After having such a good hunt last week, the dogs and I took a few days off to reenergize and than headed out yesterday. I don’t know what happened but we went back to some of bad habits I hoped we had put away.
First off, my idea of a trained dog and others ideas are different. I have fewer expectancies than most dog trainers. I admire those dogs that are perfect and at one time I trained for that but found it took a lot of the fun out of the hunt for me. My boys are supposed to find the birds, point them, let me flush the birds and shoot, and if I shoot straight bring the bird back to me. As soon as I flush the birds they are allowed to go after the birds. They don’t have to hold to the shot or until I release them. I know that the theory of letting the dogs break at the flush could cause dangerous shooting conditions. But since I hunt alone, I am usually in front of the dogs at the flush and I don’t care so much if I get the bird so I’m a lot more picky about making shots.
As far as the retrieves, my dogs have always got the bird to within a couple of feet from me before they dropped it and they figured out to be careful of dropping a cripple so as not to have another chase on their own. I feel if I can’t take a couple of steps and bend over to get the bird after the dog has done all that work than I should probably take up fishing. For some reason, Grady likes to put the bird in my hand. It wasn’t trained, he just started doing it and I kind of like it.
Honoring has always almost been natural. All of my dogs have been fantastic at honoring until of late for Jake, which brings up one of my problems. Jake will honor for as long as it takes until I get out in front. Than he creeps along behind me wanting to get closer to the flush. I can stop him by putting my hand up in the whoa position or telling him to whoa but he’s not going to let me get to far from him. Meanwhile Grady is seeing Jake move in and is ready for the launch. He breaks as soon as he sees a bird move. It’s a no shooting situation and I’m getting lot’s of those.
Secondly is a stop to flush situation. I trained one of my past dogs, Riley, to stop to flush and it became more work than it was worth. He would bust a covey of birds while out of sight and go on point. I’d make the long walk to his point and find out the birds had already flushed. It created a lot of wasted time and miles for me and I soon broke him of that and we had more productive hunts. Grady has been flushing many of the covey’s for me this year which resulted in those no shooting situations again so last week we worked on him stopping to flush hoping that would slow him down some and I could start doing the flushing again and it seemed to work. But on yesterdays hunt it reminded me of the Riley days and I was often walking in on a point where the bird had already taken flight. I could tell by Grady’s point that it was going to be unproductive and Jake would still move over close to me to get closer to what he thought would be action.
I know that hunting the dogs individually and working on their problems is what I have to do but I can’t leave one of my buddies behind. Besides, I would have to go out seven days a week to accomplish the time the dogs deserve on the hill and this body couldn’t handle that. So, I’ll try and get them back on track while we all hunt together. That means a lot more whoa’s and no’s on the hill by me. Something I really don’t like. A perfect hunt is one that the only words ever spoken are atta boy and yesterdays hunt wasn’t one of those.
I try to keep chukar hunting post as positive as I can and dwell on the good things. There are usually far more good things than bad to dwell on. I like showing success photos of great points and retrieves. Who wants to see video’s of dogs wildly chasing birds over the next ridge? But I also have to be humbled some and point out that we have some rough days also. Take yesterday. I covered over 8 miles and 2000 vertical feet gained while Jake got over 21 miles and Grady 28 miles. We saw plenty of chukars and should have had a good day but most of the day was correcting dogs. My vest had only two birds in it and all three of us were tired and sore. It wouldn’t make much of a success shot. Crap happens.
The one good thing is that there is always tomorrow and we know that “it does get better than that”.
2 thoughts on “Bad habits revisited”
Sounds like you need to re-educate your boys away from birds and hunting. I use a flank e-collar ala Smith or Elkins method. But train on whoa posts with check cord around flank first. Look up HuntSmith.com. I train to be steady to wing and shot as. I’ve found it not only safer but the pups are steadier and rarely blow a covey. With the lack of cover we have this year it is important that the dogs respect the birds. Often my points are 60 yards from the covey. When i have a problem, I go back to basic training.
Thanks James. The dogs definitely need a little re-education. I use to train my Brittany’s pretty much using the tricks and methods you’ve described and had some pretty good dogs They were impressive but we became to serious sometimes which took away some of the fun of hunting wild birds. Then, 27 years ago, I got my first shorthair simply because I was tired of taking burrs out of my Britts. Tucker brought a new meaning to training for me. He taught me a new way of training by using only wild birds. He was a special dog and taught me all about hunting as a team. I threw away my launchers and outside of my blank pistol I don’t use any training aids any more.
I know that part of my problem is the fact that I didn’t get out and train with the boys for a while due to an accident that kept me from hiking the hills for 6 months. In stead I took them where I knew they could find some birds while I was on my side by side. I’d hobble out on my crutches and sometimes flush the birds but was just happy to see the dogs finding birds. Then last season, I was still hobbling around on the mountain, without crutches and sometimes encouraging the dogs to break point because I couldn’t get to them.
This year I’m healthy with two decent legs and am able to get to the dogs but they’re still hunting like we did last year. They have some really good moments but also having some bad ones. I know by taking each dog out separately I could solve the problem in short order but I can’t find it in my heart to leave one behind. So, we will work on it as we hunt for the next couple of months and hopefully soon get it back to team work without a word ever said on the hill.
Trust me when I say that I can appreciate all the work you probably do on training your dogs and how impressive they must be to watch. I just lost that need for perfection 27 years ago and will settle with the team work between me and the dog. 90 % of my birds are shot off point with me doing the flushing, normally. But I have to admit to sometimes shooting a flushed bird. Especially late in the season when the birds have learned to run straight up the hill. Jake will start scenting their tracks and start yipping as he follows them up. Eventually the birds flush and if they pass close enough for a shot I take it. It isn’t the way a hunter should do it with a pointing dog but I’ve got over that and figure that we used a different type of team work on that covey.
The dogs will figure out that if I don’t do the flushing they can’t get a bird in their mouth. I just have to be a little more consistent on getting that point across.