deer. It had been a passage for the well seasoned hunter and the little rookie dog.

As I write the story she rests quietly at my side, both of us longing for the next season and our next trail together.

Kevin and Karma with Gary Huber and Keeta flank a hunter and his deer.

This was our first recovery of the 2005 bow season. 

 Kevin and Karma with the hunter at Karma’s first serious solo find.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Great tracking season for Mario and Cheyenne from NY

Mario Montana, a member of Deer Search and United Blood Trackers, had a good tracking season. He and his wirehaired dachshund Cheyenne (Lea v Moosbach-Zuzelek) went on 15 deer and 2 bear calls, and they found 9 deer and 1 bear. Mario says that the older Cheyenne gets the better she gets. This is very much true - blood tracking dogs get better with age, maturity and experience.

Two pictures below show Mario with young Cheyenne. This spring she is going to be five years old; her sire is FC Billy von Moosbach-Zuzelek and her dam is FC Gela von Rauhenstein.