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Tracking Dogs

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The Florida Blood Trailing Network is a state-wide group of volunteer dog trainers and handlers dedicated to volunteering their time and their dog’s skills to assist hunters in recovering downed game. As a hunter, I feel it is only right to give any and all effort to recovering the game you’ve shot. But when your efforts aren’t paying off, making a phone call is quite a comfort. And we have expert handlers with remarkably trained recovery dogs willing to help.

You can find a list of trackers in your area by logging on to Facebook and looking up the Florida Blood Trailing Network’s group page. Pinned to the top of the page are the listings of available trackers. Once you’ve made contact, understand that these men and women will come as soon as possible, and there is no charge for their service. but come on, give them a nice tip. Their service is voluntary, but at least offering to pay for their gas seems like the right thing to do.

The network has a very strict screening and mentorship program. When you call in your request for a tracking dog, you can be certain it’s not just going to be Ol’ Ned, from down the way, borrowing his mom’s Jack Russell terrier; you’ll be getting a pro!

Now, once you’ve made the decision to call in a dog, the trackers will ask you to stay out of the woods once they commit to you. When it’s been walked on and grid-searched, it’s a little more difficult for the dogs to sort through all the contamination. Some will struggle until they get outside of where it’s been trampled. Every time you walk where the deer went, you just spread that scent. Above all, be honest with your tracker; tell them if you’ve grid searched or even jumped your deer. I know of one tracker whose pup found a deer lying five feet from the trail, and hunters had walked by it ten times without seeing it. The best thing you can do is wait a little bit before jumping down and tracking. if you lose the blood trail, search a little bit past it, mark the last blood, and get out. A deer still high on adrenaline has a ton of survival instincts that kick in.

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And don’t condemn hunters unable to find their deer for “not trying.” Hunting is growing by leaps and bounds, and many new hunters don’t have a mentor or someone to help them. Often, the FBTN uses their arrival as an educational opportunity. I’ve known them to pluck the branches and leaves with blood and show the hunter the trail and how to read certain signs.

Blood is not always just red; there’s lung blood that’ll be dark pinkish to light red but will be frothy and bubbly, there’s the really dark liver blood (which may or may not be grainy looking), then there’s the dreaded bright red blood. You’ve got some guts if you see green to brown on your arrow and smell it. Shoot straight and take a big one, with the knowledge that someone out there has your back!

As always, if you have any questions or comments about today’s article, please reach out to me at [email protected]. God Bless, and good hunting!

Toby Benoit
Toby Benoit
Toby Benoit is a best selling novelist and professional outdoorsman with thirty-five years of experience guiding and outfitting for big game all across America. Toby is a renowned archer and turkey hunting expert who manufactures custom game calls and is a regular judge at NWTF sanctioned turkey calling events across the Southeast.
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