Training day gone wrong.
Right now I’m spending more time training than I have for a few years. Whenever I’m training broke dogs to get ready for a field trial or hunt test I always have a plan going into the training session. That plan can vary widely depending on what I feel I need to accomplish and where the dog is at in their development. Sometimes it will be two dogs and backing situations, or maybe one dog with standing through a shot bird, but at the end of the session I hope to have at least tried to get the dog in the situation I wanted. Sometimes I think all the plans just fly out the window as I’m driving on the way to training.
I was recently planning on running Hoover in an area where there were some paired up huns, maybe a few sharp tails, and cottontails, and probably some porcupines. It was out of season for upland birds, and I was just going to blank the fly away birds. The main thing I wanted to work on with Hoover was getting him to better understand what a blinker was and turn when I wanted him to turn. Hoover is a big running long ranging dog, but I know he is trainable. I don’t want to knock the run out of him, but I do want to get him to hunt a little less for himself, and start to go with me more even if that means at a very long range. Hoover is a dog that has to climb right to the top of whatever hill, or mountain is in front of him, which I’m fine with, but I don’t necessarily want him to get to the top then head to the next one without me. I got to the area I wanted to hunt and I was “planning on” turning Hoover loose in the bottom of a big long canyon. I would climb up the one side while he worked the bottom, and up and down the sides. If he pointed something I would go flush it and blank it. Once on top I wanted to work a big flat area that has some huns, and sharp tails. It also has a big canyon on each side that Hoover could work at a long distance while I watched him.
Well I made sure the tracking collar, e-collar, receiver’s, transmitters were all functioning and I fired Hoover off. He started to work the brush along the creek bottom on the correct side of the wind just perfect, and I started powering up the steep slope. About two minutes later Hoover was headed my direction at a kind of slow pace, both him heading towards me, and slow pace didn’t make any sense. When he got about twenty yards away I realized he was a bad dog. His face was full of porcupine quills. He had done a great job either avoiding them or pointing them for a few months, but I guess he was a little too fired up this time. He stood still while I pulled all of them out of his mouth and the side of his face. When I got done I thought I hope you learned your lesson. I sent him off towards the top of the hill I was climbing and he took off like a rocket up the face. When I got to the top I had him on the tracker at a few hundred yards ahead working the ridge just right. Then somehow I pushed the wrong buttons on my receiver and deleted the tracking collar he was wearing. I could find it in one of the menus, but it said it was not active so I couldn’t track him. Of course I’m up on a windy ridge in the middle of nowhere Wyoming, and I didn’t really feel like trying to figure out my receiver. At first I thought well I’ll find him and when I see him I’ll just call him in a get the collar back matched up with the receiver. I didn’t try to call him for 20 minutes or so just in case he was on point somewhere, but then I tried to call him in to no avail. After about 45 minutes of not seeing him while I was walking the ridge I thought I sure have become too dependent on these tracking collars. I was little concerned he might actually be in trouble; caught in a snare, lost over a couple ridges, or shot by a rancher a few miles away. He was none of the above, but he was in trouble, and he knew it when he showed up from another direction with a face full of porcupine quills. Once again I pulled the quills, and then I got his tracking collar back to operational. I thought by now he might be tired enough to handle a little better.
We started to work the ridge top and I saw him go on point across a small ravine. He was very intense and stylish and I’m thinking a pair of huns, but nope it was another porcupine, but he did hold point until I got there. Shortly after that he went on point again and once again it was intense and stylish. I was thinking probably a porcupine, but nope it was a pair of huns and he handled them great. We worked back towards the pickup and it was starting to get a little dark when he went on point again. This time it was cottontail rabbit that took off running right at him, and he did break and chase, but I got a little correction. I gave him the benefit on the rabbit because it was a tough one to handle. We had maybe three hundred yards to the pickup and it was pretty dark, but I saw him go on point again. I started towards him, but he broke point and popped a pair of huns in the air and then chased them like a run-away freight train. At the end of the training time I felt like nothing got accomplished, but at least we got good workout climbing up and down hills.
Crazy Completely Unbelievable Training Pigeon Story
When I’m working broke dogs a lot of times I will take a pigeon and clip the feathers on one wing. The pigeon can walk around and fly up in the air a short distance. This is the best way I can simulate a pen raised chukar, or quail in a training session.
I had a couple of these pigeons I had turned loose out in a somewhat open field and they were just walking around. I was working Hoover and Icy both after a run. I did some backing training then worked each dog individually. Hoover was really amped up and I didn’t think he was going to hold solid through the training session. Sure enough he broke hard on the one pigeon and jumped on it. Before I could really even get much of a correction in he had gulped the entire pigeon down his gullet whole. Now I know you are probably thinking the completely unbelievable thing was I kicked him in the ribs and he spit out a live pigeon. Nothing like that happened. I don’t kick my dogs. I did give him a little correction, but I decided to take him right over to the other pigeon and work him on it. The other pigeon was down in a small ravine about fifty yards out in front of my pickup and 4-wheeler trailer. When I turned Hoover loose he headed over by where I had let the pigeon loose and kind of flash pointed then started tracking around. He started back towards me and the pickup tracking, but I turned him down the ravine the direction I thought the pigeon would have had taken off towards. Hoover ran around for ten minutes in the ravine and never got at all birdy. I took him a little farther out into the open area towards another ravine where I thought maybe the pigeon had gone. After a while I just put a lead on Hoover and wondered out loud how he couldn’t find a pigeon I had just released. I thought maybe while I wasn’t looking a hawk had snatched it, or maybe it really took off on a walk up the hill. It was Sunday night and it was almost dark. I just gave up and went home because I had a big project to start in the morning. The place I was training was about 25 miles east of town.
On Monday morning I went by the cabinet company and hooked on to a large enclosed trailer full of cabinets for a kitchen remodel we were doing about ten miles south of town. When I got to the house I unhooked the trailer in the large asphalt drive way at the homeowners. Our plan was to leave the trailer there a couple days until we got all the cabinets unloaded and use the trailer to haul the cardboard back to the recycle bin.
Here’s the completely unbelievable thing. Fast forward to late Tuesday afternoon. I hooked on to the cargo trailer with the cardboard boxes and when I started to pull out of the driveway I looked in my mirror to make sure I the trailer was clear of everything and there was a pigeon standing in the driveway. At first I thought why the hell did that pigeon just land there by my trailer? Then I thought that looks like the pigeon I had out at training two days ago. I stopped the pickup and sure enough it was the clipped winged pigeon. I was somewhat confused, but I still had my fish net in the back of the pickup so I netted it up and put it in the pickup. On the way back to town I was trying to figure out the puzzle, but nothing was making any sense at all. I was starting to think I’m going completely nuts.
That night I took that pigeon out for another training session. We set up a backing situation and I released the pigeon about 50 yards out in front of the pickup. Before I could get a dog out to start working the pigeon was almost back to the pickup walking at a fast pace. It got to the pickup and jumped up on the front axle and just sat there.
My conclusion is that on Sunday night the pigeon climbed up in the pickup. It then rode 25 miles, 15 dirt, back to town. It sat at least one night in the pickup and then on Monday or maybe Tuesday it might have moved from under the pickup which was parked beside the trailer, to under the trailer. It also could have rode for two days back and forth under the pickup and just decided to jump out when I hooked up the trailer. At any rate that pigeon is still in the training pigeon rotation, but I make sure it’s far away from the pickup before I release it. Had I just trusted my dog and not turned him down the ravine he would have tracked the pigeon to my pickup and I would have found it then, but I wouldn’t have a crazy pigeon story to tell.