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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Theo's advanced blood tracking training

by Darren Doran

This April Theo turned four years old and is developing into a solid tracking dog. We had somewhat of a disappointing tracking season last year as the call volume just wasn’t there. I really only got a few calls that I would consider difficult enough to test Theo’s current tracking ability. With that in mind this spring I decided I would really push Theo hard to see where he really is in his development.

My first line was a 800 yd, 24 hour old tracking shoe line with about 1 oz of blood used. He ran this in about twenty minutes and it was obvious that this was too easy.

My next line was a  880 yd, 40 hour old tracking shoe line with no blood. Again Theo ran this with no problem.

My third line was a 700 yd 72 hour old tracking shoe line with no blood. Part of this line went through a controlled burn area in the woods that was done three days before I placed the line. Theo made one mistake when he left the line on a turn to follow only what I imagine was fresher deer scent. I gave him the opportunity to correct himself but he didn’t. Also his body language was such that if the line wasn’t marked I would have followed him. The second spot that slowed him up was the burn. He really had to pick his way through this. Even though he had a mistake and got slowed up it only took 40 minutes to finish.

So far my training with him had been excellent. So I decided for my next line I would try to make it as close to a real hunting track as I could. In New Jersey you are allowed to bait deer and most of my tracks start in a bait pile. I have a spot in a natural county park which holds a lot of un-hunted deer. I train here frequently and I decided that I would pack bait into the park in two spots. After the deer started feeding there I would start a training line in one bait pile and track through the second about 300 yds before the line ended. In about two weeks I had the deer cleaning up about 25 lbs of corn every two days or so. I had a trail camera out at what was going to be my hit site and pictures confirmed that deer were there regularly and at any time of day, but mornings and evenings were the best just like in hunting season. I also had raccoons visiting the corn at night as well.

Deer visiting the bait
I decided that Friday after work I would pack in another 25 lbs of corn and the materials needed to make the training line. I dumped the corn and put on my tracking shoes. This line was going to mimic a bow shot deer from a high tree stand with a pass-through the liver and gut. I brought an old half of an arrow and put it in a plastic bag and poured blood on it and let the fletch soak it up. I put a wad of hair in the hit site and dropped in the arrow. I was going to walk out of the hit site for 30 yds put down a small squirt of blood every third time my right foot hit the ground. After the 30 yd mark there would be no more blood on the line. I tried to walk out so that I wasn’t on a deer run but there were tracks everywhere. I wanted to make it as evident as possible that Theo was taking the line and not just any deer leaving the bait.

Getting ready to lay the track
One thing I want to mention is that all my training materials used on a training track come from the same deer. The feet, blood, hair, and skin and not only that I only use materials that come from a deer that has been shot and run before it dies. I don’t use road kills or deer that die instantly from a gunshot.

I believe a deer that has been shot and is going to die smells different to a dog or predator than a healthy one. I see a difference in my dogs tracking style on a deer that we get as opposed to one that is high back or shoulder hit. I want my training lines to be as close to real thing as possible.

Shed buck in the bait 1.5 hour before the start
The line ended up being about 900 yds. It started in a creek bottom and went through various terrain to include saplings, a gas line crossing, brush, mature forest and finally across a power line.

The second distraction was located in the mature forest in a clear area amongst a bunch of blow downs. This was about 300 yds from the end of the line. Again I left the distraction in a way that was not being used by the deer so I could tell if Theo was tracking the line correctly. I also lost one of the hoofs from the tracking shoe in this area and didn’t realize it until I was finished.
We started the track on Sunday morning at 9:15 am it was 34 degrees and 40 hrs after the line was put down. Also we had a steady rain most of Saturday. This was going to about as close to a real track as I could get. The trail camera had pictures of deer up to an hour and a half before we got there.

I started Theo at the hair and arrow. The rain had washed all the blood off the arrow but I was sure the fletch still held some scent. Theo started too quick and really didn’t lock onto the hair or arrow. He was all over almost instantly. The amount of fresh and old scent there must have been intense.

Working the hit site.
As with most of my hunting tracks, I had a direction of travel the deer took from the hit site. I didn’t let Theo take any of the deer runs for any length of time. He crossed over the line a couple of times and didn’t acknowledge it. I was beginning to think that this was just too hard. I restarted him three times and made him smell the hair and arrow each time. The second restart he had part of it but pulled off. On the third restart he ran right down the line to the spot I picked him up at the second time, made a correction and started tracking the line. He had it! We spent over 15 minutes at the hit site and by him settling down recognizing the proper scent and ignoring the hot scent we were finally making progress.

We tracked out of the bottom, through the saplings, across the gas line, into the brush and finally to the mature forest without any real problem. He located the wound bed in the forest and I gave him a meat reward. Theo was now heading for the second distraction. When he got into the blow downs and other scent he started searching. He found the dropped hoof and I made a mistake here. I rewarded him with some meat, and I think he thought the track was over. 

I was encouraging him to track and he kept going to where the hoof was laying and smelling and digging in the dirt. I imagine that there was a lot of scent there as the hoof laid there for 40 hrs and was rained on for a day. I finally got him going, and he was now tracking only 1 hoof . We went up through the hardwoods and turned towards the power line. He tracked to the power line and out into it. He was searching around and moving side to side in an arc moving in a forward motion. The skin was just inside the edge on the far side. I wasn’t sure and I didn’t think he really had it but at one point he was heading right for the tree that the skin was behind. I dropped the lead expecting him to find the skin at the tree but he passed on the upwind side and went right past it and into the next woods. He continued on and I called him back and was going to do a controlled search on the power line. On his way back he air scented the hide and went right to it.
This line took 55 minutes total and 17 minutes at the hit site and maybe 5 minutes at the second distraction. Once he locked on to the right scent he had no problem finishing this line. 

Theo has a very good nose but he also has great mental ability on a track. Put those two things together and you get a very honest tracking dog that gets the job done without a lot of mistakes or very little help from me.

I couldn’t be happier with our training so far and I’m already looking forward to the next tracking season.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Myasthenia Gravis takes life of a talented tracking dachshund: RIP Aleah

With a very heavy heart we are sending our deep sympathy to Andre Guerin from Louisiana. Today he lost his beloved 3.5-year-old dachshund Aleah to Myasthenia Gravis. I met Aleah and Andre at Trackfest in May 2014 in North Carolina. She was a beautiful, talented dog and Andre could not keep his eyes off her. They had an incredibly strong bond. Even though we did not breed Aleah she was related to our dogs. Her dam, Macaria Raptor, was imported from the Czech Republic, and she is a sister to Mielikki Raptor. Her sire was Remy von Moosbach-Zuzelek "Remi". More info on Myasthenia Gravis can be read here

Thursday, April 7, 2016

"Old Deer Tracker" John Jeanneney: Happy 81st Birthday!

Today is John's 81st Birthday and I thought it would be interesting and fun to look back at the 81st year of his life. Last year I blogged very little, and many of these events have never been written up.

The picture below shows how John spent April 7, 2015. Paul, his son, and Marilyn came to have a birthday lunch with us, and they put some serious work into cutting down the tree that got damaged due to ice accumulation during previous winter. 

Last year we had two litters of puppies, our W litter and X litter. The W pups (Woody, Waldi, Willette, Wiki, and Willow were born on March 9, and in the picture taken on his birthday, John is holding one of them. The X litter was born on July 26 and produced Xander, Xenos, Xakary, Ximo, Xavier, Xoe, Xola and Xena. This was a lot of work... and fun... and satisfaction.

On April 24 John gave a talk at the Annual meeting of the NADKC (North American Deutsch Kurzhaar Club) in Cobleskill, NY. Dick Aronica thanked him: "Your presentation on the actual practical side of deer recovery was perfect."

One of the highlights of John's year was participation in the Annual Workshop (Formation) given by ACCSQ on May 2-3 in St-Apolllinaire, Quebec. The ACCSQ is Association des Conducteurs de Chiens de Sang, which could be translated as Association of Handlers of Blood Tracking Dogs. John gave a talk at this extremely well organized and attended workshop on  creating a tracking dog/handler team.

On May 8-9 John was at the QDMA (Quality Deer Management Association) National Convention at Louisville, KT, where he gave a well received presentation on blood tracking.

This lead to an article written by Kip Adams, the QDMA Director of Education and Outreach, for Quality Whitetails. Kip said "Thanks for giving such a great presentation at convention.  I took a page of notes so I’d remember your advice and realized I needed to share them with others.  That’s where the article came from and I hope it can help others this fall and beyond."

In July John and Andy Bensing traveled to Ontario, Canada, where they conducted "An Introductory Seminar and Field Workshop about Using Trained Tracking Dogs to Find Wounded Big Game". This was in support of Big Game Blood Trackers of Ontario (BGBTO).

During the summer John spent many hours in his garden (this is something he can't live without)...

... on training dogs...

 ...spending time with friends...

... and working on our grounds (thank you Larry and Cheri!)

We went to some concerts to socialize pups...

and attended Dan and Faith Hardin's wedding.

In July John was interviewed for the Hunting Dog Podcast and this interview "Blood Tracking Big Game with Little Dogs" can accessed HERE.

In September, there was another presentation in Ontario:

When a hunting/tracking season arrived, I had my serious doubts whether John would be able to track. He has been battling multiple health issues over the years, but the Old Man proved me wrong again. He found 6 deer for other hunters and he shot a doe to provide meat for this human and canine family.

This past winter John gave more talks at local churches, which serve "wild game dinners" accompanied by informative presentations on topics related to hunting. His last one was at Bethlehem Community Church in Delmar, NY on March 5, 2016. Four days later he was in the hospital and had a pacemaker inserted.

Nobody ever knows what next year will bring, but it looks like being inactive while getting older is not an option for John. His tracking days are over, and now he admits it himself. I am sure that he will find a way to stay engaged in the field of tracking dogs and will continue to share his knowledge through articles and books. Happy Birthday My Love!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Tragic loss of two accomplished handlers, Tom and Chris DiPietro, and their tracking dogs

Chris DiPietro with a recovered deer in 2012.
On March 22 we were shocked to learn that Tom and Christine DiPietro, both 59, from Jericho, VT, died due to the accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. Their three dogs, Scout, Filou and Addie, died with them. For more information about it go HEREPoughkeepsie Journal published the full obituary

This article about Tom and Chris DiPietro from Jericho, VT, was written five years ago - see

It is impossible to express the impact of Tom and Chris's death in a couple of short paragraphs. People who were close to them have been grieving deeply. 

Their lives touched so many people, and this sentiment has been expressed with such emotion by many of their tracking friends, who were started in the field and supported by Tom and Chris. 

I received this e-mail from Tom 15 years ago:

"My name is Tom DiPietro and I live and track in Northern Vermont. I came to Vermont nine years ago when my company transferred me to its Essex Junction plant from Dutchess County New York where I grew up. My love for tracking started many years ago when I was a bow hunter in New York. One day I made a poor shot on a doe, after searching all day, I failed to recover the deer and called a number I had received at a local sportsman show for a group called Deer Search. The Deer Search volunteers came out and assisted me in tracking the deer, which we never found. I was very impressed with the way the small Wirehaired Dachshund worked the trail and the dedicated handlers who gave their time to help a person they didn’t know.  

After moving to Vermont, due to the demands of a new job, my family adjusting to their new home and being unfamiliar with the hunting area, I didn’t hunt as much as I would have liked to.  As I became more familiar with the area and my life settled down, I found myself drawn back to the woods.  A few years ago I heard about a man named Tim Nichols who had helped pass legislation legalizing leased dog tracking in Vermont similar to the service that I was so impressed with many years ago in New York.  I called Tim and he helped me to obtain a tracking license in Vermont.  Now all I needed was a dog.  I contacted a breeder in western New York, who does blood tracking with Wirehaired Dachshunds and had just had a litter of puppies, so I decided to go out and take a look.   I came home with a three-month old male puppy whose nose seemed as long as his body and my son named him Musket."  

Musket's first deer
In December 2001 this email arrived showing how serious Tom and his tracking family and friends were about helping hunters:. This was a summary of their 2nd tracking season.

Well tracking fans the year has finally come to a close. I have some mixed feelings on this: I'm glad to no longer be waiting for calls but at the same time I want to be in the woods and find some deer. It drove me nuts when we went out for an evening, then found out I'd missed a call and lost an opportunity to find a deer.

We did much better this year getting out on calls taking 24 of the 37 calls we received. Last year we took 26 of 44 so that shows some improvement. Calls were definitely down this year because of last year's winter kill but the lack of snow in VT extended our season 3 weeks over last year and we came close in the total number of calls. Perhaps the best improvement we had was in the number of finds we had: 12 of 24 for a exceptional 50% find rate. When you add to this the fact that we actually came up with 2 other deer that we found but determined they were okay and stopped chasing, and 2 more that we didn't find but they were seen alive later in the season I think we had a season that far exceeded our hopes. For comparison sake we found only 6 last year.

A few more numbers of interest: our avg call time was 9 hours after the hunter shot and the avg time of the deer we found was 7.8 hours.

We did get some interesting feedback from a guy I tracked for last year and didn't find his deer. Last year he shot a deer in the shoulder with his rifle and we had a very good run, but came up empty. Well this year he shot a deer in the same area that had a broken leg and a nasty healed over wound on the same side as the one he wounded last year. We believe it was the same deer that survived the year, what a great animal!
As far as our last 4 finds we had one very easy run where the deer made a quick turn and lost the hunter. Musket and I never even got to the last blood before Musket turned left and started down a trail. The hunter was saying: no, the blood is over here, you are going backwards.  I was starting to pull Musket in when I noticed a smear of blood on a tree. I let him go and within 15 - 20 yards we had the deer. The deer had executed a little J maneuver and I had to tell the hunter twice before it sunk in that we had the deer that quickly. We could still see his boat in the backyard.

Another find was in Craftsbury over an hour away and perhaps one of our best tracking jobs of the year. We went a long, long way with no sign before we found a single drop of blood. The hunter had walked out on the same trail the evening before so we had our doubts but Muskie was working well so we stuck with him and went a long way again before we found another spot of blood. The hunter was quite impressed and studying the blood spot when the trail got hot and we found a few more good spots of blood and then the dead deer. Something else had found it before us and a fair chunk of one hind quarter was missing and leaves had been thrown over the deer. We could have given up on the trail a number of times but Musket "looked" like he was working so we didn't quit and ended up with a very impressive find. Chris was with us and we followed the guy to the check station where we enjoyed celebrity status.

We had another very exciting chase on a four point buck 41 hours after he was shot. Someone else had tracked the deer the prior evening but they couldn't get a shot into it. We went out the next day and took up the trail from where the first tracker had started the previous evening. We eventually kicked the deer up (this was 41 hours after the shot and he was still alive!!! Like I said what a animal) after a short chase and a few more shots we had him down. It ended up the hunter had not shot him in the gut as he had indicated but shot his front leg completely off. Yes: "off " and the bullet also passed through into his other leg so he was running on 2 and a half legs. Chris says it was really a unfair chase because 3 people, 3 guns and 2 different dogs seems a little unfair. But it was really a good find because this deer was coyote bait for sure.

The last deer was another rifle shot that the hunter lost the trail after a long track. We re-established the track very quickly and took it to the deer in just a few minutes. This was another very impressed hunter who we had to tell twice that we had the deer because he didn't think a little dog could be that good.
 In review the season was great, we found 12 deer but we were able to share the finds with Rei, TJ, Danny, Scott Lopez, Scott's friend Joe, and Chrissy. I think the most fun day was with Rei, TJ, Danny and Scott where we found 2 deer.  

I can't wait till next year, I'll be losing Scott Lopez to college but Chris is going to get licensed and we will be running Filly and Musket which is sure to be a great team. We've learned a ton this year and made some equipment improvements. I never mentioned the night my light died and I had to stop and go back the next day.

In my opinion Musket was the best. Tom got Musket from Sue Redden, a Deer Search tracker from Western NY. Sue bred her Sage von Moosbach-Zuzelek, our Sabina’s littermate, to a male that had been bred by Gary Huber. Sage was a small, feisty female, who turned out to be a very good tracker. Musket, her son, lived to be 14.5 and found 148 deer for Vermont hunters.

Tom seemed to be a bit impulsive when it came to getting puppies. I remember he came to us to get a backup dog for Musket, and at the time the only pup we had was Filou von Moosbach-Zuzelek. She did not look too promising, but Tom did not want to wait for the next litter and got her. The arrangement was that he could return her within next few months. He kept her. In spite of a pretty good tracking start, she never turned out to be a decent tracking dog. At one point she was placed with a new family but she missed her old home too much and came back to live with Tom and Chris as their pet. She died with them at almost 15.

In fall 2003 Tom came back to us to get another dachshund, and around that time Filou’s sister Fredrika (Rica) became available. In October he wrote:

John,  I wanted to give you a quick update on our last few days and Rica's progress. First off, while we were gone the boys took two calls and found one so we didn't miss much while down at your house. Saturday night we got a call where the hunter indicated a shot through the body cavity but he wasn't sure exactly where. I took both dogs out with Scott handling Musket and Rica with me. We put the dogs down and Musket started the track while Rica ran off a little to the right. Once Musket was gone I restarted Rica and she marched along the track that Musket had taken. She appeared to be tracking so I let her do her thing. When we caught up to the others they had just gotten to the point of loss and Musket was doing some checks. Rica never faltered and marched right through! With us now leading the way we covered 50 yards when Rica turned left up the side of a cut corn field. Musket reached the point where we had turned and stayed straight, found blood, and continued the track. We followed for quite a distance when we reached a point that Musket was having trouble and we fared no better. Musket eventually restarted the track and we were off again but I kept Rica back behind on the trail. We reached another field where Musket was having trouble and once again Rica marched through without hesitation. With us now leading we crossed a stream and recrossed again. Just when I was thinking we were lost we picked up some blood to confirm the track, found her bed and kicked the deer up! Not long after finding the bed we lost the track and never regained it but I was thrilled with her first track and the way her and  Musket had worked their own trails but combined to have a very impressive track

In 2006 Larry Gohlke leased Fredrika (he raised her) and bred her to Susanne Hamilton’s Buster. This litter produced Danika and Nix; Cheri Faust’s Danika is an all-time #1 field trial dachshund in the States. Tom had one more litter out of Fredrika and Buster, and Scout and Avy came out of that breeding.

The last time I saw Tom, Christine, their son TJ and his wife Laura was at a tracking workshop organized by the United Blood Trackers in New Hampshire. The pictures below were taken during the workshop.

Chris DiPietro
Chris DiPietro
TJ and Tom DiPietro and Sally Marchmont 
TJ and Tom DiPietro with Dan Valdez
In 2013 John wrote a blog post about women as handlers and this is what Chris said:

The original motivation for tracking was to spend time with my husband, Tom, who loved tracking more than hunting.  I love to be in the woods and he would always ask me to go with him, so I would go and help him spot blood.  I also love a working dog and truly enjoyed watching Musket unravel the puzzle to find the deer.  My motivation to continue is to train our newest tracking dogs, Scout (WHD) and Addie (BMH) and to help the hunting community find their deer.  It is very rewarding to find a deer that the hunter could not find him/herself. My favorite weekend to track is our Youth weekend.   It makes you feel so good to help a young hunter find his/her very first deer.  Other motivations are that it keeps me in good health and you meet so many interesting people.  I remember my first years of tracking, I would be so exhausted.  Running up & down mountains and through swamps and thickets is very tiring.  Tom and I started training for sprint triathlons to keep us in shape for the "tracking" season. Just another thing we could do together.  Now I can track for hours and still get up the next day and do it all over again.  The hunters are very appreciative when we come out to help them and we have made many friends through our tracking connections.  I love the time I get to spend with Tom, in the woods with my dogs.  It's my favorite time of year.

Our deepest condolences and sympathy go to the DiPietro family and their friends such as Susanne Hamilton, Sally Marchmont and Scott Lopez. Tom and Chris lost their lives way too soon but they made difference in this world and they will never be forgotten. RIP.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

When you can't find the deer you have shot, a trained tracking dog can help!

So February and March have gone by without a single post. There have been a number of reasons for my absence, most out of my control, but let's not dwell on the whole thing. It's always hard to resume posting after a long break so I'll start with something simple, like why, even in the states where tracking dogs are legal and quite popular, a lot of hunters don't use them.

I know that in Michigan there are a lot tracking dogs. Yet, today I came across the article that troubled me a great deal and made my blood boil: A Hunter's Hard Choice to Follow a Blood Trail, or to Wait, and the Consequences by Tony Hansen. You can read it HERE. Don't miss the comments. 

It looks like the author has no idea that a tracking dog could be of great help in his situation. And neither people who made comments. Tracking dogs are especially useful in situations when a deer does not leave much blood sign. They are trained to track an individual, specific deer, even if there is very little blood or none at all.

To locate a tracking dog handler Tony Hansen could have gone to the United Blood Trackers website and click on the "Find-a-Tracker" link and then a map of Michigan. The link is:

During the hunting season of 2015/16, members of the United Blood Trackers found 1000 whitetail deer, 15 mule deer, 11 bear, 4 hogs, 1 moose, 1 elk, 1 auodad sheep & 1 turkey.  

When you can't find the deer you have shot, a trained tracking dog can help! It's the only right and responsible thing to do.