People have been using dogs since the first days of their domestication to aide in hunting animals such as deer. A dog's powerful nose makes him a great hunting partner, especially in locating and tracking quarry. German shepherds are most commonly used as guard dogs, police dogs, and were originally herding dogs, thus the name “shepherd”. Although not primarily used as hunting dogs, many of the skills that make them excel at their other “jobs” also lend themselves to tracking and hunting animals such as deer.
When hunting deer, hunters, in spite of their best efforts, do not always get off a clean shot and a deer can be wounded, taking off into heavy brush. This is when having a dog that can track deer proves invaluable. A dog like a German shepherd that can follow the deer's scent or blood trail to locate the wounded deer so the animal can be humanely dispatched. This also saves time and prevents the suffering and loss of a wounded animal.
You can use a German shepherd in actual hunting scenarios to locate deer trails, track a wounded deer, or train your dog to follow deer scent and use him in competitions and field trials. German shepherds are focused, motivated, and intelligent working dogs with strong prey drives and a keen sense of smell. You will want to harness and direct these attributes to train your dog to track deer.
You can start by making sure he is familiar with hunting terrain and the sights and sounds of a hunt. You can lay scent trails to follow and encourage your dog to focus on deer blood and scent trails while ignoring competing scents. Because they are people oriented working dogs, your German shepherd will look to you for direction. Be sure to provide guidance patiently and motivate your dog. When your dog locates a wounded animal, you will want your German shepherd to signal you. Be prepared to reward and reinforce signaling behavior such as barking to let you know game has been located.
Acclimating your dog to guns, other hunters, and the presence of prey animals, as well as ensuring your dog has good off leash recall, are all important steps to prepare for tracking deer. You may also want to fit your dog with a radio collar so you can find him if you become separated in thick underbrush. You can purchase deer scent or obtain deer blood and apply it to a cloth or drag item to create a scent trail or use an actual deer hide to help train your dog to follow the scent.