In many cases, recovering wounded game — whether deer, bear or moose — is no easy thing.

The late John Jeanneney, considered an American icon of tracking wounded whitetails, says in his book, “Dead On,” that, in hunting, “even with our best intentions something will eventually go wrong. We must be prepared to deal with situations in which the deer was not hit exactly where we intended.”

V. Paul Reynolds, Outdoors Columnist

In other words, no matter how skilled we are as marksmen and hunters, if we hunt long enough the odds are that we will wound an animal. During his 34-year career, Jeanneney had almost 1,000 searches under his belt. Of these searches, about 25% of the wounded deer were actually recovered.

As a hunter, do you have a contingency plan?

From my hunting experiences, there is no common denominator when it comes to tracking a wounded animal or in determining its condition based on its behavior. Far too many hunters attempt to track a wounded animal and, when a blood trail is lost, abandon the search prematurely and assume wrongly that the animal will survive.

There is professional help available. The Maine chapter of the United Blood Trackers (UBT) comprises seasoned, licensed trackers who, with the help of their trained tracking dogs, will help you find your critter. All they ask for their services is a thank you and perhaps a tip to help defray the cost of gas.


Blood trackers Susanne Hamilton and Lindsay Ware were guests recently on my statewide radio program, Maine Outdoors. Hamilton, from Montville, has been tracking for more than 20 years and is national president of the United Blood Trackers. Ware has been tracking for more than a decade and learned the ropes from Hamilton. Both women employ German Wire-Haired Dachshunds for scent dogs.

Lindsay Ware and Susanne Hamilton are part of the Maine chapter of United Blood Trackers. Submitted photo

In our on-air conversation, both trackers radiated unbridled enthusiasm for their work.

Here are some of the highlights of our exchange that I think, if you are a hunter or just curious, you will find helpful if not downright fascinating:

1. Their tracking dogs do far more than sniff a blood trail. According to Hamilton, they can track an animal in flight without blood, by tuning in on the animal’s adrenaline left in the air, which is detectable to a Dachshund. As one who spent a day a number of years ago with Susanne Hamilton and her dog, Meggie, tracking a wounded buck, I can vouch not only for the dog’s incredible nose, but for her master’s grit, stamina and determination as well.

2. The recovery rate is less than 50%. Unless the animal is mortally wounded. In that case the recovery is well over 90%.

3. Neck shots on any animal, whether bear, deer or moose, are bad news. The old theory that necks shots result in clean kill or clean miss is bogus, as well as unethical, according to both Hamilton and Ware, who over the years have seen it all and are quite well-informed about the forensics of wounded animals.


Both trackers agree, “lung/heart shot always!” Jeanneney, in his book’s chapter on shot placement, echoes the positions of Ware and Hamilton.

4. The most dangerous animals are … In response to my question, “Which wounded animals have you found more dangerous to you and your dogs, bear or moose?” There was no hesitation. Moose!

They explained that a wounded bear will almost always flee, even on close encounters, while a wounded moose, aggravated by the tracking dogs, can be very aggressive.

Ware was actually hurt, badly bruised, during an encounter with a moose during a tracking event. Because of the safety concerns associated with the tracking of wounded moose, Ware and Hamilton work as partners, one handling the dog and the other with a firearm at the ready.

“Are there any common threads from your observations when it comes to firearms vs. bows, or particular calibers of rifles used?” I asked.

They indicated that every search situation is unique, with its own unknowns and challenges. Jeanenney, in his book, however, cites one common thread: “I have had more calls to track deer wounded by .243s than calls to track deer shot by all the other deer cartridges combined.”


Maine today has about 30 or so licensed trackers, all of whom are listed on the UBT website.

How do you know when it’s time to call in a tracker? Hamilton’s advice is this: “Once you have made a reasonable effort to track your critter with no luck or determination of the animal’s condition, make your call to your nearest tracker listed on the UBT website. The tracker will ask you some questions to get a better idea of the situation.” If you are waiting for a tracker to arrive, she urges you to wait patiently and not “mess up” the track for the dogs by spreading your scent again on a track you have already been on.

For a list of trackers nearest you, consult the website United Blood Trackers. Lindsay Ware’s cell phone number is 207-812-1366. Susanne Hamilton’s cell phone is 207-249-8078.

V. Paul Reynolds is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal, an author, a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program, “Maine Outdoors,” heard at 7 p.m. Sundays on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. Contact him at

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