The Joys Of A Deer Dog
- Thursday, 30 January 2014
Dogs for Deer Stalking can sometimes be a mixed blessing, Chris Dalton recounts one such incident whilst stalking Red Stags with his Bavarian Mountain Hound 'Burt'
(Above: Using dogs in Deer management can offer mixed fortunes)
I am a great exponent of stalking with a dog, this is particularly important when you run a stalking operation as we do, I work a 4 year old Weimaraner ‘ Oscar ‘ and Tony works a 3 year old German Wirehaired pointer bitch ‘ Molly’. There is nothing more satisfying than having a well trained dog with you while stalking; you come to rely on them , firstly to indicate deer and, more importantly, to find them or to track and recover a wounded deer if things go wrong. However, getting your dog to that stage is not easy and there will be many pitfalls along the way, but sometimes a misdemeanour can work to your advantage!
This tale of a few years ago, relates to my then deer dog, ‘Burt ‘a male Bavarian Mountain Hound of impeccable breeding and my first specialist deer dog. I had a lot of experience with traditional gun dog breeds from my wildfowling and game shooting days and had initially used a cocker for my deer work, but Burt was to be a specialist. I had read and digested all the books and started to convert my training regime from game to the many different techniques required in a deer dog – the strangest of which was getting him to bark! An alien prospect for any Labrador or Cocker handler used to working their dog in the game shooting field. I had also looked at the merits of the various breeds popular amongst stalkers and settled on a Bavarian, they had a tracking reputation second to none; they also had a reputation for being stubborn, my wife would say a bit like his owner! Anyhow I will relate more of my early training experiences another time – there are many.
(Below: Despite the best efforts of 'Burt' The Bavarian Mountain Hound, Gordon grasses two excellent Red Stags)
So we are in the Angus Glens and I am out with Gordon a regular stalking guest of mine for many years. I have brought Gordon to try for a trophy Red stag and had seen a lovely Royal hanging around a large peat wallow under some Larch trees the previous two mornings. It was a tricky approach and important to get in quietly and stalk around 1000 yards from the end of the track through the plantation. The briefing duly completed in good military fashion and with Burt at heel, now nearly 2 years old and he had almost graduated the training camp, we set off to creep through the gloom as it was important to get in position just as the light came up. It was one of those mornings I hate, flat calm and you could hear a pin drop, all senses alert and I am sure the dog had picked up on our heightened state of anticipation. He had certainly picked up on the scent of red stags and was wired, like a coiled spring waiting to explode. As we walked a frequent tap with the stalking stick was required to Burt’s rear end to remind him to stay quiet at heel. I should mention at this stage the forest has a large population of Blue or Mountain Hare and it was at precisely this point that one decided to amble up to us to around 5 feet, stop, sit on its hind legs for a better look make eyeball contact with the dog, who was now shaking with anticipation and decide that it was time to leave.
Burt briefly looked at me, I am sure gave me the canine equivalent of two fingers and was off like a scud missile baying for all he was worth. I am apoplectic with rage; I can’t speak and have to stand and simmer, the whole forest in that still morning is reverberating to a Bavarian in full flow barking for his life. Gordon takes it in good part, he is a dog man so understands that these things happen, but I have to say at that point I had a Bavarian who was unlikely to see his second birthday. After what was probably 10 minutes but which seemed like 30, all went quiet and around 5 minutes later we hear the panting of an approaching stem train followed shortly by the appearance of a Bavarian, who had realised at this stage that what he had just done had not been such a good idea. He saw us waiting, slowed down and slinked in to heel, avoiding eye contact in the fashion of a dog sufficiently far along the training road to realise that what he had just done was not going to please his master.
Anyway, no good punishing a dog for coming back, nothing else to do but carry on and ignore him and try and salvage what, if anything, there was left of the morning stalk and I wasn’t expecting much, any self respecting stag would now be in the next county. So we continued with plan A without much conviction and duly very shortly arrived at said wallow, surprise but no deer in view. So I brief Gordon that we will sit and wait and position him on a tree stump overlooking the approach to the mud, rapidly trying to formulate a plan B and uttering a prayer. I need not have worried, within 2 minutes the tray tines of a large stag began to loom into view below us at around 150 yards, a hiss to Gordon and he is ready. The stag stepped into full view a lovely 12 pointer and continued to walk right into us, at 60 yards I gave my best roar, he stopped raised his head and dropped on the spot to a neck shot. I simply could not believe our luck, from a disaster we now had within a few minutes a majestic stag any hunter would be pleased with, how quickly things change. But not finished yet, movement again caught my eye as a second stag was walking the same route as the first: albeit slightly more hesitantly. A quick check with the binoculars revealed a big stag with a large but uneven head so the nod was given to Gordon and as the stag presented it met the same fate as the first. What a morning and one that many will not better but boy it could have been so different.
Clearly the stags had been feeding away on the hill and had heard the commotion being made by Bert’s escapade and decided that all was not well. They had move to the safety of the trees, which is unfortunately for them where we were. So all is well that ends well and we have laughed about that incident many time since, Burt lived beyond his second birthday and developed onto a first rate tracking dog with many outstanding finds to his credit. It goes to show that with hunting you never know and the stalk is not over until you are back in the car.
Chris Dalton is a highly respected Deer Manager in Scotland and runs Ayrshire Stalking, to contact Chris Tel: 07710 871190
For more articles about deer stalking with Dogs, Click on the following link: dogs-and-deer-stalking