Nearly every hunter out there pursues more than one quarry. Although I love to duck hunt more than anything, I also like to deer hunt when it’s not duck season or in the afternoons after chasing ducks in the morning. I know I’m not alone.
Another trick to add to your dog’s bag is to train them to blood trail wounded deer, and it’s gaining popularity with each season. So much so that many pro trainers are offering training for it in addition to waterfowl training. Even those that don’t duck hunt may want to train a dog or have one trained if the situation arises where a deer needs to be trailed.
Landon Walker of Baker is an Admin for the Louisiana Blood Trailing Network Facebook group. His seven-year-old Plott/Cur mix, “Luke,” has quite a few recoveries under his collar and Walker was kind enough to explain what the LA BTN is, as well as his training methods.
With 22,000 members and 150 trailing teams throughout the state, the LA BTN has recovered a total of 2,988 deer over the last 4 years for an average of 747 per year. With a recovery rate around 40%, these teams greatly up the odds of deer being found. There’s also a Mississippi Blood Trailing Network Facebook page with 26,000 members for hunters in the Magnolia State.
Help is a post away
Should a hunter need assistance, Walker explained that all they need to do is post on the Facebook page, along with a name, location and phone number. From there, the admins, led by Tammy DeRouen, take over and dispatch a team.
“We’re able to make nearly all recoveries, although it may take some time depending on factors such as the rut and holidays, when many hunters are out in the woods, but we will get someone to you,” Walker said. “Our services are free of charge. We want hunters to know that so they will reach out when they have a deer to trail.”
He advises to stay away from the area the deer was shot as well as the direction it was going so as not to contaminate the area. This will ensure the dog starts with a good trail when the team is on site.
The dogs come in all shapes, sizes and breeds, from Dachshunds to hounds to retrievers to mixes. The most important factor for a blood dog is the desire to track and please the handler, Walker said.
Training your dog
To start the process with a young dog, Walker uses a deer liver and makes a trail by dragging it on the ground. He keeps the tracks short and easy to build confidence and for the dog to learn what it’s after. He then makes the tracks longer and longer and adds curves, cover, water, obstacles and other factors the dog may encounter. From there, he uses a foot from a deer that has been trailed or that was recovered quite some distance from the area where it was shot.
“There is a pheromone that deer give off after being shot and are running off,” he said. “That pheromone is what the dogs are trailing, and along with blood, if any, and it keeps the dog on that deer’s trail.
Walker keeps his dog leashed or on a check cord to keep the dog close since many recoveries happen at night. Should you want to train your dog, he said that the teams would be happy to get a leg from a recovered deer and dog owners should reach out to one of them in your area.
A common theme
The teams recover deer for all manner of hunters. A common theme is that they most enjoy recovering a child’s first deer. They get to share in that success. It also keeps the youngsters from getting discouraged or upset over losing a deer. The smile on the kid’s face says it all.
These teams put in long hours as volunteers and the dogs don’t know the word quit. It’s a welcome resource when needed. That being said, and not to lessen in any way the service the LA BTN provides, but hunters should always try to ensure the shot they take will put the deer down quickly and humanely.
Knowing the limits of a hunter’s marksmanship is paramount. With rapidly improving calibers, rifles and optics, it’s as though a hunter can get a false sense of competence. Shooting a 2-inch group at a range on a bench at 300 yards is a far cry from actual hunting, especially when buck fever kicks in.
And even a well hit deer can run off, but a deer hit far back or outside the lung and heart area can cover lots of ground. If that should happen, the folks and dogs of the LA BTN are up to the task.