Dove Hunting Guide
Man’s best friend
Yuman turns to trusty pup to chase downed birds
During dove hunting season, retrieving your catch is quite possibly the most important step of all.
So much preparation goes into the hunt itself, from staking out prime real estate to stocking up on supplies and studying weather and crop patterns to lining up a target for the perfect shot. All of this painstaking work will be in vain for the hunter who cannot locate their downed prey.
In order to track down their game that may be off into the distance or hidden out of sight, some hunters enlist the help of man’s best friend.
In fact, there are several different breeds of dogs which make ideal hunting companions. Irish setters, pointers, beagles, Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers and bluetick coonhounds are among the more popular breeds that hunters use to fetch downed birds and other game.
Purchasing a trained hunting dog, also known as gun dogs or bird dogs, can be an expensive proposition costing several thousand dollars. That being the case, some hunters prefer to just train their dogs themselves.
Pat Headington, a Yuma native who is in his third year as president of the Yuma Valley Rod and Gun Club, is a very strong advocate of using gun dogs. The veteran hunter said he has trained his own gun dogs for about 20 years. During that span, he has had a total of two gun dogs.
Headington currently goes hunting with his trusty chocolate Labrador retriever Desi. The hunting enthusiast said he rarely loses game out in the field thanks to Desi’s passion for chasing down birds.
“She just loves to be out in the field with me,” Headington said. “She’s got so much heart and loves to go out there and fetch birds. Sometimes she gets a little carried away and even retrieves other people’s game. Folks without hunting dogs run the risk of losing their game in the brush or can’t track it down if it is too far away from where they shot it. I don’t have that problem with Desi.”
So how does one go about training their own dog to hunt birds such as dove, pheasants, ducks or quail? Headington said he began the process with Desi when she was 12-14 weeks old. As part of the training process, Headington would place bird scent on a tennis ball, attach the ball to a string and play fetch with the young puppy.
The veteran hunter would also use one-word, one-syllable commands, as well as whistle commands and hand signals, to instruct Desi on when and where to go. He says the process is quite long and it requires great patience, but the results are equally as rewarding.
“It’s so much fun to watch a good hunting dog work in the field. As long as you monitor the dog’s work load on hot days and keep them cool with water when needed, it’s an awesome experience and I love to do it. A dog brings so much value to any hunt,” Headington noted.