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.