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Tracking Downed Birds

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I was just curious as to how your dogs do tracking downed birds that are still running? Are they good at it or bad? Is this something they learned or were they good right off the bat?

My dog lost a runner yesterday. I dropped it and she was on it. Then she started moving and was eventually going in circles. We never did find that bird... frown.gif I was pretty pissed but will excuse it this time.

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Tim I think it is both something they can be good from the start and that they learn as they go. I have been very lucky with Charlie, In his six years he lost his first and only downed bird on opener this year. Some have taken up to 15 minutes of chase. One other I remember he searched the same tight circle for several minutes with nothing so I forced him off it and we took a ten minute break and then went back to that circle area and he found it right away. It had burried itself deep in the marsh grass.

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Long Gray Line

It might jerk the chain of some of the purists but that's why I didn't train my dogs to hold when the bird jumps. I figure if they have a bead on it and go with the flight, they're less likely to lose it. We didn't lose any this year, in fact, my 11 month old caught two live pheasant on the ground (1st one never jumped, bad weather) and another we jumped and missed twice. He was on it when it landed in the edge of the woods. They are trained to stop and come back if they hear "NO BIRD" though. If the bird takes off low just over the dogs, we don't shoot.

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I've had it both ways.

My dad always had dogs so I hunted over several different dogs as a kid. I've only had two dogs in my life that I've actually owned as an adult. Both have been female black labs from English lines.

The first was Trudy. She probably retrieved somewhere in the low hundreds of pheasants through her life and I can still remember maybe five instances that she failed to come up with the bird - including her first year when she was 9 months old and still a bit scatter brained, and her last when she couldn't move very fast or long as the cancer tightened it's grip on her.

As Long Grey Line indicated, Trudy was also never trained to hold on the flush for the same reasons. I can remember several times that I was sure I had dropped the rooster dead and that it was “Right Here!, Where the hell is that dog anyway??”. A few minutes later I'd hear her bell coming back over the hill, and the wily old rooster in her mouth was wondering what the hell happened and where he went wrong. I can also remember friend dropping cripples out in cut alfalfa of plowed field where they wrote the bird off because the watched the rooster run a hundred yards to the top of the hill and keep going. If they could show me where the bird dropped, we always got those birds, and those guys were always amazed. Anyway, she was quite a dog and I miss her.

(As a side note she didn't have very clear papers, which I didn't care about, and I didn't pay very much money for her.)

Before she past, I bought another pup out of a different line, with rather impressive papers, and for a little more money (but not unreasonable).

I trained her the same way and put her on lots of birds, but she just doesn't have the same drive for hunting or retrieving. Sometimes she can follow a rooster, but if the rooster has any craft at all, he can almost always slip away. Today when I drop a cripple, it's pretty much the opposite of what I enjoyed with Trudy. I can remember a handful of times that she has managed to come up with the runner, but most times he'll get away. She is getting a bit better, but she's five this year so she's probably as good as she'll ever be. I admit, her lack of drive/ability keeps me out of the field so she gets less experience, and I just end up steelhead fishing or deer hunting instead.

Anyhoo, I'm getting off the point... The point is that some dogs have the gift of “foot trailing” naturally and other don't. The ones who have it can be trained in many different ways to take advantage of those natural gifts. Other just don't have the drive and no amount of training can bring that natural interest to them.

In either case, the best medicine is lots of birds at an early age, and then feeding that natural desire.

So if you have a dog with that natural gift like BDR does, understand what you have, hunt when you can and enjoy your time with your dog both on and off season.

Just my 2 cents.


ps – yup, I still miss her.

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