A DOG IN C A M P
Shiloh Ranch Hunting Camp
Just over a year ago my husband and I decided to pursue our dream of starting our own hog hunting camp. We had found the perfect piece of land for just such an operation. Located in south central Oklahoma, the land was densely wooded with rolling hills, rocky outcroppings, and a creek running throughout. Combined with the abundance of oak and hickory trees, this land was just what we were looking for. On our first visit to the property we found hog wallows and could smell the stench of the critter which we spend so much time in pursuit of. Before the closing papers were even drawn up, we began making plans for what was to become Shiloh Ranch Hunting camp. We had so much to do before our first hunting season, including replacing the three miles of badly eroded fencing. Before we started working on the ranch itself however, we knew that the most important asset a hog hunting outfitter could have, is a quality blood trailing dog. Both Matt and I had experience training hunting dogs in the past, but neither of us had trained our dogs to bloodtrail. This was a whole new ball game for both of us. We decided to start our search on the internet by reading all we could about tracking. Having owned various other continental breeds in the past, we wanted a versatile dog which could be used for more than just tracking. We wanted a faithful companion that could be trusted around our hunting guests, as well as a fearless hog dog that could bay a wounded hog should the need arise. While the catahoulas, curs and other more popular hog dogs sounded like good options, none of them fitted our need for a dog of smaller stature.
While reading about Deer Search Incorporated, we saw a rare breed mentioned that we'd never heard of. What on earth was a jagdterrier? There were no pictures, nor description of this funny sounding dog, and we soon forgot the breed with the strange name. As time went by, we kept researching and talking to other outfitters who used dogs to help track wounded game. In the meantime, one evening while flipping through the pages of a Simon and Schuster dog breed book, Matt saw a picture of a dog described as the German Hunting Terrier. It was a handsome looking dog, and according to it's description it was a fearless hunter as well. Surely something this tenacious must weigh over a hundred pounds we thought. When Matt read the size description to me, I asked to see the picture again. We both ran over to the computer together and typed in the words german hunting terrier for our search. The first website to come up was Oskar's Home Page. We couldn't have found a better site for our first exposure to the breed. There was only one thing we were apprehensive about; In the Simon and Schuster book they described the jagdterrier as being an aggressive dog that should only be handled by an experienced handler. Knowing our dog would be exposed to new hunters each weekend, and possibly small children as well, we couldn't risk having an aggressive dog in camp. Once we saw Oskar's loveable face and childish antics, we couldn't wait to learn more about this remarkable new breed. We started placing phone calls to breeders, asking for more information on jagdterriers. Are they really as versatile as that book made them sound? As we found more and more websites and saw several more pictures of jagdterriers at work, we were convinced that this really was exactly what we were looking for in a dog. Before long, we had contacted Sharon Jones and she put us in touch with Todd Crabtree in Wisconsin who just happened to have a litter of pups coming available. I remember listening to Todd's stories of how his jagdterrier would wait patiently at the truck while he bowhunted for deer, then be ready to go coon hunting when he got back. Surely to goodness I thought, no good hunting dog could make a good household companion. I heard tales of the jagdterrier that was killed by a bear, and I saw pictures of jagdterriers with hogs, badgers, coons and even cougar. How could such a small dog hunt such big game? Matt and I were both anxious to find out.
Shortly thereafter, Sage came into our lives. She was everything we wanted in a pet. Not only was she the most loving dog we've ever owned, but she learned much faster then any of the other breeds we've both owned and trained. Before long, Sage learned to ring a bell when she had to go outside; A task that Todd had taught her mother. She traveled well (we took an eight hour trip down to south Texas on a javelina hunt her first week with us) and is the perfect household companion. Now, the biggest and most important thing to us-would she hunt? It wasn't long before we had her out at camp following us everywhere we went. We started working on bloodtrails right away. At less than three months of age, we would shoot small game and leave bloodtrails for her to follow, with the animal being her reward. Not only was she tracking and finding her quarry, but retrieving it back to us. It was quite a sight watching this little pup trip over rabbits as she ran, dragging them to our feet. It wasn't long before she was doing water retrieval as well. We couldn't wait to get her on her first hog. We had been practicing and practicing with hog blood which we had laid trails with. She performed flawlessly each time, and I gradually made the trails more and more difficult. Finally, it was time for the real thing. We just happened to have Todd down on a hog hunt one weekend when he shot a nice hog with his bow. When he called us on the radio to tell us of his success, he asked us to bring Sage out to track it. Knowing the hog didn't run too far, it was a perfect chance for a young pup on her first real bloodtrail. We took her out to the first drop of blood, and before I knew it, we were running full steam ahead directly to the dead hog. I was amazed at how quickly she learned. It was quite a thrill for all of us to see Sage perform the one task we most needed her most for. Over the past hunting season, Sage has proven to be an invaluable asset to us. We’ve had numerous occasions where we've had to rely on her ability to find wounded animals that otherwise would have been unrecoverable. There have been many nights where we would have spent hours on our hands and knees trying to find small droplets of blood in the tangles of greenbriars if it had not been for Sage. It is such a luxury to take her to the spot where a hog was shot, and give her the command to "find the pig" and then run to keep up with her as she leads us directly to the animal. It's also nice having a little bit of a warning when approaching an animal that isn't quite so dead! When bloodtrailing, she doesn't open up at all, yet when she finds a hog that's still alive, the whole world knows. On more than one occasion, the length of her 30' lead was all that separated me from a wounded boar. It's quite an adrenaline rush when you shine your flashlight up in the dark and find yourself face to face with a 500 pound hog, and the only thing blocking it's exit is an 18 pound dog! Time and time again, Sage had been instrumental in tracking hogs that otherwise would have evaded our bloodtrailing skills. Each weekend, a new group of hunters would arrive and comment on the "cute little puppy" we had in camp. When we told them she was our resident hog dog, they'd chuckle and say "that's a hog dog? How big will she get?". Once her services were required however, we heard her referred to as"my little hero" or "the lifesaver". It's so gratifying hearing such compliments on a dog which we had trained ourselves and then see her perform so effortlessly. Now, we don’t even have to say a word to her, for she knows what her job is. As soon as we put the harness on, and set her down on the ground, her nose goes down and she's off! She truly has been a blessing to us. Now, if I can only find a way to keep up with her through all those greenbriars and creek bottoms.
Having this little dog in camp has increased our recovery rate by 25%. The only time we lose a hog now is when it isn’t mortally wounded, but even then she always takes us right to the animal that was hit. After watching the German Jagdterrier training video which Sharon had sent us, Matt and I were in awe of one particular clip where they showed a dog following a bloodtrail for it's owner. Being in German, we didn't understand the commentary, but we could clearly see that the dog had struck out on a bloodtrail, found the dead deer, then returned to the owner and signaled for the owner to follow it back to the deer. We couldn't believe that it was even possible to train a dog to perform such a feat. Two weekends ago however, Sage amazed us while tracking a wounded hog. This particular hog had been shot far back, and we were certain it was not hit in any vital organs. We wanted to make every attempt to help our guest recover his animal, so we brought Sage in to help track the hog. She quickly got on the animals tracks which we could see for a short distance as it had some blood and intestinal contents spilled along the trail but pretty soon that ran out, and we had nothing to go by. Sage forged ahead, her nose smelling that which our eyes couldn't detect. I was clearly slowing her down as we got into some of the thickest, nastiest briars which the hogs always seem to run to when hit. It was still light out, and after untangling my own hair for the umpteenth time, unclipped her lead and let her go. When she ran out of sight, I felt like I had made the wrong decision. I tried desperately to keep up with her, stumbling through the swamp, stopping to listen for a sign of our dog. After 15 or 20 minutes had gone by, I became concerned fearing what might happen to Sage when she caught up to the wounded boar. From past experience, I knew she would try to subdue the big animal herself.
Without a cut vest on, or us to back her up I began to fear for her safety. All I could do is stand in one spot and hope to hear her muffled bark in the distance. I became angry at myself for letting her go. I walked to the highest spot in the woods and began looking all around me, hoping to hear something, or catch a glimpse of some movement. With the thick vegetation however, all I could hear was rustling leaves and the evening birds beginning to sing. I didn't want to walk in a direction that may take me further from the impending confrontation. Wherever Sage was, I wanted to be able to get to her as quickly as possible. The next thing I knew, here comes Sage running full bore to us, running in circles around me as if she were trying to get us to follow her. I bent over to inspect her for wounds when she ran up the trail a short ways. She stopped and looked back at me, so I moved toward her. Again she moved down the trail. I followed her, not knowing what she was trying to do. Finally after we got back into a clearing and the chase turned into a all out run, she suddenly stopped and began to bay. There in front of me was the wounded hog. I was really kicking myself at that point- for I had left camp without my sidearm since Matt was carrying his. Sage held the hog as long as she could before it finally busted out. After a quick look of disgust, she took off in pursuit once again. This time unfortunately, we never caught up to the running hog again. After hours of tracking, crossing the creek several times, climbing up and down steep banks we were all wore out, including Sage. This was one of the very few times a hog has managed to evade us, but it was one of the most awesome tracking jobs I've been on yet. It was only after we caught up to the hog that I realized what Sage had done. Not only did she track a hog which wasn't leaving a bloodtrail, but she came back for us after she found it. This past weekend we decided to put Sage to the test. On Saturday evening I took my longbow out in hopes of shooting a hog for the freezer. Fortunately the winds were right and I was able to connect on a hundred pound hog. I could hear the crashing of the animal as it made it's final lunge into the thick brush around 30 yards or so east of me. I sat in silence to be sure the animal was dead before climbing out of my stand. I was confident in my shot, and decided to slip out after a short wait and go back to camp and get Sage. The bloodtrail wasn't much of a challenge for her, but we wanted to see if she’d repeat what she'd done the week before. Surely enough, while Matt and I waited back at the spot where I had hit the hog, Sage went and found the animal, then returned to get us. Time and time again, this little dog amazes Matt and I. She seems to learn simply by observing what we do. She helps keep the vermin out of camp, keeps the horses off our porch, and even helps fetch firewood simply by watching us do the same. I can't believe we ever had any apprehension about jagdterriers after having Sage around. I do know one thing for sure though- from now on, we'll always have a dog in camp, and it will always be a jagdterrier.
Update - This was wrote when Sage was young. When Sage was just over 3 years old she has recovered over 300 hogs plus many other types of game. Many of the hunters now call Sage "Sage the Wonder Dog". Sage's granparents came from us and have all Knite Hunt Kennel lineage. Cheryl is in the procces of training a young female "Shiloh's Chiggar v.d. Knite Hunt".