Since getting my first pup Mabo in 2008 I have found myself looking forward more to the Upland season than the Fishing season. The big difference between fishing and upland is the working relationship you have with a good dog. The thrill of having a dog work close and work in thick cover to flush birds is intoxicating, and while I still enjoy fly fishing it is not quite the calling it once was.
I have been blessed with two exceptional dogs, Mabo & Bruce. Both are tough, go anywhere and want to hunt. Take Mabo or Bruce out for a hunt and whatever problems I might be worrying about disappear. Both Mabo & Bruce instinctively know how far to get out from the gun, and I can hunt for a couple of hours and not have to issue any commands.
Which is why Dave is such a big disappointment. I have trained all three dogs in the same way, and Dave will not go in the thick cover, and still runs flat out for the best part of two hours and needs constant reminding not to get too far out.
Since 2012 I have hunted every day of the Upland season, or nearly four months. This has taught me a heap about dogs, gear and shooting tactics, and especially fitness. If I am fit I can hunt for a couple of hours every day and still do a few hours work at night. If I am not fit I cannot, and I also struggle to stay mentally alert at the end of a hunt.
I chase pheasants & quail, mainly in Hawkes Bay where the cover is thick and the conditions are very different from the United States upland shooting due to the lack of avian predators. This requires good concentration, quick reflexes and discipline. I have written about technique for upland shooting here.
My dog training has come from putting in a lot of time with my dogs, and working from home certainly helps. I have been extremely lucky that a mate is a police dog handler and he has helped me a lot with different dog handling issues, the most important of which is being able to tell me when something is bullshit and when it is true.
Probably the most important dog handling lesson I have learned is start with a good dog. Dave is dead set useless and I have trained him exactly the same way I have trained all my other dogs. He just will not go into the thick stuff.