by Jack Oar
The range of the dog is often a grave concern for falconers. Most falconers are too focused on control and trying to keep him close. Many gun hunters also fall prey to this. They are afraid that the dog will make a mistake and flush the bird out of range, either by not pointing at all or by breaking point before the shooter arrives. Their lack of teamwork and their unfamiliarity with each other in the field send the wrong signals. The hunter compounds the problem when he shoots at a bumped bird, thereby rewarding the dog for a mistake. If you and your canine partner have worked in the field enough to know what the other is thinking, there will be few mistakes made. Once the dog's behavior is known and understood, you will be able to discern if the point is good or the dog is uncertain of the bird's location. Send him on to locate or relocate the bird, if the dog is unsure. A bumped bird is better than a poor or unproductive flight. If the point is good, you will know that you can approach confidently and your manner will instill confidence in your dog. Soon the hawk will be confident too. While the range of the dog will be dependent on the amount of room that you have at your disposal, you may as well use him to his full potential. For instance, if you are flying in a 40 acre field, you and your hawk can cross the fence after sending the dog ahead to look for birds. You can stand there watching as he checks it out. If he drops into a swale and doesn't come out, then you walk up and see if he is "on point." If there are no birds there, he should return shortly and you can try another field. There is little point in you walking out there asking him to recheck. You will only make a putterer out of him. In a field of a section (640 acres) or more, you will probably walk in a loop while the dog searches out, up to a quarter mile from you. It is no cause for concern if he is out of sight for several minutes because you know that if he doesn't show soon, you'll find him "on point." It is a great thrill to find your dog "on point."
On the open prairies and plains of the West where gamebirds are often widely spaced, a slow-moving close ranging dog may see you coming home tired and discouraged with your hawk unflown. Here where there are "two tracks" (backroads), it is convenient to follow a fast-moving wide ranging dog from a vehicle. At other times, a horse is even better if weather conditions are not too severe, for then you are even free of "two tracks." In this country where you may cover 10 or more miles between points and the dog may run a lot farther during that time, you will soon learn of the advantages of a fast-moving wide ranging dog. In this type of habitat, successful flights often end three miles from the flush and three times that is not unheard of. Unless you are an avid marathon runner, it is not wise to be afoot.
Of course, a dog can be taught to range close, as English setters that are used for ruffed grouse in the thick woods often are. I feel that if you want a close ranging dog, you should choose a breed that takes to it more naturally.
In the wide open spaces and when a wide ranging dog is down and running, it is convenient to put a transmitter on the dog. In the past, I have taped a hawk transmitter to the collar, of course it should be on a distant frequency from the one on the hawk. The pointing collar, which gives a differential signal when the dog is moving or "on point" is the best solution.
One more thing, either the dog or the falconer should know where the other is at all times. If you take on this job, the dog will lead you all over the place. It is my conviction that this is the dog's responsibility. Once he knows this, you may find that you have all the control over his range that you need. To do this, it is necessary that he be lost a few times (you may very well know of his whereabouts the whole time if he is wearing a transmitter), evade him and don't be too quick to let him find you. The best dog that I ever had, ran off into the falling darkness (looking for more birds) even after I had told him that we were going to leave. He was a young dog at the time. I gave him a minute and when he didn't show, I threw my jacket out the window and left. It was miles from a graded road, so I was not concerned that he would be stolen. The next morning I returned by ten o'clock, and there he was on my jacket, cold, footsore, and hungry. Getting out of the truck, I pulled the shotgun out with me and ignoring the dog, proceeded to make a show of going hunting. After walking a couple of miles, we returned to the truck together. I casually mentioned that we were leaving, he hopped in as soon as the door opened. By the way, the jacket (or glove) trick has worked for me many times when my dogs really were lost. Have your phone number on the dog's collar, always.
Since there have been no questions from any of you, my gentle readers, fare well until the next issue when we will discuss the introduction of the hawk to the dog and vice versa.
#6 Introduction of the hawk to the dog and vice versa.
#7 Dog training books
#8 Dog training equipment
#9 Recall pen
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