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Shae
SHAE
BIRKEY

Versatile Hunter

Training and Testing Blood Tracking Dogs

Mon, January 21, 2013

Last year, about this time, I ran my Deutsch Drahthaar, Brahms through a Verein Deutsch Drahthaar (VDD) 20 hour blood track test.  This test involves dabbing eight ounces of blood over 1,000 meters.  These lines are prepared 20 hours in advance of running a dog.  The dabbing method typically involves using a stick or specialized wand with a small sponge on the end every other step or so.  As you can imagine, 8 ounces over 1,000 meters (over half a mile) is not a lot of blood.  Within that 1,000 meters there are typically three 90-degree turns, six one-inch cubes of lung and two simulated wound beds (small blood pools and scuffed ground).  Depending on where the blood tracks are laid the dogs may encounter hills, streams, fences, as well as the scent of deer, coyotes, raccoons and other game that can throw them off the blood trail.  The dogs are allowed to come off the trail more than 80-100 meters twice during the test.  They are then “called back” to the last place the handler called out seeing blood on the ground.  The handler can also stop the dog at any time and look for blood on the ground.  After 20 hours, blood can be difficult to see on the ground.  Did I mention that rain will not typically stop the test either?  Snow however is a show stopper, because handlers can see the blood on the snow and thus, influence the direction of the dog.  There is typically not a time allowed for this event, but scores are given for the performance and a dog that is influenced inappropriately by its handler may not pass at all, let alone get a prize I, II, or III. 

Three judges follow the handler through the track.  The dogs are usually ran with a specialized blood tracking collar that it larger in width and usually made of leather.  A 20 foot lead is then attached to the collar, which is made of a material that can easily slip through brush and other undergrowth without getting tangled.  There are, however other options for running dogs through this test.  Dogs can be taught to lead the handler to the carcass at the end of the trail by first finding the carcass, and then returning to the handler with a leather tassle in its mouth that is attached to its collar.  There is also a way to train the dog to bay once it reaches the carcass at the end of the trail.  In Illinois, it is actually illegal to run dogs without a 20 foot lead, so these other options are not allowed here.  Training a dog in the other methods is more time-consuming and not all dogs can learn to bay at the end of the trail.  Up until recent years, hunters were not even allowed to use dogs to find deer in Illinois.  Hunters in several states are still fighting to make it legal to use a dog to retrieve deer.  Hard to believe, I know.  I suppose the argument against involves confusion over running deer in order to actually harvest deer.  I suppose it’s just one of those issues that involves lawmaker education in order for them to fully understand the utility of a good blood tracking dog. 

Good blood tracking dogs are very capable of completing this task, even if it may seem impossible after reading the above. So, what happened during our test?  Well, as with most dog trials or tests, I was ridiculously nervous to start, despite nearly perfect scenting conditions.  The morning was cold, crisp, and with a perfect amount of frost thawing in the woods.  I laid Brahms down at the start and looked for sign.  After seeing a drop of blood and being told the general direction the deer ran after being “hit” we were off.  Brahms doesn’t waste any time on a blood track, so he was moving at a good enough clip that I was walking quickly.  His nose to the ground, I was dropping white cotton swabs whenever I saw blood.  Along the way, I stopped him several times, went down and up several ravines and stopped to pick up a shed antler that I promptly handed to the judges!  We also crossed a fence line and a small stream.  All told, I probably laid Brahms down 6 times to look for blood, but he was always right on the track.  I was not doing him any favors by stopping him, but even with my rookie mistakes, he nailed the track and we were at the carcass in a hurry.  It may have taken us 15 minutes, but honestly I’m not sure because I had no concept of time while we were in the moment. I was sure proud of that dog.  We had one other handler run a dog that day and both of us received a Prize I score. 

I’ve recovered several deer with Brahms over the years, but we’ve not found even more.  These are blood tracking dogs, after all, and aren’t necessarily able to find wounded animals just by their scent alone, although some breeds are capable of following specific scents.  I’ve turned down numerous chances to recover deer because the hunter didn’t do a good job of explaining how well the deer was hit (which leads me to believe that it wasn’t hit good at all), or the hunter had already trampled all over the woods (thereby effectively contaminating much of the woods with blood on his boots), or I simply didn’t have the time. 

A good blood tracking dog needs to have a good nose and a temperament that allows it to stay focused on the track.  There are many ways to train dogs to blood track.  The use of a tracking collar and lead ONLY when tracking and the use of hot dog pieces along the trail when training are a good start. 

If you’ve ever thought about training a dog to blood track there are several resources available to you.  I’d say to first start with learning about breeds.  Perhaps one of the most popular blood tracking dogs is the wirehaired dachshund believe it or not!  German lines are especially well-bred.  A good book to start with is “Tracking Dogs For Finding Wounded Deer” by John Jeanneny. You can also check out the website born-to-track.com and unitedbloodtrackers.org for more information.   

(6) COMMENTS

Toughest Bird to Decoy

Sun, December 16, 2012

You never know what is going to come up in the duck blind on any given day.  Some things cannot be mentioned here—others can.  Included in that category would be a question that came up this past Saturday at a private club near Spring Bay we were hunting.  Which waterfowl species is the toughest to decoy?  Mallards, pintails, specklebellies, and snows came to mind.  I’ve had personal experiences with all of them and was interested in what Heartland readers thought and perhaps some tips on getting them to finish.

I recall late season mallards in Arkansas that would only finish with a constant barrage of calling.  Stop calling and they wanted nothing to do with you.  The local guides were much better at getting them to finish and we were hunting with folks who had 20 years of duck hunting experience.  The guides, some of which were younger than us, finished these mallards better hands down.  They seemed to give those birds just what they wanted to hear.

Or mallards this year in the corn. . . .  We tried everything to no avail.  Moved decoys, moved spinners, pulled spinners, called more, called less. . . .  Perhaps the birds were a bit stale and had seen it all before.  Perhaps there was something that we should have been doing differently. 

Anyone with some experience has recalled the sights and sounds of northern pintails circling, circling, circling, and never finishing. . . . . Time and time again.  Don’t get me wrong, we’ve killed our share.  But I’ve seen more not finish then finish. 

Don’t get me started on the specks and snows.  400 silosock snow decoys and still no finishing.  . . ugh.  Makes a guy want to hang it up for awhile.  Anyone know how to figure out the specks?  Let us all in on the secrets if so.  You’re well ahead of the majority of local hunters I know.  .  .

(4) COMMENTS

Wheelin Sportsmen pheasant hunt

Wed, December 12, 2012

Guides and world-class bird dogs will be provided by the NAVHDA Spoon River Chapter.

January 13, 2013 with a January 20 snow date, if needed.

Birds will be paid for by the NWTF and lunch is provided by Lick Creek.  Four wheelers will also be provided, if needed.

Contact Lisa Davis (217-260-7036) or Shae Birkey (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) to register or for more information.

Lick Creek Game Preserve website: http://www.lickcreek.com/

NWTF Wheelin’ Sportsmen website:  http://www.illinoisnwtf.org/wheelin.aspx

(0) COMMENTS

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