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Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

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When planting birds in the field it is necessary to dizzy them slightly. Swing them ’round for just a few seconds before dropping them in the grass. Though they quickly recover they are inclined to stay put for a considerable length of time, unless you are training in the evening, when the roosting urge tends to make them fly off sooner. It is essential for the flushing dog that the bird be awake and alert, ready to take flight the moment the dog bears down on it. Thus, the head should not be placed beneath the wing when the bird is planted, as this keeps the bird asleep (a method used only in the training of the pointing breeds).

Pigeon Fly-Back Box
Photo by: Author
In training the flushing dogs I prefer planting pigeons in the manner I have described, rather than using wire cages or traps from which the bird is released by a cord or electronic signal. Planting your birds by hand ensures a more natural flush. You are creating a situation as similar as possible to the real thing game bird being flushed in the wild. (The electronic device referred to above, which not only releases but actually propels the bird into the air, can be put to good use for the pointing breeds, especially when a dog is persistently not holding the point. Enough birds released directly in front of the dog as he closes, so that he doesn’t trap any, will quickly teach him the futility of dropping his point and going in.)

Try to avoid planting pigeons in cover too deep or too thick. Under such conditions a pigeon is unable to become airborne quickly enough, as it uses only its wings to lift off (unlike the pheasant, which employs its legs by springing up). Cover too dense results in too many birds being trapped, so choose slightly more open patches for more successful flushes. Once planted, a good flier will not normally make its way into thick cover. A bird that has been wing-clipped however usually will, the instinct for self preservation no doubt taking over.

When walking out to plant, remember that you are laying a track or trail through the grass. A line of scent is created, primarily by your footwear, and a young gun dog may quickly learn to search for your line of scent and follow it to the bird. Since it is essential for any gun dog to learn to quarter, investigating all the cover ahead of him, he must be prevented from getting into the habit of trailing foot scent. It will help if you avoid walking up the center of the field while planting. Otherwise as your dog hunts he will be crisscrossing your line of scent all the way along. This is a sure way of spoiling a good quartering pattern. Try to walk in from the extreme sides of the area to be worked. Having dropped the first bird walk back out of the field along the same line and cut back in further along to plant the second bird. . . and so on . You can then cast off your dog and hunt him with his chances of coming upon your scent trail considerably minimized.
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