Editor’s Note: For many years, Game and Fish Departments, especially in the North and the West, were reluctant to let sportsmen use blood-trailing dogs to recover deer that had been shot. However, today a growing liberalization of regulations to use these blood-trailing dogs to locate dead or wounded deer has resulted in many more deer having been found after the shot and fewer deer being lost. Across the nation, many organizations now are available that a hunter can call to employ the services of a blood-trailing dog.
One of the most-unusual blood-trailing teams I met many years ago was Jeff Terry, a deer guide from Vicksburg, Mississippi, who raised and trained blood-trailing dogs for Tara Wildlife http://www.tarawildlife.com/. His personal dog was 11-year-old Buster Brown, a chocolate Labrador retriever. Terry explained Buster Brown’s talent in this way. “If you fall in the water and are about to drown, Buster Brown will jump in the water and save your life. If your wife throws you out of the house, Buster Brown will help you find a new wife. If you shoot the biggest buck of your life that then runs off, Buster Brown will locate your buck for you. If you down a beautiful mallard drake that then falls into cattails 1/4-mile from your blind, Buster Brown will pinpoint that duck and bring it back to you. If you’re sitting at home, watching TV and feel the need for something cold to drink, Buster Brown will go to your cooler or your refrigerator and bring you a cool one.
“A few years ago, rain had fallen all night when a hunter knocked on my door one morning and said, ‘A lady over at our hunting camp insists she shot a nice 8 point last night, just before dark. But we can’t find a blood trail or her buck. Can you bring Buster Brown over to our property, and let him search for that lady’s buck? But after that downpour of last night, I don’t think your dog has much of a chance of finding this buck, even if the lady made a good hit on him.’ After I put on my knee-high rubber boots and my raincoat, I loaded up Buster Brown and his bodyguard, Hershey, a young chocolate Lab. I never let one trailing dog trail a deer by himself. If a big buck that’s been hit jumps up and wants to fight, that deer may injure or kill my dog, if the dog’s trailing by himself. However, a bodyguard dog will distract the buck while Buster Brown jumps in, grabs the deer by the neck and hangs on until he either kills the deer, or I reach where they are.”
When Terry and his dogs arrived at the property to search for the lady’s downed 8 point, and Terry turned the dogs loose in the rain, Buster Brown went about 150 yards into a swamp and a cane thicket and started barking. With the rain still pouring down, the two men and the two dogs came out of the thicket dragging a fat 8 point. Although most hunters believe that rain washes away the scent of a wounded deer, Terry thinks that rain will spread the deer’s scent out more over a larger area and enable the dog to find the deer easier and quicker. Terry’s also seen Buster Brown stay on a wounded or a dead deer’s trail – even after the dog has run through a thicket and flushed several live deer.
Once deer season ended, Buster Brown was Terry’s constant companion in a duck blind during the rest of waterfowl season. By using hand signals, Terry could steer Buster Brown to any duck he’d taken, and Buster Brown would locate the duck, retrieve it and bring it back to Terry. “I thought one day that Buster Brown might have to save my life, if I stepped into a hole while waterfowling and went underwater, trying to save a duck,” Terry explains. “I knew Labradors were some of the strongest swimmers of all the dog breeds and could pull loads while swimming.”
So, Terry and Buster Brown practiced by getting into water at a swimming pool. Terry grabbed the dog’s tail and gave him the command to swim back to the bank. After only three attempts, Buster Brown swam to the side of the pool with Terry holding onto his tail. Next Terry got into the swimming pool’s water wearing his waders. While Terry held onto Buster Brown’s tail, that strong barrel-chested Lab pulled his master to safety. And, as Terry reports, “Buster Brown seemed to enjoy the towing drill.”
To learn more about hunting deer, check out John E. Phillips’ book, “PhD Whitetails: How to Hunt and Take the Smartest Deer on Any Property,” available at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B007A2N792. To receive your free book on “How to Make Venison Jerky,” go to https://www.emailmeform.com/builder/form/Ece3UZVcOo52cKPJcL