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Getting Brandy Ready for Hunting Season

August 16, 2008
By Jon Magee

Hunting season will be here before we know it and I have started working with my young pointer, shaping her up for bird hunting this fall. Brandy has picked up a few bad habits that need to be remedied before hunting season arrives.

I know very little about training pointers, but the dog I have is from excellent bloodlines and with a little luck should train herself and me. At least that is what several people who know have told me. I just need to get a good supply of birds and let the pup's instincts do the rest.

Fortunately there is a very good person in Ellamore. Ralph, who raises game birds, has quail available now. He'll have chukar partridge and pheasant available around Sept. 1, which will be just about right for polishing Brandy up just prior to the season with various birds.

Recently I built a cage to hold a couple dozen birds that I can keep at the house to work the dog a few times a week. It is better to train on wild birds, but it's tough to find areas with enough grouse to train these days. However, Ralph has a very good set up and his birds are strong fliers right out of the pen. This is important because the last thing you want is for a pointing dog to catch a bird if he happens to break point in his youthful exuberance and pounce on it, ruining weeks of training.

This is one of the things Brandy needs work on. She has been cat walking on point. She goes on point well, but creeps up on birds after a short point. Something she did when we were out fishing or just walking when she was young and would point a songbird, butterfly, snake, frog or anything else she encountered on an outing. She would creep in to investigate, but hey, she is still a pup. However, it is time for her to grow up and learn to be steady when pointing birds and remain motionless so the hunter can slip in for the flush and shot.

Ideally you want a dog steady to wing and shot, which basically means the dog points the bird, a hunter flushes it, then shoots it and the dog is released to retrieve it. That is the goal. Right now, we are just working on steadying her on point, which should help everything else fall into place and develop her natural ability. She was doing well last winter at six to seven months of age, pointing, holding steady for a shot and then retrieving.Now she seems to have forgotten most of her earlier training. As in most training, it is a matter of repetition and patience allowing the instincts of the pointer to mature.

I take a few birds out to a field I train in and hide them in the brush for her to find. I let her run for a while, then circle her upwind of the birds hidden in the thick brush and wait for that wonderful nose of hers to pick up the scent. When she gets a whiff of game bird, she locks up standing there inhaling deeply and quivering with excitement.

She still takes a couple steps, but is getting better and holding point longer. I use a check cord and collar to control her before she gets too close to the bird and she is learning. It is a process and takes time especially with my lack of experience in these matters. Between the two of us we will figure it out. Brandy has the instincts and ability. My job is to help her hone the skills she was born with.

It has been a pleasure watching this pointer puppy develop into a fine young dog and very rewarding training her myself. I look forward to hunting with her this fall.

It has been a great learning experience for me as much as for her. The scary thing is I think she may be a little smarter than I am, but with her help, I'm learning.



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