Your Pup’s First Hunt, by Bob Owens
The night before opening day is full of preparation. The coffee pot is ready for its hot brew, decoys are loaded in your truck, boat is packed down, and your camo gear is thrown on the floor in an organized chaos! Duck calls - check, shotgun shells - check, junk food - check, alarm clock set - check… it’s go time!
Woah, Woah, Woah, slow down partner! You sound ready, but is your gun dog? You’ve invested loads of time and energy picking out your pup and training it for its first hunt, but have you done everything?
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to introduce your dog to all the sights, sounds, and smells of the duck blind… before opening day! Whether you’re hunting out of a boat, ground blind, or pit blind, you need to acclimate your dog to each environment before you head to the field. Teach them their place in the blind. Work them in and out of the blind. Throw marks, Hoot and Holler, and make them be patient, then send them for the retrieve! During your training sessions you should be using duck calls, have them swim and run past decoys, get used to working off dog stands etc. The key to remember is that your dog shouldn’t encounter a new experience on opening day. You both should have the “been there done that” mentality! You must prepare them for what they will see and what will be asked of them.
It is also important to select who will join you on the hunt. Make sure your hunting buddies know that this is your dog’s first time. Try and select a buddy or two that can actually shoot!(sometimes easier said than done) Now, here is the hard part, leave your gun behind! This hunt isn’t for you, it is for your dog! If you do everything right, you will have many years to shoot ducks over your dog. This hunt is designed to manage your dog, guide your dog, and teach your dog it’s place in the blind. If you are worrying about making a clean shot, you won’t be focused on how your dog is performing! Seriously, leave the gun behind and enjoy working with your dog!
Bring some rocks! Weird, I know, but trade the shotgun shells for a pocket full of golf ball sized rocks. If your dog gets off its mark, you can help them by throwing a rock and splashing near its downed prize. This will help build confidence in your dog! If your dog is struggling finding a bird, or it landed outside of the dog’s field of view, get out of the blind and walk out to the bird with them. The more they do it, the better they will get! Pretty soon you will notice they will begin to look out over the decoys and watch the birds fall!
Lastly, tie your dog down so they can’t break. Breaking is when a dog takes off after the birds before they are told to go. This is not only extremely dangerous for your dog, but it can ruin a hunt for you and your hunting party. If you tie your dog down or hold the leash while the birds are falling, you maintain control and will teach the dog to be patient.
Take your time, introduce your dog to many different environments, and build a positive experience during each training session and hunt! By following these simple steps, you will be sure to have a stunning hunting companion you can be proud of for many years to come! Good luck and enjoy the Unspoken Bond!