I got an invitation to go quail hunting last weekend at Brays Plantation in Sheldon, S.C. I’m a newbie quail hunter, but I jumped at the chance, of course. The birds were thick, the weather was perfect, and, surprisingly, my shot wasn’t too far off.

My host, Jim Davis, has two Brittanys. One is a 3-year old named Prince (in the photo above) and the other, Di, is 8 months old. Both dogs are in the field about two days a week. The younger dog hasn’t had much training but performs great. Davis is sure that the pup has picked up some skills by running with the older, more experienced dog.

It’s an interesting theory. I’ve heard some people swear by the idea that a young pup can learn from an older bird dog, however, many others think the entire notion is bunk. I proposed the question to Steve Snell, owner of Gun Dog Supply, and veritable wizard when it comes to training bird dogs. Here’s some of what he had to say:

Yes, a young dog can learn from the older dog but you have to be careful about a few things. First, you need the right older dog. I have an English Pointer that I like to run young pups with since I know she will get them into wild birds. This gives the young dog a better chance at getting around singles and having a chance to learn.

Once I get the young dog on a few wild birds, I get it some ground time on its own. Otherwise, you could end up with a chronic “backer.” Some young dogs can get lazy or intimidated by the older dog and they wait around for them to do all the work.

You really have to base it on the individual dog. I have four pups under 7 months. One of them is doing well enough to get ground time with the older dogs. He is finding and pointing his own birds even with bigger older dogs on the ground. The other three are still in the puppy stage and are not ready yet.

I’m curious what you bird-doggers think. Can the young bird dog learn from the older dog? Have you had similar experiences? Let’s hear about it.

(For those who are interested, I did bring Pritch on the along. I kept her on a short lead for most of the afternoon, but set her loose toward the end of the hunt. She quickly fell into place and actually flushed her first quail…whether she meant to do it or not is another question!)