lab catching pheasants

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bumper52
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lab catching pheasants

Post by bumper52 » Fri Mar 13, 2015 8:31 pm

This is really long, but I have no idea how to deal with a situation. I do guided pheasant hunts for a local club...been doing this 13 years. Presently, I have two flushing labs that are 3 and 4 years of age. They are both force fetched, collar conditioned, and will handle if needed. They have flushed and retrieved approximately 900 birds. The last 3 hunts, one of my dogs has caught a lot of the birds. This has happened occasionally in the past (maybe one per hunt) but this has really become a problem. A couple of groups must have said something to the owner because he asked me about it. And I don't blame the hunters at all...I understand they are there to shoot birds...not to watch dogs catch them. The problem is I have no idea how to fix this. I think one of the problems is that the hens have started laying eggs in the pen, and my experience has been they become almost "comatose" when set out in the field. The dog has caught a ratio of about 5 hens to every 1 rooster. The owner suggested a couple of things. One was to shock the dog immediately when grabs the bird. I am not comfortable with this at all. My whole philosophy with using an e collar to to enforce commands that were taught thoroughly. In addition, the timing would have to be perfect (as it should be with all e collar corrections) but sometimes I cannot see the dog actually catch the bird because of heavy cover. He also suggested I could use a muzzle. I must have looked at him like he was crazy. He said there is a type of muzzle that makes it difficult for a dog to catch a bird, but would allow a dog to retrieve one. I've never seen anything like that. Both of these suggestions just seem counterproductive to how I trained these dogs. I want them extremely birdy and intense on the flushes. I don't really want to stifle that in any way. I train with pigeons during the off season. I was thinking of whistle stopping the dog when she got hot...then go flush the bird...but that idea bothers me as well. I've hunted over flushing labs for 50 years...I think they should be given freedom to do the thing they bred to do....FLUSH. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

mnaj_springer
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Re: lab catching pheasants

Post by mnaj_springer » Fri Mar 13, 2015 8:50 pm

Maybe the "owner" should get some strong flying birds! Honestly... The birds are the problem here, not the dogs.
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deseeker
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Re: lab catching pheasants

Post by deseeker » Fri Mar 13, 2015 9:03 pm

[quote="mnaj_springer"]Maybe the "owner" should get some strong flying birds! Honestly... The birds are the problem here, not the dogs.[/quote

X2

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Re: lab catching pheasants

Post by Neil » Fri Mar 13, 2015 9:09 pm

mnaj_springer wrote:Maybe the "owner" should get some strong flying birds! Honestly... The birds are the problem here, not the dogs.
Yep, it is that simple.

The only other answer is to go to pointing dogs, but I would not want to be the one trying to flush those poor flying birds.

BTW, the owner does not understand flushing dogs, I would find another place to guide. His suggestions are wrong.

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Re: lab catching pheasants

Post by gonehuntin' » Sat Mar 14, 2015 4:17 am

X3
LIFE WITHOUT BIRD DOGS AND FLY RODS REALLY ISN'T LIFE AT ALL.

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Re: lab catching pheasants

Post by Trekmoor » Sat Mar 14, 2015 5:02 am

X 4.

All I can think of is to train your labs the way spaniels in Britain are trained for trials. They flush but are not permitted to snatch at rising birds. If a pheasant remained on the ground it probably would get pegged though. I watched a British pro spaniel trainer once who said he trained his dogs not to peg. He did it by having wing clipped pheasants in a tennis court sized pen and having a check cord on the dog . The dog actually nose nudged tight sitting birds into running or flying as best they could as the dog sat to flush.

I have never tried training this, my dogs would all peg if the bird didn't fly off quickly. I think maybe the crucial part of this may be that the impulse to peg the bird is turned into a sit command as soon as the bird even twitches ?

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The older I get, the better I was !

nevermind
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Re: lab catching pheasants

Post by nevermind » Sat Mar 14, 2015 9:05 am

From a hunter's opinion as others have stated it's a bird problem. Anyone that has hunted wild pheasant knows Hens will hold tighter than most Roosters. My opinion (not fact) is maybe a nesting instinct that makes Hens hold tight. Maybe get the club owner to up the percentage of Roosters their raising... also could be to much human contact while raising pen birds.

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Re: lab catching pheasants

Post by Higgins » Sat Mar 14, 2015 9:09 am

Hello Bumper52,

I agree with the others. Good, natural dog work requires good, natural acting birds. After all, the goal of hunt clubs should be to simulate, as closely as possible the hunting of wild birds. I agree with Bill's comment too. If a bird lays there like it's dead, it will probably get pegged. I would not consider that a mistake on the dog's part. I would reward him. In his mind, he would see picking up that bird as a retrieve. I've learned to be real careful here in what the dog is learning. If I teach the dog that the flush is a command to sit or stop, he may begin to anticipate that sit command when working the bird and get "sticky", instead of aggressively flushing the bird.

I teach our dogs a flush/stop command. This can be very useful when hunting in heavy cover and I can't get to the dog. Granted, I'm working pointing dogs but the flush/stop principle is the same for flushers. Initially, the training for this command requires good birds that will flush when pressured by the dog. To teach this, when he goes in to flush the bird, as soon as it flushes, I give what I call a "cautionary" growl. To my dogs, this growl means "stop what you're doing". At that moment, he is moving, so he stops. I call it a cautionary growl because it is not backed up with handler induced pressure (no e-collar or threat of punishment). I'm telling him that if he continues, he will simply lose (I won't shoot it for him). He knows from experience that I'm the only one that can consistently get the bird in his mouth. He has learned to trust that to be true.

Here is a short video. Be sure to read the text that is included with the video. It helps explain what I'm doing.
https://vimeo.com/92303337


Brad Higgins
HigginsGundogs

Higgins Gundogs hunting etiquette

Dogs: Stay in touch and handle well. Always honor another dog's point, be steady when necessary and manage the birds for the gun.
Handlers: Be silent in the hunt. Allow the dog the freedom to do his work. Nurture the natural retrieve.

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Re: lab catching pheasants

Post by luvthemud » Sat Mar 14, 2015 12:06 pm

Getting better flying birds, or using more roosters probably aren't real options in this scenario.

Farm owners want birds to sit tight so people can shoot them. Most people that go to a preserve to hunt for reasons other than dog training don't want birds that run or that have to actually be hunted.

In my opinion, the only real option is to find another place to guide or live with people complaining about it. When a group chooses a flushing dog they should accept the risk that the dog will get one once in a while. At the club I frequent, pointers are preferred just for this reason.

Sounds to me like your dogs are doing exactly what they should be doing and trying to "farm proof" them would be a mistake in my mind.

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Re: lab catching pheasants

Post by luvthemud » Sat Mar 14, 2015 12:36 pm

One thing that you didnt mention was if you are the one placing the birds? If you aren't, could it be that whoever is placing them in the field is dizzying them up too much? The kids at the club I frequent will darn near shake all the feathers off if someone doesn't tell them not to. Hens definetly seem to be more sensitive than roosters IMO.

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Re: lab catching pheasants

Post by JKP » Sat Mar 14, 2015 5:19 pm

Whatever you do, don't tell the wife...she'll be asking why you even need those guns!!!

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Re: lab catching pheasants

Post by Grange » Sun Mar 15, 2015 9:49 am

I helped out a friend and his church group on a game farm 'hunt' about 5 years ago. I had my seasoned lab and young pointing dog. I hunted the two separately and my lab caught well over 90% of the birds. It was a joke. I was throwing up the birds my lab retrieved to me for the hunters to shoot. One guy couldn't do it and I didn't blame him. At lunch we told the bird planter to plant them very lightly, but it was the same thing. They were just poor birds and it wasn't just one species that was like this. The group had chuckars, pheasant, and quail planted. After a while I pulled my dogs and told them to get some game farm dogs in hopes that they would be able to salvage what in my opinion was bad 'hunting' experience.

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Re: lab catching pheasants

Post by luvthemud » Sun Mar 15, 2015 2:53 pm

Grange wrote:I helped out a friend and his church group on a game farm 'hunt' about 5 years ago. I had my seasoned lab and young pointing dog. I hunted the two separately and my lab caught well over 90% of the birds. It was a joke. I was throwing up the birds my lab retrieved to me for the hunters to shoot. One guy couldn't do it and I didn't blame him. At lunch we told the bird planter to plant them very lightly, but it was the same thing. They were just poor birds and it wasn't just one species that was like this. The group had chuckars, pheasant, and quail planted. After a while I pulled my dogs and told them to get some game farm dogs in hopes that they would be able to salvage what in my opinion was bad 'hunting' experience.
I went out with a group and we had 20 chuckar put out along with our pheasants. We literally had to either kick them or pick the up and throw them. I asked when we got back and was told "yeah, that is normal for them to sit that tight". I was sort of suprised because I remember the little bugger's being pretty active when I did my "end of training" hunt with the trainer. The guy sort of chuckled when I told him that we had a bunch of flushing dogs. If they wouldn't taste so good I would probably have been a bit upset lol!

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Re: lab catching pheasants

Post by RoostersMom » Mon Mar 16, 2015 7:29 am

A good flushing dog (here at least - maybe not over the pond) will catch a bird on the ground - I'm pretty sure they are supposed to do that. That's why they're flushers and not pointers. Any attempt by you to stifle that will likely result in a dog with less intensity and desire on the flush. If he wants to have crappy flying birds then he needs to guide with pointing dogs.

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Re: lab catching pheasants

Post by aulrich » Mon Mar 16, 2015 8:44 am

Crappy fly birds are hard on pointers too, they are usually throwing tons of stress hormones and they smell wounded to the dog.

From a safety point of view, I would think stop on flush would be a desirable thing on a preserve, since you can’t bank on the client not shooting at a low birds.

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Re: lab catching pheasants

Post by 41magsnub » Mon Mar 16, 2015 9:11 am

Definitely a bird problem. Out here we do a lot of preserve hunts, occasionally we get a bird that needs a little encouragement to fly. But, for the most part the pen raised birds act about like early season wild bird. They hold reasonably well, but fly when pressured.

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Re: lab catching pheasants

Post by mbender » Thu Mar 19, 2015 8:51 pm

I guide at a club as well and had that problem this season as well. I was just setting birds to hard. My lab was catching half the birds i set out. Not the dogs fault or the birds fault it was me. I started just pushing the birds down into the cover and walking away. This has worked for me. My lab is young 1 year 5 months and is fast and intense while hunting so if i set the bird to tight he will just pick them off. I would not zap the dog when he is about to flush the bird. That is what he is suppose to do. What message are you sending to him when he's about to do what he is breed to do and he gets hit with e collar. You could create issue's that could really set you back. I always listen to suggestions but that one about zapping a flushing dog before he flushes the bird makes no sense to me. Remember this is your dog and you decide what is best for him. Good luck.

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Re: lab catching pheasants

Post by AbsintheGD » Mon Mar 30, 2015 2:53 pm

I'm pretty sure I'd talk to the farm owner and let them know that their birds may need to be handled less or just genuinely talk to him about the possibility of not guiding with your dogs because you wouldn't want to inhibit their natural ability. I think I would probably ask someone with a setter or pointer to do a test run to see how hard these birds are to get off the ground as well.

Good luck

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