Firelight Bird Dogs

Firelight Bird Dogs

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Pre-season, Naturally

 by Lynn Dee Galey

“I haven’t seen the dogs, have you?” We were just taking a short 15 minute walk to look at a possible cover so didn’t have any bells or GPS on the two dogs.  After a few minutes, at the far end of the clearing I thought I saw a familiar sight buried in the thick green cover; some black and white of my 12+ year old on point.  We silently walked up and sure enough a large brood of ruffs flushed in front of her, strong flight scattering left and right.  She released after they flushed but moved forward only 30 feet and froze.  As we walked further, we saw that she was now backing the 16-month-old who was not far ahead, solid on point.  Our silent approach then caused a second brood to flush in front of the youngster and both dogs released and happily scoured for stragglers.

Points, backs, and steady into the flush on wild birds in our first walk of the pre-season. This. This is what I want and expect from my dogs. (And I hope is a good bird omen for the upcoming season!) No “pre-season training” or “tuning them up.”   For my dogs, it takes two parts to get to days like this: genes and me.

First is to have a dog bred for instinct.  I want both parents to be dogs who, as youngsters themselves, showed the ability to handle wild birds. Parents who naturally developed to staunchly hold point, no whoa or check cords or ecollars. Dogs whose teachers were the birds and dogs who were eager, precocious learners who remembered their lessons. 

Second part is the owner. Wild birds are the best teachers, not us and definitely not pen birds, so it is our job to get our pups into wild birds so they can learn.  Watch as pup blows through their first birds, don’t shoot and don’t shout. Just watch and do it as often as you can.  If your pup has the genes you will see them learn, progressing from busting to pointing, taking steps then finally standing staunch. Then, when they are staunch, get to work and shoot that bird for them.

Seven month old Firelights learning from sharptail grouse in Montana

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