September 08, 2009
Pup's First Dove Hunt: A Recipe for Success
By David DiBenedetto
My dog made me look good on Saturday. We were at her first dove hunt in Abbeville, S.C. In short, Pritch was alert, steady, responsive, and she used her nose well. There was some room for improvement but that will come with time. I was given some good advice before the hunt and learned plenty during it. Here’s a rundown:
Bring the dog. Leave the Gun: Your pup’s first dove hunt should be about pup, not you. Leave the gun at home and have someone else shoot for you. Sit with your dog just behind the gunner so that the pup learns to follow the swing of the shotgun and hopefully associate it with a falling bird. It wasn’t hard to get my brother Bob (below with Pritch) to volunteer for this job.
Water and Shade: It was 89 degrees and sunny on Saturday. In other words, it was hot enough to give a dog heat stroke. At the start of the hunt we set up in some shade until the birds were really flying, and then moved out into the sun. I also brought two big soda bottles that I had filled with water and frozen. I let Pritch lay or sit on one and used the melting water to fill her foldable bowl. I also occasionally doused her with water.
Set Up For Success: We chose a corner of the field that wasn’t loaded with other hunters so we could keep Pritch’s attention. We also initially set up so that the first bird would fall short of the heavy sunflowers in a clear patch of ground. Thanks to a deft shot by my brother, our plan worked and I whooped with delight after Pritch’s first retrieve. On a few others birds I did need to get off my seat and encourage her to come back.
Know When to Say When: I did not send Pritch after every bird. Some were too tough, and some she didn’t get a good mark on. This also helped keep her cooler in the heat and raring to go when I did send her. And before the afternoon was over I watered Pritch down and put her up. Then I took my own gun out and caped off the day with some poor shooting.
Bring a Mojo Dove! The fellows with Mojo Doves at our dove hunt had birds practically dive bombing them. Besides the absolute action a Mojo provides, it is a great way to bring birds right in front of the pup’s nose, making it a perfect tool for a first hunt.
One other thing, watching my dog work after months of training was one of my most fulfilling outdoor experiences. Can’t wait for the next dove hunt…and duck season. Here’s hoping your hunt went well, too.