To meet the explosion of interest in tracking dogs out in the Midwest, members of United Blood Trackers organized a three day tracking workshop in June 2006 near Quincy, Illinois. Our hosts were Neal and Debbie Meyer who run Adams Pike Outdoors for deer hunters. Neal is one of a number of deer hunting outfitters who have recognized that a tracking dog makes good business sense. When hunters pay thousands of dollars for an opportunity to shoot an outstanding buck the cost of buying and developing a tracking dog is a sound investment
At Trackfest 2006, as we called it, there was a total of 39 people from Illinois and from other states including Maine, New York,New Jersey, Michigan, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Georgia, Louisiana andArkansas. The program was about half talks and slide shows under a pavilion, with the other half devoted to hands-on work with young dogs and their handlers out in the woods and fields.
The main focus was on starting young dogs, but there were presentations on tracking techniques in the field, dog psychology, physical conformation, health, genetics, care and even grooming. The enthusiasm was so strong that people didn’t seem to get bored. And we had a very good time as many stories were told and grew some more in the telling.
We had a presentation on putting down wounded deer, which is a big problem in the Midwest. For example in Wisconsin, Michigan, andIndiana it is not permitted to carry a weapon of any sort when tracking wounded deer. It is just a matter of time before a big buck seriously injures a handler, and then perhaps these regulations will be changed. In other states such as Illinois firearms are prohibited at night, which is when most tracking actually takes place.
Out in the fields and around the food plots we had plenty of opportunity to watch pups learn to stay on the right line and ignore all the hot lines presented by feeding deer. Keeping a dog calm and focused in the midst of these distractions is the most important part of training.
After the workshop our host Neal Meyer had his young wirehaired dachshund Chloe run a special test line, as required by the State of Illinois, to legally track wounded deer on public lands in that state. No test is required for dogs working exclusively on private property in Illinois.
Chloe is a very good little bitch, about a year old, and she had no trouble at all with the test line which was a quarter of a mile long with two right angle turns The blood line, laid in a field, was only four hours old, but very little blood was visible. Next fall Chloe will track some real wounded deer lines that are much more difficult. Still the UBT judge,Larry Gohlke, could see that she was already a useful dog that knew what she was supposed to do. That is the idea behind the Illinois requirement for tracking on public lands. This is unique to Illinois… The whole idea of a Trackfest workshop was so successful that United Blood Trackers is planning to do another one in 2007.