It happens to us all; everyone makes a bad shot on a deer every once in a while; it’s part of being a hunter.
This is where blood dogs, otherwise known as deer tracking dogs come in. Any dog can be a deer tracking dog, but we’ve compiled a list of the 8 best deer tracking dogs for you.
Best deer tracking dogs:
If you’re in a hurry to run out and buy a deer tracking dog, pick one from this list. If you got a bit more time, scroll down and find out what makes these breeds the best.
- Blackmouth Curs
- German Shorthaired Pointer
- Bavarian Mountain Hound
- Blue Lacy
- 1 Can you use dogs to track deer?
- 2 Blackmouth Curs
- 3 Dachsund
- 4 Labrador
- 5 German Shorthaired Pointer
- 6 Bloodhound
- 7 Beagle
- 8 Bavarian Mountain Hound
- 9 Blue Lacy
- 10 On lead or Off lead
- 11 What to look for in a deer tracking dog
- 12 How long after a deer is shot can a dog track it
- 13 How do you train a dog to track deer
- 14 Conclusion
Can you use dogs to track deer?
Before we go any further, it’s best to know can you use dogs to track deer. This depends on where you are in the world. In some parts of Europe, dogs are used to track large game animals and cornering them for the hunter to make a shot.
Here in the U.S., dogs are used to track deer after the hunter made a poor shot.
However, deer tracking dogs are illegal in some states, so it’s best to check with your local DNR before getting a dog for tracking.
The most common large game animal tracked in the U.S is the whitetail deer, but tracking dogs can track a host of other animals such as bears, elk, moose, etc.
One of the top dogs for deer tracking is the Blackmouth Cur. While experts are unsure of the exact history of the blackmouth cur, everyone can agree that they are prolific in the hunting field.
This breed performs well on both on-leash and off-leash tracks.
While not recommended for a complete beginner, this breed is still relatively easy to train. They require clear and concise training, but they are sensitive and will not respond well to harsh training.
Although many people consider this breed nothing more than a house pet, the Dachshund is one of the best deer tracking dogs ever to exist.
Don’t let the size of this pint-sized breed fool you; the Dachshund has what can only be described as an incredible nose.
Dachsunds were bred to use their nose as scent hounds. While they were mostly bred for tracking small burrowing animals like rabbits and foxes, clued in trackers quickly caught on to their exceptional noses and started using them for larger game like hogs and deer.
While they are definitely at the top of the table for deer tracking dogs, beginners should consider a different breed, as the Dachshund can be a handful to train.
As it turns out, the most popular dog in the U.S is also one of the most proficient at deer tracking.
The much-loved labrador is really a jack of all trades. Their tracking ability is just as good as their duck retrieving ability.
Labs are especially easy to train and make a great family pet.
German Shorthaired Pointer
The GSP was bred to be an all-purpose sporting dog. This is another breed with a stellar nose that you can often see being put to use in upland hunting.
However, they perform not only well in upland hunting; many hunters will also use their GSP to track deer.
I know from personal experience that my GSP likes tracking deer just as much as she likes upland hunting.
The great thing about the GSP is they are one of the easier breeds to train. Their instincts kick in from a very young age, and all they want to do is put their nose to use.
While this is a great breed for a beginner, anyone considering this breed should be made aware of the GSP’s extremely high energy levels.
The bloodhound or sleuth hound is a specialized tracking dog and is rivaled by no other.
This highly tuned breed was bred to do one thing and do it exceptionally well, track deer and boar.
Bloodhounds work best for on-leash tracking as they have a tendency to roam.
In Europe, where they use bloodhounds off-leash, it’s not unusual for the dog to come home 2 or 3 days after the hunt as it had roamed off somewhere.
Bloodhounds are not so difficult to train, but it is beneficial to start obedience training early.
For tracking training, this bred has it bred into its instincts, and it will come naturally.
If your only requirement of a dog is to track deer, there is no better breed than a bloodhound.
The beagle is similar to the Dachshund in both size and the purpose it was bred for.
Beagles are infamous for scenting rabbits and are just as good at deer tracking.
Their small size allows them to track in heavy cover, just like the Dachshund.
Beagles will have a tendency to be very vocal when hunting, and it would not be unusual to hear them barking or howling while tracking.
This intelligent breed is not difficult to train but does need a gentle, compassionate trainer.
Bavarian Mountain Hound
Bavarian mountain hounds are similar to bloodhounds in that they were bred to be scent hounds.
In fact, Baron Karg-Bebenburg created the breed solely for the purpose of tracking deer in the mountainous regions of Bavaria.
The Bavarian mountain hound is a rare breed, and not many are found outside of the tracking community.
Last but not least on our list is the Blue Lacy. This breed is the state dog of Texas after been developed there in the 1800s for hunting herding and ranch work.
This breed is not recommended for beginners due to its high prey drive and sensitive nature.
However, it is their high prey drive that makes them excellent deer tracking dogs.
When developing this breed, the Lacy brothers placed deer tracking high on the list of requirements.
On lead or Off lead
In most states that allow deer tracking dogs, you must keep your dog on the leash while tracking deer.
However, in some states, the dog is allowed to track off-leash.
Unless your dog is extremely well trained, it’s best to practice leash tracking.
An off-leash tracking dog needs exceptional obedience, recall, and attention span.
What to look for in a deer tracking dog
Each person will have different requirements when looking for a deer tracking dog. This will depend on your experience, the area you are hunting, and in some cases, the legal aspects.
However, for the most part, a lot of things desired in a tracking dog are universal.
Here are a few things to consider when searching for a tracking dog:
When choosing a deer tracking dog, the obvious first requirement is a good nose. This is going to be the one tool that can make or break a good deer tracking dog.
A lot of the other things can be fixed or worked on to some degree, but the better the sense of smell the dog has, the better the chance at finding deer.
Breeds like the bloodhound have an exceptional sense of smell, which is why they are used worldwide, not only for deer tracking but also in specialized search and rescue missions.
It’s hard work for a dog to track an animal. Their muscles tense, their nose goes down, and they are focused for the duration of the track.
This requires more stamina than you may think. Sometimes the dog could be tracking for more than 2 hours.
When your dog is tracking, it needs to focus only on the scent it is tracking.
A dog that easily loses attention will be distracted by many different things out in the field.
There are going to be many different scents, wildlife, and different noises that will distract them.
A good tracking dog will ignore these things and focus on the scent it is tracking.
A good tracking dog is determined to find the quarry. As I mentioned above, some dogs in Europe are so determined they will only return after days of tracking.
While we have no intention of leaving our dogs in the field for days at a time, they still need that level of determination.
If the dog is getting bored after 30 minutes of tracking, it will not be very successful at its job.
If you are hunting in an area with thick brush, size might be a factor worth considering.
Small dogs like beagles or dachshunds will have a much easier time tracking in this than a larger dog like a labrador would.
Most of the dogs on the list will be naturals at tracking and won’t need much training to hone their skills.
However, if you are tracking off-leash, the dog needs to be trained extremely well.
The dog needs to focus on the track and not be tempted to wander off after other wildlife. They need to listen to and obey commands very well.
How long after a deer is shot can a dog track it
If you’ve made a bad shot and the deer made off, the natural thing to do is give it time. This could be anywhere from 8-24 hours.
24 hours might seem like a long time, but this wouldn’t be an issue for a tracking dog.
A dog can track a blood trail as old as 2 days.
A few factors may lengthen or shorten that window, such as rain. Heavy rain will shorten the window and wash away the scent. Light rain will actually do the opposite and hold the scent.
If there is frost on the ground, this will also work in the dog’s favor, whereas warm weather will make it more difficult.
How do you train a dog to track deer
Training a dog to track deer is not particularly hard. It’s a fun time to spend bonding with your new tracking puppy.
Most dogs on the list will already have instincts to track, and you’re just helping them to hone in on their skills.
Puppies have a very short attention span, so when starting to train your puppy to track, it’s best to start with short sessions.
Make the training session a game for the pup. This way, they will enjoy it and look forward to tracking time.
Before using any scents, it’s a good idea to start tracking with treats. Drop the treats around the yard and, with the dog harnessed, make several walks past the treat at different distances.
This way, the pup will be able to pick up on the scent and start looking for it.
Once the dog gets used to the idea of searching for treats, it’s time to introduce commands.
To do this, you can have your dog sit and stay or tethered. Go out and place a treat in long grass, still within view of the dog.
Once the treat is placed, you can release the dog and command him to go find the treat.
It’s an important step to praise the dog after he finds the treat.
If your dog has been successful at finding the treats on short searches, you can introduce tracks and blind tracks.
Gradually place the treat further away.
You can also start introducing blind tracks. To do this, you can place the treats the day before.
It’s important to note here that the dog can follow your scent also. So as the dog improves, you can use scent-free rubber boots or have someone else place the treats.
Once the dog has gotten used to finding blind treats, it’s time to start introducing new scents.
You can use a deer hide or any part of the deer with a fresh scent to introduce the new scents to the dog.
Keep the deer frozen before using it to retain the scent.
This is best done over a longer track where you can make a trail with the scent by dragging it.
Again, it’s important to reward the dog once he finds the hide.
The last step of training a deer tracking dog is to use deer blood.
This step should be reserved for when the dog is working across long trails and obeying commands.
You may need to keep the dog on the leash for the first couple of times and guide him along the trail until he knows to follow the blood trail.
However, for most blood dogs, this will come naturally.
You can start with a heavy blood trail poured on the part of the deer you are using, and as the dog progresses, you can use less and less.
If you are fortunate enough to live in a state that allows deer tracking with dogs, it’s a great hobby to have.
Not only will it allow you to track for yourself, but it also gives you the opportunity to help out fellow hunters.