Posts Tagged ‘Tom Dokken’

National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic Show Guide A to Z

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014


National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic runs Friday, February 14th through Sunday, February 16th at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee. In addition to more than 300 exhibitors, there will be seven seminar stages with hourly presentations. The event is presented by MidwayUSA.

Antler sheds. Looking to keep your bird dog busy this offseason? Renowned trainer Tom Dokken is revolutionizing the sport of using dogs to hunt for sheds and presenting at National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic.

Benelli has introduced the new Ethos shotgun for 2014, and you can get your first look at it at National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic.


New for 2014, the Benelli Ethos.

Cabela’s, World’s Foremost Outfitter, longtime Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever supporter, is presenting sponsor of Rudy’s Youth Village at the show.

Delmar Smith. “To train like a pro…you’ve got to think like a dog.” Well, Delmar has 75 years of experience thinking like a dog, and you can catch up with him on the “Ask the Experts” panel at the Bird Dog Bonanza Stage.

Expert dog trainers. When Delmar Smith, Ronnie Smith, Tom Dokken, Jim Moorehouse and Bob West form a panel for you to ask questions, that’s a combined 260 years of dog training know-how. Each day on the Bird Dog Bonanza Stage.

Free, as in wildlife habitat management plan. Stop by the Landowner Habitat Help Room at the show and you can consult with a wildlife professional about conservation options for your property from anywhere in the country.

Griffons. Wirehaired Pointing Griffons are growing in popularity perhaps faster than any other sporting breed. Learn more at the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Club of America booth.

Habitat. Pheasants Forever’s tagline is “The Habitat Organization.” If your passion is improving habitat for pheasants, quail and other wildlife, the Habitat Hall group of exhibitors is a must.

Is your mouth watering? Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are hosting their own “top chefs” at the show, including wild game chefs Tovar Cerulli, author of The Mindful Carnivore  and David Draper of Field and Stream’s The Wild Chef blog.


See Hank Shaw on the Wild Game Cooking Stage.

J&L Boykins is one of the man bird dog exhibitors at the show. Check out all the bird dog breeds at the Bird Dog Alley.

K9…you can bet there are a couple of exhibitors listed under this letter/number combo.

Life Membership. Make the ultimate commitment to conservation by becoming a Pheasants Forever Life Member. Visit the Pheasants Forever booth by the show floor main entrance.

Missing. If you’re tired of it, then it’s time for a new gun. Check out all the top makers on the show floor: Benelli, Beretta, Browning…

Native grasslands can offer quality nesting cover for pheasants. Come to the Habitat Stage and learn about diversifying and improving this critical habitat.

Outdoor apparel. Start at the Pheasants Forever MarketPlace on the show floor for your Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever-logoed gear. Your product purchases here support wildlife habitat conservation.

Pollinator habitat. What does it have to do with pheasants and quail? Check out the presentations on the Habitat Stage.

Quail are Scott Linden’s favorite bird to hunt. Stop by the Wingshooting USA booth and meet the venerable television host who’s an expert on bobwhite and western quail species.

Rudy the Rooster is Pheasants Forever’s youth mascot. Visit the Youth Village area of the show and get your picture taken with him.


Bird dog breeders and bird dog training seminars are the most popular attractions at National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic.

Smith, as in Delmar, Rick and Ronnie. National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic is a rare opportunity to see the three from this legendary dog training family at the same event.

Training. E-Collars. GPS. Pointers. Puppies. Retrievers. Spaniels. If you can name it, you’ll find a how-to on it.

U.S. Bank presents Pheasants Forever’s Visa Card. Stop by their booth, sign up for their card and receive either a hardcover wild game recipe book, a green PF shooters bag or a chance on a Tri-Star Setter 12 gauge shotgun.

Vegan-turned-hunter Tovar Cerulli, author of The Mindful Carnivore, provides a unique perspective on the Wild Game Cooking Stage.

Wingshooting from the good ‘ol days with the L.C. Smith Collectors Association and the Parker Gun Collectors Association.

X marks your next upland hunting spot, and the tourism divisions from the likes of Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota, plus regional tourism representatives and guides and outfitters are here help you book your dream trip.

Yum… Hank Shaw is a hunter, chef, blogger and author of Hunt, Gather, Cook – Finding the Forgotten Feast. See him on the Wild Game Cooking Stage.

Zero-turn lawnmowers. Check out Wisconsin-based – and Pheasants Forever national sponsor, Scag Power equipment, one of more than 300 exhibitors at the show.

Field Notes are compiled by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

See the Complete National Pheasant Fest 2014 Seminar Schedule

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Rick Smith is one of many legendary bird dog trainers presenting at National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic.

Rick Smith is one of many legendary bird dog trainers presenting at National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic.

Before heading to the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee for National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic Feb. 14-16, view the complete seminar schedule and plan which presentations to attend. There will be seven seminar stages for upland enthusiasts to choose from, with concurrent seminars running on-the-hour throughout the three-day weekend. The event is presented by MidwayUSA. Highlights include:

Bird Dog Bonanza Stage. Between six panel experts – Delmar Smith, Rick Smith, Ronnie Smith, Tom Dokken, Josh Miller and Bob West – this dog stage hosts more than 260 years of combined training experience. Includes presentations on “Basic Obedience Training and Starting Your Dog Off Right,” “Remote Training and Tracking Your Dog with GPS,” “Shed Antler Hunting – Train Your Dog to Help You Find More Sheds” and a question-and-answer session with a panel of experts. The Bird Dog Bonanza Stage is presented by Purina and SportDOG.

Wild Game Cooking Stage. The cooking stage will feature presentations by authors Hank Shaw and Tovar Cerruli as well as David Draper of Field and Stream magazine. Session titles include “Getting the Most of Your Upland Birds for the Table,” “Preparing Wild Game from the Tailgate,” ”From Tough to Tender, Making the Most of your Venison Cuts” and “The Mindful Carnivore – A Vegetarian’s Hunt for Sustenance.”

Habitat Stage. The habitat presentations include “The Food Plot Establishment and Management for White-tailed Deer and Pheasants, Best Practices,” “Landscape Scale Habitat Efforts – The History of Pheasants in Wisconsin,” “Pheasant Management” and “Pollinators and Great Upland Wildlife Habitat.” The Habitat Stage is presented by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the USDA Farm Service Agency and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Additional seminar stages include the Upland Hunting Stage (featuring the likes of Scott Linden from Wingshooting USA), the Building Habitat Forever stage, the Get into the Hunt stage and Rudy’s Youth Village stage presented by Cabela’s.

All seminars are free upon admittance to the show.

Field Notes are compiled by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

Ask the Experts: Purina and SportDOG Brand Assemble More than 260 Years of Dog Training Experience

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014


Meet top bird dog trainers and get expert advice on nutrition and conditioning while visiting the Purina and SportDOG Brand booths at this year’s National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic at Milwaukee’s Wisconsin Center Friday, Feb. 14 through Sunday, Feb. 16.

Purina Pro Plan brand dog food and SportDOG Brand are bringing the country’s best bird dog trainers to the Bird Dog Bonanza Stage at Pheasant Fest for hour-long seminars throughout the weekend. These trainers also will be on hand at the Purina and SportDOG brand booths to answer your questions.

Here’s a look at the professional trainers Purina and SportDOG Brand are bringing to Pheasant Fest this year.

Delmar Smith honed his skills at teaching the public how to get the most from their dogs over his 55-year training career operating Delmar Smith Kennels in Edmond, Okla. Smith dogs have performed in all 50 states and some foreign countries.

Ronnie Smith, like dog trainers in previous generations of the Smith family, knows that bird dogs are more than just a business, they are a passion and a way of life. He has operated Ronnie Smith Kennels in Big Cabin, Okla., since 1982.

Bob West, Director of Sporting Field Operations for the Purina Professional Engagement Team, is passionate about sporting dogs and those who own and train them. He also walks the talk, having put more than 100 titles on sporting dogs over the past 40-plus years as a part-time professional trainer at his Napsinekee Kennel in Le Claire, Iowa. West is a longtime contributor to the Pheasants Forever Journal, Pheasants Forever Television, Cabela’s Television, and Gun Dog Magazine.

Rick Smith of Crozier, Va., continues the Smith family tradition of his father Delmar Smith and cousin Ronnie Smith as he conducts seminars across the country. His titles include three National Open Brittany Championships, seven U.S. Open Brittany Championships, six International Brittany Championships and more than 100 Open Brittany All-Age stakes.

Tom Dokken, the inventor of the DeadFowl Trainer, has more than 30 years of training experience. He is the author of Retriever Training: The Complete Guide to developing Your Hunting Dog and is a leading innovator in shed antler hunting with dogs. He owns and operates Dokken’s Oak Ridge Kennels and Dokken Dog Supply based in Northfield, Minn.

Josh Miller and his dog “Easton” are one of the leading shed dog hunting teams in the U.S. Miller also is the only two-time North American Shed Hunting Dog Association World Champion. He operates River Stone Kennels in New Richmond, Wis., where he trains gun dogs of all breeds.

Samples Available at Purina Booth

Visitors to the Purina booth can learn more about the Purina Pro Plan SPORT performance nutrition line. While supplies last, Purina Pro Plan SPORT brand dog food samples will be available in six ounce bags.

Field Notes are compiled by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

Defining a Good Bird Dog Blood Line

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

Will these pups hunt? They are from a proven line, so chances are good. Photo by Todd Sauers / Pheasants Forever

Will these pups hunt? They are from a proven line, so chances are good. Photo by Todd Sauers / Pheasants Forever

In the last couple of blog posts, I’ve written about my newfound respect for Field Trials and Hunt Tests.  As I was driving home from a night of dog training last Thursday evening, I caught a FAN Outdoors radio interview with pro dog trainer Tom Dokken.


Tom Dokken

During the interview, Tom articulated why folks interested in acquiring a hunting puppy should consider field trial and hunt test blood lines to find the best bird dog puppy blood lines.

“Successful field trial and hunt test dogs,” Dokken explained, “have proven they have the genetics to be good hunters in addition to being very trainable.  Even if you have no intention of trialing your own dog, these characteristics are exactly the same traits important to creating a successful bird dog.”

Dokken went on to explain how to find these successful field trial and hunt test blood lines in a breeding’s documents by looking for the following acronyms after a dam or sire’s name:

FC = Field Champion

AFC = Amateur Field Champion

NFC = National Field Champion

MH = Master Hunter

SH = Senior Hunter

To listen to the full podcast of Tom’s interview, follow this link to Hour 2 of the show on July 18.  You can also contact Tom direct by visiting his website.

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.

Go-To Gear of the Pheasant Hunting Experts

Friday, February 1st, 2013

In my previous life in professional baseball, I worked with ballplayers who exhibited incredibly strong affinities to particular brands and models of gloves, bats or cleats.  Some of those affiliations had to do with sponsorship (some with superstitions), but mostly those loyalties derived from success on the field.  As I’ve written before, I continue to be amazed by the correlations between bird hunters and ballplayers.  Another one of these parallels exists in pheasant hunters’ brand loyalty and that’s what my focus is today.

In my estimation, pheasant hunters are largely gear junkies and that gear, in priority of importance, revolves around: their favorite breed of bird dog, shotguns, boots, ammunition and hunting vests.

So today’s blog post surveys the nation’s most well-renowned bird hunters to poll their favorites in each of these five categories.  My assumption as I send out this survey is that like baseball players, expert pheasant hunters have a wide array of affiliations and there likely won’t be too many common answers.  Let’s find out.

To start, here are my favorites:

TRCP summit 2008 pheasnt, dogs, pidgeon shootBob St.Pierre, Vice President of Marketing at Pheasants Forever and Co-host of FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN

1)      Bird Dog Breed: German shorthaired pointer

2)      Shotgun: Beretta 686 Onyx 12 gauge over/under with skeet chokes in both barrels

3)      Boots: Danner Santiam

4)      Ammo: Federal Premium Ammo’s Upland Steel 12 gauge 3” 5 shot

5)      Vest: Wing Works Upland Vest


Ron Schara

Ron Schara, Host of The Flush presented by Pheasants Forever on Outdoor Channel

1)      Bird Dog: Raven, the black Lab, whistle trained

2)      Shotgun: Benelli Super Black Eagle or Benelli Vinci with Carlson choke tubes

3)      Boots: Irish Setter

4)      Ammo: Federal Ammo’s Prairie Storm 2-3/4” lead 5 shot

5)      Vest: Still looking for a good one; need deep pockets for ammo; easy reach for bird carrying pouch


BillSherckBill Sherck, Co-Host of The Flush presented by Pheasants Forever on Outdoor Channel

1)      Bird Dog: My love of hunting dogs is pretty basic.  I want a dog that can find downed birds, always.  That’s A-1 in my book.

2)      Shotgun: I have a 1929 LeFever Nitro Special 20 gauge that became a best friend of sorts.  It is, by far, my ugliest, most beat up shotgun, but I shoot it well and I love the history. Serious patina.

3)      Boots:  Irish Setter 894s, Irish Setter 894s, Irish Setter 894s….

4)      Ammo: Federal Prairie Storm is over the top!  I absolutely love the stuff.  No wounded birds, only kills (when I don’t miss!).

5)      Vest: I’ve become a fan of mountain tech vests.  I have an old Mother’s lightweight I still use a lot.  A Buck’s is my next big investment.


Scott LindenScott Linden, Host of Wingshooting USA Television

1)      Bird Dog: German wirehaired pointer . . . is there any other breed?

2)      Shotgun: Webley & Scott Model 2000 in 20 gauge

3)      Boots: Meindl Perfekt from Cabela’s

4)      Ammo: Depends upon the situation: Kent Cartridge Fast Lead or Fiocchi Golden Pheasant

5)      Vest: Filson Mesh Vest


HankShawHank Shaw, Author of Hunt, Gather, Cook and speaker at National Pheasant Fest

1)      Bird Dog: Pudelpointer

2)      Shotgun: Franchi Velochi 20 gauge

3)      Boots: Asolo

4)      Ammo: Federal Prairie Storm #5s

5)      Vest: Filson


TiffLee & Tiffany Lakosky, Hosts of The Crush on Outdoor Channel

1)      Bird Dog: Black Labrador retriever

2)      Shotgun: Tiffany shoots a 12 gauge Beretta Silver Pigeon and Lee shoots a 12 gauge Franchi Instinct

3)      Boots: Under Armour Ridge Reaper early season & Under Armour HAW’s late season

4)      Ammo: Federal Prairie Storm

5)      Vest: Badlands Pheasant Pack


DokkenTom Dokken, Professional dog trainer and speaker at National Pheasant Fest

1)      Bird Dog: Labrador retriever . . . or any dog that loves to hunt.

2)      Shotgun: Browning Citori 20 Gauge

3)      Boots: Danner Fowlers

4)      Ammo: Federal Prairie Storm 20 gauge 3” 6 shot

5)      Vest: J.L. Powell, waxed cotton


Nancy 2Nancy Anisfield, Professional photographer, Pheasants Forever National Board member and PF blogger

1)      Bird Dog: German shorthaired pointer

2)      Shotgun: Caesar Guerini 28-gauge Magnus Light

3)      Boots: Danner Pronghorn

4)      Ammo: Polywad Gram Crak-R and Spred-R 28-gauge

5)      Vest: Browning Bird ‘n Lite Strap Vest


CaptainBilly Hildebrand, Host of FAN Outdoors Radio on KFAN

1)      Bird Dog: American Brittany

2)      Shotgun: Beretta 686 Onyx Over/Under 12 gauge

3)      Boots: Danner Pronghorns

4)      Ammo: Federal Upland Steel 3s or 5s

5)      Vest: Browning Bird ‘n Lite Jacket

Note 1: Billy also prefers SportDOG Upland 1850, Chevy Z71, Folgers Coffee and “special” sandwiches.

Note 2: Billy’s hunting partners do not like his “special” sandwiches!


JustinLarsonJustin Larson, Outdoors Media Specialist for the nation’s pheasant capital, SOUTH DAKOTA

1)      Bird Dog: Prefers Labs, but doesn’t own his own at the moment

2)      Shotgun: Winchester SX3

3)      Boots: Muck Boots

4)      Ammo: Federal Prairie Storm

5)      Vest: Browning Bird ‘n Lite


mh, wids, 1-13, ill, 2 (2)Mark Herwig, Editor of Pheasants Forever’s Journal of Upland Conservation

1)      Bird Dog: Springer spaniel

2)      Shotgun: Beretta 391

3)      Boots: Danner Uplander

4)      Ammo: Federal 12 gauge 5 shot Pheasants Forever loads

5)      Vest: A Pheasants Forever strap vest


AnthonyAnthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor

1)      Bird Dog: English cocker spaniel . . . and I wouldn’t mind another

2)      Shotgun: Remington 870 Wingmaster, in the market for my first O/U

3)      Boots: Irish Setter Havoc when it’s dry, Muck Boots when it’s not

4)      Ammo: Federal Premium Upland Steel #4s . . . served “chilled”

5)      Vest: Browning Bird ‘n Lite Strap Vest


SteveRiesSteve Ries, Owner of Top Gun Kennels

6)      Bird Dog: German shorthaired pointers

7)      Shotgun: Beretta 686 Silver Pigeon over/under 20 gauge

8)      Boots: Irish Setter Upland DSS Gore-Tex hunting boots

9)      Ammo: Winchester

10)  Vest: Gander Mountain Guide Series Hunting Strap Vest



chad HinesChad Hines, Owner of Willow Creek Kennels

1)      Bird Dog: German shorthaired pointer

2)      Shotgun: Beretta 686 Onyx over/under 20 gauge

3)      Boots: Merrill Moab Hiking boots – I use these for almost all hunting.

4)      Ammo: Federal’s Black Cloud

5)      Vest: Bird ‘n Light Vest


MattKucharskiMatt Kucharski, Pheasants Forever National Board Member

1)      Bird Dog: A tandem of German Shorthair Pointer and Labrador, trained to honor each other of course!

2)      Shotgun: Ruger Red Label 20 gauge early season, 12 gauge late season.   Skeet and IC chokes early season, IC and modified chokes late.  Sadly, they’re not making them anymore.

3)      Boots: Red Wing Irish Setter (short uppers) early season and Meindl Scotland GTX (or similar) late season

4)      Ammo: Federal Upland Steel 4 shot.  3 inch in the 20.  2 ¾ in the 12.

5)      Vest: Filson mesh strap vest for short walks, Bird ‘n Lite strap vest if I’m in the field all day or carrying Bob’s birds.


JeffFullerJeff Fuller, host of Sporting Dog Adventures

1)      Bird Dog: Labrador Retriever

2)      Shotgun: Benelli

3)      Boots: Danner Pronghorn

4)      Ammo: HEVI-Shot Upland

5)      Vest: Browning vest


Now it’s your turn.  What are your favorites?

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.

Training Your Hunting Dog to Drink

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

My GSP, Trammell, takes a drink from a squirt bottle during a warm day afield.

I received the following message via Twitter from @bulldog2012 yesterday:


My GSP won’t stop to drink water out in the field, any ideas?

I admitted to @bulldog2012 that my shorthair also often refuses water in the field, so I promised to get some expert guidance from a few pro dog trainers.  This morning, I sent emails on the topic to Purina’s Bob West, SportDOG’s Clay Thompson and Oak Ridge Kennel’s Tom Dokken and received some fantastic guidance.

A Rinsing Squirt

I’ve always approached canine hydration in the field from a perspective of, “I’ve gotta get my pup to drink a cup of water.”  Turns out I’ve been wrong all along.

Bob West explained the importance of a rinsing squirt of water.  “People stay cool by sweating across their entire body.  Dogs, on the other hand, regulate their heat through panting by drawing air across their tongue and back of their throat.  Panting is a dog’s single method to cool down,” West continued, “As a canine exercises in the heat, mucus forms in their mouth and on their tongue.  As a hunter, you need to give your bird dog just enough water to give them a little hydration and, as important, water to rinse the mucus from their tongue to keep the pup’s heat regulation system operating efficiently.” 

West went on to explain that, in fact, he doesn’t want a dog to “drink” too much water.  “Hunters DO need to be ‘forcing’ water on their dogs before the pup is thirsty.  A thirsty dog will gulp water, which adds extra air into the stomach leading to bloating and twisting; bad news for your pup.” 

Sit, Stay, Squirt

Clay Thompson echoed West’s thoughts and reiterated the importance of training bird dogs to drink from a squirt bottle.  “I use a water bottle in the field to make it easier on me, because I do not have to bend over to give the dog a drink of water with this method.” 

Pheasants Forever stocks the WingWorks Vest which includes two built-in squirt water bottle holders.       

Don’t Give your Dog Gatorade

If you’re like me, you make assumptions.  I’ve always assumed that Gatorade’s ability to replace electrolytes in me would be equally beneficial to my bird dog.  Not only am I wrong, I could have killed my own dog with this logic. 

“Dogs don’t lose electrolytes,” explained West.  “In fact, adding additional electrolytes to a dog’s system during times of heat stress can actually speed up the dehydration process.” 

Thompson reiterated West’s guidance, “Gatorade or other drinks of this type should not be used with dogs, because they are designed to replace electrolytes, salts and other nutrients that people lose when we sweat.  Since dogs can’t sweat, human drinks are giving dogs things they do not need as well as unnecessary extra sugars.”

The Finicky Dog and Peanut Butter

No dog can resist peanut butter.  That logic has helped Tom Dokken convince even the finickiest of pups to consume water during a hunt.  Check out Dokken in this SportDOG training video. 

Later this month, SportDOG also plans to launch a new product called Canine Athlete Hydration.  “Our new Canine Athlete Hydration product is liver flavored to entice the most finicky dogs to drink, and it has been specifically formulated to benefit bird dogs,” explained Thompson.  “It also comes in convenient packaging for the hunter in the field.”

Remembering the Bird Dog Deaths of 2003

Young dogs and over-weight dogs are the most susceptible to heat-related problems.  It’s important for your bird dog to be in shape all off-season as you prepare for opening day. 

We need to simply look back to October 2003 for proof.  That year, 90 degree temps greeted South Dakota hunters for the pheasant opener.  Tragically, that weekend’s heat led to hundreds of bird dog deaths.  When it’s hot, be sure to monitor your dog’s demeanor and appearance.  Specifically, be sure to check your pup’s tongue color.  The darker the red of the tongue, the hotter your dog is becoming. 

Lastly, it’s important to know that severe heat stress events can impact your dog’s long term health and damage your dog’s heat regulation system forever.

Thanks to @bulldog2012 for the great question and blog topic.  If you’ve got an idea for a blog topic, go ahead and drop it in the comment section below or send me a message through Twitter @BobStPierre

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.

Your Bird Dog Could Be a Shed Dog

Friday, May 6th, 2011

Hunting for and retrieving sheds can be great offseason work for a bird dog. Photo © Mark Palas

For upland hunters who also moonlight as deer hunters, the biggest drawback to pursuing the ungulates is the absence of perhaps the most appealing aspect of bird hunting – the dog. Enter shed hunting, an activity blending bird dogs and bucks, which may be just the ticket to get your bird dog out of its offseason training rut.

What Bird Dog Breeds Can Be Shed Dogs?

According to Tom Dokken, legendary dog trainer and owner of Dokken’s Dog Supply, current shed dogs are mainly Labrador Retrievers. “The strongest breeds are the ones that are going to pick something up,” Dokken says, alluding to Labs and Golden Retrievers.

But Dokken says most bird dogs can become well suited to shed hunting. “Really any dog that likes to play fetch can be a shed dog,” he says. “Even pointing breeds, especially those with natural retrieving instincts like German shorthaired pointers and German wirehaired pointers, can find success.”

Hunting Season Just Got Longer

Josh Miller and his Lab, Easton, winners of the open division at the first-ever World Shed Dog Hunting championship. To date, most shed dogs are Labs. Photo © Mark Palas

When pheasant and quail dogs go bad, the most likely culprit is a shortage or complete lack of an offseason training regimen. “Quite frankly, a lot of people just drop the ball after hunting season,” Dokken says, “Shed hunting is another way to get offseason activity, and one that’s definitely different than what most bird dogs are used to.”

Bird dogs can easily pick up shed hunting, and in short order, Dokken points out. “Think of it as an upland hunt, but for antlers,” he says, “The dogs are using their hunting drive, their noses and working on retrieves, so it’s really a way to extend the hunting season.” That goes for the trainer, too. “It really feels like I’m going on a hunting trip,” he said as he and his dogs prepare to head west to South Dakota in search of sheds this April.

Fortunately, quality shed hunting can be had almost anywhere these days, including suburbia, and isn’t exclusive to just whitetail deer antlers – bird dogs can also retrieve mule deer, elk and moose sheds.

Will Shed Hunting Ruin My Bird Dog?

In a word, “No,” Dokken says. “Hunting for sheds doesn’t mess up a bird dog, there just isn’t that competition between birds and sheds,” Dokken adds, “The antler can never take the place of a living, breathing, good-smelling and exciting live bird.” As easily as bird dogs can pick up shed hunting, the transition back to doing what they do best, hunting birds, is just as seamless.

Shedding Started

While places to hunt abound, the most important element is, as with all things dog training, finding the time. “It’s not something you need to train your dog for years to do,” Dokken says, “It’s simple stuff you can do at home.” While Dokken runs a 12-16 week shed dog training course (, he’s seen dogs pick it up in a matter of weeks.

Dokken recommends starting with a simple game of fetch, tossing the antler around the house, then the backyard, letting the dog have fun picking it up and brining it back to you. “Take a command word and work it in, but make sure it’s not a word you emphasize for other commands,” he says. His preferred command is “find the bone.”

To a bird dog, a hard shed antler, unlike a soft, well-scented pheasant, typically takes some warming to. Dokken, who doesn’t use treats when training dogs for upland birds or waterfowl, does use them for shed training. “A treat let’s the dog know it’s worth picking up,” he says.

One caveat as you increase the number of sheds you’re hiding around the house or backyard is the scent from your own hands. “At first, dogs will key on to sheds because of the scent from your hands. You’ll eventually need to eliminate that scent using rubber gloves and boots when you place the sheds.”

Fast Growing Dog Sport

Lee and Tiffany Lakosky, of television’s “The Crush,” won the amateur open and junior divisions at the first-ever World Shed Dog Hunting championship with their Lab, Tank. Photo © Mark Palas

Dokken has hosted the World Shed Dog Hunting championship at his Oak Ridge Kennels in Northfield, Minnesota. Of the participating dogs to date, Dokken said 80 percent were “bird dogs.” The amateur and junior divisions at the firstiever event were won by Lee Lakosky (from The Crush on Outdoor Channel) and his Lab, Tank.

With arguably the two most popular outdoor personalities – Lee and his wife Tiffany Lakosky – into shed hunting dogs, the profile of the sport continues to grow. Dokken has started the North American Shed Hunting Dog Association, and a special shed dog trainer website ( devoted to the sport. He fully expects more shed dogs and their owners out in March and April in coming years as bird dog owners see the value of having a different kind of dual purpose dog. “For bird dogs, there really isn’t a downside to shed hunting, it’s all upside.”

Lee & Tiffany, owners of two Labrador retrievers and past National Shed Dog Hunting Champions, will teach attendees at Pheasants Forever’s National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic how to use their bird dogs to hunt whitetail deer antler sheds. National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic presented by MidwayUSA will take place at downtown Milwaukee’s Wisconsin Center on February 14, 15 & 16, 2014.

Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.organd follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.