Over the last four years, Vicksburg’s John VanNorman has been blood trailing wounded and dead deer with his two rescue dogs, Elko and Yoka.
After rescuing his two dogs, one from the pound and the other injured on the side of the road, VanNorman teamed up with his friend Barry Barnett who showed him the ropes when it came to tracking injured deer. Soon after, he trained his two dogs so that they will be able to go out on their own missions.
“I first went to a deer processing place to get blood and started them off trailing deer blood and I tied a deer leg to a tree so they can figure out the blood leads to the deer,” VanNorman said. “It took them a little time to get use to but over time I would water down the blood to get their since of the smell stronger.”
Once a deer is shot by a hunter, sometimes it keeps moving until it is out of sight. That’s when VanNorman gets a call to bring Elka and Yoka out to track them down. Instead of having the animals suffer from their wounds, VanNorman sends the dogs out where they can find the deer before coyotes get hold of them. Elka and Yoka are well-trained by VanNorman, even when they have to track deer that leave no blood behind.
“Sometimes when a deer is hit with something like a bow, it doesn’t leave any blood and it only leaves interdigital gland scent which is one of the scents Elka and Yoka are trained to pick up on,” VanNorman said.
Before VanNorman sends his dogs out, he finds out how many acres of land that they have to search and they will not cross property lines without permission.
Elka and Yoka have recovered deer for hunters who have wandered deep into the woods and kept their suffering to a minimum. Since Oct. 1, VanNorman and the dogs have been called out to seven places and have rescued five of the hunter’s deer.
“I don’t want to see any animals suffering so it’s always a good thing when the dogs can track them down,” VanNorman said.
VanNorman sometimes travels over an hour away at deer camps when he is called out and never charges individuals, but sometimes receives tips for gas for driving long range. After every completed mission, VanNorman rewards the dogs with Vienna sausages, which happens to be their favorite snacks.
Since hunting season started a little over a week ago, VanNorman along with Elka and Yoka, can expect more calls in response of blood trailing deer in what they call “Red Dog Trackn”.