Eric Morken: Train your dog to track big game in a few easy steps – Alexandria Echo Press

Alexandria – Gus, our 4-year-old black lab, was emitting excited whines from our dining room as I began to gather my gear for a summer hunt on the afternoon of Oct. 9.

This is typical for hunting dogs. Toss some blaze orange for pheasant hunting or grab a shotgun to go swamp hunting for waterfowl and a good bird dog has a sense of what’s ahead. Gus now knows that there is potential for fun when I catch my bow.

I even debated whether or not to bring it today. It was a 50-minute drive to hunt this tiny 7-hectare patch. If I hit a deer, I’ve gone too far to come home and get it, but Minnesota has kicked my butt the first two weeks of this archery season.

I had a couple of close calls in September where I chose not to force a hit and then had a couple of empty seats. Could this hunt be any different?

The temperature was cool enough that Gus was able to stay comfortable in the truck while I sat. Every hunt is a new opportunity to fill a tag, so I put him in the kennel and off we went.

I had never hunted this piece of woods, but I had a general understanding of it when I hunted the adjacent timber strip that is now for sale in my early 20s.

The land plan has some thick cover to the north, sumac on a high shelf to the south, and white and red oaks on the bottom. A large patch of forest looms over the blacktop to the east, and parallel to the trees to the west is an area of ​​short grass and pine trees.

Going in, I had very limited space to work with, but the deer sign was good. Many trails lead north and south through the trees and into adjoining properties.

About 70 yards from the sumac, I entered the white oaks at the base of the ridge, high enough for deer to sleep. He marked the spot I had chosen to set up fresh waste near the crossroads.

At about 17:45 when I first saw it, a large jungle appeared 30 meters away. I hid behind a tree trunk in my hunting saddle with bow in hand. He walked about three meters and looked at me.

Heaven nodded a few times before slowly turning and taking a few steps. This was my chance to draw a bow.

He turned wide, but I didn’t want to let loose an arrow with his gait or try to stop him and scare him more. He stopped to the left of my shooting lane as I stretched my legs out of the tree to stand up a bit and get a better vantage point.

Next to his vitals was an opening the size of a softball. At 10 yards and shooting a 200-grain single-angle broadhead, that’s a shot I can make. I placed the pin and went in just as the arrow hit the back of his shoulder in the middle of his body.

Gus could barely contain himself as I climbed into the truck and attached the lead rope to his collar.

Using dogs to track big game after shooting is now legal in nearly every state in the country. Most states, including Minnesota, require the dog to be on a leash and under the control of a handler at all times during the track.

We got to the set and Gus immediately took off. It went slightly off course and I decided to go back and start it again. This time it was clear that he was on the right track.

For upland bird hunters, imagine the dog’s body language just before the hunt or lock on point. That was Gus for this entire track.

He led me down a path and then into the thickest brush on the property. We had gone about 85 yards when I looked up in my headlamp and saw him. Gus’s nose was stuck to the ground as he frantically searched for a few more seconds before finding the prize.

It was my second deer of the 2022 season that Gus put me on the right track. None of them had long roads. The goal of archers is obviously to make good shots that lead to quick kills, but using Gus strengthened our bond and made hunting more exciting.

Train your dog to track big game

This shot, taken on September 4, 2022 in North Dakota, ran into a cornfield on its feet. It was Gus’ first tracking job and he was on a deer within minutes. Last summer, short training sessions were held several times a week where Gus was introduced to the scent the dogs need to identify while tracking big game, preparing him for the start of this archery season.

Photo courtesy of Mali Morken

You can also train your dog to do this. I’m sure because I’m certainly not an expert dog trainer.

Between work and a family with two young children, my time is limited, but spending an hour and a half a few nights a week last summer was all I did to prepare Gus for this season.

I spent $39.99 on a tracking dog training system kit through a company called DogBone. It came with a short training manual, a piece of deer hide, a drag line, and a glass blood trail sniffer that introduced the dog to the scent of a wounded deer.

Gus has a strong background in pheasant hunting which I believe helped him with this training. It took him two trips to get a good idea of ​​what we were doing. We started with short, easy trails in our lawn, eventually working our way up to more rugged trails into taller grass and trees.

When the buck I shot in North Dakota on September 4, 2022 landed in a standing corn field, I had no idea what to expect from Gus. I led him to the edge of the corn where the deer entered and gave the order. “Work.”

Within minutes we were standing on the biggest buck I had ever shot.

Dogs are incredibly talented animals. They need our guidance as handlers, but I am constantly amazed at how much instinct a good hunting dog has. Teach them proper obedience and then put them on as many birds as possible in hunting situations. I have hunted fantastic dogs whose pheasant training consisted solely of this.

Watching the big game with Gus seems to follow a similar path. I gave him the main guidance. The rest will be enhanced by keeping it on the road as much as possible between deer that I shoot and others that friends and family shoot.


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