Skip to main content

When All Else Fails, Go Deer Hunting with Dogs

On cold trail, call in a deer hunting dog to track

When All Else Fails, Go Deer Hunting with Dogs
Katia Rothhaar and her tracking dog, Oskar, located this 171-inch Indiana buck after the hunter lost the trail. There was no discernable blood within 100 yards of the dead deer. (Don Mulligan photo)

Having to track a wounded deer with a dog combines deer hunting’s worst-case scenario with man’s best friend. In some states it is illegal, in others it is legal but only done as a charitable favor between hunters, and in some places it is big business.

In every case, it is a sight to behold and often the only way some deer are ever recovered.

“The first thing you learn when you track as many deer as we do, is that all the old wives’ tales about what wounded deer do are nonsense,” said Ryan Rothhaar, Cloverdale, Indiana.


Click image to check out the photo gallery



Rothhaar and his partner Katia track deer within an hour of their home every year at no charge using their professionally trained, four-year-old Standard European Dachshund, Oskar.


“We have never tracked a wounded deer that went to water to die, for example,” he said. “Almost all of them simply go to a bedding area, whether they were shot in the morning or in the evening.”

He also revealed that the majority of deer not recovered by hunters are shot too high in the deer’s body.

In this, and any other situation that requires a dog to find a wounded deer, Rothhaar has some advice to make success more likely.

“Stay off the trail and call us immediately,” he said.


In fact, most deer trackers prefer talking to hunters before season. There are situations they can help the hunter avoid which will make the odds of success a lot better.

For example, even the best tracking dog has a tough time following a wounded deer from the point where hunters lost the trail. Rothhaar says that spot is like a “scent-bomb” to a tracking dog and prefers hunters don’t even follow a trail if they think they made a bad hit on a deer.

“People wander all over in these spots trying to re-find the trail. They trample any deer scent and leave all kinds of foreign smells for the dog to sort out,” he said. “If we get past the scent-bomb spot and back on the trail, we are usually pretty successful at finding the deer, but it can be tough.”


Not every wounded deer Rothhaar tracks is recovered or even dead, however. For this reason he doesn’t take any money for his services.

Money makes him an employee of the hunter and he prefers reserving the right to decide if a hit was nonfatal. If no money changes hands, Rothhaar feels comfortable ending the search, regardless of the hunter’s opinion.

Not all deer trackers work for free. Many accept a fee to cover gas money. Others charge gas money and a nominal fee for their time.

In some places, dog-tracking services are big business and can even cost a hunter as much as $1,000.

Where big deer are big business, and clients pay ranches upward of $10,000 to shoot record-book quality deer, they don’t blink at a $1,000 fee to find their deer.

There are dog-tracking services in these places where handlers make a good living simply finding other people’s deer.

The right dog

Nearly any dog can be trained to track wounded deer but some are better at it than others.

Rothhaar likes his Dachshund because it comes from a proven, hunting bloodline and is small enough to handle easily in the field. He does not believe the sex of the dog makes a difference.

Bloodhounds are the traditional favorites among some trackers, and for good reason.

A human has about 5 million olfactory receptors in their nose, a German shepherd has about 225 million and a bloodhound has a whopping 300 million! That is more than any other canine.

Additionally, bloodhounds’ droopy ears and wrinkly skin help collect odor molecules, and their body shape helps them keep their noses close to the ground.

Despite their exceptional smelling ability, however, Rothhaar warns against using bloodhounds to track deer.

“Bloodhounds are perhaps the best blood trackers but they are huge and exhausting because they routinely drag the handler around the woods night after night,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of every track job can be done successfully by any hunting breed, so a bloodhound is a bit of an overkill.”

He also pointed out that deer tracking only takes place a couple months a year, so it is important to choose a breed that you enjoy living with all year.

Ryan and Katia Rothhaar and their dog are available for hunters within an hour of Brazil, Ind., and can be reached at (812) 241-2802.

Hunters around the country in need of dog tracking services should check out www.unitedbloodtrackers.org. The site not only contains contact information for trackers across the U.S., but also tells hunters where it is legal to track wounded deer with dogs.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Understanding Reel Retrieve Ratios and How it Affects Lure Presentations

Understanding Reel Retrieve Ratios and How it Affects Lure Presentations

Increase a lure’s effectiveness by pairing it with the ideal reel speed.

Action and Power Ratings- How to Choose the Right Bass Rod

Action and Power Ratings- How to Choose the Right Bass Rod

Most fishing rods feature both an action and a power rating, but what do those ratings mean and how do you use them to select the right rod for different scenarios? In this video, outdoor writer and tackle specialist Shane Beilue breaks down the difference between a rod blank’s action and power and discusses what the various ratings of each mean.

Catch More Bass on a Jerkbait in the Cooler Months

Catch More Bass on a Jerkbait in the Cooler Months

This one simple trick will trigger more bass strikes on a jerkbait during the fall months.

Hunting Elk with the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter in 6.5 PRC

Hunting Elk with the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter in 6.5 PRC

Michael Cassidy and Paul Pluff talk about their elk hunt in New Mexico using the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options.12 Great Catfish Baits Catfish

12 Great Catfish Baits

Jeff Samsel

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options.

Anglers can find catfish in practically any freshwater system in the South, but some waters really stand out for monsters.The South's Best Waters for Trophy Catfish Catfish

The South's Best Waters for Trophy Catfish

John N. Felsher - August 21, 2020

Anglers can find catfish in practically any freshwater system in the South, but some waters...

Make this venison chorizo recipe and cook it right away or freeze it (cooked or raw) and use it as needed.Venison Chorizo Recipe Wild Game

Venison Chorizo Recipe

Allie Doran - October 30, 2020

Make this venison chorizo recipe and cook it right away or freeze it (cooked or raw) and use...

In need of a rugged container to sip from in the backcountry? We've got you covered. From tumblers to bottles to flasks (and even clever bottle openers), we've rounded up some of the best bar gear for the outdoors.Ultimate Outdoor Bar Gear Roundup The Deck

Ultimate Outdoor Bar Gear Roundup

Chelsie Walters and Jessyca Sortillon - August 31, 2020

In need of a rugged container to sip from in the backcountry? We've got you covered. From...

See More Trending Articles

More Whitetail

How to pick a fight with a do-it-yourself set.Deer Skills: Make Your Own Rattling Antlers Whitetail

Deer Skills: Make Your Own Rattling Antlers

Terry Madewell - November 30, 2020

How to pick a fight with a do-it-yourself set.

Finding rutting bucks on public land is a matter of identifying small parcels overlooked by the crowd.Picking Pockets for Western Whitetails Whitetail

Picking Pockets for Western Whitetails

Bob Robb - December 01, 2020

Finding rutting bucks on public land is a matter of identifying small parcels overlooked by...

Bundle up and punch the clock; end-of-year monster bucks not uncommon.Whitetail Record Books Show Late Season Can Still Be Great Whitetail

Whitetail Record Books Show Late Season Can Still Be Great

Lynn Burkhead - December 23, 2020

Bundle up and punch the clock; end-of-year monster bucks not uncommon.

Follow these cardinal rules to tag a buzzer-beater whitetail in December.Harvest a Post-Rut Buck with These 5 Tricks Whitetail

Harvest a Post-Rut Buck with These 5 Tricks

Lynn Burkhead - December 14, 2020

Follow these cardinal rules to tag a buzzer-beater whitetail in December.

See More Whitetail

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now