Hunters have different ways to train dogs to track wounded deer. When we look at the long and illustrious history of the German method of deer-tracking dogs, we learn about a German technique using deer-tracking shoes.
How dogs track deer
Darren Minor of Maryland shot a deer, followed the blood trail and jumped the deer but then lost the trail. Minor found a list of deer trackers online and spoke with a man who lived nearby who had a tracking dog.
“The dog tracked from the point where the deer had been shot,” Minor said. “An hour later, the dog barked. He’d located my deer with no blood trail to follow.”
Later, after seeing a second set of deer-tracking dogs pinpoint a deer that would have been lost without the dogs’ keen noses, Minor became interested in acquiring and training a tracking dog. He visited the Deer Hunter Forum (deerhunterforum.com/index.php) and discovered its tracking dog section.
“I learned about wirehaired dachshunds tracking dogs and bought a pup that a friend and I trained,” he said.
How to train dogs with the three-layer system
When teaching a dog to track, many people start by dragging a portion of an eight-week-old deer liver on a string through the woods, because its strong scent will create a trail to follow.
“Before we stop using the liver, we’ll start introducing deer blood on the same trail with the liver,” Minor said. “The dog learns to follow the blood trail scent only. Next I introduce the paste from one or two deer hooves where the interdigital glands are located to the blood trail. A hole between the deer’s toenails where the deer’s interdigital gland is produces a smelly, pasty substance that dogs can follow. I’ll tie two deer hooves to two, 4-foot-long, 1¼-inch PVC pipes, shove the deer’s legs into those pipes with the hooves at their bottoms and push those hooves into the ground along the blood trail the dog’s following. After the dog learns to work that combination of blood and interdigital gland scent trail, I wean the dog off and have it follow the interdigital gland scent only.
“I’d joined United Blood Trackers of America (UBT, unitedbloodtrackers.org) that also had a Facebook group (facebook.com/unitedbloodtrackers). I wanted to train my dog to track deer by following a 24-hour-old interdigital gland scent left by a deer’s hoof for 1,000 yards – even with no blood trail to follow.
“The deer’s interdigital gland puts off about 40 kinds of scents and is very effective in leaving a scent. Notice a buck in the rut. He’ll have his nose on the ground, following the track of an estrous doe leaving a scent through her interdigital gland. Most trackers believe the dog keys in on a different scent that a wounded deer puts out through its interdigital gland, enabling the dog to remain on a wounded deer’s track.”
What other ways train tracking dogs
From his research, Minor has learned that many European trackers start off with using only the interdigital gland paste – no deer liver or deer blood. John Jeanneney, who is viewed as the godfather of training deer-tracking dogs, uses this system. His book, “Tracking Dogs for Finding Wounded Deer,” still today is basically treated as the Bible. Deer Search (deersearch.org/resources) also offers information on tracking deer. Various breeds of dogs can be trained to find wounded deer.
What’s a tracking shoe and how does it work?
Minor learned that some people used deer-tracking shoes.
“Michael Gietl, a German fellow who lived in North Carolina, had his family buy these shoes not available in the U.S. and send them,” Minor said. “I contacted Gietel and bought a pair of German-made Wasgau tracking shoes. These shoes enabled me to bolt a deer’s hoof to the bottom of the rubber shoes that left no human scent and but left a trail for a dog to follow. I put these shoes on over my boots and laid a track through the woods. A bar across the deer foot in the tracking shoes enabled the interdigital gland to leave a scent as I walked. I was hands-free and didn’t have to use poles and push them into the ground to lay a track.”
Where to buy tracking shoes
Minor and his partner, A.J. Bartlinski, formed Blood Tracking Dogs of Central Maryland (facebook.com/Blood-Tracking-Dogs-LLC-107148454553840) and became a distributor for the Wasgau Scent Shoes.
“The official name of our company is Blood Tracking Dogs LLC,” Minor said. “One shoe size fits all. To train a dog to track a wounded deer’s interdigital gland, only use the feet of deer that have been wounded and have run a good distance. Using the hind or the front hooves of the deer doesn’t seem to matter. I freeze deer feet and thaw them before I use them and put them on the shoes. I don’t pull the paste out of the gland.”
Any hunting dog that uses its nose to follow a scent can be trained as a deer-tracking dog. A growing number of trainers with tracking dogs are in each state, and a list of them often is found in Facebook groups.