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A hunter takes aim and shoots. It's a hit, but not a solid one--the deer runs off into the underbrush, wounded. Not only does the hunter not want to lose his quarry, he does not want a wounded animal suffering. Fortunately, he has his trusty Basset hound, who can easily follow the blood trail left by the wounded deer. The deer is located and dispatched a few hundred yards away in dense brush, not so far away, but in the heavy brush, the hunter would have had a difficult time finding it if not for his hunting companion.
Basset hounds, short-legged hunting dogs developed in England, are amazing scenting hounds, able to follow a scent trail accurately and through difficult terrain. They are also quite the characters, with their easy-going style, droopy ears, sad eyes and mournful vocals. Training your Basset hound to track deer to aid you in locating quarry or following a wounded animal can be very useful. Basset hounds are adept trackers, but getting them to focus as directed can be a challenge. Basic training and practice will hone a great hunting hound.
Basset Hounds, although very skilled, can be stubborn, inconsistent, and easily distracted. Understanding your dog and working within his limitations will reduce frustration and keep activities enjoyable. Remember, hunting is a sport; it should be enjoyable for you and your dog, so be patient. Basset hounds do not need much training to become interested in and follow a scent, the challenge is getting them to focus on the correct scent. In fact, the keener your dog's sense of smell and motivation, the harder he may be to train, as he is so easily distracted by the input to his nose! Several strategies that involve practicing following fresh scent trails and working with experienced Basset hounds are helpful for achieving this. Your Basset hound will need to learn to distinguish fresh scents from old ones and follow a scent you have directed him to follow, such as that of a wounded animal.
Basset hounds used for hunting deer should have good obedience and recall off-leash, and be used to other dogs, game, being transported to hunting sites, and the sights and sounds of the hunt, including firearms. Be sure you understand hunting rules and regulations in your area as hunting with dogs is not permitted in all areas at all times Most areas have dog or even specific Basset hound hunting clubs that can help you by providing experienced hunters and hounds that can provide support and advice. For training to track deer, deer scent available commercially or deer blood, hide, and scent, available from a previously killed deer or even a roadkill can be used to introduce scent. Most Bassets will work for the sheer joy of it, but treats to reinforce correct behavior are always welcome by food-motivated Basset hounds.
The Tracking Deer Blood Method
Introduce deer blood scent
Pour deer blood onto a sponge and present it to your Basset Hound. When your dog investigates, reward with a treat. Repeat daily for several days.
Create a simple blood trail
Pour deer blood in a straight line 15-20 feet long and place a deer hide at the end of the trail.
Follow the trail
Leash your Basset and walk the line with him, allowing your dog to sniff and investigate the line of blood.
At the end of the trail, give your dog a treat and play with the hide. Repeat.
Make more complex
Lengthen the line and create it a few hours ahead of time to make the exercise more complex. Create a blood trail in a zigzag pattern and allow it to age several hours before introducing your dog. Increase the length of the blood trail and time between laying the trail and following it, until your dog becomes proficient at following the trail. Allow your dog to start following the trail off-leash.
The Scent Trails Method
Obtain scent sample
Use a piece of deer hide, preferably from the rear leg near the tarsal glands that has good scent or apply commercial scent to piece of deer hide.
Create a simple trail
Create a simple scent trail, several yards long, in a straight line by dragging the hide. Put a piece of hide at the end of the trail.
Follow the trail
Take your Basset hound on a leash, or off-leash if he has good recall, and introduce the beginning of the scent tail. Lead your dog along the trail or encourage him along until he reaches the deer hide.
Reward and play with the deer hide at the end of the trail.
Gradually make the trail longer, older, with more twists and turns, and over varying terrain. Allow your dog to work off-leash when he becomes proficient at tracking.
The Live Training Method
Get your dog used to wilderness areas, dense brush, and using his nose.
Introduce an experienced dog
Take your dog out with another, more experienced scenting dog.
Find a game spot
Locate an area with lots of deer and take the dogs afield to see if they can pick up a trail.
Allow the dogs to follow the trail together. The more experienced dog can guide your trainee Basset hound, and the younger, less experienced dog will follow their lead.
When the dogs follow a scent trail, even if they do not locate a deer, reward with praise and affection. Practice lots, and eventually your Basset will have the opportunity to track and locate a live deer.
Written by Laurie Haggart
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 12/22/2017, edited: 01/08/2021