good gun dog

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Had a lab/alsation cross a few years ago, brilliant all rounder, all of the labs retreiving instincts, but knew no fear on bigger stuff, hell he was good, would take on anything.
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Originally posted by Jaapie Jaapie wrote:

Considered a Weimaraner ??
 
Beautiful dogs and work really hard.
Actually bred specifically for large game so definitely fits the deer side.
 
Not bad on the pheasants either, but struggle with ducks.
 
Just another option to consider.


With what is left of the bloodlines in this country Kevin, they are not a viable option. Breed is destroyed here.
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got my dreem pooch in the oven now , not a gun dog but a knife dog,9 months and she should be ready for the trip home to chew the ears off porkers

bull arab= purpose built ozzy hog dog x with a catahoula cur  Cool
bit big for nz , but to be breed with a wippet collie x
= good nose from the arab good brains from border collie fast from wippet and hard as boots from cur,,
cant wait

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My brother has had a string of German Shorthaired Pointers.  All have been great bird-dogs, pig dogs, and cattle dogs.  Well, ok cattle dogs.  He only ever took one deer hunting and she kept pointing all over the place which just p***ed him off because he couldn't see what she could.  I would certainly suggest considering a GSP.
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I have a vizsla and got a deer with him on his first trip into the bush at only 1 yo.  Loads of natural ability, very intelligent and love to work for praise and attention.  Can be a handful to train but its just a matter of putting the time in, keeping it all positive and staying a couple of steps ahead of them mentally as they will constantly try to find the short cuts.

A bit af variation is emerging across various breeders as they become more popular so choose your breeder carefully.  The ones down in Canterbury are still focussed on breeding excellent hunting dogs....the ones up north tend to be more focussed on showing. A bit of a generalisation but feel free to PM me and I can point you to a couple of good breeders.
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As I am reading through this thread it saddens me that as far as deer dogs are concerned we have not made any progress since I was deer culling in the sixties.    Sure we have imported some new breeds, which are supposed to be good on deer but they all came here without any "Operations Manual".     There is more to a good deer dog than sniffing out a deer in the bush.    Any giveaway from the pound can do that if that is all that you want of it.   Noone on here has even mentioned recovering dead deer or tracking down wounded ones.    Yes that is what a good deer dog must also be capable of.   Well trained dog for such work after the shot are still as rare as hens teeth.    This is slow methodical work and speedsters like GSP pointers and Vizslas are just too fast.    These shorthaired dogs also feel the cold not only in the water but in the wet bush.    Bush hunting is slow work and these dogs dont get enough exercise to warm up.    A bush hunting dog needs to have a good hunting jacket among all the other essential attributes.     My pick for what you want would be a Continetal Versatile Hunting dog such as a German Wirehaird Pointer or the newly imported Bohemian Pointing Griffon, also a wirehaird dog.    They are much slower workers that the above mentioned breeds, great water dogs  and more methodical trackers.    We have enough good dog flesh in NZ we just dont have enough people who can really train a "full package" deer dog.

Rainbow 
 
Oh, I nearly forgot just ask a Vizsla a Waimaraner or a GSP to go after a winged pheasant that has holed up in half an acre of blackberry and watch what happens??????     Not like a springer or any of the wirehaired pointers, dogs that can take all the punishment and then some.    I used to breed GSPs and have seen what not happens a hundred times.
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Rainbow. I have been looking at the spinone and love there slow method of working, and temperament.

Not sure about breeders in NZ though?

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Mangre,   I have not heard about them in NZ.     If they were then there would not be many and you would need to be very careful not to buy the cat in the bag so to speak.    I keep repeating over and over to prospective buyers that they should buy from an established breeder whose dogs have proven themselves in many situations over a period of time.    SOme only consider the purchase price and opt for a cheapie,   forgetting that all the subsequent costs are much the same and these days are quite considerable whether you got  a mongrel or a top line dog.    Also the time you invest in training is the same and the dogs live at least for 10 years.   It all amounts to a hefty investment that makes your original outlay for  a proven pup chicken feed.    
I have written quite a few articles on gun dogs for NZ Outdoors,    The following one is an intoduction to deer dogs.
 

20 March, 1998

 

The Editor

NZ Outdoors

P.O. Box

Tauranga

 

The Deer Dog

 

By Herb Spannagl

 

 

My first introduction to the New Zealand deer dog was on the wild West Coast in the early sixties.   After graduating from Dip Flat, the legendary Forestry hunter training camp in the back of Nelson, I was shipped off to Hokitika to join eleven others for a stint of contract hunting deer and chamois.   For a young, keen Austrian hunter this promised to be a dream coming true.

 

Much as I looked forward to getting into the hills we hunters spent the forthcoming winter dragging sacks of carrots for perhaps the biggest 1080 poison drop ever carried out in this country.    The little shooting we got in was on the weekends or evenings around our Spartan base camp where the Styx River leaves the Southern Alps.

 

As is the case with people gathered around a single cause our discussions never strayed far from hunting.    The deadliest caliber, the best make of rifle and, of course, the ideal dog for indicating deer.    A few of the old hands from the previous season had deer dogs.   Listening to their stories around the camp fire or holding up the bar in the Kokatahi pub one got the impression that their dogs just about charmed the deer out of the bush.    By stark contrast most of us new chums were not only without a canine companion, worse still, none of us knew much about hunting dogs either.   We searched far and wide and before the season started had rounded up a motley team of giveaways, cast-offs and strays.    I acquired Bruce, a Labrador cross,  from a culler who could not take his dog to his new posting in Canterbury. Bruce must have liked me because while I haggled over the price with it’s owner the dog pissed on my leg, nearly filling up my gumboot.    But the attraction remained strictly one-sided.   Instead of being the experienced pointer his owner assured me, Bruce turned out to be the biggest deer chaser west of the Alps.   No doubt the Coasters had spotted the new “Screaming Scull” in the neighborhood.

 

Despite all the tall dog tales it soon transpired that the standard against which all West Coast deer dogs were measured was a dog called “Blue” which belonged to one of our field officers.   As the story goes Good Old Blue was the sole survivour of a cattle truck full of SPCA mutts ferried to the Coast from the Christchurch pound.   Once in Hokitika the truck was diverted to an old quarry where it was met by the beforementioned field officer.    The gory tale goes on that he shot the first six that got off the truck simply because they did not look like deer dogs.   The rest were taken into the bush where all but Blue met the same faith either because they were not interested in deer or  were so keen that they chased them into the next valley.

 

New Zealand and it’s people have changed beyond recognition in the ensuing 38 years but from what I can make out at work when it comes to selecting big game hunting dogs the scene is little different from what it was back then.   Most working dogs are give-aways and begin their careers on a costly trial and error basis.   When you consider how much the government forks out on pest animal control each year taking a chance like this is really skimping at the wrong end.

 

Sure, over the years new hunting breeds have arrived with accompanying write-ups bordering on the superlative.    Their progeny have been eagerly snapped up by gullible sports hunters often for little less than their weight in gold.    I am regularly treated to hunting accounts involving deer dogs which leave me in no doubt that the magic of  “Old Blue” is very much alive, alas, often in the imagination of their owners.

 

The reality is starkly different.     It begins with the problem that few, if any,  hunters know what to expect from a good deer dog.   Most are happy if their dog sniffs them onto a deer without being aware that this is only a small part of the hunting potential their four legged partner has to offer.    Further more even if they did have an inkling few New Zealand hunters have the training knowledge to forge these canine instincts into a potent deer hunting weapon.   Last but not least in the bush a dog is only as good as it’s handler’s hunting plan.   To rely solely on the dog to lead them to the game is the biggest mistake many bush hunters make.

 

Although I no longer own any firearms I can look back on a long hunting life most of which had centered around stalking Red and Sika deer with indicator dogs in dense bush.   Seeing through my dog’s nose well beyond the wall of greenery always transformed what could have been a boring slog into a tension packed adventure.   Inevitably such close range hunting produces it’s share of wounded animals whose fate has always weight heavily on my conscience.    Here too I have used my dogs to track down the hapless creatures at a time when such a mercy action was considered a waste of good hunting time

 

In a forthcoming series of articles I want to introduce the interested reader to the fascinating world of deer hunting with dogs.    It will cover the full range of tasks a top dog should deliver alongside a comprehensive training guides for each task.    My methods are largely based on European hunting and training principles which have been, where applicable, adapted to New Zealand conditions.     Since the dog is only a hunting tool, albeit a very valuable one,  I shall accord equal importance to how it is best used as part of general bush hunting strategies.

 

Hunters views on dogs are as diverse as their dogs.     I can well imagine that some of mine will diverge from popular hunting and dog training lore.   Where this is so I shall endeavour to back them up with good rationale or a real life example.   

 

Before I describe some of the most desirable characteristics of a good deer dog I want to point out the most striking difference in deer dog deployment between New Zealand and the Central European countries.   

·        Here we use the dog mostly before we shoot; to find animals in thick cover.

·        On the Continent a deer dog comes into it’s own after the shot; when an animal is wounded or needs to be recovered after it has died.

These vastly differing uses determine the type of animal for the job.   At a pinch New Zealanders can get by with almost any kind of dog while the Europeans need specialist tracker dogs which have been derived from working hounds whose ancestry goes back before the use of firearms.   To my knowledge none of these breeds have found their way to this country and little is known of their capabilities.   The reason, I suspect, stems from the widespread belief among New Zealand hunters that European general purpose Pointer/Retriever breeds are also deer dogs.   Not so.  This myth has surfaced with the importation of the first German Shorthaired Pointers and kept alive for every hunting breed that followed.   In Central Europe, namely Germany, Austria and some of the former East Block countries tracking deer whether wounded by a hunter or injured by a car is not only a legal requirement but has been an important part of the local hunting traditions.    No hunter would dare to frivolously dabble in such a serious pursuit  with unsuitable dogs.   Whenever such a calamity happens a specialist dog handler is called in for this demanding task.   His highly trained “Sweiss Hund” (Blood Hound) is able to follow scent up to 36 hours old even when covered by several inches of snow.

 

As I have already pointed out in New Zealand many hunters use dogs to find the elusive deer in our vast primeval rain forests.    In the dense undergrowth where visibility is severely restricted the most popular method has been stalking with an indicator dog.    Providing the dog is well trained in basic obedience the actual job of sniffing deer is relatively undemanding.    Over the years I have seen dogs from a cocktail of breeds successfully sniff their handlers onto deer.  

 

However, there is more to a good deer dog than scenting deer.    An all-rounder should find dead deer and call his handler,  it should track wounded deer for considerable distances and bail those which are still able to flee from their wound bed.    So, considering the time and energy it takes to train a good dog or the monetary loss of a wounded deer that can not be found it is logical that all this effort is best invested in a trainee dog which already meets certain specifications.    At this introductory stage I am purposely not mentioning breeds concentrating instead on the most important characteristics a good multi purpose deer dog should possess.

 

Let’s now have a look at these in more detail.    The first set relates to the dogs physical make-up and is relatively easy to spot, the second group describes desirable working traits which are much more difficult to recognise .

 

Physical Traits:

 

·                    Size:   Although any dog (even a lap dog) can smell a deer much better than it’s handler a deer dog should at least be of medium height and have no hereditary defects; especially in the running department.   Avoid very large animals as these are harder to transport, more expensive to feed and usually make more noise in dense undergrowth.  Conversely very small dogs are hard to see in high fern or tall tussock.  Depending on the breed midget dogs are also less able to run down and bail a wounded deer.    For some hunters looks do matter.   No matter how courageous some dogs might be they just don’t look the part.

·                    Built:   If the dog is to be employed after the shot than stamina is more important, than outright speed, for prolonged chases of wounded animals.   An agile animal of solid built is my preferred type.   To get a better idea of what built you should be seeking in your prospective deer dog think about the many ways it can get knocked around negotiating tough terrain, conquering mountain torrents or chasing a wounded animal through thick and thin.

As we go on with our inventory other desirable traits will more clearly define the ideal build.

·                    Coat:   A good hunting jacket is a must for an animal that has to swim icy rivers, move through the wet undergrowth and at the end of a long day sleep under the hut in near zero temperatures.    Whether it is during duck shooting or traversing the open tops in a howling rainstorm I have seen extremely short haired dogs turn into heaps of shivering misery.   Let me tell you,  it is not a pretty sight.    In my book the Labrador has the all time best hunting coat.   It is thick without being bulky, smooth to repel dirt and hook grass and fully wind and water proof.   It requires practically no maintenance.   A coat that comes close to this description is your best guarantee that your dog can hack it in the field in all sorts of weather and conditions.

·                    Colour:  Despite the old saying that a good dog never has the wrong colour I still prefer a colour mix which blends with the environment.   There is little point to be decked out in the latest camouflage gear when your pooch visually sticks out like the proverbial dogs balls.    Always remember,  deer, although colour blind, can see movement extremely well.   They can see it even better if the moving object contrasts with it’s surroundings.

 

Working Traits:

·                    Barking:  Opinions differ about a dog’s predisposition to bark.   Such opinions usually originate from pig hunting circles.    With deer dogs the ability to bark freely is unquestionably an important bonus for these reasons:  Chasing and bailing wounded deer and as a means of calling the hunter to a dead animal.

·                    Scenting:   In deer hunting both air and ground scenting are important but not to the same degree.    I once knew an old sheep dog who got his owner lots of deer.   He had such a poor nose that he only stuck his nose in the air when the deer was usually within a 100 meters or less.    By contrast I had a pointer that led me many a merry dance because he was able to air scent deer in the next valley.    I never knew how far the animals were away.  

           

            With ground scenting the picture is entirely different.   Here a dog needs to work like a detective who is often left with only the flimsiest of evidence.    A good ground scenter is very thorough.   Watching a good hound sniff the ground always reminds me of a vacuum cleaner coupled to a computer.   It will not only pick up hair, bits of bone or specks of blood,  it will follow the scent of a wounded animal with a high degree of reliance even without any blood trail.   This demanding work requires a superb ground scenting nose.     It is therefore a big advantage if the dog is not overly tall.

         

          It is rare for air and  ground scenting abilities to be well developed in the same animal.   From a deer hunting perspective, though, it is important to know that while the air scenter is seldom a good ground scenter, the ground scenting specialist will still air scent nearby deer.   In the end it boils down to what you want your dog to do most.

·                    Courage:  Imagine my disappointment when after month, no years, of training I found out that one dog I owned was too timid to bail up a wounded deer.   I never suspected that since he retrieved everything from winged ducks and swans to wounded hares.   He was a good indicator, and being trained to do so called me to several dead deer.    Then one day I wounded a stag and without any delay put the big dog onto it’s blood trail.   Sure enough a few minutes later I heard the strong bail bark from the bottom of a gully.   Great!  I wasted no time to rush down when to my surprise the dog came back.   Down I sent him again only to have him return once more.  Try as I might I could not make that dog stick to the wounded animal and after an hour of rushing to and fro we lost the stag altogether.   

 

One word of caution.    A deer is a dangerous animal.   It can severely injure a dog with both hooves and antlers.    A dog should have the guts to bail a wounded deer or pig but not be so rabid to want to hang from its throat.    With such a killer beast your investment of time and money could be very short lived.

 

            Reliable courage is an essential ingredient in a gun dog.   The lack of it shows up in a multitude of unexpected situations and is, to me anyway, revolting to watch.   It has been my experience that timid dogs are also much more prone to become gun-shy than those with plenty of backbone.    Since timidness is hereditary the best insurance against it is careful scrutiny of the parents.    Don’t get taken in by dogs which are chronic fighters. This character defect almost always masks a coward.

 

·                    Hunting Instinct:  Of all the working traits hunting instinct is the most difficult to define and for hunters to agree on.   Some dogs have it, a lot don’t.    During several years with the Central Hawke Bay Rabbit Board I saw hundreds of dogs in the field; all with equal opportunities to learn.   Of that motley lot only a handful  stood out for their vastly superior hunting instinct.    These dogs were a joy to watch.   They hunted the cover most intelligently and therefore more economically.    Despite covering less ground they put up far more rabbits than the rest.  What’s more their progeny generally inherited this gift.    You can see the same in top pig finders.    Watch how they scent the air or inspect the ground.    You can almost hear the little wheels turning inside their heads.

           

            Hunting instinct should not be confused with keenness.    It is a combination of keenness, intelligence and experience.    Most of these top performers are solo hunters who never rely on an other dog or, for that matter, the hunter.    If correctly led these dogs will work wonders along a trail,  in difficult air scenting conditions and during a chase.    Their relationship with the hunter might be less dependent but their results are much more gratifying. 

 

A good deer dog is first and foremost a working dog, a member of a team in which the

hunter is the leader.    Each brings it’s own skills and abilities to the single task of hunting

one of the most fascinating game animals in New Zealand.    A hunter who spends the time and energy into training his four legged hunting partner will not only be much more successful but also enjoy each success a lot more.    Through his dog he re-discovers a world of scents that we humans have lost long ago.

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Good article Herb, I have followed many of your articles with great interest and this one is one that fits and thanks for sharing.
 
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Interesting thoughts Herb. I agree with a lot of what is written there, but not all.

The deer scene and dog scene have changed markedly in the past decade or two... and I am noticing more hunters putting focus into proper dog work rather than just having a dog along for the ride as has been the case in the past.

Many of the versatile breeds did indeed track Big Game and the original Weimeraner, the nobility's gundog, had Blood hound as a base breed for this purpose. Unfortunately, in my opinion the Weimeraner breed is ruined in NZ and I wouldn't advise them as a viable hunting dog at all anymore. Some will still hunt, of course, but not the degree of others that have a working thought in their breeding program.

One thing you missed in the above article, which I believe is the primary trait to look for and ensure you have before looking at any of the others is temperament. Bidability and a desire to work with a handler is stronger in some breeds than others and from individual dogs. It can be bred for but this is only really seen from a kennel that is breeding with hunting/working being their primary focus.

As a commercial trainer I have had virtually of the versatile breeds available in NZ through my kennels and I have noticed this trait strongest in two breeds at present... Viszla and Fousek. There are few Fousek in NZ and they are expensive and the endorsements on them are high meaning you can own one but it is doubtful you'll ever breed them. The guy importing has very tough controls. But, I have been extremely impressed with the few I have encountered.

I believe their biability level (both breeds) is such they are an ideal first dog. The Wirehair bred to the DD standard is an impressive animal but I do not believe most of them have the right temperament to be a "first" dog... get some experience before taking one on.

If you found a Spinone here I would be very wary and look hard into the background. It doesn;t take dogs long to change under a breeding program not focused on working ability and while they will all hunt after a fashion like anything the end result of any course is often dictated by the material you start with.

I disagree that a deer dog should leave the handler to track or pursue wounded deer. A well trained dog should, in my opinion, work with it's handler on the trail and go in on the deer once the animal is located and at the discretion of the handler. AN 8 point Jap is a dangerous animal for a dog to take on and is more than capable of killing a dog. If the handler has the choice he can leave the dog off the beast and dispatch it without anyone or anything getting hurt.

The temperment issues with versatiles that Herb mentions above are real in some of the show lines available but also are really just a symptom of poor training. A dog trained with the handler as primary focus and game as secondary focus hunts with and for the handler and will remain calm and focussed as a result.

It was our old fashioned training methods where we hyped dogs up on game and then started to use training to control that which lead to issues as the dogs was being handled not do what its early training had made it want to do.

More modern training methods produce a dog that is onside, understands you are successful as a pack, not as individuals and hunts accordingly.

You rarely need a dog to pursue a deer that can run fast and sending a dog after such an animal will often give them a rush of adrenilin which results in them never being seen again. If you wound a deer you are far better off, in my experience, to sit down, wait 15 minutes and then start a methodical track with your dog leading, but not leaving.... you will find the deer together and be successful.

I have had dogs barking in the bush less than 1/2 km away that could not be heard because of the effect terrain and heavy cover has on acoustics and unless you are a really good trainer setting out to encourage your dog to chase after deer and bark is folly in my opinion.
A fousek on Pheasant....
More info here... http://www.newzealand.ceskyfousek.org/

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Hi Clark
 
Quote "I disagree that a deer dog should leave the handler to track or pursue wounded deer. A well trained dog should, in my opinion, work with it's handler on the trail and go in on the deer once the animal is located and at the discretion of the handler. AN 8 point Jap is a dangerous animal for a dog to take on and is more than capable of killing a dog. If the handler has the choice he can leave the dog off the beast and dispatch it without anyone or anything getting hurt."
 
I think you might have misunderstood what I wrote there.    I purposely did not mention any breeds but detailed the essential attributes I consider important in a deer dog.    If you had read some of my other articles on deer recovery you would have noted that I never recommend letting a dog chase wounded  deer as my first option.   Such a strategy is only advisable with a leg shot before the deer gets used to moving on three legs.    This is the recommended European way of dealing with such an injury because such a deer will never be sick enough to let a hunter and his tracking dog get close for a finishing shot.    With all other serious injuries it is best to wait for the animal to die or get down in a wound bed before it is followed up on the long lead a la police work.    Indeed the police forces around the world have adopted this method from the ancient European deer hunting fraternety.     The general practice is to follow up on the long leash until the deer is sprung from the wound bed and then a sharp dog is sent after it to bail.     Otherwise the follow up could go on for days.     There are no hard and fast rules because each case is different and what respose is appropriate needs to be judged by the hunter.
 
Here are other articles on wounded animal recovery that should clarify what I meant .
 

18 October 2007

 

The Editor

NZ Outdoors

PO Box 13370

Tauranga

 

blood Trackers

By Herb Spannagl

 

To most of us the name “Blood hound” conjures up movie images of packs of hounds tracking down escaped slaves in alligator infested Louisiana swamps.   The only other time the name comes to the fore is at dog shows where English Blood Hounds pop up from time to time.    How the breeds got the name “blood hounds” is open to speculation but it most certainly had nothing to do with tracking down human blood.   More likely it is the ancient European connection with big game blood tracking hounds.    That trail is well documented in paintings and in prose right up to the present day.  

 

As far as I know “blood hounds” have never been used for hunting in this country.   Pity really because certain breeds of hounds are ideal for deer stalking and are potentially far more useful than our so-called indicator deer dogs.

 

Be that as it may the hounds I want to write about in this issue are the European Schweiss Hunde ( Schweiss means game blood in the traditional German hunter language).   Unlike their close cousin the English Bloodhound, which has been totally ruined by show breeders the European versions have remained pure working dogs.   Their performance has been honed through selective breeding, which is closely controlled by clubs dedicated to individual breeds.    As a rule only dogs are registered that have undergone demanding field tests.   And then only the very best are entered into the studbook as approved breeding animals.    What counts are results and some of these border on the unbelievable.

 

In most European countries access to a performance tested bloodhound is not only a traditional obligation but also a legal requirement for any big game hunter.    This is founded in very strong animal welfare laws, which make it mandatory that any wounded animal is followed up and put out of its misery.   Not surprisingly this also includes game that is injured in car accidents while crossing busy motorways.

 

The origin of bloodhounds goes back to the days of the Celts who hunted large game with packs of dogs not unlike how our own pig hunters do in New Zealand.    From this ancient ancestry originate all the hounds we know today.    In the middle ages before the advent of firearms the large feudal houses of Europe elevated deer hunting into a huge festive and social occasion.     You might think such hunts degenerated into a great free for all where everything was fair game.    Not so as such events were highly organised by professional huntsmen.    They chose the target stag long before the actual chase began.   Throughout the hunt they used a specially trained tracking hound to ensure that only that deer was hunted.

 

Preparations started at daybreak when huntsmen observed the stag take shelter in one of the dense wood lots that dotted the great estates.    They let the lead hound take the scent from its fresh tracks.    Then they circled the thicket with the hound searching ahead on a long leash.   If the stag had only passed through the hound recognised the scent at the exit point and followed it to the next thicket.    This exercise was repeated until the stag was firmly holed up.

 

It was at that stage that the other hounds and riders were summoned.    The stag was jumped from its resting place by the lead hound and was then chased by the pack.    The specially trained lead hound never took part in the chase.    Instead the rather sluggish hound was carried along in a basket in case the pack lost the trail.   When this happened the fine nosed animal soon found the connection after which the hunt started all over again.    Eventually the exhausted stag bailed while bravely defending itself against the frantic pack.    While preoccupied it was lanced with a broad bladed spear.

 

With the use of firearms hunters badly needed a dog with a superb nose to track down wounded game.    The obvious choices were the traditional lead hounds.    However, it took some development to turn these specialist trackers into courageous, trail loud endurance hunters that could single handedly track and bail dangerous animals.    From such centuries old breeding endeavours involving several remnant breeds originate several modern bloodhounds the most famous are the Hanoverian Bloodhound and the Bavarian Mountain Bloodhound

 

Even though several other hunting dog breeds have very good blood tracking abilities and throw up excellent individuals the two-abovementioned bloodhounds are the preferred big game recovery specialists throughout Central Europe.

 

The Hanoverian Bloodhound

Like all European feudal households the German House of Hanover has had a long history of hunting big and small game.    During it’s heyday in the nineteenth century it’s professional hunters bred superb hunting dogs of which the Hanoveraner Pointer (Grey Ghost) and the Hanoverian Bloodhound have survived to the present day.

 

This large, 60 centimetre high, reddish to fawn coloured dog is the undisputed blood hound for red deer and wild boar in the rolling hills of non alpine Europe.   Its bloodlines include the French black and tan Saint Hubertus hounds which had been bred by the monks of this famous monastery right through the Middle Ages.    

 

The modern Hanoverian is a placid but serious dog much like our very popular Labs.     Recent breeding directions aim for a lighter animal with good legs and closed paws to improve endurance during extended chases of wounded animals.    The Hanoverian excels on the long blood leash.    His methodical working habits and extremely fine ground nose ensures that this dog can follow the scent of wounded animal hours, and given the right climatic conditions, days after the animal has past.   Once locked onto its target scent it can distinguish that from other warm or cold, sick or healthy trails.

 

It goes without saying that such remarkable feats do not come out of the blue.    They are the culmination of centuries of breeding, careful training and good field leadership by and experienced hunter.

 

The Bavarian Mountain Bloodhound

Near the end of the nineteenth century intensive hunting for red deer became very popular in the Bavarian and Austrian Alps.    With the widespread supplementary winter feeding red deer herds survived at high altitude hunting blocks that hitherto had been the domain of the chamois and ibex.    In this testing terrain, where traditional leash work can be severely restricted, long free chases are often the only way to bring a wounded animal to bail.   The heavy Hanoverian Bloodhound was just not agile enough to climb and jump in pursuit of such sure-footed game.    Many valuable dogs fell to their death or got badly bluffed.

 

In Austria breeders developed the Tyrolean Hound and the Styrian high mountain hounds for this purpose whilst in Bavaria Baron Karg of Reichenhall crossed the agile Tyrolean hounds with the heavier Hanoverian Bloodhound to create the lighter and faster Bavarian Mountain Bloodhound.     Not only is this breed safer in the rugged mountain terrain many of them are natural “Dead Barkers”; a tendency to remain with the dead animal and calling the hunter through continuous barking.

 

A common heritage of all hounds and in particular blood hounds is their fanatical trail passion, trail voice and trail loyalty.   Without these attributes the work on the “red trail” would end in dismal failure.    During my rabbiter years in Hawkes Bay I acquired a couple of reject Harrier Hounds from the local hunt club.   I remember them as the most maniacal and tireless trackers I had ever worked with.    During the hot summer period we used to start work at 5am to make the best use of ground scent before it burned off in the searing sun.   By 1pm we hunters and our dogs literally dragged our backsides over the scorched hills back to the distant Land Rover and it’s welcoming shade.   No such needs for the Harriers, Billy and Queen.    While all the other dogs trotted behind us the two loped ahead forever sniffing the ground.    Many were the times when they jumped a hare within sight of the vehicle and took off after it as if their hunting day had only just began.    There was little use yelling, whistling or firing shots trying to call them back.   Once the sods were locked onto a scent they were in a world of their own.    The first few times this happened we waited sometimes for an hour or more.   Later we just drove off and returned the next day to where we left them.   There they were happy as only dogs can be rejoining their pack.

 

Our hunting bloc extended from the coast to the edge of the Ruahines.   Without any encouragement from us these hounds developed a taste for deer.    Several times they picked up fresh trails in the grassy paddocks and followed them into the bush.    Minutes later came the first howl, then more as the chase led to higher ground.     On one particularly trying day we could hear their faint howls from near the main range; still in hot pursuit.

 

After my dismal failures to use my GSPs for tracking wounded deer I had visions of crossing the Harriers with Beardies to create a tough dog for all aspects of deer hunting.   But alas about that time I got appointed as a ranger to Tongariro National Park where dogs were strictly out of bounds.     While I still think such a cross would make a good all round deer dog it would be less risky to start with a proven breed such as the Bavarian Mountain Bloodhound.   I know there are great quarantine and transport hassles importing dogs but considering the many useless mutts that manage to find their way to our shores the task is not insurmountable.  

 

While the reality of our free range hunting scene means that few hunters will spend a lot of time chasing after wounded animals when it is easier to find new one further on.    However, with the rapid expansion of the trophy hunting industry a good stag represents a substantial investment to the hunter as well as to the game farm manager.     As there is no guarantee that a well heeled client is a better shot than the bloke from down the road there it would pay for a hunting guide to have a canine backstop up his sleeve.    I would go as far as saying most genuine European hunting clients would expect no less.

 

Let’s guard against a possible confusion.   Bloodhounds indicate deer like any other dog but in addition to this well understood function they are capable of performing near miracle recoveries.    I am quite certain if these bloodhounds became available in New Zealand hunters would use them because in my opinion the only hunter that doesn’t need them is the one that never wounds an animal.    I probably have more chance to find a moose in Fjordland than to meet such a Mr 100%.

 

20 December 2006

 

The Editor

NZ Outdoors

131 Willow Street

Tauranga

 

TRACKING

Herb Spannagl

 

The reason hunting is exempt from the provisions of the Animal Welfare Act is that in the field some game animals are not killed instantly or as the Germans refer to it “die in the fire”.    What happens to wounded animals is not a popular discussion topic and therefore percentages are hard to estimate.    In my deer culling days the NZFS allowed ten percent of Oks, which stood for animals whose tail tokens could not be recovered.    I guess wounding 10% of animals shot at could be about right but in the absence of reliable research my guess is as good as yours. 

 

Whatever the figure, the fact remains that even the most careful hunters wound game animals from time to time.   Those who had to face such a dilemma will agree that with a few exceptions recovering wounded game without the help of a well-trained dog is a near impossible task because wounded animals don’t stick around waiting for a mercy bullet to end their misery.   Quite the opposite, they want to put as much ground between themselves and their enemy.   It is bordering on the miraculous how badly wounded animals keep on going when pumped full of adrenaline.    This is particularly so with our larger game species.    When chased a freshly wounded deer can travel great distances over punishing terrain that makes a recovery an extremely difficult if not impossible task.   

 

The above can be largely avoided if the animal remains unaware of what has caused its discomfort.    Since the bullet travels faster than the sound of the shot it is quite probable that the animal never hears the shot or is so distracted by its injury that it is unable to determine where the sound came from.    So as long as the hunter does not reveal himself to the wounded animal it has little reason to run off into the distance.    Better to wait for half an hour or longer to let the animal bed down and stiffen up before beginning with the search.   Chances are if the animal has not been further disturbed it will do so soon after depending on the severity of its injuries.   I know such enforced waiting is hard in the excitement of the hunt or when pressed for time but it is nevertheless time wisely spent.  

 

During my own hunting life I have tried to track enough wounded game to be very skeptical of man’s ability to carry out this task with any degree of success without the help of a well trained tracking dog.

 

This article deals with the training of tracking dogs.   Fortunately tracking or following a ground scent is an inherited attribute of all dogs and despite of “breeding for looks” is still evident in most breeds.     Specialist trackers are the hounds with their legendary ability to follow a scent hours and even days later.    Spaniels are not far behind, followed by retrievers and some of the European multi purpose breeds.    As a general rule the faster the dog hunts the poorer will be his tracking ability because following an often-faint ground scent is an exact business that requires painstaking searching and a determination to find.     It cannot be done at speed.

 

Given that most hunting dogs can track naturally, the training only needs to focus on teaching them when to track, in other words to track on command.    Of course the saying that practice makes perfect also applies to tracking dogs.   Regular tracking opportunities keeps the dog interested and sharp.   However, the greatest incentive to tracking is the find at the end of the trail.    There must be something to be found and if that is in the nature of a reward the dog will be even more determined to work out the scent trail that leads to it.

 

Food is of universal interest to dogs and is therefore the ideal material to lay a training trail.   You can start food trial training at any age since even newborn and still blind puppies unerringly sniff their way to their mother’s teats.   

 

I start my dogs off by laying a short trail with a piece of meat.    Instead of dragging it on a string I use a long stick, which I have split at one end.    In this I jamb a small piece of meat and at the start of training tap it on the ground every 25 cm in a straight line for about 5m.    At the end of the trail I leave the meat.   The trail should be laid downwind, which forces the dog to put down its nose and prevents it smelling the meat via the air scent.    Mark the beginning of the trail.    Ideally the dog should be unaware of the whole thing.

 

Leave the trail for a short while and then bring the leashed dog into the general area.   Watch it carefully for any reaction.    As soon as it sniffs the first trail scent encourage it to carry on by repeating the word “Search”.    This will be the command you use every time you want the dog to track.     Show your own excitement to let the dog know that you are also interested to follow the trail.    When the dog finds the meat let it eat it as a reward for good work.     If you do that before feeding the dog it will be even keener to follow the meat trail.    

 

After the initial introduction clip a 10m nylon cord onto the collar instead of the short leash.   This will give the dog more room to cast about locating the next scent mark.    In the field wounded animals don’t run in straight lines.    They turn corners, jump over obstacles, walk in water, even double back in an attempt to shake off a pursuer.    The long lead will give your dog the freedom to work out these curly ones.   

 

Depending on your dog’s progress slowly increase the length of the trail and/or the degree of difficulties.      This could mean deviating from the straight line or increasing the time before the dog is allowed to track.   On cool days and on grass a scent trail will last for many hours.    Always mark the start and finish and any bends so that you can correct the dog if it strays off course.   When it strays from the trail let it refind the connection by itself if at all possible rather than dragging it to the next marker.     This increases its confidence and determination to work without help.    You don’t want to end up with a dog that looks to you for answers every time the going gets tough.   

 

It has been said that smart dogs soon follow the foot scent of the trail layer.    Big deal if it does.    It shows that the dog is smart enough to use any means to get to the finish line.    In case you have any doubts let me assure you that in a real hunting situation there is no trail layer scent or the scent of a sausage or piece of meat.    All the dog will find is a fresh “blood trail” which instantly arouses its inherited predatory instincts for the weak, the sick, the old and the wounded.    Do you still think that under these circumstances the dog will be sniffing for the scent of the trail layer?  

 

Most hunters believe that a scent trail only consists of scent directly deposited on the ground.   Not so.    In addition to the ground scent there exists an air scent, which for sake of this discussion is not made of scent particles still drifting in the air but from particles that have drifted from the animal and have been grounded some distance downwind.    Confused?    Quite simply there are two parallel trails, one left by hoof marks, blood, hair, disturbed earth and crushed vegetation and a parallel trail made up of scent particles deposited some distance downwind.   In a cross wind the distance between the ground trail and the air trail can vary considerably.    A good tracking dog always tries to use the one that is easiest to follow.     If you are really serious about wounded big game tracking use deer blood to create a more realistic practice trail.     The best way to store blood is in a plastic water bottle with enough salt added as a preservative.   When laying the trail open the teat a little and sparingly splash little drops onto the ground as you go.   At the end place a dried deerskin with a bit of meat under it.     Leave for a couple of hours before introducing the leashed dog to the starting line.   

 

Retrieving a pheasant runner, peppered hare or winged duck also requires tracking skills.    However, in contrast to big game tracking on a long leash when retrieving still mobile small game the dog works without constraints.    Here the temperament of the individual and the breed makes a huge difference.    Generally speaking the faster and wider ranging the dog the less it is inclined to follow a ground scent.   In my experience spaniels and in particular Springers are my pick of no-fail tracking retrievers of fur and feather.   They work methodically and once sucked onto a scent follow it through the most punishing cover.     It is such a pity that they are not aggressive enough to bail wounded deer or pigs, otherwise they would surely make the most versatile “small package” hunting dogs in this country.    The German Wachtel Hund, which is a spaniel of similar size, does all of that but regrettably this breed has not yet made to our shores.

 

On the Continent they use a “Sleppe” for tracking field trials and for training.   It is a job for two people.    With a freshly killed rabbit, pheasant or duck tied to the middle of a 30m rope each person walks by pulling one end of the outstretched rope.    The game is allowed to drag on the ground but can be periodically uplifted to create breaks in the trail.     The advantage of this method is that there is no human scent contaminating the trail.

Anything is better than nothing, I suppose but for my money there is no substitute for practical experience under real hunting conditions, which I was fortunate to have had almost daily as a professional rabbiter in the sixties.    Collectively our rabbiters used 150 dogs of varying breeds and their crosses.     The dogs that performed best all carried spaniel or beagle blood in their family tree.    All were good trackers by nature and became even better through lots of work.

 

If you live in a region with lots of hares use them to get your dog started on tracking.

All you need to do is walk about with the dog on a leash until you jump a hare from its set.    Mark its route and in particular the place it goes under a fence or past a landmark.     Make sure your dog sees the departing animal.    Wait until it has disappeared from sight then let you dog go immediately.   Since it can no longer see the hare all it can do is follow the invisible but tantalizing scent trail.   If you use this method make sure that the dog does not chase a hare by sight, as this would seduce it to lift its nose from the ground and start looking instead. 

 

Several books have been written about tracking training for the police, military, SAR and for big game hunting.   They all contain common principles that can be applied to our own hunting culture.   Chances are you will find one of them in your local community library.   This article is merely an introduction into yet another fascinating part of our hunting dogs.

 
  

Herb Spannagl

5 Weymouth Street

New Plymouth

 

18 November 1998

 

 

 

The wounded deer

By Herb Spannagl

 

            Hunting is no ordinary sport nor is this article an ordinary hunting article.    It deals in detail with wounded deer and its successful recovery.   By necessity this is a gory subject, which, understandably, many hunters don’t want to acknowledge that it could ever happen to them.

 

            For most hunters the first sign that something has gone wrong is when a cursory search fails to locate the kill.    A second, more detailed one confirms the worse.    The deer has been hit but is still on its feet.   What happens next has a major bearing on a hunter’s ability to retrieve what could rapidly become a hopeless case.     At a time when haste, even panic is the most natural reaction, calm and contemplation are the virtues that let the hunter reconstruct what might have happened.   Only then should he decide his next moves.    To get that far with any sort of confidence is what this article is all about.     It draws heavily on century old European hunting lore

 

Bit by Tiny Bit

            A good hunter searching for a wounded deer works much like a good detective tracking down a villain.    Both are looking for small clues, which might be quite meaningless on their own, but when joined by others build an ever-clearer picture of the situation.

 

For the hunter the observation process starts as soon as he has pulled the trigger.

  • Listen carefully!   Sometimes (even at considerable distances) you can hear a definite smack as the bullet strikes meat or bone.

 

  • Try to keep your eyes firmly riveted on your target deer as you shoot to watch for unusual signs.  (This is not so easy when using a scope but can still be done if you keep both eyes open)

  

Deer show quite distinctive reactions when hit in different parts of the body.

·        Heart /Lung Shot -   Leap with front legs off the ground, then mad flight with low head until collapse; usually within 100-150 meters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heart/Lung Shot

·        Leg Shots  - Depending on the location of the shot the animal will sag momentarily in that quarter.      Front Leg shots always result in the animal running away often with a stump carried high or lower leg tangling from the stump.   Caution!  Animal needs to be bailed right away as it will soon get used to traveling on three legs disappear over the horizon.    Double hind leg shots cause the animal to break down and drag its rear end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leg Shot

·        Neck Shots  - Almost always fatal because vital organs are damaged but death can take days.   Animal often marks during flight with shaking of head.   Instant collapse if spine is damaged.

·        Spine Shot  - Hits in front of the kidneys cause the animal to break down in the fire and die.    Hits further back down but do not kill.   Deer drags hindquarters and needs finishing off.    When the bone projections on top of the spine are hit the animal breaks down as with a standard spine shot.  Beware! After a short time it begins to trash it’s legs, stumble to it’s feet and take off.    A quick second shot is necessary otherwise animal escapes.

·        Head Shots  - Headshots are always tricky because of the very small target and the variable results of the injuries.   Hits to the brain and neck vertebrates mean instant death. But miss these critical areas and you can hit the jaws, nasal passages, wind and food pipes; committing the animal to a lingering death.   Sure signs of a bad headshot are a shacking head and a hanging jaw.

·        Liver Shot  - Minimal reaction except for a brief shortening of the body before rapid flight.   Injuries always fatal.  Death follows soon after through massive internal bleeding.

·        Kidney Shot  - Collapse in hindquarter but deer soon rises and slowly leaves with outstretched and trembling tail.   Slow death.

·        Gut Shots  - Deer lashes out with both hind legs.    The further back the hit the more pronounced and the higher the kick.   A sure sign of a gut shot is when the deer hunches up, stands or stagers around.    Slow death.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gut Shot

·        Meat Shots  - are not accompanied by recognisable signs except for a slight moving of the body in the direction of the shot.   As if the deer wanted to move away from the pain.   Unless accompanied by major blood loss or fly strike deer often recovers.

·        Explosive Impact Shots  - Usually cased by high velocity projectile striking at a sharp angle.    Effect is a dinner plate sized shallow crater that bleeds profusely.    Deer often thrown by impact then recovers and takes off.    If left alone it will soon go into a wound bed to die from shock and loss of blood.

·        Missed Shots  - are not marked.    The deer might remain for a moment before taking off.  It is quite common that a deer so disturbed will bark during flight.

 

The above signs are for broadside shots.    Shots penetrating the deer body on an angle can damage several organs at once and consequently deliver less predictable signs.    Direct front and rear hits cause massive damage and if not killing instantly at least down the animal for good.

There are two further observations you must make BEFORE you approach the target area.   

·        Memorise the spot where the deer stood when you fired, and if it flees, where you last saw it.    You will need to know both.

·        If the deer you have aimed at was not alone watch if it separates from its group.    It is a sure sign that it is badly wounded.

O yes, one more important thing.   Never reveal yourself while the wounded deer is still in sight.    If it can recognise what has caused it all the pain it will travel a lot further before it beds down in it’s wound bed.

 

The “Anschuss”

There is really no word in English that describes so definitively the place where the deer stood when the bullet stuck it.   It is a term used exclusively by hunters in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.    I will use it in this article to simplify the description of the most important place in the search for a wounded animal.

 

The Anschuss is to the hunter what a crime scene is to the detective.    It demands the most careful examination if it is to reveal all the vital evidence of what had happened.

No two situations are alike but here is a typical routine of what to do.

·        Approach slowly and keep a sharp lookout for unusual signs.    Watch for especially deep hoof marks.    Wounded deer dig in deeper then others during initial take-off.

·        Mark these and anything else you see that could come from your target animal i.e. blood splinters of bone, bits of meat, intestinal contents, slime, even hair.    If you have a dog put it on a short leash and let it sniff the ground to indicate evidence that you have overlooked.

·        When you have finished your search tie the dog up and minutely examine each find.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Searching for Clues

 

Remember, each new piece of evidence adds to your understanding.

 

Blood  - Orange coloured and foam like blood, originates from the lungs.   Bleeding starts within 20 meters of flight.   Light/thin blood mixed with fresh green matter points to a stomach shot.   Green/red blood mixed with digested contents comes from the intestines.  Dark red/brown blood is probably from the liver while deep red blood points to a meat wound.  Many meat wounds bleed profusely at first but often seal themselves after a short distance.   Heart shots produce medium red blood that starts strongly within the first five meters.    Blood colour gradually changes as it dries.

 

Wounds high in the body bleed more internally while deep-seated ones drain freely.  

 

Apart from heart shots as a general rule good, fatal hits start with little blood but bleed more profusely as the animal moves away.   

 

Meat, leg or glancing wounds bleed strongly at first but soon stop bleeding altogether.

 

Blood found on bushes, trees or high tussock indicates the relative height of the wound.  

 

Blood on one or both sides of the hoof marks gives further clues to the position of the damaged organs.

 

Bone Fragments  - Those of the main frame are quite porous while leg bones are dense and hard.    Limb bones are usually hollow and have a pronounced pipe structure.   Diameter is greater in upper limb bones and the outside curve less acute.  The presence of marrow confirms the limb shot. 

 

Gut Contents  - These can vary from bits of liver, slime to blobs of poorly digested stomach contents. Very often all this is mixed with blood and slime and leaves little doubt of its origin.  The more processed the contents the further back and the more painful are the injuries!

 

Slime/Saliva   - With or without blood could originate from a mouth shot. 

 

Meat Pieces  - With nothing other than red blood strongly point to a meat wound.

 

Hair  - I have left hair to last because for those who take the trouble to study deer hair it provides the most comprehensive indication of the approximate path of the bullet.   In the absence of any other sign “cut” hair is also the best proof that the deer has been hit.    Not just where the bullet entered, but in case of full penetration, where it exited as well. This knowledge is particularly useful with angled shots because entry and exit may be quite apart.    For instance with a quartering shot from the rear the bullet would have entered the stomach area passed through the liver, nicked one lung before exiting out behind the opposite shoulder. The hair from the entry hole will be cut while many from the exit area will be torn, roots intact.  

 

This alone would suggest a diagnosis of a fatal shot where the deer could travel some distance before dying.  

 

To make any sense from hair remains one needs to study not only the hair structure but also know from which part of the body the hair comes from.    The best way to do that is with a collection of 12 small skin/hair samples from different parts of a body (see diagram).   To cover most eventualities collections need to cover the summer and winter coats of both sexes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hair Sample Scheme

 

Make Haste Slowly

Going through this routine could take half an hour, maybe longer.    You might think this is time wasted.    Not at all.   With the exception of a leg shot deer the enforced wait is working for you.   Why?  Because when first hit and chased soon after a deer literally o.ds on adrenaline.    If pursued in that state it can run for miles even with a serious injury.    However, if left alone especially if it has not seen or smelled the hunter or his dog it will bed down and stiffen up a lot sooner; making the subsequent follow-up a lot less demanding.

 

The Changing Face Of Hunting

After talking to many European hunters and reading several very good books on the subject I am in no doubt that tracking wounded deer combines the intelligence of man and the awesome instincts of his hunting dog into an impressive performance.    To the true hunter it’s execution can be every bit as demanding as the toughest hunt and it’s successful completion every bit as satisfying as the greatest trophy.

 

I guess there wont be too many Kiwi hunters who have gone to this level of detail in their efforts to search for a wounded deer.     Not because of a lack of commitment but because of our general lack of skill in dealing with such a complex subject.    It is for this reason that I have outlined in this short article the depth of knowledge European hunting cultures have amassed over the centuries.   

 

By comparison we enjoy almost total hunting freedom.   Where we go, when we hunt, what weapon we use and how many deer we shoot.    That choice abruptly ends when we wound an animal.     Its fate becomes irrevocably our responsibility.    In the end our standing as hunters stands or falls on that commitment.

 
 
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