Tracking Dog Call Leads To Hunter Morality Lesson

Follow this check-list for when you pull the trigger and your deer runs off.

Brad Gill | November 30, 2018

It was just past sunset on Monday, Nov. 26 when a call came in from my associate pastor Josh about a Putnam County deer he couldn’t find. I started in on my usual line of questioning when someone calls in need of my little tracking dog, Lilly.

“Gun or bow? In a stand or on the ground? How far was the shot? Broadside? How did the deer react after you shot? Blood or hair?”

As I’m asking these questions, my 15-lb. wire-haired dachshund is looking at me like she knows exactly what’s fixing to happen.

“What kind of gun was that?” I asked him.

“300 Win Mag,” he said.

Uhhh.. and the old boy had no blood or hair at the hit site and couldn’t really tell me how the deer reacted at the shot because that cannon rocked his world pretty good.

Josh said he had a good prop and felt like the shot was good, but he confessed on the phone that he has a hard time seeing blood, so an hour later, we were at the shot site looking around for any sign of a hit. There was nothing. After 15 minutes of looking, I put the GPS collar on Lilly and leashed her up on a 30-foot piece of weed-eater cord.

While Josh remained at the shot site, I spent about 45 minutes behind Lilly as she drug me through the briars and vines making circles and figure 8s like a rabbit hound on a long check. She never showed me anything that suggested the 300 Mag bullet ever touched that deer, and I was convinced we had a clean miss.

As I drove home that evening with Lilly in the front seat, I thought about Josh and how he properly responded after the shot. I’ve learned from trackers far more advanced than me that there are a few things every hunter should and should not do if they think they’re going to call in a tracking dog. Josh did a good job on that checklist.

• Josh visibly marked where the deer was standing when he shot.
• Josh didn’t contaminate the woods walking blindly around for great distances. Josh didn’t call in 12 hunting club members to perform a checkerboard-style search pattern for the next three hours.
• Josh didn’t hesitate to call. Sometimes hunters will call a tracking dog as a last measure, sometimes even 24 hours later. A tracking dog has a better job of recovering your game the quicker you talk to a handler who can make an assessment on when tracking should begin.

Finally, the most commendable thing that Josh did was exercise good hunter morality.

Some may have said that the deer was just a doe and not worth a search party. Others would have said that since Josh was shooting a 300, and that there was no hair or blood, that it was definitely a miss and no search was needed.

I was pretty confident Josh had missed that deer listening to him on the phone. However, I was free to take the track that night, and I knew doing everything we could to verify it was a miss would set Josh’s mind at ease, and it did. He left convinced it was a swing and a miss. It happens.

The lesson from Josh to all of us is that we, as hunters, owe it to the animals we hunt to give it absolutely everything in our tool belts to make a successful recovery—or verify a clean miss—after we pull the trigger.

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  1. angelinajohn9182 on January 21, 2019 at 3:58 am


  2. jdholcom on December 1, 2018 at 11:04 am

    Excellent piece. You are so right. With all the flack hunters take nowadays it’s a story like this that makes me proud to be part of the greatest community in the outdoors, a responsible hunter.

    • Brad Gill on December 1, 2018 at 9:34 pm

      I appreciate your kind words and taking the time to read it. I grew up hunting and fishing as a young boy, and not only has the sport certainly evolved over the years, but we live in a different world now. If this blog can help in some little way to put our awesome sport in a better light, then it’s certainly worth the time to write it.

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