How K-9 Companions Can Improve Big Game Scouting

Posted by Clint Wirick on 16th Apr 2020

How K-9 Companions Can Improve Big Game Scouting

Dogs were the first animal to be domesticated by humans. The oldest dog fossils that can be clearly distinguished from wolves are from the region of what is now Germany from around 15,000 years ago. Since then, dogs have been a trusted companion and useful tool among evolving human societies.

One way your dog is a tool you’ve likely never been told before is for big game scouting. Yea, you heard right, your best four-legged friend can help you come scouting season. Below are a few reasons how. If you don’t have a K-9 partner, then consider these reasons to start looking for one.


Having someone else count on you can be substantial motivation for doing something. This is one reason many of us hunt harder when we hunt with a partner. We don’t want to be the person bringing the other down or holding them back.

A good working type of dog needs exercise and can have seemingly endless energy. That energy can be a great motivator to start scouting.

Dogs count on us as companions for happiness and exercise. Having an active working dog that counts on you for its exercise can be the motivation needed to strap on the backpack, lace up the boots, and get up the mountain.


Having good company in any setting keeps you lingering longer. If you’ve ever been to a dinner party where everyone is a bore you just want to get it over with and get home. The same principle applies to having a K-9 companion while scouting. Having someone (a dog in this instance) you enjoy spending time with will keep you going. You’ll find more enjoyment and want to be out longer on the mountain glassing for bucks, looking for elk beds, and setting trail cameras with a good dog.


A dog has up to 300 million olfactory receptors in its nose, compared to about six million in ours. On top of this, part of a dog’s brain is devoted to analyzing smells, some say up to 40-times greater than our human brains can.

With a dog’s powerful nose and innate curiosity, you never know what the two of you may find.

With the nose and brain power of your dog you just find cool stuff otherwise would have passed up. You’ll find deadheads, lion kills, other people’s bait sites, someone else’s lost gear, and other interesting things. You never know where a dog will lead you or what they’ll bring back to you.


If you’ve had a trusted dog you’re close with you will understand this. We all talk to our dogs for various reasons, one being they are great listeners. Even though dogs don’t answer back, they are great for running through the day’s activities and bouncing ideas around on how best to accomplish scouting goals. Even though you won’t get any return feedback, talking things through with the dog is a great way to verbalize situations and go through your decision making processes to efficiently scout.


Something about having a dog while scouting pushes your fitness limits. Maybe it is the fact the dog just keeps going and seems to have endless energy. It’s psychological motivation, you don’t want to be outdone. This competitive fire burns in many of us hunters.

Working dogs will push their physical limits and in turn, push yours.

The same principle applies when hiking with friends, you don’t want to be the weak link needing a break or turning around. Your dog keeps going, so you keep going. You’ll end up pushing yourself harder and stretching your physical limits with a hard-working dog.


We all know antlers are laying out on these ranges we hunt like little piles of money waiting to be found because antlers are big business for antlers buyers and dealers.

Another bonus to scouting with a dog is finding antlers.

Your dog can easily be trained to find those little piles of money and help pay for those scouting trips. Another benefit to finding those antlers is you know the quality of animals making it through last seasons hunts and winter.


We all scout, hunt, and hike in terrain occupied by predators capable of hurting us if they wanted to. Although attacks on humans by bears or mountain lions are extremely rare, it does happen. Even though most backcountry hunters have never experienced an attack, many of us have had close encounters. Having a dog while scouting is peace of mind. The thoughts about predators in the back of your head while in the backcountry becomes a non-issue with a dog and helps you feeling safe and scouting longer.


Obviously little lap dogs won’t make the best mountain scouting companions. The working breed dogs with a lot of drive work best.

An electronic collar (e-collar) and a GPS collar can be awesome pieces of equipment for your mountain scouting dog. Having the GPS collar on them that connects to my handheld GPS or watch helps you to know where they’re at and what they’re doing. The e-collar has come in handy for training my dogs not to chase critters. You’ll need to do some initial e-collar introduction around the yard when the dog is young. The e-collar is useful when scouting if they become a little too interested in squirrels, rabbits, or big game. Give them a little buzz on the e-collar as a reminder chasing is not acceptable. If you have a pup wanting to chase you’ll have them fixed pretty quick with proper e-collar use.

Taking your dog into the backcountry will push their physical limits as well. Make sure to have snacks and plenty of water on hand for you and the dog. Hydration and nutrition are important for both of you. I regularly carry Wilderness Athlete Hydrate & Recover for me and K9 Athlete Hydrate & Recover for the hound.

You may find your dog becoming a favorite mountain partner during the scouting season, and favorite friend during this ‘social distancing season’.