I get a lot of questions, and relish them all. They run the gamut, for sure, from ridiculous to sublime. Here are a few that may be of use to you:
Q: I have a three year old Lab that loves life. My problem with her is that I cannot calm her down in the field or other unfamiliar situations until she burns herself out. Do you have any tips on how I can work on this with her?
A: I wonder if this is an obedience issue? Practicing “sit” or “whoa” when she meets people or the doorbell rings, might help if that’s a problem as an example. It might be as simple as gradually exposing her to more unfamiliar situations, from shopping to walking on the sidewalk. In the field, a high-strung dog should still obey your commands, so go back to the yard or house and start over, expecting total conformity to your commands. Try a few warm-up drills involving obedience commands before you turn her loose in the field to remind her she’s working. I still put my young dog through some obedience drills before and during a hunt.
Q: Why are heavier loads needed for wild birds as opposed to club birds?
A: Wild birds often fly faster flush farther from the gun, so shots are usually at longer distances.
Q: I see you have a German wirehaired pointer. I am interested in getting a pointer. My question is several of my friends have flushing breeds, how hard and what kind of problems can a person run into hunting these different breeds together?
A: It usually doesn’t work well. A pointer will quickly get jealous of a flusher crashing into the birds he’s standing. He’ll start breaking point, fights will take place, prom dates will be broken, etc. Hunt very far apart (say 300 or more yards) and it might work.
Q: Both my wife and I are gun enthusiasts but have never hunted birds. We are both in the autumn of our years and would like to get a bird dog. Where do we start?
A: What a great way to spend your retirement! A dog is a life-long commitment, so before you make the emotional and financial investment be sure you really want a dog and will spend enough time in the field with it. Hunt at a preserve a few times with their guides and dogs, find a club and help out at training days. Attend some hunt tests and club events. “Borrow” a well-behaved dog for a day and night or two, to see if it fits into your lifestyle. If you’re still high on a dog and hunting, you’ve already done much of the research for a dog that might fit your hunt style, locale, birds you’ll be shooting at, and personality.
Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of getting a started dog versus a puppy and which would you recommend for someone new to or returning to the sport of bird hunting?
A: I’m bullish on buying started dogs. I’ve always gotten pups, but that’s just my preference. A started dog means no midnight potty runs and obedience classes. And the started, adopted and rescued dogs that I know have bonded just fine with their new humans. Puppies are magical beings, and the experience of raising one is special but it’s not for everyone.
Q: I have a seven-month-old field bred Springer. She is very high octane and has a hard time listening until she has had some exercise. Is there anything to do other than keep working with her and let her mature?
Q: Is it necessary for a dog to have a beard, wire hair, and a docked tail in order to be a good hunting dog? I have noticed from watching your show with your friends “Buddy” and six month old “Manny” that you prefer German Wirehaired Pointers. I live in South Carolina and my son and I utilize our State Dog, Boykin Spaniels, but they have health issues. I was wondering why you prefer the wirehair breed? And do they have any unusual health issues like Boykins with ear problems and thyroid issues?
A: Those physical attributes do have function, but for me they’re just a personal preference. All well-bred hunting dogs will deliver in the field and at home, so find a breed and breeder you like and go for it! Some wirehaired breeds may have ectopic or entropic eyelids but it’s not much of a worry. Most breeds have health issues unique to them, so do some research.
Q: Which western state would you consider the best for multiple types of upland bird hunting.
A: That’s like asking me which of my dogs I like most! Every state has terrain, bird species, scenery that make it unique. Some that fit your request include Montana (Huns, sage grouse, sharptails, pheasants, forest grouse), the Dakotas (all of the above plus prairie chickens) and all three of those have great public access programs too.