On a recent visit to one of our training grounds in Scotland we were extremely fortunate to have stunning weather for the duration of our trip. I can't tell you how good this was as we were expecting rain, gales and even snow where we were so it felt like we were truly lucky to be in such a great environment.
Because of the vast areas we can work with here combined with such different terrain and conditions than we are used to in our home area, we always try and experiment with extreme scenarios which will test us and the dogs. That said we took great delight working in the sunshine to lay training tracks that would be in excess of 24 hours old through some of the most densely planted areas we could find. Now this was our first exercise in this location, having only given it a fleeting visit in times gone by in order to learn our boundaries and we assumed it would be very similar to another of our locations close by. How wrong could we be!
On this occasion we were not using any makers to plot our track but instead using a handheld GPS system to plot our route taken. The idea being that when following up there would be no visible assistance and we would have to really trust our dogs and concentrate on reading their every move. So the time had come to make a start and with only a few meters in we were immediately struggling to clamber across and through the old clear fell that had been left behind when replanting took place. As if this was not enough within a few more meters one of us fell up to our thighs in to a drainage ditch that had become covered over with moss and grasses. Apart from the sudden shock and surprise of doing this we saw the funny side and couldn't help but have a laugh at what had just happened. Eventually we made it to the end and then realised we had to make our way out of where we were as safely and quickly as possible as it had taken so long to lay this track with all the obstacles in our way.
Once free of the Bog Turtles and clear fell we set about laying another testing track only to have exactly the same thing happen to myself this time and even managed to get soaked up to the waist!. Again it was time for a good laugh and amazingly by the time we had finished laying our tracks we had pretty much dried out.
Now this all sound good fun, struggling with clear fell and the numerous bogs and drainage ditches that simply run everywhere totally unmarked and unseen, but it made us think about the consequences of tracking in this type terrain. Although most of us involved with D.T.S. own Bavarian Mountain Hounds we absolutely embrace anyone who has any breed and wishes to use it as a tracking dog. The main reason being that here in the U.K. the average stalker, will, if something goes wrong follow up within 2-3 hours of the incident happening, which is generally fine and we have no problem with that. However it soon became apparent to us that imagine yourself in this location, it's getting near last light, your Red or Roe offers you the shot you've been waiting for. You squeeze the trigger, the shot is fired but your beast shows a reaction that it's been hit but runs off. What do you do now?
Well apart from the obvious of marking your firing point and strike site I would strongly suggest that in the interests of our own well being you pull out and leave it until the morning. If you were to follow up now or when totally dark you could end up stranded with a broken leg or worse still drown. It is only when this kind of situation brings itself home that you realise that this is where the specialist breeds of tracking dog come in to their own. By specialist I mean those that can confidently handle 12, 24 or 48 hour old tracks as these are definitely the circumstances that call for either owning one or at least having access to one from a friend or one of the tracking groups out there. Oh and one last thing, lets just say you did find your beastie, don't forget you've then got to get it our of there!
Take care everyone.