MAYFLOWER, Ark. -(Ammoland.com)- Tracking dog teams from corrections units across the South came together March 6-10, to compete in the 18th Annual Southern States Manhunt Field Trials at the Camp Robinson Special Use Area in Mayflower.
When the event had concluded, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission had sniffed out a first-place showing in the single-leash division.
Teams from Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Missouri and Florida were represented at the working competition, which held events for pack trailing, multiple leash trailing, single-leash trailing and drug detection.
Dogs from Angola Prison, Arkansas Department of Corrections, and many other well-known tracking teams were present.
The AGFC was the only team from a conservation agency and the only team to run dog breeds outside of bloodhounds and beagles.
“We use Labrador retrievers, so our teams got some strange looks when they first started going to these competitions,” said Sgt. Tracey Blake. “They’re competing with dogs that work with handlers every day, training to track down fugitives. But I think they’ve opened some eyes in the last few years.”
Although tracking is part of the AGFC K-9 unit’s purpose, it fills a role in evidence recovery as well.
“Our dogs are trained to sniff out firearms and game hunters stash in the woods when they see us coming,” Blake said. “Some were bought, but others are rescue dogs and duck dogs that didn’t make the grade. It’s amazing what some of them are capable of.”
The K-9 Unit Coordinator, Cpl. Gary Stell, says the tracking element of the dogs’ training revolves around search-and-rescue and tracking poachers.
“We also assist many sheriff’s offices and police stations throughout the state,” said Cpl. Stell. “It can take a lot of time for one of the prison dog units to respond to some areas of the state, but we can usually get on the track pretty quickly to start the trailing job.”
The following teams competed in the single-leash event on behalf of the AGFC:
1st Place – K-9 Happy and handler Cpl. Jeremy Whiley
5th Place – K-9 Lucy and handler Cpl. Gary Stell
9th Place – K-9 Daisy and handler Cpl. Jay Thomas
12th Place – K-9 Jazz and handler Cpl. Joe Williams
14th Place – K-9 Mollie and handler Cpl. Charles Rhodes
17th Place – K-9 Hank and handler Wildlife Officer First Class Billy Williams