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By Cynthia Haggitt
Dogs are known to have incredible noses and when it comes to tracking deer no dog can contend with a Bloodhound’s nose.
Penny Lane is a one year old Bloodhound and she is owned by Don Carpenter of Eldred, Ill. Carpenter is a member and a certified deer tracker who is part of the Illinois Deer Tracker’s Association.
After doing some extensive research he decided to go into business with his son, Cole. He has been training Penny Lane for the past year since he and his son brought her home from Wisconsin.
“This is a business that my son and I have started. His name is Cole and we were just having a conversation about a year ago. He has an incredible love for animals and I have an incredible love for deer hunting. This is something we could do together,” Don Carpenter said.
In December of 2020, Carpenter said he and his son drove up to Wisconsin and back in a day after they purchased her from a Bloodhound breeder up there, who also trains tracking dogs.
Carpenter said the reason they chose the breed they did was because of the Bloodhound’s nose and their remarkable capabilities to track scents.
According to a PBS article from June 2008, ‘The Bloodhound’s Amazing Sense of Smell’, “The air rushes through its nasal cavity and chemical vapors — or odors — lodge in the mucus and bombard the dog’s scent receptors. Chemical signals are then sent to the olfactory bulb, the part of the brain that analyzes smells, and an “odor image” is created. For the dog, this image is far more detailed than a photograph is for a human. Using the odor image as a reference, the bloodhound is able to locate a subject’s trail, which is made up of a chemical cocktail of scents.”
“The old factory receptors rather are through the roof,” Carpenter said.
According to the PBS article, the Bloodhound’s Amazing Sense of Smell, “Researchers have estimated that a bloodhound’s nose consists of approximately 230 million olfactory cells, or “scent receptors” — 40 times the number in humans.”
“A good example of how great Penny’s nose is when we smell apple pie, she will smell every ingredient of the apple pie individually and can distinguish one scent from the other simultaneously,” Carpenter said.
Penny Lane has been training since she was first brought to the Carpenter’s home. Carpenter said they began training her in the yard first with different parts of the deer. He said they would use a hyde pelt, some liver or even sometimes a deer heart. Nowadays, Carpenter has moved past the yard and trains her out in the woods nearby where they live.
“Primarily at this point, she actually doesn’t require blood on the ground. In order to track deer, she can track a deer from a hormone that is admitted through a deer interdigital plant,” Carpenter said.
“When a deer is wounded it produces a unique hormone through a gland in between its hoof. She can distinguish a wounded deer from a non-wounded deer. Not only do we not require blood on the ground, but she doesn’t require any hair or bone fragments.”
Carpenter explained that as the deer is admitting this scent and running through the woods, Penny will be able to track it (after her first hunting season) until she finds it – no matter what the weather conditions are.
“For example, if its raining, it actually helps because the rain increases the scent conditions from the moisture in the air and on the ground,” Carpenter said. “She’s consistently right tracking well beyond 24 hours after I lay down a training track.”
Carpenter said abloodhound’s outward appearance, like Penny Lane’s ears and her wrinkles, also adds to her tracking abilities.
“There’s a purpose to her loose, wrinkled skin around her face. The wrinkles help trap scent particles and Penny lane’s long drooping ears drag on the ground will help collect odors and sweep them into the nostril area,” Carpenter stated. “The breed’s long neck and muscular shoulders, which slope into its strong back, allow her to track close to the ground for miles on end. The movement of their head actually encourages the stirring of the scent when they move.”
Although Penny Lane is only in her first year of training, she has been very successful in learning how to track. Carpenter and his son do not charge people for their services, but they will allow tips from their customers. Carpenter also said hunters do not use dogs to hunt, they use the dogs to track deer only. He said there are specific laws in Illinois that trackers must follow.
“We don’t just turn the dogs loose on somebody’s property. We actually work with the dog. It’s not just the dog. The handler works with the dog, and that dog is always with us. It was a really safe way of recovering deer, and it’s a very effective way,” Carpenter said. “For example, if a hunter loses track of their own deer, it’s best for them to call us earlier rather than later and hunters should not rush in to recover their deer, especially when there is questionable shot,” Carpenter said, rather than giving it the old college try and sending six or eight guys into the woods to do a random gird search. Unfortantely, if they are not smart about it, it makes recovery more difficult. He said Penny and him could still help track but it muddies up a scent and the chance of recovery goes down.
“We have a saying we always tell hunters, ‘when in doubt — back out.’” Carpenter said.
Although Penny Lane is only a year old and her training is getting closer to ending, she will be ready for the job. He has been documenting her training and progression on his Facebook page and mapping out her tracks.
“As a reward I will either give her a treat or we will play tug all the way back to the truck. We have been training on tracking usually about every five days. We have been doing this since January. I will use a piece of deer hyde attached to a rope on a tree. We will start at the beginning of the area and then start tracking. She will know she has reached the end of her track because she will signal me.”
Carpenter said if someone would like to use their services they just need to call them and they could be there within an hour.
“We are local to the area. We are within driving distances to Greene, Calhoun, Jersey, Madison, and Macoupin Counties, “he said. “We can be out there relatively soon if someone wants our help. Also, if somebody just needs some advice and wants to talk to them through the process about what needs to be done after recovering a deer I would be happy to speak to them even if we don’t come out with her.”
Carpenter said there will be plenty of videos seeing her attempts at finding deer as she tracks – if they are curious at what she can do.
“We just finished laying Penny’s final training track leading into her first deer season. We’ll run it in the morning and wait for the Lord to provide us our first track,” Carpenter said. “I’m grateful to the Lord for all the joy she’s already brought. Looking forward to seeing her first ‘surprise’ when the next time we run there’s a deer at the end of her ‘game!’”
For more information on how to get a hold of him, contact Carpenter at 217-248-4489.