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The author’s dog, Bartok “Hugo” Ahornzwinger, is a wirehaired dachshund, a breed often used to track wounded big game. He just passed his first field test for United Blood Trackers. Photo by Matt Vincent

As hunters put in for big game tags in Arizona and begin thinking about plans this fall there is one aching gap in Arizona Game and Fish regulations that needs to be addressed – the ability for hunters to access game recovery dogs to find wounded game.

 

Tracker Scott Gillespie, Lucy (dachshund), Lynas and recovered elk.

Forty three states allow tracking dogs as a reliable conservation component to reduce waste of big game species. In the vast majority of states the dog is required to be on a lead and in constant control by the handler. Most inveterate hunters have experienced the loss of a wounded animal at some point in their history. Those that haven’t are both lucky and, likely, take close approach shots with a rifle or the pull of their bow. But we all know the advances in optics, ammo and archery equipment provide opportunities for longer take downs – and also the opportunity to critically wound an animal that still has enough juice left to evade harvest.

Scott Gillespie and Lucy (dachshund) on a recovered black bear.

Game recovery dogs can solve many of these lost target issues during what becomes a stressful and emotional moment for hunters. The results can be amazing and salvage what may be the trophy elk, mule deer, Coues deer or bear of a lifetime (and one that possibly cost decades of bonus points to garner).

 

“A strong case can be made for the use of tracking dogs, both as a means of reducing animal suffering, and as a way of reducing the waste of a valuable natural resource,” says John Jeanneney in his landmark book Tracking Dogs for Finding Wounded Deer. “There are political and social implications involved that cannot be disregarded”

 

Efforts by United Blood Trackers of America, which has a searchable database of tracker contact info and resources on tracking and recovering big game, has transformed the conservation landscape by working to get state game and fish regulations in line with contemporary conservation concepts. In the West, too, there are social media landing spots like Rocky Mountain Big Game Recovery on Facebook that can guide hunters to being prepared for hunting season and lessons about arrow or rifle impact zones and what that means for recovering wounded game. In many cases, recovery dogs can be used at little to no cost compared to the financial outlay of the overall hunt itself.

Joe Bradley and a recovered mule deer that was partially consumed by a bear.

“Tracking is a serious business. It is about recovering a wounded animal that might be still alive, in great distress and pain,” according to Steven McGonigal and Julia Szeremeta in their book The International Working Teckel. “It all starts with the hit spot and a description from the hunter what has happened – an experienced tracker is like a detective, putting all the information together to determine whether and when to start tracking. Depending on the shot placement, the wounded animal needs time to expire.”

Hopefully, the Arizona Game and Fish agency can address this gap in hunting regulations and in the future consider allowing the use of tracking dogs (on a 30-foot lead) for recovering wounded game. Hunters will be grateful, and the resource will be more healthy and cared for as a result. For more information go to www.unitedbloodtrackers.org or visit the Facebook site for Rocky Mountain Big Game Recovery to chat with trackers throughout the region.

Reprinted courtesy of Arizona Wildlife Federation.

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