Game hunters know how important a good dog is. A good hunting dog can strengthen your eyes and ears, and it’s always more fun to have a companion with you when you’re hunting! However, for the most effective hunting, you need a dog that’s well trained. This means obeying commands, of course, but a good hunting dog should also know what’s expected of him in the field.
One way hunters train their dogs is with live birds. That is, they take their dogs out to chase (and hunt) birds, using the opportunity to train the dogs out in the wild.
There are many advantages to using this method. One obvious advantage is that the dog gets real experience interacting with birds, and learns in real time what to do based on your commands, praise, and reprimands.
Another advantage is that you, the hunter, can see how your dog interacts with live birds so you can tailor your training techniques to fit your dog’s personality, as well as your hunting style. After all, if you have a pointing breed, you would want to curtail catching behavior early. With flushing and retriever breeds, on the other hand, you want to praise catching behavior, since dogs that try to catch birds will be better flushers.
If you want to train your dog with live birds, there are a couple of things you’ll need. The first is, of course, birds. Many trainers recommend using good flying quail. They may be difficult to find, but it’s worth it in order to have a well trained bird dog. The other thing you’ll need is a quality quail recaller.
When you have your quails and you’re ready to train your dog with live birds, put about two dozen quails in a box and don’t let them eat for a day. The next day, take the birds, a small block of ice, some game bird feed, and your recaller into the field. Scatter the feed across the area, and put the box down nearby. Cut a hole in the box and cover it with the block of ice, preventing the quails from escaping. Then walk away.
Once the ice melts, the quail will be able to leave the box and will find the feed. (Make sure there is water nearby, as well.) After about a week, you can run your dogs on the birds. This provides a controlled area for you and your dog to train with live birds. As with any training, patience and consistency are important to help your dog learn what you want.
Training is important for good hunting dogs. And while it’s great to teach a dog to hunt with commands, there’s nothing quite like getting in the field with live birds to teach your hunting companion exactly what to do in a hunt. And before you know it, you’ll have a great hunter!