A reader who does a lot of rough shooting needs to train his young spaniel
Q: I have a young spaniel, and when hunting along hedgerows he always pulls ahead and sometimes gets through to the other side — a couple of times he has run off. As I plan to do a lot of rough shooting with him, this is something that I really need to sort out. Can you please give me some advice?
Hunting along hedges with a spaniel can be one of the most frustrating elements of hunting with a gundog, but it can also be very productive. Hedges offer both food and shelter to many quarry species, but they also function as “creature highways”. To work a hedgeline efficiently takes teamwork — not only does the dog have to be well trained, the handler will need some idea of how wind direction and scent can affect the way the dog hunts. You will also have to concentrate on the dog at all times, particularly if there is game running on ahead.
By far the biggest potential problem when working a hedgerow is that the dog might pull on in front of you and, before you know it, it’s flushing birds 60 yards away. Gamebirds, especially pheasants, would much rather run than fly. As a consequence, the bottom of the hedge will hold a lot of foot scent and it is this that encourages the dog to work out of range.
Dogs prefer to work into the wind, so if you have a crosswind blowing away from you through the hedge, the dog will try to get on the far side so that it is hunting with any scent being downwind. If the wind is blowing away from you up the hedgeline, the dog will naturally want to pull on ahead and work back to you into the wind.
Hedges with a ditch in the middle are the most difficult. The dog will inevitably get in to the ditch and be off like a train on a rail. The chances are that you won’t be able to see where it is until you get a flush of birds many yards in front. In this situation, keep your concentration and contact with the dog.
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Training for rough shooting
- As with all gundog training, you have to have the foundations firmly in place before moving on to more enticing exercises.
- You should not attempt to work a dog in a hedge until it has a firm recall or turn to the whistle and it has been conditioned to hunt close to you in open cover.
- The chances are that if the dog does get on the wrong side of a hedge and decides to make a run for it, and ignore the recall command, there is going to be very little you can do about it.
- The worst-case scenario is that the dog manages to get a flush and rewards itself.
- Remember, preventing a problem is far easier than correcting one.