This is not something that I go hunting for, but my dogs sure seem to find plenty of them, especially the last few years. When we first got the wirehairs other wirehair people told us that GWP’s love to go after porcupines. What I have found out over the years is that some GWP’s really like to go fill their faces with quills, and others will point them sometimes for a long time without jumping on them. I like the later better.
The first time we had any porcupine issues was in Idaho. I never saw lots of them in Idaho, but we would see a few, mostly along the river systems. We had our first two dogs Cruiser and Zoie out one summer evening along a somewhat secluded area on the Snake River close to our house playing fetch. We would toss a bumper out in the middle of the river and then have the dogs go get it and swim against the current. It was great exercise. During this outing Zoie come back with a few quills in her mouth after a short jaunt up the river bank. We pulled them and she didn’t even seem to mind us yanking them out, but we headed home instead of going looking for it. I’m not sure what happened, but she had lots of prey drive so it surprised me she wasn’t filled with quills.
It was actually a few years later when we had moved to South Dakota, before we got into any other porcupines. The 1st quills I pulled were out of my horse’s nose, not a fun job there.
The 1st hunting season in South Dakota we had a buddy with a good line of wirehairs from Wisconsin come out hunting with us and one of his dogs went after two in two days requiring plenty of pulling. The next hunting season I was running Cruiser without a tracking collar and he went into a slough and even though I never saw him come out the top, I thought I had just missed him. I looked around for 20 minutes before I found him 50 yards from where I had released him and he was pointing a porcupine. I was able to get him out and shoot the porcupine without any quill pulling. Later that year I was running Cruiser with a couple young dogs. Cruiser had pointed and held a few porcupines during the season and we didn’t have any quill removal practice. This day we would get some practice. Cruiser was pointing a porcupine and I was heading his way, then the young dogs stole point and jumped on the porcupine. After they jumped on it Cruiser decided he wanted to wrestle with it as well so he joined the party. It took a while to get them to listen so I could get them away from it, but they were all packed with quills when it was over. We were a long way for anywhere so we just took our time and pulled them with a needle nose pliers.
I had quite a few different dogs point and hold them in South Dakota, and I can’t remember any of those dogs getting into to any, but there could have been a couple mild encounters I forgot about. We would probably average maybe five points a years, and shoot maybe ten porcupines total in a hunting season while I was hunting in South Dakota.
When I moved to Wyoming I started to see a few more in the areas on the low lands that I like to hunt. The first hunting season Cruiser pointed one and held great, and after I shot it he broke and jumped on it. I’m sure he tried to take a bite out of it, but he didn’t get any quills in his mouth. At the time I thought maybe a dog can’t get quills from a dead one, but I later learned if they bite a dead one a few weeks old they can still get quills stuck in their mouth. I’m still not sure why he didn’t get any quills. The first four seasons in Wyoming I would get maybe ten points a year and shoot around twenty. The 2011-2012 hunting season I probably had twenty points and shot maybe twenty five total. Then came the porcupine explosion year of 2012-2013 when they seemed to be in every place I went hunting. I shot around fifty over point, and probably shot seventy-five in total. With all the encounters I had only had one quill pulling session when two young dogs went after one. I’m guessing it was one pointing and one stealing point, then the competition took over. I took a bitch Riot out for some training on an April evening, and I shot seven over point in thirty minutes, and I saw a few more at a distance I couldn’t get to.
I’ve talked to a few flushing dog guys in the area and they all said the last few years have been real bad. They rarely get the dog away from one without it going after them and filling its face full of quills. There seems to be many different ways to remove them, but the most popular way seems to be to roll them on their back and get help pulling while one guy holds them down. If you are a vet I guess you have an advantage because you can just knock them out and pull them. One guy said he carried a wooden dowel, like a retrieving dummy, to put in the back of their mouth to hold it open so he can pull them without getting bit. We haven’t had to take one to the vet yet to get them removed, and we have had a couple with a lot of quills inside the mouth. If it is too bad or the dog fights you too much you will just have to rack up another vet bill. I think the best thing is too hope your GWP points and holds for a long time. If it doesn’t you will quickly learn how a porcupine quill looks up close, because once they go after it most won’t stop until they get filled up with quills.