Ep. 23: Blood Tracking and Science DogsIn this episode of The Silvercore Podcast, Travis Bader speaks with Lindsay Ware of Science Dogs of New England situated in Maine, USA and discusses how she got into tracking animals for hunters with the help of dogs, different signs and evidence to look for when tracking and how you can teach your dog to track as well.
Travis Bader: [00:00:00] I’m Travis Bader and this is The Silvercore Podcast. Join me as I discuss matters related to hunting, fishing, and outdoor pursuits with the people in businesses that comprise of the community. If you’re new to Silvercore, be sure to check out our website, www.Silvercore.ca where you can learn more about courses, services, and products that we offer, as well as how you can join the Silvercore Club, which includes 10 million in North America wide liability insurance to ensure you are properly covered during your outdoor adventures.
[00:00:43] Today I’m speaking with Lindsay Ware of Science Dogs of New England all the way in beautiful Maine. Silvercore listener, Janna Rist suggested Lindsay to be a guest on our podcast, and I’m really thankful she did. Lindsay is a biologist who has spent much time traveling through the United States and Canada conducting research for various government, nonprofit organizations and has done extensive work in the biomedical field.
[00:01:05] Lindsay is a professional dog trainer and she uses her dogs to assist research teams and hunters in a pretty cool way. Welcome, Lindsay.
Lindsay Ware: [00:01:14] Thank you.
Travis Bader: [00:01:14] There’s a whole ton of things I want to be able to talk to you about, including tips for hunters and resources for people who want to train their own dogs. But perhaps we should start at the beginning. How did you get started with Science Dogs?
Lindsay Ware: [00:01:27] Well, Science Dogs began with the service that we do for hunters, the blood tracking service, and so, and that began with actually a dog. So I was doing a lot of dog training and. I had a dog that needed something to do and he was an awful, awful duck hunting companion.So I didn’t want to spend my time in the duck blind with this dog, I needed to find something kind of unique for him, something where he could use his nose and also be moving. At the same time, I wanted a conservation task for him.
Travis Bader: [00:02:06] Right.
Lindsay Ware: [00:02:07] So I found out about blood tracking. So, which is a really important part of conservation, side of hunting, but not kind of the traditional use of a dog in hunting like it would be in the duck blind. And so we started doing some large game tracking to help hunters recover their animals. And it was very much kind of a, Oh, I’m going to do this for fun and I accidentally got completely addicted to it.
Travis Bader: [00:02:39] I love it when that happens.
Lindsay Ware: [00:02:41] I know! So that turned into increasing my dog training work, doing that on a more professional level with obedience training and then wondering how many more things can I do to work with dogs and conservation and also bring in my background in wildlife biology. And so that’s how Science Dog started officially.
[00:03:07] I really formalized the blood tracking service part of it, and then started doing scent detection, which was aimed more at research and helping biologists find research targets, which are for wildlife biologists are going to usually be plants or animals. And we use the dogs to help us with that because they can find things with their nose a lot better than we can see things.
Travis Bader: [00:03:33] That’s really cool. I should imagine that you’d probably want special types or breeds of dogs. You probably don’t want a high energy Border Collie running around everywhere. What, what kind of dogs lend themselves well, to your line of work?
Lindsay Ware: [00:03:48] Well, it’s actually a huge range of dogs that would work for it. And probably if you asked five other people, you’d get five other opinions on this because we all have our little special breeds that we like. That and, and based on the task that you’re doing, it’s you, your opinions are kind of gonna vary.
[00:04:05] So for the blood tracking piece, which is strictly the hunter service, where we go out and track a animal that has been shot, but for whatever reason, there’s not an adequate visual blood trail for them to follow to recover their animal.
[00:04:20] We, many people, I shouldn’t say we as everybody, but many people, if you’re having a dog that specializes in that work, you want something that is going to be working close to the line. By that I mean, they’re going to have their nose kind of down and not using the wind as much.
Travis Bader: [00:04:43] Okay.
Lindsay Ware: [00:04:44] My dog that right now is, his only task is blood tracking, is actually a German Wirehaired Docksin.
Travis Bader: [00:04:51] Oh really?
Lindsay Ware: [00:04:52] Yes. And he is one of the most popular breeds to use for this work because they’re small and they can get under everything. If he needs to get over anything, I can give him a little boost. His nose is close to the ground because of a short legs and they’re actually, the European version of Dotsons we call them Teckels is a very common breed for this work because they are genetically a kind of predisposition to this work. They, they have been doing this for generations in Europe, so their natural setup.
Travis Bader: [00:05:23] So it keeps the training time to a minimum and just let them do their thing.
Lindsay Ware: [00:05:26] Yeah, they use a lot of their natural ability and we do do a lot of training with them, but they are real naturals at it. And there are several other breeds that are naturals at it as well. Many hound breeds are naturally very good at it, but really if you look at, if you were to take a huge group of trackers, you’d actually find a huge variety of breeds. And the reason is because you know, when I first started blood tracking, I actually used a Lab because I was into duck hunting.
[00:05:54] I thought I was going to teach him how to duck hunt which didn’t really work, but a lot of people do have successful duck hunting dogs that they also then want to go in the morning they want to hunt ducks in the afternoon, and they want to go help somebody find their deer that they can’t find that they had shot.
[00:06:09] So that factors into it a lot. For the scent detection work that we do for wildlife biologists, that work is using the, the air a lot more. So we do prefer a dog that is maybe less houndy and more like a Lab or Pointer or even the Border Collie you mentioned.
Travis Bader: [00:06:35] Right.
Lindsay Ware: [00:06:36] Not a bad choice and there’s actually several conservation detection dogs that are Border Collies or Border Collie mixes. The reason why herding dogs do tend to work well for that work is because of the high energy. We want them to be working pretty hard and we want them to be very driven for reward.
[00:06:55] And a lot of these herding dogs are like, give me my ball, give me my ball. That’s what they’re working for. Like a lot of law enforcement dogs are like that as well. They want their, their toy reward. So one of my scent detection dogs. Is a herding breed, she’s actually a working line Australian Shepherd.
Travis Bader: [00:07:12] Oh okay.
Lindsay Ware: [00:07:13] Yeah. But really any breeds, there’s, there’s conservation detection organizations out there that will use rescue dogs and they’re just looking for dogs that are smart and have a really high drive and high energy level, and they come in all sorts of breeds. They probably don’t know how, what the breed makeup is of half their dogs. They’re just really smart, energetic dogs that want to, you know, work for their toys and want to be outside and, and use their noses.
Travis Bader: [00:07:40] What is training one of these dogs look like? Do you have to start them really young and, and work them through? Or can you get an older dog and get them up to speed? What does it look like?
Lindsay Ware: [00:07:50] Either way, it really works and a lot of people use different strategies. Some people like to get older dogs so they can skip the whole puppy training thing because any dog person will know that that’s all whole lot of work.
[00:08:03] But I like to raise a dog from a puppy because dogs learn as soon as they are born as, or as soon as their eyes and ears open, right? So you can take a puppy that’s very, very young and start introducing them to their future work in a really basic way.
[00:08:23] Like for tracking my Wirewhair Docksin although his breeder was working with him before I even ever got him, when he was five weeks old, he was following a little piece of deer liver along the ground and tracking that and finding his little prize there. So that’s the advantage of puppies. Many people like older dogs as well to start with and it really, it’s really more a choice of personal preference really.
Travis Bader: [00:08:50] Interesting. So let’s say you’ve got a hunter out there and I guess typically what would happen, every state’s going to have different laws when it comes down to using animals for hunting. Just like in Canada, every province has different rules and regulations. In British Columbia where I’m situated, we’re allowed to use dogs for hunting. We can use them for small game and birds and upland game. We can use it for black bear, bobcat, lynx, cougar. If we’re hunting anything outside of that, the dog’s going to have to be on a leash.
[00:09:24] We can’t just let the dog run freely. And to my knowledge, we don’t really have anything like you have over there in Maine where we’ve got a resource where we can call up a, a company to help us track an animal after we’ve shot it. What is, what does it look like over there? Like do you have rules surrounding being able to use a dog for hunting or how you call the dog in afterwards? Can you paint a quick picture for me?
Lindsay Ware: [00:09:51] Sure. So every state is going to have different laws associated with using a dog to recover a large game animal. In Maine and in many parts of Northeastern United States we have a very separate set of laws surrounding tracking and it treats the tracking dogs separate from like a typical hunting dog, like a dog that you would use to hunt Ducks or Rabbits or something like that.
[00:10:20] So we have, as many States do, kind of a separate licensing system because dogs have been kind of removed from large game hunting in a lot of States, we don’t hunt deer with dogs. We do have a season for using dogs for bear, but we don’t have any dogs associated with, with deer hunting itself. It’s all after the shot.
[00:10:49] So it’s very separated and it’s like that in a lot of States. For us, we have a license that we have to obtain and we are kind of, it’s kind of more up to us to get the information out there that we are here, we are licensed, we’re available for people to call us.
[00:11:07] The state has now been seeing our program grow and seeing, especially the game wardens haven’t seen this benefit of having these folks out there that will drop everything and go out and help the hunters and go out sometimes in the middle of the night and do their best to get every animal that was hit out of the woods and into people’s freezers.
[00:11:30] So they’ve started promoting us a lot more and, and listing our numbers on the State website and things like that. But for the most part, we try our best to put our information out there, visit people at sportsman shows, handout business cards, and say, hi, this sounds crazy but we’re a bunch of really dedicated people that love to work with our dogs and love to go out and help you, so give us a call.
[00:11:57] And, and that’s pretty much how it, how it works. We, many of us are also a member of a members of a national organization called United Blood Trackers. And that organization has a neat little website where they’re a nonprofit organization that you can visit. You can click on a map and you can click on the state that, or province that you’re in and it’ll list people that are advertising their tracking services there.
Travis Bader: [00:12:28] That’s a great resource.
Lindsay Ware: [00:12:29] Yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:12:29] We’ll make sure to put that in the show notes for anybody who wants to check out the United Blood Trackers. I’ll have to look at that to see if there’s anyone in British Columbia doing your line of work. Do you have sort of repeat customers or do people get a little embarrassed having to call you guys more than once?
Lindsay Ware: [00:12:44] So back in the beginning it was very strange and awkward and people would get kind of embarrassed even to call us once it was, it was just kind of a weird thing. Now that in Maine and in a lot of the Northern or Northeast United States, it’s becoming more commonplace to hire a tracker, to use trackers to become a tracker.
[00:13:07] It’s just become, it’s really, really taking off. There is less, there’s less of that and we do get a lot of repeat people, not necessarily for them. I have a gentleman that I think I tracked for almost every year, but. It’s not, I don’t think I’ve ever actually tracked an animal that he’s hit. It’s always been a friend or a cousin or his daughter.
[00:13:29] It’s, it’s, he’s bringing in, he knows a lot of people in the hunting community, and when they call him and go, I need help, I can’t find this animal. He says, I know exactly who to call. And so that’s the most common way that we get repeat people.
[00:13:44] We do sometimes get repeat people that they’ve hunted for 30 years and never had an issue, and then they just have this streak of a couple of hits where they’re like, what is going on?
[00:13:55] It’s like I said, there’s less of a kind of embarrassment with it because I, I think as trackers we’re doing a really good job educating folks now and making people understand that this is something that happens and there’s a lot of different reasons for it. And traditionally, I think wounding an animal, not being able to find it was something that we didn’t really talk about in the hunting community.
Travis Bader: [00:14:18] Right.
Lindsay Ware: [00:14:18] It was something that we didn’t want people to get a hold of, if people that were against hunting, you know, heard us talking about it or saw evidence of it, they would get really upset.
[00:14:28] And I think where we’re moving now is, instead of taking that approach, let’s talk about the ways that we’re doing to make conservation better and to use every single tool we have in our toolbox, which in this case is our dogs, to recover as many animals as possible.
[00:14:48] And so that’s becoming the more commonplace attitude about it now is that, you know, let’s not, let’s not just have it be something we don’t really talk about, let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about how we go out to sportsman shows and teach hunters all about what to do after the shot and you know, hold seminars so new trackers can learn how to become blood trackers and basically promote it more.
Travis Bader: [00:15:12] And I’m glad that it’s being more accepted, better, better understood. And those two points I definitely want to talk about, but I just have this question in the back of my head. Is there a particular type of animal that you find over there that is more elusive that you get more calls looking for?
Lindsay Ware: [00:15:29] Well, we track deer the most in Maine, but that has more to do with the volume of deer hunters we have versus moose and bear. So they, we have less bear hunters. And with moose, we have a lottery system, so we only can have a certain number of abuse permits given out.
Travis Bader: [00:15:47] Okay.
Lindsay Ware: [00:15:48] Yeah, so it’s primarily deer, just because of the quantities of deer hunters we have out there and quantities of deer. For black bear I’ll say the, I’ll see the highest number of shots that just look totally perfect and black bear tend to just have this thing where they don’t leave a trail very well.
Travis Bader: [00:16:09] Not at all.
Lindsay Ware: [00:16:10] Like they have the fat content that tends to cause them to not bleed well. They have that paintbrush like coat that when you get up to a bear, it can be just soaked in blood, but none of it made it to the ground for a visual trail. And they also are in the craziest, thickest habitat.
Travis Bader: [00:16:31] Totally.
Lindsay Ware: [00:16:32] They’re in the worst habitat, and so it’s really hard to follow a blood trail when you were crawling through, you can’t even see anything cause it’s so thick, which is the type of stuff that bears like to live in. So that all combined, I would say bears are probably, percentage wise, would be the most that you would track if you were to compare it to how many were shot versus how many is be tracked with a dog.
Travis Bader: [00:16:57] Interesting. Yeah, that was sort of where my gut was, was sticking there because their trail can be, can be difficult at the best of times. So not, not to put you out of a job or anything, but if you want it to really give the lowdown tips for a hunter to be able to do their best job and not have to call you. What would you tell them what, what are some good tips or advice that would help them track their own animal?
Lindsay Ware: [00:17:23] So the first thing would be to try to be a little bit of a forensic detective after you hit an animal, and is this really hard to ask people to do this because you’re just, you’re so excited, right?
[00:17:37] So it’s hard to kind of calm down and be like, all right, it wasn’t a good shot. Where’d the animal go? What did the animal do? But that’s really going to be your best bet of deciding when to climb down from your stand or move from your spot to start tracking the animal. If the animal, if you educate yourself on some reactions or evidence types of, that indicate certain hits, then you can save yourself a lot of heartbreak.
[00:18:03] So if you see like a hunching action in the animal and the animal moves off slowly, that’s often an indication that the shot was a little bit further back than you intended. And if you can recognize that, especially if you look down and you see some dark blood, really dark blood or some stomach matter or something like that.
[00:18:25] If you can recognize that and realize that you need to back out and give that animal a little bit of more time than you normally would, you can save yourself a lot of trouble and a lot of heartbreak by just giving them that extra time instead of going and risking pushing that animal and then they do something that is going to prevent you from recovering them.
[00:18:44] So things like that can be super, super useful and that’s a lot of what we do as trackers. We sometimes give people the impression that we’re just, you’re basically renting us and our dog. You’re renting our dog, we go out and we just track it and we find it. And that’s not really what we do. We are doing a lot of this forensic analysis and trying to, people are so surprised by all the millions of questions we ask them when they call us, because we’re trying to figure out exactly what happened.
[00:19:09] So if a hunter can learn a little bit more about what kind of shades of blood, of red blood mean certain things and how to look for blood up on the trees as far as height, to be able to tell maybe where that animal was hit and if they learn some of that stuff, often that can help them make good decisions while tracking or look for blood and different.
[00:19:31] Sometimes, especially this happens with moose when we track moose. People don’t think, well all times really like, how tall is a moose? How high up on a tree do you have to look for blood for moose? It’s really high, but, but you know, if we’re used to deer hunting, we don’t think about that stuff so –
Travis Bader: [00:19:49] That’s a good point.
Lindsay Ware: [00:19:50] Thinking about that stuff is, is something that can be really helpful. And probably the most important thing, whether or not you’re going to eventually you need to call a dog or not, is just to try to stop and watch where you step and try to preserve the, the area as much as you can and mark the heck out of every spot that you find so that if you end up having trouble, you can go back to that last spot.
[00:20:15] Even if you don’t have flagging tape with you, get some toilet paper out.
Travis Bader: [00:20:18] Right.
Lindsay Ware: [00:20:19] Get your paper towel from your breakfast, you know, anything that you can find that you can mark, mark your trail. Just try to, try to treat it like there’s a possibility that you might have trouble.
Travis Bader: [00:20:32] That’s a great tip.
Lindsay Ware: [00:20:33] Yeah. Because often there’s a really good blood trail in the beginning and people are like, I got this, and you know, and then when they start to have trouble, they had it in their head that everything was fine.
[00:20:44] And they then suddenly it’s like they’ve stepped in the blood trail, which is going to confuse a dog if they need to call one. Even if they’re not going to call a dog, they’ve kind of tracked stuff everywhere. They didn’t mark where the hit site was, now they can’t remember exactly where the animal was hit, so they try to treat it like, okay, I’m not done yet.
[00:21:04] You know, I have to just think about, I might run into trouble, so what do I do just in case we start to have trouble tracking this.
Travis Bader: [00:21:13] So you bring up another really good point there. A lot of people might look at this and say, well, if you have a good dog, it’s well-trained and the dog does all the work. But really with any dog, animal interaction with humans, you really have to have a well-trained human behind that dog as well too.
[00:21:29] So when you guys are going out, you’ve got people who’ve got a good head on their shoulders, they know how to train their dogs, but they’ve also got the detective skills behind them, I should imagine.
Lindsay Ware: [00:21:42] Yes. That is a huge part of it. And when we train new trackers, that’s a huge part that we, one of the first things we try to get them to understand is that it’s so much more than following your dog.
[00:21:55] Now, there is a thing where you have to be careful to trust your dog for sure, because they do know more than you do when it comes to scent. But at the same time, you can lose a recovery by making poor human decisions. For sure. I know I’ve done it, everyone’s done it. And so it’s, it’s a huge piece of it.
[00:22:17] You really are a team with your dog and not only are you interpreting the evidence of what’s going on and making decisions about when to start the track or, you know, what time of day to start the track or things like that. But you’re, you’re also having to interpret the dog’s behaviour.
[00:22:36] You know what happens when they start to have trouble? What do you do? What do you do to help the dog? There’s been times where I have had to help my dog, and you need to kind of know how to tell your dog’s having trouble.
[00:22:48] Dogs have different body language, so there’s, there’s a lot more human aspect to the tracking than a lot of people think. A lot of times, you know, when they first call us for asking them a million questions and you know, they’re like, why are you asking those questions can you just come out here and help me find my deer?
[00:23:07] And you know, it’s, it’s because there’s a lot of things to process and a lot of little decisions to make as you’re tracking and, and evidence like the reason why I was talking earlier about breeds how many of us, like the dogs that are gonna stay closer to the line is that we call it blood tracking because it’s an easy thing to call it, but honestly, there’s not very much blood or else you wouldn’t be calling a person with a dog.
Travis Bader: [00:23:34] Right.
Lindsay Ware: [00:23:34] Right. So it’s a little bit of a misnomer. So what happens is we want the dog to be following that foot scent of that individual animal. And when we come upon blood, which is fantastic, we want to see every little spot of evidence.
[00:23:48] I mean, I’ve gone 900 yards with one and only had one spot of blood the entire time, this animal just did not bleed. And in that one little spot of blood, there’s evidence, there’s, what colour is it? Is it bright red? Is it dark red? Does it smell bad? Does it smell like nothing?
[00:24:03] And being able to process that gave us good information on what we should do throughout the track as far as you know, should we come back a couple of hours later and give the animal some more time, or should we keep pushing? There’s some hits where you actually want to keep going as soon as possible.
[00:24:22] So yeah, there’s, there’s so much more to it. When I first started, I was like, who knew this was so complicated to run around the woods with my dog? And you know, that was never going to find a deer every time and it was going to be great.
Travis Bader: [00:24:37] Well, that brings up a good point. Well, I, two things, I guess, number one, I should imagine there’s a window, and by the time you get called, the hunter has probably already spent a fair bit of time looking for the animal.
[00:24:49] So I guess, well, first question would be, what, is there a point of diminishing returns, like after a certain amount of time that your odds of successfully finding that that creature that the hunter is trying to harvest is going to be pretty tough? Well, what kind of timeframe are we looking at?
Lindsay Ware: [00:25:08] That’s a good question and it really does depend on a lot of factors, but in general, especially when I’m really busy in the fall, I want to take a Deer call before 24 hours after the shot. So once it gets longer than 24 hours after the shot, I start to get a little, like, if I’m not super busy, I’ll probably try it. But I start to get like, Oh, it’s gonna start to get kind of hard.
[00:25:32] With a bear you have longer, they tend to stink a little bit more, the stronger smelling. So I’ve, I’ve found bears at almost 48 hours before and, and then with a moose they tend to be a little stinkier as well. The problem with bear and moose is that they are, the meat is going to spoil fairly quick because they have very thick hides and big body mass and get hunted during a little bit warmer temperatures than deer.
[00:25:59] So you have to take that into consideration. But yeah, about 24 hours, I like to do, I need to do as soon as possible, assuming that the type of hit prescribes that it’s not too early to go out. But there’s a lot, there’s a lot of factors in that.
[00:26:14] So I would rather track a deer 24 hours after the hit if the trail had been left very nice and did you know that the hunter didn’t call six of his friends and they didn’t start grid searching all around, which can contaminate the area for the dog and confuse it.
[00:26:33] If somebody’s flagged every spot of blood until they lost their trail and didn’t invite a ton of people out there, I’d be so happy to take a 24 hour track. I’d be, I’d rather take that 24 hour track that had been handled really well. Then take a six hour old track where the hunter had invited 10 of his friends to come out in grid search everywhere and they didn’t mark anything and they don’t even really remember where the hit site was.
[00:26:59] And that’s super frustrating and difficult because dog’s noses are amazing and so if I step on a spot of blood, even if it was like a tiny, tiny spot of blood, and then I tracked that spot all around the woods as I’m aimlessly walking around searching for the deer, searching for the blood trail.
[00:27:21] That dog smells that. So that dog has to sort out where everybody that was involved in the search searched and it’s exhausting for them. And the amazing thing is they can do it. Like I’ve had a dog work out a grid search for two hours.
[00:27:40] The poor dog was exhausted, but he found the deer and it was amazing. But what this trail looks like is, it’s like the trail that the hunter followed, where the blood was really good, and then you hit what we call the POL is a point of loss.
[00:27:54] And then if you were to look at us on a GPS tracker, which I always track my tracks, it’s, we call it spaghetti, and it’s just really the dog walked and walked everywhere where everyone kind of wandered around spreading scent, and then once the dog finds the exit, it’s like once again, a nice single line out of the mess.
[00:28:14] That’s really hard to, regardless of how old the track is, I mean that could, even on a fresh track, that can be difficult for a dog. So it’s kind of a long winded way of saying it depends. But generally, you know, scent starts to degrade pretty well after 24 hours on a deer. And yeah, we want to, we want to try to get, ideally would be a well handled track that was not super old cause that’s nice and easy for the dog.
[00:28:37] If the dog has a good tracking situation and they don’t have to work out a grid search for two hours, then that means that he’s got enough energy left that I can help three or four hunters that day. If I’m on a track where it’s been all tracked up and it was date and they waited 20 hours to call me and all of that, then I might exhaust myself and my dog.
[00:29:00] I have to say I probably am exhausting more than my dog, but we might exhaust ourselves on that one track and then we don’t get to help other day. Whereas if we have many tracks that they called us, as soon as they knew they were in trouble, then I can help. I’ve helped as many as 600 in a day, which that was a little busy, but I know that was a little crazy and I didn’t really sleep.
[00:29:24] But it’s possible if you’re not exhausting yourself on like. Attract that they should have called you, you know, 15 hours ago on. But I mean, but that’s also, people don’t know and that’s why we do a lot of hunting at hunter education because, I mean, I can’t blame people for just wanting to try everything to get their animal.
[00:29:46] And then they learned about dogs and they start, they go home and they’re upset and they Google and they find out about dogs. And then they call us like, I still want to try to help them because it’s a foreign fault that they just happen to not know about it but we try to.
Travis Bader: [00:30:00] What about rain? I know when things get wet, I mean, that could either A wash away the smell or maybe when things dry out, they tend to smell less like a nice hot sunny day. Is rain beneficial?
Lindsay Ware: [00:30:12] Yeah. So rain is an interesting one. We get this question a lot. Rain is actually good because the, the enemy of scent’s is dryness and wind. And so when you have rain, sometimes it’s windy, but it tends to not be very windy and of course it’s very moist, so moist and still is perfect tracking conditions.
[00:30:35] The problem, the reason I hate rain is that I am a human being where I want to see that visual confirmation that my dog is on the right track. So the rain is like a, it’s like blind faith and you just hold onto that leash and you go, all right, let’s go, I trust you. And you try your best to trust your dog, which is a hard human thing to do, but dogs don’t really have much problem with it.
[00:31:01] We do run into scent problems with rain when it’s a hard rain, prolonged amount of time, but like a normal, what I would consider a normal rain or even a light rain, it doesn’t really cause a scent problem, it’s a visual problem that drives us humans crazy.
Travis Bader: [00:31:19] Got it, got it. You’re talking about smelling the blood. What do you, what are you looking for? Like I know if it’s a more a pinky, frothy type of blood that you see and might be indicative of a lung shot and that can help determine the proximity because it’s more difficult to travel a far distance on a lung shot than a gut shot. What are you looking for in well, let’s, let’s talk about the gamut. Colour and smell and taste dare I say.
Lindsay Ware: [00:31:49] I know trackers will taste the blood if they, if they don’t smell it, and I’m not that brave. But yeah, so there’s a lot of things we look for. Color of blood is definitely one of them. Sometimes you can’t tell much by colour, and colour is subjective, but when you get a liver hit or gut hit with that really, really, really dark blood, it’s pretty distinctive.
[00:32:13] And now that everybody has a cell phone, it’s pretty nice because when you’re interviewing a hunter and you’re trying to figure out maybe what kind of hit you have, you know, you’re gonna be like, what colour is the blood? And they’re going to be, I don’t know. I’m like, is it bright?
[00:32:28] Is it dark? I don’t know. So they can kind of snap a nice picture with their cell phone and send it to me and I can try to help figure things out from there. But it’s also very, you can’t always, actually, I would say most of the time you can’t really tell exactly what the shot is over the phone. So like you said, it’s as you’re tracking, you want your dog to be able to point out little pieces of evidence.
[00:32:53] There’s been times where, you know, we’ve had to completely change our plan cause I looked down and I see, Oh yeah, that’s liver blood. You know, so we have to kind of rethink what we’re doing here. So colour is definitely one typically the darker, really noticeably dark blood is a further back hit. And like you said, the frothy blood is the, is lung blood and the really bright red blood is usually something like a leg or some kind of a non-fatal muscle hip.
[00:33:20] We also are looking for, we look a little bit for hair. It’s really hard. It sounds like you should be able to identify where an animal was hit by its hair, but it’s really hard to actually do that. The reason we like to look for hair is you can often tell if hair is white, which would be a really low shot, like a belly shot, but the biggest reason to look for hair is the amount of hair.
[00:33:46] On a graze, you get a ton of hair and you get little pieces of skin that have hair attached. And so we look for that type of evidence, especially at the hit site, because we do, one thing that’s a kind of a lesser known aspect of blood tracking is that we do a lot of non-fatal hits because sometimes the, the explanation for why a hunter can’t find his animal is because it’s not hurt that bad and it’s out of here. That’s-
Travis Bader: [00:34:16] Right.
Lindsay Ware: [00:34:16] One of the reasons why they can’t find it on their own. With dogs, we can take the trail way further than they ever could, so that we can gather all this types of evidence that it’s maybe not a fatal hit. So if we get a piece of skin with hair on it, we’re, we’re like, yeah, we’re not going to get this animal most likely.
[00:34:36] So hair’s one, another evidence that we look for is bone.
Travis Bader: [00:34:42] Right.
Lindsay Ware: [00:34:43] Many times we’ll get a call and there’ll be a big chunk of bone along the trail and they’ll say, I got a piece of root bone, I got it in the chest. And what many hunters don’t, and I would say that’s about hunters not knowing where some of these things come from.
[00:34:59] Most hunters are they, they harvest their animal and they’re successful. They don’t have a lot of these, these bad situations, unfortunate situations, right? With trackers, this is all we see. So for us, you know, a hunter might see bone and go, yeah. For trackers, we’re like, Oh, shoot.
[00:35:18] Bone isn’t usually a positive thing. Rib bones don’t come out in chunks. They pulverize.
Travis Bader: [00:35:25] Right.
Lindsay Ware: [00:35:25] So if we’re getting bone chunks, we’re dealing with a leg.
Travis Bader: [00:35:29] Right.
Lindsay Ware: [00:35:29] So sometimes we don’t know. It’s not at the hit site, we don’t know that we have a leg hit. We’re like half a mile in and we see a bone chunk that we go, okay, now I know what kind of hit we have.
[00:35:39] So those are kind of the main pieces of evidence. Other evidence isn’t so much something that the animal leaves behind, but it’s what the animals doing. Are we jumping out of bed? Are we seeing it, you know, are we seeing it from a hundred yards away or are we seeing it from 10 yards away?
[00:35:56] You know, if we’re seeing it close up, then it’s hurt really badly and then we have to decide what are we doing? Should we give it more time? Should we try to euthanize it? You know, what are we doing here? So that, that can be evidenced as well. If we, if we jump an animal, the most important question is, was it laying down or was it standing? Right?
Travis Bader: [00:36:15] Okay.
Lindsay Ware: [00:36:16] So that’s, that’s an evidence as well. If it’s laying down, it’s obviously very, very sick. If it’s standing up, it just didn’t feel like moving up until that point, and maybe it’s completely going to be healthy. We’re not sur-, I mean at that point we wouldn’t know for sure, but it’s all part of the picture. We all get, kind of gather evidence so.
Travis Bader: [00:36:35] So you say it’s all in the evidence. I should imagine that the hunting being as highly regulated as it is and the use of dogs out there, there’s probably a lot of protocols and hoops that you have to jump through in order to be able to have your dogs out there to be able to assist these hunters.
[00:36:54] Do you have to submit anything to the state? Is there any sort of program for that?
Lindsay Ware: [00:37:00] In order to get the license or for just normal protocols for tracking?
Travis Bader: [00:37:06] Well, I guess, what’s to stop a person from saying, Oh, no, no I’m tracking an animal. Perhaps in the state where they’re not allowed to use dogs for hunting and they’re using a dog for hunting, but they’re just leaning on the oh, no, no, no tracking an animal, I should imagine that there’s some checks and balances there isn’t there?
Lindsay Ware: [00:37:23] There is, and that’s, that’s the loophole that a lot of people are worried about when we are, when United Blood Trackers folks are helping people in States that don’t have legal blood tracking. If there’s people opposed to doing blood tracking, that’s a lot of times what they’ll say.
[00:37:37] They’ll say like, what’s stopping people from hunting deer with dogs and just saying they’re tracking. So in Maine, the way that we deal with this, is that we are legally required before we go out on a track to call it in to our state police dispatch and they notify the game warden on duty of where we’ll be.
[00:37:56] So in that way it’s like if I, if I don’t call my stuff in and I’m out there with a dog, I’m hunting with a dog, right? But if I call it in beforehand and I say, you know, of course the dispatchers all know me by now, say, Hey, is this Lindsay, I’m going to be so and so tracking a bear on this road. And so they know where I’m going to be.
[00:38:17] And it’s, it doubles as a, as a check and balance, but also the wardens are aware. I’ve had actually instances where another hunter saw our animal, saw our wounded animal moving and told the wardens about it. And the warden knew I was in the area tracking a deer and called me and said, Hey, your deer was spotted, you know, on this road, or whatever, by this area.
[00:38:40] And so it helps them be more informed, but it helps prevent that loophole of people hunting with dogs.
Travis Bader: [00:38:49] So are there any resources for people who might be interested in training their own dog for tracking?
Lindsay Ware: [00:38:56] There are, so the first thing I always recommend is for anybody interested in learning more about becoming a blood tracker to join United Blood Trackers.
[00:39:06] So we’re a nonprofit organization and we are dedicated to promoting the use of dogs for recovering large game animals. We are really passionate about training new trackers and more experienced trackers that are United Blood Tracker members are just always so willing to help out new, new folks. We have a mentorship program and our goal is really to promote this and to teach new folks.
[00:39:37] So that was the kind of the first thing that I suggest. There’s also a really great book that was written by one of the founding members of United Blood Trackers. The book is called Tracking Dogs for Finding Wounded Deer, and it is by John Jeanneney and we consider that to be our go to reference for tracking with with dogs.
[00:40:06] Yeah. John is in his mid eighties, and was, is really, you know, we consider him the godfather of leash dog tracking in, in the United States. And he has a wealth of knowledge that he has put into this, this resource. Talks about all the forensic stuff, how to choose a dog breed, all sorts of stuff. So that’s a really good place to start too, is to, to read that.
[00:40:35] And third kind of advice is to try to make personal connections with another tracker if you can, you could go on the find a tracker part of United Blood Trackers. Just like if you were going to call a tracker to help you find an animal, but you actually get their information so you can call them and, and say, Hey, you’re near me cause I saw on this map that you, you know, you’re in the same town as me.
[00:41:02] I’d love to come along and watch a track and learn and there’s a lot of trackers that are open to, that’s how I really, how I started it. I say that I, a dog got me into it, but he started me into it, and then I called up the only other person in Maine at the time, that was doing it and she was like a rock star to me.
[00:41:22] Like I was so nervous calling her, I was like, she was like a famous person. I was like, I’d really love to come watch. And the first track we went on together, I like, we became best friends instantly and I got totally hooked on it. And that, in my opinion, is one of the best ways to kind of get into it is to see it and you know, it might not even be for you.
[00:41:45] It’s a good way to kind of tell if it’s something that, that you’re going to enjoy and that your dog’s going to enjoy is to get that other person involved and get to be able to see it with your own eyes. It can be a little strange. I mean, you’re, you’re going out in the woods all hours of the day and night and, and having all sorts of adventures.
[00:42:02] And I think it’s the best thing ever but it’s best to kind of go out and tag along if you can, to really see what it’s like. So that’s, that’s the, the advice I have for anyone interested.
Travis Bader: [00:42:15] Lindsay, thank you very much for taking the time to be on the podcast. I learned a lot. I’m going to be looking into some of those books that you have, and if others that are listening to this want to learn more, they can check out United Blood Trackers or they can check out your website.
[00:42:32] If they’re looking for your services, that’d be the first place to go to and you can help them track their animals if they can’t find them.
Lindsay Ware: [00:42:39] Thank you very much for having me.
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