Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Hungry Dogs Hunt

A while back, I started a blood trailing track on a large buck with an awesome rack and because it was the hunter's first-ever trophy archery kill, it was kind of special for this young lady below.

I started the track with my best dog who had found numerous deer through the years and who unbeknown to me had dumped a small metal trash can full of dry dog food the night before, and gorged himself. You can see the belly hanging down in the photo below.

As a rule, I keep my dogs light and hungry all during deer season and I always feed them a cupful of dry dog food at the truck right before I start the track so they have something in their belly while we hunt.

 AFTER a track, on the other hand, when we return to the truck and before I load them up, I feed the dogs heavy. I always keep about 10-15 pounds of dry dog food in the back seat of my truck for feeding after a track because the dogs always know where the next meal is. Should I lose the dog while on track, because I am almost always tracking off-leash, they know where the next meal will happen and they can follow the sound and find their way out of the unfamiliar woods and back to the truck without me looking for them. I ALWAYS blow a horn when I feed them after a track so the dogs associate the horn with food and know when it is feeding time. And a hungry dog will come to the horn if you train them that way.

If they get turned around and are lost in the woods and they hear the horn, they know where the truck is and can follow the sound out of the woods. I have had dogs get lost in thunderstorms and heavy downpours and it took a few hours for them to reappear. Now I am guessing most states do not as yet allow trackers to trail wounded deer off-leash like Louisiana and Texas does, but as a rule, it is too dense with vegetation along the Gulf coast to track otherwise. And Louisiana law states that we are to use every means possible to recover any wild game that is shot and lost. And for the record, 'any means possible' includes tracking off-leash in my book!

  Back at the house, I buy in bulk and always keep a few hundred pounds of dry dog food in metal trash cans and 55-gallon barrels with metal lids to protect it from the rats and mice. I am a breeder and a trainer and often keep 20-30 dogs at a time. Sometimes the dogs sneak in and get into my bulk supply of dry dog food without my noticing because as a rule, my dog's diet year-round is 80-90% raw meat because I have lived a mile away from a huge slaughterhouse with lots of raw beef meat by-products year-round, for the last 15 years. Below is a 50 lb. block of frozen raw meaty beef bones that I got out of my freezer and Jesse is waiting for it to thaw out.

Anyway, back to the track with the experienced dog with the belly full. As it turns out there was a herd of omnivorous wild hogs nearby who were I'm guessing, planning to eat some venison before we arrived and I could hear them in the distance.

If I could hear them, my old dog could smell them and bless his heart, my old tracking dog loves to bay hogs at home in a pen and hunt wild hogs in the woods in the offseason right after deer season closes. I am guessing with his belly full, he was bored with the prospect of tracking a dead deer and was not interested in helping us find someone's dead deer. No that is not fun when there is wild hogs about 40-50 yards away! He wanted some excitement, to go have some for real Catahoula good-time fun and look for trouble with the herd of wild hogs. BTW: you can't make a Catahoula do something if he doesn't want to! They are very hard-headed by nature.

                                           You got to love Catahoulas grit!

As a rule, Louisiana Catahoula Curs are year-round working dogs who hunt squirrels, track wounded deer, bay hogs, pen wild cattle, are private property security guards and play with the kids after school. If you don't believe me, then you don't understand Texas and Louisiana Catahoula Curs!

       Valyrie was never trained to hunt squirrels, but she damn well knew what she was doing!

 Louisiana Catahoulas are year-round working dogs who need a job, and I suggest if you get one for tracking wounded deer, if at all possible that you keep them busy and hunt squirrels, track wounded deer, bay hogs and pen wild cattle if you can, so the dogs stay busy year-round.

 Because if you don't, then they will drive you crazy, and you don't understand a well-bred Louisiana Catahoula Cur!

OK, back to the track!

Once I realized that my best dog would not track the deer, I walked a 1/2 mile back to the truck, put him in the kennel, and got a couple of yearlings out and they took us straight to the dead deer.

Bear in mind that these two yearlings were hungry, and had never found a deer in their life, but they were raised in my blood trail dog training facility and had eaten raw meat since they were young pups.

I am Marcus de la Houssaye and I can be reached by email:>

Raising And Training At An Early Age

This is an excerpt from an article by John Jeanneney about how crucial proper stimulation of the brain is in early puppy development.

Many people believe training and good breeding is the primary keys to a high functioning working dog, and as true as that is, there is also a major factor in raising a puppy that most people who have not raised a lot of puppies know nothing of, by sheer lack of experience.

In almost thirty years of breeding Louisiana Catahoulas, I have developed a good gene pool, but there is a lot to proper socialization and mental stimulation that many people cannot seem to understand and usually only accomplish by luck rather than conscious process. For lack of a better term, I try to educate people about the importance of a 'relationship' between the owner and the dog, and you could call it bonding, or socializing. Ideally, that happens naturally when you buy your tracking dog as a puppy.

This is a relationship built over time, upon mutual respect, appreciation and teamwork.

Here is the excerpt:

Mental Conditioning and Training Pups
©John Jeanneney
For Full Cry Magazine, July 2007

“Doing what comes naturally.” That’s the refrain that appeals to every hound owner, myself included. But over the years I’ve come to realize that there’s more involved when you train tracking dogs to find wounded deer.

I suppose that I was “handicapped” by starting out with Clary, my first tracking dog and the best I have ever owned. It seemed as if Clary was born knowing how to track wounded deer. After a difficult adolescence, she suddenly became a success. All she had to do was patiently educate her somewhat retarded handler.

Without training Clary tracked and found the first wounded deer on her first opportunity. No blood, except a few drops at the hit site and the deer went 400 yards through open fields. I was tracking for a wildlife official with law enforcement credentials.

This experience got me started but it also gave me some misleading ideas that required years of experience to wash out of my system. Yes genetics is important (I was a devoted student of the late J. Richard McDuffie), but genetics is not everything. Today I believe that most dogs, and perhaps even the one in a thousand type dogs like Clary, develop even better if they are exposed to early mental conditioning and training.

So why am I confusing you with these old ideas that I’ve outgrown or expanded? My answer? Because I think I went through a natural process of learning that we all share if we decide to develop a new capability in some of our dogs to track wounded deer.

Tracking wounded deer is different from other kinds of scent work. Everything depends on staying on the right line and ignoring red hot lines of healthy deer. This is not so simple. Imagine going into a hayfield or food plot at night; it’s filled with healthy deer. But these are of no interest to you and to your tracking dog; instead you want to track a wounded deer that crossed 12 or 24 hours ago. If there was any blood at all, the occasional drops slipped down between the grass blades where you can’t see it. For this situation you need a smart dog, a dog whose brain has been developed to make distinctions. I believe that you can make that dog smarter if you begin early to develop the brain circuitry required to make those distinctions. Some of this does come naturally, and this natural part is a matter of genetics, but extensive research on human babies, at one end, and baby rats at the other end, has shown that learning capacity, the full extent of the brain’s “wiring” also grows in response to stimulation and excitement. If this is true for humans and rats, as fMRI studies and dissections have shown, why wouldn’t it be true for dogs that stand somewhere in between rats and humans?

Even if you are persuaded that early mental conditioning is worth it, how do you work with pups in your own “Head Start” program? It’s not that easy because a five week-old puppy’s powers of concentration are close to zero. He may have mastered finding his Momma’s teat, but beyond this skill finding the feed pan 10 feet way is about all he can handle. There’s a solution. Now is the time to start keeping and using all those deer livers that you have been leaving in the woods for the coyotes after gutting a deer. At least in my part of the country most deer hunters don’t keep the livers. Maybe they’re worried about cholesterol.

Even if you like deer liver, I think that it’s worth sacrificing it to the higher cause of mental conditioning young puppies. There is absolutely nothing like the scent of liver for turning on young pups. And child research has shown that the memory grows best when things are learned in a mood of excitement…with the adrenaline pumping. Most pups are fascinated by liver, even more than heart, or muscle meat.

I attach a length of baler twine to a hole in the raw liver and swing it in front of the pups. They sink their little teeth into it and pull. Then I drag it a few feet, and they follow with their nose and eyes. They grab it and chew again.

After this you move out on the lawn, out of sight of the pups, and you lay your first liver drag. Mark the beginning well, because there won’t be any visible blood, and then drag the liver 10, 20 or 30 feet, whatever distance you think the pups can handle. Put an angle in it so they will have to change course. Leave the liver at the end. Wait a half hour and then bring in the pups, one or two at a time.

They may not do very well at first with the scent line but don’t worry. This is not a test or even a training exercise. This is mental conditioning. The puppies are frantic to get to that liver and sink their teeth into it. And in their excitement and desire those brain neurons are growing and networking. The pay-off will come much later.

It took me thirty years of experimenting to conclude that the liver drag is the best way to stimulate very young pups and introduce them early to the Great Truth that a ground scent line goes from “A” to “B”. You can accomplish this in other ways, but I find that deer liver works best. A dragged deer heart will work, but it does not seem to have the same acrid turn-on scent. A dragged deer leg will work too, but it is bulkier keep in the freezer, and it doesn’t leave as narrow and precise a line of scent.

In the next stage of development, which becomes training as well as mental conditioning, you will want to shift over to use of deer blood. More about this in a moment. The problem with fresh blood is that all the pups want to do is lick it right at the starting point. They are not as motivated to move out with the line to get to what’s at the end because they are getting good tastes right at the start. In contrast the dragged liver leaves an enduring scent that holds up at puppy level for several hours. I have seen a mature dog track a 24 hour liver line across mowed, wind-swept field with no difficulty at all. Liver has its own magic!

By eight or ten weeks you can shift over to blood. You will be aging it two to four hours now, so you won’t have the problem of pups hanging up on the line as they stop to lick wet blood. Use a sponge on a stick or a drip bottle and place a drop or a small dab of blood every foot or every yard. Adjust the distance to what you feel the “reaching” capabilities of the pup are at this point.

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