Hunting Snows: A Great Dog Training Technique

Being an avid waterfowl hunter, a true sign of spring for me is seeing ducks and geese on the move after the long winter. Watching birds coming back to the fields, I can’t help but reminisce about last fall’s waterfowl season. When birds fly over as I am out training dogs, all I can do is wait in anticipation for next fall. 

It seems that both hunters and their gundogs have a long wait until they get a chance to get back out and improve on their hunting tactics. Both man and beast almost get a feeling of depression with this disheartening thought. However, there is one thing that can help this ailment in spring — chasing snows! Not only can this cure some of those anxious feelings, but snow geese offer numerous opportunities to giving your dog some challenging yet beneficial retrieving scenarios.

Birds Easy To Mark
One advantage about snows and blues is their color. The white color on this bird, give a retriever an advantage to marking falling birds. Most of the time you are hunting in picked grain fields, which can make seeing birds fall easier. The dark background helps your dog make a successful mark on both wounded and downed birds. If you are hunting on frozen water, the white or snow covered water, will make it more difficult for your dog, which also will improve on his marking ability.

The author, his dog Baily and a snow goose.

Another benefit to this hunting is the liberal limits that are in place. If a guy is fortunate to "get into them," you can get your dog retrieving 30- to 40 birds on a good day. These kinds of numbers will give dog opportunities to make mistakes, and allow the handler to give some corrections when needed. 

One common problem I often see is a dog "breaking" after the guns go off. This is actually not a bad problem to have, since it shows the dogs desire to make a retrieve. However, dogs that are allowed to do this may ruin some hunts if they start to break the instant they see birds. Or even worse, it can be dangerous for the dog if he gets in the line where a hunter is shooting!

Use A Dog Blind
A great way to help keep your dog steady is to introduce him to a dog blind. This should be done prior to going hunting and can be done right in the back yard. Use a choke chain and leash and use the command, "kennel," while giving snaps toward the blind. When the dogs goes in, make sure to use a lot of praise to help him figure out where he belongs. Continue this drill using more discipline with the choke chain, and it can even be reinforced with the remote collar if your dog is collar conditioned.

After you feel confident that your dog knows where he should stay, try throwing some retrieves and make sure he remains inside until you send him. You can make this more realistic by shooting a gun while a buddy throws retrieves from a distance. Be ready to correct him when he does break without being sent. Don’t be afraid to use some stern discipline if he makes mistakes. Remember, you would rather do it in this drill setting, than to try and control him while hunting!

Keep Your Dog Safe
Keeping him confined to his blind will actually do three things: first it will help his marking ability. Dogs that are steady are able to watch birds falling, instead of chasing birds that were not shot. Second, it will help you shoot more geese because keeping a dog hidden will help bring in those wary birds. Third, and most important, it will keep your dog safe from any gunfire that is taking place.

Spring snow goose hunting is a fortunate opportunity for Minnesota duck and goose hunters, especially if you can hit the prime migration. Our location in relationship to the flyway gives us a great chance to satisfy not only our own hunting passion, but also our dogs. These birds can help both hunter and gundog improve on hunting and retrieving skills.

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Jason Dommeyer has a lifetime of hunting experience and 15 years experience as a dog trainer. He has turned many pets into expert hunting dogs at Cannon River Kennels (http://www.cannonriverkennels.com/) In addition to training hundreds of hunting companions, he has trained dogs for premier pheasant hunting lodges in South Dakota along with duck hunting lodges in Mississippi and Mexico. His experience also includes both hunting and guiding for upland and waterfowl game from Canada to South America. If you have any questions, Jason can be reached at 507-663-6143 or visit (http://www.cannonriverkennels.com/) He provides dog training tips twice a month.

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