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  • December 29, 2010

    How Do You Choose a New Pup?

    By Chad Love

    Previously I asked when was the best time (in terms of your old dog's age) to think about getting a replacement.

    So let's say you've gone ahead and made the decision to get a new pup this spring. You've picked out the breed you want, put down your deposit, the litter's arrived and at seven or eight weeks it's time to make your choice. You peer into the whelping box and are confronted with an indistinguishable mass of butterball-fat puppy cuteness.

  • December 27, 2010

    Garmin Astro GPS Collar: A Confidence Building Tool For Your Pup

    By Chad Love

    There are four dogs working the field in this picture; a pointer, two shorthairs and a setter. Can you spot them? Neither can I, and I'm the one that took the picture. You can lose sight of your dogs very quickly in even a waist-high CRP field, and some of the Kansas CRP tracts I hunted last week with Ted Gartner and Tom Bondurant (pictured) of Garmin International were literally taller than we were. In conditions like that it's very easy to lose sight of the sky, much less your dogs, unless of course they're wearing Garmin Astros.

  • December 23, 2010

    Seasons Greetings (Dogs Included)

    By David DiBenedetto

    Wishing you and your family (dogs included) a happy holiday and a productive 2011. Best, Dave, Jenny and Pritchard.

  • December 22, 2010

    Love of Gundog Trials Ain't What It Used to Be

    By Chad Love

    Do you have an interest in the history of international retriever field trials? Do you have $80,000 sitting around? Well then, here's a deal for you...

    From this story on
    "Peter of Faskally", a Perthshire estate dog, was feted as one of Scotland's best-performing gundogs in trials at the turn of the 20th century. Owned by Archie Butter, the owner of Faskally Estate near Pitlochry and a well-known Labrador handler, Peter went on to father 32 field trial champions. The painting, which features another of Mr Butter's Labradors, Dungavel Jet, and is coming up for auction at Bonhams, is by Maud Earl, a British-American artist who was best-known for her paintings of well-known canines. Ms Earl, who famously counted Queen Victoria and Queen Alexandra among her patrons, was born in London, but emigrated to New York in 1916 and died there in 1943.

  • December 21, 2010

    Duck Report From Stuttgart

    By David DiBenedetto

    Pritchard and I just returned from Stuttgart, Ark., where we hunted timber for ducks. As I mentioned last week, this was a first for both of us. And on return I can tell you this—if you love duck hunting and have never been too Stuttgart, make plans to. And if you have a gun dog, bring her.

    At times, ducks (mallards, spoonies, etc.) and geese (snows and speckled bellies) literally darkened the skies. Roadside fields were alive with thousands of birds. And the timber was loaded with mallards. The birds were so plentiful they made me look like a decent shot, and a group of five of us would limit out by 7:30 a.m.

  • December 20, 2010

    Hunting Dogs: To Boot, or Not To Boot?

    By Chad Love

    by Chad Love

    To boot or not to boot, that is the question many upland hunters face when running their dogs in areas with high concentrations of vegetation that bites back. Some hunters swear by boots, while other hunters swear at them.

    Cactus spines, thorns and burrs can drastically hinder a bird dog's ability to cover ground. On the other hand, it can be a real pain to spend twenty minutes booting up your dog, only to have them throw one in the middle of a hunt.

    I'm pheasant and quail hunting the sandhills of southwestern Kansas this week with Ted Gartner, the director of corporate communications for Garmin International. When he's not working, Gartner is a hard-core bird hunter who regularly runs his string of dogs in the burr-infested sandhills of southwest Kansas. I posed the question of booting dogs to Gartner.

  • December 17, 2010

    Your Old Pup is Slowing Down...When is it Time For a New Dog?

    By Chad Love

    by Chad Love

    The old lady is seven now, not young any more, but not quite old either. Middle-aged, I guess you'd call her—on the cusp of the backside of her prime. She still has no trouble hopping in the dog box or, when we're hunting by ourselves, hopping in the cab of the truck. She hits the water as hard as she ever did, still loves busting through the skim ice on late-season hunts, still runs as hard and fast as the eight-month-old blur of kinetic setter energy she shares the household with.

    There's no hitch in her get-along, or if there is, she doesn't show it, but I know it's coming. And I know that eventually, I've got to start thinking about a new pup. I don’t want to say replacement. I don’t ever want to say that, or even think it, but I can't avoid the fact that in a few short years there's going to be a new dog sitting beside me in the cattails.

    It's probably one of the more difficult questions that gundog owners face: when to bring in a new pup when your old dog starts slowing down. If you've got the room and resources, staggering multiple dogs of different ages is certainly a nice option so you've always got a good rotation between the grizzled old veteran, the up-and-comer and the young dog. But many of us don’t have the room, resources and time for multiple dogs or we simply prefer hunting with a single dog. In that situation, we've got to time the introduction of the new pup just right so the transition from old to new is as seamless as possible.

  • December 15, 2010

    The Ongoing Search for Training Grounds

    By Chad Love

    Ask any dog trainer, whether they're strictly a hunter or a weekend hunt tester, amateur field trialer, a pro or some combination thereof, “What's the biggest training issue you face?” The answer will most likely be finding training grounds where they can get their dogs on real birds.

    It's not a very gundog-friendly world out there and urban and suburban trainers are forced to get creative with where and how they train. I've been kicked off golf course water hazards, city park ponds, neighborhood green spaces, soccer fields, state parks, deserted shopping mall parking lots, open fields destined to become housing developments and wherever else I thought might work for a bit of training. If it's big enough to throw a bumper, I've probably been asked to vacate the premises. If you can manage it (and keep from getting hassled) all those places are fine for yard work—handling drills and the like—but eventually, you have to get your dog into the real thing. And that's where many trainers turn to pen-raised birds.

    So when I saw this thread on the Upland Journal bulletin board discussing a story on proposed changes to Oregon's dog-training laws it got my attention.

  • December 14, 2010

    Have a Big Duck Hunting Trip Planned?

    By David DiBenedetto

    By David DiBenedetto

    Pritch and I are headed to Stuttgart, Ark. Come Thursday morning we’ll be hunting flooded timber for a few days. It will be a first for both of us. I’ll be in the blind with my two older brothers and two of my nephews--and Pritch will be joined by Maggie, my nephew’s golden retriever. 

    I’ve been packing for both myself and Pritch for a few days. Well, I’ve been packing and Pritch has been madly pacing back and forth worrying that I’ll leave her behind. I’ve got her food, leashes, e-collar, vest, and numerous other items stashed in the training bag. We’ll be driving so I don’t have to worry that she’ll end up touching down in Stuttgart, Germany.

    Is Pritch ready for a hard-core Arkansas duck hunt? Well, sort of. She still whimpers a bit with excitement when the guns and calls go off. But we’ve been working to curb that. And thankfully this cold snap will have passed by the time we get there, so low temperatures shouldn’t be an issue. Either way, Pritch won’t hunt on Day 1 as I’d like to get a feel for the setup first. But she’ll get plenty of bird work in the afternoon at the lodge.

  • December 13, 2010

    A New Way to Protect Bird Habitat and Honor Gun Dogs

    By Chad Love

    I've spent the better part of the last two weeks hunting behind gun dogs, from the CRP fields of South Dakota and the rugged canyon lands of Utah to my old familiar duck waters here in Oklahoma.

    I killed a few birds, met some wonderful dog owners and got to witness a lot of good dog work. For many of us, working our dogs is the single biggest motivating factor for why we hunt. I question whether I would even continue hunting quail, duck or pheasant if I were dogless. But to hunt our dogs we need birds. And to have birds we need habitat. That correlation between gundog ownership and bird numbers is straightforward: The two are inextricably linked. Now Pheasants Forever is giving us a novel new way to protect habitat and honor our dogs at the same time.

    From this story on the Pheasants Forever website:

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