Local Hunter’s Missing Big-Buck Kill Draws Spotlight on Michigan’s Tracking Dog Community
OAKLAND COUNTY, MICHIGAN – It was during a dense, wet fog on Halloween morning when lifetime experienced Michigan game hunter Mike Hoeppner lost track of his massive 9-point, 200 lb dressed big-buck archery kill.
An avid lifetime hunter, fisherman and outdoorsman, Hoeppner has landed many exciting hunts during the course of his sportsman career, but never lost a buck he couldn’t find… until now.
After an exhaustive two-hour long foot-search in the chilly autumn rain and dense woodland brush of Northern Oakland County, Michigan, this experienced hunter nearly lost all hope of recovering his dream buck. Coming it at 138 5/8 inches in the Big Buck Gross Scored, this buck was recorded at being large enough to make it into the Commemorative Bucks of Michigan state records, and would be devastating for an experienced hunter to lose track of.
Following the fruitless search, Hoeppner decided to enlist the help of one of Michigan’s most valuable hunting resources to save the day – a blood-tracking Dachshund named Max.
Weight less than 15 pounds, these feisty little dogs are apex trackers, successfully finding lost game in some of Michigan’s densest, forested habitats. Moving quickly through the slippery, wet grounds, it took less than 5 minutes for this experienced tracker dog to locate the lost buck, which had fallen into a deep, weeded ravine.
“I tracked for over two hours in some of the thickest, nastiest brush, through the fog and freezing rain, looking for this buck,” says experienced Michigan trail hunter Mike Hoeppner. “The buck jumped over the fence and left no blood trail to follow. I searched over 100 yards this way and that way, and the tracking dog found the buck only 20 feet away from where I had been looking all along. The buck was buried deep in a ditch with no white belly showing. I never would have found him if it weren’t for this little dog,” says Hoeppner.
Stories like this attest to the value of Michigan’s tracking dog industry, which helps recover hundreds of lost kills every year across the state.
With boundless energy and a sniffer hundreds of times stronger than humans, Michigan tracking dogs often help recover bucks just like this one. Dachshund breeds, along with Bloodhounds, Beagles, and Coonhounds are considered by experts to be among the best tracking dogs available.
Tracking dogs have been relied upon by human hunters for centuries, from the time of the Vikings when warriors were buried with their beloved dogs, to modern times when dogs are deployed by the military, first responders, and even modern-day field hunters like Hoeppner.
Tracking dogs such as Max are valued for their strong sense of smell, ability to be trained, and agility in navigating rough terrain. The best tracking dogs are independent, have an eagerness to please, possess a strong sense of smell, and have the stamina to locate lost animals.
Organizations such as the Michigan Deer Tracking Network offer tracking dogs for the best chance of recovering wounded or missing deer. The network has a team of expert deer trackers including some of the best deer tracking dogs in the state of Michigan. Dog teams often go on several tracks per day, and receive dozens of calls daily during Michigan’s peek deer hunting season. Tracking dogs are licensed and tagged through the Michigan DNR and these dogs can often find deer that human hunters might walk right by. They are able to scent deer even when there is visible no trail of blood to follow.
Tracking dogs are great news for hunters like Mike Hoeppner and provides a vital service to reducing unintended waste from lost kills, and reducing the prolonged suffering of an animal. “It’s because of this tracking dog I was able to locate my monster buck. It’s always an adventure hunting Michigans great outdoors!” comments hunter Mike Hoeppner who will thank his lucky dog, (and his lucky stars), when mounting his 9-point big-buck rack.