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  • March 26, 2013

    Fireknife Caption Contest Winner Announced

    By Chad Love

    I've finished reading the entries (all 228 of them) in last week's caption contest. Like every contest, there were many good ones, a number of groaners and a few, well, puzzlers. But in the end, the one that seemed to best sum up the photo in the fewest possible words was from reader Ted Roberts. It was a masterpiece of understated brevity: "The new standard-issue K9mm."

  • January 30, 2013

    Gun Dog Gear: An All-Purpose First-Aid Kit Worth Buying

    By Chad Love

    Some of us (myself included) put together our own canine first-aid kits based on unique needs, dogs, hunting styles, geographic locations, etc. But many of us probably don't have the time or inclination to assemble these customized kits. Instead, we're looking for one we can buy that will be adequate for the vast majority of canine medical issues we're apt to face while in the field hunting.

    I've been using one such all-in-one kit this season: the Sporting Dog First-Aid Kit from Creative Pet Products. This compact, well-stocked kit comes with pretty much everything you need to administer basic first-aid to your dogs. If you encounter an in-the-field medical emergency that you can't, at least temporarily, doctor with the contents of this kit, then you need a vet, and fast.

  • December 20, 2012

    Last Minute Holiday Gifts for Gun Dog Owners

    By Chad Love

    With Christmas just a few days away, here are some last-minute gift ideas for the wingshooting, dog-owning person on your list. Or yourself.

    Some of them I may have previously mentioned and am mentioning again because, well, I like them; others I just haven't gotten around to writing about yet. But all of them are things I have personally used and can recommend.

    First up is L.L. Bean's technical upland pants. I tried them on a hunt in Montana and fell in love with them—hand-down my new favorite bird-hunting pants. They're light, fit well, tough where they're supposed to be tough, and stretchy where they're supposed to be stretchy. In the words of sexy Ned Flanders, "It's like I'm wearing nothing at all!" However, as comfortable as they were in the relatively thorn-free fields of Montana, I had my doubts they'd hold up to the vicious sandplum thickets back in Oklahoma. I was wrong. Halfway through our quail season and they still look great and perform flawlessly. At $109, they're not cheap, but good things rarely are.

  • December 10, 2012

    Forgetting Extra Camera Batteries on a Hunt Can Mean Losing Memories

    By Chad Love

    Have you ever had a moment with your dog that you desperately wanted to capture on camera—a first point, first retrieve, some poignant milestone—and then utterly missed it, either through sheer operator incompetence or equipment failure? It happened to me yesterday morning on a duck hunt, and I'm still kicking myself for it.

    Like many other duck hunters in my area, my season has been hampered by a profound lack of huntable water. Almost all the areas I hunt are either bone-dry or so low as to be rendered effectively un-huntable. As a result, the dog's and my duck season has been pretty miserable to this point. Nevertheless, after seeing thousands and thousands of mallards on a recent South Dakota pheasant hunt (more on that in the next blog) and reading about them  I decided to put on my walking shoes (or waders) and go find a spot to hunt on my local reservoir, and low water be damned. A cold front was coming through and I had visions of shooting a few of those 750,000 mallards that were sure to be pouring into the state ahead of it.

  • October 17, 2011

    What Info Should Be On Your Gun Dog's Collar Tag?

    By Chad Love

    I've previously blogged about the dangers of losing your dog. By now many of you and your dogs have been hunting for well over a month, and hopefully none of you have experienced it this season. A lost dog in the field (or anywhere) is one of the most panic-inducing things a hunter can experience. That’s why most of us have our dogs chipped, have flat tags riveted to their collars and why many of us run GPS collars like the Astro when we hunt.

    But here’s an interesting question: What do you have stamped on your dog’s collar tag? I have to admit, I’ve always just included my name, city, state and home phone number and called it good, but as I was ordering new collars for my dogs recently I read an interesting article on Steve Snell’s gundogsupply website that detailed what Steve considered the most important information for a collar tag, which includes multiple phone numbers, your name and not the dog’s, followed by your city and state.

  • September 12, 2011

    Tri-Tronics Upland G3 Collar Is Solid...and Poo Resistant

    By Chad Love

    Today's blog is both a mini-review of a product and a handy-dandy training tip, all rolled into one smelly, disgusting post. For the past few months I've been using one of the new Tri-Tronics Upland Special G3EXP e-collars and thus far it's been a rock-solid performer. The transmitter's layout is easy to understand, its' shape is grippy and ergonomic. The collar is light and unobtrusive and, like virtually all Tri-Tronics products I've used in the past, it's been dead-reliable. Among those who know and hunt with me I am infamous for losing and/or breaking any type of electronic gear. So if I noodle around with something for an extended period of time and it doesn't break, it probably won't.

    I love the collar, but I have discovered the Upland G3's one glaring flaw: it's not unloseable (see paragraph above). This weekend I was working my young setter on some planted birds when the transmitter apparently fell out of my shorts as I bent down to pick up something. I had already finished training and loaded up the dog so I wasn't using it and therefore never noticed it gone.

  • July 13, 2011

    How Do You Ready a Retriever For Hunting Waterfowl From a Boat?

    By Chad Love

    OK, all you boat-owning waterfowl doggers: I need some training advice...

    I have always been a walk-in duck hunter. In fact, I've never even owned a boat. But two things happened to me recently to help bring some change to my waterfowl hunting techniques.

    One, I turned 40, which means I am now officially decrepit and therefore can no longer pack in gear on a walk-in hunt without imminent threat of heart attack. Two, last season I very nearly drowned in, oh, about two feet of water and ice while busting through thick reeds with way too much decoy weight on my back. I had a "You're kidding me? I'm gonna die like this?" moment. I didn't. At least I'm pretty sure I'm still alive. Then I had the obligatory "I'm too old for this, uh, stuff" moment.

  • May 27, 2011

    Good Dog Gear: The Roy Gonia Special and/or the Acme Thunderer

    By Chad Love

    You can (and many do) spend thousands of dollars on wingers, bumper launchers, e-collars, training programs, birds and every other training aid known to man, but the one training item you'll use more than anything else, the one you will never, ever be without, costs about five bucks.

    It's a whistle, of course, and for many of us it's our primary means of non-verbal communication with our dogs. It's also perhaps the most individualistic training item. Everyone has a favorite whistle, whether it's hand-carved from a bit of antler, an old heirloom brass athletic whistle or a modern plastic whistle specifically designed for dog work. They all work, but some are more popular than others.

  • April 15, 2011

    Good Dog Gear: 'Training Retrievers to Handle' by D.L. Walters

    By Chad Love

    There has never been a greater quantity of easily accessible resources for the beginning retriever trainer than there are today. From dozens of DVD-based training programs to Internet websites, chatrooms, bulletin boards, forums and blogs that are frequented by thousands of like-minded gundog enthusiasts, you’re just a mouse click away from answers to any training question or problem you are likely to encounter. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone is feverishly working on a retriever training iPhone app (and if they aren’t, I’ve got dibs).

    Compare that to just a few years ago. I’m not exactly old, but when I got my first dog the only information sources I had were a stack of old Field & Streams and a copy of Bill Tarrant’s "Hey Pup, Fetch It Up!" A few years later I did acquire some worn-out VHS copies of Rex Carr and Mike Lardy training seminars, but that was about as high-tech as it got back in the early 1990s.

    Right now is truly the Golden Age of gundog training information. So why am I singing the praises of a musty, old-fashioned Gutenberg 1.0-based training app that was first published back in the Stone Age, A.D. 1979?

    Because D.L. Walters’ Training Retrievers to Handle is - in a field crowded with a number of very good training books and systems - still one of the classic treatises on teaching your dog to run blinds and handle, whether for the field or field trials.

  • March 18, 2011

    Good Dog Gear: Digital WIHA maps for your Garmin GPS.

    By Chad Love

    One of the best things to happen to upland bird hunting in the past few decades are state-implemented walk-in hunting (WIHA) programs. And one of the worst things to happen to upland bird hunting in the past few decades are the printed maps telling you where to find these hidden and widely-scattered temples of feathered Nirvana.

    It's not that they're inaccurate; they're not...mostly. What they are, especially to those of us with, uh, maturing eyesight, is unreadable. I know it's difficult to cram a county's worth of section lines onto one page, but when you're out in the middle of nowhere and you're trying to count how many section lines you need to drive to get to another piece of nowhere, it certainly doesn't help the cause (the cause being, "where the hell are we?") when you discover you need jeweler's loupes for eyeballs to read the damn things.

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