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Quail Hunting Fixes

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Published on: Oct. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 5, 2010

disobey, dogs will quickly "forget" what they have learned. Accordingly, most professional trainers make serious efforts to ensure that their clients know how to give and enforce commands.

Before the hunting season, bird dogs also need refresher training. Two weeks of work on commands and time afield will have a bird dog ready for opening day. Hunters who forego this effort before the season usually suffer with poor dog work until their four-legged partners sharpen to task.

You also can over-handle a bird dog. This problem is the opposite of a failure to train. Those who succumb to this tendency are often new to working with bird dogs. A hunter wants to make sure his dog honors its training, so he or she gives command after command: "Here!" "Heel!" "Stay!" This can cramp a dog’s hunting efforts and leave it confused and distracted. Commands should be kept to a minimum, such as "Whoa" when the dog is on point, "Dead" when a bird has been downed and "Here" when a dog is headed in the wrong direction.

It’s also possible to overhunt a dog. Bird dogs are like athletes in that they need time to recuperate from the physical rigors of their sport. Hunting bird dogs for days on end, with insufficient time to rest, leaves them vulnerable to injury. I learned this the hard way.

Some years ago I had only one bird dog. She loved to hunt, and so we hunted birds day after day. I had no idea she was physically worn down until she dislocated a shoulder while running a field edge. She didn’t trip or stumble. Her joints had taken a pounding from overhunting, and her shoulder simply gave out. The injury plagued her the rest of her life.

Preventing this kind of problem is simple; own more dogs. I now routinely keep four pointers. Taking care of that many dogs is a lot of work and expensive, but with four dogs I can hunt two dogs one day and the other two the next. This gives each dog a day’s rest between hunts and keeps them fresh for the season. The same can be done with two dogs by hunting one dog at a time.

Dogs that bring downed birds to hand are a joy, but some develop the habit of "hard-mouthing," or chewing, what they retrieve. A hard-mouthed dog can quickly puncture and pulverize a quail, rendering it unfit

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