Hound & deer tracking: Illinois deer hunting

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A recent wrinkle in Illinois deer hunting is use of a leashed tracking dog to find wounded or lost animals.

That’s a thought as the biggest weekend in Illinois outdoors comes Friday through Sunday. More than 200,000 hunters will be in the woods and fields for the first firearm deer season.

Not every one is successful. Enter tracking dogs.

“It is kind of a sport-hobby type thing,” Wally Erickson said.

Erickson, a houndsman from Rockdale, had been “a beagle guy’’ but he got a Michigan-bred bloodhound, Mr Wrinkles, and trained the 3-year-old.

“I got into because I got tired of losing my own deer,” Erickson said. “Nothing is more frustrating than making a good shot and not being able to find an animal. In tall grass, CRP fields, you [can be] within 100 yards and you can’t find it.’’

He figures his success rate is 100 percent on dead deer; finding wounded ones is far tougher.

To train Wrinkles, Erickson saved deer blood. He dropped spots of blood and put a hot dog there.

“But best is to shoot a deer and let him find it,’’ Erickson said.

This is primarily for finding trophies. His basic rate is $300 to go out and $200 if found. The fees are adjustable (distance, heart-tuggers for finding a kid’s first buck).

“I will work three times as hard for deer I don’t get than the deer I do get,’’ Erickson said. “Find fee is there to give me incentive to keep going. But if you ain’t found a deer in three hours of running through the woods with a bloodhound, that deer is pretty healthy.’’

Success can depend on how people treat the area.

“Wherever you walk, you get the scent of that deer on your feet,” Erickson said. “Now you get the dog all messed up, though usually he will sort it out.”

Deer have scent glands on their legs. Dry and windy is tough, moist or wet is best.

Here’s what Erickson considers a perfect scenario.

“I did a tracking job for a young guy in Elgin,” Erickson said. “He got out of his stand, found his arrow.and a bit of blood. He backed off and called. That is perfect. We found the young man’s trophy buck. That is one reason I do it, the joy in a hunter’s face when he gets that trophy.”

The dog must be leashed. It is illegal to take a bow along. Permission must be obtained to go on private land.

“There’s the sport of it, and maybe to recover that big deer and maybe be one of the first to lay hands on that big deer,’’ Erickson said. “That is part of my reward.’’

For Erickson and Wrinkles, call (815) 342-0478.

WATERFOWLER ALERT: The National Resources Advisory Board recommended (Charlie Potter’s blue-blood hands are all over this) sticking with the gerrymandered north-central waterfowl zone line in northeast Illinois put in during the last five-year plan. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources staff used public input and recommended moving the line back to I-80. Comments must be in by Nov. 24 to DNR.DuckTalk@illinois.gov.

Click here for the changes recommended by the NRAB.

Click here for the original recommendations from the IDNR professional staff. 

This is the first major test of whether IDNR director Wayne Rosenthal backs his professional staff or bows to political pressure.

DEERLY NEEDED: Bob Dolgansent a note on behalf of the Greater Chicago Food Depository to say they are mounting a renewed effort with the IDNR to make hunters aware of the Illinois Sportsmen Against Hunger program (dnr.illinois.gov/programs/ISAH), where whole deer are donated for processing.

OVER-THE-COUNTER:Any remaining Illinois firearm and muzzleloader deer permits are available over the counter from vendors through Dec. 6. Find a vendor at http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/LPR/Pages/LicensePermitVendors.aspx

STRAY CAST: Fair warning, the Rams are to lake trout what the Broncos are to Chinook.

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