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How Do You Find Public Land to Train Your Gun Dog?

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September 18, 2012

How Do You Find Public Land to Train Your Gun Dog?

By Chad Love

I have stated previously that the two biggest hurdles to gundog ownership (and the two biggest reasons for its subsequent decline) are the continued loss of upland and waterfowl habitat, and the difficulty of finding adequate places to train. Congress is currently busy doing its part to hasten the former, but a press release I happened to notice yesterday on the Outdoor Wire makes me think there's hope still for alleviating the latter.

From this story on the Outdoor Wire:
The U. S. Forest Service, in cooperation with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), has opened a bird dog training area (BDTA) on the Vernon Unit of the Kisatchie National Forest (KNF), similar to those on LDWF Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs).

The approximately 80-acre site locally known as the "Dove Field" is east of LA 399 and about 1 mile north of the Fullerton community in Vernon Parish. Similar to bird dog training areas within Sandy Hollow, Sherburne, Lake Ramsay Savannah, and Bodcau WMAs, the KNF Dove Field BDTA will provide quail hunters a place to train bird dogs during and outside of the regular upland bird hunting seasons.

According to the story, dog training can be conducted at the site year-round, except during turkey season. Furthermore, trainers are allowed to use training birds, including banded pen-raised quail, but must have a special (but free) permit.

What a great idea! The public hunting areas in my state are closed to dog training through the summer and don't open up until Sept. 1. That means when I want to run my dogs or work them on planted birds and gunfire I've got to scramble to find private ground. And we all know how hard that is to find these days. I live within ten miles of a public hunting area, but I'm forced to make an almost 90-mile round trip if I want to train in the summer months.

With gas pushing four bucks a gallon, that makes for some expensive training days. So I'd love to see this happen in my state, and I don't know why more state wildlife agencies don't offer designated year-round dog training areas on their public ground. Seems to me that anything making it easier for people to get into upland bird or waterfowl hunting is a win for the sport and a forward-looking act of self-preservation for state game and fish agencies.

Not all public lands, of course. Those areas aren't closed for spite, they're closed for very good reasons, namely to give ground-nesting gamebirds a chance to rear their broods. But having a small 80 or 160-acre area open to training would be a great boon to gundog owners (especially in areas near population centers where training grounds are scarce) and wouldn't adversely affect nesting on the rest of the area. I'd certainly utilize it.

Does your state offer designated dog-training areas on its public lands? If not, that may be something for local gundog clubs or chapters to work toward changing.

Comments (12)

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 29 weeks ago

Access to private land for dog training is not a problem here. The farmers out in the valley are a very generous lot. They refuse to succumb to hunting leases and allow access just about any time to anyone provided they don't drive on the alfalfa or grain crops till after they're harvested or first frost hits.

I think that is a great idea. Now if they'll just do something more about the loss of public hunting land problem Doesn't make sens to train a dog if there's no place to use it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 1 year 29 weeks ago

Pretty common to see those E-collars on those who are serious about training their gun dogs. They work! We have little trouble here in Idaho to find available land to train dogs on. What we don't have is good bird cover.

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from hawndog wrote 1 year 29 weeks ago

Funny that Kisatchie National Forest is used as an exaple of dog hunter friendliness. They recently banned the use of deer dogs there.

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from redfishunter wrote 1 year 29 weeks ago

Probably because running your deer dogs will ruin all of the other still hunters chances of getting anything. Not to mention the peacefulness of the hunt. There's nothing worse than sitting in a deer stand to have some loud dog barreling through the woods making all kinds of racket, with his owner nowhere in sight. A dog quietly retrieving a downed quail, not so much.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 29 weeks ago

Hear, hear! Thank you, Redfish.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 29 weeks ago

Sayfu, I just returned from walking my three dogs to Tim Horton's (look it up) and back in the middle of the city without ANY training collars or leashes. They are like guided missiles, even the peppy one year-old Britt. Never used an e-collar in my life. My dogs have learned to respond to me not some prone-to-break-down piece of electronic technocrap. I'm glad they have bonded with me rather than some object produced by someone they don't know half a world away in a Chinese sweatshop.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 1 year 29 weeks ago

For what it is worth, an ecollar is an invaluable training tool, especially when you have ten or fifteen client's dogs and the client wants to see results in 30, 60, or 90 days. Their use should be left to savvy pros or equally savvy amatuer trainers because misuse can erode favorable behavior (or just plain ruin a dog) very quickly.
For the individual who has a single dog and unlimited time, an ecollar probably is not necessary, especially considering the level to which a dog is to be trained. However, it sure is a handy little tool to have when Ol Jughead starts blowing off the whistle or starts giving cast refusals at say, 200 yards. I am too old and fat to run ricky tick that far and give correction.
90% of the folks around here train to the level of a 'Bubba Dog', meaning that when the gun goes off and something falls, it goes and gets it, and sometimes even brings it back to the fellow that shot it. I demand several things from the dogs I hunt with and first and foremost is marking ability. A steady dog is a better marker than one who takes off after a falling bird, not to mention when there are multiple birds downed. Sure, he has a good idea of where the first bird is, but what about the others he didn't see fall in his haste to recover the first bird? What about the ducks the other fellows shot that fell crippled (mine of course always fall stone dead, umphh umm) and have to be shot on the water? Is that safe for a dog that is in the water before it was sent?
My point is, that an ecollar can help even amateur trainers get to a well controlled, enjoyable hunting companion much faster than one who tries to train without the use of one. Be not so quick to condemn before you have seen the virtue.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 1 year 29 weeks ago

Back on the topic of the blog. Our HRC club routinely is allowed access off season to many hunting preserves and private land on which to train. I am currently working with the Dept of Fish and Game to open Management areas off season for the purpose of gun dog training. Unfortunately, most are managed for deer and turkey, not upland birds or waterfowl and little suitable area is available. While it may not be ideal, any is better than none.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from hawndog wrote 1 year 29 weeks ago

When I turn my dogs loose there are no still hunters around for me to ruin there chances. I dont want to get to off topic, I have said all of this before if you care to look up previous blogs.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 29 weeks ago

RES, that is some sensible advice! As to the Bubba Dog reference, my dogs have always broke at shot and I have never had a problem with it. For pheasants I want my dogs on top of that bird as soon as possible when it hits the ground. It is senseless to have them waiting till I release them. Those dang crippled roosters have an uncanny way of putting the slip on even the best-nosed dogs. The sooner the chase is on the better. I hunt geese hiding in thick hedgerows with decoys forty yards in front of us. I'm usually taking the geese as they circle. Often I can barely see what I'm doing when I shoot and as often as not I cannot see the geese fall. If the dogs don't break when I shoot they're not going to see them fall either. Only two of the geese I have shot this season have fell in sight over the decoys. Case in point is the banded one I brought down two days ago. I was pretty sure that bird folded but I lost sight of it instantly. Dogs were already out in clear view by the time I fired the second shot and they had that goose back to me before I could climb out of the sticks to see how they were making out. Personally, I have found that breaking at shot has proven to be at least as advantageous as disadvantageous. Just not as stylish. Take a good look at the holes in my hunting coat and you can tell just how much being stylish means to me.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Erik Jensen wrote 1 year 29 weeks ago

MN allows the use of public lands with a free permit, I'm not sure about the use of released birds there, though. You can train dogs to get used to gunfire, smell dummies etc. And there's no restriction on the use of public waters to get a dog used to gunfire and retrieving during off season. You just have to use steel shot and common sense (don't do it too close to other boaters).

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from TheBirdySportsman wrote 1 year 28 weeks ago

RES, you probably won't check back for replys but if you do I encourage you to do some research on positive reinforcement before shrugging it off as voodoo. E-collars are strictly an American short cut. The british breed and train some of the finest gun dogs in the world and don't use them.

Google Mike Stewart's Wildrose Kennels and Robert Milner's Duckhill Kennels. Robert used to be the leader in force fetching but has since changed his methods to 100% positive reinforcement for training both gun dogs and military dogs. He says that changing to PI from force has in fact sped up training, cutting the time in half. Those are two of the finest trainers in the country, both leave the e-collars on store shelves.

We are discovering how dogs and other animals really think and there are plenty of resources out there that explain the process. The issue is folks like you that know what they know and refuse to learn anything else, even if in the end it will help them out. Sometimes traditions are good, but most of the time they become a hindrance.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 29 weeks ago

Access to private land for dog training is not a problem here. The farmers out in the valley are a very generous lot. They refuse to succumb to hunting leases and allow access just about any time to anyone provided they don't drive on the alfalfa or grain crops till after they're harvested or first frost hits.

I think that is a great idea. Now if they'll just do something more about the loss of public hunting land problem Doesn't make sens to train a dog if there's no place to use it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 1 year 29 weeks ago

Pretty common to see those E-collars on those who are serious about training their gun dogs. They work! We have little trouble here in Idaho to find available land to train dogs on. What we don't have is good bird cover.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from hawndog wrote 1 year 29 weeks ago

Funny that Kisatchie National Forest is used as an exaple of dog hunter friendliness. They recently banned the use of deer dogs there.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from redfishunter wrote 1 year 29 weeks ago

Probably because running your deer dogs will ruin all of the other still hunters chances of getting anything. Not to mention the peacefulness of the hunt. There's nothing worse than sitting in a deer stand to have some loud dog barreling through the woods making all kinds of racket, with his owner nowhere in sight. A dog quietly retrieving a downed quail, not so much.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 29 weeks ago

Hear, hear! Thank you, Redfish.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 1 year 29 weeks ago

For what it is worth, an ecollar is an invaluable training tool, especially when you have ten or fifteen client's dogs and the client wants to see results in 30, 60, or 90 days. Their use should be left to savvy pros or equally savvy amatuer trainers because misuse can erode favorable behavior (or just plain ruin a dog) very quickly.
For the individual who has a single dog and unlimited time, an ecollar probably is not necessary, especially considering the level to which a dog is to be trained. However, it sure is a handy little tool to have when Ol Jughead starts blowing off the whistle or starts giving cast refusals at say, 200 yards. I am too old and fat to run ricky tick that far and give correction.
90% of the folks around here train to the level of a 'Bubba Dog', meaning that when the gun goes off and something falls, it goes and gets it, and sometimes even brings it back to the fellow that shot it. I demand several things from the dogs I hunt with and first and foremost is marking ability. A steady dog is a better marker than one who takes off after a falling bird, not to mention when there are multiple birds downed. Sure, he has a good idea of where the first bird is, but what about the others he didn't see fall in his haste to recover the first bird? What about the ducks the other fellows shot that fell crippled (mine of course always fall stone dead, umphh umm) and have to be shot on the water? Is that safe for a dog that is in the water before it was sent?
My point is, that an ecollar can help even amateur trainers get to a well controlled, enjoyable hunting companion much faster than one who tries to train without the use of one. Be not so quick to condemn before you have seen the virtue.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 1 year 29 weeks ago

Back on the topic of the blog. Our HRC club routinely is allowed access off season to many hunting preserves and private land on which to train. I am currently working with the Dept of Fish and Game to open Management areas off season for the purpose of gun dog training. Unfortunately, most are managed for deer and turkey, not upland birds or waterfowl and little suitable area is available. While it may not be ideal, any is better than none.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from hawndog wrote 1 year 29 weeks ago

When I turn my dogs loose there are no still hunters around for me to ruin there chances. I dont want to get to off topic, I have said all of this before if you care to look up previous blogs.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 29 weeks ago

RES, that is some sensible advice! As to the Bubba Dog reference, my dogs have always broke at shot and I have never had a problem with it. For pheasants I want my dogs on top of that bird as soon as possible when it hits the ground. It is senseless to have them waiting till I release them. Those dang crippled roosters have an uncanny way of putting the slip on even the best-nosed dogs. The sooner the chase is on the better. I hunt geese hiding in thick hedgerows with decoys forty yards in front of us. I'm usually taking the geese as they circle. Often I can barely see what I'm doing when I shoot and as often as not I cannot see the geese fall. If the dogs don't break when I shoot they're not going to see them fall either. Only two of the geese I have shot this season have fell in sight over the decoys. Case in point is the banded one I brought down two days ago. I was pretty sure that bird folded but I lost sight of it instantly. Dogs were already out in clear view by the time I fired the second shot and they had that goose back to me before I could climb out of the sticks to see how they were making out. Personally, I have found that breaking at shot has proven to be at least as advantageous as disadvantageous. Just not as stylish. Take a good look at the holes in my hunting coat and you can tell just how much being stylish means to me.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Erik Jensen wrote 1 year 29 weeks ago

MN allows the use of public lands with a free permit, I'm not sure about the use of released birds there, though. You can train dogs to get used to gunfire, smell dummies etc. And there's no restriction on the use of public waters to get a dog used to gunfire and retrieving during off season. You just have to use steel shot and common sense (don't do it too close to other boaters).

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from TheBirdySportsman wrote 1 year 28 weeks ago

RES, you probably won't check back for replys but if you do I encourage you to do some research on positive reinforcement before shrugging it off as voodoo. E-collars are strictly an American short cut. The british breed and train some of the finest gun dogs in the world and don't use them.

Google Mike Stewart's Wildrose Kennels and Robert Milner's Duckhill Kennels. Robert used to be the leader in force fetching but has since changed his methods to 100% positive reinforcement for training both gun dogs and military dogs. He says that changing to PI from force has in fact sped up training, cutting the time in half. Those are two of the finest trainers in the country, both leave the e-collars on store shelves.

We are discovering how dogs and other animals really think and there are plenty of resources out there that explain the process. The issue is folks like you that know what they know and refuse to learn anything else, even if in the end it will help them out. Sometimes traditions are good, but most of the time they become a hindrance.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 29 weeks ago

Sayfu, I just returned from walking my three dogs to Tim Horton's (look it up) and back in the middle of the city without ANY training collars or leashes. They are like guided missiles, even the peppy one year-old Britt. Never used an e-collar in my life. My dogs have learned to respond to me not some prone-to-break-down piece of electronic technocrap. I'm glad they have bonded with me rather than some object produced by someone they don't know half a world away in a Chinese sweatshop.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report

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