Tuesday, March 10, 2009

An Affair with Setters (The Future)

Selected from a litter of 5 females at Warren Sheckells Pinecoble kennels in June of 2007 to be my future hunting partner Emma and I have had a run of bad luck with her training. Still too much of a puppy in the fall of 2007 to seriously hunt we spent time walking the woods learning all the sights, sounds, and smells that awaited her young senses. Through her first winter i took her into my grouse coverts to expose her to birds knowing that the survivors would be too spooky for her to point but it would be exposure never the less. As spring drew near I planned to saturate her with migrating woodcock contacts, but on March 3 on one of our first woodcock outings misfortune struck. A short jump over a small drainage ditch resulted in a torn Bakers Cyst in the back of my left knee and left me basically immobile for almost the whole month of March with me finally hobbling along with a cane and seeing her point, then bump one woodcock at the end of March which is when the birds start to nest in my coverts so ending any more training runs. Let me say now that I've never been a fan of pen-raised birds for training purposes. Although I realize that the vast majority of birddog owners use pen-raised birds for training, I often think it is more for the dogs owners benefit ( to see their pride and joy pointing a dizzyed quail or pigeon in a grassy field with their friends looking on) than the dog. I feel that a dog trained on tame birds must still put in just as much time on wild birds as the dog that never smells a tame bird. I've made a few feeble attempts to use tame birds, pigeons with Hattie until she started to lose her intensity on point, and quail on Copper until she almost caught several which could be very detrimental to a dogs training. Maybe if I weren't so stubborn I could learn how to properly use tame birds to train with, but I've trained my first two setters almost exclusively on wild birds and hope to train Emma in the same way. So Emma celebrated her first birthday with very little bird contacts and I waited through the summer expecting to hunt her hard on woodcock in the fall to catch up on her bird experience. I started the 2008 hunting season hunting my favorite woodcock coverts with Emma only to find that the woodcock were non-existence. Warm weather held the birds to the north and the season slipped by with very little woodcock exposure. So it was into the grouse coverts with Emma to bump the few grouse we could find. In her defense I will say that she continued to hunt hard and find the few grouse that were scattered about in my coverts but was never able to hold a point on one. A couple of times she came close but the grouse always lifted before I could get into position for a shot and I ended the season without a shot fired at a grouse when Emma was on the ground. So here it is March 10, time for the migrating woodcock once again. Last Sunday Emma bumped the only woodcock we found although we search several of my best coverts. Yesterday we traveled north to a new covert I had found on a late winter hunt. Beautiful looking cover but it was empty of woodcock. It did hold two grouse one of which Emma flash pointed with her beeper going into the point mode for several beeps before it flushed. I have the rest of this week off because of a plant shutdown and hope to find those elusive woodcock that have started to haunt my dreams. Hopefully as the week progresses I will have better posts to report on Emma's adventures. I pride myself as being a patience person but lately I've begun to have fears that my inability to expose Emma to wild birds will have an adverse affect on her future as a birddog. Stay tuned.


BlacknTan said...

Nice post, Rick.
Emma's a pretty little pup, and for a Setter, still not much beyond puppyhood.
She's out of a good kennel, and obviously well bred. She'll make it after the bump and chase game get's old.
I know how our injuries often upset the applecart for our dogs... Emma will get there.. Of that i have no doubt!

DaveK said...

Hi Rick,

Hope you don't mind if I comment. You could substitute the name "Drum" for Emma and I could've written almost the same story. Only difference is that we were lucky to have plenty of woodcock around when Drum was 6 months old. In my one pointing dog experience, I'm also not a fan of pen raised birds. I had no luck at all with them and when we turned to woodcock in Drum's training we had nothing but success and I never looked back. We love those little mudbats! I agree with Bill, just a little woodcock this spring and she'll be on her way. If you have a hard time finding them, come up for a visit. I usually find plenty in late summer (quiet season ends Aug. 15)


Greyphase said...

Thanks Bill and Dave for your comments. She bumped one and pointed one today. didn't hold it untill I could flush it but it's what I've been waiting for. I think we're on our way :).