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Bird Hunting Dog Etiquette
For many of us the opening day of dove season is a social hunt. For lots of folks I think opening day might be the only day they dove hunt all year. It is often associated with pig pickin’s (a Southern thing) and all sorts of other meals that bring people together. Again, it’s a celebration. Around here it is a time to bring out the kids and enjoy a different kind of hunt from the rest of the year. There might be quite a few newbies on the scene making things difficult or trying to cramp your hunting style but, keep in mind most of those hunters won’t be back until next year.
It is your job to make sure for the rest of the season you're not “that guy”. There seems to be one in every crowd. The person who let’s their overzealous, relatively untrained dog run wild, jump up on everyone and attempt to breed with every other dog there. Please don’t allow this to happen. If your dog can’t sit/stay, don’t let him off the leash. Don’t be the guy that yells at your dog all day. Nobody wants to hear that. Whistle training is a common practice, but if your dog is not responding, please stop trying to signal the police.
Usually we hunt and train in a focused, controlled environment. The added element of other dogs and hunters can certainly be a distraction. If your dog has been introduced to a training e-collar this is likely a time to put it to use. Most dogs are tempted to misbehave with all the commotion and the quick correction of a training collar would be needed to bring their attention back.
Another common issue in this environment is “breaking” on the shot. Our retrievers are supposed to heel or sit and wait to be told when to retrieve. This can be a nuisance when hunting alone, but when hunting with a large group it could be a downright problem, and the last thing you want is for your dog to go get the bird the other guy shot. Not to mention the sheer number of guns in the area that could quite possibly be shooting at low flying birds or cripples. In many cases a check cord could be used in conjunction with or in lieu of a training e-collar to help mitigate this.
Dog Training Opportunities
There is here, however, a great opportunity to work with and additionally train a young or unconditioned dog. Take advantage of this by spending the extra time to work on the basics in such a distracting environment. Also work on his tracking skills by seeking out down birds in dense cover. Here’s a chance to work on those blind retrieves and even sharpen a well-seasoned dog on his hand signals. If nothing else, here is the perfect environment to honor the retrieve of another dog.
Having fresh birds can be real asset too. Most hunters will save a bird wing to either attach to a dummy for blind retrieving or to put on the end of the fly rod for a new pup. Even though it may not be the main species you target, your dog gets the idea. Simply saving a fresh bird to drop in the dummy launcher can be worthwhile. You can even get several days out of it by placing the bird in the freezer between training. I have often heard of using a frozen bird to break a dog from having a hard mouth and biting into the bird during retrieval.
Taking the opportunity to focus on training and being courteous to other hunters will enhance your hunting experience even further and earn you a great deal of respect from seasoned or young hunters alike. Often the best hunting partner is the one who pays attention to everyone’s needs above their own and honors their fellow hunters with patience and a well controlled dog.