Fide Canem

There is a saying among dog handlers: “TRUST YOUR DOG.” It does not mean blindly follow your dog all over the place…even though that is exactly what I feel like I do most of the time. A much better saying, in my opinion, is to “TRUST A TRUSTWORTHY DOG.” Fortunately, after having followed Rowdy on over 150 tracks, I am at the point where I rarely ever question her. Of course it hasn’t always been like that.
Take New Year’s Eve three years ago.
I had received the call on this deer pretty late the night before. Since it was 2 hours away, I decided to wait until morning to head their way, making it a 16 hour old track by the time we arrived.
The sign was pretty typical of what we encounter on deer calls – a lot of blood at the hit site and a good amount of blood for 30 or 40 feet that quickly goes dry.
Rowdy proceeded to piddle around for nearly 30 minutes before taking a line. Sometimes it takes a little while for her to line things out, especially after a long trip, but this was a bit embarrassing.
She finally took a line that went through a fence and meandered through several open grassy areas. She was doing a lot more casting and looping back than usual, which told me she was having a lot of trouble staying on the line. Whatever scent she was on, she would lose then circle back and cast out in a new direction. It’s not uncommon for this to happen in one or two spots along a trail but on this day, she worked the entire track in a series of loops. About 500 yards in it felt like I was being led on a wild goose chase.
Normally, I can test how serious she is about a track by trying to call her off. If she’s not on a hot trail she’ll stop what she’s doing and come back over to me. If she’s serious about it, she’ll ignore me completely. I tried to call her back a couple times but she never even checked up. In fact, she was pretty excited as she pulled out over 100 yards ahead of me at a fairly quick pace. I decided to just leave her alone and continue to follow her via my GPS unit. It felt like we were going in circles, but the GPS confirmed we were getting farther out. We went around the base of a steep hill, up the hill, along a ridge and up a little more.
Finally, we were about yards from the trucks.
I am always looking at the GPS screen or looking down for sign such as blood or heavy running tracks. I had seen nothing since we left the last spot of visible blood just a few feet from where the deer was shot. I finally looked up and realized just how thick the brush had become.
Wounded deer almost always bed up in the thickest brush on the property and this was certainly looking like a good spot to jump a buck. And that’s exactly what happened next.
After a quick 600 yard chase back down the hill, Rowdy bayed the buck in the corner of a field. He tried to break a couple of times but stayed on the perimeter of that field until I could get close enough to get a finishing shot.
That was probably one of the more challenging tracks we did that year. It takes a fairly experienced dog to finish a track like that and they get better with each puzzle they solve.

This was a16-hour old trail by the time we got to it. Rowdy trailed him 900 yards, jumped him and ran him another 650 yards before he bayed up. 


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