Quail Hunting: Getting Started

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Published on: Nov. 14, 2013

on good bird dogs. There are many breeds, from English pointers to pointing labs. The key is getting a dog out of a line that is intelligent, is bold, has a strong instinct to hunt, has a superior nose, and is eager to please. If you buy a puppy, how do you know if it has these qualities? Look to its parents. If they hold these traits, chances are good the pup will have them, too.

Another consideration with bird dogs is how far they range while hunting for quail. Some bird dogs have been bred to range out, often several hundred yards, in search of quail. This works fine if you hunt on horseback, but most quail hunters hunt on foot and prefer dogs that hunt closer. How can you know the range of a dog when you buy it as a pup? Again, look to the parents. If they hunt close, chances are their pups will, too.

Some hunters pay a professional to train their bird dogs, but this is expensive, and you miss the joy of watching a pup learn. Moreover, if you don’t understand how a dog is trained, you could reverse all the training by unwittingly mishandling your dog.

Training a bird dog is not that difficult. The first step is simply taking the pup out and letting it run and explore. This builds the pup’s hunting instincts and confidence. You do this for six months to a year, depending on the pup. You give no commands. Just let the pup play.

Formal training that follows involves three basic skills: sensitivity to a dog’s temperament, proper timing of corrections, and repetition.

Some dogs are bold and take corrections well. Others are more timid and require more gentle, and/or slower training. A timid dog can be ruined by training methods that are too forceful. On the other hand, a bold, dominant dog may require firm training. Professional trainers refer to this as “reading” a dog — figuring a dog’s temperament and training accordingly.

Proper timing of corrections involves making them immediately after a dog makes a mistake. Research indicates that if as few as 10 seconds pass before a correction is made, a dog has difficulty understanding what it did wrong. A classic example: If a dog does not come in when you call it, you don’t reprimand it when it finally does come to you

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