Since I just examined The Biggest Mistakes Pheasant Hunters Make, next let’s examine the biggest mistakes made when it comes to the other hunters in the field – the bird dogs.
The first mistake you can make is to buy a dog that’s not a hunter. Ask someone who knows a breeder of good hunting dogs, a pup whose parents are both field hunters…not some amateur starting out in his basement. You’ll pay more up front most times, but you’ll save a lot more down the road (No, I don’t breed dogs!).
Second, letting your dog get fat and not training them during the off season. I’ve seen many dogs following their owner, gasping for breath or put back in their kennel after an hour’s hunt because they are so fat and out of shape they can’t take hunting. Don’t get a dog if you can’t work it year-round; use your buddy’s – it’s better for you, the dog and hunting buddies.
Third, don’t lose control of yourself. I’ve moved away to the other side of the field to get away from clowns screaming at their out-of-control dogs. I’ve even left hunts over this or at least told the owners to get ahold of their emotions, kennel their dog and do some training with them before taking them out again.
Four, don’t go afield without an e-collar on your dog. There’s no excuse these days not to because you can’t train a dog enough, practically speaking for most folks, to make them work like they can with an e-collar. E-collars are also very affordable. E-collars were a big game changer for hunting dogs, like going from typewriters to computers. Get one. But be careful: you can screw up a dog’s behavior while hunting if you overdo it. Read the directions. I overdid it with my late, great springer, “Wolf,” one frustrating day when I borrowed a buddy’s e-collar and used it without breaking him in correctly. It took weeks before Wolf would confidently leave my side and hunt.
Lastly, watch them carefully afield. Dogs, tough as they are, are flesh and bone…they get hurt and can die. I lost a Brit, at age 7, in the prime of his hunting life when he was attacked by a coyote or badger in the woods. I tended all his wounds, but missed one hid deep in his thick chest fur. It got infected, got in his liver and killed him…all after spending hundreds at the vet. Watch your dog close in the heat, especially a new dog you haven’t hunted in hot weather. My springer, “Hunter,” came close to big problems a few years ago dove hunting in South Dakota. I let him run because we were heading to a shaded pond. He got wobbly on me just at the pond, where I bathed him in the cool water. He came out of it, but I kenneled him for the rest of the day. Close call. Scary. With a dog, the hunt comes second, the dog must come first. No hunt is worth a dead dog.
-Mark Herwig is editor of the Pheasants Forever Journal and Quail Forever Journal. Email Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org.