Here is an article I received from Andy Bensing of Pennsylvania. Andy is an experienced dog handler and trainer. He is very experienced in bloodtracking and is also the President of the United Blood Trackers Organization.
Find-a-Tracker at www.unitedbloodtrackers.org
After the Shot: How to Maximize Your Chances of Recovering Game when using a Blood Tracking Dog
By Andy Bensing
Most times when a hunter fires gun or bow at a deer the animal is easily recovered by the hunter either right where it was standing or a very short distance away. But that’s not always the case. Many circumstances can cause a shot to go awry and that’s where blood tracking dogs can help. Even well placed shots can sometimes not bleed externally and the deer can run off bloodlessly several hundred yards before expiring. Blood tracking dogs are also especially useful where time is of the essence in warm weather or in areas with large coyote or fox populations. The advice below is beneficial for any tracking situation, dog or human eye, so if you are interested in raising your odds of finding your quarry that just ran off out of your sight, read on.
Sometimes timing is everything in a tracking job. If you go too soon you may push the animal and if you wait too long it may spoil or be consumed by predators. Most of the information you need to decide when to start tracking is available right when you first shoot and at or near the hit site. It is not the purpose of this article to give detailed instructions on how and when to eye track your deer. There are several good books written on that subject. But rather following the advice below will maximize your chances of recovering your game should you end up needing the services of a blood tracking dog.
Right After the Shot:
1. If you do not see the animal fall dead, pick a landmark at the last place you saw the deer disappear and at the hit site. Use your compass and rangefinder to take a bearing and distance on those spots to help you find them once you are out of the tree. Even 20 yards away will look quite different once you are on the ground
2. As the animal runs off try to see where on the animal you have hit.
3. Remember the angle the deer was standing when you shot.
4. Take note of the animal’s reaction when it was hit and ran off.
– jump / buck
– run hard and fast
– bound off
– walk off slowly
– tail up / down
– limping in the front or back
Tracking your Animal:
Once you have settled down after the shot and memorized or written down the above details tie a ribbon around the tree before you come down so you can easily follow your compass bearing back to where you shot from. Now you can proceed to the hit site to gather more information about the type of hit you have made. Information gathered at the hit site will help you finalize your decision to track immediately or wait. Your approach to the hit site as well as any tracking you will do later should be done in a calm and quiet manner so as not to spook your deer if it is still alive and laying just out of sight. Tracking quietly may allow for a follow up shot as well. Clearly mark the hit site so it can be easily relocated. Flagging tape hanging from a branch, not tied around a tree trunk, is best. Toilet paper is a good emergency substitute. Remember, depending on circumstances you do not know yet, you may have to relocate the spot in the dark. At the hit site and the whole time you are tracking,
1. Observe and remember as much sign as possible
-Hair – color, length, amount
-Blood – dark red, bright red, frothy
Pattern of Dispersal
-Dropping down from left, right, or center of deer
-Spraying or squirting out one side or another
-Height from ground when rubbed off on vegetation
-Stomach contents – gritty material in blood or on ground
-Bone fragments – pick them up and save them
-Unusual pattern of tracks that might indicate an injured leg
-If archery hunting, if and when you recover your arrow, inspect it but do not clean
2. Try your best not to step on any blood, hair, or bone. Try to walk to the side of the trail. Scent from these items will be transferred to your boots and drug all around the area as you search. This does not make it impossible for a tracking dog, but it sure makes it much more difficult.
3. Mark your trail clearly as you go and leave all the ribbons up until the deer is found. You should always be able to see back to the last place you marked. Again, flagging tape hung from branches works best. Mark your trail as you go even if you are SURE your animal has fallen dead just outside your view from the stand. Many trails that start out with lots of blood dry up after awhile and a well marked trail is not required but very valuable to the dog handler.
4. If you jump your quarry
– Take careful note of how he is moving and for any visible signs of injury.
– Try to locate the spot where he bedded and mark it well.
– Back off the trail and call the tracking dog.
5. When Blood / Sign runs out – Point of Loss
If you know you will be using a blood tracking dog, it is best to just back off and call the dog at this point. If you have been careful to not step in blood along the way, it is acceptable to carefully search out ahead and behind to try and locate more sign, but the more searching you do, the more difficult you make it for the tracking dog. Keep this in mind as the trail begins to run out. If you do search out from the point of loss it is useful to the dog handler to mark with your ribbons the farthest points you have gone. Tie a knot in the middle of the ribbon to distinguish them from ribbons marking sign.
By following the above procedures you will give the blood tracking dog and handler the best advantage possible in finding your deer but keep in mind tracking dogs do not find them all. Typically leashed blood tracking dogs recover about 35% of the deer they track. About 50% of the time the dog and handler will uncover sign and circumstance that shows the deer is not mortally wounded. Often the deer is jumped and visually confirmed as likely to recover. The remaining 15% of the time the tracking is stopped or the trail is lost for various or unknown reasons. Regardless of the outcome, after you call in a blood tracking dog you can leave the field that day knowing you have given your best effort possible to recover your game.