How to Train a Bloodthirsty Dog for Deer Hunting

The document I had been looking for for three days – a 10-point heavy, chocolate bar – was standing 95 feet below the shipment, turning a quarter into a bit. I placed the 0.308 stalk on top of my shoulder, waiting to break it and watch the deer fall dead. Instead, the dollar tossed into the South Texas brush, with its tail tightened. Charles Coker, my guide, and I sat in the blind box discussing hitting. Declaration and hit. Although the reaction sounded more like that of a gut shot than a quarter-shoulder blow, surely he would be dead just inside the brush. After an hour, we climbed out of the blind box to look. The statement left his bed slightly from the sender’s edge. A pool of bright red blood was already drying in the sand and he sank into the brush in front of us. We both knew we had to wait longer, but the back mind did not change the situation. Just then I asked Coker, “Do you know anyone with a tracking dog?”

hunter with a tracking dog in the bullet
The author works with his dog Levee on a 30-foot bullet. In many states, tracking dogs must be kept chained. Hollis Bennett

Why some states do and do not allow blood tracking dogs for injured deer

A thousand miles away, at his home in Kentucky, deer season had begun four months, and my 11-month-old Catahoula curi, Levee, was coming as a tracking dog. I would never have the patience to become a lot of dog trainer, but I do a lot of deer hunting. Between finding my deer and helping friends and family find theirs, I follow about 25 blood trails in a season. Most are easy to solve – but there are exceptions.

Shoot at enough deer and you will eventually hit a deer you can not find. In the best cases, the wound is superficial and the animal survives. But sometimes a runway is simply impossible to see with the human eye, and dead animals are not found. If you have made the decision to shoot a deer, it is your responsibility to do everything you can to find it. That’s why my wife and I bought Levee.

Kentucky is not alone when it comes to tracking dogs. Most states now allow dogs to be used – at least in some way – in the recovery of large injured prey, but persistent stigmas remain. In some states, such as Iowa and West Virginia, tracking dogs are still illegal. In Pennsylvania, tracking dogs were legalized in March 2020.

deer blood cooler, beer and leg
Frozen deer blood and legs from the previous hunting season – and some cold beers to celebrate a job well done. Hollis Bennett

If you ask me, the controversy over dog tracking is astonishing. No one objects to a retriever on a blind duck or a trained pointer to “hunt the dead.” Without them, the birds would be lost, wasted. For any hunter who knows the anxiety of losing a deer but has seen a good tracking dog at work, it is hard to imagine why anyone would be against them. However, some still mistakenly associate tracking dogs with running healthy deer with herds of hounds, crossing property boundaries, and disturbing other hunters on foot. It took some time to overcome that impression, and that is why, in most states, tracking dogs need to be kept chained.

Few people have done more to educate the hunting public and protect dog tracing as conservation tools than John and Jolanta Jeanneney from Berne, New York. John first saw German-haired dachshunds used for blood tracing while he was in Europe. He later had one as a pet, but he did not think of the dog as a hunting tool until he shot and lost a drenus with a pistol.

“I searched all day and did not find it,” he said. “A week later, some other hunters told me they had found him dead a quarter of a mile away. I knew from what I had seen in Europe that it would be easy to find with a dog. But that happened in the 1970s and dogs were not legal for deer hunting in New York, or most of the country. So I applied in New York State for a research permit to see if the hunting and non-hunting public would accept the use of tracking dogs. Gradually, we expanded the scope of the experiment. The system worked. “

do brantley
The author prepares a deer leg. Hollis Bennett

New York legalized the use of tied dogs in 1986. Jeanneneys began training more dogs and using them to help hunters find lost deer (to date, they have found more than 300 animals). John wrote a book called Tracking dogs to find injured deer, which is now printed in a second edition. As awareness of tracking dogs increased and rules were eased, he and Jolanta realized that many hunters who needed the help of a tracking dog did not know how to find one. Others who wanted to train their dogs did not know where to start. In 2005, with the help of several tracking colleagues, the Jeanneneys founded the United Blood Tracker Association (UBT). It is a resource for both hunters and trackers, complete with a free contact list of more than 450 trackers and updated state-by-state blood dog regulation regulations.

shedding blood on a deer leg
The author adds blood to the runway. Hollis Bennett

Nothing increases the chances of recovering a lost deer more than using a tracker dog (and if it is not legal in your state, raise hell until it is done). Thanks to resources like UBT – as well as other websites and social media groups where trackers collaborate – it is easier than ever to find a dog when needed.

hound following a deer trail
Levee closes at the deer leg. Hollis Bennett

Of course, you can also train your tracking dog. Although I’m not a “dog boy”, I have found that tracking down Levee is extremely rewarding. Ahead of last season deer, I spent summer evenings setting up mock blood trails and working him on a 30-foot chain. On the evening of the opening of the archery, I shot a drenus and put it on the first drops of blood at the struck place an hour later. It was an easy road and Levee found the dead deer in less than a minute. By the end of the season, he had followed 11 real trails and found nine deer.

Read on: 5 Top Tips for Blood Tracking by a Master Tracker

Taking blood traces in Texas

As Texans usually do, Coker “knew a guy” and called him right away. Robbie Hurt and his wife, Cynthia, arrived within hours with snake boots, soothing smiles and two mixed cur-Walker hound mountain breeds equipped with GPS tracking collar.

In most Texas (though there are exceptions), up to two tracking dogs can be used at the same time, without a leash, to chase injured animals. Robbie released his biggest dog, Buck, and then asked to be taken to the place of destination. We followed Buk by the sender to the bed, who now had only a pale brown stain. I did not have much confidence, but Buck put his nose in the sand and melted into the brush. We got back to the trucks while Robbie watched the dog progress on a GPS screen.

will brantley with his hunting dog
Levee shows the price. Hollis Bennett

Buck walked 100 feet from the bed, then 200, 300 … We walked around the perimeter of the section to continue with him. Coker’s farm is low-lying and we could not risk the dog crossing a line of ownership. The icon on Hurt GPS began to swing, left and then right. And then, 672 meters away from the sender, the icon stopped.

Robbie disappeared into the brush and I did my best not to get mixed up like a kid waiting to see Santa. Cynthia’s cell phone rang five minutes later: “Buck found his dollar.”

A woodcutter could not have torn the mesquite more furiously. The statement was rigid but unbroken. My bullet had hit me behind the shoulder and came out of my tongue. It was a deadly blow – albeit 4 inches from where I was aiming – that bleed almost completely inside the deer’s chest. Without the dog, the deer would have been wasted. And this story would really have another end.

aerial view of hunter with a tracking dog
A top view of the author with Levee. Hollis Bennett

5 best dog breeds for tracking injured deer

A good nose, interest in deer and blood, and a willingness to indulge are all that is required of a tracking dog, and so for any breed can work. But some of the most popular breeds include:

1) Curses

The Catahoula cur is the state dog of Louisiana. “Houlas, like my dog, Levee, are big animals, with high energy, with great noses, but they also react to training. Blackmouth curses — think Old Yeller — are similar in size, skill, and temperament and are popular among serious trackers.

2) Dachshunds

Their small size, strong nose and even temperament make them suitable for working with chains.

3) Blood

Few breeds have a better nose, but large and powerful bloodsuckers can be difficult to control with a chain.

4) Labrador Retrievers

Laboratories are the most popular breed in the United States, and generally have the nose and intelligence to track a deer.

5) Blue Lacy Dogs

The official Texas dog, Lacy is popular in Lone Star State for grazing cattle and pigs, but has also gained a nationwide follower as an excellent tracking dog.

Read more: 21 best breeds of hunting dogs ever

hunting dog
When Levee is wearing his reflective vest, he knows it’s time to work. Hollis Bennett

How to Train a Blood Tracker

Training a tracker is not as difficult as you might think. Here are some things to keep in mind when you start.

Take control with a chain and harness

It’s okay to let a puppy follow a few short paths, but graduate quickly to work the dog with the leash. John Jeanneney recommends using a harness that the dog wears only during tracking.

Do the realistic workout with real deer blood and legs

Save and raise blood and legs from any deer you can use later to work with your dog off-season. Create a runway and let it stand for a few hours – just like a trace of real blood – before working your dog. Do not be afraid to work at night, as then you will follow many real tracks.

Learn how your dog moves when you hunt

Each track will have challenges where a deer stops bleeding, crosses an obstacle, etc., and a tracking dog solves those problems with its nose. Make your mocking tracks challenging and study your dog’s body language both when he loses track and when he finds it again. When you see this on a real track on the field, believe me. – BB

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