Field Etiquette for Bird Dogs

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We all want our upland hunts to be safe and enjoyable, and a big part of that is good dog work. Here are a few bird dog field etiquette topics I’ve been mulling over lately.
 
Taking turn        
 
One thing that annoys me when pheasant hunting is someone else’s dog retrieving a bird my dog flushed and I shot.
 
I train my dog to retrieve and it’s a big part of the hunt and a big part of my hunting satisfaction. My springer, “Hunter,” isn’t the most aggressive on retrieving all the time, but sometimes he’ll really ‘fight’ for a bird. He really likes chasing cripples, something my other springer excelled at as well.
 
Some dogs stick with their masters and leave other hunters alone; others just range everywhere, somewhat out of control, and hog the retrieving. I guess it’s better he demurs than gets in a fight over a retrieve. One tactic that helps is hunting him far enough away from other dogs that there’s no conflict on retrieves.
 
E-collar use
 
I wonder if anybody else does this, but once I’ve had an e-collar on my dog a day, I’ve noticed I can remove it the next and he behaves perfectly, meaning he won’t range too far out. He’s just generally more attune to my commands in general as well. I’d much rather hunt him without the collar. A gun dog just looks better to me without a neck full of gadgets. I imagine the dog likes it better at times too.
 
The right kind of dog?
 
I’m about to embark on a quail hunt. I was feeling pensive about bringing a springer on what’s ‘supposed’ to be a pointing dog hunt. But my springer has flushed and retrieved quail, as did my previous spaniel. I’ve found both pointers and flushers do a darn good job. The best dog to hunt quail with? One that flushes the birds in range and brings them to hand once the shot is made.
 
I’ve noticed one thing about flushing dogs hunting simultaneously with pointing dogs, at least my springers. They tend to defer to them. My old springer, “Wolf,” got over it after a bit, but I’m not sure Hunter has. It’s odd. I think maybe Hunter is just put off by a dog that does it different. I sometimes just move a ways out from the pointers and that seems to help, that is he forgets about the pointers and does his own thing….and does it well.

-Mark Herwig is editor of the Pheasants Forever Journal and Quail Forever Journal. Email Mark at mherwig@pheasantsforever.org.‚Äč