Continue hunting or move back to plants?

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Continue hunting or move back to plants?

Postby reader4 » Fri Oct 30, 2020 12:23 pm

I'm new to pointing breeds and have a question about the "best" path with my 7mo small munsterlander. Quick background: Training during summer went really well with bird exposure 1-2 per week, very good search and point, and culminated in a very good NA test in late September. Early hunting in the grouse woods yielded some good results -- wild flushes were helping to bring out an earlier point. Lately we've been able to hit local areas for woodcock, pheasants and ducks on the jump a couple of times a week, but often only for 45-90min or so after work or between drop-off/pick-up for kids.

What I've noticed is that his point has really faded. He's not picking up the woodcock well (or pointing them), and he's more apt to track/chase pheasant than point (fair, since they've been running a lot). Recently we were in a field with dozens of snipe and I thought it might be a good opportunity for a few points but they got zero attention. He is quite happy to point and pounce on field mice... My read is that he's developed a bit of adolescent boldness, and frat-boy immaturity (it's not the only place this is showing up), and has lost his way a bit on the birds. It's also true that he hasn't had as much exposure to these birds yet since training emphasized quail, chukar and pigeons.

So my question to the group is: would you continue to expose to hunting scenarios and accept that lessons might be more about obedience, control in the field, exposure to different environments and birds, how to modulate search in the woods vs. fields vs. marsh, etc., or would you back up, stop hunting him, go back to controlled bird exposure and wait out this period? Either way formal training will continue to emphasize obedience and good manners -- there is plenty of work to be done there anyway. If he was one of my flushers from the past I'd just keep at it. I'm just not sure if that's the right approach with a pointer if the points aren't coming out much.

Also, to be clear, I will not shoot birds the dog bumps. I will shoot wild-flushed birds the dog was not aware of.
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Re: Continue hunting or move back to plants?

Postby Willie T » Fri Oct 30, 2020 1:24 pm

Obedience in the yard away from birds and hunt the hair off him on wild birds. At this stage I would only shoot pointed birds the dog allows you to flush. Let the wild flushes fly and let the dog hunt for the gun. First years are full of trials and tribulations as the dog learns to handle wild birds and assimilates the cover he is most likely to find them in. When he does it right, do your level best to hold up your end and not miss.
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Re: Continue hunting or move back to plants?

Postby Fun Dog » Fri Oct 30, 2020 5:46 pm

Relax! This should be the most fun year with your dog as it is all about experience. After hunting season you can start training. Wild birds are great because even when the dog messes up he still can’t catch the birds. Usually!
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Re: Continue hunting or move back to plants?

Postby Bruce Schwartz » Sat Oct 31, 2020 12:17 am

Agree with Willie and Fun Dog. Get as much exposure to wild birds as possible this season, which, fortunately, you're making happen. I'd focus on just enjoying his encounters rather than expecting solid dog work - that will come with time and training. Lots of dogs need to learn that a particular species is what's he's supposed to be interested in. That's hardly a problem with pheasants (except they can be exasperating since they run), but snipe might not interest him much unless you start targeting them. Post some pictures.
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Re: Continue hunting or move back to plants?

Postby orhunter » Sat Oct 31, 2020 8:49 am

+3... You can't train a dog to hunt, only wild birds can do that. The idea with a pup is to get them off pen raided birds ASAP. Training is about cooperation. Steadiness on birds is cooperation. Actual training is after a pup's first hunting season. You should find a dogs reaction to birds is quite different when wild birds are present, something pen raised can't duplicate. Give your pup complete freedom in the field and let the birds do the training. Watch what you do so as not to interfere with the learning process. Keep your mouth shut. Reward work well done and ignore the rest.
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Re: Continue hunting or move back to plants?

Postby Densa44 » Sat Oct 31, 2020 12:38 pm

Pretty good advice here, so I haven't much to add. If you have friends with trained and older dogs you can stop those pheasants from running. Just have friend and dog stand up wind of where you think the birds are. Some put the older dog on a leash, the pup is going to do all the work. If it is a ditch that you are working it makes it easier. When the rooster stops so will your dog. You may be close enough to shake hands with your friend! BE SAFE! The first time I did this 2 roosters came up from between us. No closing the gun unless you are sure that it is safe.

Once your dog gets the hang of it, he will stop further back, and not creep.

Good luck at the UT test.
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Re: Continue hunting or move back to plants?

Postby reader4 » Mon Nov 02, 2020 12:06 pm

Thanks, all, for the advice. Banging away, enjoying the process (and time outdoors), rewarding what works and ignoring what doesn't (or teasing in the case of his obsessive pouncing on field mice) has been my mindset from the beginning of the season given his age. Helpful to know the changes in pointing behavior are pretty normal. Reflecting on expectations was also useful. I never would have expected my flushers to queue on the snipe, but somehow I held this pup to a higher standard.

Over the weekend we did a mid-day pheasant hunt in dense marsh with howling wind at 35 °F -- pretty suboptimal scenting and the exiting hunters lamented the poor conditions and no birds. Within 20 minutes we had flushed one rooster (he tracked it but didn't make the point) and two loafing ducks. He pointed three feather piles (so something is finding birds). He couldn't find one that happend to fly and land near us, but we got one more wild flush before the hunt was over. Not a bad two hours in a new field and tough conditions.

On a better day he bumped one rooster, found the track again and pointed it briefly before it flushed between us. I decided that was a good one and took the shot. He had to track the cripple before catching and holding it. Didn't bring to hand -- not surprising or a big deal to me right now -- but we got the bird in the bag. Definitely looking forward to getting these patterns established more as the season goes on.

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Re: Continue hunting or move back to plants?

Postby AverageGuy » Tue Nov 03, 2020 9:22 am

reader4,

I have posted alot of links to videos of me bringing my current pup along this summer in my Meet Tess Thread. She is very reliable to point staunchly at first scent on a pigeon in a launcher from good distances off the bird and hold while I flush.

She points some of the wild birds she finds and flushes and chases some others. The earlier in the the hunt the more likely she is to flush and chase. Later in that same hunt she often settles down, points and holds for me to flush. I grin and bear it when she flushes. It is the way it goes bringing a puppy along in their first season.

I have trained Whoa in the yard but am not using it in the field. Going to let her go through this first season with some wilding behavior within reason and then steady her up this spring and summer.

It is not easy as I have a nice experienced dog in his 5th season that I shoot birds over where ever I put him on the ground, but pups cannot learn their craft solely on planted birds so I give them equal time hunting them alone as that is how the pup learns best.

I ran my dogs with a buddy's GSP on grouse a couple of drops this season. That young dog took out every grouse she found while I was watching last season. She is his superstar this season. I hunted with an exceptional EP in Texas on bobwhites. Her Breeder/Trainer/Owner said he was not sure the dog was ever going to stop running through birds when she was in her first season. With patience and experience these puppy antics turn around.

Keep walking and smiling and I will do the same.
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Re: Continue hunting or move back to plants?

Postby Attidog » Thu Nov 05, 2020 7:53 pm

Reader, what breed is he? Looks like a Longhaar?
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Re: Continue hunting or move back to plants?

Postby reader4 » Fri Nov 06, 2020 1:32 pm

Not far off... Small Munsterlander. Hard to see scale in the image, he is very brown, and he was soaking wet at this point. For better scale reference, that's my Prius in the background :lol:
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Re: Continue hunting or move back to plants?

Postby JONOV » Mon Nov 09, 2020 2:57 pm

FWIW, I think that penned birds are the scent equivalent of a shot of cheap bourbon, and a wild one closer to a Coors light. And if it flushes and lands near you, the wind-washing phenomena is very real. I don't have any recommendations as to what you should shoot or not shoot but I do think that hunting him as much as you can on wild ones while enforcing strict obedience in the yard will leave you set up best to continue training at seasons end.
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Re: Continue hunting or move back to plants?

Postby reader4 » Mon Nov 09, 2020 3:28 pm

I'd probably take the cheap bourbon over any kind of Coors, but I'm less clear on what that means for scenting...

We are hunting birds in the wild. The real question was whether there would be value in backing up, working on steadiness in controlled conditions with planted birds, and then coming back to the game later. I think some lessons are more efficiently learned in that manner. Here I am more convinced that the dog just needs time and exposure to figure it out for himself -- and hoped for confirmation that this course is appropriate. That is, running pheasants won't set everything back by a year!
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Re: Continue hunting or move back to plants?

Postby Dmog » Mon Nov 09, 2020 3:40 pm

I think it means if you were blindfolded, the wind was blowing away from you, and you really needed a drink, which one would you smell first...I wouldn't shoot either!
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Re: Continue hunting or move back to plants?

Postby ryanr » Tue Nov 10, 2020 10:19 am

I wouldn't go back to planting birds for an unsteady dog that's for sure. Not much good accomplished there. I'd continue to hunt this young dog on wild birds, doesn't mean you have to shoot birds that aren't pointed though.
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Re: Continue hunting or move back to plants?

Postby JONOV » Tue Nov 10, 2020 11:51 am

reader4 wrote:I'd probably take the cheap bourbon over any kind of Coors, but I'm less clear on what that means for scenting...

We are hunting birds in the wild. The real question was whether there would be value in backing up, working on steadiness in controlled conditions with planted birds, and then coming back to the game later. I think some lessons are more efficiently learned in that manner. Here I am more convinced that the dog just needs time and exposure to figure it out for himself -- and hoped for confirmation that this course is appropriate. That is, running pheasants won't set everything back by a year!

My point is that own birds smell strongly enough that I can smell them, I can’t imagine what it means to a dog.

Whereas wild birds are a much more subtle scent, they move around...
what I’m saying is that it doesn’t sound like the dog is being disobedient, the dog is figuring out a new challenge. You’ve taken the dog from hitting balls off a tee to hitting balls from a pitching machine, and now he’s learning to hit off of a talented pitcher that knows how to throw curve balls and sliders.
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