Last Bird Hunt This Season

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The evening before I was torn as to whether or not I should bother. With temperatures predicted in the low 80's, high winds and birds (if any) that were last released on Feb 20th on this private coop area, why bother? My wife convinced me by reminding me it was for the dog, a first-season pup that just reached one year old. Since my decision was late, I did not leave in the morning but rather 11AM and arrived by 1:30PM. My goal was to close out the season with one perfect point, steady to wing and shot, retrieve upon release and bird in the bag. The thermometer said 79 degrees and my wind-gauge said 24 MPH constant with an occasional gust in the low 30MPH range.

Upon arrival the worker told me I was the only one there and that nobody had been there in a couple of days. He said "there ain't many birds out there, but good luck". This place closed down on April 3rd, so this was my last day this season. I loaded the 13-gauge doublegun with a square load of 7/8-ounce using #6 shot. I started the first loads with an over-powder card, a 1/2-in fiber wad that was previously soaked in olive oil, and an over-shot card. The pup was ready to go and we headed towards the wind breaks that divided larger fields of agriculture and/or wild weeds and grasses.

I was starting to get tired of going backwards to pick my hat up when I realized I hadn't seen the dog a while. She was wearing a beeper collar set to "point-only" but I don't know if I could hear it over the wind. The controller has a nifty button that will set the beeper off in a flurry of 5- consecutive beeps for moments like this. I pressed the button but heard nothing. Continuing in the direction the dog was going I hit the button every 50-75 yards. About the 3rd time I pressed the button I thought I heard the "beep-beep-beep-beep-beep". Altogether about 10-minutes had passed since I last saw the dog, but now I could faintly hear the one beep per second that indicated she was on point. Wiggling through a thicket, I tore my left pants leg above the knee and drew blood. "Off to a great start", I silently said to myself. Well, the dog is on point.... When I reached her, she was "high and tight" on point. I brought the shotgun to a ready position and cocked the hammers. I walked past the dog and .... nothing. I continued on for probably 50- feet past the dog. I saw birds begin to rise but I couldn't hear them. I had earplugs that made the wind noise sound like sticking your ear to a sea-shell. Two quail were rising and splitting in a V-pattern. I swung hard on the left bird and saw if fall before the smoke showed itself. The smoke was very brief because the wind sent it away quickly. I looked back and the pup was still tight. On the way back to her a single bird took flight but I didn't raise the gun. I lowered the left hammer, continued to the dog and released her for a retrieve. The bobwhite was brought to hand. "Mission accomplished" I thought.

I turned into the wind to make a circle back to the truck so no other reason than to let the dog have a longer run while passing some ponds for her to cool off. Between the tangle and the wind I ended up a half hour before I could swing back and my circle became a big rectangular route back to the truck. I broke through the tangle and found the pup swimming in the pond and drinking water. I had already reassured myself that the beeper collar is indeed waterproof, but I still had a slight doubt. I stayed in the open when the dog continued on down an edge. We were on the protected side of the edge somewhat out of the wind now. The pup took a game trail made by either deer or hogs and came to a point in a little clearing full of low-growth sticker bushes. I made my way in there and she looked very serious on point, so I stopped to reload my empty right barrel. This time I put two over-powder cards and no fiber wad. I had already thought about this. I decided to use the olive oil soaked fiber wad for my first shots, when and if the barrel(s) became difficult to load, and my last shots. Once loaded I cocked both hammers and carefully picked through the stickers. Well out in front of the dog I had doubts about the authenticity of this point. Two more steps and I was rewarded with a covey flush. I shot a straight-away bird and saw it fall while I moved the gun to a left-right bird. At that shot the smoke did hang and I could not see if I hit or not. I tripped and stumbled back to the dog and released her. She brought one quail back to me and made several casts near the second bird but it was not on the ground. I decide to load both barrels there before moving on, and again just used two over-powder cards with the 7/8-ounce #6 and over-shot card. Not to push my luck, I intended to go the easiest way back to the truck. Two broke finds and retrieves were a good way to end this pups first season.

When we made a hard left turn the dog took advantage of the cross wind and ranged out in the open. I saw her nose go up and her head snap to the left. Her body followed and she began to slow down until she established a point. Passing the dog, a group of 3 or 4 quail ran under some sticker bushes. Not interested in walking in there or making the dog negotiate a retrieve, I took her by the collar, turned her and sent her on. We reached the end of that leg and turned hard left again. I surveyed the landscape and figured roughly where the truck was. As we came through a break and into a field the dog slammed to a stop at a berry bush of some time, about ten-foot round and seven-foot tall. It was pretty open underneath the bush so I did not expect a bird and wondered what it could be. I followed the circumference of the bush and to my surprise a long bobwhite burst out of it. I was able to cock one hammer and get the gun up. At the shot, the bird dropped. I went back around the bush and pet the dog and released her. Another quail was brought to hand and entered the game bag.

Now I was pretty sure where the truck was, and it was a half-mile or so. I reloaded my right barrel but thinking if I did shoot again it would be the last of the day, I used a lubed fiber wad over the over-powder card. With the truck in sight, I was day-dreaming when I realized the beeper was going off. I turned back and went toward the sound where I found my dog on point yet again. When I passed her by, a single quail rose from the grass. It paused for a second, caught in the wind and started actually coming back at my. Not to be dive-bombed by a quail, I thumbed the hammer and dropped him out of the air. At the shot, a second quail rose and began gaining altitude rapidly as the wind lifted him, making it loop as if he was hopping through the air. Somehow, my second shot caught him and he too fell to the ground. I went back to the dog and released her for the retrieve. She brought me one quail and then I cast her out for the second. A few seconds later the second one was brought to me. I pet the dog and told her she's the best. I just wanted one broke find and one bird in bag but we now had 4 finds and 5 birds. I headed back to the truck.

At the truck, I put the 5 quail on ice and drank some water while the dog had a treat and her own water. I put the gun in the case and began to pack up. I was just about ready to go when I heard the dogs beeper. First, I hadn't realized she wandered off so quick and second I was glad I didn't turn off the beeper. After about 30-seconds of constant beeping I realized she was indeed on point. I took the gun back out and loaded both barrels. Straight off the front of the truck about 100-yards out the dog was locked up in a little depression with some standing water, cattails and high grass. When I stepped on some crunchy ground, a rooster pheasant ran out of the grass about three strides and then took to the air, flying straight away. My first shot hit him and I saw him start to tumble down. That is usually the sign of a broken wing, so I let him have it with the second barrel too. The bird was pretty high up and made an audible thud when he hit the ground. He still flopped into some heavier brush in spite of being hit twice. I couldn't get to my dog to physically release her. I got within sight and gave her the verbal release command. At first she didn't budge but I said it again and added the retrieve command. She came up out of the mini-swamp and went towards the rooster. In less than a minute she was on her way back with the bird. I looked up and could see my truck up ahead. This bird was not quite dead. It had two broken wings, a broken leg and blood on its head but was still conscious. I squeezed it for a few seconds until it relaxed its head and succumbed. The truck was a short 100- yards now. We finished about 4:30PM.

At the lodge the worker was really surprised that we had birds. He asked, "where did you find them"? I gave him a quick recount and he helped me clean the birds. I wished him a good summer and said "see you next year". He said "Yes, Sir. I'll remember you because you are always super lucky and your the guy with the old fashioned guns". I replied, "something like that". I was really thinking I'm super blessed that my puppy grew up to be a fantastic bird dog in just one season.

At home I realized my hunch about using the lubed wads paid off. One wet and one dry patch in each barrel resulted in hardly any discoloration on the dry patches. I then used some plain alcohol patches and they were no worse. Followed them with dry patches that came out clean. Lastly, some WD-40 on the patch and those came out clean as well. Easy 5-minute clean up. Gun done, dog bath - done. Baked quail for dinner..... the end of my dogs first season and my first 100% muzzleloader season. The pup pointed over 300 birds between wild birds and "released birds" and I shot just over 1/3 of them.

Inked-Mar-bird-hunt-LI.jpg
 
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Thats a lot of birds in one season.

Now you can relax for the summer. I'm coming up on my last weekend of working dogs on woodcock, add in a couple trials and then its back to yard work, mostly for the pups.
 
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Good last day . it is always nice to finish on a high note . When you say you released your dog what do you mean ? are you working your dog on a rope ? or is that something to do with the beeper ?
Out bird season starts here in New Zealand on the first Saturday of May and depending on location and species runs on to the end of September .
 
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My dog is broke. That is, she remains on point through the bird flushing, the shooting and the birds falling. She won’t move until I either go to her and touch her on the head or give a verbal and hand signal. Touch on the head sends her for the retrieve. Verbal and hand signal brings her to me. When she comes to me I either send her on by a tug on the collar or line her up and touch her head to retrieve.
 

Brokennock

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Awesome.
A wonderful story, maybe your best yet.
Should be in a magazine.
What a great dog. You must be really proud of her and the work you've done with her.

Question, if you have had the situation, is she this good and well controlled with other dogs around while hunting?
My Brittany is no where near as well trained as your dog. He does seem to really loose all control when there are other dogs around though. Some ha e theorized he sees it as a competition and that he needs to run like heck and beat the other dogs to the birds.
How is your little girl around other dogs?
 
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Brokennock:

This little girl is does not fit the paradigm of being calm in the field and the house. At home, she has a hard time sitting still. She'll stay on her bed or the couch for a little while, mostly if she tired and worn out. She goes to the back door and scratches on it every 10-minutes when I am sitting down trying to do something. She just wants to look out there one more time - for what I don't know. If you say her name or pet her she's unable to keep herself from trying to jump in your lap, do a dance and lick your pants leg. If you play fetch in the house, she has no end. My boys have thrown a toy or a ball literally 100 times in a row and she'll enthusiastically get it every time until you have to hide it. She relentlessly jumps on, tugs on and otherwise annoys my 105-pound female Rottweiler service dog.

To your question directly, she completely ignores other dogs in the field. We've hunted her with a GSP male, an ESS male, a GWP female and a handful of others. She had never met these dogs before the day of the hunt. The ESS has been around on a handful of hunts. My pup might say "hello" with a face-sniff but then she goes and does her thing. This is a blessing with the ESS since he is a flushing dog. Usually his owner goes one way and I another with a plan to meet somewhere ahead and then spread out again. My dog will back another dog pointing. That is her only area that needs more experience and improvement. She doesn't stop instantly upon seeing the other dog, she tends to pause, cut the distance in half no matter how much it is, and then honor. Since she's broke and frankly these other dogs aren't, she just stays put throughout and after the shooting and I let the dog that pointed do all the retrieving before sending my dog on. To date, no other pointing dog has had the opportunity to back her because she is usually hunting on her own and is a very small, tail-less tri-color. The other dogs either didn't notice or when I declare a point the other handler reins in their dog and either whoa's them tells them to stay. This whole situation turns out to be a blessing. Since she doesn't give a hoot about another dog, there's no chasing-playing-horsing around or competitiveness in the field. It's also great in the neighborhood on a leash. She pays no attention to another dog. I took her home early at the insistence of the breeder (5-weeks) and she's lived with the Rot, my wife's little whatever it is dog and a 29-pound cat that is my youngest son's.

Also, a note: when I was little I was enamored with the Upland Lifestyle. As a teenager I decided to immerse myself in all aspects of this. So, I ended up an English trained gunmaker, professional bird dog trainer and simultaneously owned a worldwide hunting and fishing adventure tour company (now called a booking agency). I had a bird-dog TV show and wrote for a handful of magazines including being a columnist, mast-head writer and feature writer. 25- years of all that and I retired from it. No brag in that but it would not be fair to compare my dogs trained discipline to that of a casual owner or one with just a few dogs experience. I think at least 75-90% of what a dog turns out to be is the genetics and personality but the rest is bird exposure and training. I have a leg up on the training methodology and the places to find birds from my past life.

Also, my pup is imperfect. She was the runt and nobody wanted her. The breeder had to put her on her mommas nipple separate from the other pups. He also bottled some of momma's milk to hand-feed her. It is a small miracle she made it. She has a mild over-bite as her bottom jaw is about 1/4-inch short of what it should be. She also has a weird bump in her snout that makes the shape seem a little odd. And she only got to be 25-pounds (her Mom is 28 and her Dad is 32 pounds). The Vet advised not to breed her because the over-bite and snout situation could be passed on - although no other pup from that litter or previous have these conditions. She's more hyper in the house and has a lot more ground speed and range hunting than any of her litter-mates or relatives. I take that as a good thing and a blessing for me. Thanks for the inquiry
 
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Brilliant , You must have put a lot of hours into her training .It is such a pleasure when training clicks in to make a fine day for both of you .
I own and shoot over 2 field type English Springer Spaniel dogs . they are both trained to sit after a flush and stay until told to move . I use whistle ( Acme 210½) and hand commands .
Both behave like your girl around the house . They go ballistic when I put on boots and a hat and pick up the car keys because they think they are going hunting or at least training . They are fun but also hard work .
 

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Brokennock:

This little girl is does not fit the paradigm of being calm in the field and the house. At home, she has a hard time sitting still. She'll stay on her bed or the couch for a little while, mostly if she tired and worn out. She goes to the back door and scratches on it every 10-minutes when I am sitting down trying to do something. She just wants to look out there one more time - for what I don't know. If you say her name or pet her she's unable to keep herself from trying to jump in your lap, do a dance and lick your pants leg. If you play fetch in the house, she has no end. My boys have thrown a toy or a ball literally 100 times in a row and she'll enthusiastically get it every time until you have to hide it. She relentlessly jumps on, tugs on and otherwise annoys my 105-pound female Rottweiler service dog.

To your question directly, she completely ignores other dogs in the field. We've hunted her with a GSP male, an ESS male, a GWP female and a handful of others. She had never met these dogs before the day of the hunt. The ESS has been around on a handful of hunts. My pup might say "hello" with a face-sniff but then she goes and does her thing. This is a blessing with the ESS since he is a flushing dog. Usually his owner goes one way and I another with a plan to meet somewhere ahead and then spread out again. My dog will back another dog pointing. That is her only area that needs more experience and improvement. She doesn't stop instantly upon seeing the other dog, she tends to pause, cut the distance in half no matter how much it is, and then honor. Since she's broke and frankly these other dogs aren't, she just stays put throughout and after the shooting and I let the dog that pointed do all the retrieving before sending my dog on. To date, no other pointing dog has had the opportunity to back her because she is usually hunting on her own and is a very small, tail-less tri-color. The other dogs either didn't notice or when I declare a point the other handler reins in their dog and either whoa's them tells them to stay. This whole situation turns out to be a blessing. Since she doesn't give a hoot about another dog, there's no chasing-playing-horsing around or competitiveness in the field. It's also great in the neighborhood on a leash. She pays no attention to another dog. I took her home early at the insistence of the breeder (5-weeks) and she's lived with the Rot, my wife's little whatever it is dog and a 29-pound cat that is my youngest son's.

Also, a note: when I was little I was enamored with the Upland Lifestyle. As a teenager I decided to immerse myself in all aspects of this. So, I ended up an English trained gunmaker, professional bird dog trainer and simultaneously owned a worldwide hunting and fishing adventure tour company (now called a booking agency). I had a bird-dog TV show and wrote for a handful of magazines including being a columnist, mast-head writer and feature writer. 25- years of all that and I retired from it. No brag in that but it would not be fair to compare my dogs trained discipline to that of a casual owner or one with just a few dogs experience. I think at least 75-90% of what a dog turns out to be is the genetics and personality but the rest is bird exposure and training. I have a leg up on the training methodology and the places to find birds from my past life.

Also, my pup is imperfect. She was the runt and nobody wanted her. The breeder had to put her on her mommas nipple separate from the other pups. He also bottled some of momma's milk to hand-feed her. It is a small miracle she made it. She has a mild over-bite as her bottom jaw is about 1/4-inch short of what it should be. She also has a weird bump in her snout that makes the shape seem a little odd. And she only got to be 25-pounds (her Mom is 28 and her Dad is 32 pounds). The Vet advised not to breed her because the over-bite and snout situation could be passed on - although no other pup from that litter or previous have these conditions. She's more hyper in the house and has a lot more ground speed and range hunting than any of her litter-mates or relatives. I take that as a good thing and a blessing for me. Thanks for the inquiry
Thanks.
Weird thing is, my dog also seems to basically ignore other dogs on a social level anywhere we go. Not interested in much but sniffing, and really not interested in playing with other dogs at all. The only behavior change we see is when hunting. Say a Saturday or a special holiday stocking at our club so there are many dogs there? He just runs, doesn't want to mind or stay in range, seems to want to just run until a scent hits him. I wouldn't mind the running so much if he was more solid on holding a point. Our own fault I know. The GSPs we have hunted over in the past seemed to hold a point longer just naturally. But, this Brittany is far sweeter and more loving than they were.
At home he wants nothing but lovin and food. In the field, won't take a treat of any kind and no interest in affection.

Dogs are strange,,,, people are more strange.
 

fleener

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Question for you. With the dog not moving until you release her after a shot, does she have a hard time finding birds that are wounded and running on you?

Thanks

Fleener
 
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I don't think so. She has returned 100% of the birds I knocked down. Some took her a little while to locate and some I had to cast her more than once. Overall, the longest retrieve was probably 100-yards. More than once a pheasant made it that far only to fall out of the air. Those took longer for her to get to the right spot, find the scent and track down the bird. A few birds fell and ran some. At least a few of every species. She was able to go where I sent her, find scent and track them. Some ran 50-yards but that's probably the most for a runner this past season. I'm sure we will lose a bird eventually. I've always had broke dogs and lost very few over the years.
 

fleener

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My breeder is hosting a 3 day training class with George Hickox in June that I signed up for. My pup will never be a polished dog but I am interested in learning more for me.

I have experience with training livestock dogs and have only trained one bird dog. Thank goodness they have a natural ability.

We should meet in KS for a hunt.

Fleener
 
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I stepped away from the keyboard for a bit. If we lose a bird on a rare occasion because the dog is broke, its a trade-off I'll take for the safety side of things. Unbelievably, every year someone shoots a dog at a preserve or club somewhere. It happens more than you'd think. There are inexperienced people, people that paid for a bird, poor shooters and downright slobs among the clients. If a dog goes with the bird, it is in front of the guns and behind the bird that's being shot at. A low bird could spell disaster. This is actually exemplified with a muzzleloader where the smoke may further obscure your view. When I trained other people's dogs, a "finished" dog meant broke. I trained dogs to a field-trial standard even if I knew they were a foot hunting dog. I find when a dog is broke we actually pick up MORE dead birds. If the dog is chasing that bird and someone shoots this bird, the dog doesn't see it. The shooters typically change their focus to the dog that would be moving with a bird. With a broke dog, I shoot a bird and I have it marked. If I shoot a second bird I have it marked. The bird is escaping but not under pressure - no dog chasing it - from a broke find so they are a little easier to hit. When I go to the dog, I send her on a line towards where I marked a bird and I stay put. When that bird comes back, I send her on a line to the next bird I marked. I don't want to convince anyone to do it my way -and it is a lot harder and usually takes a lot more time, birds and training. I love bird hunting with any dog, but for me there is a "best" way to do it.
 
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Steady to wing and shot, steady to wing, broke .... these are hotly debated topics and have been for decades. It's similar with flushing dogs. In my little world, a flushing dog should slow its pace upon hitting scent and "hup" or stop and stay put upon flush. When the shooting stops, a verbal command releases the dog for the retrieve. Again, keeping muzzleloaders in this conversation, the smoke can obscure your view. What if the flushing dog is jumping at the bird as you fire another shot, or someone else shoots? Some folks cock the second hammer when needed, not simultaneous with the other hammer. Commonly, they look at the hammer and cock it. That brief break in focus can be troublesome. You look down, cock the hammer, mount the gun and get back on the bird or pick up another bird. You have no idea what the dog(s) did in that brief second.

A lot of "guides" don't have broke dogs. They will tell you they need to recover every bird and the dog needs to be right there when it falls, especially if its a runner. That's because their client is paying for the bird. Another factor is that they cannot stop to train and admonish bad dog behavior in the middle of guiding. If you don't reinforce good behavior and let bad behavior go, the level of training deteriorates. The guide needs to find all the birds, fill the clients game bags and get back to the next group of clients. No time for "fixing" dogs. Also a reason Club or preserve dogs in put-and-take operations are very close ranging. The clients get made when a dog accidentally flushes a bird out of range, or the dog disappears for minutes at a time.

I have always had rules for my guests that I'm pretty hard about. You don't need your gun loaded until the dog points. If you're a single barrel guy the magazine could have shells but not the chambers. ML's can be loaded but not capped. If it were just one shooter and I with MLs I will make an exception of loading and capping, and the hammers and human input are the "safety". Nobody loads more than 2 shots. Only two shooters at once (I rarely allow more than 2 guns with me, but sometimes you can't help it with clients). When the dog is on point I tell the shooters where to go stand and when and how to approach. When they are in position I do the flushing. They are to shoot within their zone - no cross shooting. No shooting below head-high. They stay put after the shooting and wait for me to tell them we are moving on. When someone doesn't listen I go back to the truck and take a break and have a little talk. They get one more chance. I usually keep it controlled and give a good experience. Only marched back to the truck for time-out on a rare occasion. If I'm training, like this season, I usually don't shoot a lot of birds and do a lot of blank gun shooting. Then I have a one designated shooter - and they shoot once only - while I work the dog. Then I'm the shooter and maybe someone that understands that I'm training and follows my protocol. My dog gets away with nothing. Any minor infraction in the field and I put my gun down and make the corrections. I usually have a finished dog in the second season, but I got very lucky with my pup and I'd considered her finished right now at just 13 months and one season.
 
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The command "Hup" used for flushing spaniel breeds came from the shooter needing to stop and reload his ML shotgun , he told the dog to "sit up" to hold it in place , this evolved into "Hup"

If I am shooting with any one else I tell them that I control my dog and they are not to speak to it at all , this avoids confusing the dog .
 
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