Winslow’s First ‘Real’ Blood Tracking Attempt to Recover a Deer
Winslow had tracked a deer to a known location on a training run before, but he got his first bona fide recovery call this evening, as my buddy Matt shot a buck with a bow. The deer ran across a big field and stopped at a fenceline not far from Matt’s truck. When he returned to the truck, the deer stood up and jumped over the fence into a patch of moderately dense woods. The track was four hours old when we got there.
We started Winslow at the bed spot at the fence line, handed him over the fence and he started on a line more or less perpendicular to the fence. Pretty thick stuff. After a while he seemed to lose it and doubled back to where we started. Then he almost ran parallel to the fence until we reached a stone wall and another fence. Jumped that and he took off parallel to that fence, so he’s now literally going in 180 degree the opposite direction that he started in, but he seems on a mission so I go with it. For like 500 yards. By the way I’ve only seen a little blood at the fence line bed spot, nothing since. I think maybe I see some deer tracks in a cow pie but at this point I think maybe he thinks we’re just going for a cool walk.
We start getting near a herd of cows and the whole thing doesn’t seem right to me, so we turn back. Matt has to go trick or treating but I really want to find this deer so I stay, and start over, this time from an earlier known spot where Matt had left his arrow, bloodied, where he saw the deer cross a path cut through the field.
Winslow smells the arrow and takes off in the opposite direction from the known fence line spot, and I think, well maybe he’s tracking it backwards to the hit spot. Which would be cool too, at least I’d know he was on the trail. Still, mind you, I have seen no blood but for the known bed.
He accelerates, excited, as we enter the woods. He’s now traveling parallel to the cow pasture track he was on earlier, only about 30 feet away on the other side of the fence/wall. But he’s not really sniffing or tracking. I’m starting to wonder again if he’s just on a walk. I ask him, “Buddy, does this seem right? This doesn’t seem right.” But then he says, “Hold my beer,” cuts left, thirty yards, then left again and kicks up a vulture feeding on the deer he’s been after the whole time.
It’s not the deer we were after, I’m afraid. And maybe it’s not such a grand accomplishment to scent track a deer in the woods that a vulture probably found from two miles away. But I feel vindicated that he was so far off track for a reason. Vultures and flies already had a good start on this poor boy, who was either poached or ran a good distance from wherever else he was shot. But he is not our deer. Still, it’s the first deer Winslow has ever found on his own, and I thank Matt for letting me take these antlers as a little trophy for him.
We’ve really walked a long way already, but I really wanted that deer. So we went back to the arrow and I pointed Winslow in the right direction. Again, he moved with purpose, confidence and speed, on a path of suspiciously, conveniently short grass to be our deer. I mean, wounded deer don’t want to trudge through four foot tall grass, but dachshunds sure as hell don’t want to either. As we approached the original fence line bed, he turned right and had tracked, with 100% accuracy, directly to my truck.
We watered down and thought about leaving, but I wasn’t ready to give up. I brought him back to the fence bed and found a specific leaf with a specific spot of blood on it and pointed to it. He seemed utterly uninterested, either because he was already aware of that bloody leaf, or he was just done. But I put him over the fence and crawl over myself, and try again.
He takes off, more methodically this time, but along the same line he originally tracked. I don’t know if he’s smelling his own track, or me, or Matt, or the deer, but I put all those in descending order of likelihood.
Low branches, brambles, thorns of course, every yard takes half a minute. We had gone maybe twenty yards and I’m about to call it and I’ll be damned if he didn’t track directly over the first bright red blood spot I’ve seen all day. But that’s it. Just one drop.
Then he just starts walking up a tree. I’m like, “Well now you’re just fucking with me.” But blood trackers do say “Trust your dog” a lot, so I do actually look into the tree for the deer. He is not there.
So for the severalth time, I declare we are done searching. Then he puts his nose down and goes again. Ten more minutes, twenty more yards, I’m pulling him back and about to text Matt that we’re done and he finds another spot. It’s on again. He’s speeding up now, and blood is visible in larger quantities and more frequently.
He moves faster and faster and now I’m starting to think, maybe we’re going to find this thing! We get to another fence with a smear of blood and what looks like a small tuft of white fur on the barbed wire. He definitely passed through this space. It’s a cool thing, to have no idea where this deer went, and then work really hard to get to one very specific place where he absolutely has been.
But we cross over and all traces vanish. Not a single drop on the far side of the fence. We really looked, but unfortunately finally had to call the search.
But I’m thankful to my friend who gave us a chance. And I’m proud of my boy who found a deer we didn’t know was missing, and after walking four miles on short little legs, and after having lost interest long since, continued to find traces of blood along this track that were very few and far between.