I hope that prior to the opening of the season; you and your dog have gotten out doing some walking to get in shape.
As anyone who has hunted behind a dog, a dog, one that is in good shape and well-trained, makes for a great hunt and much more effective than simply wondering around in the field hoping to stumble onto a bird.
Over the years, I have hunted over all types of dogs, had some great hunts as well as frustrating ones when a dog we were hunting behind, was out of control.
I have also hunted with all types of hunters, from the very new to the seasoned pro and found out some of these hunters could learn a lot by simply paying attention to their dog.
Take for instance one hunt in a huge CRP field where we were hunting with a yellow Lab.
It’s a fact, all dogs don’t work the same, all hunting differently, some in high gear, bounding through the tall grass while others will methodically work their way through it, nose just inches above the ground trying to pick up the birds scent.
My dog’s nose was close to the ground, his tail whirling in a tight circle as he worked through the field, going back and forth in front of the hunters.
Unfortunately, the owner of another dog was always yelling at the top of his lungs, or blowing his dog whistle, attempting to get his dog to hunt in front of him and nowhere else.
The dog knew better, as he hot on the trail and knew where the birds were, which was not in front of his owner. This was an owner who thought he was a whole lot smarter than his dog and wanted it to hunt where he was hunting.
When the owner headed for the dog, with one thing on his mind and that was not to flush a bunch of birds but to reprimand the dog.
When he charged over to drag his dog back, he stumbled into the birds the dog was working, totally screwing up our entire hunt, as the birds out in front of the dog erupted from the cover, startling the angry hunter and putting the birds out of range of the rest of the hunting party.
Sometimes, we humans forget that, even though we have a larger brain than a dog, and can work out some of the most complex problems in the world, other critters in the animal kingdom are better suited for some jobs than we are.
Over the years, after making several blunders myself, one of which was very similar to the hunter above, I have learned to follow the dog, no matter what direction he is going.
A dog’s nose is a hunter’s best friend and by following the dog instead of forcing it to follow you, your hunt will be more successful.
There is nothing that says we have to hunt straight across a field. In fact, it is better, especially in the late season to zig zag across the field. You are covering more of the field hunting this way. By doing this, you may make those birds that have buried themselves deep in the grass, nervous hoping you will walk by them. Once the dog zeroes in on the birds, the hunters can move up and let the dog flush the birds in front of the hunters, giving you and your hunting partners better shot opportunities
With your dog under control, he is not going to range out too far ahead and screw up the hunt you have waited for all year. The best way to hunt a field, is to allow the dog to lead the way and take you to the birds.
I once hunted with a friend whose black Lab would hit the field on a dead run with his owner not too far behind him. This meant both the dog and the hunter were way out ahead of the other hunters, which is not only a pain for the other hunters; it is also down right dangerous!
I had several suggestions as to what my friend could do to control the dog. One was to use a training collar on the dog, which he did not like. The other was to sell me the dog and I would shoot it putting it out of its misery. He was not too keen on that idea either!
As any good hunter should know, we need to start the dog with the wind in his face, and once you head him into the wind, it’s the dogs show.
After that, all you need to do is to get in behind your dog, be aware of where the other hunters are, know your shooting lanes, keeping the dog under control, and to praise your dog when he does a good job.
Praising the dog is important, as they want to please you, with every dog screwing up from time to time. The times when the dog doesn’t do everything perfectly, it’s important to keep your cool as your dog will become a much better hunter when you talk calmly to them when they mess up rather than raising your voice and jumping all over them.
I have seen hunting dogs ruined, by hunters that were too rough on their dogs, at times being down right mean, causing the dog to become timid.
Even though we may not speak the same language as our dogs, listen to what your dog is telling you when you are out hunting, not only will you come out of the experience a more intelligent hunter by listening to your dog, you will have a more successful hunt!