Posts Tagged ‘German shorthairs’

The Garmin Alpha is a Pheasant Hunter’s Tool of Silence

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Izzy & Trammell show off the new Garmin Alpha

Garmin’s new Alpha merges a GPS tracking collar with an electronic dog training collar system. I have owned the Astro, Alpha’s predecessor, for two years and was excited to give Garmin’s new gizmo a field trial this week along the Rooster Road Trip.

I was, however, hesitant about one thing; there is no beeper feature with the Alpha for pointing dogs. I have religiously run a beeber / eCollar combo with my Astro for the audible comfort of knowing exactly where my pup was at any given moment. In essence, I was using Astro’s GPS tracker to ensure my ability to always find a lost dog, but in reality I was only utilizing a small percentage of the collar’s benefits. Enter the Alpha and the added comfort of eCollar control.

After three full days of running the Alpha, I can say without reservation I’ve enjoyed the silence. As I’ve become more comfortable with the easy-to-use Garmin receiver screen and control for the electronic training buttons, I’ve noticed the added quiet to our hunting. There is little doubt the added stealthiest is helping our chances in cornering wily roosters accustomed to the sound of beepers, car doors and other abnormal sounds.

The other awesome feature of the new Alpha is its ability to track other hunters with Alpha units.  In other words, I’ve known exactly where Anthony & Andrew have been even when we’ve hunted some big rolling Nebraska prairies simply by looking at my handheld Alpha.

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.

How to Approach a Dog on Point

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

John Edstrom, PF & QF’s Merchandise Supervisor, approaches a Brittany on point

I learned to bird hunt behind a Brittany.  I don’t remember my dad ever teaching me how to “approach” a pointed bird, but it has always felt natural because it’s how I got my start.  What’s interesting and more than a little humorous is watching my various hunting partners the last few years who have only hunted behind flushing breeds react to my German shorthair on point.

In almost every case, I’ve witnessed “human vapor lock” as these friends look at me with twitching eyebrows, tip toe with caution as they approach the dog, then stop behind the dog and look at me again.  Are they waiting for the weasel to go pop?  Honest to goodness, I’ve witnessed pure fear on the face of a fellow hunter.

“When a rooster flushes in front of my Lab it’s all instinct and excitement,” one friend explained last season.  “With your darned pointer, it’s like watching a Friday the 13th movie and you know Jason is around the corner with an axe.”

I’ve also been told by pointing dog purists to never walk up directly behind a pointer, but rather come in from the front or at an angle.  The pointer purist worries about inadvertently causing “creeping” by approaching a dog from behind.  “Creeping” being the unwanted broken point and creep forward of the dog toward the bird.

With this subject in mind, I called Purina’s “top dog” and pro trainer Bob West for his guidance on how best to approach a dog on point.  “There is no clear cut, best way to approach a dog on point.  You have to factor in the dog’s level of ability, the scenting conditions that day and the species of bird you anticipate being pointed to properly make the best approach for the situation,” explained West.  “When hunting pheasants, it’s not uncommon for me to make a big 20 yard circled approach in front of a dog on point in an attempt to prevent a rooster from running.”

Approaching a dog on point from the front.

West went on to explain to me that he does believe young dogs could be caused to creep by approaching them from behind and an angled approach would be advised; however, he didn’t think a seasoned bird dog would be susceptible to the same problem.  He stressed repeatedly in knowing your own dog’s tendencies and making the best decisions with your dog in mind rather than what some “expert” advised.

West did add that “perhaps more important than what angle to approach is the speed at which to make your approach.  It’s critically important, especially with pheasants, to approach a dog on point at a pace as fast as safely possible.  That bird isn’t going to hold all day and the conditions of the scent and scenario are also constantly changing for your dog.”

Lastly, West reminded me that the bird isn’t necessarily where the dog is looking.  “It’s important to be ready the entire time you approach a pointed dog and be alert in all directions.  The bird may be exactly where the dog is looking, but it oftentimes is not.  Where the dog is looking simply is where that dog picked up the scent to lock into a point.  That dog has been trained not to move any closer than the moment the scent reached a level to cause the dog to freeze.  Its eyes should have nothing to do with it.”

 

Listen to FAN Outdoors this Thursday evening from 7PM to 9PM on www.KFAN.com

To learn more about the pointing instinct and a variety of dog training questions, tune in to FAN Outdoors radio this Thursday evening at 7:45PM (CDT) as Bob West joins the show for a live interview with me and host “The Captain” Billy HildebrandFAN Outdoors airs live on 100.3 FM in Minnesota and can be streamed live across the globe at www.KFAN.com.

Billy Hildebrand, host of FAN Outdoors radio, and I approach Trammell on point.

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.

 

 

Boarding your Bird Dog While on Vacation

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

When you have to take a trip without your bird dog, who takes care of your hunting partner? PHOTO BY WILLOW CREEK KENNELS

Every Saturday morning, I wake up to a 4:30AM alarm clock to voluntarily co-host an outdoors radio talk show called FAN Outdoors on 100.3FM based in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis & Saint Paul.  My weekly appearance on the show provides me a great platform to talk about Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever, conservation, bird hunting and bird dogs.  I also have a great time chatting with the show’s host “The Captain” Billy Hildebrand about fishing and other outdoors related topics.

 

Over the four years I’ve been on FAN Outdoors, I’ve had the pleasure of participating in live remote broadcasts from the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Ely, Minnesota as well as from a fishing lodge on Devil’s Lake in North Dakota. Later this week, my wife and I will depart for the Minnesota/Canadian border for a six-day fishing trip with Rainy Lake Houseboats on behalf of FAN Outdoors.  Without doubt, this is a “bucket list” trip for anyone and an opportunity I wasn’t going to pass by; however, there was one commitment I had trouble figuring out how to handle before I firmly committed to participating in this Rainy Lake adventure.  The commitment I’m referencing was to my two bird dogs.

 

Before I accepted the dream getaway, I had to figure out who was going to care for the safety and well-being of my 5-year-old shorthair, Trammell, and my 14-week-old GSP puppy, Izzy.  I’m sure many bird dog owners planning a summer vacation have encountered similar quandaries.  While I could find any number of friends and relatives to care for my low-maintenance older dog, asking someone to welcome my semi-potty trained puppy into their home seemed like a good way to strain a relationship.

 

Crossing friends and relatives off the list, I started sourcing dog boarding facilities in the Twin Cities.  For a 6X6 space and some play time socialization with other dogs, I could board my dogs for about $45 a day for the first dog and another $22 for the second.  Not ideal.  So my next thought led me to consider the folks I know in the dog training and breeding business, which led me to think about Chad Hines, owner of Willow Creek Kennels of Little Falls, Minnesota.

 

A quick search of the Willow Creek Kennels website informed me that boarding was a service they provided that also included some gun dog training for roughly a third of the price compared to Twin Cities boarding options.  I followed up my web search with a phone call explaining my training priorities for Trammell & Izzy to Chad and my dogs were booked for a two-week stay.

 

I drove Trammell & Izzy to Willow Creek Kennels on Saturday morning where I met Chad and some of his staff.  The drop-off was exactly the scenario every bird dog owner hopes for when leaving their pets in the hands of another.  Chad and his staff took the time to evaluate both of my dogs, talk through my expectations and show me the kennel’s entire facilities; including the specific kennels where my dogs would be staying.  He even took some time to run the young pup, Izzy, through the beginning paces of bird introduction.

 

Izzy retrieved her first pheasant on Saturday . PHOTO BY WILLOW CREEK KENNELS

Another benefit Willow Creek Kennels provides to clients with dogs being boarded are short videos.  Using iPhones, the Willow Creek Kennels staff shoot countless videos of the training process which they upload to YouTube and Facebook for their clients’ viewing pleasure.  Imagine – fishing on the Canadian border and receiving video proof of your beloved bird dog’s safety and training progress.  Pretty awesome!

 

If you have a fishing getaway of your own, or are planning that family visit to Disney, take the time to check out the boarding facilities of the local bird dog trainers and breeders in your area.  You may be surprised to find a more affordable option for your bird dog’s boarding accompanied by the added benefit of a little training to sharpen the pup’s skills come autumn.

 

Listen to FAN Outdoors this Thursday evening (7PM to 9PM CDT) and Saturday morning (6AM to 8AM CD) for our live broadcast from Rainy Lake Houseboats.

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.