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Get ready for your U-Guide Hunt, can your dog mark?

By: Chris Hitzeman
UGUIDE South Dakota Pheasant Hunting - Jan. 15, 2010

The Importance of Your Retriever Being Able to Mark Birds Properly

Just the mention of a SD pheasant hunt is enough to send the mind of a bird hunter racing with thoughts of almost a fantasy experience. It will fill an adult with a child like giddiness. The experiences of a South Dakota hunt may range from staying at a farm house of a buddies grandparent to making reservations at high end lodge. Since you are reading this you are on the U-Guide website and are either thinking about or already have booked a hunt with Chris. Well you are making a good choice U-Guide camps are some of the most unique operations in the state of South Dakota, you are given an opportunity to truly hunt wild birds. It really is what an out of state trip is all about, to hunt birds in a way and quantity that is not available in your home state. I was given the opportunity to have my own U-Guide experience this December just before Christmas; it was an experience that was better than any pheasant hunt that I have been on. I was able to hunt a camp had been hunted three days a week, every week for ten weeks prior to my hunt and still there were more birds than could be counted with plenty of roosters. Since it is different than what you may do in your home state and such a special hunt you really do need to prepare some things in the months before you venture to your U-Guide destination. Since I am a dog trainer I am going to discuss what your dog should know and be prepared for prior to the hunt. So many times when preparing for a trip hunters think about things like getting time off from work or getting some new equipment such as new boots and a jacket. To me your most important equipment is also your best buddy, your dog. Regardless of breed the most important things it needs to know are basic obedience commands, when I say that a dog knows the command that does not mean that it knows what it means and does it sometimes. No I mean when the dog is given a command it responds to as soon as the command is given. There are going to be a lot of people, shooting, and a lot of birds which can lead to confusing situations for the dog. Keeping the dog under control keeps the hunt going smoothly. Every dog needs to be able to be stopped, to come back to you and to heel with you. The heel command is often a command that is not worked on enough but is a real asset to the hunt, it is very nice to have your dog heel nicely beside with you as you walk through the field on your way to set up for the hunt. The flushing breeds (spaniels, labs, goldens, ect.) should really work on a few different things. Of course you should work on quartering and tracking. Really one of the most important things to work on with the dog is something that upland hunters almost never work on Marking. Many people don?t even really know what it is, or how important it is. Marking is the ability of the dog to see the bird fall, know exactly where it is, and take the most direct route to the bird whether it falls 30 yards away or 300 yards away. Once the dog has used its eyes to get itself to the ?area of the fall? it can then use its nose to do the rest of the job. This is much better than having a person walk the dog over to the area of the fall which can result in disturbing the scent in the fall area. The reason that this skill is so important for your dog to have during your U-Guide experience is because the number of birds that you will see and the amount of bird scent is so thick that your dog needs to get area of the fall as fast and efficiently as possible to have the best chance to recover the bird especially if the bird is only crippled. A U-Guide hunt is much different from hunting in other states, a game farm, or even other South Dakota hunts that I have been on. There are many times so many birds using the cover on a daily or even hourly basis that it creates a different type of scenting difficultly for the dogs which makes it very important that the dogs can get on a cripples trail a sap. I am many times been amazed at the visual abilities of a good retriever. Even if there are dozens birds in the air a dog can be trained to watch the one that drops and be sent for it. Also having a steady dog sitting with you while are blocking at the end of a field that can be sent on command to retrieve a downed bird that it has marked allows you to stay in position to continue to shoot at passing birds instead of going to look for the bird yourself. Improving your dogs marking abilities is certainly one of the things that most upland hunters over look, but is one of the easiest ways to increase your dog?s usefulness as a hunting tool. Also having a dog that can make efficient retrieves helps create a smooth hunt and will put more of the birds that you hit into your game pouch. The three greatest things to talk about in the hours, days, and weeks after a bird hunt are; the number of birds seen, great shots (made and missed,) and great retrieves. When you go to a U-Guide camp the birds will be there, make sure that your dog has the skills it takes to find the ones you hit.

Mark Staloch Norse Retrievers 715 533-2339