Getting your hunting dog prepared for bird season

By Casey Kellas, The Observer October 04, 2013 10:44 am

Jeff Callison of Cove uses German Wirehaired Pointers to hunt with. He said it takes four to five months to get a pup to point and retrieve. (Courtesy photo)
Jeff Callison of Cove uses German Wirehaired Pointers to hunt with. He said it takes four to five months to get a pup to point and retrieve. (Courtesy photo)
 

As pheasant season kicks off Saturday, hunters all over Eastern Oregon will take to the fields with their trusty bird dogs at their sides.

A good bird dog can make all the difference during a hunt. 

Preparing a young hunting dog for the season is an important element in
determining success in the field.

According to Jeff Callison, owner of Wired Fire Kennels in Cove, the most important thing in readying a hunting dog is time with the pup.

“It’s all about the relationship you have with your dog. You need to spend time with the dog every day,” Callison said. “I was just out working my dog at the pond by my house. I don’t like how some people will get a dog and keep it in the kennel all the time, and then take it out and expect to hunt with it.”

Callison raises and trains German Wirehaired Pointers. 

He said it takes four to five months of working with a pup before it starts to point and retrieve. 

He said getting a young pup out with experienced hunting dogs can help as well.

“I like to get them out behind big dogs first,” Callison said.

Another tactic Callison uses and advocates is shock collars. He said when used properly, there is nothing wrong with putting a shock collar on a dog.

“It’s more humane than yelling and screaming at the dog,” Callison said. “A lot of times when you put one on the dog, you don’t ever have to use it.”

As with anything, training a hunting dog takes a lot of patience.

Darin Larvik has been hunting with bird dogs for 12 years and is the local 4-H leader of the Pointing Dog Club. 

He teaches youth the rights and wrongs of training a bird dog.

“The two main points I try to teach is patience and be kind to the dog,” Larvik said. “You don’t want to get too heavy-handed with the dog, or it will become anxious.”

Larvik encourages anyone trying to train a dog to use videos and books. 

He said he uses courses produced by George Hickox and books by Delmar Smith, a five-time national champion bird dog trainer.

But there is no substitute for having an experienced hand around.

“There’s a saying that you always ruin your first dog,” Larvik said. “Because you’re learning and the dog’s not.”

Larvik said that before he starts to really work a young hunting dog, he likes to get it out in the field and just let it run loose.

“Get it out there and let it run around and have fun,” he said. “Just let the dog do the hunting. Be careful not to put too much pressure on the dog and let it build confidence.”

Both Callison and Larvik said that there are plenty of good breeds to hunt with. It all comes down to personal preference. 

Callison hunts upland game birds and has used Brittany Spaniels and Springers. He said duck hunters might prefer a type of Lab.

Larvik started out using a Vizla and has since switched to a Brittany.

“All traditional hunting breeds are great,” Larvik said. 

But even those with experienced hunting dogs, it’s important to remember to get your dog ready well ahead of time.

“This is not the time to train your dog,” Larvik said.

He said spending a few minutes each day with the dog for about six weeks before hunting season is ample time to get your dog ready for the rigors of the hunt.

Pheasant and grouse seasons run through Dec. 31, while chuckar season runs until Jan. 31, 2014.