Foot hunting with a big running GWP’S

   Some hunters are afraid their dog will have too much run and will not be a good foot hunting dog. Some people me included like to call run, power instead. I think power is both physical and mental. When people see dogs are competing in horse back field trials sometimes I think they think they won’t hunt for foot hunters. I think they envision an American Field all-age English Pointer or Setter. When they turn that kind of dog loose you might need three guys on horse, and two airplanes circling to keep up with it. I’ve ridden many braces watching the American Field long tails and very few if any GWP’s will probably ever run like them. Some GWP’s do have a little extra power, maybe a 5th gear and some strong desire to go the extra distance. With the GWP’s I have hunted with the good ones are smart enough to understand a lot of different situations. They know when to range farther out, and when to stay close in. I have probably hunted GWP’s about as many ways possible, and in as many different terrains, and with quite a few different styles of GWP’s as anyone out there over the last fifteen years. I will list some examples of why I think they understand a lot more than we give them credit for. A dog with power can still be a good swimmer, a good retriever, a good tracker, good duck blind dog, good fur dog, and be very trainable, power doesn’t mean non-trainable runaway. People sometimes don’t realize a runaway dog won’t do much if any winning in field trials. Even a close working none alethic dog can be a runaway if it doesn’t listen to its handler. I honestly don’t think your GWP can be a great versatile hunting dog if it doesn’t have power. Just think of the words versatile (capable of or adapted for many different uses, skills, etc.) and hunting (The pursuit and killing or capture of game and wild animals, regarded as a sport. The act of conducting a search for something). Think how limited a versatile hunting dog in big country will be without some power. I also don’t think that just because a dog has power it is a good hunting dog. My definition of a good hunting dog would take a few pages to define. Most of the public land hunting of wild game in the US is west of the Mississippi River and a lot of the country is pretty open. This big country is usually full of game, both fur and feather, but that game can be distant and scattered. You will need a dog that is able to go find it, a dog with some power. We hunters can only walk so far in one day, and I’ve found my physical limits many times. I think it is the dogs job to cover most of the country, find, point, and retrieve if I shoot something, so I don’t have to walk every square inch of it doing all the hunting by myself.

One thing I would like to say is I hunt with my GWP’s a lot more than most people would ever dream of hunting. I work very long weeks in the spring and summer and hunt for six months in the fall and winter. I don’t spend much time training dogs, going to any field trials, or hunt tests especially in the fall, because ultimately it takes away from hunting time. I just think the best way to evaluate hunting dogs is to go hunting, in different areas, and do it a lot.  I almost always hunt wild game on public lands, and most of the time it’s very big country. I have also hunted pheasants in areas where you might spend all day in less than twenty acres, and other places where the country is very open, and very thick cover in the same hunt. I’ve hunted ruffed grouse in cover so thick I couldn’t get through it myself. There are many hunting days that I have more points on deer, rabbits, porcupines, or other four legged critters, than I do on upland birds. Most of my hunting is on foot by myself with one or two dogs running. On occasion given the opportunity I will use some form of transportation to carry me around the country. When I was field trialing and owned horses I would use the horses to hunt a few times a year. I have also used an ATV to follow the dogs across big country. A few times I have loaded hunting buddies in the suburban, turned 2-3 dogs loose, and driven across the open areas until they went on point. The good versatile hunting dogs will adjust to every situation, and usually real quickly. They will range the farthest when we are hunting out of the vehicle, and I’m pretty sure it’s because they can see it moving a long ways away. They will actually range father for me on a horse than an ATV. A dog can be a long ways away in open country and still handle great. Many times I have turned dogs on a dime with a short whistle blow well past the 500 yard mark. One of my favorite and most enjoyable ways to hunt is to walk a ridge and send a dog down the canyon to one side or the other. I just stand there and let the dog work down the canyon and hopefully work up the other side. When I think it has covered enough area I will call them in and send them off the other side to do the same thing, then we’ll hunt the ridge down a few hundred yards and do it all over again. I have had dogs hunt a hundred acres while I just stand there and watch. Depending on the canyon it can be a workout for me if the dog points on top the next ridge. So far I have only hunted with two dogs that will actually do this to a level I think is great. Many dogs seem to go part way down, but lack the mentally to cover everything in sight while I stand there watching. A dog without power will never come close to doing a good job hunting in this situation.

 

On a trip back home to Idaho a few years ago I had a bitch that was probably right in the prime of her hunting life. We were hunting an area that was a big, deep, steep walled canyon with flats on top, and lots of thick cover in the bottom. We left the pickup and trailer at the bottom of the drainage and drove ATV’s with the dogs to the top so we could hunt downhill most of the time. Then we would take the pickup and trailer back up to get the ATV’s at the end of the hunt. When I have hunted with other hunting partners I have done this kind of hunting many times. We let the dogs run up and down the hills and we just keep easing on down. This area we were hunting was about as good as it ever gets for a hunter and a GWP. I had hunted this canyon before and shot pheasant, quail, chukar, huns, blue grouse, ducks, and cottontails all over point, all in the same hunt. It is around eight miles to the bottom so it takes a while to hunt, but it has lots to hunt. At the very top is a series of springs coming out of big rock outcroppings with Russian olive trees, cattails, swamp type areas, and lots of very tall sagebrush. This area always has a few pheasant, and some valley quail. It is about thirty acres. On this hunt four of us two legged hunters were hunting with three dogs. I turned the dogs loose and I had just started using the tracking collars with the distance/direction display that hunting season. I watched the displays and the dogs all stayed close, even though we could rarely see them in the thick cover, and as they worked this thick cover they never got more than thirty yards away. These three dogs had never been in any areas quite like this area. We got on some quail and pheasant and then started down the canyon. It was a great hunt with more quail, and huns in the open part of the canyon and then we got down into some moderately thick rosebushes packed full of quail. The four of us were hunting maybe a half mile across spread out through the canyon and I was up above the thick stuff a little distance. We hunt with radios so we can keep in touch and most of the time the dogs will work between all of us at some point and in this cover they stayed within 100 yards. I was just a little ways up from the creek in a steep part of the canyon and the bitch with me started working up a big bald ridge. She started running up the mountain towards a rock pile at the very top. I distinctly remember thinking there is going to be chukar in those rocks, and that crazy bitch is going to go point them. Then it’s going to take me a long time to get there. Well she did go all the way to the rocks, but thankfully for my tired legs there wasn’t anything to point. She was a few hundred yards and lots of vertical feet away when she reached the top. After she didn’t find anything there she worked her way back down the other side of the knob and we hunted some thicker sagebrush for more quail on the way to the pickup. Every time I looked at the tracker when she was in the thick stuff she was within fifty yards. A half mile before the pickup it opened up on some flat areas where we usually find a covey of huns and she ranged out maybe three hundred yards, but didn’t find anything. That trip is very typical of what I see in the dogs that have power like it takes to run in field trials and know how to use it. I have had dozens of trips very similar to this trip. The good dogs know when to use the power, and they also know how and when to dial it back.

 

I hunted another bitch up in northern Montana a couple years later in an area for pheasants where many times I couldn’t find her on point five feet from me. For two entire days every time I looked at the tracker she was within twenty yards and we hunted the same 20 acres for two days. I think she just walked with her nose on the ground all day and she had many points on pheasants, lots of which I never got a shot at through the trees and brush. This area was a wetlands with grass over your head, trees and bushes everywhere, and packed full of pheasants, but a long range dog would have been pretty useless in that situation. On the 3rd day of the hunt we went out to some grasslands and went after huns and sharptails. I turned this bitch loose and she made a nice 400 yard cast down a small ridge. The two guys hunting with me asked me if I was going to call her in closer. I responded what the hell for????, do you want to walk all the way over there if there is nothing to shoot? Another thing is this bitch is a very strong swimmer. She is just like many wirehairs bred by other breeders who have realized how the power dog works, and that the good dogs know how to use it.

 

Not all wirehairs including many I have hunted with over the years will have the power to hunt at a long range. A lot of wirehairs are limited by their genes to always be a close working dog, like the standard says they are supposed to be, and they just don’t have the power. I feel if you can have a dog with the power it is a better thing than no power, and I know from watching enough power dogs the good ones can be close working dogs when they need to be. I have had little or no success trying to make a dog without power obtain more of it. I have had dogs with lots of run, but not the hunting mentally to go with the run. Of course I don’t think these are good versatile hunting dogs. Just like people, all dogs are different; some dogs are just better hunters than others. If you know you will never hunt a big area and you have a power dog just spend some time keeping it close when it is young and it will most likely figure it out very quickly. Wirehairs like to please and they adapt very well to different conditions. In my opinion there are a lot more below average no power GWP’S than there are too powerful GWP’S out there.

I think power dogs are kind of like a pickup. If you have a small engine ½ ton you won’t be able to pull a big trailer down the road like you can with a big engine 1 ton. You can always step on the brake of the powerful pickup, but pushing on the accelerator of the small engine might not do much.

 

Of course not everyone is going to agree with this and these are my thoughts and opinions based on my experiences. If you have a power dog let it go hunt, and you will probably have a great hunting experience.

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