October 10, 2013
Finding Lost Deer: It’s Time For Tracking Dogs To Go National
By Scott Bestul
On opening weekend of the Wisconsin archery season, Matt Serwa arrowed a giant whitetail. The hit was fatal, but the blood trail poor. Things got worse when, shortly after dusk, the rain came and lasted all night. Fortunately, Matt knew Kasey Morgan, a member of the United Blood Trackers (http://www.unitedbloodtrackers.org), a national organization whose members own dogs trained to find deer just like Serwa’s buck. Serwa described his buck, the hit, and the situation to Morgan on the phone that evening. The pair decided to wait until morning, then take up the trail with Boomer, Morgan’s bloodhound.
Cutting straight to the chase (or, rather, the end of it), Boomer found Serwa’s buck in relatively short order. And, according to Serwa, odds are high that it would have taken a while for him to find the buck on his own. “The rain had wiped out all the blood, and the buck went into this thick, nasty creek bottom,” he said. “We’ve tracked deer down there before, and I know where they usually like to go. But this deer didn’t go to that spot. I think I’d have found the buck eventually, but it would have taken a lot of work and a little luck. Boomer figured out the trail and found the buck in pretty short order.” (Morgan describes the hunt for Serwa’s buck in great detail in the following blog http://borntotracknews.blogspot.com)
If you live in one of the 27 states that allow the use of tracking dogs, this story is probably a familiar one. I, however, do not. Minnesota is one of 13 states that completely forbid the use of dogs to find big game (other prominent whitetail states, like Pennsylvania and Kansas, are included in this number). I’m in lock-step with the United Blood Trackers; it’s time for this number to shrink to zero.
This should be pretty simple stuff, folks. We should all strive for close, lethal, and ethical shots on game. But the reality is that, if you deer hunt long enough—whether you shoot a bow, crossbow or firearm—sooner or later you’re going to hit a deer in a spot that makes finding it difficult. And sometimes rain, snow or dense cover can complicate the picture. In situations like these, using a tracking dog is not only logical, there is no more ethical option.
I’ve only witnessed a trained tracking dog in action one time, on a Kentucky bowhunt about 5 years ago. The hunter had made a fatal hit on a fine buck, but the blood trail was sparse and the hot weather made waiting for morning an unappealing option; the meat was almost certain to spoil before we found the deer. Fortunately, a local man had a dachshund trained for such situations, and that little, short-legged wonder found the buck so quickly it was shocking. I’ve been a proponent of tracking dogs ever since, and I hope that one day soon their use will be legal nationwide.