The Ongoing Search for Training Grounds

Ask any dog trainer, whether they're strictly a hunter or a weekend hunt tester, amateur field trialer, a pro or some combination thereof, "What's the biggest training issue you face?" The answer will most likely be finding training grounds where they can get their dogs on real birds.

It's not a very gundog-friendly world out there and urban and suburban trainers are forced to get creative with where and how they train. I've been kicked off golf course water hazards, city park ponds, neighborhood green spaces, soccer fields, state parks, deserted shopping mall parking lots, open fields destined to become housing developments and wherever else I thought might work for a bit of training. If it's big enough to throw a bumper, I've probably been asked to vacate the premises. If you can manage it (and keep from getting hassled) all those places are fine for yard work--handling drills and the like--but eventually, you have to get your dog into the real thing. And that's where many trainers turn to pen-raised birds.

So when I saw this thread on the Upland Journal bulletin board discussing a story on proposed changes to Oregon's dog-training laws it got my attention.

From the story on oregonlive.com:

_The pack howled, and alpha listened. Emerging from a pit of snarling dog owners Tuesday night in the basement meeting room of a Clackamas hotel, top officials of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife suggested Wednesday they might apply the brakes to a proposal that dog owners say would sharply limit their training. The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled to consider new dog-training rules at its February meeting. Tuesday's meeting was the second of seven around the state to explain the new rules, which for the first time would require anyone training a dog in the field to have a free permit. Trainers for decades have been technically in violation of a state law requiring a permit to release wildlife. Pen-reared, or domestically raised, game birds such as pheasants, quail and chukar are still considered wildlife, even if marked as pen-reared and sold for dog training.

The proposal would also limit trainers to releasing three birds per day. It also applies to raptor training. Department managers want reaction from the public. They will develop a final plan by mid-January and present it to the commission two weeks later. But with barely a week's notice of the public meetings, and in the middle of bird-hunting seasons, more than three dozen trainers, owners and bird-raisers showed up and unanimously bared their fangs in Clackamas. That's too fast, the proposal is not well thought-out, it will put some propagators out of business, and it addresses a nonexistent problem, they said. The low daily limit of three is where the fur really flies. Owners and trainers frequently buy and release far more birds, especially hen pheasants, when they train in the field._

And by reading some of the comments on the Upland Journal thread, it seems this is an issue in many states, and it's certainly not going away. As societal, economic and environmental pressures continue to squeeze those of us who love hunting and training dogs into a smaller and smaller niche, it's obvious that sporting-dog owners are going to have to stay politically aware and active to hold on to what we have.

Have you had to deal with anything similar to Oregon's new dog-training proposals? What's the current sporting-dog training situation in your state?