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Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

Training with Pop Boxes

by Steve Borecky

Learning to correctly plant birds is a crucial skill for the trainer.

Incorrect bird planting can be both very frustrating and costly.

Watching a bird that has been improperly planted in your training area either fly away or be swooped up by a hungry red-tailed hawk can put a damper on anyone’s training session.

With the number of birds you will need to correctly train a well-mannered hunting dog, you can ill afford to loose any while training.

I personally use about 200 to 300 planted birds in a controlled field situation over my young dogs, before I ever shoot a wild bird. I want all of these birds to be exactly where I place them during my training sessions.

If you use only common pigeons in your training at a cost of $1.50 to $2.00 each, losing birds can be expensive. Game birds will double or triple that cost to develop your charger.

There are several methods that can be used while placing your birds in the field for training that will assure you they will stay put. The least expensive is to make yourself a small wire cage that a bird can be placed in. Chicken wire works, but a box made from 1 screening works best. A door on top of the box makes for easy access allowing you to release the bird manually. If the dog fails to point after scenting the bird and goes in on it at least he will not be able to mouth it. (This type of bird holder will not work with flushing dogs.)

Another option is a commercially made bird launcher. I favor the Innotek launchers. They manufacture four models. Manual model ML-10 is for use with small birds and manual model ML-14 is for use with larger ones. After placing the bird in the launcher, the trainer releases it by simply pulling a cord, allowing him to control the situation.

In my training I use Innotek’s remote launchers. Model RL-10 allows me to use pigeons, quail and chukers. For larger birds like pheasants and ducks I use their Model RL-14. These launchers are triggered by an Innotek Command Series transmitter (which can also operate training collars) or a dedicated four-button transmitter. The speed with which these boxes open at the push of a button allows the trainer to be in complete control at all times.

Pop boxes are versatile in creating hunting situations. I use mine to teach my German shorthaired pointers to stop to flush. After setting a box in the field, I simply release the dog downwind of the bird. When he is about 20 to 30 yards from the box and in eyesight, I automatically flush the bird and tell the dog to whoa. Within a couple of sessions, the dog will stop to flush upon seeing the bird in flight on his own.

To keep the dog from trailing man scent to where you place your pop boxes, I always set them in the field with the bird in place, sometimes 45 minutes prior to use. This gives the wind a chance to wash the man scent away from the boxes.

Tips for training with pop boxes or wire cages:
  • Always place your launchers in cover sufficiently high so the dog can’t see it. If necessary, mark the spot with a tall, thin flag.
  • Always place your birds upwind of the of the direction your dog will come from.
  • When using more than one training box, they should be placed far enough apart so the dog has room to hunt and quarter before encountering the next bird.
  • Never let your dog watch as you put your birds down. Make him use that nose that mother nature gave him to hunt with.

    Always remember that nothing takes the place of obedience training with a dog. Before you start your bird work make sure your dog will obey your commands in the field, at home or in your backyard.
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