Preparing for Hunting Season [Back to Monthly Pro Staff Articles]
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Proper Prior Planning
As we get closer to early morning wake up calls, hot coffee in the thermos, rattling decoy bags, and the smell of gun powder in the air, we want to make sure your gun dog is as ready for the first day as you are. If you haven't been doing much training this summer in preparation for the season, you probably shouldn't wait much longer. This article provides a strong check list to ensure your gun dog will be ready for the first round of steel being thrown at your feathered targets.
Lone Duck Outfitters ProStaff team member, Dakota Mealer of Goldhill Retrievers, located in Auburn, Alabama, has offered his suggestions for your gun dog's training in the weeks leading up to your first hunt this fall. Dakota is an up-and-coming gun dog trainer who has been extremely successful in the UKC and AKC hunt test circuits. His trailer is loaded down with great dogs that are ready for this hunting season, which he has trained using these helpful tips.
Obedience- Everyone has been in a blind with a dog that whines, breaks, and just won't sit still. This can be prevented with sharpening up their obedience during your everyday work. Don't allow your dog to get away with behavior that is unwanted and potentially unsafe in the blind.
Gun Fire- At this point, you should have introduced your young dog to gunfire, starting with light loads and poppers moving slowly to the 12 gauge. Remember, this season will be the real thing and your gun dog needs to be prepared for a volley of heavy loads. Just as you did when they were pups, start off far away and work your way towards them slowly with the heavier loads. After a session or two, they should be underwhelmed when the shotguns sound off at day-break.
Situational training- We put our dogs in all types of environments during the season, from flooded timber to big open water, and to be fair, we should introduce them into these environments just like we would for gunfire, decoys, etc. Take them out to each of your hunting spots and throw some bumpers. Teach them their entrance and exit from your blind. The better prepared they are for the first morning, the more fun and success you'll have together.
Place training- This is very important for young dogs to learn. It will help them associate where they're supposed to be during the hunt, whether it is on a boat deck, dog stand, or just their spot in the blind.
Remote Training- As you know, often times we can't have our dog by our side during the hunt for various reasons. They should be comfortable working from a remote position. Dakota suggest doing walking singles. This drill is a great way to introduce your dog to remote sit. Simply sit your dog and walk away and toss the mark. Send your dog to the mark and then receive him by your side. After receiving your dog, you can either cast him back to his "place" or leave him at your current spot and repeat the process.
Crippled birds- Opening day is not the best time to introduce your young dog to a crippled bird. By using some shackled ducks and pigeons on land and water before the season, you can prevent having to stop the hunt for a training session or to chase down a wounded bird.
During your retriever's first hunting season you want them to be successful. By doing this, you may have to sacrifice your shooting and make the hunt all about them. Remember, you are building a hunting buddy for the next ten years or so, and making their first year revolve around them will help ensure they will be the gun dog you've always wanted.
Obedience- Just because your gun dog is seasoned doesn't mean you shouldn't work on their basics. It's a good idea to sharpen up their obedience and revisit hunting grounds to refresh their memories.
Casting drills- After a long off-season, it is safe to say some gun dogs may not be as sharp with their casting as they have been in the past. Walking baseball is a great way to work with them while having a little fun out in the field.
Honoring- Dakota loves to do honoring drills with flyers before the season. If you can, get a training group together and try this drill out. Have 4-5 dogs lined up and toss the flyer. The idea is to go down the line releasing one dog at a time. If a dog creeps, whines, or breaks, he goes to the end of the line and different dog is sent for the bird.
Conditioning- Some of the more seasoned gun dogs may be getting a little grey in the muzzle and need to be slowly worked back into shape. To be fair to your dogs, you should start conditioning them back into shape in steps. Swimming is a great way to build endurance, shave weight, and it is easy on an older dog's joints.
Have fun training with your gun dogs. The season is right around the corner, so start preparing for your success now. If you're anything like us, you've already been dreaming of cupped wings, the sound of a thumping tail in the blind, and many memorable retrieves.
To learn more about Dakota Mealer and his kennel, head over to: Goldhill Retrievers on Facebook
If you would like to learn more about walking baseball, honoring drills, or any of the other tips Dakota has provided, you can contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org