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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Workshop for handlers and their blood tracking dogs: The UBT Trackfest 2014

This report is long overdue but as they say, it's better later than never. The official report was written by Cheri Faust and it can be found underneath my remarks (thank you Cheri!).

In the middle of May I (Jolanta) flew to North Carolina to participate in the Annual Trackfest held by United Blood Trackers. Because at the time we had a litter of pups and because some of our dogs have "special" needs (like 15-year-old Asko), it was not possible for both of us to go. This time was my turn. I really enjoyed the trip, and it was so good to meet finally trackers that had never had a chance to meet in person. Of course, a chance to work with good friends was a great attraction too.

A big thank you goes to Kirk Vaughan from Chapel Hill, NC, who found the great place to host this workshop and made possible that all our needs were met. You are never going to meet anybody more dedicated to blood tracking than Kirk. Of course, his wife Barbara Fields was there too helping whenever she could. And I got to meet mac, Kirk tracking dog, who is a beagle/walker mix.

Barbara Fields and Kirk Vaughan, who is holding Mac.
By Cheri Faust

The United Blood Trackers held Trackfest 2014 at the J. Robert Gordon Sandhills Field Trial Grounds near Hoffman, North Carolina, May 17-19.

Participants started gathering on Friday to renew acquaintances and make new ones.  Those who arrived early had the special treat of watching Andy Bensing and his superstar tracking dog, Eibe, attempt the first running of the UBT III test. The UBT III demonstrates the ability to resolve situations often encountered on natural tracks. The test is designed to be challenging and fun. Each test is likely to be unique, and handling teams may wish to take the test on multiple occasions. 

Andy's track was about 1000 yards in length, four hours in age and was laid using just 3 ounces of blood and tracking shoes.  The track included a directional challenge (a three ring spiral), a surface challenge (an area of the pine plantation had recently been burned and the ground was heavily charred) and a distraction (thanks, Alan, for picking up that road killed armadillo!)  We were all impressed with how steadily and easily Andy and Eibe handled the track.

Andy Bensing and his wirehaired dachshund Eibe at the start of the UBT III test. 
Cheri Faust was judging the test and Al Wade was a track layer. They followed Andy pretty close while observers were further behind. The picture shows well the kind of terrain we were dealing with - very sandy.

Cheri congratulates Andy upon successful completion of the test. the test was not easy and Eibe had to work hard on carrying the line.
Over the course of the following two days, 32 participants received a variety of hands-on training and classroom presentations from the 11 UBT “staff” members in attendance. 

UBT Staff: from the left Cheri faust, Al Wade, Susanne Hamilton, Chris Morris, Jolanta Jeanneney, Andy Bensing, Marlo Ondrej, Larry Gohlke, Kirk Vaughan, Kyle Stiffler and Sean Timmens.

The Hit Site Seminar presented on Saturday was an especially big “hit”.  The seminar followed the format described in our post from June 2013.


The Hit Site Evaluation Seminar ended with participants examining several sites for signs of wounded deer such as blood, bone fragments, hair etc. In real tracking situations when a handler is asked to track a wounded deer or bear, he starts at a hit site and by careful examination of all the signs left by a wounded animal he has to reconstruct what had happened and come up with a tracking strategy for the specific situation.

The Hit Site Evaluation seminar has become a very important part of Trackfests as it is an excellent educational tool for trackers and hunters. Just recently Cliff Shrader from Louisiana wrote: 

This past Sunday at Hunters For The Hungry Louisiana, I put on a small Hit Site Evaluation display. I set up several mock hit sites simulating what a hunter would find when he checked his shot on a deer. This is like Deer Hunters CSI. This form of education has never been seen in our area before and was very well received. I didn't count the number of people that went through it but it must have been over 40 people. Each and everyone that went through it had very positive things to say. Thank you Andy Bensing, Larry Gohlke and Alan Wade for the evaluation that you put on in May as I was able to pass this education on!
...... to be continued