With gas creeping toward (and in many cases breaking) five bucks a gallon, it’s getting ever more expensive to drive to your training grounds. But if you live in a heavily-populated area with no adequate training grounds nearby, you really have no choice. And it’s not a problem that’s limited to suburban areas, either. Despite living in the sticks, I have limited access to good training grounds nearby and must drive for virtually all of my field training.
It’s a never-ending struggle to find a good training spot, and then figure out a way to afford to get there. The trick is to get creative, and — to use a horribly tired expression — think outside the box. I’ve previously discussed some of my experiences in never-ending search for training grounds, some of the more, uh, unorthodox choices in the search for said grounds, and the idea of downsizing your rig to something more fuel efficient.
Sometimes, though, you have to burn a little gas to save some, and lately I’ve been doing more scouting for new (and closer) training grounds than I have new hunting areas. I’ll cruise nearby county roads looking for areas with training potential, then knock on doors and ask permission. And I always make it a point to stress to landowners that I’m responsible, my dogs are always under control, I know how to operate a gate, and that I’m not interested in nor will I ever ask to hunt (while secretly hoping they’ll offer…).
Another largely overlooked resource (especially for finding training water) is Google Earth. I’ll scour Google Earth for every nearby body of water or open area, then hop in the truck and check them out from the road. And if you can’t find an on-site landowner, spend a little time down at your county courthouse looking up public records.
I’ve also made up fliers and posted them on public bulletin boards around town, the grocery store, barber shops, feed stores, the post office, the local gunshop; pretty much anywhere local landowners may congregate or pass through. I usually include a nice picture of my dogs (everyone notices a good dog photograph) and a brief description of what I’m seeking and my contact number. I’ve found several training areas doing this, and you’d be surprised how many replies you may get. I’ve even had several landowners give me permission to train because they were curious about watching the dogs work. Everyone loves dogs, so it’s always a good idea to let your dogs be your ambassadors. I promise you, they’ll open some doors.
It may seem like a lot of work just for a place to train, but well worth it if you can end up shaving a few miles (and dollars) off your training commute. Do you have a favorite tip for saving a little gas, time and money in the search for new training grounds? I’d love to hear it.