What if a hunt goes wrong? Call the dogs
The alarm must have sounded but I didn’t hear it down the hall. My 13 year old son’s bedroom door was closed and he probably hit the snooze button very quickly without fully waking up.
I had told David that if he wanted to go archery hunting that morning, he would have to get up. After checking the time and deciding I didn’t want to hunt when 80 degree temperatures were forecast, I got out of bed at six with a full day of canning planned. I didn’t know he had other plans.
A little after 7 a.m., as I was washing canning jars, a loud bang came from the back door. After a moment of surprise, I found my son-in-law Josh in camouflage gear ready to go hunting.
“Is David still standing,” he asked.
No, still in bed was my answer.
“Well, let’s catch him. He made me get up to go hunting and here I am.
I laughed and told Josh to go get it, with “good luck” for the emphasis.
Quickly and without breakfast, they were both out at 7:30 am. It was a short 100 yard walk behind the house to my boy’s tree stand. He had watched a handsome eight point over the past two months and was convinced it would be his first male.
I wasn’t so sure.
How could I have been so wrong?
Again, as I looked out the back window over the sink, I was surprised. There they are both, dragging that eight point with big smiles on their faces.
Way too easy for a boy’s first dollar, in my opinion. But he had put in the work beforehand with a lot of spotting and had practiced archery in the backyard. With a well-placed shot at the vitals, the deer traveled barely 30 meters before piling up.
This is the way you want your hunt to go.
But what if it doesn’t? What if the deer jumped? Or is there an unnoticed twig in your arrow’s flight path?
As much as we try, sometimes bad moves happen. The trails of blood clear, the traces disappear and the hopes of a cure fade. Now is the time to try everything to retrieve this deer and since the 2018-19 seasons big game hunters can use track dogs to retrieve big game in Pennsylvania.
Since then, there has been nothing short of an explosion in tracking services. Currently, 53 trackers are offering their services in Pennsylvania with trained dogs on the United Blood Trackers website.
Todd Stewart from Moon Township is closest to our area of those listed. Stewart and his two dogs, Luci – a Jagdterrier – and Dixie – a beagle – combined for 29 digs last season under two handlers. This is Stewart’s third season with Luci and the first season as a manager for Dixie.
“I’ve always loved having dogs and coon hunting was my favorite, but now coon hunting in our area is getting more and more difficult and I enjoy tracking dogs,” he said.
Contacting a tracker in a timely manner is essential, says Stewart. “Most injured deer will lie down within 200 yards of the shot. Hunter’s mistake is the biggest problem facing success in this business. The biggest problem is the hunters stomping on the scent.
It is important to remember that using a tracker dog does not change the way hunters can track injured big game, the only difference is the tracker dog.
During hunting hours, big game can be tracked with a hunting arm, which can only be possessed by the hunter. After the close of hunting hours, a hunting arm cannot be used to dispatch slaughtered big game.
While tracking, the hunter and tracker must be licensed for large game tracked and meet the requirements of the season in fluorescent orange. In addition, the long-held expectation of hunters, and now trackers, to respect private property lines remains in place.
Trackers do not register and are not certified or licensed by the Game Commission and most charge for their services. Commercial activity on state game lands is prohibited, so owners of tracking dogs cannot charge for their services there.
Hopefully your arrow flies straight and true which will allow you to kill quickly and cleanly. Otherwise, to find Luci and Dixie or any other tracking service, check out United Blood Trackers.
Mike Barcaskey can be contacted at [email protected]