Whether you own one or several, you know the value of a good hunting dog.
While it is true that some dogs are more capable than others, they all do a pretty darn good job.
I've learned from hunting in all sorts of weather and conditions, and from judging numerous dog trials, that there it is an absolute truth to the saying "every dog has its day." Some dogs perform well in hot weather, others do not. Some handle high winds better than others. The amount of experience and the species of bird being hunted makes a difference too. At dog trials, handlers know there is a difference between wild and pen-raised birds, young and old birds, or quail and chukars.
Kim Fundingsland is a staff writer for The Minot Daily News.
Dogs raised in North Dakota have an opportunity to get a great start to hunting that is not available in most states. Many professional trainers consider the sharptailed grouse the best training bird available and North Dakota is in the heart of the nation's limited sharptail range. Dogs that learn to work sharptails successfully usually have little trouble progressing to other species.
Let's be clear here though, most hunting dogs catch on to the game in short order. The ruffed grouse dog from Wisconsin may barrel right through his first encounter with a covey of North Dakota sharptails, but he'll learn from it and become a better dog because of it. Watching a hunting dog adjust to the species they are hunting is part of the joy of taking a dog into the field.
Sometimes dogs learn lessons in the field that you'd like them to forget. It is the owner's responsibility to study and watch and learn a particular dog's habits and tendencies. For example, I owned a dog who became so implanted with the notion that pheasants run forever on the outside of cover that he often hopelessly overran the track.
If a pheasant stayed near the outside edge of cover that dog would eventually find him, sometimes visually. But if that bird tired of the game and made a 90-degree turn into the cover, my dog would almost always continue past that turn and continue on at the edge of the cover in the hopes of seeing the bird again or of picking up the scent again.
Unfortunately for me, that dog found enough roosters on the edge to convince him that it was the best way to hunt. Fortunately, I usually followed him with a second dog that always found the rooster that ducked into cover and left the other dog wondering where the bird went.
After watching that happen numerous times, I told myself there was some truth to the saying that "you can't teach an old dog new tricks." The solution, of course, would have been to stop that habit early in the dog's hunting career. When it comes to dog behavior, I didn't know then what I know now.
Then again, it was not all bad to have a dog that would trail a rooster pheasant hundreds of yards to find him.
Perhaps it is the hunter that needed to learn a few new tricks.