Hungarian partridge: "chukar lite?" ... hunt dead ... peak dog performance on long hunts ... chukar hunting lessons ... better points and cooperative birds ... what do you want to know?
Huns: chukar country "lite"

Made possible by Dr. Tim's natural performance dog food

Chukars are my primary quarry - maybe yours, too. But on every hunt, there's the long-shot chance a Hungarian partridge might jump up in front of me ... maybe a whole bunch of them. Seldom do we in the Pacific Northwest go after them specifically; they're a bonus.

Until last weekend. Invited by a friend, we went to an area he had high hopes for, and what an epic experience. Some lessons:

As with all wild-bird, public-access hunts, the reward is commensurate with the effort. In this case, we rode mountain bikes a few miles into the area and hunted from there. We started our hunt where most turned around and headed for the parking area. Knowing what I know, I'd crawl if it was required next time!

The terrain and habitat were what I'll call "chukar country lite." Tamer slopes, shorter grassy cover, small rocks (vs. boulders) and a decided lack of eye-poking, shin-tangling sagebrush. Ahhhhh. Birds hunkered among the grapefruit-sized rocks, holding tight for dogs (who were the stars of the show, as usual). Once we found a covey, we stayed at that elevation for most of the day, finding almost all the birds within a few dozen feet of that contour line.

Some highlights: points at hundreds of yards distance, birds cooperating and dogs steady. You know the feeling: a long, rocky stumble to the find, get to just the right place, set your feet perfectly ... and actually hit something once in a while. On Flick's first find, we both shot a bird and for a brief moment, Flick pondered bringing both back in one trip!

Another wild flush started me into slamming my gun closed, ultimately taking a pass on the long shot. But I was sorta ready for the late-rising single, took a go-to-hell shot, then gave up and headed uphill. Flick had watched from a couple hundred yards up the draw, and made a beeline for a specific shrub on the other side, clamped his furry muzzle around a wing-clipped bird, and delivered it to me. Extra kibble that night.

Trust your dog and his instincts. Trust your hunting buddy to find good spots to share. Reciprocate. And be grateful for every step, each day, all the birds you shoot and especially the ones you miss.

More hunting stories, and advice on finding public access, wild birds, and dog training, here.
The questions I get: Find shot birds better, part two

Q: I had an experience yesterday hunting in Colorado. Found a rare rooster pheasant in the state, dropped its leg and sent it down after it flew a little ways. I thought I marked it pretty well, but when my Epagneul Breton and I got over to where I thought it went down, we couldn't find it. Spent the rest of the day looking for it as I just hate losing a bird. My rule is if I shoot a bird and don't find it, I pack it up and don't hunt the rest of the day.  

Do you have any tips on practicing marking and training a dog to hunt dead? Pip and I both need the work. Stephen.

A: As promised, my suggestions for the second half of your question: The whole "hunt dead" thing is basically an obedience and training challenge. Ask your NAVHDA friends about duck searches for starters. We do a lot of them on dry land, too. Like every other command, the dog needs to know there's a payoff - in this case, a bird in his mouth. Here's how a lot of guys do it: For a while, while he's restrained, show him the bird (live ones work best) and then hide it in deep cover but not too far away. Use several birds if you need to, ensuring he finds at least one quickly. Use a distinct command like "dead bird" or "hunt dead" and send him out there, first from directly downwind so he scores in his early attempts. Then, go farther, wean him from seeing the bird first, start him crosswind or upwind. If he's eager to go because he knows there's a "bird in there" (another good command), and he gets enough repetition and success, next season you can walk him to that spot you marked and cut him loose with a good likelihood he'll find it.

And by the way, when he brings it back, let him savor it for a while - don't take it right out of his mouth. Yum.

Got a question? Ask nicely and you might see your answer right here. Send me an email here.
Video: On that Hun hunt noted above, I was reminded of the importance of this ... you too?
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Shooting tip: Be assertive for a better point and safer shot

Made possible by Pointer shotguns

It's a team effort: dog, bird, hunter. Birdy dog? First, ensure a solid point and a bird that holds still rather than a scampering off unscathed. Start by being punctual. Once your dog stands the bird, walk in with alacrity. The longer you dawdle, or admire his stunning good looks, or take photos, the greater the chance a bird will flush wild, run off or the dog will do the flushing for you.
Then, assert yourself. Over many years in many fields one thing is clear: both birds and dogs hold better when the gunner moves with confidence. Once your dog shows you the bird, stride right in and everyone will likely do what’s expected of them. This is the time to show you are in charge. Be confident.
Podcast: ENJOY THE NEW FORMAT! More fun and easy to listen to ... but you can decide that for yourself.

My good friend and hunting buddy Tom Jenkins knows his way around the woods, pursuing elk and deer when he's not chasing his bird dog in the chukar hills. I've learned so much from him about wild bird hunting, public access, good habitat, and how to approach a bird hunt as more than a walk behind a dog.

So I made him come on the podcast and share some of his wisdom with YOU. We talk about our shared hunt adventures, solo hunt stories, and I even relate a couple valley quail tips from a recent week's hunt.
Learn from the pro's and be entertained too - click on the podcast logo to listen to any episode ... and it's all brought to you by: Sage & Braker Mercantile, Dr. Tim's performance dog food; RuffLand performance kennels, Mid Valley Clays, your online shotgun source; Pointer shotguns; Happy Jack,
POLL: What webinar topic would you be most interested in?
Fiinding new public and walk-in land: access, strategies
Shooting tips
Dog training
Hunting strategy & tactics
Getting peak performance from my hunting dog
Recruiting, starting a new hunter
This week's poll made possible by RuffLand performance kennels.