Late Season Waterfowling - Page 2

Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

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Camouflaged neoprene vests will not only help protect your dog from cuts, scrapes and punctures, but will add more bouncy, help retain body heat and provide added concealment.
Photo by: Author
I also use an old aluminum tree-stand converted for the sole purpose of duck hunting in shallow waters, such as flooded timber. It is lightweight, has backpack straps and can be carried into remote areas very easily. The stand is camouflaged and has an insulated pad attached to it. The stand acts as a platform where the dog can rest and remain out of the water between retrieves. The insulated pad on the stand helps to retain body warmth and, more importantly, it prevents wet fur from freezing to the metal. But, a piece of natural colored ¡§indoor/outdoor¡¨ carpet in lieu of the pad will also work quite well.

My dogs also have an insulated pad to sit or lay on while in the boat or blind. I keep several towels with me and will dry the dogs between retrieves. It is also important to keep the dogs out of the water when they are not actually making retrieves. Even when hunting in moderately cold temperatures down south, I still bring along the portable tree-stand and attach it to a nearby hardwood tree. The dog will remain warmer on the stand than sitting on the cold damp ground. I place the stand in the direction I expect to see birds, in flooded timber or beaver ponds, I attach it to a good sized tree about four inches off the waters surface. This allows the dog to get out of the water between flights and gives them a perch, which helps them mark downed birds much easier, especially in thick cover.

These simple precautions can reduce the amount of body heat lost while the dog is stagnant between flights and can prevent injury and hypothermia. Minimizing the amount of time the dog is in the water and retaining as much body heat as possible are the key factors in keeping the dog from becoming injured or hypothermic. I make a rule of drying the dog thoroughly at the end of each hunt and keeping the car warm. I also have fleece lined ƒ±horse-blanket¡¨ style coats for each dog, which they wear both to and from the hunt.

It is very important to keep the dog warm while in the crate, especially after a long hunt during cold weather conditions. Each of my crates has a cordura covered insulated pad in it. Being confined to a crate, even for a short amount of time, can cause a cold-wet dog to stiffen-up, which may result in a pulled or torn muscle. I also bring extra dog food with me and will feed them after the hunt. This helps replace needed calories which are burned-up faster during cold weather activities.

When waterways freeze-up any open water can become a waterfowl ‘honey-hole’, but always way on the side of caution when sending your dog into extreme conditions.
Photo by: Author
Only one of the geese on the ground was still moving. I gave him a finishing shot, and then sent ¡§Buck¡¨ for the retrieve. As ¡§Buck¡¨ released the last of the Canadian¡¦s into my hand, it began snowing harder. We hadn¡¦t reached our limit, but being cold, hungry and happy, we packed up our gear and headed for the warmth of the truck, and a big breakfast in town. It was great hunt!

More waterfowlers should take advantage of the opportunities the late season has to offer. The colder weather and northern winter storms will push more birds farther south along their migration route. By the holiday season many hunters have hung-it-up for the year, which means less crowds and plenty of action for the more determine and prepared waterfowler.
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