Bird Dogs & Training  |  04/23/2013

Smell ya later

I shot one quail the other day, and it kind of spoiled the hunt.
I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know when I say that often the best part of the hunt is not the killing, it’s everything else. And we had some of that.
Cobalt blue sky, a couple inches of snow glistening like diamond dust as the dogs dashed back and forth. They were grateful for I don’t know what, but they were on fire. No competition, the place abandoned on a Thursday after Christmas. The white blanket softened ambient sound, footfalls muffled. A raven half-heartedly complained about our presence before flapping off in a sulk.
We motored from spot to spot, exhausting my inventory of birdy places on this patch of public ground. For the most part,  I rotated dogs, disappointing one every time the other got his chance. By the end of the day, just one cover harbored a small covey. They’d been sunning on a snow-free south-facing slope under a juniper tree, flushing well before the dogs got a whiff of them. That’s a wild covey for ya.
The lingering scent put him into high gear, galloping up the ridge and slip-sliding into the shadows of a steep draw. Sidehilling in snow is never easy, but I’ve had worse. So when both dogs locked up at the base of a sagebrush I was actually close to ready, shotgun at port arms. The quail was two trees away by the time I swung on her, a hard left-right crosser at 40 yards downhill.
She tumbled, Manny careening toward her before the trembling stopped. (Buddy is glad to defer on anything resembling work – like a retrieve.) When he delivered to hand, the tone of the day was changed. It wasn’t better or worse, just different.
But you know what I mean.
From my email in-box:
Q: Does hunting a younger dog and older dog together help the younger dog learn quicker?
A: Yes. But he learns both the good habits and the bad. A young dog needs to become bold and confident, and that won’t happen if he’s following, chasing, imitating or playing grab-ass with an older dog.
Q: How soon do you introduce your dogs to the heel command?
A: If your dog can walk and knows his name, you can introduce the concept of “heel,” gently. I like Rick and Ronnie Smith’s technique with their “Wonder Lead.” And remember, young dogs are like flies – sugar works better than vinegar when it comes to training. A couple well-done “heels” are plenty for a pup, and focus on praise rather than correction.
Q: Have you ever encountered a dog that just couldn’t be trained to hunt?
A: I’ve OWNED them. Just kidding, but there probably are dogs that are less inclined to hunt. Much of that can be blamed on genetics and bad owners who haven’t trained their dog to basic obedience. I might guess that any dog with three or more legs (not joking) and a nose can hunt … if motivated by birds and their human.
Scott Linden is America’s most-watched upland bird hunting TV host, his show Wingshooting USA being broadcast as many as 14 times per week on seven networks. A resident of Central Oregon, Scott’s passion is pursuing quail pointed by his German Wirehairs Buddy and Manny.
Besides his television series, Wingshooting USA,  Scott authors two magazine columns and is an active public speaker, consultant and seminar leader. Scott is the author of the upcoming book “What the Dogs Taught Me” published by Skyhorse Publishing of New York. He also designs dog training gear including leashes, collars and his patented Real Bird Bumper®.
Send your questions to Scott, here. Order Scott’s new book here.