How to Train Your Dog to Track Wounded Deer

How to Train Your Dog to Track Wounded Deer
Hard difficulty iconHard
Time icon6-24 Months
Work training category iconWork

Introduction

How many times have you spent hours tracking a wounded deer with only a 50/50 recovery success rate? Do you remember how frustrating it was last season when you finally drew a bead on that massive buck, only to wing him and watch him go bounding away? Worse yet that he managed to slip away and disappear, leaving you with nothing more than a story to tell.

Why not teach your dog to track wounded deer? Your dog has one of the most sensitive noses on the planet, why not put it to good use by teaching him to track? Unlike a human that can easily lose track of the deer as is blood trail disappears from sight, your dog can lock onto the deer's scent and won't give up until he has tracked it down or been called off the hunt.

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Defining Tasks

The task is simple, you are training your dog to track a wounded deer, presumably one that you failed to kill with the first shot. But, before you train your pup to do this, you need to make sure it is legal in your state. Some will require your dog to be on a leash while tracking, others allow you to let the dog run free. Some states let you continue tracking after dark and there are those who have a specific manner in which you can finish the kill when you catch up with the wounded animal.

The concept is that once you have wounded the deer, your dog can be taken to the spot where the deer was standing when he was shot. At this point, he should be able to pick up the scent and take off following the deer until he tracks it down, loses the scent (yes, it does happen), or is called off the hunt by you.

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Getting Started

You can teach this skill to any dog capable of being taught to track using his nose. In most cases, it is better to start training your dog at an early age as this will make the training go far more quickly. Dogs learn quickly at a young age, but as they get older it gets harder and harder to teach them. For this, you will need a few supplies, including:

  • Deer blood
  • Deer meat
  • Beef liver
  • Deer hide
  • Spray bottle
  • Squeeze bottle
  • A training harness
  • Leash
  • Treats

In addition to the materials above, you'll need plenty of time and patience, as well as a good location to train in, preferably a field with woods on at least one side.

Of these, time is probably one of the most important as you need to work on this training consistently over the course of several months or longer before your pup masters this particular skill. Be patient and work your pup over a number of different types of terrain including fields, light and heavy brush and, of course, out in the woods. All training methods assume your dog has already mastered the basic commands. 

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The Beef Liver Method

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1

Create a trail

Start by creating a "blood" trail using a beef liver at first. Beef livers are more readily available and are much less expensive than venison. Drag the liver to create the trail at first and create short straight lines for your pup to work with.

2

Show the scent

With your pup in a training harness and on a leash, show him the beef liver and give him plenty of time to get the scent firmly fixed in his mind.

3

Let him run the line

At first, take your pup to the start of each line and let him follow the scent or "run the line" to its end and then give him a treat. Keep repeating this, increasing the length of the lines, rewarding him each time he makes it to the end.

4

Turnabout

Start putting in a number of 90-degree turns in it to try and confuse your pup. Each time he is successful, be sure to praise him and give him a treat.

5

Make the change

Time to make the change to deer scent. For this, you will need a chunk of deer hide and some deer blood to spray on it. Repeat the above training using your deer scent decoy. Continue doing this until hunting season, when your pup will have a chance to prove himself.

The Squeeze Bottle Method

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1

Prepare to set up the trails

Collect a significant amount of deer blood from a kill and freeze it. You should also freeze small chunks of hide and meat you can use as rewards during training.

2

Fill the bottle

Fill a squeeze bottle with thawed deer blood. Go out to the area you plan to create the trails. You may have to filter the blood to ensure it will flow through the tip of the squeeze bottle or cut the tip off until the hole is big enough.

3

Take a walk

With every stride you take, dribble a little blood on the ground. Start out making straight lines of around 300 to 400 yards long. Allow the trail to age for approximately two to four hours. You should also place a treat at the end of the trail like a small piece of deerskin or dear meat.

4

Let your pup seek

Let your pup find the beginning of the trail and follow it to the prize at the end. Practice this over the course of several weeks until your pup has no problem finding the trail and the prize at the end. Then start making the trails longer, add in curves, and allowing the trails to age for longer and longer periods of time.

5

The final step

Create blood lines out in areas where live deer are known to be moving around. This will help your dog learn to stay focused on his target (the blood trail) and not to run off on a new hot line. The rest is all about repetition and patience.

The Hide and Seek Method

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1

Gather the tools

Gather up several pieces of deer hide and a spray bottle filled with deer blood.

2

Prepare the hide

Spray the hides with deer blood and allow the blood to dry, making the hide easier to handle.

3

Playtime first

Give your pup a piece of the deer hide to play with, chew on, sleep on, anything to get him used to the smell.

4

Hide and seek

Take the hide and hide it somewhere in the house for your dog to find. Each time he does, give him a reward and praise. Practice this, making the hide harder and harder to find. Once he has mastered finding it indoors, move outdoors and repeat the training.

5

Blood trails in the woods

Use the blood in the spray bottle to create trails out in the woods and work with your dog as he masters the art of tracking blood in the woods. If you make a kill, take your dog out with you and see if he can track down the dead animal, you may have to create a trail to it, but the more you can practice this the sooner he can master the skill.

6

Be patient

This method is going to take time, as will any other. Be patient as it could even take your dog a couple of years to master the art of tracking a wounded deer.

By PB Getz

Published: 12/01/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Remington

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Beagle

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Four Months

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Question

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Have 2 beagles 1 is5 years and pup 5 months should I train together or separate are they a good breed for retrieving they love running deer

March 19, 2023

Remington's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, If neither has been trained to track before, I would start out by training separate. Once both are trained separately, then practice together also. Often separate needs to be taught first, then together is taught secondary once trained. Once the dogs are together expect to go backwards with the training a bit, since the other dog will be a huge distraction and tracking together will need to be trained. If one dog already is trained, then you can do mostly separately, but include the puppy in some of the older dog's training occasionally since the older dog might help the puppy learn certain things. "Are they a good breed for retrieving" .... Are you referring to the dog tracking down a wounded deer, or are you referring to a different type of hunting that involves retrieving, like duck hunting? If tracking, then generally Beagles and other scent hounds are good breeds for tracking. As long as you aren't using them tracking that involves fighting or holding a live animal at the end of the track - such as boar hunting. A Beagle generally wouldn't have the tenacity needed to safely take down or hold a live animal at the end of a track, but for dead deer, they are a great breed. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

March 21, 2023

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Drake and Tucker

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Labador

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Drake 1yr old Tucker 4yr old

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Question

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How do you muck train them? They both compete and jealous of each other when you pet one or feed one. Would this help me or hurt me to get them to track together.

Jan. 23, 2023

Drake and Tucker's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Much train? Could you please be more specific about what you are wanting to teach the dogs? I would like to help, but am not certain what you are referring to. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Jan. 23, 2023


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