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Jeff
JEFF
IDLEMAN

Cockleburs

Less whistle means more birds

Mon, October 08, 2012

two roosters

Have you ever struggled with a problem for years and then stumbled upon a solution that was there the whole time? And you think, why didn’t I figure this out years ago?

Problem – after the first few days of the season, pheasants become very wary of hunter-generated sounds.  I’ve seen 50 pheasants flush just before dawn when a car door was slammed.  Shouting back and forth is a great way to put all roosters into Usain Bolt mode and you can watch them flush – 200 yards away.

As a long-time springer fanatic, I am my own worst enemy. The traditional way to handle springers is with a high-pitched whistle.  So you’re out there blowing your little whistle trying to get the dog to turn when you want and the pheasants are saying, “I’m so out of here.”  Of course, not every bird gets the message but enough do to create a level of frustration, especially when bird populations are low and every bird a rarity.

My dog Lil was 12 last season and there was a marked decline in her hearing.  She can’t hear the whistle anymore.  You hear about springers that naturally work close in a perfect windshield wiper pattern – she’s not one of those.  You have to stand on the brakes with a whistle to get her to turn.  Otherwise, she is over the horizon. Since Lil has always been convinced that my companionship was optional, this was a problem. 

We’ve been using a shock caller as a way to enforce the whistle’s suggestion with fair results.  A few time honored profanities have been thrown in with even less results. With the lack of hearing, I tried using the audible page feature in the collar to replace the whistle.  No luck.  Lil is a determined hunter and this didn’t get her attention.

So, I set the shock level low and would nick her whenever I would have whistled in the past.  I’ve discharged the collar on my own hand.  The charge is light but enough to get her attention. The result was excellent.  I wasn’t scaring pheasants with my whistling and Lil reacted better to the collar than she did to the whistle.  She actually would look to see where I was rather than just pursuing every scent she came across. She hunted closer, we were quiet as mice in slippers going through the field and we managed to see more birds than we had in the past.

Some of my friends who had hunted with us for many years noted that Lil was having her best season.  Slowing down a little with age helped but relying primarily on the collar was also a plus.  It’s a shame there is usually a short window when the dog and the handler get on the same page then the dog is too old to hunt. 

I suspect Lil’s past season will have been her last fully productive one.  I probably have one more dog left before I quit hunting so I will use the collar method from the beginning.  Why did it take so long to give this a try?

Comments

E-collars can be a great training and handling tool. Or they can ruin a great dog.  When I brought my first dog, a Spinone pup, home a little over 4 years ago, I was decidedly against using an e-collar. I thought if I used one I was a failure as a trainer.  We worked on the commands and he did really well.  But there were some major mountains in the path.  The phase where I would let him out in the morning and no matter what I did, he wasn’t coming back for 20-30 minutes.  Or the self hunting phase where I might as well not be in the field.  Finally, after having several issues at about 14 months with his response to the “come” command, I finally changed my tune.  When he was on the 100’ check cord, the response was perfect.  But without the cord, nothing.

So I asked members of my dog club for advice on a collar-with the major stipulation that it had to have a vibrate feature.  After a couple days of introducing him to wearing the collar, we started some basic training and the results were night and day. I affectionately refer to it as “The mile-and-a-half long leash.”  He learned that even though he is at a distance, I’m the boss. And 98% of it was done with vibrate.

Posted by FlintlockShooter on October 08

I wish I had used a collar earlier. I had a decent Lab who had a tendency to roam a bit. A collar would have made a difference.

I now hunt with a Llewellin setter who can really roam. But he responds very nicely to the collar. And not so nicely without it. One winter during a trip to Iowa I lost the antenna to the controller in a snowbank. From that point on, the dog was in charge. Not always in a bad way, but I didn’t like the feeling of not being able to remind him that he was not in charge.

Now I have a young Lab who will be introduced to the collar in the next few weeks, so we shall see. But so far I’m a big believer.

Posted by Jeff Lampe on October 13

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