Face it. Most game birds sprint. There are a trio that don’t fit the mold. Bobwhite quails, woodcocks and mearns are on the list of exceptions. But the idea that a slew of jogging pheasants will cause a good pointing dog to freak ain’t necessarily so.
When you think of a hunting dog, you’re looking for a companion that’s flexible. If the bird starts to dart, the mutt needs to have enough smarts to realize they’re not dealing with a pre-programmed robot. They’ll shadow the running fowl until the canine can pose a point.
Respect the fact that – if properly trained – the animal knows what its doing. You’re the one that may be screwing-up by commanding the dog to “whoa” at the wrong point. What you have to remember is that training is not a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Practice makes nearly perfect.
Getting into “Whoa” Training
Whether you use a post, barrel, bench or board, the key thing you need to instill is that there will be things that happen in the rushes that are going to distract the animal. That’s why it’s so important to change things-up during the lifelong training process.
Take the pointer to different places. As that’s the initial step, your gig is to try to muddle the dog’s concentration while still keeping them on point. Take along a friend and their dog. Get the animal used to gunfire. Release some live pigeons. The goal is to distract them until they are able to keep focus even if a meteor falls from the sky right in front of them.
It’s a lofty goal, but don’t give-up. The mission is to get your pointer to understand that “whoa” means stop. Now.
Without understanding that central command under any and all situations, you’re setting yourself up – and your beloved pointer – to fail.
In the Field
As we’re ready for the big day, the honest-to-god hunt, you’re taking the cues from the mutt. The pointer catches a scent, beginning to creep along with the prey. Many screw-up by tossing-out the big “whoa” at this point. Bad move. Trail the dog as the pointer is the boss at this moment.
Most often your environment is in a clipped wheat field. Sooner-or-later if the fowl doesn’t get spooked, the prey will slowdown or stop. Watch your dog. They will freeze. You can’t see the bird, but you have to trust your best friend that he’s onto something.
Here’s where the “whoa” command comes in. The pointer has done the job. Now it’s your turn to tip-toe into the brush, flush and fire.
The Lesson that Everyone Learned
You have simply complimented the pointer for being so smart. They had the freedom to figure-out just how close they can get before the prey takes flight. The animal learned their gig and then tagged you to take control. Their job is over for the time being. Everyone is doing what they’re supposed to do.
Another tip: Bring along a buddy to the initial real-live practice. Why? Because if the training didn’t take on the first field test, you need to become a teacher again to correct the pointer for the next time around. Your friend can do the shooting so you don’t come home empty-handed.
Be patient. Never ruin the dog’s day by yelling, smacking or doing any type of discipline that’s going to mess-up the dog’s karma. You are both in learning mode. The first few times may not run like clockwork. But if you keep your cool, your pointer will get the message.
The two of you are a team. Treat your compatriot with understanding, respect and honor. Reciprocation is a great feeling for man and beast alike. You’re both working the same situation – your pointer has its knowledge that it’s bringing to the table. You’ve got the gun.
As Humphrey Bogart said to the inspector at the end of the movie “Casablanca,” – “Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”