Posts Tagged ‘e-collar’

Field Etiquette for Bird Dogs

Monday, January 6th, 2014

Pheasants Forever Editor Mark Herwig, left, and Pheasants Forever Tongue River Chapter President Travis Muscha of Miles City, Montana, with sharp-tailed grouse bagged this November on land the chapter helped purchase and improve. Much to the author’s delight, there was no cross-over retrieving on this hunt.

Pheasants Forever Editor Mark Herwig, left, and Pheasants Forever Tongue River Chapter President Travis Muscha of Miles City, Montana, with sharp-tailed grouse bagged this November on land the chapter helped purchase and improve. Much to the author’s delight, there was no cross-retrieving on this hunt.

We all want our upland hunts to be safe and enjoyable, and a big part of that is good dog work. Here are a few bird dog field etiquette topics I’ve been mulling over lately.

Taking turn        

One thing that annoys me when pheasant hunting is someone else’s dog retrieving a bird my dog flushed and I shot.

I train my dog to retrieve and it’s a big part of the hunt and a big part of my hunting satisfaction. My springer, “Hunter,” isn’t the most aggressive on retrieving all the time, but sometimes he’ll really ‘fight’ for a bird. He really likes chasing cripples, something my other springer excelled at as well.

Some dogs stick with their masters and leave other hunters alone; others just range everywhere, somewhat out of control, and hog the retrieving. I guess it’s better he demurs than gets in a fight over a retrieve. One tactic that helps is hunting him far enough away from other dogs that there’s no conflict on retrieves.

E-collar use

I wonder if anybody else does this, but once I’ve had an e-collar on my dog a day, I’ve noticed I can remove it the next and he behaves perfectly, meaning he won’t range too far out. He’s just generally more attune to my commands in general as well. I’d much rather hunt him without the collar. A gun dog just looks better to me without a neck full of gadgets. I imagine the dog likes it better at times too.

The right kind of dog?

I’m about to embark on a quail hunt. I was feeling pensive about bringing a springer on what’s ‘supposed’ to be a pointing dog hunt. But my springer has flushed and retrieved quail, as did my previous spaniel. I’ve found both pointers and flushers do a darn good job. The best dog to hunt quail with? One that flushes the birds in range and brings them to hand once the shot is made.

I’ve noticed one thing about flushing dogs hunting simultaneously with pointing dogs, at least my springers. They tend to defer to them. My old springer, “Wolf,” got over it after a bit, but I’m not sure Hunter has. It’s odd. I think maybe Hunter is just put off by a dog that does it different. I sometimes just move a ways out from the pointers and that seems to help, that is he forgets about the pointers and does his own thing….and does it well.

The Nomad is written by Mark Herwig, Editor of the Pheasants Forever Journal and Quail Forever Journal. Email Mark at

Gear and Gun Dogs: What’s Perfection?

Thursday, September 5th, 2013


The quest for perfection can lead to finger pointing, but if the only pointing “Rimfire” does is on game birds, the author will be happy.

Frustrated by hunting gear that always seems to have most of the features we want but never all the features we want, my friends and I like to play “If I were to design a —-.”

Training collars always generate great debate. If I were to design an e-collar, it would have a decent range of stimulation adjusted on a rheostat, different beeper sounds and volumes, vibrate, locator, small ergonomic size, a tiny receiver, buttons with numbers or collar color letters big enough to read without my glasses, some blaze orange on the transmitter so I can find it when I drop it in the woods, a fixed antenna that’s not too long, a simple on-off button that doesn’t get squishy with age, and a reliable but small loop to attach it to a lanyard or carabineer without interfering with the transmitter knobs.

Ask the next dog handler, and he or she will come up with a different set of priorities for sure.

How about the perfect rain hat? Mine would be 100 percent waterproof, 100 percent breathable, blaze orange, never shrink or wrinkle, allow no water to drip down my neck, and would look terrific on. (That last part is the kicker.) We analyze game vests, hunting pants and guns. Boots are very personal, so we’ve given up trying to design the perfect pair. I wonder, though, what we’d come up with if we were to design the perfect bird dog.

I’d start with a dense coat to protect him from thorns and brambles. It’d have to be heavy enough for cold weather, but not too heavy for early season. He’d have to be so biddable, you’d think he’d read the training manual himself. A sensational nose goes without saying, love for swimming, and the ability to know exactly how far out I’d like him to range in the fields and woods. He’d come pre-wired steady to wing, shot and drop, and would retrieve with the style and grace of the head waiter in a gourmet Manhattan restaurant serving me filet mignon in a burgundy mushroom sauce.

He must have a sense of humor for those slow days in the field when I need diversion, and he must be forgiving, knowing that when I miss it’s because the sun was in my eyes, the trees were in the way, or my jacket pulled the gunstock away from my shoulder. As far as personality goes, he’d adore me and understand we’re a team – that if he finds the bird, I can shoot the bird; and if he retrieves the bird, I’ll cook it up for dinner, for us both.

Did I forget anything?

Nancy Anisfield, an outdoor photographer/writer, sporting dog enthusiast and bird hunter, serves on Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s National Board of Directors. She resides in Hinesburg, Vermont.

Top 5 Pheasant Dog Owner Mistakes

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Avoid the five mistakes for gun dogs and save yourself a lot of trouble: good genetics, check; good weight, check; stay cool yourself, check; e-collar, check; and lastly, keep an eye out for their well-being, check. Photo by Mark Herwig / Pheasants Forever

Since I just examined The Biggest Mistakes Pheasant Hunters Make, next let’s examine the biggest mistakes made when it comes to the other hunters in the field – the bird dogs.

The first mistake you can make is to buy a dog that’s not a hunter. Ask someone who knows a breeder of good hunting dogs, a pup whose parents are both field hunters…not some amateur starting out in his basement. You’ll pay more up front most times, but you’ll save a lot more down the road (No, I don’t breed dogs!).

Second, letting your dog get fat and not training them during the off season. I’ve seen many dogs following their owner, gasping for breath or put back in their kennel after an hour’s hunt because they are so fat and out of shape they can’t take hunting. Don’t get a dog if you can’t work it year-round; use your buddy’s – it’s better for you, the dog and hunting buddies.

Third, don’t lose control of yourself. I’ve moved away to the other side of the field to get away from clowns screaming at their out-of-control dogs. I’ve even left hunts over this or at least told the owners to get ahold of their emotions, kennel their dog and do some training with them before taking them out again.

Four, don’t go afield without an e-collar on your dog. There’s no excuse these days not to because you can’t train a dog enough, practically speaking for most folks, to make them work like they can with an e-collar. E-collars are also very affordable. E-collars were a big game changer for hunting dogs, like going from typewriters to computers. Get one. But be careful: you can screw up a dog’s behavior while hunting if you overdo it. Read the directions. I overdid it with my late, great springer, “Wolf,” one frustrating day when I borrowed a buddy’s e-collar and used it without breaking him in correctly. It took weeks before Wolf would confidently leave my side and hunt.

Lastly, watch them carefully afield. Dogs, tough as they are, are flesh and bone…they get hurt and can die. I lost a Brit, at age 7, in the prime of his hunting life when he was attacked by a coyote or badger in the woods. I tended all his wounds, but missed one hid deep in his thick chest fur. It got infected, got in his liver and killed him…all after spending hundreds at the vet.  Watch your dog close in the heat, especially a new dog you haven’t hunted in hot weather. My springer, “Hunter,” came close to big problems a few years ago dove hunting in South Dakota. I let him run because we were heading to a shaded pond. He got wobbly on me just at the pond, where I bathed him in the cool water. He came out of it, but I kenneled him for the rest of the day. Close call. Scary. With a dog, the hunt comes second, the dog must come first. No hunt is worth a dead dog.

Your thoughts?

The Nomad is written by Mark Herwig, Editor of the Pheasants Forever Journal and Quail Forever Journal. Email Mark at