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Can You Put a Price Tag on Hunting With Your Gun Dog?

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February 09, 2012

Can You Put a Price Tag on Hunting With Your Gun Dog?

By Chad Love

There was an interesting article last month in a Texas A&M University publication called Agrilife Today, which sought to put a monetary value on the bobwhite quail.

The story has been making the rounds among quail hunters across the nation, and as it turns out, the average quail harvested in Texas is worth about $253 apiece. That's some expensive quail gravy right there. I'm sure that figure probably wouldn't vary too much for other regions of the country and other upland gamebirds, either. The article can be found here and it's well worth a read, but I'd like to touch on one aspect of that story as it relates to gundogs.

I don't know if the methodology used in this economic analysis included the cost of purchasing, training and caring for the dogs that most dedicated quail hunters own, but it got me to thinking about how much of a purely financial investment (aside from the emotional) we have in our dogs. From the initial cost of a puppy and its routine vet care, food, housing, training, equipment, and the myriad other small, day-to-day expenses of gundog ownership, all the way to the yearly cost of owning an adult, fully-trained gundog, how much do you think you spend?

Sit down one evening and put it to paper. The figure staring back at you might shock you. Now, as large as it may be, take that figure and then add to it all the other expenses you incur in a typical hunting season: Gas, food, lodging, leases (if you have one), licenses, shotguns and shells; the list is seemingly endless. Think about it for a while and it's easy to see how each Guy de la Valdene's "handful of feathers" can add up to $253.

But you shouldn’t look at it that way. Instead, consider the sum total of your out-of-pocket expenses as your investment—your buy-in, as it were—for the most incredible and rewarding hunting experience a man (or woman) can participate in: Sharing the field with your dog. It's a cliché, I know, but you can't put a price on that.

Or can you? Is there some upper limit on what you're willing or able to pay for the privilege of hunting upland birds (or waterfowl) with your dog? The next question is, what can we do to make sure it never gets to that point? Make more noise? Become as politically active as other hunter groups? Get more non-dog-owning, non-bird-hunting deer hunters out of their stands and take them hunting? Try to bring them into the gundog/wingshooting fold? Rightly or wrongly, bird hunting (and gundog ownership goes hand-in-hand with that) is increasingly seen as the exclusive province of the well-heeled. I'm not convinced that's true—not yet, anyway—but we have to somehow change that perception.

Maybe we need to look at ourselves as not just hunters and gundog owners, but as active recruiters for the gundog lifestyle. You and your dog are ambassadors, in a sense, for the gundog nation. Make it a point to invite someone along on your next hunt; get them fired up about dogs and birds and shotguns; make them see and experience for themselves why our upland birds and our upland traditions are just as important and worthy of attention, funding and protection as any other species.

And at the end of the day, hopefully you'll send your guests off with a newfound appreciation, a burgeoning awareness and a budding advocacy. But if they didn't shoot any birds on their own, don't send your guests off with any of your quail. Are you kidding? Those damn things are worth 253 bucks apiece.

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from labrador12 wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

Glock, my yellow lab, is not just a gun dog. He is my travelling companion to Ak. He is my fishing pal. He fetched a dying dog salmon last fall that was the first dog I'd seen in that watershed. He's an addition to any day, not just the days spent in the field and on the water. Plus, I warn people who want to fish near me that he is no respecter of expensive fly rods. I'm sure that there is an upper limit to what I'm willing to pay to hang with Glock, fotunately he's willing to pay the price. I'm known in someplaces as Glock's dad.

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from Charlie Nichols wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

Chad I am not sure the tide can be turned on the sad aspect of how hunting has become all about antlers. Here in WV that is all they care about. Oh there are some turkey hunters, but Spring Gobbler hunting takes skill and fall hunting of turkey requires woodsman skills, most antler hunters don't have that anymore. Buy a feeder, buy a camera, get the tree stand and blind and sit. Bird hunting takes walking not sitting. Is bird hunting expensive? Darn tooten it is. I don't doubt the $253 price tag on quail one bit either. More state fish and game agencies would develope habitat for birds but it is much harder than deer habitat to develope and really, the outcry for birds just is not there. Sooo, we go and hunt and enjoy ourselves; expensive, yep but I ain't sitting in no damn tree stand. I am behind a piece of art that I helped form and train. Ain't they both a piece of art out there quartering in front of me?

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from Charlie Nichols wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

Chad I am not sure the tide can be turned on the sad aspect of how hunting has become all about antlers. Here in WV that is all they care about. Oh there are some turkey hunters, but Spring Gobbler hunting takes skill and fall hunting of turkey requires woodsman skills, most antler hunters don't have that anymore. Buy a feeder, buy a camera, get the tree stand and blind and sit. Bird hunting takes walking not sitting. Is bird hunting expensive? Darn tooten it is. I don't doubt the $253 price tag on quail one bit either. More state fish and game agencies would develope habitat for birds but it is much harder than deer habitat to develope and really, the outcry for birds just is not there. Sooo, we go and hunt and enjoy ourselves; expensive, yep but I ain't sitting in no damn tree stand. I am behind a piece of art that I helped form and train. Ain't they both a piece of art out there quartering in front of me?

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from labrador12 wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

Glock, my yellow lab, is not just a gun dog. He is my travelling companion to Ak. He is my fishing pal. He fetched a dying dog salmon last fall that was the first dog I'd seen in that watershed. He's an addition to any day, not just the days spent in the field and on the water. Plus, I warn people who want to fish near me that he is no respecter of expensive fly rods. I'm sure that there is an upper limit to what I'm willing to pay to hang with Glock, fotunately he's willing to pay the price. I'm known in someplaces as Glock's dad.

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