Search This Blog

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Looking back at 2016 Part 1: Our dogs

We wish all our friends and readers a Very Happy New Year! We hope that the 2017 brings you many occasions to laugh and enjoy life.

Since we have posted very little in 2016, I'd like to take some time now to look back. We are going to skip dogs' registered names and their titles as this is not what this post is about.

At the end of December of 2016 we have ten dogs ranging greatly in age. Our oldest is BILLy, who in two months is going to turn 13. He has a heart murmur that is checked periodically but otherwise he is in a fine shape. He looks and behaves like a middle-aged dog. This fall he managed to get away from our enclosure and was gone running rabbits in the neighborhood for 5 hours. His old age has not diminished his hunting desire, that's for sure. And in spite of cloudy eyes, he can still catch a piece of cheese in the air!

The second oldest dog is Billy's daughter KEENA, who turned 11 on April 7. Keena is really our friend's dog. Dan Hardin had her for a couple of years, but when he got married and moved out from his parents' house, Keena came back to live with us. Dan visits us often and spends some time with her. This year Dan and Keena still tracked together and they found a number of deer. Keena is in a good shape though her stamina during tracking was not what it used to be.


Bernie turned 11 in October. Even though BERNIE is "just" our pet, he plays here a very important role. First, he always makes me smile as he is such a happy dog. His joie de vivre is truly infectious. And he has always been wonderful with puppies so he plays a role of a Big Uncle to all our pups and young dogs. They adore him and he is very patient with them.

JOERI (below) is going to turn 9 in February 2017. Readers of this blog probably remember that he had a back problem over 4 years ago. These days Joeri is feeling really well. He can gauge well what he can do physically. He was not allowed to climb the stairs and he obeyed the rule. But last summer, on his own initiative, he started to appear in the kitchen, which is on the second level. Now he scales the stairs regularly on his own. I guess he started to feel confident about his health and it is really good to see him enjoying life. He runs in our yard with other dogs and he can outrun some of them. Joeri is John's shadow and follows him everywhere.

Dan with Tommy after a successful track
TOMMY is going to be 9 in March 2017, and he has been our tracking star for a number of years now (basically since Joeri's surgery in 2012). This past tracking season was the first time ever when John was not able to track. But as it turned out Tommy was happy to track for anybody that was willing to take him out. He ended up being handled successfully by 5 different local handlers. So even though John has always attributed a "strong bond" as the key to a tracking team's success, Tommy showed much more flexibility on the issue :-) It just did not matter much to him who took him to track, and he was just very happy to go. I guess some dogs are a "one person" kind of dog, but he is not the type. He is ecstatic when he sees a harness and tracking lead, and since he is very experienced, easy going and not possessive of deer at all, we let him go. All his handlers have DEC tracking dog license and always say how much they learn by handling Tommy. At one point they will get their own dogs, but having handled Tommy has been very helpful to them. So Tommy ended up recovering 9 deer and having a lot of fun in the process. Tommy also sired our only litter of 2016 and Yukon is his son.

Tommy was handled by Nikki Salisbury for this recovery

TUESDAY is going to be 5 in April 2017, and at present she is our best field trial dog. Last fall I took her to 6 field trials and she placed in 4 of them with 1 Absolute win. Tuesday had a litter of 4 pups on July 3, but we will cover this in a separate post. She is in her prime now, this is her pack and she knows it. She has two "kids" here - Willow (sired by Kunox) and Yukon (sired by Tommy). I love everything about Tuesday - her conformation, temperament and her working ability. If we could breed consistently dogs like her, I would be really satisfied. As a puppy she was a pretty wild dog completely controlled by her hunting instinct. She would not recall. With very little training and a lot of attention she turned into a very responsive dog that is a pure pleasure to work with

Kunox is 3.5 now. Loaded with hunting desire, he loves to run rabbits at our place, and he is very good at it. Nothing beats hearing him voice freely while in pursuit of cottontails. Kunox is a dog with a lot of soul, and I love to have him by my side when I work on the computer in my office. One look at his giant brown liquid-center eyes and it seems like everything is all right with the world.

WILLOW will be two in March; she is a daughter of Kunox and Tuesday. She is a beautiful dog that inherited the best qualities of her parents. Her voice on rabbits is as good as Kunox's. She has been excellent on artificial training tracks. She is probably one of the best dogs we have ever bred, and we have bred quite a few of them. Last fall she finished her AKC Field Championship.

XENA is 18 months old, and she is a daughter of Dachs von Tierspur and FC Mielikki Raptor. This is a dog with a lot of energy and a ton of hunting drive. She is 22 lbs of pure muscle. There is still much unknown about Xena and we will be learning about her abilities in 2017. So far I have not heard her voicing on rabbits even though obviously she follows them. The picture below shows Xena with the rabbit she killed.

YUKON is a promising six-month-old son of Tommy and Tuesday. So far we like what we see in him, and the future will tell whether it was a right decision to hold on to him. He keeps us on our toes and he is highly entertaining. His conformation follows the FCI standard as he has good ground clearance and is long legged.

So at the end of 2016 we hope for all our dogs to stay healthy and well in 2017. They are our family and we care for them deeply. It is very rewarding to see that our breeding program (Willow is a great-great granddaughter of Billy) has produced dogs like Tuesday and Willow - under 20 lbs, with a great conformation, lovely temperaments and excellent aptitude for hunting and tracking. And it is even more rewarding to see what dogs out of our breeding can accomplish in the field for their owners and we will write about it in the next installment.

.... to be continued.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A deer tracking dog's first week in October

By Dr. Bernd Blossey
Associate Professor
Department of Natural Resources
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

The making of a team

I have been bow hunting in New York (and occasionally elsewhere) for over 20 years.  Over this time, I have gone from taking a few deer to dozens each year.  This is explained, in part, by the fact that I have been involved with implementing and executing suburban deer management programs using archery equipment in the Ithaca, NY area.  These often involve Deer Depredation Permits (colloquially called nuisance permits) that allow shooting outside of regular hunting seasons, over bait, and at night with the help of artificial lights.  The goal is to reduce deer populations that are threatening crops or forest regeneration, and other species.  My season currently stretches over 6 months, typically from late September to the end of March.  Having a slight red-green blindness (I can see individual colors just fine, but when red and green dots are interspersed, I am unable to pick up the red), following blood trails is not an easy task for me since blood drops do not “light up” as they do for others.  Consequently, I have honed my skills over the years due to patience, slow approaches, reading signs like hoof prints, and asking for help from others (my wife Vicki and other landowners included).  This has helped greatly but I also had my fair share of grid searches and long hours after dark, or the next morning to locate deer.  And not always have they been successful, particularly not in tall goldenrods or cattail swamps, or dense thickets of honeysuckle, privet, buckthorn and multiflora rose that are common in suburban areas.  Sometimes it was the vultures that needed to tell me where I walked by a dead deer at 5 or 10 yards, or I found only bones the next morning as bears, coyotes, bobcats and foxes have helped themselves to a welcome late dinner.

               Over the years I called in and observed several dachshunds do their tracking searches and I had become more and more interested in developing this approach for myself, and in helping other hunters.  It seemed the right thing to do, but there was a lot of homework that needed to be done, including convincing my wife that a dog in the house and in the family would be a good idea.  It took several years of reading and background work, and some planning for the right time to train a puppy before this last year finally saw it all come together.  I had settled on obtaining a Deutsch Drahthaar (a Schwarzschimmel) because I had fallen in love with the breed after seeing a six-month old “trainee” at the Rhode Island airport.  I wanted a medium sized dog, and a versatile hunting dog, although I rarely, if ever, venture out for upland or waterfowl hunting.  But I am an ecologist and conservationist in my professional life and I wanted to maintain a potential option for the dog to be trained as a conservation dog in finding rare critters, scat or even plants. 

Having grown up in Germany I pursued options to obtain a puppy both in the US and in Germany, where I worked with a breed warden.  And this connection paid off when a breeder had a litter of 10 puppies born on New Years Eve, eight of which were Schwarzschimmel, with a good blood tracking pedigree and other physical features my wife and I were favoring.  We picked up Sylvie (the name is an inspirational combination of the date, known as Sylvester in Germany and over much of Europe in honor of an early pope, and the Latin Sylva for forest where the dog will spend a major portion of her time) in late February, spent a week with relatives to help socialize her, and then returned in early March with her in the cabin to New York.  And I have been training her ever since through late spring, summer, and fall on artificial lines, always looking forward to the start of the season.  It did not always go as desired, she failed miserably on her first overnight track, and the hot and dry summer of 2016 made tracking conditions difficult.  But she always was eager to work and dog and handler are trying to learn each other’s approaches.  Most of the time I try to slow her down as speed appears to be the enemy number one when she overshoots and then loses the track.  But she has learned to circle back and around to pick up where she lost the trail.  Over this time she has grown from an adorable little puppy to nearly her full size as a 10 month old teenager.

The first call

One of the recommendations is to have practice runs for dog apprentices, i.e having the dog find a dead deer, even if a dog is not necessary.  Just for good practice on the real thing.  But the first call that came in on October 3rd was the real thing.  A hunter had shot a deer in a suburban area surrounded by houses, lawns and roads.  There was a reasonable blood trail that the hunter was able to follow for maybe 200 yards to two large blotches of blood and then nothing.  After not being able to find any more blood that evening the hunter backed out.  I took the tracking opportunity after the report of a high hit but out of a treestand with a downward trajectory, and good lung blood on the arrow.  We started the track in the early afternoon, some 15 hours after the hit.  Sylvie took right to the track, and she was much slower and more deliberate than on the artificial tracks, something I immediately noticed.  My artificial lines may have been too easy, even though I thought I was making it more and more difficult.  The area of brush and woods was crisscrossed by deer trails but Sylvie followed the trail down the path the hunter had marked to the spot with the abundant blood and then further towards the edge of the woods ending on a lawn.  She lost the track twice during this time, but only briefly and circled right back without me needing to correct her.  But at the edge of the lawn she was unsure and then appeared to follow other interesting scents.  I walked her back around in the thicket and we started over, all the while discussing with the hunter what could have happened.  The second path was almost identical to the first, without her getting lost, and we ended up at the same spot.

               We decided to follow the edge of the woods, look into some hedgerows, go across two of the roads that separated the piece of woods where the hit occurred from a larger forested area and allow Sylvie to see if she could pick up the scent trail once again.  She picked up all kinds of interesting scents, apparently, but we never found another sign of the deer or any blood.  We returned to the pocket of woods, made another circle through it in hope the deer may not have left the woods if mortally wounded but ended up tired and without the deer.  After further discussing the hit once more, it was my opinion that the hunter likely hit too high to get a double lung, and that the big blotches of blood were not from the deer bleeding out of both sides but probably standing in the same spot, bleeding out of his nose with his head lowered until the hunter following the track pushed him out.  I thought this deer may still be alive, since these are amazing and resilient animals.  The hunter had a trail camera in the woods and 4 days later the buck he shot walked by the camera with the entry wound clearly visible.  The entry wound is too high to have hit lung on the deer’s left side and on the right side the broadhead probably hit one of the small back lung lobes, not sufficient for a mortal hit.  This made me feel much better about the tracking job Sylvie did.  Who knows if an experienced dog would have been able to follow the track across the hard surfaces, and it would have ended at a live deer. 

Three in a row

The next weekend came quickly and with it another practice opportunity, this time in a suburban community shooting over bait.  As for the previous weekend, the agreement was that if one of us would shoot a deer, we would allow Sylvie to find it for good practice.  Little did we know that she would get both an easy practice and then two real searches.  I was able to shoot a fawn coming to bait and it ran 40 yards and collapsed (see yellow arrow in picture below showing bait and the dead deer next to the tree in the background).  After waiting for dark and the potential for another shot, I put Sylvie on the track.  I was not able to locate the arrow in the dense grass after the pass through, so I was not entirely sure of the exact hit location.  Sylvie was clearly confused by all the hot deer scent coming and going to bait and she was eager to investigate it.  I allowed Sylvie to find the arrow and once she had it she picked up the trail and we were at the dead fawn in no time.  It was interesting to see her investigate the deer with caution – this was, after all, the first real deer she found. She walked around it investigating the wound and the leg glands and the muzzle. It looked as if she was not quite sure what to make of it.  At home, the end of a line was usually some old piece of deer hide, so this was different.  But she eagerly consumed the deer treats that I had brought for her.

               So far so good – good practice! Let’s call it a night I thought.  But not so fast.  One of my fellow hunters had shot two deer, neither one of which he was able to locate. So we went to the next property, just about a mile away.  The hunter had located one of the arrows but not the second.  I determined that there was clear sign of gut on the arrow and the description of the deer behavior after the hit (jumped up and then slowly walking off) suggested a potential hit of the liver as well.  It was about 2.5 hours after the hunter shot this deer, so I decided to track the second animal first to give the gut shot animal more time.  The location was in a small cattail swamp, surrounded by old fields, gardens and lawns. Sylvie picked up a trail, but the hunter indicated to me that the deer took a different path, so I called her off after 10 yards. I should have known better, but I am an apprentice, as is my dog, in learning the skills of collaborating with each other.  So off we went on a wild ride through brush, thickets, trash and myriad deer trails criss-crossing the area.  I could tell after a while that Sylvie was not on the track but I allowed her to search for about 20 minutes before calling it off and returning to the site of the hit. 

I then decided to track the gut shot deer.  After allowing Sylvie to sniff the arrow she slowly followed this deer track through the cattails, over a lawn, back into a hedgerow, out onto a lawn and then towards two houses.  This time I trusted the dog, although I was surprised about the travel directions.  Knowing that it was only about 3 hours after the gut shut, I constantly checked into the distance to see if I could locate a deer, potentially still alive.  There was no possibility for me to return to the location the next morning so this was the best option. Sure enough after about 200 yards of tracking I saw the eyes of the deer about 60 yards away right next to the house looking at us.  It had bedded down next to a compost pile.  We immediately backed out, praised Sylvie and left the area.  There was no possibility for a follow-up shot given the deer’s location.  I advised the hunter to pick up the deer in the morning as it would likely be in the same spot, or only slightly away.  This he did and the deer had not moved and it died right there.  Without Sylvie, we would have never ventured toward the two houses and into a wide open area.

Then it was back to the first track.  This time I said I trust the dog and Sylvie went onto the same path that she took the first time.  We did not make it beyond 50 yards after coming out of the cattail swamp.  There the button buck had collapsed.  A happy hunter and a happy handler – probably a happy dog as well as there was half a deer heart as reward.  An easy practice session was anticipated, and that she got with the first deer I shot and then 2 real ones, all in the same night. 

Sometimes it is not the distance that counts

A few days later I took out one of my students to observe a hunt.  I went to one of my favorite places that has been incredibly productive over the years, but it is also the place where the brush “eats” the dead deer.  I had lost numerous deer that I thought were perfect hits in the brushy wetlands and I have spent countless hours with the landowner in the dark, or during the day trying our luck on grid searches.  Often we were successful, but occasionally we were not.  A big motivation to obtain and train Sylvie.  This evening turned out to be just like so many others but with a much better final outcome.  So we got into the tree overlooking bait for the first outing of the season at this location with Sylvie patiently awaiting her time in the car.  A button buck approached the bait soon thereafter and a 25 yard shot killed him after a short 40 yard dash. We heard him fall.  An hour later two fawns approached the bait from the same direction and this time my shot hit a doe fawn that made it 30 yards and she fell close to the button buck.  

We continued to wait for another hour in anticipation of deer movement right at dusk or shortly thereafter.  Soon enough, a very cautious doe approached the bait and circled around right after dark.  With a half moon, I could easily spot her.  My shot found its mark, we heard ribs breaking, then a very short mad dash, brush breaking twice indicating a collapsing deer and then silence.  This sounded all perfect.  After waiting 20 minutes we climbed out of the tree and located the first two arrows.  I got Sylvie and put her on the first deer.  She was so excited to be out of the car and with all the scent around (we had seen a grey fox, a raccoon and plenty squirrels) that she ventured off track immediately.  After I calmed her down and she found the track, she took a very short time to walk up to the button buck, not paying any attention to the second deer that was just 5 yards away from the track she followed.  Good practice success and time for another photo opportunity with a proud handler and his dog. 

I decided to forgo tracking the 2nd deer since it was laying just right there and the track would have been 25 yards.  It did not seem worthwhile and there was one more deer to track – an easy practice track I thought given what we had heard. Little did I know what this turned out to be.  We found the arrow and blood on the grass and goldenrod and Sylvie took up the track.  She got into very thick honeysuckles and walked around some brush trying to get through the thickest parts but was unable to do so.  We tried to see what she was trying to get to but other than some trash we could not see anything in the dark. So I called her out of it (I should have walked her around more, but that is with hindsight) and allowed her to follow whatever she thought was right.  I tried putting her onto the same trail 3 times and she always followed the same path for about 20 yards and then veered off to the left. 

I was getting confused and worried about what went down with the deer.  All indications were that it was a good hit, maybe a slight bit low, but the crashing indicated that there was a dead deer very close to where it got shot. But we could not locate the deer after almost 2 hours of searching and allowing Sylvie to explore close to the hit locations and way beyond.  I finally called it a night, rather disappointed and questioning myself and the shot location, my interpretation of the sounds of and after the hit, and Sylvie’s ability to track this deer.  But I had two deer to process and occasionally such things happen.  I thought with the help of a dog this would be kept to a minimum, but I also recognized that even with a good and experienced dog, not all deer are found.

The next morning, while taking Sylvie on our usual morning walk, I could not get this deer and the scenario out of my head. I felt I owed it the deer and myself to go back and check one more time during daylight. I also decided to allow Sylvie another crack at it after a good night’s sleep, and some early exercise.  So off we went.  When I put her onto the track, she did the same as every time the night before: 20 yards through tall grass and goldenrod, then veering to the left and then clearly getting lost in other scents.  I decided to just break through the dense brush, following deer trails, following the sounds of a group of crows calling from their perch 100 yards away, basically doing nearly a grid search with my dog.  Nothing materialized, other than stumbling through the brush and getting scratched by multiflora rose.  I made the decision to allow her one last time to follow the trail after having burned off some of the energy over the past hour, and then I would put her into the car and try a real grid search one last time before giving up. 

And this time, for reasons I am not able to explain, it went quite different.  We came onto the track she had followed and for some reason she picked up the scent.  She slowed to nearly a crawl and instead of veering off to the left after getting out of the tall grass, she stayed straight and crawled under a honeysuckle bush overgrown itself by vines.  I could barely see her, but she was investigating something, which turned out to be the dead doe. I have illustrated the path the deer and Sylvie took with the yellow arrows in the 3 pictures below. The total length of path the deer ran with a perfect heart shot was 30 yards, if that far.  The deer had crashed into the brush and lodged itself on its belly so no white was visible. Even as I was standing a few feet away from the deer, I could not see it.  I saw something white, that the sun lit up, which turned out to be white on a hind leg. I only investigated this further because Sylvie was under the bush, quiet, not pulling any longer, clearly having found something.  I had to get onto my belly and crawl into the brush to finally convince myself that she had in fact located the dead doe.  I took a few extra pictures to show how difficult and camouflaged the entire situation was for a hunter without a dog.

Above: Travel direction of heart shot deer from hit locations.  Total length of travel is 30 yards. Pictures are taking consecutively closer to collapsed deer under honeysuckle bush

Above: Deer located under honeysuckle bush, barely visible, if at all.  Yellow arrow indicates sunlight hitting hind leg.

Above: Collapsed doe under honeysuckle bush. Yellow arrow points to head. Picture taken lying on the ground to visualize the deer. 

With the help of Sylvie, and with being persistent, I was able to locate this dead deer.  After a perfect shot, after a mad dash of only 30 yards, this deer eluded 2 people and a dog for many hours. It is not always the distance that the deer are able to travel or the lack of blood.  I would have never been able to see the deer – in a few days we would have smelled it.  We stood a few feet away from it and walked by it many times.  But this time the brush did not “eat” the deer; it went to the venison donation program feeding the hungry as did the two fawns from the night before.  It is satisfying to end this search on such a high note.  It confirms to me the value of having a tracking dog – even if she still gets confused by all the scents at a baited location, or in suburbia. 

To be continued. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Short track and recovery for Thor: Important deer anatomy lesson

By Bob Yax
On Nov. 8th, Thor and I took a track in Geneseo.  The hunter, Josh, hit the buck about 4 pm the previous day.  While interviewing Josh about the hit, not long after he shot it, he said that the buck was broadside when he hit it and the arrow passed thru near the center of the deer.  Surprisingly, the buck bedded within 20 yards of the hit, then got up shortly after and bedded 2 more times in the next 50 yards before getting up and walking off.   

Josh waited awhile and then inspected the hit site and arrow along with a few yards of the early trail.  He saw a reasonable blood trail and then backed out and called Deer Search.  The quick, frequent bedding, signaled a liver hit, but then Josh described the arrow as having heavy intestinal matter on it.  With a broadside shot it’s hard to hit both liver and intestine.   I told Josh that the options were to go after it late that evening, like 11 pm (assuming it was liver), or to wait to later in the morning assuming it was intestine only.  It was a tough decision.  A liver-hit deer could be dead in less than an hour (typically 7 hrs covers 95% of liver hits), but an intestine-hit deer can go for over 24 hrs.  We had to worry that it might spoil if it died early or we might jump it if we go too early.  We decided that we’d wait till late morning to start the track.  

We started at about 11 am, 19 hrs after the hit.  I inspected Josh’s arrow and confirmed it was covered with intestinal matter and a little blood.  We started the track and quickly got through the first 100 yards where blood sign was still visible along the way.  Soon we came out to a standing cornfield, where Thor spent about 10 minutes circling around in about 20 rows of corn.  I was happy to find 1 spec of blood on a corn stalk, while he was circling.  Finally, Thor came out of the corn and headed off pretty hard across a clover field for about 125 yards, until he entered the woods that surrounded a 1 acre pond.  Soon, he was walking through the shallow water at the corner of the pond.  He came out of the pond and climbed up a short bank.  There I found a single drop of blood.  Thor then took a path through the brush along the edge of the pond, and again ended up along the water’s edge.  He was really interested in the water. 

I scanned the pond hoping to see a floating deer. Finally, he walked off the bank and started swimming into the pond.    I let him go out a few yards, and then pulled him back to shore.  He jumped up the bank and then I spotted a bloody leaf on the shore.   I let the leash go and told Josh to grab it as I climbed through the heavy brush.  He grabbed the leash but had a hard time holding Thor back as he dug in and pulled hard into the brush.   A few seconds later the reason was obvious.  The dead buck was lying about 40 yards from the pond. So far the track wasn’t that interesting, but the deer and the hit changed that.  Looking at the 8 pointer, it was obvious that the deer had passed just a short time before we arrived.  There was no rigor, and the internal organs were freshly warm.   The other observation was that the lower half of the deer was soaking wet and his legs were brown with pond muck.  It had obviously been laying in the pond.  The autopsy revealed the biggest surprise, the 3 blade broad head clearly passed thru the liver, before exiting out the intestines.  This buck, with a solid liver hit, likely lived for 17 or 18 hours!   Not sure if laying in the pond had any influence, but most liver hit deer are dead at 6 or 7 hours.  I did have one buck years ago, that we jumped after 20 hrs with a liver hit.  The general rules usually apply, but not always!  Photo of hunter and buck, below. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

New version of John Jeanneney's book Tracking Dogs for Finding Wounded Deer

The first edition of Tracking Dogs for Finding Wounded Deer was released in 2004, and was followed by the 2nd edition in 2006. The book had been selling well but in the last few years it became clear that we needed to update it. A new version was printed in October 2016. 

This "new" 2nd edition has additional 7 chapters, new pictures and appendices, and an index. The information has been updated throughout the book. While the 2006 book had 360 pages, the new version has 424. Its cover is green. The book can be purchased on our website (CLICK HERE) for $39.95 plus $4.00 for shipment within the United States.

Just today we received feedback from Marianne Jacobs who lives in Luxembourg, and has a lot of experience in hunting and blood tracking. When John read it, I could see some tears of happiness in his eyes. Thank you Marianne!
I wanted to give my feedback on the book “Tracking dogs for finding wounded deer”!

First of all: I am amazed and this book should be on every trackers book shelf! 

It is very clearly structured and written in a great English. The chapters and words are well chosen, and the sentences are easy to understand (important for me as a non-native speaker). I never had to read a sentence twice to get the meaning of it! Reading the book was a real pleasure for me.

Concerning the content: It covers all that I could imagine: blood-tracking in general, breeds, puppy-choosing, training for all age stages, equipment, different game, tracks, problems, tests and so on! And what I loved the most about the book were the small summaries at the end of every chapter!

The information given in this book is priceless! I would recommend this book to every tracker; to the ones who gets started and also to the experienced ones. There is plenty of information for everyone, no matter if they where they track in the world.

I have read many (especially German and French) books about blood-tracking, but this is clearly my favorite now. I truly have the impression that the author wants me to learn (a lot) from his book. I always missed this feeling with the European books: they gave some information, but the content was more about the authors’ dogs and his personal successes and tracks. And they often only praised certain breeds, and ignored others completely. I couldn’t get that much information from these books, especially practical information about training and trouble-shooting were often missing. But not in this book!! While reading, I could feel how the author put his soul and all his knowledge into it. 

I will absolutely recommend this book to our puppy buyers, fellow trackers and hunters, they can learn a lot from it. I learned so much and I already know that I will often look something up in this book, because this is definitely NOT a book that you only read once and then put away.

Thanks a lot for writing this wonderful and educational book!

Marianne Jacobs, 
Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg    

Friday, November 11, 2016

Thor tracks and recovers a liver-hit buck 4 days after the shot

By Bob Yax

Just got back from a cold rainy day (Wednesday) of tracking.  This afternoon I had to shoot a 12pt non-typical 18 hours after the hit, and that wasn’t the most interesting track of the day!  

The track we started this morning at 9:00 has a long backstory.  The Hunter, Charlie, had hit a big buck this past Saturday morning (11/5) at 9:30.  He thought his arrow had entered low in the ribs, about 6 inches back of the front leg on the right side.  The white hair at the hit site indicated that the exit was near the bottom of the deer. Being pretty new to bowhunting, he waited about 1.5 hours to begin tracking.  He and his hunting friend tracked the deer about 300 yards, when they jumped it.   They then backed out for about an hour and continued tracking a dwindling blood trail.  After several hundred more yards, they jumped it again.  Finally, after about 3 hours of tracking, they jumped it a 3rd time and then tracked it a few hundred more yards to the last blood sign at the edge of a golf course, on a cart path.  At this point they’d tracked about ¾ of a mile.  After the cart path, the buck headed across a fairway and then along the woods on the other side.  Charlie was able to track the buck’s hoof prints in the soft dirt.  About 100 yards past the cart path, they lost all signs of the buck.  From that point on, Charlie and his hunting friend grid searched the woods on that side of the fairway for another hour to no avail.
Two days later, on Monday 11/7 at 8:30 am, Charlie called into Deer Search asking for help.  The rut in our area, as well as cross bow hunting began this weekend.  As a result, we had 30 to 40 calls waiting in our system.  We don’t have the manpower to handle all those calls, so on Monday evening I began deleting calls older than 36 hours and then calling those hunters back to say sorry and to discuss their hits.  Charlie hunts in an area far from most of our trackers and it was now 59 hours after the hit, so I deleted his call and then called him.  After hearing the story of his hit and track (jumping the buck 3x) it certainly sounded like a liver hit.  It went a long way between beds, but it was being pushed.  I knew the deer was dead, and Charlie made it clear how much he wanted to recover it, his best buck to date.  I thought that a body search, to smell the dead deer might have a chance of working – but they usually don’t!   I told Charlie, that I might be in his area on Tuesday and that I might want to give it a try.  Well, Tuesday didn’t work out, but I did catch a call for Wednesday that would be nearby.  Charlie and I traded a bunch of text messages Tuesday night, and he even emailed me a Google Maps photo of the area with his deer track marked on it.   At that point I didn’t realize that the track so far, was ¾ mile long.     The photo showed that the area was very large with diverse vegetation.  I agreed to meet up with him on Wednesday morning at 9 am – 4 days after the hit.  From Saturday thru Tuesday it had been sunny, warm (65deg) and breezy, but Tuesday evening and Wednesday AM the forecast was for rain.  Sure enough it started raining about 9 pm Tuesday evening.  At that time, the thought hit me that with this moisture, Thor might actually be able to follow the 4 day old track! 
Wednesday morning, as I made the 60-mile drive to Hume, Allegany County, the rain was pretty heavy, but luckily just about stopped as I met up with Charlie.  After doing our paper work, Charlie showed me his arrow & Rage 2 blade broad head.  The arrow and fletching showed not much blood, and the first 10 inches had a coating of white fat / suet on it.  Likely from passing thru the fat on the bottom of the chest. I decided we should start the track at the hit site in the hope that Thor could actually pick up and carry the track beyond where the hunters had lost it.  I started Thor where we thought the hit occurred and headed off in the direction the buck went.  I never saw any blood, but Charlie convinced me that Thor seemed to be going the right way.  After a short time, I was convinced that Thor did have the track.  

To make a long story shorter, for about the next hour, we followed Thor down what seemed to be the right track through the mixed hardwoods.  On 3 or 4 occasions along the way, Thor got into a circling pattern 30 or 40 yards in diameter, obviously trying to figure out which direction the buck went after it stopped and circled.  Once we got to within about 200 yards of the golf course, Thor got stuck in a circling pattern for about 15 minutes. He was working hard, but couldn’t get out of it. It could have been the Hunters bloody boots that complicated that area.  The 3rd bed was ahead in the thick brush between us and the golf course.  We were now about an hour into the track and still hadn’t gotten to where the hunters had lost the track.  At that point, I asked Charlie to take us to the last sign of blood at the edge of the golf course, 200 yards ahead.  Soon we were at the cart path where the buck came out of the woods. Still in the path, was a dime sized blood clot.  The 1st blood I’d seen so far.   Thor caught the scent again and headed off hard across the fairway towards another woodlot.   A short time later, Charlie confirmed that Thor was on the path of hoof prints in the fairway that they had followed 4 days earlier.  75 yards further along the edge of the fairway and we were now at the point where Charlie lost the trail for good.  At that point, Charlie and his friend went on to search the woods on that side of the fairway, and the woods beyond.  Now I was hoping / praying that Thor would take us in a totally new direction.  Soon after, he was in the middle of the fairway, heading back across towards the cart path and woods beyond.  Yes! Charlie, had never searched in this area.  It was totally clean and Thor was heading hard into it. That buck should be lying, dead ahead within a few hundred yards.  So, I hoped!  

Well, we continued into the new section of woods for another 200 yards with Thor seemingly, still on the trail – I sure thought so.   Then, just as I was beginning to doubt him (I shouldn’t do that!) I spotted what I thought was a blood spot on a wet leaf.  I stopped and dabbed it with a white paper towel – BLOOD!   The last blood sign I’d see on this entire track.    A short time later, Thor was in his 4th or 5th area of circling.  I stood by for 5 minutes trying to be patient – it’s hard!  Finally, he was off on another 200 yard line thru the woods.  I expected to see the dead Buck ahead of us at any moment.  We’d been in this woods for at least 400 yards, the buck should have bedded by now.   After another 100 yards we were at the corner of the woods and a clover field.  Here, Thor spent at least 10 minutes circling a 30-yard diameter area in the woods.  This is torture!    Multiple times, he would seem to head off on a line out of the area, only to come circling back!  In our early tracking days, I couldn’t take it, and would pull him off in a direction I wanted to go.  Now, I’ve learned that he almost always figures it out, if I give him the time he needs. Finally, Thor headed into the clover field and then took a good straight line, for about 100 yards, across it to the woods beyond.    He quickly got thru the woods and then we headed into a large thick brushy basin.  We were now more than a half mile beyond the last bed, with no sign of the deer.  I began to have my doubts, but Thor was still determined as we headed down the narrow deer trails in the dense brush.  After a 200-yard arch thru the brush, Thor’s nose was suddenly up, scenting hard.  10 yards later I caught a whiff and a few yards later I saw half a rack poking out of the weeds ahead – we had him!!!  The buck was a big 6Pt, and the shot was just about where Charlie thought.  The broad head looked to hit the bottom of the liver.  Unfortunately, after 4 days, only the rack was salvageable.  But that, and the track it took to find him, will provide memories of this Buck well into the future…  Photo below shows Charlie and his Buck.  Map shows total track route.  Red portion is where Charlie tracked the Buck,   Thor tracked the entire route.  I learn more and am amazed more every day!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Bob and Thor track and find three deer in one day

Thor von Moosbach-Zuzelek, a brother to our Tuesday and Darren Doran's Theo, has had a great tracking season so far. He helped hunters to recover their deer that otherwise would go to waste or feed coyotes. This is what happened today, in Bob Yax's words:

After breaking my streak of Birthday recoveries yesterday, I was ready for some success today. Boy, did we get it! 3 recoveries on 3 tracks that were all hit yesterday and sat overnight in the heavy rains. Thor was awesome today... relentless on every track.

Track 1 was in Romulus. I started it yesterday afternoon thinking it was a liver hit. We then postponed it till today when I saw only intestine matter on the arrow. The arrows level / broadside path could have not have hit liver and intestine so we needed to wait overnight. Yesterday there was no blood found on the 1st 20 yds of the trail. That's as far as the hunter tracked it. This morning just as the rain was ending we took up the trail - 0 blood was seen, but Thor took off hard down the trail. To our surprise, we found the buck dead 100 yds from the stand. Autopsy showed arrow deflected (off a branch) down thru the back strap, lung, liver, stomach and came out the intestines. The 9pt was likely dead after 5 or 6 hours. We found it at the 24hr mark and it was still good, likely due to the heavy cool rain.

Track 2 was in Pavilion. Hunter wasn't sure what he hit on the big buck, but he had a pass thru with only blood on the arrow (no guts). Yesterday, he and his wife tracked it for hours over a mile till the blood petered out. We started the track 29 hrs after the hit. The arrow look almost clean to me, maybe from skidding thru very wet clover? Over the next 30 min we covered the mile long trail with 0 visible blood again. We did go right past 3 markers the hunter left along the buck’s path. That is always reassuring! Finally we hit a railroad track where they had stopped tracking yesterday. The thick brush on the other side was a promising place for the buck to bed. Thor headed down a trail into the brush, then came out into a clearing in the swampy woods. About 50 yds later his head was up scenting the air hard - was the buck nearby? - yes! It was laying in the open wood 40 yds ahead. It looked dead, but it was laying straight up on its belly with its chin on the ground and antlers up? Thor was barking like crazy! I had the hunter hold Thor's leash as I slowly approached the buck. Soon I was 15ft from it and it was still motionless. Just when I was sure it was dead, it blinked and took off running. I got my 20ga up and shot when it was going away at 30 yds. It tumbled into one of the big puddles then ended up lying head up in the woods 40 yds ahead. My hit to the back knee put it down, but it was still trying to get up. Too long story short - 2 more shots finished it! (this included an "ammo run" to get a 3rd slug!) It was a Big 10pt. The Hunters shot passed thru the top of the lungs just under the shoulder blades. PS, it was a 4 blade Muzzy. This was the 1st marginal lung shot we've ever recovered, and it wasn't easy...

Track 3 was in Dansville. Hunter said that yesterday he hit the buck broadside and far back. He saw stomach contents on a tree. The arrow showed me only intestine contents, but I did find stomach matter on the tree. Yesterday the hunter tracked it (pushed it!) about 175 yds with a little blood, he then backed out. We started on the track 23 hrs after the hit, again no blood was visible (dam rain!). Thor again got hot on the trail and was soon passing the hunters backpack that he left where he backed out. About 300 yds later, Thor again had his nose high in the air looking for the Buck. We then saw it dead, 50 yds ahead. The 8pt was very fresh, no rigor. It had only been dead a few hours. The entrance wound was halfway back and about 6 inches from the bottom of the deer. It hit Stomach and exited out the intestines. A day that started with driving in the pouring rain, turned into our best tracking day ever. Tracking conditions were great, damp and cool, and Thor was really on his game. The heavy rain that washed away all blood sign probably helped us.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

"Track or treat" night: Winnie and Jared's first track in pursuit of a wounded deer

Some tracks are more memorable than others but most likely every handler remembers their very first track. This week we received email from Jared Brueggeman, who got a female pup from our only 2016 litter. Winnie (Yola von Moosbach-Zuzelek) was born on July 3, 2016 so she is just turning 4 months old tomorrow.

My neighbor shot this doe on his land at approximately 5:45 pm Halloween evening. He said he heard the arrow hit but was unable to locate it or any blood at the shot site.  A few hours later Winnie, myself, the hunter and two friends took to the field. We started tracking at 9:15 pm.  It was difficult to locate the first blood as there was none at the hit site that we could see. We tracked for quite a distance.  Some heavy blood fading to some light blood and back to heavy.  After several hundred yards and it was apparent that the deer was still alive as we were finding fresh blood that was not dried like at the beginning of the trail.  We never found a single bed.  We pushed the deer to make her bleed and we ended up through the large block of timber where the deer crossed the road.  We located a few drops on the road and Winnie was anxious to push on. Shortly after crossing the road Winnie came upon her first real deer.  The deer was dead and Winnie realized what she has been training  to do. She went right over and started licking the blood and eventually she latched right on and was biting the deer with all she had. She showed no possessiveness as last night I think Winnie realized that we are working as a team.  All of the other people and the lights in the woods were a distraction at times as this was only her second time in the woods at night, once on an artificial line and then this actual call. I would reassure her with a calm tone that she needs “find the deer” and she was back to tracking. We recovered the deer at 11:28 pm. The deer was shot quartering away hitting the gut, liver and a single lung. There was an entrance and exit wound, however, the arrow was still in the deer. She had not been dead long as there were still bubbles coming out of the exit hole near the lungs. The track totaled just about a mile in distance. The Halloween deer that Winnie found will be one I will never forget. Winnie did get on Halloween a little treat of her own, a few slices of fresh deer heart.

On the track there were a few times where I needed to reset Winnie on the last blood found and then she was back on track. She persevered and did great. I was very proud of her as you know she is not even 4 months old yet! I am on cloud nine right now and I have the itch to get back out there and let the sniff hound go find another!  Thanks for being a part of all of this. 

Sincerely, your friend and now fellow tracker,

Jared Brueggeman

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