Finding a wounded deer with a dog sounds easy… and sometimes it is. There are some deer, recently wounded, that almost any dog and handler can easily track and find. Other trails are not so simple, and these call for the “art” of blood tracking. Dog and handler, working as a team, accomplish what neither human nor canine would be able to achieve alone.
The handler gives psychological support and steadies the dog when a blanket of fresh healthy deer scent hangs over a 12 hour old trail with no visible blood. The educated handler recognizes the tough spots where there will be little or no scent for the dog to work and the handler knows how to reach ahead to the gap in the fence or the low spot on a stone wall, where the deer probably passed and where it will be possible to pick up the trail.
The dog on the other hand is vastly superior to the human in scenting power, and has capabilities for recognizing the scent of an individual deer among hundreds of others that would seem similar to humans. A good dog and handler together have genius that neither possesses alone and in this genius a remarkable bond is formed.
Some people are natural handlers, but even the most gifted can learn faster if they profit from the experiences of others and have the chance to work with an experienced dog. The apprenticeship program of Deer Search is designed to offer these opportunities.
Before a new Deer Search member becomes a certified handler he or she is required to take six wounded deer calls with an experienced master handler. On at least three of these calls the apprentice will handle an experienced, certified dog in the lead position. It is a requirement that the apprentice participate in at least one call which results in a find. The apprentice is also given the experience of interviewing hunters by phone and communicating with Conservation Officers and State Police as is always done before any call is taken.
We have some apprentices who are excellent deer hunters and who have worked with dogs throughout their lives. Even these super apprentices report that they learned even more and became better handlers because of the experience.