Each year United Blood Trackers holds a two and a half day “Trackfest” which is the highpoint of our promotional and educational activity. Trackfest 2008 was held on April 12, 13 and 14 at UBT President Andy Bensing’s place just north of Reading, Pennsylvania. Forty-two people with twenty different dogs attended. They came from 12 different states.
Enthusiasm was strong. Many of those attending had been tracking and finding wounded deer in their home states, but they were hoping to train their dogs to higher levels, and to improve their own understanding of deer tracking tactics.
To meet trackers’ needs the Trackfest Workshop combines hands-on field work with indoor presentations on such subjects as starting young puppies, being patient with adolescent dogs and establishing working communication between the handler and canine partner. One of the highlights was a panel discussion on various tracking breeds, the advantages and the disadvantages of each.
This was a lively subject because the diversity of breeds and breed supporters exceeded anything we had seen at earlier Trackfests inIllinois and Louisiana. There were 11 different breeds, some of which we had never even seen before. These were: Wachtelhund, Dutch Partridge Dog, Jagdterrier, Bavarian Mountain Bloodhound, Catahoula, Kurzhaar, Drahthaar, Beagle, Dachshund, Black and Tan Coonhound and Basset Fauve de Bretagne.
It was fascinating to observe the different working styles as the dogs worked on training blood lines out in the open fields. This 73 year old writer found that he could identify best with the slower, closer-working dogs!
Wachtelhund owners, led by Dave Pepe from Wisconsin were the strongest breed contingent represented with their seven dogs. The Wachtelhund is a versatile German breed with some characteristics of a large spaniel, but a toughness and ground-scenting capability that are all its own. On an overnight, half-mile evaluation blood line Bella, owned by Bob Sifrit, showed excellent nose for ground scent. She was a bit fast, and she could have been more accurate, but an experienced eye could see great deer tracking potential in this bitch. At Trackfest 2008 the Wachtelhunds announced their presence in the American blood tracking world.
The type of dog a handler prefers is very much a matter of individual taste. The dog becomes even more a part of your own personality than your favorite shotgun. There is no sport in which the handler/dog bond grows closer than in the adventures of tracking wounded big game. In our sport you are first of all doing the right thing to minimize animal suffering and waste. At the same time you enjoy meeting a challenge, solving a problem, with a loyal canine friend. Your combined abilities, human and canine, make the tracking team more effective than either of its individual parts. These were some of the concerns and the satisfactions that brought people together at Trackfest.