• Developing your hunting buddy – Taking kids outdoors

    Sarah's First Pheasant Hunt

    If you want your kids to grow up to be your hunting buddies, you have to start when they are young, not unlike a puppy I guess. Start them out early under the right conditions and they’ll learn to love the outdoors. Their desire to come with me when I go out to hunt or train is a huge reward for me. It makes the cold feet and whining all worthwhile.

    This photo of Sarah was quite a few years back. It was her first hunting trip with Dad and she thought it was pretty cool. She was pretty proud of that rooster. We did have to draw the line at her taking it to her room to play with. Sarah is one kid that knows where food really comes from.

    Take your kids outdoors with you, a little sacrifice and investment now will pay off big dividends in the future.

    Grouse hunting with kids and puppies


  • Spring Cleaning – Moving the Kennels

    Best Dog Kennel DesignÂ

    It’s warming up and it’s time to move the kennels again, kind of like spring cleaning. The kennel system that I use is fully portable, in the winter I have it moved to the north side of the yard facing directly south to take advantage of the winter sun, and in the summertime it’s the opposite, I move it to get out of the direct sun and try to maximize the shade. Concrete kennel facilities are usually very nice, but once you put them in, there’s no moving them, especially every six months.

    I think that the most critical thing, however, is sanitation. Whatever you decide to use for your kennel floor, make sure you clean it regularly (daily, or at most every other day). The second thing is the dogs comfort, the dogs really seem to like basking in the full sun throughout the winter. In the summer, they want every bit of shade they can get, so being able to move the kennel is a great solution. If I had to choose one location/direction for the kennel, at least here is central Utah, I would be more concerned about the summer heat. A good insulated dog house can protect a dog in the winter, but there’s not much escape from the heat on a hot summer day.

    This weekend, for our spring cleaning, I moved the kennel to the south west side of the yard facing east. This location provides nice morning sun until about nine thirty in the morning, then the large elm trees overhead provide shade throughout the day until about six in the evening. I use the 5 x 10 Priefert kennels on top of a stained wooden deck (see post from March 5th). This particular floor is fairly new, but I have built and used similar deck floors for more than ten years. With annual staining and a little up-keep, the floor holds up nicely. The dog really seem to enjoy it, in the summer it is cool and circulates air underneath, in the winter it clears off dries quickly and is warm to walk on, also, it cleans up very quickly with a 4″ drywall knife and a quick squirt with the hose.


  • Retreiver Hunt Test

    Waiting at the line - Weber Retrievers Hunt Test

    I went to the Weber Retriever Hunt Test this last weekend and had a great time. The group there was very enjoyable to run with. They were supportive and helpful to each other and made for an all around fun day. It was held at the Harold Crane Waterfowl Management Area on Willard Bay, about 40 miles north of Salt Lake City, UT.
    I have to say, all of the dogs were well behaved and well trained. It was a real pleasure to see the master dogs work.


  • Training Helpers

    Whoa Training pointers

    When training, especailly training with birds, you always need a helper. Sam, my 5 year old loves to help as long as it involves a BB gun. Unfortunately he needs a little backup to bring the birds down for the dogs to retrieve.

    This pup, Josie, an 8-month old german shorthair pointer has come a long way in the last six weeks. She is showing good instincts on birds. However, she loves to run off with birds rather than bring them in. She was proud of this bird!

    Josie German Shorthair Pointer whoa training


  • Introduction to water 2

    teaching dogs to swim

    I’ve written about introducing dogs to water before, but I guess with the beautiful weather we are having I have been thinking this over. We got back from a hard run this morning with all our tongues dragging from the heat.

    A great way to introduce puppies to water is to get out and run with them until their tongues are hanging and their hot.  This in and of itself is great physically and mentally both for you and them. Run them on a lead, or if they will follow, let them run along with you. Finish your run with them on lead at a water body deep enough that they can swim.  Lead them right out to into the water up to their bellies. Let them drink for a minute, then, before they cool off too much, lead them out deeper until they are swimming. Let this be their reward at the end of a long hot run. They’ll learn to love it and see the water as a great reward. (Summer is almost here!)

    Proper introduction to water help dogs for later success in training and in the field


  • Rattlesnake Vaccine

    Dog - Rattlesnake bite

    Photo: USFWS

    Rattlesnake season is here!

    There is a new canine rattlesnake vaccine out from a company called Red Rocks Biologics, and there is a fair amount of interest and discussion among hunting dog owners.  The vaccine has been out for a couple of years now, and has some practical testing by vets and dogs afield. Based on the manufactures website, the vaccine helps stimulate the dogs system to manufacture venom antibodies which will neutralize rattlesnake poison if bitten. The first year the dog is vaccinated, they should get two injections spaced one month apart, then should receive annual booster shots about a month before the likelihood of snake encounter.

    There are two main questions a dog owner should ask about this vaccine; is it safe for my dog, and do they really need it.

    Red Rocks Biologics reports that this vaccine is approved by the USDA and is as safe as other animal vaccines. They report that it is safe for use in pregnant and lactating dogs, puppies and healthy adult dogs. They report few minor side effects and few serious cases resulting from inoculations. On the other hand, researching the web, I did come across several dog owners that reported problems their dog experienced (from minor to fatal) in reaction to the vaccine.

    I think the first question you should ask is whether or not your dog really needs the vaccination. Often times, we are so scared of snakes (ophidiophobia) that we can’t make a balanced judgment. Hollywood has made millions on this fear. The thing to ask is, realistically, how often do you actually encounter rattlesnakes. For many people, especially here in Utah, I venture to say that it is seldom to never. For others, particularly in the Mojave Desert country of southwestern Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, the answer is very different. Rattlesnakes are a very real threat.

    One of the main problems for gun dogs is that they are often in hunting mode with their nose to the ground and are curious about snakes. I wonder how much a snake smells like a bird (phylogenetically speaking, there are some connections). My pointer commonly points box turtles in the Nebraska Sand Hills while hunting prairie chickens. (I have heard that this is common for bird dogs to point turtles and other reptiles.) With this curiosity and prey drive, they are very likely to get bitten from a snake if they encounter one. A second problem is that dogs are often bitten in the face and they are small enough that the venom from a snake can be very serious.

    I have talked to two different vets in southwest rattlesnake country that strongly recommend to their clients the preventive use of rattlesnake vaccine. They have used the vaccine on tens, if not hundreds of dogs over the past two years with very little problems, and report several positive results after snake envenomations. Closer to home, a good friend of mine has inoculated his dog two years in a row now and not had any complications. He certainly feels more at ease hunting chukars and desert quail in rattlesnake country. One comment on this issue I found particularly useful is on doggienews.com. For the full article see the following link (http://www.doggienews.com/2005/02/rattlesnake-venom-vaccinations.htm).

    Something else to consider is snake avoidance training. Look for these clinics in particularly snake prone regions. Using training collars and actual rattlesnakes, you can train your dog to avoid snakes altogether. Snake avoidance training is offered here at Cove Mountain Kennels, however, due to the complication of handling rattlesnakes, I like to hold a clinic just once a year and get as many dogs as possible trained. This training is very effective against having your dog seek out snakes; however, there is always the threat of a surprise encounter and therefore, maybe reason for the vaccine.


  • Annie’s First Chukar

    I wrote this post in late January, but accidentally deleted it. It was such a fun experience, I had to add it back in .

    Brittany Spaniel and wild chukar - Utah

    During the last few weeks of the chukar season I decided that I wanted to get Annie, the Brittney Spaniel we are training, out on wild birds. She is a bit young (14 weeks), but so long as shooting over her would not produce any gun sensitivity, I thought any experience this season on wild birds would not be a bonus; she could dream about finding chukars all during the off-season.

    I have been working with gun sensitivity with her during mealtimes and she hasn’t shown any reaction at all to gun shots. Nevertheless, I decided that I would forgo any shots right over her head and only take ones away from the puppy.

    I got Annie out with about two hours left to hunt. She was clueless, but had a great time following one of the older dogs around the steep rocky slopes. She did a great job and only had to be lifted over obstacles a few times. When we got into birds it worked out perfectly. Allie, my older dog (18 months) hit scent and started working a flock around a rock outcrop. Annie saw her excitement and started following the scent. She was behind me by 10 yards or so when the covey flushed, but she saw one of the birds fall, thanks to the sweet 16 o/u.

    Allie was right on the downed bird, but aside from a broken wing the bird was in good shape and it still had its feet. We worked the scent but were having a little trouble coming up with the bird. Then I looked over and Annie, the 14 week old puppy was nosing up into a cavity under two rocks. Mistakenly, I pulled her off and went back to where the bird hit and left some feathers and we tried to initiate the search again. After a few minutes I looked over and Annie was again working the little cavity, so I decided to trust her and we went over to investigate. Darned if that little puppy didn’t come up with that chukar way up under the rock. The hole was so tight that the older dog couldn’t fit, but little Annie was just right and she pulled out a fluttering flabbergasted chukar. Needless to say I was beaming. We’ll both be dreaming of that one all through the off-season.

    Brittany puppy and her first wild chukar


  • Blue Grouse (dusky grouse), a perfect bird for a kid

    Blue Grouse, kids and grandpa (David Anderson)

    I have been thinking about next season and getting my kids out hunting with me. As far as building a kid’s interest in hunting, there is nothing better than blue grouse hunting. (The Blue Grouse was recently renamed dusky grouse by the American Ornithologist’s Union. I think they did so, because they were way behind the botanists in the name changing department and wanted to try to catch up.)

    Blue grouse (dusky grouse) is a perfect game bird to introduce a youngster on and help build their passion for hunting and for the outdoors for the following reasons: First, they are fairly easy to shoot, second, they are relatively easy to find and generally it’s easy walking, third, they are found on public land, and fourth, they are tasty.

    Blue grouse are way overlooked in the west, and as a consequence are often not very wily and can be shot on the ground or off a tree limb by a youngster still learning how to point a scatter gun. As a side note, when you put a dog on them, they act very differently and are much sportier. I will say that there is a reason they are nick named the fool’s hen. They can make a fool out of you. They seem so dumb walking in front of you, but when you try to close the gap just a bit, or try to clear a low tree limb for a good shot and they’ll disappear through some downfall, around a tree and flush safely from the back side, giving you no shot..

    Blue grouse are relatively easy to find. Once you have an understanding of what habitat type and density of overhead cover and downed logs/debris they prefer, you can get pretty efficient at locating birds. Once you find birds, mark the spot on your map, it’s the habitat they are keying in on and there will likely be birds year after year. Also, in most of the mountain ranges in the west, there are roads that take you near the top of the mountain, which is where you’ll find the birds in October and November. Once you are in grouse habitat, you can usually stay on a contour and the walking isn’t too strenuous. This is all relative of course, but compared to chukar hunting, it’s a walk in the park.

    Third, grouse can be found on public land, so you don’t have to worry about finding land owners and securing permission. These lands, our National Forests and some high elevation BLM lands are some of the most beautiful places in the world. We are lucky here in Utah to have something like 80+% of the state in public ownership. (Truth be told, I wouldn’t trade that for all the pheasants in Nebraska.)

    Finally, blue grouse are tasty. This is particularly true if you can get them before they switch over to their winter diet of pine needles. This switch usually occurs in mid to late November, or when the frost kills the forbs and insects and the snow begins to fly. Our favorite way to prepare it is to cube it up and marinate it in a fajita mix and fry it up with onions and peppers and wrap it in a tortilla with sour cream, cheese and salsa. Wow, it’s yummy!

    Last year we had a fun experience. We were headed out on a family hike on the forest near our house in Sevier County. Since it was grouse season and we were headed to a really grousey area, I threw in the 16 and a couple of bird dogs just to keep us safe from attacking duskies. (At least that’s what I told my wife.) As we were bumping along the 2-track road, my daughter (7 yrs) said, “Hey Dad, there’s some quail.”  I thought, “Quail?” Then I realized she probably meant grouse. I never saw them, but sitting in the back seat, she picked them up like a good bird dog.

    Needless to say, it was fun getting a nice point (a gimme really), and shooting a brace of birds all with my family right there. Now Sarah can’t wait until next season to go grouse hunting with Dad.

    Kids and grouse hunting Dusky grouse hunting with kids

    A special thanks to David Anderson for the awesome family grouse hunting photos. Thanks David!


  • Introducing Dogs to Water

    Golden Retriever introduction to water Golden Retriever Introduction to water

    Golden Retriever Swimming

    The warm weather is coming, time to get your puppy out and introduce her to water. With proper introduction, most dogs will love the water, especially the retrievers and longer coated dogs. There are all sorts of ways to introduce your dog to water, all depending on what type of waterbody you have at hand. The key is to check any aprehension you may have; make crossing or swimming the water seem as a routine thing. I usually try to introduce puppies to water between three and five months, provided the weather is warm enough. Warm weather is important, because you want your dog to have a good experience. I usually just put on the hip boots and wade out into the water and call the dog along. They’ll hesitate at the shoreline, pawing the water, but usually following before too long.

    If reluctant, I pick them up, being careful not to give the impression I’m chasing or threatening (just routinely picking them up, as if I were putting them back in the crate as usual). Then, I carry them out and set them in the water where it’s deep enough to get their belly wet. For a timid dog, usually this is enough, just getting wet. If not, next time carry them a bit deeper and then deeper still.

    Another way is to use a favorite toy, stick, or retrieving bumper and toss it close enough that they really want it, but just far enough to make them swim. A lot of times, I’ll cross the water and call them and get them to swim across to me. Yet another way is to get out when it is really hot and run the dog for a ways until they are hot and they realize just how good it feels to get all the way in and cool off.

    Anyway you do it, make it fun.

    Puppy Introduction to Water

    I love to swim with the dogs, you just have to watch out for their nails. When they swim, they splay out their toes and their nails are in max scratch mode and will leave nice tracks down your chest, legs or back. As they come close, just gently divert them to the side.


  • Force Fetching

    Force Fecthing a German Shorthaired Pointer

    I am often asked if I think someone should “force fetch” their gun dog as a matter of standard training (even if their particular breed, or individual dog loves to retrieve). My answer is yes. Along with making the retrieve a command, it can do a lot of others things for the dog, like boost their confidence, soften a hard mouth, establish a solid platform for more advanced training, plus it makes for polished, classy field work. Without a doubt, you can take them through the force fetch training and maintain and even strengthen their passion for retrieving.

    Above is a photo of a wonderful, big running German short-haired pointer named Rat during the force fetch training. If a dog is willing to hold this ugly, uncomfortable metal sprinkler, he will hold anything.