(First post here. I apologize if I'm unaware of appropriate conventions.)
My wife and I bought an excellently bred field-line springer spaniel puppy in January. He's now almost six months old. Initially, I had no intention of hunting him and so just did the usual housepet obedience training (at which he's been quite satisfactory). But, he's so well bred that he desperately *wants* to hunt. Everything from leaves in the wind to songbirds to anything he scents in the brush--he thinks raccoons are, perhaps, a bit too large. He naturally, if inefficiently, quarters on ours walks. He has a proud, cheerful natural retrieve that just melts your heart. Excellent pup. It'd be a crying shame to let all that go to waste. So I decided I'd take him hunting--I shoot anyway, just haven't hunted.
But what do I hunt? This is for the dog to utilize his natural talents, and provide an excuse to wander fields with a shotgun. I don't really want to deal with bag limits and seasons, or small, sparse populations. Not to mention I'm not really a big fan of the taste of fowl in general, although game meat is better than most. So after reviewing the relevant state game regulations, and my cookbooks, I settled on rabbit. They're underhunted and overpopulated many places. A spaniel will flush them. And based on childhood BB gun experiences in suburbia, I reckon they're fun to hunt.
This'll be the first hunting dog I've trained. This is also the first dog I've had in my adult life. So at least for some sort of starting point for building a training program, I bought the book "Hup!" by James(?) Spencer. I'd be proud to walk a dog with even half the skills described in that book. His technique seems quite reasonable, as well, if expensive in pigeons. But therein lies the conundrum: a pigeon is a bird, which is not a rabbit.
Should I use rabbits? Hobbled bunnies in place of clipped pigeons? How do I dizzy a bunny? (For that matter, how does one dizzy a pigeon?)
Or should I train on birds? If I train on birds, do I have the potential to teach him to hunt both birds *and* rabbits? Will I be able to, in some way, indicate that today we're hunting pheasant, but tomorrow we're hunting wabbit? Or would every pheasant hunt also be a rabbit hunt? (I'd be fine with any of those answers, frankly.)
Please, give me your advice. I need to know whether I'm saving up for a pigeon coop or rabbit hutches. Or if I'm totally off base and need some completely different training scheme entirely.