Upland Dog Handling – Stay on the Dog

In the seasons where I have cared enough to keep records I have shot and retrieved three out of four pheasants. Most of them have gone down first shot. A few second shot and rarely any third shot if I am shooting a semi.

The misses fall into two distinct categories, snap shots at birds through thick cover and long shots that I clean miss. Both of these have a relatively simple remedy – stay closer to the dog.

Staying closer to the dog is tough in the country I shoot. There are often fallen trees that dogs can get through and I cannot. There are thick patches of blackberry and gorse that a dog gets through quicker than me, especially when there are long blackberry canes above thigh height that I cannot bash through.

There are several techniques for staying on the dog that are worth considering. Before getting into technique it is important to reinforce 1000 denier upland pants and good boots are crucial to be able to hunt this way.

To stay on the dog requires a good working relationship with the dog, to ensure he doesn’t get too far out. After a season of chasing the dog when he ran I stopped running and now call the dog back the moment he gets too far out. This does flush a few pheasants but it is not as bad as running after a dog and having him think that he can run after a rooster scent rather than work it slowly and carefully.

Keeping a careful eye out for the easiest route to follow the dog is also important. Look a fair way ahead, as a dog can get under structure far quicker than a person can, and be a long way out in not time while the hunter is trying to get around the structure. Looking for the easy route early is pretty crucial to hunting close to the dog. Sometimes the easier route might be longer and might be a lot further, but if it is quicker it is the right way to go.

A good dog will turn and look at you when he hits a scent to make sure you are in shooting range. Bruce does this almost every hunt. Dave has only just started doing it in his fourth season. Mabo hunts at one speed, and expects me to keep up with him, although he never runs off after a bird, and doesn’t believe in waiting if I am too slow.

In the hunt in the video I was trying to position a mate for his first rooster. He had marked a bird that had flushed earlier, and as we got close Bruce hit the scent. Unfortunately Fabian ended up blocked by a fallen tree, while I had a clear shot at the bird.