Part 1 - Selecting your Pup
As I sit here typing this article, I cannot help but think that for the first time in 14 1/2 years, I am without my beloved deer dog Ring, who on February 28, 2010 passed away. Ring had been with me and my family since he was 12 weeks old. I had spend countless hours training him to do what he loved...deer hunting! He was instrumental in many successful hunts over our time together and was a dog that will not easily be replaced both as a family member and my personal hunting dog. So, as I attempt to help all of you on how to train your deer dog, I will also be following my own techniques and advise in hopes of training my new Decker Hunting Terrier pup to take over for my beloved Ring.
For many decades now, the Decker Hunting Terrier has proven essential
to deer hunters for jumping deer in the dense forests, brush, rocks and
mountains across the nation. Once the deer is shot, this tenacious terrier
is key to finding the down deer no matter where it lays. In fact, in many
parts of the country, a well trained deer dog is necessary because the
density of the countryside is so impenetrable, that without a good deer
dog, the hunters chances of harvesting a deer is unlikely.
The Decker Hunting Terrier was developed with the infusion of many types
of traits that make them a ideal all around hunting dog. Keying in on certain
bloodlines and specific desired qualities will increase the odds of your
terrier being a outstanding deer dog. When selecting a Decker Hunting Terrier
pup for deer hunting, it is essential that you seek out the following specific
traits to increase the odds of purchasing the right dog; a line that comes
from proven hunting lines, one that has a natural tendency to "yip" on
chase, a terrier that has plenty of leg, and finally a dog that wants
to please you making it very easy to obedient train your pup.
Once you locate a breeder, there a few more important traits that are beneficial and will help the odds of your hunting dog making the grade. Considering a deer dog spends much of its time hunting through the terrain out ahead of the hunter, you cannot always see your dog when it is out ahead of you hunting. Therefore it is crucial that you know where your dog is when it jumps or is chasing a deer. Many times you hunt using drives with hunters placed in specific locations out ahead of you and your dog. This type of hunting allows the dog to jump the deer from its bed and push the deer towards the staged hunters giving them a opportunity for a shot. A dog that has the instinct of "yipping" or "opening" up during the chase is key as it alerts everyone including yourself of where the dog is and where the deer is heading. This yipping is a instinctive trait that is bred into the dog. Not every dog has it, yet there are proven lines of Decker Hunting Terriers that possess this exciting and critical trait. Another tip when choosing your deer dog is color. Imagine yourself hunting in the dark timber or at dawn and dusk. You will find a dark colored dog is very difficult to see when it is out ahead of you. What I prefer and recommend is purchasing a pup with plenty of white on its body. A good tri color piebald is ideal because the white shows up in low light hunting situations. This color recommendation and advise I learned the hard way. A few years ago I was developing a deer dog named Grit. He was a fine Decker Hunting Terrier that was coming along well ahead of schedule as he had all the tools I look for in a great deer dog. Grit was a good looking dog that was marked beautifully with a lot of black, tan and a small amount of white on his body. When he was about 8 months old, I was hunting deer with him in an area that I had been too many times before. It was dusk time and Grit, who was a very active dog and always hunting something, got out on a rural road chasing something. A search a rescue truck, who was responding to a emergency call, hit Grit killing him instantly. I still remember the responder stopping his truck and walking over to me with Grit in his arms saying "I never saw him, I am sorry". I learned a valuable lesson that night. My primary deer dog had always been Ring who was all white. I never had a problem seeing him in all the years I hunted over him so it never donned on me that Grit's mostly black body would be so hard to see. So from experience, keep this lesson in mind.
A genetic characteristic that I always look for in a deer dog is a good amount of leg under the dog. Many times a deer dog is hunting in punishing country, because that is where the big bucks live. Without good leg under the dog, it is very difficult for the dog to go over logs, blow downs, rocks and usually has a very difficult time staying on a chase for any period of time. In addition a short legged dog usually does not last the day during a hard day of chasing deer. So, when considering your deer dog, keep in mind the importance of good strong long legs under your deer dog.
Finally, proper training is the key to a well trained and successful deer dog. A dog that cannot be controlled because they are over hyper, excessively timid or aggressive is worthless in the field and is more likely to be gun-shy. In most cases, the contributing factor to these faults can be contributed to poor breeding practices or inbreeding too often without going outside their line and bringing in outcross blood. Again, before deciding on a pup, do your homework and stay away from these faults as nothing can be more frustrating than a gun-shy dog or a dog that cannot be controlled even by the most experienced handler.
Selecting the "right" pup will greatly increase your odds of having a hunting dog that is both productive and one that will give you years of wonderful hunting memories. It is also the first step in a sequence of events that must be undertaken in a long process of training your deer dog to be the ideal hunting dog. Over the next year, I will be training a new deer dog named Crush. If all goes as planned, and with a little luck, Crush will try to fill in for old Ring as my main deer dog. As he progresses, I will share with you the methods I am using in hopes of not only that I will have a finished deer dog, but you too. Look for Part 2-"Starting Your Pup, The Early Months" in the next DHTR's newsletter.