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The Waterfowling Dog - Creating A Great Conservation Tool

by Joe Arterburn with Randy Bartz

Take your dog.

Sure, there are some waterfowl hunters out there debating whether a dog belongs in the blind, but there’s no doubt in the mind of Randy Bartz.

Take your dog, said Bartz, a kennel owner and dog-training product designer and manufacturer who has been involved with dog training since a 1964-65 stint as a sentry dog handler for the U.S. Army.

Those who say otherwise - that dogs are a bother, perhaps even a danger in the blind or that they cause distractions and movement that can spook approaching waterfowl - simply aren’t able to control their dogs, Bartz said.

By far, he said, there are more reasons to take a trained dog than there are to leave him home.

For one, it might keep you out of trouble with the game warden. Laws require hunters to make every reasonable attempt to retrieve downed birds. Failure to do so can be considered wanton waste of game birds, a prohibited offense.

Wounded birds sometimes lock their wings and sail up to a quarter of a mile before landing, leaving you with the daunting task of chasing them down, perhaps in heavy cover. Obviously, a well-trained dog can do it faster and more efficiently than you, reducing the amount of valuable time you would spend out of the pit, possibly flaring ducks or geese that want to come in.

And you can’t always wait for an appropriate time to go after a wounded bird. The sooner the better. "Many times if you don’t make the attempt right away, wounded birds walk off, making it even harder to find them," Bartz said.

Dogs, he said, "are a great conservation tool."

Training The Ultimate Waterfowling Dog

Bartz recommends making simulated-hunting waterfowl training part of the daily dog-training ritual early in the year. By that, he means getting out the decoys, a portable blind - or go to your blind if it’s a permanent blind.

There are a lot of good portable blinds on the market," he said. "It’s a good idea to get into a blind with your dog." Once in, you can teach the dog the position you want him to be in and get him used to the enclosed atmosphere. A dummy launcher provides a good simulation of flight with the report of a shot. Remote launchers, situated strategically around the blind, also work well to train dogs to watch for and mark downed birds, he said.

And, don’t forget the calls. Practice blowing your duck or goose calls with the dog in the blind with you. Go through the whole sequence as if a flight was approaching. Go through the motions from crouching down and peering out to blowing the call, ending with a retrieve from a dummy or remote launcher.

Work with the dog so they learn to quickly recover the bird (or dummy) and get back into concealment.
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