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Versatile Hunter

IDNR Youth Upland Hunts

Thu, November 03, 2016

Two events recently proved the power of joining forces to promote and improve upon youth upland hunting.  The partnerships included IDNR, Pheasants Forever, and Spoon River NAVHDA.

One event took place at Clinton State Fish and Wildlife Area; an event that has been taking place for over 10 years with various Site Superintendents and members of NAVHDA.  This event is always a great one with an excellent combination of great cover, great birds, great dogs, great guides, and some great food.  Jimmy Johns sponsors the lunch every year and Spoon River provides the guides and some world class bird dogs.  IDNR provides the facilities, birds, equipment, and helpers and is the primary coordinator for the event.  One of the Spoon River members also graciously paid for and provided a raffle for a pheasant hunt at Green Acres Hunt Club.

The second event took place at Mackinaw State Fish and Wildlife Area; an event that is new this year and involving an official IDNR youth wing shooting clinic in the morning and a pheasant hunt in the afternoon.  Lunch was included and Spoon River provided most of the guides and dogs.  IDNR provided the typically excellently run wing shooting clinic with each youngster having a private wing shooting instructor to teach them proper shooting form at various sporting clay stations.  Lunch was had and then a raffle for an Oakridge Sportsmen’s Club pheasant hunt paid for by Spoon River. With temperatures reaching 80 degrees and 20 mph winds the participants then took to the fields for the hunting.  This being a first time attempt and with temperatures being way too high for bird dogs, things started out tough.  After settling in and with some lessons learned for a new site and new idea, things started clicking and every participant went home with at least one bird.

These events made me think of a few things worth talking about.  The importance of practice (and preferably with professional instructors) is vital to success in the field.  I saw firsthand the difference doing some shooting in the morning made for these young hunters. 

Secondly, a hunt in 80 degrees, even with high winds, can be deadly for hunting dogs. Our guides knew exactly how to handle the situation in that each dogs was minimally run, given extended breaks often, provided water constantly both for drinking and for cooling, and set up a bird hunt that provided the dogs with a huge advantage regarding scenting and not having to beat the cover too hard.  I’ve heard way too many stories about dogs passing away in heat over 50-60 degrees if not properly taken care of.  I had the ability to also hunt two different dogs which always helps, especially since the older dog is an old pro at using the wind to his advantage and hunting slow and steady in these conditions.  Still, I would NEVER suggest that someone with a young dog and/or someone who is inexperienced with hunting dogs attempt to do what we did. Hunting dogs, especially those breeds that have less self-preservation instinct, WILL hunt until they literally kill themselves.  It is YOUR job, as the handler to make the decision to hunt them or not and if you do, you need to know a few things. 

Learn to recognize heat stress signals.  Tongue hanging all the way out of the mouth, gums that are gray and tacky, constant and out of control panting, lying down, and refusal to retrieve (especially with a force fetched dog) are a few of these signals.  Take any of them seriously and remove the dog from the field, provide cool water to the under belly, pits, and ears, and then provide water for drinking.  A kennel fan can really help as well in this situation.