Most big game hunters are mindful of the fact that there is an ethic associated with the kind of shots taken in the harvesting of wild animals. In general, running shots, head or neck shots are low-percentage shots that push the bounds of ethical choices by the hunter. The odds of wounding an animal with these shots are high.
Still, mistakes do happen. Anyone who hunts big game animals long enough, no matter how well-meaning and ethical, will wound an animal. Some animals will be recovered and some will not.
Maine is fortunate now to have nine experienced, competent and state-licensed blood trackers who are available to help any hunter track a wounded animal. These trackers and their trained dogs are only a phone call away.
Once, a number of years ago, I shared a tracking experience on a wounded buck with Montville tracker Susanne Hamilton and her Dachshund Buster. The energy and determination of both tracker and dog were impressive. Today, Hamilton, who was on the ground floor of Maine’s blood tracking program, is still very active. She has since become president of the national organization United Blood Trackers and a licensed Maine guide. Hamilton and her fellow tracker Lindsay Ware have worked hard at mentoring other state trackers and growing the state-sanctioned program.
Ware and Hamilton average about a hundred tracking scenarios each year. In fact, so experienced have they become in “reading” wounded game situations, the state of New Hampshire invited them to teach a forensics course to game wardens in the Granite State. All of the state trackers are authorized to dispatch a wounded animal, night or day.
“Time is of the essence when tracking wounded game,” says Hamilton. “We encourage hunters to call us promptly, and not wait for daylight the next day.”
There is no charge for these tracking services, though donations are accepted. Not all requests for tracking services are granted. “When we get the call we do a short interview with the hunter,” she says. “The go or no-go decision will depend upon our assessment of the situation.”
Here is a list of licensed state blood trackers and their respective telephone numbers:
- Susanne Hamilton, Montville, 249-8078.
- Lindsay Ware, Ellsworth, 812-1360.
- Scot Clontz, Mechanic Falls, 831-0872.
- Adam Copp, Gray, 657-2324.
- Paul House, Lee, 570-4806.
- Joey Morneault, Sabattus, 713-7636.
- Peter Conner, Sebec, 564-0760/965-5308.
- Matthew Hannum, Gorham, 505-1860.
- Larry Matthews, Kennebunk, 415-8378.
If you are a Maine big game hunter, you might want to save this list and tuck it away for future reference. You just never know. Trackers for other states can be found on the following website: www.unitedbloodtrackers.org.