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Shoot...Don't Shoot

Shoot...Don't Shoot

Postby Thinblueline » Tue Jul 18, 2017 7:39 pm

My French Brittany pup will be exactly six months old in mid-September when the Wisconsin ruffed grouse season opens. My goal is to hunt him two days each week for two months, and it will almost certainly be just me and him, so I won't have to worry about him creeping and flushing other dog's pointed birds, and likewise, he won't have to worry about other dogs stealing any points he might have. I have high hopes obviously, but no high expectations, so that's another reason why I'll be hunting alone.

The plan is to just have him get as many contacts with grouse as he can in this first season of his, so he can begin to figure out how to handle those birds, with very little pressure on him. My original plan was to shoot only pointed birds, based on several comments on other threads that to do otherwise will create a "flusher and not a pointer". I've mentioned this to a couple good grouse hunters with Brittany spaniels, and they have argued that even the best dogs struggle to pin grouse down, and to hunt all season waiting for a six to eight month old dog to pin down a grouse on a solid point could be weeks and miles of butt busting without ever firing a shot. Their argument is to at least shoot at birds that I flush, or otherwise, that I can be relatively certain wasn't deliberately mishandled or deliberately flushed by the dog when he clearly had no intention of pointing it. Their logic is that shooting a few birds here and there excites the dog, and shows the dog exactly what you're after, rather than just having him flush birds all season without a point and a subsequent shot.

Incidentally, I'm not in a hurry with this dog. There should be enough wild bird contact with grouse and woodcock over that two month period, I really don't feel the need to jack around with pen raised birds, pigeons, automatic flushers, etc... The plan is simple...take him out repeatedly, and let him figure it out. I just don't know for sure if the plan should be "shoot...or don't shoot". What do you guys think might be the best plan to make a good ruffed grouse dog, for this notoriously difficult bird.
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Re: Shoot...Don't Shoot

Postby gonehuntin' » Tue Jul 18, 2017 8:24 pm

I wouldn't worry about shooting birds he doesn't point, you won't see them anyhow. If you had him on the prairie, I'd only shoot pointed birds.
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Re: Shoot...Don't Shoot

Postby Max2 » Wed Jul 19, 2017 4:32 am

In fairness and all things considered I live where I hunt. Your situation sounds very much like mine about 9 yrs ago. My max was about seven months old when I shot my first woodcock over him and we proceeded to harvest a number of w/c his first season . We tried so hard to get a solid point on grouse. A lot of variables when training on grouse. & then you have to follow through with the shot. The folks who got me into this game and helped me to train my first shorthair insisted on ~ no shooting un-pointed birds. I think by following these rules it made max a better grouse dog. I could tell the difference between a grouse point and a w/c point most of the time. I did end up getting a point and harvesting a grouse when Max was 11 months old and with not many days left in the season. The following season we got another grouse perhaps even the first day. The I stopped counting . He remembered the game :D He was a good little guy ! & I miss him.
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Re: Shoot...Don't Shoot

Postby Featherfinder » Wed Jul 19, 2017 6:25 am

Max2, you should be indebted to whomever gave you that counsel to not shoot. That is in fact, what makes a TRUE grouse dog and so few people actually own them. The reason they don't is because they are shooters first, bird-doggers second. The irony is, that in a few years, the disciplined bird-doggers collect FAR more birds than the shooters. I have to laugh........
The real reason shooters want you to shoot the occasional bird is because many shooters won't go hunting if they can't at least shoot at a bird now and then - to heck with your dog. I could work at finding a couple of reasons why you can fire at a non-pointed bird, but I will need time - lots of time.
I simply can't understand why - in 2017 - bird dog trainer/owners STILL feel this need to un-train their young dogs and then re-train them later. ????
With the proper genetics (if you didn't do your due-diligence there-in, this subject is a moot point) your dog should have what it takes to do the job. A couple of key attributes in a true grouse dog are pace and a nose that can peg birds at that pace. Neither of these assets can be trained into a dog.
It's up to you to provide the rules of the sport now. If you want to enjoy the sport at it's ultimate levels, the rules should be instilled and abided by, from the get-go. Dogs mentally handle black & white (right or wrong) situations well, unlike humans that live in a world of black, to hyper-levels of gray, to white! Keep it simple and straight forward. Do not even discharge a firearm if your dog makes a mistake. Here is the deal: Dogs learn from mistakes. So if you truly want a brag bird dog, you come to realize that mistakes are actually gems, kept in context. (Context meaning mistakes while developing or in training are pure gold while mistakes from a mature dog that should know better or at a competitive event can be frustrating.)
The world your pup knows is the one YOU create for him/her. If so, why do YOU need to kill or even shoot at a bird? Pup is just learning. There is so much to gain from letting a pup develop through association. Grouse will teach pup more than you or I can! Pup can learn salient lessons such as where to find grouse. Pup can learn the other luring smells that don't bring a return on investment. Pup can learn to work with you minus the whistle, hacking, over-handling that is a tremendous down-fall to successful grouse hunting. There is SO much greatness just there-in. A gun doesn't have any place in this at the inception (assuming you have done or will do the proper bird intro followed by gun intro in training).
A problem barking dog gets a reward in any response from you, even if it's you vehemently yelling, "Quiet!". That harsh command still gives the barker a return of interaction from you - a small reward of sorts. Shooting a gun (other than in training re gun intro) to a young pup/dog that is learning about grouse while bumping/chasing is still a reward. And so I ask again, why reward a dog that is not doing what you want and then later on trying to correct the problem YOU instilled?
Great bird dogs - especially grouse dogs - are the result of an investment in time, money and experience/opportunities. This is your time to invest in experience so that you can collect in spades in the near future, for many years to come. There's no rush. They are only pups for such a short time. Enjoy the journey.
By-the-way, has anyone else noticed that great dogs seem to age faster than not-so-great ones. :wink:
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Re: Shoot...Don't Shoot

Postby Mountaineer » Wed Jul 19, 2017 8:06 am

At 6 mo., let him romp afield….he will learn the positives which you enforce in the romp....positives and necessities exist beyond bird contacts.

It sounds like you are indeed in a hurry and, more than a little, believing too much in the obvious positives of wild birds.

Not sure why you have a dislike for planted birds and poppers, as that route gives you, the trainer, the most control over all the factors within the situation.
Control is kinda, sorta a plus.
Dogs, imo, seldom advance in a smooth upward slope…there are steps and slips along the way and having the furniture to correct or enforce or reward or whatever…..is a good thing.
Naturally, some dogs will soon tire of that work or reckon out what is happening but to introduce the flush and at some point issue a reward for good work is, again, a good thing…..just seems like you are missing out on an opening to benefit the pup and so, you.

The old saying is it takes birds and legs to make a grouse dog….it also takes an attitude that does not shut the door on what makes sense.
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Re: Shoot...Don't Shoot

Postby bonasa » Wed Jul 19, 2017 4:00 pm

Planted birds in launchers will be great for when your dog gets some age and the ability to take pressure when a correction is needed. Then you will have the summer training season on wild birds a month or two before the season opens up. Even then if the dog does good and stands broke, heel him out and put him up.

For this year some finds will be helpful for gun introduction, cover introduction, travel and strange dogs. Deer and porcupine break him while your at it. I'd be careful with your gunfire though. If your dog is making good casts, might be a good idea to call him in , love him up and put him away for a bit. Road birds are a plus. Park well away from the bird , make sure its in cover and work it crosswind, saves on miles and miles of busting and potential for your do to pick up bad habits.

Hunt with a friend to rotate dogs and get some gunning, take your time and have fun out there.
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Re: Shoot...Don't Shoot

Postby Warrior372 » Wed Jul 19, 2017 9:45 pm

I like your plan quite a bit and I did the exact same thing in Idaho with Hungarian Partridge last year. We live right next to the Boise foothills so we can get out into some nice areas really quickly. Our French Brittany was born in June and once he was up on all of his vaccines I started hiking him daily in the foothills. We hike for 1-3 hours most days of the week, so we get back away from most of the bikers and runners. Late October through February he would consistently get into 2-10 pairs / coveys of Hungarian Partridge per outing. Unfortunately you are not allowed to hunt out there, so I just shot off blanks or yelled "Bang" when he held his points. So in almost every instance - due to restriction - I could not shoot and my dog is completely fine.

It took him until he was about 6-7 months to figure out why we were hiking so much and in the process I cannot tell you how many birds I pushed while he was doing whatever he was doing. It was definitely an exercise in patience for me, but all of the exposure on wild birds created a monster. He got very good at figuring out exactly how close he could get before he pushed the birds as well.

All of the time in the foothills helped reinforce all of the yard training / commands and helped him learn the associated whistle commands pretty fast. Just get your dog out as much as you can and be patient!!
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Re: Shoot...Don't Shoot

Postby Trekmoor » Thu Jul 20, 2017 4:04 am

Featherfinder wrote:Max2, you should be indebted to whomever gave you that counsel to not shoot. That is in fact, what makes a TRUE grouse dog and so few people actually own them. The reason they don't is because they are shooters first, bird-doggers second. The irony is, that in a few years, the disciplined bird-doggers collect FAR more birds than the shooters. :


I belong in this camp, the people with the best dogs are usually the ones who have not shot birds over them before the dogs were ready.

I work my pups only on wild game and before they have ever been shot over they will already have found and pointed dozens if not hundreds of grouse, partridge, pheasant and snipe ....the more common birds in my area. Finding and pointing a bird is, or should be, a reward to a dog , no bird need be shot for the dog to gain that reward.

When the dogs/pups are eventually shot over, the retrieve becomes the reward for the dogs steadiness to shot and fall of game. If the hunt/point/shot and fall of game are all lumped together it can take the dog longer to figure out what it's job is during the various components of all this ......and it may not figure it out correctly from your point of view.

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Re: Shoot...Don't Shoot

Postby Max2 » Thu Jul 20, 2017 4:58 am

[quote="Featherfinder"]
There's no rush. They are only pups for such a short time. Enjoy the journey.

There not dog's for very long either :( .
I am indebted and so glad that I was given the intro to this world of gundog's.
To the o/p I always had birds and a johny house to keep them in on my grounds . Never a shortage. Always made training fun and always ended on a positive note( though times this can test your witts :D ) I did what i was shown to the best of my ability and was blessed two times in my life with good dogs. Life is to short . Your pup will show you and teach you what he/she is capable of. Best wish's for you & your pup ! It's a fun ride ~ Enjoy !
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Re: Shoot...Don't Shoot

Postby Thinblueline » Thu Jul 20, 2017 4:46 pm

Thanks for taking the time to offer your perspectives on this topic guys. Sometimes it does seem as if there is some sort of negative connotation about the guy who wants to shoot birds, as opposed to those who are in the sport 100 percent for the dog. I should admit then, I still have great pleasure at the flush and the challenge of the shot...and hopefully to fold a few ruffed grouse for the table, as they are my favorite bird of all to eat. In fact, until last fall, the past eleven years I have enjoyed a yellow lab to help me get after waterfowl and upland birds, but a surgery on each knee and a bad surgery on an ankle has left me struggling to keep up with a flushing dog hot on a bird. Even though I have now gone to a pointing breed, I still want to shoot some birds. Having said that, I don't want to shoot birds so bad that I'll shoot at anything and everything and risk having a dog that doesn't point birds often, or staunchly. That's why I asked the question on how detrimental the practice is.

I'll go a step further in my confessions though, and bring up a tempting scenario. Quite regularly when grouse hunting, I know for a fact that my lab would be working, for instance, 30 yards off to my left, when a grouse explodes right in front of me, or off to the right, in a scenario where I could practically guarantee it was me that flushed the grouse and not the dog. The advice from many is to not shoot birds the dog has deliberately bumped and flushed, or even birds that are right there in the immediate vicinity of the dog, just in case he was working the scent. In the above scenario where there is no doubt I flushed the bird and not the dog, how detrimental is it to the dog's future pointing staunchness to take the shot at a grouse he had never scented? I really get the whole concept of not rewarding the dog for clearly mishandling birds, and that is how I am going to roll, but over the course of the season, there will be opportunities at ruffed grouse that had nothing to do with the dog. Do you guys really believe the dog has the reasoning ability to think that because I shot at a bird over yonder without his help, he no longer has to point the next bird he comes across?
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Re: Shoot...Don't Shoot

Postby Mountaineer » Thu Jul 20, 2017 5:31 pm

Thinblueline wrote:... over the course of the season, there will be opportunities at ruffed grouse that had nothing to do with the dog. Do you guys really believe the dog has the reasoning ability to think that because I shot at a bird over yonder without his help, he no longer has to point the next bird he comes across?


No....under those qualifications and a reasonable description of yonder.

Pup may want to come see what the fuss was all about tho....same as if a bracemate's beeper pops off...or the like.
My comments were two...at 6 mo., any birds(hopefully) will fire up a pup...wild or planted, and I see no reason to warrant use of a term like "jack around" with poppers, et al. for planted birds. That would make many wonder about attitude and negativity....sorry, just the way it is.
Secondly, at 6 months, there is stuff a plenty found during a loop for a pup to learn besides wild birds and feathers softly floating down.
Not being present, one can never say that if pup is 100 yards off and a grouse is killed will zero out a pup....a fresh sniff could help.
The question might be in believing one can guarantee those conditions......as pup develops, it might only take one time when the flush/kill response is triggered and pup was not absent the scene.
May be an issue...may not....same as a pup catching a bad training bird.....reality exists.
I reckon one places importance for themselves.

I took a 6 mo. Gordon to the Yoop last season and to kansas.
He romped and saw woodcock, chased prairie chickens and bumped a pheasant, learned the dog truck and motel parking lots, heard guns pop and on and on.
Difficult to generalize about individuals and individual situations....one can confidently comment on the existence of that aforementioned reality tho.
Take from all...what you will.

There is also nothing wrong with shooting birds, if the birds have a viable population....ethics in place of course....fwltw.
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Re: Shoot...Don't Shoot

Postby Thinblueline » Thu Jul 20, 2017 6:09 pm

Maybe "jack around" was a poor choice of words.
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Re: Shoot...Don't Shoot

Postby Featherfinder » Thu Jul 20, 2017 7:20 pm

Sometimes - not all the time, a handler-flushed bird can be marked. If so, it provides you with the opportunity to work with your dog as a team to relocate this bird. This in return can provide your dog with even more wisdom/savvy going forward which = more shooting opportunities.
I believe "shooters" should have flushers rather than pointers. With the flusher it's simple, "If it flies, it dies."
I had a chap brag that his plushing/flointing dog doesn't go more than 50 yards. I ask, "Why have the time investment, monetary investment, maintenance, responsibilities in that dog? Just bring a buddy or family member along. It's far cheaper, they help to clean birds, and they go home after the hunt!"
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Re: Shoot...Don't Shoot

Postby NEhomer » Fri Jul 21, 2017 5:07 am

Don't shoot.

I did pretty much what the OP describes with my Brittany. She never became fully staunch.

My current setter will stand over a point while I go have breakfast. That's due to launchers and pigeons.
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Re: Shoot...Don't Shoot

Postby Max2 » Fri Jul 21, 2017 5:17 am

Featherfinder wrote:Sometimes - not all the time, a handler-flushed bird can be marked. If so, it provides you with the opportunity to work with your dog as a team to relocate this bird. This in return can provide your dog with even more wisdom/savvy going forward which = more shooting opportunities.

exactly ! couldn't agree more

I believe "shooters" should have flushers rather than pointers. With the flusher it's simple, "If it flies, it dies."
I had a chap brag that his plushing/flointing dog doesn't go more than 50 yards. I ask, "Why have the time investment, monetary investment, maintenance, responsibilities in that dog? Just bring a buddy or family member along. It's far cheaper, they help to clean birds, and they go home after the hunt!"


My beliefs are a little different here. Where I live and hunt we worked great as a team between 35 ~ 75 yrds - Not FEET :D ~ yards. Kept up a pace and keep moving. It's what does it for the individual. I love the point ! Not that it is correct for everyone ~ but it does it for me :D
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Re: Shoot...Don't Shoot

Postby cjhills » Fri Jul 21, 2017 6:10 am

I always shoot a few accidently flushed birds over my six month old pups. The dog needs to connect me and the gun with getting the bird. The best case would be after he is not chasing, pointing solid and will let you walk in and flush the bird. I don't shoot if he breaks on a bird he has pointed. I want easy shots that I can be reasonably certain that I will not miss and if I am sure I can find the bird I retrieve it myself...................Cj
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Re: Shoot...Don't Shoot

Postby Featherfinder » Fri Jul 21, 2017 6:21 am

I've done that myself cj. In the few times I've done that it was because the dog was either somewhat soft on birds or the gun or simply didn't have the genetic fabric to handle typical bird hunting situations. Hey......the poor dog didn't pick his parents!
Subsequently, I would go get the downed bird and flip it to the feet of the still-steady dog to reward the wonderful behavior.
For me, this is about helping the challenged dog deal with it's restrictions rather than how I would want to develop a "normal" dog.
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Re: Shoot...Don't Shoot

Postby ohmymy111 » Fri Jul 21, 2017 10:43 am

Being a French Brittany guy, I have 14 here right now but only own 12, I think I can reasonably say don't shoot non pointed birds. I wouldn't worry about your pup connecting the dots with birds if you don't shoot any. The homework should have already been done prior to hunting as far as introduction to birds. Once that is done he will have that association for life. In the end if you shoot birds he busts, you will just be creating more work for yourself in the long run unlearning bad habits.

My dogs' first hunting season, I'll be honest, I really don't care if they point a bird or not. I just won't shoot a non-pointed bird. I am after drive in the field, first and foremost, and busting and chasing birds will certainly up the drive, just don't reward him for it, if that is what he does.
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Re: Shoot...Don't Shoot

Postby cjhills » Fri Jul 21, 2017 12:05 pm

Featherfinder wrote:I've done that myself cj. In the few times I've done that it was because the dog was either somewhat soft on birds or the gun or simply didn't have the genetic fabric to handle typical bird hunting situations. Hey......the poor dog didn't pick his parents!
Subsequently, I would go get the downed bird and flip it to the feet of the still-steady dog to reward the wonderful behavior.
For me, this is about helping the challenged dog deal with it's restrictions rather than how I would want to develop a "normal" dog.

Never considered my dogs genetically inferior. But, what do I know after all they are GSPs so what can we expect. I have a had them on the ground with world class dogs. They kept their inferior genes hidden and have always held their own.
I have rock solid MH grouse dogs that my kids and grand kids shoot every pheasant that flies when we hunt pheasants and they retrieve every one.......Cj
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Re: Shoot...Don't Shoot

Postby gonehuntin' » Fri Jul 21, 2017 7:28 pm

It does no harm to shoot a bird you have bumped and the dog hasn't seen.
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Re: Shoot...Don't Shoot

Postby Thinblueline » Sat Jul 22, 2017 12:00 am

gonehuntin' wrote:It does no harm to shoot a bird you have bumped and the dog hasn't seen.


I wouldn't know why it would if the dog truly wasn't even working in the vicinity of where the bird flushed.
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Re: Shoot...Don't Shoot

Postby NEhomer » Sat Jul 22, 2017 3:57 am

ohmymy111 wrote:Being a French Brittany guy, I have 14 here right now but only own 12, I think I can reasonably say don't shoot non pointed birds. I wouldn't worry about your pup connecting the dots with birds if you don't shoot any. The homework should have already been done prior to hunting as far as introduction to birds. Once that is done he will have that association for life. In the end if you shoot birds he busts, you will just be creating more work for yourself in the long run unlearning bad habits.

My dogs' first hunting season, I'll be honest, I really don't care if they point a bird or not. I just won't shoot a non-pointed bird. I am after drive in the field, first and foremost, and busting and chasing birds will certainly up the drive, just don't reward him for it, if that is what he does.


Excellent post...spot on.
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Re: Shoot...Don't Shoot

Postby Max2 » Sat Jul 22, 2017 4:57 am

Thinblueline wrote:
gonehuntin' wrote:It does no harm to shoot a bird you have bumped and the dog hasn't seen.


I wouldn't know why it would if the dog truly wasn't even working in the vicinity of where the bird flushed.


Except for the possibility of reworking that bird with pup. I can not tell you how many times( impossible :D ) Max would be off to the right/front or left and a bird would flush wild that he was unaware of. A simple hup to get him looking my direction and point in birds direction would be game on.
Gone hunting no disrespect as I hold your opinion in high regard. Just stating what has worked for me/us with team work.
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Re: Shoot...Don't Shoot

Postby Thinblueline » Sat Jul 22, 2017 9:29 am

Max2 wrote:
Thinblueline wrote:
gonehuntin' wrote:It does no harm to shoot a bird you have bumped and the dog hasn't seen.


I wouldn't know why it would if the dog truly wasn't even working in the vicinity of where the bird flushed.


Except for the possibility of reworking that bird with pup. I can not tell you how many times( impossible :D ) Max would be off to the right/front or left and a bird would flush wild that he was unaware of. A simple hup to get him looking my direction and point in birds direction would be game on.
Gone hunting no disrespect as I hold your opinion in high regard. Just stating what has worked for me/us with team work.


I have to grant you that is a valid point, that to let it go and work in its direction may create another opportunity for bird contact.
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Re: Shoot...Don't Shoot

Postby Max2 » Sun Jul 23, 2017 4:59 am

Your decision :D You have to decide what you want.
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Re: Shoot...Don't Shoot

Postby Featherfinder » Mon Jul 24, 2017 5:57 pm

CJ, I was not insinuating that you have substandard dogs. Don't know you or what your dogs are like. I was sharing how I do things which ohmymy111 basically re-iterated. I just don't have the desire to kill what I don't work my dog(s) over - not a right/wrong thing as much as preference, as Max2 stated. Further to that, the opportunity to re-work your dog again (later that day or into the future) on that bird is forever lost once it's shot.
I've no doubt my age contributes to what I prefer as well. As a young lad, I might have taken a completely different posture.....perhaps.
Last edited by Featherfinder on Thu Jul 27, 2017 3:25 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Shoot...Don't Shoot

Postby setterpoint » Wed Jul 26, 2017 9:38 am

if the dog flushed the bird i would not shoot but if you jump the bird while the dog is out hunting i would shoot and call the dog in to hunt dead
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