OAKLAND COUNTY, MICHIGAN – It was during dense, wet fog on Halloween morning that Mike Hoeppner, an experienced game hunter from Michigan, lost track of his massive 200-pound 9-point archery clad in lots of Dollars.
An avid hunter, fisherman, and lifelong outdoorsman, Hoeppner has accomplished many exciting hunts over the course of his sports career, but he never lost a dollar he couldn’t find…until now.
After an exhausting two-hour search on foot in cold autumn rain and the densely wooded undergrowth of north Oakland County, Michigan, this seasoned hunter nearly gives up all hope of retrieving the deer of his dreams. Coming in at 138 5/8 inches in the Big Buck Gross Scored, this buck was recorded as being large enough to enter the Commemorative Bucks of Michigan state records, and it would be devastating for an experienced hunter to lose track of it.
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.
Weighing less than 15 pounds, these energetic little dogs are vertex trackers, successfully finding lost prey in some of Michigan’s densest wooded habitats. Moving quickly through slippery and wet terrain, it took this experienced tracking dog less than 5 minutes to locate the lost male, who had fallen into a deep, overgrown ravine.
“I went on for over two hours in some of the thickest, nastiest brush, through fog and freezing rain, looking for this deer,” says seasoned Michigan trail hunter Mike Hoeppner. “The deer jumped the fence and left no blood trail to follow. I searched for more than 100 yards from one side to the other, and the tracker dog found the deer only 20 feet from where he had been looking all along. The deer was buried deep in a ditch with no white belly showing. I never would have found it if it wasn’t for this little dog,” says Hoeppner.
Stories like this attest to the value of Michigan’s sniffer dog industry, which helps recover hundreds of lost deaths each year across the state.
With boundless energy and a sniffer hundreds of times stronger than humans, Michigan sniffer dogs often help retrieve bucks like this one. Experts consider Dachshund breeds, along with Bloodhounds, Beagles, and Coonhounds to be among the best tracking dogs available.
Human hunters have relied on sniffer dogs for centuries, from Viking times, 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 as Hoeppner. .
Tracking dogs like 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, eager to please, possess a strong sense of smell, and have the stamina to locate lost animals.
Organizations like the Michigan Deer Tracking Network offer tracking dogs for the best chance of retrieving injured or lost deer. The network is staffed by a team of expert deer trackers, including some of the best deer tracking dogs in the state of Michigan. Dog teams often cover multiple tracks per day and receive dozens of calls daily during Michigan deer hunting season. Tracking dogs are licensed and tagged through the Michigan DNR and these dogs can often find deer that human hunters might pass by. They are able to smell deer even when there is no visible blood trail to follow.
Tracking dogs are big news for hunters like Mike Hoeppner and provide a vital service in reducing the unwanted waste of missed kills and reducing prolonged suffering for an animal. “It is thanks to this tracking dog that I was able to locate my monstrous deer. It’s always an adventure hunting outdoors in Michigan!” comments hunter Mike Hoeppner, who will thank his lucky dog (and lucky stars) when he mounts his 9-point rack.