Twelve days until the beginning of bow season and the start of Sparta and I's first season of tracking wounded game together. The closer we get to the beginning of our first season and the more realistic I try to make our training, the deeper my understanding of how this will be a truly team effort.
I am more excited about this season than any deer season since my first.
Still even the best teams have a success rate of about 50%, and that is based upon the calls they actually go out on. The search really begins when doing a phone interview with the person wanting to call in a dog to find their deer. There are calls where it is worth no one's time or money to even head out.
But even once you get out, even if you're dog is great, there are plenty of unknowns.
The science of scent is far from complete. There is plenty that we do not know. Take two sample tracks from my own dog run a week apart. The first had me ecstatic and ready to take on the world. The second left me feeling defeated and doubtful.
Now even the second track doesn't look that bad. We followed the trail for a long while, but in the real world deer do not leave colorful markers to let you know you are on the right path. Owing to the amount of blood that I used on the track and the light drizzle we'd received after I laid it (good for scent but not necessarily for visual identification), I doubt there would have been much visual sign to confirm we were on the right track.
In other words, on that second track not only would we have not found the deer, we may have never known with certainty that we were actually on the track.
I have hopes as well as doubts.
Sparta has only tracked artificial lines and while she is happy to do it to please me (and for the deer parts waiting for her at the end), I suspect her high prey drive will improve her performance when she realizes there we are tracking a real "thing that needs to die."
She will experience more in a real track than our blood laid mock ups. It won't be my sent mixed in with cattle blood, it will be a wounded animal blowing off hormones indicating stress and pain. Dogs, properly trained, can detect low blood sugar, how much easier should it me for a dog trained to kill to identify a collapsed lung?
Still, I am excited at the approaching season and Sparta has loved the training so much that I can't wait to see her on the real thing. Hopefully, photo's of her and found deer will be forthcoming.
For now, here is a video from that successful track.