Keeping Flushing Dogs in Range

Nothing trips my trigger more than an out-of-range flushing dog……..mine or someone else’s.
I mean, you are better off hunting pheasant without a dog than with a dog that flushes birds 75 or 100 yards out. I’ve put my own dog away in a crate when he was breaking range discipline and have insisted others do the same with their errant dogs. It’s enough to make a guy buy a pointer…naw! I’d miss the fast pace excitement of trailing a flusher too much. And that flush at the end, it don’t get any better!
I knew my current dog, a springer named “Hunter,” had arrived two years ago when he self-corrected on a hard running North Dakota rooster. Instead of running out of range, he held up for me, circled and caught the trail, eventually flushing the rooster in range (I got ‘em too).
But, it takes time and work to get a flushing dog to resist the instinct to hit the gas and chase out of range. First off, every dog I’ve ever trained is different. I’ve had to learn what it takes with each dog. I had to use an e-collar with “Hunter” the first few years, but now I don’t even put it on him. He gets it.
A dog man’s best range tool is still the check cord. Let them get out a bit and pull them back, sharply at first if the dog is a slow learner. Then, let them run with the check cord dragging behind as a reminder. Eventually, turn them loose without the cord. It takes time and repetition. The real test comes when they are hot on a bird’s trail. Keep an e-collar on them in case they need a reminder. I start with a verbal warning. If that doesn’t work, I use the tone or vibration button. If that fails, then use low stimulation. I’ve had to use mid-range stimulation when a dog first bolts after a rabbit or deer, but it usually only takes one or two lessons to make that point.
I never get tired of hunting birds with a dog. When it all comes together – a bird, close-in flush and good shot – it’s a thing of beauty.

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