Release the Hounds! Blood Tracking Dogs are Asset to Deer Hunters

July 17, 2017 | by National Deer Alliance

As humans, we like to think of ourselves as superior in the animal world. But, as any deer hunter knows, we are certainly inferior in our abilities to smell. A deer’s nose is more than a thousand times more sensitive than our own, and it even out-rivals that of man’s best friend. So, when the trail of a wounded deer goes cold to the human senses, some hunters opt to bring in some backup in the form of blood tracking dogs.

Our recent survey polled deer hunters on the topic. The survey asked whether hunters consider employing a trained tracking dog as an acceptable practice, whether they have already employed the services of a trained tracking dog, and whether or not, if legal, they would employ one. The results were pretty conclusive.

Over 90% of respondents stated that they consider the use of a trained tracking dog an acceptable practice for assisting with the recovery of wounded deer. Less than 5% did not consider the use of a trained tracking dog an acceptable practice for assisting with the recovery of wounded deer, and less than 5% were unsure. Overwhelmingly, comments suggested that a hunter should use all legal means necessary to recover a wounded animal, citing concerns for the animal’s suffering and wasted protein.

But, some hunters did express concern with the practice. Multiple respondents cited worries that the practice would be abused for the purpose of pushing or running deer. Other respondents noted that legal use of tracking dogs may serve as a crutch, and encourage hunters to take poor shots. One respondent even stated that the use of a tracking dog “takes the sport out of hunting.”

While some of these may be valid concerns, there are multiple safeguards that already have been, or could be, put in place. One major protection is the fact the many states where tracking dogs are legal require that the dog be kept on a lead for the entire tracking process. This helps ensure that the dog is not randomly chasing deer, or being used to intentionally push or chase deer to other hunters. Another safeguard would be a regulation that those who are employing the aid of a trained tracking dog may not carry a weapon. Although a weapon may be needed for dispatching a wounded deer that has not yet succumb to its injuries, most hunters don’t employ a tracking dog until they have already completed an extensive search without success.

Just over 25% of respondents noted that they have already used the aid of a trained tracking dog to recover a deer. Many noted that they successfully recovered their deer while using a tracking dog. For the remaining 75% who have not, most cited legality in their state or lack of need as the primary reasons, though some did note that the cost could be a restraint. According to United Blood Trackers, 13 states do not allow the use of a trained tracking dog, including some very popular deer hunting states like Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Iowa and Minnesota.

About 79% percent of respondents noted that they would use a trained tracking dog if it were legal in their state. Just over 6% stated that they wouldn’t, and about 15% were unsure. Most respondents noted that they would seek the services of a dog if necessary as a last resort, noting that recovering a wounded deer is incredibly important. Others noted that it would depend on the cost and availability of the service. Still, others indicated that deploying a dog and handler would be too disruptive to their hunting location.

If you have further thoughts on the topic, please let us know. Also, we welcome your photos of deer successfully recovered with the use of a tracking dog. You can contact us at [email protected] Also, if you want to begin participating in our surveys, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.