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Who's Leaving Their Dogs Home This Dove Season?

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August 29, 2011

Who's Leaving Their Dogs Home This Dove Season?

By Chad Love

Unless you're lucky enough to live in one of the states with an early September opener for grouse and other upland birds, Thursday's dove season opener marks - for most of us - the traditional September kick-off to the fall bird hunting season. Both my dogs, however, are staying in their kennels this week.

Why? For a whole host of reasons I've never been a big fan of taking dogs along on the dove opener. I think one of the worst things you can do to a young dog or a pup--especially one that hasn't had much exposure to gunfire--is to take him or her into a hot, dry, dusty dove field, surround them with strangers blazing away on all sides and then expect them to retrieve your birds. Not to mention, all the while as everyone up and down the line continues to shoot and birds are falling all over the place. The chaos of the typical opening weekend dove field is no place for a young dog.

Having said that, however, I usually do take my old retriever along on opening week hunts. She's eight and therefore knows the game, and since I generally hunt alone and live in an arid region where I target mostly small stock tanks, windmill ponds and water holes rather than large feed fields, I don't have to worry about such issues. But this year, even the old lady is staying home. With my part of the country still in the throes of an epic drought and heat wave that shows no signs of easing up, it's just not worth taking the chance. This year, thanks to the heat  and the dangers of contaminated water,I can't even let my dog cool off between retrieves with a swim because either there's no water for a swim or what water there is looks like a bad Petri dish culture.

So with even early-morning temperatures staying in the 90s and late-afternoon hunts promising to be well above 100, my dogs are staying home and I'll be picking up my own birds. What about yours? Agree? Disagree?

Comments (12)

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from Double D wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Agree. I'll hunt my Lab Aengus in the morning by myself, but he's getting put in the kennel when I go out with friends for a group shoot. He may not think so, but it will be much more enjoyable for both of us if I don't have to worry about (or yell at) the big, black beast with a dozen different shotguns going off around us.

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from Coachcl wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

I am taking my pup out the 1st 2 days as I will just be hunting on a farm near my house and I will be the only one within hearing range hunting. With that said, when the weekend comes he will be staying home as you pointed out the fields will be crowded.

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from dogwood wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Agreed. Another consideration is snakes, but then it'll probably be too hot for them. My young dog will stay home alone and I'll be sweating underneath a camo umbrella wearing shorts and short sleeves. Nothing seems to change on opening day--out in the field earlier than need be only to sweat bullets for the first hour or two before they start flying....

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

That is definitely not my kind of hunting in any event, drought or not. Sittng on a firing line just won't do it for me. Goose season opens here on Thursday. I should get out and look for some in the fields. I'll probably have to hunt the sod farm as no grain is off the fields yet. We have lots of good water available and temps are quite tolerable right now. Geese and ducks did very well this year. Some ducks appear to have had two hatches. I'm not seeing many grouse so maybe they are at the bottom of their cycle. Darn. Just when I picked up my first pointing dog. Ducks and grouse open 15 September. I am thinking VERY seriously about heading to Manitoba and hunt geese on my way West for uplands. Most of the year I wish I could get back to work but if someone doesn't hire me in the next few weeks I'm going to be unavailable till after Christmas. I doubt I will even answer my cell.

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from FSU70 wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Well South Carolina has had the same dry 100 degree weather you mentioned your experiencing. Our sunflowers are much smaller and our corn burned up in the field.
Suppose to be partly cloudy and 94 Saturday which is our opening day. I will have a back pack to carry my Labs 2 gallons of water, bowl, my water and my shells. I've worked my dog in the heat all summer because that is the nature of South Carolina whether we have drought conditions or not. But I pay particular attention to the condition of my dog and make sure he takes plenty of water and doesn't over run his downed birds. I keep extra water in the truck and since we rotate stands every hour there is always a opportunity to rotate into some shade.
Dogs make the experience of dove hunting that much more pleasurable but keeping the dog hydrated is the top priority. So far it's worked the last five years.

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from RES1956 wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

FSU70's got it right for me too. Heat has always been a peril of hunting in the deep south. Packing prodigious amounts of water and a bowl has been S.O.P. ever since time began for me with retrieving dogs. The dogs I hunt are acclimated to the heat and don't live inside in AC. We train in the morning and evening and they live in the kennel the rest of the day.
The two greatest factors in being able to keep a dog going in the heat are to keep the animal well hydrated (and this means packing a cooler with LOTS of water) and make sure the animal is in shape.
The problems I have seen with dogs are the folks who let them lay on the sofa all year long and throw a few bumpers for old Phydeaux to fetch to knock the rust off, so to speak, and expect topnotch performance. If the dog has any kind of drive and instinct, when the birds start falling, the animal will fetch them or die trying, which is a very real possibility in 90 degree heat.
Dry dusty cornfields, heat, and doves go hand in hand, if your gonna use that dog you train with 365 days a year to hunt, it is up to you to make sure the animal is ready.
I agree that the opening day dove shoot is a terrible place to take a young dog, if it has not been properly trained. Before I would ever consider it the dog must be under absolute control, and even then it will require a gunner and a handler.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

I certainly agree with RES on keeping the dogs in shape. I confess, mine do spend a lot of time on the couch during the year. I walk them at least twice a day usually for a couple of miles but that isn't terribly conditioning. It does however help get them mentally in shape since much of the walking is done off leash - they are constantly being refreshed with my imposition of control. I always start them field hunting geese for several weeks before we head West for uplands. It can be warm but the hunting is not frantic and there is always water someplace nearby. Although we are field hunting there's a lot of walking involved, which amounts to running for them. The dogs are allowed to "work" the fields when I walk out before sunrise to set up (I only drive out into the fields on the rare weekend hunt [I almost always hunt during the week] so that others will know where I'm setting up and not inadvertantly set themselves up too close to me). During the day before the afternoon flights come, I'll walk about a ten mile loop to several dugouts and ditches checking them for ducks. Anyway, I'll be out hunting for geese with the dogs three or four times a week usually twelve hours or more each day for six weeks before we head West. By the time they are chasing pheasants they're in pretty good shape both mentally and physically. I sure see a lot of dogs out there who are not! And their owners too. Most of those guys consider it a "bad year" if they can't fill their bag of three birds in an hour or so. One look at their waist line and you can see why! I consider it great hunting if I have to work the dogs and myself all day. If I get a limit, fine. If not, even better. I'm usually very tired when I get done at the end of the day and the fewer birds I have to clean, the sooner I can put on the feed bag and hit the hay (or a stool at the Mint Bar).

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from billyjo bondurant wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

yes I am leaving my dogs at home. I will be hunting in a new area and with differnt people they are not use to yet, my dogs acted like big puppies and forget their manners or what they are supposed to do.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

Dove season, I like a very low population if none of hunters and high density of doves!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

none replace of VOID OF HUNTERS!

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from FSU70 wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

Ot Honker, you sound like a man that enjoys feeling the feeling. Meaning it's not just the hunt, the quick limit and out of the field...... but as much about the process as the product. Walking the field with a dog, or sharing a blind, getting a limit if it comes but more so maxing out on the experience of the great outdoors. That is truly what hunting is all about for me. I do most my hunting and fishing now during the week. Being retired will do that for you. My lab stays in a pen at night but during the day he is with me in or out of the house or in the boat or in the truck. Kind of like Honker said, constant imposition of control. Additionally it builds a relationship that comes from spending time with your dog. I've met quiet a few guys where the dog is just a tool like his golf clubs, deer rifle, boat and what ever other toy he has. No " feeling the feeling " in that relationship. Just an all about me, get my limit look at me !

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

Thanks, FSU. There are a few of us still out there. My dad was that way too. If you have been on this site long enough you have probably seen the technocrap showoffs labling guys like us "purists" or "old fogeys." They don't have a clue. Hope they don't have to wait till they're retired before they do.

I watched a thread a while back where a young guy was complaining about the technocrap direction "black powder" hunting was going. It was kinda sickening. I had no idea how far those things had wandered from the old style Kentucky rifle that guys used for that season when I was a kid. Compound bows bear about as much resemblence to a long bow or recurve as they do to a Klingon warship. But I can tolerate that because it does open up the sport to more "ordinary" folks and it makes for better kills and less errant shots. But this stuff that's going on with black powder guns is way over the line! Breechloading black powder rifles with scopes ... c'mon!

I hunt with sixteen very old G&H honker shells that I carry on my back out into the fields. The flute call I use is probably at least fifty years old (bought it from an old hunter's estate). No layoout blinds or mojo decoys or 3.5" magnum auto. I had to keep it simple for over twenty years because I didn't have much money and a family waiting at home. Lost the family (double tragedy) and now have more money than I can spend in a lifetime. But I am NOT going to change a thing. Hopefully the kind-hearted farmers in the communities where I hunt won't either and I will be able to continue keeping it simple and in touch with what really counts.

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from dogwood wrote 2 years 32 weeks ago

My premonition to leave the dog at home was justified. Several of the dogs that showed-up quit. It was too hot. On the way out of the field, the man on the stand next to me shot and killed a 4' timber rattler. Around here a rattler that size can kill a dog almost as quickly as a Mack truck.

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from FSU70 wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

Ot Honker, you sound like a man that enjoys feeling the feeling. Meaning it's not just the hunt, the quick limit and out of the field...... but as much about the process as the product. Walking the field with a dog, or sharing a blind, getting a limit if it comes but more so maxing out on the experience of the great outdoors. That is truly what hunting is all about for me. I do most my hunting and fishing now during the week. Being retired will do that for you. My lab stays in a pen at night but during the day he is with me in or out of the house or in the boat or in the truck. Kind of like Honker said, constant imposition of control. Additionally it builds a relationship that comes from spending time with your dog. I've met quiet a few guys where the dog is just a tool like his golf clubs, deer rifle, boat and what ever other toy he has. No " feeling the feeling " in that relationship. Just an all about me, get my limit look at me !

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Double D wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Agree. I'll hunt my Lab Aengus in the morning by myself, but he's getting put in the kennel when I go out with friends for a group shoot. He may not think so, but it will be much more enjoyable for both of us if I don't have to worry about (or yell at) the big, black beast with a dozen different shotguns going off around us.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Coachcl wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

I am taking my pup out the 1st 2 days as I will just be hunting on a farm near my house and I will be the only one within hearing range hunting. With that said, when the weekend comes he will be staying home as you pointed out the fields will be crowded.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from dogwood wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Agreed. Another consideration is snakes, but then it'll probably be too hot for them. My young dog will stay home alone and I'll be sweating underneath a camo umbrella wearing shorts and short sleeves. Nothing seems to change on opening day--out in the field earlier than need be only to sweat bullets for the first hour or two before they start flying....

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

That is definitely not my kind of hunting in any event, drought or not. Sittng on a firing line just won't do it for me. Goose season opens here on Thursday. I should get out and look for some in the fields. I'll probably have to hunt the sod farm as no grain is off the fields yet. We have lots of good water available and temps are quite tolerable right now. Geese and ducks did very well this year. Some ducks appear to have had two hatches. I'm not seeing many grouse so maybe they are at the bottom of their cycle. Darn. Just when I picked up my first pointing dog. Ducks and grouse open 15 September. I am thinking VERY seriously about heading to Manitoba and hunt geese on my way West for uplands. Most of the year I wish I could get back to work but if someone doesn't hire me in the next few weeks I'm going to be unavailable till after Christmas. I doubt I will even answer my cell.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from FSU70 wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Well South Carolina has had the same dry 100 degree weather you mentioned your experiencing. Our sunflowers are much smaller and our corn burned up in the field.
Suppose to be partly cloudy and 94 Saturday which is our opening day. I will have a back pack to carry my Labs 2 gallons of water, bowl, my water and my shells. I've worked my dog in the heat all summer because that is the nature of South Carolina whether we have drought conditions or not. But I pay particular attention to the condition of my dog and make sure he takes plenty of water and doesn't over run his downed birds. I keep extra water in the truck and since we rotate stands every hour there is always a opportunity to rotate into some shade.
Dogs make the experience of dove hunting that much more pleasurable but keeping the dog hydrated is the top priority. So far it's worked the last five years.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

FSU70's got it right for me too. Heat has always been a peril of hunting in the deep south. Packing prodigious amounts of water and a bowl has been S.O.P. ever since time began for me with retrieving dogs. The dogs I hunt are acclimated to the heat and don't live inside in AC. We train in the morning and evening and they live in the kennel the rest of the day.
The two greatest factors in being able to keep a dog going in the heat are to keep the animal well hydrated (and this means packing a cooler with LOTS of water) and make sure the animal is in shape.
The problems I have seen with dogs are the folks who let them lay on the sofa all year long and throw a few bumpers for old Phydeaux to fetch to knock the rust off, so to speak, and expect topnotch performance. If the dog has any kind of drive and instinct, when the birds start falling, the animal will fetch them or die trying, which is a very real possibility in 90 degree heat.
Dry dusty cornfields, heat, and doves go hand in hand, if your gonna use that dog you train with 365 days a year to hunt, it is up to you to make sure the animal is ready.
I agree that the opening day dove shoot is a terrible place to take a young dog, if it has not been properly trained. Before I would ever consider it the dog must be under absolute control, and even then it will require a gunner and a handler.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

I certainly agree with RES on keeping the dogs in shape. I confess, mine do spend a lot of time on the couch during the year. I walk them at least twice a day usually for a couple of miles but that isn't terribly conditioning. It does however help get them mentally in shape since much of the walking is done off leash - they are constantly being refreshed with my imposition of control. I always start them field hunting geese for several weeks before we head West for uplands. It can be warm but the hunting is not frantic and there is always water someplace nearby. Although we are field hunting there's a lot of walking involved, which amounts to running for them. The dogs are allowed to "work" the fields when I walk out before sunrise to set up (I only drive out into the fields on the rare weekend hunt [I almost always hunt during the week] so that others will know where I'm setting up and not inadvertantly set themselves up too close to me). During the day before the afternoon flights come, I'll walk about a ten mile loop to several dugouts and ditches checking them for ducks. Anyway, I'll be out hunting for geese with the dogs three or four times a week usually twelve hours or more each day for six weeks before we head West. By the time they are chasing pheasants they're in pretty good shape both mentally and physically. I sure see a lot of dogs out there who are not! And their owners too. Most of those guys consider it a "bad year" if they can't fill their bag of three birds in an hour or so. One look at their waist line and you can see why! I consider it great hunting if I have to work the dogs and myself all day. If I get a limit, fine. If not, even better. I'm usually very tired when I get done at the end of the day and the fewer birds I have to clean, the sooner I can put on the feed bag and hit the hay (or a stool at the Mint Bar).

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from billyjo bondurant wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

yes I am leaving my dogs at home. I will be hunting in a new area and with differnt people they are not use to yet, my dogs acted like big puppies and forget their manners or what they are supposed to do.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

Dove season, I like a very low population if none of hunters and high density of doves!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

none replace of VOID OF HUNTERS!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

Thanks, FSU. There are a few of us still out there. My dad was that way too. If you have been on this site long enough you have probably seen the technocrap showoffs labling guys like us "purists" or "old fogeys." They don't have a clue. Hope they don't have to wait till they're retired before they do.

I watched a thread a while back where a young guy was complaining about the technocrap direction "black powder" hunting was going. It was kinda sickening. I had no idea how far those things had wandered from the old style Kentucky rifle that guys used for that season when I was a kid. Compound bows bear about as much resemblence to a long bow or recurve as they do to a Klingon warship. But I can tolerate that because it does open up the sport to more "ordinary" folks and it makes for better kills and less errant shots. But this stuff that's going on with black powder guns is way over the line! Breechloading black powder rifles with scopes ... c'mon!

I hunt with sixteen very old G&H honker shells that I carry on my back out into the fields. The flute call I use is probably at least fifty years old (bought it from an old hunter's estate). No layoout blinds or mojo decoys or 3.5" magnum auto. I had to keep it simple for over twenty years because I didn't have much money and a family waiting at home. Lost the family (double tragedy) and now have more money than I can spend in a lifetime. But I am NOT going to change a thing. Hopefully the kind-hearted farmers in the communities where I hunt won't either and I will be able to continue keeping it simple and in touch with what really counts.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from dogwood wrote 2 years 32 weeks ago

My premonition to leave the dog at home was justified. Several of the dogs that showed-up quit. It was too hot. On the way out of the field, the man on the stand next to me shot and killed a 4' timber rattler. Around here a rattler that size can kill a dog almost as quickly as a Mack truck.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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