By Kim Yates, Wildrose Carolinas
It was about 3 years ago that Shawn killed a nice buck on opening day of Archery season
in Florida. We had been in the stand about 45 minutes when he called me and said that he was on his way to pick me up so I could help him with the blood track. It took us about 2 hours, several loops and turns, and trudging through the swamps of Florida to find the buck. I swore that my next dog would be trained to recover game.
The decision on what breed to get took me a while. Did I want a hound that was known for its scenting abilities and difficult to train, or did I want something that I could use for more than just blood trailing? I ultimately decided on a British lab for its biddability and hunting capabilities. This is where Ruddy entered the picture. We picked her up January 12thof this year. She’s a fox red Scottie x Cleo pup with all the energy that someone could ask for. She is also extremely smart. Training her has been entertaining; she can get bored easily so we are constantly having to change things up. She gets some training with tracking about once or twice a week in addition to her gundog training.
Training has included synthetic scent as well as the real thing. She was introduced to a preserved deer tail the week we got her along with her puppy bumper being soaked with deer blood. The hope was that she would imprint on the scent as a desirable object. The tail was by far her favorite and I have several pictures of her running through the snow toting it. Free play with the tail was encouraged as a positive reinforcement of a desirable trait and activity. This built up to a washcloth tied on a string and soaked in blood trail scent. I would throw the rag to a desired starting point and drag it towards the ideal end location. This yielded some successful tracks early on but she lacked the drive and excitement that Ruddy normally shows in her work. It was at this point that we realized we needed the real thing.
On September 18th, 2018, Shawn shot a buck and the shot was good enough to create a heavy and relatively short blood trail. We recovered the deer and marked the trail as we went. The following morning, we brought Ruddy out and got her to the beginning of the trail. I took her off lead and told her to “Find it.” which is a separate command from “loss”. She was off like a rocket and followed the trail almost perfectly. She went the full 68 yards and “recovered” the hide of the buck. Once she got the hide, we drug it around and made a party/game out of it. We wanted to reinforce the fact that she had done what we wanted.
It’s quite a site to see training come to fruition. In my case, the tracking training hasn’t been 100% of the time. Despite the challenges we have faced along the way, I believe that we are doing well and headed in the right direction. I was able to save the hide and some blood from this buck and will be using it to further her training. If you decide to train for tracking, I would highly recommend making contacts with hunters in your area. Have them call you if they end up with a really good trail and use it to train even if the animal has already been recovered. Any real track is better than no track. It doesn’t matter how long it is, if it’s straight or twisting. Take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself and remember that your dog is always in training.