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Deer Tracking in the UK

I always thought my black Labrador Sooty had a nose-and- a-half on him for deer tracking, but when it comes to scenting power, he’s never going to get within sniffing distance of Thor.

Thor is a 3½-year-old Bavarian mountain scenthound bought as a puppy from Germany by professional deerstalker Paul Ventress and could probably sniff out a needle in a haystack. That’s thanks to an amazing scenting and hunting ancestry — plus a breeding programme — that can be traced back more than a century.

What kick-started Paul’s deep interest in tracking was losing a wounded deer. It bothered him greatly and after some serious investigation it was the GWP he settled on as a tracking dog to try to ensure it didn’t happen again, mostly because of their tenacious attitude. “Some were great at it, some mediocre and one was plain bloody useless,” he admits. Even so, it’s a breed he readily recommends to any stalker looking for a suitable all-round dog for deer and game.

In an attempt to reduce such suffering he and friends who share a passion for proper deer management and a love of dogs created the United Kingdom Scent Hound Association (UKSHA) — the idea for which stemmed from conversations between Paul and fellow professional George Ritchie of Inverurie, Aberdeenshire. The association now consists of a strong band of friends with just those passions, including one of the Elveden estate deer managers, Ole Jensen. The association is the only group in the UK dedicated to training suitable and acceptable hounds to track to the high standards expected in Europe.