Breaking Ice and Retrieving Divers

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Breaking Ice and Retrieving Divers

Postby My T Fast Dog » Mon Nov 18, 2002 5:52 pm

I spent much more time this year shooting ducks than I did grouse, woodcock and pheasant. I have a two-year-old GSP that did a great job early this year retrieving wood ducks and puddlers but she is just not built for breaking ice and the cold Lake Huron wind.

I am new to duck hunting and cold-water retrievers, but we have had a great time this year on Golden eyes, Buffleheads, Ruddies, Blue Bills and Mergansers. Can I really expect a retriever like a lab or a chessie to retrieve 12 to 20 ducks when the temperature is 15 degrees and the water is 33 degrees F? I love hunting with a dog. Not only does it make hunting easier I think it really adds to the experience of duck hunting. I am not willing to put a dog in danger if the conciliations are just too much. Does anyone have a lot of experience in these conditions with dogs?
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Postby R_Man » Mon Nov 18, 2002 9:21 pm

Those sort of conditions, are Chesapeake Bay Retriever conditions. No other dog can handle adverse weather, cold, and waves like a Ches. No, not even a Lab. If you are going to hunt big water, go for a big dog. If you are going to hunt in that kind of weather, get a Ches. (I used to be just like you and then I got a lot older and little wiser!)
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Go where the birds are...

Postby My T Fast Dog » Tue Nov 19, 2002 12:30 pm

I can hardly put into words how much fun we had hunting divers. Last Saturday My dad and I shot 7 Mergansers, 3 golden eyes, 6 Ruddies, and 3 Buffleheads. One of the mergansers was a hooded. Two weeks ago we had the same kind of day but included some bluebills in the mix. We had two peope on each side of a small island and my GSP retrieved 6 ducks inside of 10 minutes before the cold got to her. She had a 200 yard run from one side of the island to the other between retrieves but it wasn't enough to shake off the cold. We had enough shooting that the cold wasn't a factor. I think my barrell kept me warm! :lol:
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Quit while you're ahead .

Postby R_Man » Sat Nov 23, 2002 9:08 am

My T Fast Dog:
Quit while you're ahead. Sooner or later, you are going to lose your dog. You'll send her on a retrieve, she'll cramp up and sink to the bottom. I've seen it because I've done it. A German Shorthair is not meant for this kind of work. I'm not saying a GSP cannot be a fair-weather water dog, or be used for jump shooting in cold weather, but they are not cold weather retrievers. I've had many a GSP, liked 'em all and hunted ducks with them all in the EARLY season. Take it from a dried-up, old fart duck hunter, if you lose a good dog, you'll feel worse than a fresh-wet cat turd.
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Postby Hank » Sat Nov 23, 2002 1:34 pm

Well said R-Man. Our furry friends are sometimes so willing to do our bidding that they become oblivious to their own limitations. It's our responsibilities as their FRIENDS to make sure they stay out of harms way. That's what friends are for.
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I whole-heartedly agree.

Postby My T Fast Dog » Mon Nov 25, 2002 11:15 am

That is why I am looking for a dog that can handle this type of weather. I brought home a GSP to be an upland machine and do a little woody shooting early but have found myself shooting diver ducks and loving it.

My question really is this: Is there a breed of dog out there that can handle this?

Also for you veterans, How much fat do you keep on your dog during late season. It seems to me that by this time in the year a lot of dogs will be lean, mean retrieving machines, but that dosen't leave much insulation.
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Postby Hank » Mon Nov 25, 2002 1:18 pm

I've always heard that Chessies are the toughest when it comes to retrieving in cold water but a GWP may able to handle it too. If it were me, though, I'd go for the Chessie. That's what they were bred for.
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Get a Big Ches, a neoprene vest and you'll be fine

Postby R_Man » Mon Nov 25, 2002 9:42 pm

Even a Ches can get cold but they have a thick, oily fur that beads water. As for fat, there is no such thing as too many calories for that kind of retrieving: I used to buy fat scraps, cook them in the crock-pot, give the fat to the dogs and then pour the liquid over their dry food. Look for a breeder that hunts the same kind of big water in the late season as you do. Word of caution: If you get a male, socialize that dog (take him every where as a little pup, get him used to being around other dogs and people to avoid any future problems.) Don't forget, the Cheasapeake Bay Retriever was breed to retrieve waterfowl all day and then guard the boat house at night, they do have a protective streak.
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I just found these articles last week...

Postby My T Fast Dog » Tue Nov 26, 2002 9:49 am

They pertain to just that. I've been looking the Chesapeakes for about a year now and your point is well taken.

Rapport Skills [tm]:
http://www.uwsp.edu/psych/dog/LA/rafe1.htm

Lead vs. Dominate:
http://www.uwsp.edu/psych/dog/LA/rafe2.htm
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Postby Rick Hall » Tue Nov 26, 2002 5:45 pm

If we can speak in generalities, Chessies are surely the most cold proof dogs going - but that doesn't mean one's owner shouldn't use judgement when hunting big or iced-up waters. Don't hesitate to shoot anything with its head up or crank the boat to retrieve long falls. Lots of bad stuff can happen out there.

As an aside, I'm wondering if you've been vesting your GSP. A well tailored neoprene vest does wonders under some relatively cold conditions, and I've no compunctions about hunting my Britt in one as long as temps don't drop below freezing. Below that, it's always the Chessie's turn. But, tough as he is, I won't ask him to die under the ice or "at sea" chasing big water cripples.
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vests and cripples

Postby My T Fast Dog » Wed Nov 27, 2002 10:05 am

I think I shot more steel this year at cripples than I did at flying birds. The divers seem a lot tougher than the puddlers I am used to.

I did get a 5 mm vest but had a hard time even finding one in a medium size, which is what my GSP needed according to the size chart. I think that the vests are designed for bigger bodied dogs though. I am an experienced diver and have spent a lot of time in Michigan's cold water in a wet suit. I know that I would not have been happy with the fit of the neopreme vest. I am planning on doing some work on the fit in the off season.

Even the water we hunt in the early season is pretty cold since it is flooded timber feed by a dammed up creek.

I was planning on cutting the vest at some of the seams, resewing and hot-gluing the new seams. Has anyone else tried this?
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Postby Rick Hall » Wed Nov 27, 2002 4:10 pm

Have both 3mm and 5mm vests for the Britt (to suit prevailing weather) and have tailored both to fit fairly snuggly. Makes a great handwarmer between dog and suit, and the fur under the vest actually dries before exposed fur does.

Forget the hot glue, go to a dive shop and get wet suit cement that will melt/weld the neoprene together at the new seams.

Also find some number 6 or 7 upland steel loads to whack those cripples in the head or neck with a denser pattern than what you're probably now using. Most everything else vital is under water.
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VEST

Postby ano » Tue Dec 10, 2002 9:17 am

I duck hunt with my Vizsla with a 5mm vest, size medium, from Cabellas. It is a little loose in the tail end and I had to cut out underneath, as recommended by the manufactor, because he is a male. Timothys and Macks Prarie also carries these vests. Getting the vest was the best thing I did for him and allowed us to extend our duck hunting season.

I mostly pass shout and occasionally jump shoot with my dog. I hunt him with temperatures below freezing but after a retrieve or two when it is extremely cold we leave. If there is ice I will pass up any shot that will land near the water. As mentioned by others its not worth it.
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Postby fattire » Tue Feb 25, 2003 12:43 pm

If you get a good vest for you dog and it sounds like you are working on it that will help also if it is practical build a nice box for your dog to stay out of the wind this will help and throw a old wool blanket in there for her another thing when riding in the boat make sure they have some thing to lie on other than metal it will sap the heat right out of them. The morning before a cold hunt I feed my dog real brown rice hamburger with lots of vegetable oil and salt to taste.

I used to hunt the snake river in Idaho with my lab it never got to cold for her to wear a vest but I did buy her one of those life vest for dogs from the white water shop, If I hunted a body of water like lake Huron unless it was a small cover I would get a life vest for the dog even a lab or chessie.

Some people laughed at my dog but I have seen dogs hit by random ice chunks or logs while hunting the snake and they lost their dogs if the dogs had a vest they would of made it.

Also Chessi get a bad rap, I hunt with labs but I have been around many chessie that are sweet as can be, they only reason the lab is more popular is they are in general easier to train. Chessi are not hard headed they just require a little more effort not a 2 x 4 as some would have you believe.

Keep having fun with your GSP just watch out for her and put a vest on her and give her a place to get out of the wind, which is what you really should do with any dog.

If you want another dog to add to the fun look at a Chessi, lab, or Golden.

GWP are good but since you already have a GSP go with a true retriever.

Two breeders of PP and GWP told me they love their dogs but if all they did was hunt ducks they would own labs, chessie or Goldens.
Hunting without a dog is just shooting.
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Postby Birdhunter » Tue Feb 25, 2003 3:19 pm

I do a lot of duck hunting. Nothing like one of the great lakes though. I almost bought a Chesapeake bay retriever when I bought my first hunting dog and talked a duck hunting friend into buying one. Nothing takes the cold better. But for mixed bag hunting I do love my wirehair and I use her year round on sloughs, marshes and lakes with a neoprene vest. I spent at least half of my duck hunts this year with two labs and she hung right in there with them. I like shorthairs and think they are excellent hunting dogs but for the life of me I can't see why anyone that duck hunted in the Northern two thirds of this country would buy a shorthaired dog. I don't see any advantage.
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