Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs
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If I could use only one bird for training, my choice would be pigeons. Almost all of my field work for any breed can be accomplished with pigeons. By locking the wings of a pigeon with a harness, I have a bird that will be where I put it for point drills. I can dizzy a pigeon by spinning its head and plant it where I want for flushing drills. By planting a dizzied pigeon, I have a bird that will get up and fly strongly for training either pointing breeds or flushing dogs. By using a pigeon with its primary feathers rubber-banded, I have a bird that will fly only 20 yards or so. Pigeons are also great for putting in remote launchers to develop marking skills for retrieving.
Tucking the head of the pheasant underneath its wing will put the bird to sleep - and allow it to be planted
I use wing-clipped pigeons for introducing dogs to the gun. I do this by tossing a clip-wing, and while the dog is in full pursuit I fire a .22-crimp pistol. I never "miss," as the bird always comes down, and the dog has a guaranteed retrieve.
For many of these drills I use regular barn pigeons, which can be trapped or are available through commercial suppliers. For drills where birds won't be "damaged", either by shooting or retrieving, I use homing pigeons. By using homers and building a coop with bobbed doors for birds to re-enter, I have a constant source of birds that can be used repeatedly. Homers can be found through local pigeon-racing clubs or livestock auctions, and it's important to buy "eggheads", four to five-week-old birds, that will imprint to your coop and not fly back to the seller's.
If we are training a dog for pheasant hunting, we have to use pheasants. A dog can't learn to track pheasants on planted pigeons. A pheasant can be planted by tucking its head under its wing. The pheasant will go to sleep-really. Place the pheasant in some heavy cover and then run your dog in the field. When the dog gets close, the noise from the crashing through cover will usually get the bird moving and….voila! You are teaching the dog to take moving birds.
Guinea fowl also work well for this. In addition, guineas tend not to re-flush. Therefore, once a bird has gotten airborne you can fire your gun. The guinea naturally has a short flight and will go down within a reasonable distance. We then send the dog for the retrieve, and the dog gains an experience that simulates retrieving a crippled bird.
We also use Huns, chukar and ducks. The Huns and chukar work well when using
This pheasant is asleep and ready to be planted
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