For many families, deer camp is an annual tradition. Whether heading 'up north' or staying in southern Wisconsin, the Badger State consistently ranks as one of the top states for whitetail deer hunting.
After hunters pull the trigger, the responsibility of tracking the deer begins. Many hunters say it is their responsibility to respect the animal and recover it by any means necessary. Humans can struggle following a deer's blood trail; which is why many turn to small, four-legged friends for help.
"I get a lot of kind of weird looks sometimes when I show up to track a big mature whitetail deer and I’ve got these little guys with," says Robert Nelson while he stands next to his two dachshunds. When it comes to tracking deer, Carl and Jager are trained professionals. They are bred for the business of tracking.
“Their ability to work through that heavy cover and get under the brush with ease really just makes it nice," says Nelson. Nelson runs Jager's Deer Recovery, a service that helps hunters recover a shot deer.
Nelson says hunters have a due diligence to recover a shot animal by any means possible. He says he started the service partially because he loves working with his dogs, but they aren't the only reason. "A larger portion of me does this for the animal who deserves to be recovered.
Nelson belongs to United Blood Trackers, an organization that promotes animal recovery through trained tracking dogs. There are more than 30 trained trackers listed in Wisconsin. United Blood Trackers encourages hunters to try to call a tracker close to their area, even if that tracker may be in a different state.
Deer hunters should try to assist the trackers by getting permission from any neighbors to track on their land if necessary. They should also back out of the area if they did not see the deer go down, to avoid dragging the deer's scent around. “So when I bring the dog out there, it does make it a bit more complicated for the dog to work through that kind of cobweb of deer scent," says Nelson.
Nelson stresses although trained tracking dogs are a great tool for hunters to use, they should never be a crutch for hunters to take an unethical shot.
More resources for deer hunting in Wisconsin can be found on the DNR's website.