Like many youth in Louisiana, New Orleans native Kody Pace, 30, began duck hunting at an early age.

“I remember going to the duck blind on my father’s back,” Pace said.

At age 14, he trained his first duck-tracking dog, and at 15, moved to St. Francisville with his family, where he began hunting deer.

The next year, Pace met Bill Johnson at Woodstock Plantation, a West Feliciana Parish hunting lodge since 1973.

The two became fast friends and had a mutual epiphany, of sorts, while night-tracking a wounded deer one evening through steep ravines and thick briar patches.

“I remember looking over at him and then at myself, both of us crawling around on our hands and knees looking for blood. It was like a light bulb went off,” said Pace. “That was when I told him that I had a perfectly good hunting dog at home.”

That experience was nearly 15 years ago, and today, Pace belongs to the Southern Blood Trackers Association and has four dogs: two active tracking dogs, Steel and Sweet Pea, and two retired hunting dogs, Gauge and Cheyenne. All are Labrador retrievers.

Recently, Pace was named 2014-15 Tracker of the Year by the association, which helps hunters track deer, fowl and other legal prey with their trained dogs after the trail has gone cold.

“I try and hunt as much as possible, but most of my time is spent driving my dump truck during the day and working my dogs in my spare time,” Pace says.

A graduate of Wilkinson County Christian Academy and Baton Rouge Community College, Pace is the son of Tip and Beth Pace and twin brother to Kaine Pace, all of St. Francisville.