Bird Dog & Retriever News

June / July 2003 issue Page 13

 Tracking Crips
By Dave Duffey

Past, present and future retrievers have or will have learned to track and recover crippled birds through practice of game shot during the open seasons. That's on the job training.
The longer the seasons and the more birds shot the better dogs of all breeds will become a recovering downed game. But some artificial training goes a long way toward shortening the time it takes for a retriever that puts in a lot of work to succeed. It increases chances for successful retrieves compared to other dogs that don't get too many opportunities to practice real thing.
A few years back I asked three of the best retriever trainers I knew (Ed Carey from Illinois and South Carolina, Loral I Delaney, from Minnesota and Orin Benson from Wisconsin) whether they did any specific training to recover crippled birds. Such a procedure may be passed up by trainer's who specialized in field trials where both marked and blind birds are "anchored" in one spot in order to afford a "level playing field" for all contestants. Here's what they said
Carey: Absolutely, I do train for crippled recovery. Conservation is a whole thing here. If a dog has no previous knowledge of cripples and runners before he's taken afield, you just aren't going to recover many birds until we learn how. It's a lot easier to teach dogs to recover cripples in July and August training season than on a hot October day in a cornfield when the bird is gone.
I do a lot of things. I mentioned Orin Benson before I think he was the first to teach me how to handle a dog on runners and what to do with them. He showed me the idea of first dunking a duck in a pail of water then turning it loose in a field. That makes for a lot of scent and a dog with previous marking and fetching experienced will quickly smell and recognize the duck scent. By walking along with the dog, sometimes on a check cord, taking him over the scent line again and again, he'll learn to follow the duck scent.
Also, when I put out pheasants, I generally hobble them for young dogs with a piece of surveyor's tape about 8-9 inches long. I make one loop over each leg, dizzy the bird, and set it out without its head under the wing. The bird will become entangled a bit and in the first bunches of grass it comes to, if it does run. Since I don't knot the tape. If the bird flies the tape pulls off and the bird isn't hobbled for life. The pheasant will leave a track and if scenting is extremely bad, I use water on the pheasant. One part and anise oil with six to eight parts vegetable oil on the bird's feet seems to accentuate and carry the scent better.
If the dog doesn't catch the runner, but flushes it, it's terribly important that you shoot so the dog has a retrieve. Over the years when there's a shortage of birds, I've used bantams and Baby Reds (domestic fowl) that I keep in my bird yard. I take them a considerable distance

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