To be frank, although I have went on a few bear-hunts, I have never owned or trained a treeing breed. So, this dog is subjected to newbie mistakes.
And the lessons I have learned so far for this hunting season are:
Start them young. Start them on the game, which is appropriate for their age: squirrels, birds, martens and other small game to wake up the instinct early on. The older the dog becomes, the harder it is for them to prefer small-game over big-game.
Delaying hunting plans makes it more difficult to transform a puppy into a multi-purpose universal hunting dog. Unlike out-dated beliefs of three or four decades past about hounds, gun-dogs or police-dogs not being trained until a year old not seeing field-work until two years old, it is not unusual for a treeing dog or baying dog to start on small-game as early as 3 to 6 months old. The onset of realized instinct will occur unexpectedly.
- Old dogs can learn new tricks. Don’t give up on older dogs if they have never had a hunting season under their belt. They have a steeper learning curve and it will be more difficult to train them; but once the instinct is awakened, they can learn very fast. However, keep in mind, older dogs with previous hunting seasons with no drive or desire are often washouts.
- Dogs are snobs. Freeze-dried pheasants, treated hides, scented dummies are not substitutes for the real things. Dogs have higher drive for the untreated fresh or frozen pelts, bird carcasses or deer-legs.
Don’t be intimidated by the prospect of firearm ownership or hunting. Usually, the courses are based on common-sense. There are lots of idiots out there who should have their privileges revoked. If they can pass the exams, so can you.
- Buy a firearm. Archery seems like a great alternative to the scary prospect; however bow and arrow requires lots more practice and the dog needs assurance from his handler the game will be shot. Usually, people with no prior experience with firearms finds their fears to be unfounded and the bogey-monster under the bed disappears once instructed by a certified firearm-safety officer or instructor at their first time at the shooting range.
- Don’t worry too much about the perfect rifle. Get whatever is affordable. Most of the time, the top-of-the-line equipment is not required in hunting with a dog. Firearms are nothing more than a sophisticated rock-throwers and we have not evolved much since chimpanzees. And to some, a gun is just a 4-foot penis which shoots lethal wads. Worry about your own needs and not the rants of others.
- Invest in inexpensive ammunition. The more practice at the shooting range, the better the shooting skill becomes. There is a reason why folks with 6mm or .25 calibres hunting varmints and rabbits all year-round are often better sharpshooters with all the available calibres than those who dedicate themselves only to big-game.
Near-obsolete ammunition such as .222 Remington, .45-70 Government, .30-40 Krag and .303 British are classics, but they hurt the pockets and reduces the window of opportunity to practice unless the person reloads. .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, .223 Remington and .243 Winchester are very economical choices. Don’t discount rim fire cartridges such as .22 Long Rifle or .17HMR as well. The more expensive specialty rounds will come in play later once the process of refining hunting methods begins.
Start with a reasonable calibre and work your way up to the über-class magnums. Despite the debates over ethics of clean-kills, it is actually a disservice to gut-shoot an animal because a bad shooter developed the flinch while shooting a .338 Winchester Magnum or .375 H&H. Remember, there is a reason why outfitters recommend large calibres to clients who never go out while smaller rounds such as .30-30 Winchester, .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield and 6.5×55 Swede are the staples of residential hunters. Get the right tool for the job. Barring that, it is always nice to stockpile for the zombie apocalypse.
- In hunting courses, they teach the 5 stages of how hunting changes over the years and his or her perception of “success”: shooter, limiting out, trophy, method then sportsman. No matter how much anyone want to skip to the end in their heads, they will go through all the stages in reality. There is no shame in going through this process.
- Keep a shotgun handy. There are many places where it is either illegal or unwise to use a rifle for safety reasons such as being close to a residential area or to an oil-well. The last thing anyone wants to do is end up wasting a month worth of hunting season waiting for a new shotgun at the last minute to come to the front-step, learning how to use it and adjusting it through a gunsmith or after-market products. While 12-gauge is the most economical and most widely available, consider a 20-gauge. The spread is similar and the felt recoil is not as severe for the same cost and the same availability as the 12-gauge. While it is common for people to recommend 28- or .410 for beginners, they actually have a steeper learning curve due to the smaller spread and the ammunition are very rare or expensive to find.
- Always carry a firearm. Learn all the legal hunting seasons. If the regulations don’t apply to all hunters, ask landowner’s or government’s permission for those exemptions. A dog will always surprise you on your walks together with unexpected game. There will be times where one starts regretting not having a gun. Combination rifles such as Baikal or Valmet or drillings are wonderful for these kind of scenarios. However, for those who cannot afford an expensive rifle, shotguns are the working men’s guns for a reason.
- Keep a surplus in the bank account for seemingly insignificant and potential impulsive necessities such as an electric collar. Scolding a puppy for chasing game or livestock where pursuit of is forbidden by law is often the way to do it. In general, verbal correction is enough for reasonably trainable dog in check. However, there are the dogs who haven’t seen any game for about three or four months and goes crazy upon sight of the first game it sees− and sometimes that might be a deer. Most of the time electronic collars are not needed to train a dog. Remind your parents of all the missed birthdays, or sell your grandmother’s panties. Receiving the juice once or twice in a life-time is better than running the risk of having the dog shot.
- Don’t rely on the GPS. It is easy to lose track of the dog and it is easy to overlook a silent dog treeing something. This handy tool should only be used in the thick bush where it is unknown which direction the dog might be in. In fact, a radio collar is oftentimes more useful in rough terrain due to the poor signals of the GPS’s transmitter despite limitations of directional radio-waves.
- Invest in a high-quality visible vest for hunting. The cheaper ones snag easily in the bush and they will tear. Replacement ones of the same product will tear as well no matter what. In addition, the more expensive products tend to come in multiple colour. It is highly recommended to have orange on one side and yellow on the other. There will be times where orange is not visible, but yellow is and vice versa; or neither are visible and only the reflective parts are.
- There is no shame in fitting the dog with a wider collar or making him wear two or three visible collars, no matter how much he hates it, protests or becomes depressed. He will perk up when it’s time to go out for a run. The more visible the dog is, the easier it is to find him in the thick brush. Fluorescent colours such as blue, green, purple, yellow and blaze orange are common choice for hunting collars. Don’t forget to tie different coloured ribbons to the collar(s). He will look ridiculous, but on those cloudy days or during the last lights in the thick stuff, it’s a clincher.
- Keep the dog fit. Exercise him on a bike or road him with a truck. Be sure to go through rough terrain to build muscles. When game is scarce, expect the dog to cover up to 40 kilometers in a day. The last thing anyone want is a dog tired out after two hours of leap-frogging through a mire searching for a bird in the tree-line.
- Consider a light-weight firearm. Hunting with dogs can easily cover 10 kilometers or more, and excess weight can turn leisure into a downer. Most of the rifles and shotguns are meant for stand-hunting or blind-hunting. Youth models are superb choice and single-shots are often the go-to beaters in someone’s truck. Although the pull may be a bit short, they can often be extended with a slip-on recoil pad. The recoil pad would help with the increased felt recoil which comes with lighter bush-guns to feel more like the heavier counterparts without the extra weight.
- Be certain of the hunting party. To some people, hunting is a time to socialize and they may not be interested in hunting with a dog. This can lead to reckless activities such as plinking pop-cans for fun while the dog should be hunting. However, the dog shouldn’t always hunt alone since it is crucial for dogs to be used to strangers during the trial. Lay out the rules, but don’t go over-board with them.
- Take advantage of no-vehicle zones, closed forestry roads or deactivated roads. There is nothing worse than a service-road which is being patrolled by a half-dozen truck-hunters in a half hour time span. Game are scarce, and time is scarce. The dog deserves to have all the training time available to it since the opening day.
- Be a ninja, not a drunken redneck. Consider investing in a mountain bike. They don’t spook the animals as easily as motorized vehicles. In many instances, it is entirely possible to get within 20 meters or closer to a game before it perceives you as a threat. Invest in the highest-quality brake-sets for those gnarly hills and in fat- and knobby-tires for soft terrain such as marshlands and snow.
- Keep the dog on a high-fat, adequate protein diet. Beware of the wolf on the bag. Unlike what raw food theorists advocates, the dog doesn’t need that much protein to build and maintain muscle. Crude protein does not need to be much higher than 35%, but not lower than 30%. Fats should be a minimum of 18%. Do not be afraid to add Greek yogurt (≥10% fat), coffee cream,
soft cheese, sardines, mackerel or salmon or other fatty sources to increase the calorie if needed. Performance-based kibble brands with high amount of fillers such as corn are used to keep the cost down on maintaining large sled-dog teams. For only a few dogs, invest in kibbles with higher quality ingredients.
- You get what you put in. If the dog only goes out once a month, then it will be a very mediocre hunting partner.