Blood Tracking Dogs and Snow
Alain Ridel, who lives at Mont Carmel between the St Lawrence River and the State of Maine, is a long time tracker with a brilliant wirehaired dachshund that he imported from France as a puppy. He has been an active in the Quebec handlers association, ACCSQ, and he is also a member of UBT.
Alain’s specialty is tracking wounded moose, but he also tracks whitetails. This story supports our American ideas about tracking a scent line under snow cover. However, we would all agree that it is a major achievement to track a wounded deer when six inches of snow have fallen on the line.
By Alain Ridel
Is it possible for a blood tracking dog, especially a dachshund, to find a deer after a good snow fall? The answer is YES.
My dog Théo, who is six and a half years old, proved this to me on November 3, 2014. I had already taken several deer calls with Théo after a good snowfall, but we had never been able to recover the animal, and this left me with doubts about the capability of a dog to follow and find a wounded big game animal in the snow.
Monday, November 3 at 11:15 AM, I got a call to track a deer that had been shot the previous day at 3 PM. The hunters had waited an hour, and then they had taken off to track their game. Unfortunately they jumped him at 180 meters from the hit site, and because darkness was coming (it’s dark at 4:30) they decided to wait until the next day despite the fact that snow was predicted overnight.
Tuesday morning, when they woke up, six inches of snow had fallen. In spite of this, they decided to go back to the woods in order to find the deer. They had found blood and also stomach contents in the bed where they had jumped the deer. Despite three hours of searching by three people, they had found no sign of this wounded deer. There were only numerous tracks in the snow made by other deer that had roamed around all night long. They decided to call me. So I found myself out in the woods in a six inch+ layer of snow, and I was there to find a deer that had been wounded nearly 24 hours earlier.
When I started Théo at the hit site, the only place that the hunters had marked, he stuck his nose, and practically his whole head, down into the snow; after several minutes he took off on scent line, which only he could figure out because there was no visual sign that I could use to confirm that he was on the right line. But as usual when we tracked together, I accepted the fact that Théo is better in these matters than I am, and I had full confidence in him.
Obviously this search took place without much of a track to follow, but at every bit of remaining scent, I could read my dog like a book. He would enthusiastically plunge his head down into the snow, and as I followed 10 meters behind, I could hear him breathing in the scent of that deer.
The first 180 meters to the deer’s bed, from which he had been jumped the day before, took 25 minutes. Théo showed the bed to me as he scraped down to the ground where blood and stomach contents were still visible. Two other times he dug down to the earth and showed me blood on the soil that he had uncovered. With the snow often coming up to his chest, Théo also had to contend with fresh deer tracks everywhere, but he was never distracted and never left his line. The area was also tracked up by the hunters, who had searched, but that did not bother him either.
After an hour and 55 minutes, he found the buck dead, half buried in snow, on the edge of a lake. He had traveled 1,315 meters.
The search took place 24 hours after the shot.
There was more than six inches of snow.
The temperature was -8 Celsius, 17.6 Fahrenheit.
There were numerous deer tracks in the snow.
The search lasted for an hour an 55 minutes.