Utilizing tracking dogs for finding wounded and dead game is becoming more popular across the country, but why are they so important?
Tracking wounded game is becoming more accepted within the United States, as different state legislatures continue to pass laws to build licensing systems. While this is good for many reasons, the biggest reason is that it cuts down on unintended wanton waste. Because let’s face it, big game hunters make bad shots sometimes.
If you’re unaware of the success tracking dogs have, a study done in South Carolina in recent years turned up incredible results. The study, which followed 22 bowhunters, showed the use of tracking dogs was paramount to curtailing the waste and suffering of an animal. In all, hunters shot 61 deer, and of the total number of shots, 41 deer did not fall within sight of the hunter, therefore dogs were brought into the area to track the wounded animal.
Of those 41 deer, 40 were found within 24 hours of being shot, and the average time for a dog to find a wounded deer was 30 minutes. Further, 95 percent were found within four hours and 95 percent of the deer were found dead.
But what makes a good tracking dog? Many breeds can be utilized for this, including the typical hounds we see used for other applications – Plott hounds, treeing walker coonhounds, bloodhounds, etc. – as well as jagdterriers, blue Lacys, and labradors, to name a few. And while the methods of training a dog to blood track are deep – too deep for one article – there’s plenty of factors that help in the long run.
According to Bobby Culbertson of Tara Wildlife in an article written by Mossy Oak, there are five traits excellent blood trailing dogs need to have: independence, an eagerness to please, a good nose, drive, and stamina. Of those, the most important are having a good nose and drive solely because those two things cannot be taught.
If you’re looking strictly for a tracking dog to kick off a business, you have to look at the process of acquiring that dog like a bird hunter or houndsman would when getting their next dog. You need to find the right breeder whose litters have the best qualities and others you’re looking for in a pup. Only then will you know you’re getting a puppy from a mother and father whose mettle has been tested in the field.
Stamina is another great point by Culbertson, as Jolly notes in the article, “Stamina is the ability to go day after day, track after track. By the end of season our dogs have lost 20% of their body weight, have no hair on their nose and around their eyes and are just plain tired. Stamina is the ability to go every day, tired or not.”
With big game hunters oftentimes pursuing animals in rough territory and with bad shots an inevitable thing in hunting, utilizing a tracker and their dog is the best option one can employ. Maybe hunter takes a shot in the last minutes of legal light, or rain picks up a their target buck walks into range. And then there are the cases where animals just sometimes die in weird spots. So, rather than pressuring the animal further, pick up the phone and call your local tracker.
It can mean a world of difference.