There are all kinds of approaches to upland hunting. I started with a double barrel 20 gauge Stevens (that I later discovered shot 3 feet low at 20 yards,) walked more than my share of railroad tracks and often hunted alone. I just went out there and stumbled around a lot, by myself, no dog.
When you go to the outfitter places in South Dakota, almost all of them are focused on big drive hunting. Blockers and drivers; dogs are usually just used for retrieving, if at all. Given the cover they hunt and the need to let the sports shoot as many birds as possible, this makes sense.
In the old days, it was common to see drive hunting for pheasants in Illinois. I’ve done lots of it before becoming a dog snob. In controlled hunting areas I still see large groups of hunters, very close together, moving at a snail’s pace, pushing every bit of cover as tightly as they possibly can. I suspect this works but it’s too boring for me.
Now that I’m a dog snob, I still run into hunters who love to drive with large groups and don’t feel that dogs add anything to the mix. If birds are there, they’ll flush. To each his own, just leaves more birds for me and my friends.
Having said that, I know that my snob friends and I often hunt too fast, have poor spacing (based on the width of the cover), dogs aren’t infallible, and we are undoubtedly passing some birds. Blasting whistles and yelling commands don’t help either.
I’ve also seen several dogs that were a pheasant’s best friend. Flushed everything 150 yards away, couldn’t find a scent if their life depended on it, stayed within 5 feet of their master at all times, disappeared over the horizon, etc.
Having said all this, I did run across some statistical evidence recently that supports my belief that good dogs make a difference. A friend was part of 3 hunts in the same free upland permit area in the same season. With dogs, four hunters limited out every time. In looking at the DNR results for this area for the year (who knows how accurate these numbers are) he discovered only 5 more birds were reported killed for the entire rest of the season from this site.
I’ve participated in hunts myself at upland permit sites that contributed a big chunk of the reported harvest for the year. Maybe a lot of hunters don’t report their kills or even show up for that matter. What are your thoughts? Are dogs really necessary for good results or can other tactics work just as well?