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A Day in The Woods With Brandy

June 21, 2008
By JON MAGEE, For The Inter-Mountain
We have been experiencing some nice cool weather this week and I thought it would make for some comfortable hiking and dog training on some of our trails in the National Forest.

This is a great time to be in the woods, everything is green and wildflowers blooming. Many animals and birds can be spotted with their babies while enjoying a walk along the many trails in the Monongahela National Forest.

I took my 1-year-old pointer with me one day for a nice hike on one of the many trails on Bickle Knob earlier this week. She needed to run and I used the time to reinforce some of her basic training for hunting this fall. It was a beautiful morning, nice and cool. The forest was still damp from the previous evening’s rain, which would make good conditions for scenting birds as we worked a few clear cuts where there are normally a few grouse.

I was not really trying to find grouse since they have young with them. We were just looking for some scent so Brandy could point and reinforce her steadiness on point. Lately, she has had a tendency to creep while on point, mostly because I have been slack in my training. We were also working on her range. At a year old she is really starting to feel her oats and running ahead of where I would like her to hunt. Again, my fault. However, it was time to get a handle on her and round out her training so she can be a competent hunter this fall when grouse and woodcock season opens.

I strapped some grouse wings onto a couple training dummies and planted them for her along our path. Once she got out of range, I would plant a dummy and call her back letting her hunt back toward me until she caught wind of the bird wing. This is supposed to teach a dog to hunt close.

The dog learns to associate the birds as being close to the handler and in turn, hunts close by searching every likely spot nearby. It works better with live birds, but the dummies seemed to work well with Brandy this day.

As far as her pointing, that was another good thing by using this training technique. I could see her when she went on point and stop her if she started to creep. Most of the time the bird (dummy) was within 20 yards, so when she pointed the feathered dummies I could correct her the moment she started to break point. It did not take long for her to relearn these things and after a few points, she was working well and staying close by as she explored back and forth, always hunting, searching the air for the scent of a game bird.

We had a good walk, it was not too hot and I did not have to worry about her getting overheated. That can be a concern this time of year, but the temperature was in the 50s and the bugs were not even a concern as we walked along the overgrown logging roads. We even found a couple grouse, which Brandy pointed nicely after her earlier lessons.

I usually like to hike alone so I can observe deer with their fawns or watch a flock of turkeys interacting with their young and try to get some good photos. But I have a hard time leaving the dogs at home when they enjoy being in the woods as much as I do. I may not see as much wildlife when the dogs are with me, but I also enjoy watching Brandy work, shaping her hunting and pointing abilities and anticipating the hunting we will do when autumn arrives. Hopefully young Brandy will be up to the challenge.



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