How to Train Your Dog to Track Wounded Deer

Hard
6-24 Months
Work

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.

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.

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. 

The Beef Liver Method

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Effective
0 Votes
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

The Squeeze Bottle Method

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Effective
0 Votes
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

The Hide and Seek Method

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Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Gather the tools
Gather up several pieces of deer hide and a spray bottle filled with deer blood.
Step
2
Prepare the hide
Spray the hides with deer blood and allow the blood to dry, making the hide easier to handle.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
winston
Bloodhound
1 Year
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Question
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winston
Bloodhound
1 Year

I would love to be able to train my blood hound to track deer for people. I have two blood hounds actually and would love them both to track.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1130 Dog owners recommended

Hello Olivia, I would begin playing games that encourage pup to use their nose (usually a line or treats and treat hiding games), and hide and seek come type games where they get used to searching for people they love who are hiding and calling them. I would also look into search and rescue training specifically. Check out this article on search and rescue. I would start pup on the "Right Track method" from that article at first. https://wagwalking.com/training/search-and-rescue Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Forest
German Shepherd and Husky Mix
7 Months
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Question
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Forest
German Shepherd and Husky Mix
7 Months

I am trying to get him to track deer that have been shot! And STAY seated in the car! He hopped in my lap and jerked my car to the other lane

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1130 Dog owners recommended

Hello Paige, For the car seating, I would actually practice a Down-stay on the seat or floorboard. Most dogs will stay better in the Down position while riding if your car can accommodate it. Either way, start by practicing Down or Sit-Stay while the car is stationary at home. Work up to long duration Sit-Stays in that setting. Once pup is great at Sitting in the car without getting up, then recruit a second person to enforce the command while the other person drives. It's important to do this with two people so the driver can just drive. Work up to pulling in and out of the garage, driving around the neighborhood, then longer distances gradually. Try to end the training with pup doing well still each time if you can. When you don't have a second person to help train, I would use a car harness for pup, like ruffwear or kurgo car harnesses. so you can buckle pup into the set. This is safer for pup in the event of a crash and you, so pup can't get into your lap. For the tracking, I would actually start with obedience commands to get pup to the point where they are reliable off leash. You can practice games like Hide and Seek Come, treat hiding, ect...to get pup into the habit of using their nose to find things in general as a puppy. If you can get a hold of deer blood or check out local deer processor for any discarded deer parts, like organs that can be used for scent and blood, I would use the Squeeze Bottle method or Beef Liver Method (but use deer organs instead of you can get that - if you can't get those, then use beef). Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Harley
Labrador Retriever
7 Months
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Question
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Harley
Labrador Retriever
7 Months

Do I have to use raw hide or tanned hide to train in blood tracking? Not sure I want raw deer hide aging in the house. Thanks, Brian

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
257 Dog owners recommended

Hello! I have heard of people having lots of success using tanned hide. So you shouldn't have any problems. The company Dog Bone Hunter sells processed and preserved deer hides that work really well.

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Question
Suede
German Shepherd
2 Years
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Question
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Suede
German Shepherd
2 Years

I just wanted to know if she would make a good tracking dog, she knows basic commands decently, but she gets distracted pretty easily as she is still somewhat of a pup!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1130 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kaci, I would see how good her scenting ability is and how interested in scent work she seems, to decide. Practice hiding treats and encouraging pup to find - show pup where they are the first few times while giving a finding command. See how pup does when they are not shown where they are (keep locations easy at first). Hide a treat under one of three to five different identical cups, and see if pup can sniff out which has the treat. Hide somewhere close by and have another person give pup a finding command and take pup to you. Practice several times until pup learns the command, then see if pup can find you on their own. Don't make these exercises too difficult at first, while pup is still learning the games - but notice whether pup tries to use their nose to locate, or only depends on other senses. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Kydie
Golden Retriever
4 Years
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Question
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Kydie
Golden Retriever
4 Years

Wanting to train one of our goldens to track deer blood. I've read that it's best to use a harness when doing this if you're gonna be using a lead, which I will. Question is if we already use a harness for walking her around the neighborhood, would using a different type of harness matter or maybe use a bell on it only when tracking?

She was the runt of the litter, about 50lbs now. Loves to retrieve and seeks approval/praise.
She has gotten extremely excited, more so than our 6 yr old 100+ lbs Male, the last few times I brought home a deer. I would let them smell, lick it. She goes bananas.

Just not sure about the harness situation. We use a harness for walking because our daughter primarily walks her and we want to make sure she doesn't wiggle out of the collar. As she gets really excited about walks...

Sorry for length but wanted to give info..

Thanks!!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1130 Dog owners recommended

Hello Robert, Because of the nature of what you are going to be teaching, you will want her to know when it's time to work and when it's not time to work, so I do suggest using different equipment than what you normally use for walks. A bell might be enough but to be safe I would probably have a different harness. Also, what type of harness do you use for walking her? If that harness is a front clip or no-pull harness, you also will want something different for tracking - such as a padded back clip harness - more like what's used in search and rescue. Don't worry about the length of your question. Detail help me give a better answer. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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