The experience of tracking a wounded deer is challenging for every hunter, and heartbreaking when the animal can’t be found. No hunter wishes unnecessary suffering for a wounded animal so finding the it takes on even greater urgency. Blood tracking often leads to an end without finding the animal, and grid searches are not always possible or successful. Enter man’s best friend – the super scent capable canine whose nose is many thousands times more powerful than human’s.

There are regulatory limitations on the use of dogs for tracking wounded animals in a number of states. In Missouri, permission must be obtained from the local conservation agent who may give permission to use a leashed tracking dog who may allow the restricted use of these dogs at night. A national interactive map of regulations can be found here. Most states allow the use of leashed dogs to track wounded deer, and there are active efforts to enable greater use of dogs for this use.

While dogs are born with fantastic olfactory capabilities, training is required to develop this sense to create a skilled scent tracking dog. Further, not all breeds are well suited to this activity. The long floppy ears of some breeds, and the short legs are two traits that enhance the collection of smell as the ears with floppy skin hold the scent and the proximity to the trail puts nose to scent. Other traits include intelligence, strength, and stamina. Top breeds for scent hunting include bloodhounds bred for thousands of years for their tracking ability are the first choice for this task. Basset hounds with their even shorter legs have fewer receptors than bloodhounds but a long history of breeding for tracking. They are smart, obedient, and loyal. The redbone coonhound is a mix of foxhound and bloodhound are noted for their ability to tree raccoons, but their developed sense of smell and high energy make them great scent trackers as well. The foxhound is a dedicated scent tracker with a high degree of energy. Everybody’s favorite is the loving beagle whose personality endears to all and whose commitment to do what their owners want them to do make them excellent choices for scent tracking training.

Hunters have an moral duty and practical reason to minimize the suffering of animals they shoot with gun or bow. That means doing everything necessary to recover a wounded animal who is able to flee. As more and more states allow the use of scent tracking dogs, attention to the training and proper use have grown lead by the early work of John and Jolanta Jeannenty whose early work in the field lead to the definitive book, Tracking Dogs for Finding Wounded Deer. In 2005 the Jeannentys created

United Blood Trackers Association. The group served to focus the interest of people and organizations around the country and became a resource guide to build even more interest. Its pages include detailed contacts for trackers and state by state regulations. It also introduced standardized evaluations and test programs to measure training progress and outcomes. It was a short step to the creation of competitive tests with standardized scoring. There is even a process to train and approve judges for competitions.

It wasn’t long before local groups of trackers began to organize state groups for shared interest, training and competition. Several groups formed in Missouri including Missouri Whitetails and Missouri Blood Trackers. Oak Creek Whitetail Ranch hosts blood tracking seminars for hunters looking to train their dogs to become a scent tracker and prepare for the UBT tests. They have been training dogs and offering programs for the past several years.

Contact Oak Creek Whitetail Ranch for information on this important and fun program.