Hunting with your Spaniel....Putting it all together - Page 2

Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

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I often take a friend or client with me to let them shoot giving me the opportunity to focus on the dog for the first couple of hunts or I may carry a gun with little expectation of use. Instruct all those involved as to what your expectations are and stick to it. Personally, I usually do not shoot a bird the dog does not produce or if things are really going sour I hold back on shooting altogether. This is tough. Especially if all you may see for the day is a couple of birds! Believe me, it will be worth it throughout the years. Stick to your program.

Our spaniel training program is reward based. If the pup listens up and works for the gun he gets birds and retrieves. I often will carry a clip wing pigeon or something we often use in training for retrieving to reward a young dog occasionally during the hunt. I may toss it in for a find for the youngster if we are going a distance between birds or if we are unable to bring down a bird for him. You can do the same with a bird you have shot earlier to keep up the excitement.

Have a plan, I try to pocket hunt the youngsters. What I mean is I hit bird covers where I stand a better than average chance of finding birds. These small pockets often take 30 - 60 minutes to hunt and I usually work cover where I can keep them out of trouble a bit more than a more seasoned veteran. This keeps the enthusiasm positive and puts them in the field when they are freshest. As they get more and more confidence we run them longer and longer. Use the rest time to run another dog or to scout out new grounds.

Early season bird hunts are notorious for being hot. Consider hunting along a creek or watershed and always carry a bit of water to give your partner a well-deserved drink. The younger pups usually are very poor about pacing themselves during the hunt and can easily get overheated during the excitement. A dog breathing heavily out of his mouth usually does not smell well anyway. Keep a good eye on him and take extra rest stops if need be, especially during the early season.

This is where summer conditioning really helps a lot. Even the youngsters need to be acclimated to the conditions of hunting. We have a year round conditioning program, which cannot be emphasized enough for both dogs and owners alike.

Don't ask too much too soon
Often we are so excited to get the youngster out on wild birds that we forget that he is just in the beginning of his hunting years. Don't expect to be able to go out and work for eight hours straight with a pup that is just beginning of his career. A trip to the Dakota's with a nine-month-old pup may be a bit much for most dogs. Take some time to let him know he is doing great and enjoy your hunting partner...

Jim Keller and his wife, Denise, own and operate Wildwind Kennels located in the heart of grouse and woodcock country in mid-coastal Maine. They work with all bird dog breeds specializing in flushing spaniels. Jim is a full time dog trainer with over 17 years of experience working with bird dogs for hunting and performance events. He campaigns a limited group of spaniels in the U.S. and Canada in Field Trials having trained several field champions, and actively participating in the Hunt Test program. Jim is also a registered Maine guide, working for some of the finest sporting camps in Maine's northwoods for grouse and woodcock. Jim can be reached at:

Jim Keller
Wildwind Kennels and Guide Service
1368 Webb Road
Knox, Maine 04986
(207)568-3575 Kennel
(207)322-6236 Cell

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