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50 years

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History, Thoughts, Ideas, and opinions from 50 years of bird hunting and dog training.

Started by shooting my first grouse at the age of 13 from the bottom branch of a large jack pine tree with a BB gun. We lived on an 80-acre farm in the Cass Lake Minnesota that now houses an Indian casino. There were lots of grouse, deer, duck, and walleye; we were poor so when I manage to bring something home for the table it was greatly appreciated. I became a meat hunter and still am one today, if you shot it you ate it. Used a Winchester youth model 22 and graduated to a Stevens bolt-action 16 gauge. For years I shot most of my birds-grouse from the ground or from trees. I hunted the area enough to know where the birds were located and used the six steps and stop and listen for grouse foot steps method of locating and shooting birds. Around 16 or 17 I started to realize I could shoot and get flushed birds in the air. Our neighbor had a good hunting yellow lab and we owned a fixed female Springer. As was my habit I would start the hunt by walking across the road past the neighbors and into the woods with a good half mile grouse trail heading to a good jump shoot duck pond, the yellow lab would come hunting with us. A large circle hunt through the woods and trails would take an afternoon of hunting, resulting in a couple of birds for the table. Late teens and early twenties found me hunting every chance I got and a hunter is what I became and is what I am today. My young wife used to say, “You don’t think your going every weekend do you?” to which I’d reply “What makes you think this year is any different the last year?” I just simply could not get enough hunting in during the season. I bought a show Springer not knowing the difference between field and show breeding and joined a local dog club. Several good dog trainers took me under their wing having me help them train their dogs and in return help me train mine. I was hooked, shooting and training four to five days a week year around. I bought and devoured everything written on dog training. In the process acquired a dog training library and my shooting started to improve. A lot of years I shot over 3000 birds over my dogs and others that I was training. My show Springer was trained and hunted perfectly (never lost a duck and was a wonderful water dog) but gave out physically after 2 to 2 ½ hours of pheasant hunting cattails. Switched to field breeding and got into field trials the best part was getting good enough at shooting to being invited on shooting teams that shot 500 pheasants and 100 pigeons in a weekend over the best dogs in the nation, with the dog club supply all and only the best shotgun shells. I’ve trained and trailed five dogs for nationally completion with each having a top fourth placement or better and being qualified for and being invited the national. I’ve won yearly points totals in every category from open to puppy in Minnesota.

I need to supplement my income so I could pay for all this hunting, training and shooting. I would meet many people wanting a trained dog or training for their dog so I started to train, sell, and breed dogs. Several of my friends trained professionally and asked for my help with different breeds. Some friends ran or worked at hunt clubs and others built or owned kennels. I was getting more dogs to train (Retrieves from one kennel and pointing dogs from another) than I could handle. One of the problems with training dogs is that the owners needed to be trained right along with the dogs so they would know what to expect and how to get it from their dogs. I started giving weekly lesson to people who wanted to train their own dog. This worked out well with the price per lesson plus birds every week with no dog food or [PoorWordUsage] pick up details. While driving back to town after a weekend hunt I stopped at North Country dog training academy in East Bethel and left my dog training business card. They called and I told them about my experience and they said they were interested in starting field dog classes. For six years I ran field dog classes for both pointing and flushing dogs breeds. A class had a minimum of 8 dogs and a maximum of 12 dogs, all dogs had to completing obedience before being allowed in the field dog class. I have met and trained with some very wonderful people and dogs over the years. We kept expanding to more and more classes every year until I couldn’t do all the classes by myself. At this point I took one of the best and most interested students and had them train a couple classes with me after with we each took our own classes. I was retriever force training the dogs that needed it and worked with electric collars on some hardheaded pointers. I was getting mean and forcing dogs instead of training them. My fun dog-training hobby was becoming a job and work. I quit training and only train and hunt my own dogs now. Been retired for two years now so I go park my camper in the grouse woods, which is a national forest, and don’t have to come home until I am tired of hunting. Last week in September through all of October I fish the best northern bite and hunt the best or peak of grouse and woodcock hunting, the best duck hunting, and from green leaves through all the fall color to the first snow. I usually get home just in time for deer hunting.

A best bird dog is one that gets up the most birds for the gun and retrieves all the birds’ shot.

Temperaments and how they find birds.

Pointing dogs have an independent business type nature, hunting mainly for themselves and if you want to come along that is fine. Pointers find their bird through air scent and are supposed to keep their heads and tails high. Most Pointers are not natural retrievers and usually need training in this area.

Hounds trail game via foot scent tracking game to its inevitable end.

Flushers both Labs and Springer’s have a want to please nature and hunt naturally close to-for you. Flushers are easy to train in that all you have to do is show them what you want them to do. They find and retrieve game naturally using both air and foot scent.

Warm south winds rise make the scent cone raise and there for shorter, green cover or dry cover reduces scent making it harder for dogs to find birds. The more hunting experience on game birds a dog has the faster they become at finding the bird or figure out the track.

A gun-shy dog is a completely man made problem.

Some A+ dogs are naturals and if you get one of these you are very lucky these are the dogs that should be field champions and be breed, B field trial dogs are super trained and experienced with birds, most C dogs need basic training and experience to be a good hunting dog, and some D dogs are 100 plus training repetitions and still can’t get it right.

A fine dog woman, hunter, trainer, vet, and field trial judge said years ago the "Best we can expect is not to wreck our good hunting dogs."

We have done a pretty good job of wrecking hunting breeds with breeding forced dogs to forced dogs until they all need to be forced, of breeding for color, size, speed and style instead of bird finding ability, of breeding the high strung thoroughbred field trial dogs that need an electric collar for training and selling the puppies as foot hunters, of saying we don’t want our dogs to hunt just mark and retrieve not paying any attention to their nose or they bird finding ability, of breeding labs that point when they are supposed to be flushers, of breeding the next hunting dog flavor of the month, of breeding britineys so hyper they have low blood sugar seizers, ignoring the brains- temperaments-trainability of the dogs that make them a joyful pet and hunting companion. I’ve seen some wonderful chesses who when they figured out they wanted to do what you wanted them to do couldn’t be stopped. I have seen killer dogs that would indiscriminately attack their owner or hunting companions or little kid and need to be put down. I’ve tried and failed to save-train older ignored adult dogs through kindness and force.

Last but not least most people don’t know enough to properly judge the quality of a hunting dog.

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Tink i enjoyed your essay. I actuallty saw it on UJ and put 2 and 2 together. Adam (E Pointer)

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What is a quality hunting dog?

With sentimentality you write about the dogs of your youth. Then with none you talk about a job of curing dogs of their ill's. Is a interesting read. I want a companion instead of a hard, sharp steel tool. If I wanted that I'd go buy a knife. I enjoy the quirks my dogs have. They drive me nuts but that is what make's each individual dog distinct from another. It's what makes us a team. Not a master and an owner. Truth be told my dogs own me much more than I own them. I feed them, bath them, clip their nails, pick up their [PoorWordUsage], they only pick up mine if I'm out in the field and they back track. Which they've done and will do again. And I'm fine with all that. It sounds to me like you've found a place of freedom again with dogs and I'm glad to hear it. Many don't.

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