Outdoor Corner: 'Tracking' Deer

Lyle Johnson

I don’t deer hunt very often, but I do enjoy it when it happens. Only three deer have bit the dust at my hands in the span of my career. One was a doe and the two others only had two points each, so by most standards I’m not considered a trophy deer slayer. Fortunately those three deer fell dead in their tracks.

This deer was shot in Livingston Parish. The misplaced shot was in the back leg, and the buck managed to get 430 yards before Oakley found him. Pictured (L to R) oldest son Braidon, Chris and dog Oakley.

That didn’t happen on another hunt I made. After a two-hour rain shower, my father-in-law, Sonny Guice, joined me on an afternoon hunt in Grosse Tete. The deer were really moving, giving me a shot at a beautiful eight-pointer. The deer reared up on its hind legs on the shot, making me think I’d hit it. So I waited a while to go and take a look.

Sonny joined me and we both looked for any sign the buck was hit, but we never found blood. The possibility that the bullet didn’t exit the deer haunted us as well as the fact we could have looked a little longer, hoping we didn’t leave a dead or wounded deer in the woods.

That scenario repeats itself more times than most hunters would care to think about. Not being able to find a deer after it's shot is not a lot of fun. But that doesn’t have to be the case these days as deer tracking with dogs after the shot has become very popular in the past five or six years.

Enter Chris McNemar, a 34-year-old dad, born and raised in Ascension and lives in Galvez. Married to his wife, Lindsi, raising three boys, a girl and a deer-tracking dog named Oakley. Chris loves to deer hunt as does the whole family, which is kinda what got this whole thing started.

This deer was shot with a 243. We recovered him roughly 300 yards from shot sight. Chris’ sons Braidon and Carson shown with the deer.  The track was roughly 15 hours old.

So let’s go back a few years. McNemar’s best hunting buddy, Derek Duplessis, was involved in a swimming pool accident that resulted in a broken neck at 21 years old. Duplessis miraculously survived the whole ordeal without being paralyzed.

The pair hunted some property Derek owns and he never lost his passion for deer hunting. But the injury caused some shaking that made his aim a little wobbly and that caused some off-the-mark shots.

So coupled with that issue and Chris being somewhat color blind not allowing him to distinguish the red blood on the ground made him say, “Man, I’m getting me a dog.” That path led him to Randall Devall from Clinton to obtain his Catahoula Cur to train up and help him find their deer.

What started out as the quest to help him and his hunting buddy blew up in ways Chris never imagined. Devall (dog trainer) started calling him occasionally to help someone nearby then the word of mouth thing kicked in, putting things in overdrive.

The first year (four years ago) Chris and Oakley went on 40 tracks and every year after that the totals have gone over a hundred. McNemar hooked up with a group called Southern Blood Trackers, a non-profit that helps folks find their deer.

What makes McNemar keep going would be a good question as he gets calls all times of the day and night from hunters that don’t want to lose a deer, sometimes travelling over 100 miles. “It’s the smiles on the faces, especially the kids,” replied Chris.

“When we’re walking through the woods and you tell the kid to look over here, maybe the dog has something. Then they see the deer. Man that feeling is just incredible. The adults make it for us as well,” Chris added. “it’s just so cool to see the looks on their faces.”

McNemar choices of breeds to use is a Catahoula Cur or a Texas Blue Lacy. “Lots of different breeds work. In our group we have Catahoula and Black Mouth Curs, the Blue Lacy’s. Believe it or not, we have two guys that have long haired Dachshund’s,” laughed Chris. “And they do a great job. Then we have a few custom bred dogs that guys wanted, like Pit Bull and Lab mixes.”

Then came the question about the success rate, how many of the deer do actually find? On the tracks Chris has been on so far this season they’ve found 52 of 64 attempts. In my book that seems really good. Chris’ take is a little different. “It’s all up to the hunter,” he stated. “What they do or really don’t do after the shot makes all the difference in the world.”

That got my attention. So the big thing is what not to do. If you’re not sure about the shot and what to do, call a tracker. Listed on their website (southernbloodtracker.com) there are 6 board members with phone numbers. You will get one of them and they will coordinate with one of the 21 trackers. A call back within 15 minutes is guaranteed.

The tracker can advise you what you can do such as one person going 50 to 100 yards and do a preliminary look. The worse thing is to get several people and maybe a yard dog walking all around. That messes up the scent trail. “If the scent trail is not compromised, our dogs will find your deer,” quipped McNemar. “Our motto is “The Best of the Best.” That means dogs and trackers.”

So just what does it cost to get a tracker to find your deer? “Man that just depends,” sighed McNemar. “I don’t have a set price. Most of the time I just ask them what they think it’s worth.” Southern Blood Trackers is the real deal as they never charge kids under 16 and don’t charge for a hunters first deer. If you really want to check out what they do, go to their Facebook page; Southern Blood Trackers Association.

This thing is a family affair as well. “Some of my boys come on just about every track and they love it as well. It gets in your blood.” So until next time, remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God truly bless you!