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Training Your Dog to Track Wounded Deer

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August 17, 2009

Training Your Dog to Track Wounded Deer

By David DiBenedetto

Deer season opened yesterday in the Low Country of South Carolina. I know, hard to imagine if you hunt in a place like Vermont or Kansas. But take solace: it was 89 degrees today, and I heard the mosquitoes were so thick they could carry you off the treestand. I went fishing. Still, it got me thinking about Pritch’s potential as a tracker of wounded deer. She constantly has her nose to the ground, and I’m sure she’d pick up on a wounded deer trail with the proper training.

I did a bit of research and found that it doesn’t take too much effort to train your pooch to find wounded deer…at least compared to, say, teaching blind retrieves. Seems all you need to get started are a few Ziploc bags of frozen deer blood and a hide or tail.

The best—and possibly only—book on the subject is Tracking Dogs for Finding Wounded Deer by John Jeanneney. There’s also an organization in New York called Deer Search Inc. that specializes in training dogs and volunteer handlers to assist in finding wounded deer.

Believe it or not, the German Wirehaired Dachshund (otherwise fondly known as the wiener dog) is one of the best canines for the chore, but others like Labs, Goldens, and beagles work equally well. Any dog that helps find a wounded deer is a good one in my mind.

While I know using a dog to track wounded deer is not legal in all states, I’m curious if anyone else has used their dog to recover a downed big game animal.

Comments (22)

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from jmiles wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

Living in SC. I have owned several dogs that track well. I am also a know tracker and called to track many deer for folks in my area. One of my dogs was a boykin who taught its self by just folowing me. The other was a lab who basicaly did the same except for a little blood training and hide draging as a pup. Both have gone on to doggy heaven now so I am thinking about trying a golden doodle or labradoodle for my retrieving and tracking dog this time. Because I have developed serious pet allergys I am considering these dogs for thier hypallernic trates. I would be intrested in knowing what anyone who has had these breeds thinks of them as field dogs.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Elmer Fudd wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

you're not training your bird dog to do this are you? that is a monumental mistake

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave DiBenedetto wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

Elmer Fudd--I'm training Pritch to be a retriever and that's the only focus I'll have until she is a finished dog.

But I will say I have seen a Lab or two that was good in a duck swamp and helpful when it came to finding a wounded deer. Not sure if there was any training involved or if it was more of a natural thing.

No doubt, the best tracking dogs are trained specifically for this type of situation.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from gspnewby wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

What makes training your bird dog to track wounded deer a monumental mistake. Not being sarcastic, just curious. From time to time I will hide a shed antler in my yard and allow my GSP to find it in hopes of him becoming a shed finder in his off season. The first deer I ever shot was tracked and found by a jack russell terrier. Took me right to it. It was pretty cool to see.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from jcarlin wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

I don't know if it's a monumental mistake for a bird dog. My beagle, after giving deer nothing but a curious sniff and a glance for 2 years, has been on 2 LONG races after deer this past week. I intend to break him of it quickly. First, rabbit habitat is always deer habitat in my part of the world and he's my rabbit dog. It has now shaken my faith on what he's trailing and that's no good. Secondly, it's still in the game code that you may shoot a dog who is actively harassing big game in my state. The person who decides to shoot one of my dogs is in for a bad day, but I don't want me or my dog to be in that situation.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from mattreney wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

+1 for jcarlin i dont have a hunting dog i have a pembroke welsh corgi its about as usful as it sounds looks a little like a fox with no tail mixed with a german shepard with no legs. but this does sound like a bad idea somone one here was saying he was told to shoot dogs on the spot if their in the woods i wouldnt put a good dog in this possition and just hope the guy that sees him is having a good day and wont kill him

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Del in KS wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

My older brother who foxhunts in florida found an easy way to break dogs from running deer by accident. All you have to do is put a domestic goat in the pen next to you dogs for a week or so. After he did this not one of his dozen or so walker hounds would chase a deer. These had once been very enthusiastic deer dogs.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from needcoffee wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

Training your bird dog to blood track isn't a monumental mistake. In fact german versatile dogs are routinely tested on their ability to blood track as well as other routine bird hunting aspects. A blood tracking dog is tracking blood not uninjured deer. If they were just "running deer" scent, with all the deer around there is no way the dog would pass a blood track test. Those dogs follow old blood trails a long ways and sometimes the scent is quite old. Check out some links:http://jgv-usa.org/

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Judy Black wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

HMMM.... Back on May 14th I posted this question on the Huntress message board. Didn't get much response and poof!!! here it is.
We have a trooper in our town that has a weiner dog that he has trained to trail wounded animals. From the day he told me about this, I have been intrigued by it. He has brought in photos of this little guy "doing his job" and the animals that he has found. Deer, bear, etc.
He says once he puts the dogs harness on, he knows it is time to go to work...and he does.
He has a very good sucess rate and has offered to help me train a pup if I decided it was something I wanted to do.
Thanks for posting the titles of books related to this...they will be helpful should I decide to give it a try.
Thanks for the great post, you answered the question I asked in May =)
JB

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave DiBenedetto wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

Judy,

Glad you enjoyed the post and that it was helpful.

If you have any dog questions in the future please feel free to email me at MBFCONTEST@gmail.com. I can't promise that I'll know the answer but I can always do some research and speak to some pros that have been extremely helpful to me. -D

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Elmer Fudd wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

>What makes training your bird dog to track
>wounded deer a monumental mistake?

I have just seen plenty of rabbit dogs who needed to be broken of the habit of chasing deer.

I would think bird dogs might have this problem especially if you made a point of training them to do so.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from albertahunter wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

Using a dog is illegal here too but if you no longer have your gun are u not just walking your dog?
I shot a young WT buck that dropped in waist high grass and brush. Looked for it for an hour then had a neighbour and kids help but no luck. Went and got my Akita and he ran from the truck right to it in an area I was sure we had covered well. No snow makes them hard to see. I guess feeding him deer bones and roadkills helped. I also used him to help find beded bucks in the daytime by driving fields with the windows down. He would go bezerk when he winded one. He once brought home a complete set of antlers with skull attached. Good boy.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from liegong wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

I know about the drathar tests but I would still be cautious about teaching any dog that you work upland birds to do this kind of work. I think that the beagle owner also has a point. Anyone who has ever winged a bird in an area holding other birds knows that a dog can be tracking a wounded bird and then come along another covey. Now the bird has to decide which to pay attention to. Likewise, a dog on a blood trail (deer) who spooks another deer has a decision to make (chase it or stay with the scent.) And the more work you do on deer the more likely the dog is going to think that you are more interested in deer and will begin chasing them. I have seen drathars fall into this problem and have to be broken of their love of chasing deer.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from charlie@jenksin... wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

I have a 4 year old boykin. She hunts doves, ducks, and has tracked and found a handful of deer that would have taken us a while to find. I have been, and still am, very impressed at how fast she can pick up on things.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from revots wrote 4 years 33 weeks ago

I got my first Boykin "Jake" in 1985. This is before I had kids. He did everything with me fishing, canoeing, duck , dove, and deer hunting. Where I hunt deer in Mississippi is really thick. Every time I got a deer, I would take Jake with me to trail the deer. If he was not with me, I would bring the deer home and drag it around my yard and then put him on it. He found at least two nice deer that I never would have found. Teaching him to retrieve did not seem to hurt his ablility to work in the field and retrieve. That little brown dog just wanted to go hunting or fishing and I was glad to have him with me. I will be adding a new Boykin to the family around the 1st of October. I can't wait. Reading your blog has really got my blood stirring.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jaybogg wrote 4 years 33 weeks ago

I am very interested in this type of training. Recently aquired an abondoned Catahoula. After studying the breed, it was probably due to him being white with black spots and two blue eyes. Have read that many breeders kill these pups due to 80% deafness and a propensity for tunnel vision. He seems to be OK for both traits and always has his nose to the ground following trails. I am an deer hunter and think he would make an excellant tracker. Any comments?

PS. Found this forum studying up on deer tracking. Personal thoughts on a dual purpose dog? Don't restrict the dog by narrow thinking. All dogs are different. What works for one may not work for another. Just love, enjoy, and return the unconditional love shown by man's best friend.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from tamuderek wrote 4 years 31 weeks ago

Not a mistake at all. A dog worth hunting with will be smart enough to differentiate between hunting for birds one day and tracking deer the next.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from FloridaHunter1226 wrote 4 years 27 weeks ago

Never have used a dog for tracking wounded deer but this definitely makes me think twice about doing so. Especially when you have those shots where the animal runs pretty far off. This would make life a lot easier.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Raven2007 wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

I have to say, I own and raise Goldens and Labs and they both excell at birds and tracking deer!!! There is no mistake about it... they can tell the difference and never made a mistake!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from hmac1948 wrote 3 years 20 weeks ago

I have a 4 month Catahoulath that I want to train to track wounded deer how do you sujest getting her started?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from grubdog wrote 1 year 34 weeks ago

Basenji's and Decker Terriers are great deer dogs. Decker Terriers are used to find live deer in states where it is legal. Deckers are also called Giant Rat Terriers by certain breeders. The neat thing about these dogs is that they do not have the "terrier attitude", rarely bark, and have good house manners. Deckers have Basenji blood in their gene set, and that accounts for their affinity for deer. Basenjis are still used in Africa for finding hoofed creatures, as well as more dangerous game. Deckers are an all American breed, created by Milton Decker, solely for hunting purposes. They are very impressive in the field.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from griffs4me wrote 1 year 30 weeks ago

I have a 3 1/2 yr old Wire Haired Pointing Griffon. He is an amazing dog. We pheasent, woodcock and grouse hunt. I have also trained hi to find antler sheds and he has been a licensed big Game wounded tracking dog in NH for the last 2 years. He has tracked and found many bear and deer. We bird/duck hunt in deer territory and he has even jumped some while hunting and ignored them. He has never faltered from the task at hand. Somehow he knows the difference. I would have to say it depends on your breed and more specifically YOUR dog. Some dogs may not be able 9 or want to) differentiate the difference in the game. Maybe I am fortunate. I would suggest start slow and go from there if you REALLY have a desire to track with your bird dog. But to flat out say it ruins a dog is not completely true, I would argue all day as I have proof.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from jcarlin wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

I don't know if it's a monumental mistake for a bird dog. My beagle, after giving deer nothing but a curious sniff and a glance for 2 years, has been on 2 LONG races after deer this past week. I intend to break him of it quickly. First, rabbit habitat is always deer habitat in my part of the world and he's my rabbit dog. It has now shaken my faith on what he's trailing and that's no good. Secondly, it's still in the game code that you may shoot a dog who is actively harassing big game in my state. The person who decides to shoot one of my dogs is in for a bad day, but I don't want me or my dog to be in that situation.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from tamuderek wrote 4 years 31 weeks ago

Not a mistake at all. A dog worth hunting with will be smart enough to differentiate between hunting for birds one day and tracking deer the next.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from gspnewby wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

What makes training your bird dog to track wounded deer a monumental mistake. Not being sarcastic, just curious. From time to time I will hide a shed antler in my yard and allow my GSP to find it in hopes of him becoming a shed finder in his off season. The first deer I ever shot was tracked and found by a jack russell terrier. Took me right to it. It was pretty cool to see.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Judy Black wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

HMMM.... Back on May 14th I posted this question on the Huntress message board. Didn't get much response and poof!!! here it is.
We have a trooper in our town that has a weiner dog that he has trained to trail wounded animals. From the day he told me about this, I have been intrigued by it. He has brought in photos of this little guy "doing his job" and the animals that he has found. Deer, bear, etc.
He says once he puts the dogs harness on, he knows it is time to go to work...and he does.
He has a very good sucess rate and has offered to help me train a pup if I decided it was something I wanted to do.
Thanks for posting the titles of books related to this...they will be helpful should I decide to give it a try.
Thanks for the great post, you answered the question I asked in May =)
JB

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from liegong wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

I know about the drathar tests but I would still be cautious about teaching any dog that you work upland birds to do this kind of work. I think that the beagle owner also has a point. Anyone who has ever winged a bird in an area holding other birds knows that a dog can be tracking a wounded bird and then come along another covey. Now the bird has to decide which to pay attention to. Likewise, a dog on a blood trail (deer) who spooks another deer has a decision to make (chase it or stay with the scent.) And the more work you do on deer the more likely the dog is going to think that you are more interested in deer and will begin chasing them. I have seen drathars fall into this problem and have to be broken of their love of chasing deer.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from jmiles wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

Living in SC. I have owned several dogs that track well. I am also a know tracker and called to track many deer for folks in my area. One of my dogs was a boykin who taught its self by just folowing me. The other was a lab who basicaly did the same except for a little blood training and hide draging as a pup. Both have gone on to doggy heaven now so I am thinking about trying a golden doodle or labradoodle for my retrieving and tracking dog this time. Because I have developed serious pet allergys I am considering these dogs for thier hypallernic trates. I would be intrested in knowing what anyone who has had these breeds thinks of them as field dogs.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Elmer Fudd wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

you're not training your bird dog to do this are you? that is a monumental mistake

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave DiBenedetto wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

Elmer Fudd--I'm training Pritch to be a retriever and that's the only focus I'll have until she is a finished dog.

But I will say I have seen a Lab or two that was good in a duck swamp and helpful when it came to finding a wounded deer. Not sure if there was any training involved or if it was more of a natural thing.

No doubt, the best tracking dogs are trained specifically for this type of situation.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from mattreney wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

+1 for jcarlin i dont have a hunting dog i have a pembroke welsh corgi its about as usful as it sounds looks a little like a fox with no tail mixed with a german shepard with no legs. but this does sound like a bad idea somone one here was saying he was told to shoot dogs on the spot if their in the woods i wouldnt put a good dog in this possition and just hope the guy that sees him is having a good day and wont kill him

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Del in KS wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

My older brother who foxhunts in florida found an easy way to break dogs from running deer by accident. All you have to do is put a domestic goat in the pen next to you dogs for a week or so. After he did this not one of his dozen or so walker hounds would chase a deer. These had once been very enthusiastic deer dogs.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from needcoffee wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

Training your bird dog to blood track isn't a monumental mistake. In fact german versatile dogs are routinely tested on their ability to blood track as well as other routine bird hunting aspects. A blood tracking dog is tracking blood not uninjured deer. If they were just "running deer" scent, with all the deer around there is no way the dog would pass a blood track test. Those dogs follow old blood trails a long ways and sometimes the scent is quite old. Check out some links:http://jgv-usa.org/

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave DiBenedetto wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

Judy,

Glad you enjoyed the post and that it was helpful.

If you have any dog questions in the future please feel free to email me at MBFCONTEST@gmail.com. I can't promise that I'll know the answer but I can always do some research and speak to some pros that have been extremely helpful to me. -D

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Elmer Fudd wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

>What makes training your bird dog to track
>wounded deer a monumental mistake?

I have just seen plenty of rabbit dogs who needed to be broken of the habit of chasing deer.

I would think bird dogs might have this problem especially if you made a point of training them to do so.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from albertahunter wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

Using a dog is illegal here too but if you no longer have your gun are u not just walking your dog?
I shot a young WT buck that dropped in waist high grass and brush. Looked for it for an hour then had a neighbour and kids help but no luck. Went and got my Akita and he ran from the truck right to it in an area I was sure we had covered well. No snow makes them hard to see. I guess feeding him deer bones and roadkills helped. I also used him to help find beded bucks in the daytime by driving fields with the windows down. He would go bezerk when he winded one. He once brought home a complete set of antlers with skull attached. Good boy.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from charlie@jenksin... wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

I have a 4 year old boykin. She hunts doves, ducks, and has tracked and found a handful of deer that would have taken us a while to find. I have been, and still am, very impressed at how fast she can pick up on things.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from revots wrote 4 years 33 weeks ago

I got my first Boykin "Jake" in 1985. This is before I had kids. He did everything with me fishing, canoeing, duck , dove, and deer hunting. Where I hunt deer in Mississippi is really thick. Every time I got a deer, I would take Jake with me to trail the deer. If he was not with me, I would bring the deer home and drag it around my yard and then put him on it. He found at least two nice deer that I never would have found. Teaching him to retrieve did not seem to hurt his ablility to work in the field and retrieve. That little brown dog just wanted to go hunting or fishing and I was glad to have him with me. I will be adding a new Boykin to the family around the 1st of October. I can't wait. Reading your blog has really got my blood stirring.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jaybogg wrote 4 years 33 weeks ago

I am very interested in this type of training. Recently aquired an abondoned Catahoula. After studying the breed, it was probably due to him being white with black spots and two blue eyes. Have read that many breeders kill these pups due to 80% deafness and a propensity for tunnel vision. He seems to be OK for both traits and always has his nose to the ground following trails. I am an deer hunter and think he would make an excellant tracker. Any comments?

PS. Found this forum studying up on deer tracking. Personal thoughts on a dual purpose dog? Don't restrict the dog by narrow thinking. All dogs are different. What works for one may not work for another. Just love, enjoy, and return the unconditional love shown by man's best friend.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from FloridaHunter1226 wrote 4 years 27 weeks ago

Never have used a dog for tracking wounded deer but this definitely makes me think twice about doing so. Especially when you have those shots where the animal runs pretty far off. This would make life a lot easier.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Raven2007 wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

I have to say, I own and raise Goldens and Labs and they both excell at birds and tracking deer!!! There is no mistake about it... they can tell the difference and never made a mistake!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from hmac1948 wrote 3 years 20 weeks ago

I have a 4 month Catahoulath that I want to train to track wounded deer how do you sujest getting her started?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from grubdog wrote 1 year 34 weeks ago

Basenji's and Decker Terriers are great deer dogs. Decker Terriers are used to find live deer in states where it is legal. Deckers are also called Giant Rat Terriers by certain breeders. The neat thing about these dogs is that they do not have the "terrier attitude", rarely bark, and have good house manners. Deckers have Basenji blood in their gene set, and that accounts for their affinity for deer. Basenjis are still used in Africa for finding hoofed creatures, as well as more dangerous game. Deckers are an all American breed, created by Milton Decker, solely for hunting purposes. They are very impressive in the field.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from griffs4me wrote 1 year 30 weeks ago

I have a 3 1/2 yr old Wire Haired Pointing Griffon. He is an amazing dog. We pheasent, woodcock and grouse hunt. I have also trained hi to find antler sheds and he has been a licensed big Game wounded tracking dog in NH for the last 2 years. He has tracked and found many bear and deer. We bird/duck hunt in deer territory and he has even jumped some while hunting and ignored them. He has never faltered from the task at hand. Somehow he knows the difference. I would have to say it depends on your breed and more specifically YOUR dog. Some dogs may not be able 9 or want to) differentiate the difference in the game. Maybe I am fortunate. I would suggest start slow and go from there if you REALLY have a desire to track with your bird dog. But to flat out say it ruins a dog is not completely true, I would argue all day as I have proof.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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