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Even if you’re not a hunter, you know that “skunked,” as in many other pursuits from cribbage to baseball, means you didn’t score. Birds one, hunter zero.

And while we often console ourselves with the cliché, “it’s not about shooting birds,” blah, blah, blah, it really is about shooting birds. Or is it?

A birdless trip opens your eyes to the rest of the outdoor world, from the merganser brood bobbing past, to the subtle whiff of pastel green as you brush against a sagebrush. You may sulk for a while, putter in your vest, but soon you actually do find better things to think about.

Like the play of sunlight on moving water. Blue sky contrasted with snowcapped peaks. The earnestness with which your dog performs his age-old job. How about the fact that you can visit such places, stand on a rocky mountain top and marvel at a three-state view?

Or something simpler, like spotting a Bohemian Waxwing for the first time, and knowing there are still places and things awaiting your discovery. Come to think about it, who needs a shotgun?

I’ll bet last time you were skunked, you got something memorable out of the trip. What was it?

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What shotgun brand leads in sales? Has your access to hunting land been curtailed? How dos this impact our industry, conservation, and the future of the sport?

Knowledge is power. Here’s a little for you to think about. Thanks to our major sponsor the National Shooting Sports Foundation, we have some of the answers. Take a look: 0511Survey_Tracker

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[Read this post, then go here and take part in the new deltawaterfowl.org QuickPoll on plastic baits in our fisheries.]

Never give away a bowl of food. That sage advice was uttered by a pro trainer years ago and I’ve followed it ever since, because it helps Buddy (and me) become better hunters. And believe me, when the television camera is on, I need all the help I can get! 

Where do "treats" in all forms, fit into your training strategy?

I’m just a music major, not a trainer, but believe that short of birds and making puppies, food and other forms of praise are the strongest motivators for a dog. Smarter, more experienced trainers may disagree but take a moment before you turn this page. Put it in personal terms. 

Have you ever had a boss constantly haranguing you, putting you down, and yelling? How hard are you going to work for that guy? Will you stay late, go the extra mile? Nope, you’ll probably steal paper clips! 

On the other hand, it’s human (and I say canine) nature to seek positive feedback. “Self actualization” may be the psycho-babble term, but the fact is we want to do more – and better – work for someone who appreciates it. Think of your favorite teacher, the one you clapped erasers for.  (more…)

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