It was time to head out of state and introduce the pups to wild ring neck pheasants. Rio is a French Brittany almost a year old that my son Josh owns. He was heavily trained this summer without him even knowing it and that’s important for pointers. Training a pointer is different than training flushers and retrievers because all you want to do is build that inner drive, that instinct to hunt and let them go out and have fun in their first year. All the finishing, steady to wing and shot, whoa training, retrieving and anything else you want to work in comes in year two.
Rio was trained this summer on pigeons that Josh trapped and quail on a bird harness attached to a fishing pole to further build the pups drive. Rio’s first hunting trip was to hunt sharp-tail grouse in Nebraska. That was where Rio stretched his legs putting on double digit miles a day looking for sharpies and trying to figure things out. Later when grouse and woodcock opened in Wisconsin it all started to come together. Grouse were tough in the thick colorful autumn woods but woodcock held for the young pointer. Rio started to hunt with Josh as a team.
We left Wisconsin and headed for one of the top pheasant states in the Midwest. We wondered how the pups, Rio and my 7 month old Small Munsterlander named Deke would do. Roosters are tough for even experienced pointers to hold down on point because of their propensity to run. Hens on the other hand will sit tighter but they are off limits to shoot.
Josh told me, “It was like Rio only needed one pheasant to figure it out. Rio caught one whiff of a bird and he knew what to do. Then after he found one he just kept finding them. Two good points on hens and then a running rooster right after that. In less than an hour he was making game. Hen point, hen point, rooster point and then a rooster shot over him. He learned to track too.”
Josh added, “Looking back at the hunting season that began in Nebraska in early September, it took him about half the fall to figure out what he was doing. He did a lot of running and then he got it and started to cooperate. Maybe he realized that hunting with me was going to be how he gets a bird in his mouth. Most of it was just experience. Now it doesn’t matter which bird we hunt. He did good job learning in the Sand Hills of Nebraska on sharp-tail grouse, then ruffed grouse in Wisconsin and then he put it all together on woodcock. Now he just finds game birds. He went from a runner to making game.”
Jim Bennett is an outdoorsman who lives and worked in the St. Croix Valley and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for comments.