Guns, Gear, and The Great Outdoors

Skill 186: Teach a Bird Dog to Point

Bird Pointing Perfection

For the sake of dedicated journalism, and to provide you, the reader, with an all-inclusive reading experience, the obvious way to complete this skill was to rush out and buy the first pointer puppy I could find…

This is mistake number one that people make in the pursuit of bird dog perfection. Sure, skills can be taught…to a point. A key aspect of a rock-solid hunting dog, however, is rock-solid genetics. Don’t simply glance in the classified ads until you stumble upon a batch of puppies that will work. Do your homework, ask the gun dog community, and set yourself up for success.

This is one of those skill challenges that you only get to try out every 10-15 years (hopefully). That being said, my father’s two-year-old German shorthaired pointer, “Nikka” (pictured above), provides a means for me to evaluate her training against the tips suggested in the Total Outdoorsman Manual (TOM).

As I just stated, step one of our process was locating a quality breeder. Nikka came pre-packaged with a long list of championship bloodlines and a guarantee from this breeder. Step One….check.

Aside from genetics, the rest was up to us. When comparing the steps we took in creating the Michael Jordan of bird dogs to the ones that the book suggests, the approach was very similar.

[At this point, it’s a good time to let you, the reader, know that these posts will be a review of the tips discussed in the book, not a summary of them. As much as I would love to tell each and every one of you exactly what I am doing, I have this sinking suspicion that Field and Stream, as well as the authors would define me doing so as plagiarism. Since their lawyers are probably much more robust than mine, I’ll leave it up to you to buy the book if you really want to follow along. I would recommend doing this anyway, as the book’s pictures and asides from the author are worth the purchase price alone, not to mention the wealth of useful, intriguing, fun information]

To put our strategy into a few short path marks to ensure you are moving in the right direction: If your pointer puppy is less than a year old, is familiar with the sound of a .22, a 410, and a 20 gage, has tasted feathers, and you are familiar with the concept of positive reinforcement to encourage desired behaviors, your headed in the right direction. For a more detailed, step by step guide, check out the TOM and give their method a try.

In our case, Nikka participated in the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association’s natural ability test a few days after her first birthday. Not only did she receive a prize I perfect score, but she also pointed a bird in which the judges’ claimed didn’t exist in a wide-open field containing one small tuft of grass. As the judge sarcastically kicked around at the open ground, he chuckled at the notion that Nikka was pointing at nothing. Much to his surprise, a quail blasted out of the grass and did a quick fly-by of his head. He didn’t chuckle much after that.Nikka posing with a beautiful male ringneck pheasant

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