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  • October 9, 2012

    Dog Gear Review: The Garmin Alpha GPS/E-Collar System, Part I

    By Chad Love

    As many of you are aware, Garmin recently introduced its new and highly-anticipated combination GPS/e-collar system dubbed the "Alpha."

    I finally got the chance to see and use the Alpha on a recent Montana bird hunt, and in the next few blog posts I'll be giving my initial impressions of the unit. But first, a little background. Garmin effectively invented the GPS tracking collar industry with its introduction of the Astro 220 a few years back. It became a smashing success, and has evolved through several iterations to the current Astro 320 and DC-40 collar system.

    The Astro, however, is not an e-collar, so dogs do have to wear separate collars for the Astro and the e-collar, which also means you have to carry both a separate e-collar transmitter and GPS handheld. It's not as cumbersome as it sounds, and with a little practice it becomes second nature, but the appeal of a combo GPS/e-collar system with one transmitter and one collar is obvious.

  • October 4, 2012

    Reader Story: Terminally Ill Bird Dog Still Hot on the Retrieve

    By Chad Love

    One of the coolest things about being a writer with a blogging gig like this is interaction with readers. Coming from a background in print journalism, where interaction with readers means—at best—a letter to the editor, (and at worst, an angry visitor to the newsroom) the immediacy and two-way nature of blogging means not only instant feedback from readers, but an accelerated appreciation of readers from me. In short, I feel like I sort of get to know them. Which can be cool.

    Such is the case with regular, if not always-in-agreement-with-me reader, "Ontario Honker." His comments are always interesting, entertaining and above all, honest and well thought out, even when they aren't in agreement what I'm writing. I appreciate that. So when my editor sent me a link to this brief story and picture on the Field & Stream Trophy Room well hell, I just had to share...

    Pearl was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer at U of Minn vet clinic in April 2012, and given only a few months at most to live. She is doing great and 100% since middle of the night two days after diagnosis. She made a great retrieve on this banded goose that fell 1/3 mile away in dense brush on 20/9/12.

  • October 2, 2012

    Lessons Learned from a Porcupine Encounter

    By Chad Love

    This is a picture of a lone porcupine quill. Just one of, literally, thousands of identical quills your average porcupine carries around on his backside every day of his life. But what's remarkable about this single quill is where it came from and what it represents. But first, a little background.

    I just returned from a road trip, during which I hunted in both Nebraska and Montana. And at every stop along the way, the dogs and I encountered porkies. In Nebraska, it was on a stylish, photogenic point that I was sure would result in a sandhills prairie chicken. Instead, I got a great point on a Cornhusker porcupine. Luckily, Jenny didn't break as I was trying to flush my non-existent chicken, and when I realized it was a porcupine hidden in the grass, we were able to pull the dogs off it.

  • September 27, 2012

    What Makes a Great Hunting Dog?

    By Chad Love

    I'm in Montana getting my first hands-on look at the new Garmin Alpha GPS dog-tracking system. And I got the chance yesterday to hunt with (and pick the brain of) pro trainer Nolan Huffman of Beeline Brittanys, who is justly famous for his incredible line of hunting and field trial Brittanys.

    Getting the opportunity to hunt behind some of his string was a special treat. Huffman (pictured here) is a North Carolina native who spends every summer and fall training, hunting and guiding on the bird-rich prairies around Lewistown, Mont. As I watched a pair of his Brittanys eat up ground while racing from one patch of cover to the next, handling and working ground efficiently without so much as a whistle or gesture from Nolan, I asked him how he trained his dogs to recognize and focus on good bird cover while avoiding unproductive ground.

  • September 24, 2012

    The Nebraska Sandhills: Bird-Hunting Heaven

    By Chad Love

    If you've never visited the Nebraska sandhills, you owe it to yourself to visit this undeniably beautiful bird-hunting destination at least once. It's definitely bucket-list worthy. Greater prairie chickens and sharptails are the main upland targets here, with sharptails being the predominant bird in the northern portions of the region and prairie chickens dominating the south. But what is common throughout this ecosystem is the beauty of the area.

    Undulating grass-covered sand hills, some rising as high as 300 feet, cover some 23,000 square miles of west-central Nebraska, with numerous spring-fed lakes dotting this unbroken, pristine and sparsely populated region. Being a lifelong prairie rat, it's also an area that has always intrigued me, so when hardcore bird hunter, central Nebraska native and sandhills lover Ted Gartner invited me to spend a day or two exploring the region while testing out Garmin's new Alpha track and train combination GPS/E-collar system, I jumped at the chance.

  • 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).

  • September 14, 2012

    Essential Dog Gear to Pack for Your Hunting Trips

    By Chad Love

    I'm in the process of packing for the first extended bird-hunting trip of the season. I thought it would be interesting to list a few of the less obvious things I always take with me on these trips, and then solicit your essential items - since I always enjoy learning from you.

    I carry a fairly extensive first-aid kit, but one thing I always keep in the bag are several syringes of an injectable antihistamine. Even though my dogs have the rattlesnake vaccine, an antihistamine can help stabilize a snake-bitten dog until you can reach a vet. Many guys carry Benadryl tablets for that purpose, but in the event of a snake bite I don't want to mess with trying to get a dog to swallow a pill. Plus, an injection will go to work much more quickly. Talk to your vet about it.

    And speaking of vets, I always make it a point to have the phone numbers of local vets handy when I'm hunting away from home. In an emergency that can save you precious time.

  • September 12, 2012

    U.S. Military's Newest Four-Legged Robot Still Farts

    By Chad Love

    It's been said, many times, that owning a gundog is the kind of year-round lifestyle commitment that, let's face it, not too many people are willing to make. As it's often said, you just can't throw a dog in the closet when you're finished with it. Or can you?

    Is the day coming when you can indeed just throw your gundog in the closet or park it in the garage after the season's over? Is the age of the robotic canine companion nigh? Will we finally be able to have a dog that will loyally hunt for us, carry things for us and provide us companionship, all without having to deal with chewed-up shoes, holes in the flowerbeds, poop-scooping, vet and dog-food bills and drifts of fur on the couch? Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. In spite of all that, however, scientists still can't figure out a way to keep the dogs of the future from farting.

  • September 7, 2012

    How to Feed Your Dog: Keys to a Healthy Gun Dog Diet

    By Tom Davis

    Training, conditioning, and diet—that three-part foundation determines how well a dog will perform in the field. Diet probably gets the least attention of the three, yet according to Brian Zanghi, a nutrition scientist for Nestlé Purina and a waterfowl hunter, a few tweaks can make a huge difference in your dog’s ability to hold up over the course of the season. Here are his tips to a better dog diet.

    DO feed your dog a performance diet—30 percent protein and 20 percent fat are the benchmarks—throughout the year. This regimen primes your dog’s metabolism to process oxygen and convert food into energy. “A dog fed a performance diet,” says Zanghi, “simply has more stamina right out of the box than a dog fed a diet lower in fat and protein—what are often called maintenance diets.”

  • September 5, 2012

    Marine Biologists Use Dog to Track Whales

    By Chad Love

    So you think your dog has a pretty good nose? Let me ask you this: can your dog track a whale across the ocean just by the scent of its, uh... effluvium? This dog can.

    From this story in the New York Times (And a hat tip to Phil Bourjaily for the find):

    A dog named Tucker with a thumping tail and a mysterious past as a stray on the streets of Seattle has become an unexpected star in the realm of canine-assisted science. He is the world’s only working dog, marine biologists say, able to find and track the scent of orca scat, or feces, in open ocean water — up to a mile away, in the smallest of specks.