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2 DA GILLS

Tips for a successful first boat hunt

19 posts in this topic

This saturday I will be taking 1.5 year old dog out for his first duck hunt from a boat. What tips does anyone have to make this a success first hunt? Force fetch training in complete and boat work has been done. He will exit and enter the boat without concern, but I worry about the limited visibility from the boat.

What I am fearing is a duck going down, him being sent on a retrieve and not being successful. What can I do / should I do to make it a successful first outing? We do not have hand signals down very well at all, so that is where I have my concerns.

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I always bring a pocket full, actually I keep a bucket full in the boat, of rocks to throw and help my dog find birds that he does not see fall. Like you we are working on casting but he does not have it down yet. They rocks are much cheaper than shells and it gets their attention on the direction and area of the bird.

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Gills, I am in the same boat....my labs first hunt. He is also 1.5 years old and we just got though FF and CC.

I will be bringing a bunch of rocks. After watching my buddy toss a bunch of shell in the lake the rocks (as previously said) are much cheaper!

Good luck!

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I have a fair amount of experience with this. If you haven't shot a gun right next to him or over his head, don't bring him until you work into it. The risk is not worth the reward. Once you have crossed that bridge, one of two things will usually happen. Either you won't be able to get him out of the boat, or you won't be able to keep him in the boat. For the latter, bring a leash. Obedience really breaks down in a boat. For the first, I would try to get him to watch the birds with words like "watch 'em" or "mark." If you have another guy in the boat with you, put your gun down and have him shoot while you handle the dog. You are trying to teach him to watch for birds so that he can mark them in the event that you actually shoot one of them. You also have to let him know when it is time to work. An older dog will watch all of the time and will actually let you know when birds are coming. If your dog does not handle, bring rocks or be prepared to throw shells. It works.

Also - if you haven't used decoys with your dog, do it tonight in your yard. They need to know that they shouldn't retrieve them.

Lastly, do not expect to much from him. Anything you get on a first hunt is a bonus. Try to bag your first duck really close so that it is very easy for him. Once they are older or more experienced, they can handle the windy 50 to 70 yard retrieves.

Good luck.

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1. Tether your dog in the boat. Do this only after you have set out the decoys and are actually hunting. As shooting begins and the birds are buzzing by, no matter how steady you think your dog is he will exit the boat. Do not tie him up on the way to the blind or on the way back to the access for safety reasons. This will also prevent him from knocking over any shotguns in the blind.

2. Place your dog were they can see all the action and mark any birds that fall. Send the dog immediately if you can see that he has marked the fall, this will build his confidence up.

3.Leave lanes in your decoys that the dog can swim through and let out only enough cord on your decoys to touch bottom leaving less chances that your dog will get tangled.

4. As soon as the dog picks up the duck give him a "here" whistle as he will not be able to see you and it will give him confidence that he is heading in the right direction.

5. If you sail a duck and it lands out were there is any chance of boat traffic DO NOT send your dog. No duck is worth possible injury or death of your dog. Retrieve the bird with your boat.

6. If you drop the bird into the cattails and you can wade into the cattails go with your dog and keep him in sight. Not duck is worth loosing your dog over.

7. If the dog did not see the duck go down, if possible line him up and send him "Dead Bird" "Back". Wear a long sleeved light colored shirt under your camo. Take off your camo so the dog can see your light colored shirt(you) and handle him to the bird. If you think the dog can not be handled to the bird pick it up with the boat. You can throw rocks if you want but do not let it become a crutch, you want to build the dogs confidence up in you that you are handling him to a bird.

8. No matter what short commings the dog has on his first hunt do not blame him. This is new to him and needs time to learn. There is no substitution for the excitement of the duck blind and only experience will make the dog better.

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I appreciate the feedback and comments. I may need to bring a few rocks. I was even thinking about bring his duck dummy for the time before 9:00 am. Maybe have a couple more practice runs before the real thing.

I have had him in the boat and I know he goes in and out. I planned on having a leash if needed. He has been worked with live ducks through decoys and even blind sends with the duck being released (remote launcher) after expanding his search. He even was successful on tracking down and catching a diving duck during some summer training, that was nice to see. He hunted pheasants and ducks last fall, but not out of the boat. I backed off on the duck hunting after the firt hunt, the shooting was too much with the duck hunting (pheasant hunting was fine). His retrieving was spotty on pheasants last year, thus the FF training. He refused ducks last season (10 months old), but we have already worked on that. So, the new things for him this year is the hunting out of the boat. I skipped hunting ducks in MN last fall, because boat hunting is all I do in MN. In ND we tried the duck hunting from shore, but like I said the shooting was too much. If things go bad, I am prepared to pack up and leave. I can hunt another day.

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Bad idea to throw rocks.The dog wiil aways want to see were the splash is and unless you have a good arm he will probably always hunt short.The best practice for this if you have any area to do it is set up the boat on dri ground in some areas with tall grass.Mow some paths like a base ball field and practice a hand single down each lane on the retreve.After he gets that down start to throw the dummys in the un mowed areas and still enforce the hand signals.The dog needs to have confidence that you are leading him in the right direction to make this work.It takes alot of practice before the season.I made plenty of mistakes with training and it seems once you start something bad it is hard to correct.Good luck,Burl.

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Some good tips so far. As to the rocks, only use them if you really have to. A couple of other things, if the dog is out retrieving don't shoot at more ducks, it could confuse him and throw him off his line. If you have a strong cripple - try to kill it first, he can learn chasing cripples a bit later. Lastly, have the boat ready to get out of the weeds and help if need be, to give direction or to get him out if he gets tangled in the decoys.

I had a young dog a while back that got 3 decoys around his neck and tried to come back through heavy cattails. He was experienced in swiming through but the duck showed life and he got excited. We were on land, but I ended up in water to my pits to save him.

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I would prefer to not use rocks, but I do want him to have success this weekend. I have been doing hand signals in the yard with him sitting in the middle and put bumpers at 1st, 2nd and 3rd base. I then send him to different bumpers. So far, we are in the early stages. I have also worked on water retrieves where I throw another bumper in his area on the way back in with the first one. So far, he has never dropped one to get the second one. I have tried train through a lot of real life situations, but nothing is exactly like the real thing. Not even training with live birds.

The ones that concern me would be a half dead duck that drops next to the cover. Do you even bother sending him this early in the learning or get it quick with another shot before it hits the cover. I am hoping to get him to the point were I do not have to shoot those ones that are right next to the boat and still kicking and swimmming.

I also always have the boat ready to go if needed. I will be alone in the boat with him and this should make pushing out easy to do.

Now let's hope that there are some ducks flying and something to retrieve. I can't wait.

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Kill all cripples... especially with a young dog. The odds of retrieving a dead duck w/ a young dog is almost 100%... it goes down dramatically if alive and hits cover...

Good Luck!

Ken

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Don't expect him to handle in the water if you have only trained on land. Some dogs will just do it, but most do not make the connection. True blinds are way beyond the baseball casting drill. You cannot expect a dog to perform a task that you have not trained. Duck hunting can be very hectic, especially from a dog's perspective. You just cannot similate the potential chaos.

I know some guys are against throwing rocks, but it will at least get them out there. I see it as no different than having a gunner help out a dog in training, or handling a dog that knows how. It is hunting, not a field trial or test. You want him to have success and you don't want to go backwards on his development by refusing casts he isn't ready for yet. On cripples, I would use your judgement. A cripple that is retrievable close to the boat can also build a lot of enthusiasm and confidence.

You are the only one who knows what your standards are and what you will be happy with. One guys worst dog may be another's best. Know what I mean? Just my opinion.

With the duck population the way it is, I truly hope you and your dog get a chance. The first few hunts can are so critical to a young dog. Let us know what happens.

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I second the shoot the cripples and having a few rocks handy, you want him to get a few ducks in his mouth and have success bringing them back. You can work on the perfection and hand signals later. Don't send him after any long ones, use the boat. Or if its a long one into the cattails, during a slow time, walk over there with him and 'hunt it up' (I'm assuming you have waders on), it will help him is his cripple training. The idea of letting someone else shoot and you just dog handle has merit. My first dog, my first time out with him, we were shooting ducks, hes was retrieveing them, but every duck was getting dropped farther away from me because the dumb master was shooting more ducks. It took us awhile to work that dropping problem out...

And lastly something nobody else has mentioned, beware of sending him out with a heavy wind to your back. The wind blows the duck and if/when he gets it, its a tough swim back. I did that one time, the bird wasn't dead, hes chasing it into the middle of this big slough, me with no boat... At the end I just wanted my dog back, screw the duck! He did finally bring it back but I learned a lesson!!! Don't send him into a bad situation!!!

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I will have waders on, but the lake we hunt the bottom is so soft walking is not an option in most cases. The waders are to get the boat floating and keep me dry with a dog going in an out. I will be in a boat and probably will push out a little for the first retrieves (assuming there will even be multiple retrieves).

If this weekend is duckless or does not go well, we will be in ND Oct 14 - 17. He should get more chances on that trip. Plus I will be able to use waders out there to help him along.

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I'm not sure what it is like in ND now but I drove all the way out to Minot in the middle of August. Every pot hole, big or small and I do mean everyone was D R Y!!!

GOOD LUCK and DO bring the rocks. They are used to get the dog in the area of the fall nothing more. From there it is up to them to use their noses and find the bird.

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Well, there were not many ducks. However, it was still a good weekend. There were some issues, but he retrieved all 7 ducks that we harvested this weekend. Some went pretty well, but other retrieves took a lot of handling and help. The water we were hunting was shallow, he could run on the bottom (that was nice). However, there were lilly pads. The pads made it hard to him to spot the downed birds and he did not stick to his lines very well.

By the time we got to the 7th bird he was trusting my hand signals and he got to that bird fairly quickly. I found that I needed to push out of the cover to handle him at this point. The water we hunt in ND does not have the lilly pads like the water in MN, so hopefully that will help him progess on spotting the birds. There were some rough times, but I think we had some good training moments.

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I took my dog out for the first time in a duck boat on Sunday. We shot 8 birds and he retrieved them all. I could not be more pleased. I cannot explain the joy I felt when my dog retrieved his first bird. The two years of training I put in with him made that moment all worth it.

I tried the rock thing for the first couple of birds. He got the idea very quickly on what I wanted him to do. By the fourth and fifth bird I did not have to do that. One problem I ran into was the sun. Where we hunted we were set up facing the sun. The poor dog could not see the birds land. Another problem I had was that the dog jumped out of the boat the wrong direction on the first couple birds. Last but not least, he jumped the gun on the first couple birds. We would shoot and I look down to send the dog and he is already swimming. By the end of the day He both got on the same page. I put my shotgun down and worked with the dog on the last couple birds.

As far as the hole rock issue, I am not opposed to doing it. Let's face it, we want the dog to retrieve the ducks so we don't have to. If that means throwing rocks to get them to do it then so be it. Once the dog get's the concept down I think you should be alright. It was pretty funny. I get out to my spot and my dog lies down and is sleeping. I could not get the dog to wake up. He did not wake up until the first shot was fired. Once my dog got that first bird I had a hard time getting him to calm down.

All and all what a great first hunt for my dog. It is a day I will always remember. Now I just need to fine tune some of those hunting skills.

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My dogs first hunt also and it went pretty well I think. We definitely have some work to do though!!! Highlight of the weekend was the 3rd goose I shot Sunday. It was the getting to the end of our hunt Sunday and I really wanted to give Kash a chance at a good clean retrieve(since everything else was all blind and we really need to work on that!!). Anyways...flock of geese came in and my buddy and I dropped two of them. Kash saw them drop, jumped out and retrieved the first one which was a cripple floppying around. He brought it in with no problems and I was pretty proud!!

Here are a few pics, we were in SW Minnesota:

First retrieve, would have been good had he not gotten cought on a decoy line and had the decoy come up behind him and hit him in the butt. That scared him and he just swam around the next duck until I went out and handed it to him.

2006102104954_4786.jpg

My first goose (or geese in this case) and his first goose retrieve. We had a flock of four come in and I dropped two of them and my buddy dropped one. We would have had all four had his gun not jammed after the first shot.

2006102105011_4786.jpg

2006102105031_4786.jpg

2006102104938_4786.jpg

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Thanks for sharing the photos. I can't believe I forgot my camera this weekend. I will make sure I bring it with for the next weekend and share some photos.

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311Hemi,

Great pics! They look a lot like the ones I took just 3 years ago when my yellow lab was going through his first season. It's nice to document those times so you can look back at them when they're older. I take less action shots now, but I'm going to try to start it up again, really helps you recall the hunt better later.

My 2 cents: chuck rocks, they're cheap and help him out. Also make sure the dog can see, then you don't often need the rocks.

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