Whether you’re hunting over your own dog or someone else’s, there are several guidelines to follow to ensure a safe and successful hunt.
Some of these are obvious, but if you keep all of them top of mind, everyone will have a great day in the field.
Always watch for potential hazards, and keep your dog under control accordingly. For example, sometimes a bird will drop where it’s too dangerous to make a safe retrieval, such as fast-flowing water or thin ice. Also think ahead about your shots. Shooting over a dog during an upland hunt is inevitable, but wait for a good flush. And don’t take shots that may harm the dog—all it takes are a few stray pellets to end the hunt.
When hunting over someone else’s dog, clarify expectations beforehand. All dog owners have their own comfort level when others hunt alongside their dog. Dispatching cripples while a dog is retrieving may be okay with some handlers, for example, but not with others.
Running more than one dog during a hunt increases the excitement, but it can also create chaos. If possible, introduce gun dogs to each other before the hunt to avoid constant challenges or, worse, a dog fight. A well-trained dog honours other dogs by listening to its handler and retrieving only on command.
If you’re going on a guided bird hunt, ask permission first if you want to bring your own dog. Most outfitters already run one or more dogs, depending on the type of hunt, and adding an outside dog can easily ruin the dynamics. If your dog is allowed to join in, remember that the guide still calls the shots—and the retrieves—so keep your dog under control until you get the green light.