Training A Duck Dog For Pheasant Hunting
When most pheasant hunters think of an upland hunting dog they think spaniels & pointers. But the Labrador Retriever is easily the most popular of the working breeds in the US. Most of them are relegated to chasing Frisbees and chewing their owner’s slippers. But those that do hunt birds are typically duck hunting dogs. However, using a duck dog in the pheasant fields doesn’t take a lot of work. Proper obedience is necessary for duck hunting and upland bird hunting. Those fundamentals remain the same.
There are some Labradors that will point. But unless you plan to invest a lot of time and effort into your lab, he/she is most likely going to be a flusher. That is just fine. Every square foot of ground the dog covers is a step you don’t have to take. His nose is also going to spot birds you didn’t know were there. Many trainers fret about teaching the dog to hunt for bird scent. In my experience all that is needed is for the dog to have a few positive experiences with birds. Once he realizes bird scent equals birds, nature will take over.
The main thing that needs to be taught is keeping the dog from ranging out too far. The best way to do this is to walk the dog without a leash in fields during the off-season. Every time the dog gets out of shotgun range call him back to you. Eventually, the dog will figure out how far he get away from you before he’s called back and stick to that range. If you wait to teach this until the right before the season, you and the dog are going to have a frustrating year.
Another obstacle that many duck hunters don’t think about until they enter the pheasant fields is fences. I’ve seen labs charge right through barbed wire fences without thinking twice about it. The result can be a trip to the vet for stitches or worse. Introduce your dog to fences outside a hunting environment so they can get used to them without the added excitement of birds and gun fire.
If you have the means and the time to have several dogs in your kennel that are specialized for specific types of hunting, you are of the privileged few. Most people only have the time and money for one or maybe two hunting dogs at a time. The ability to hunt in multiple situations is important. Luckily, dogs are bright and work to please. Training a duck dog for pheasant hunting isn’t much different than normal waterfowl training. The key is to be consistent so the dog knows what to expect.