Training your Dog to Track a Wounded Deer
Tracking a Wounded Deer
Every hunter has felt the frustration at a wounded deer getting away. Either the shot wasn’t in the right spot, or it wasn’t wounded enough to drop right away or whatever it may be. It’s downright heartbreaking.
That’s why many hunters use dogs to track the animal after they’ve done the front work. Dogs have 225-300 million smell receptors, depending on breed, (compared to humans- which have 5 million!) and given the right training and proper motivation, can even track a wounded deer the next day. If your dog has shown any interest in tracking, you should be able to teach it to track before next season!
Let’s go over a few ways to train your dog for wounded deer tracking:
All you need to get started is a container of deer blood, a deer hide, and a little piece of deer like a tail or an ear (as a treat at the end of the trail), all from the same animal.*
1. Start training early, if possible. You can start as early as 3-6 months old.
2. Expose the dog to the scent of deer. Let them sniff the blood, sniff the deer piece, then reward with a treat (repeat a few times).
3. Start working on location. Go out to the woods or wherever you plan to hunt, and while you are out of the dog’s sight, use the container of blood to dribble a trail about 100-200 yards long, leading to the piece of deer so the dog can understand they found what they are looking for! This trail should start small and can grow as you see fit – depending on your dog’s aptitude.**
4. Make the trail harder and harder to follow, too. Use that piece of hide with only one or two drops on it and sparsely mark trees and blades of grass to exercise your canine’s nose more.
5. Try it out in the field. Be patient, your dog may not get it right on the first (or second!) try. On a long leash, take your pup out for a test run on your next hunt.
6. A great way to reinforce your dog’s training is to bring in a more experienced dog to help train your pup! If available, an older dog is a great teacher!
*Each animal has its own unique scent, and it may confuse your dog if you use the blood of one animal and the hide/piece of another at the end of the trail. When your dog is tracking in a real situation, you don’t want him to be tracking the deer you just caught, then start tracking the scent of another deer they pick up!
**After a while, have a friend go with you and have them mark the trail in the same way, so you can be sure the dog is following the deer’s scent and not your own.
Some dogs may take a few weeks, some may take a few months to train for this. Remember to stay consistent and reward generously when your dog does well! An important thing to keep in mind here too: every area has its own laws for use of tracking dogs. You may need a license or have special requirements. Check the laws in your area for more info.