9 Tips to Keep Your Hunting Dog ‘On Point’

 9 Tips to Keep Your Hunting Dog ‘On Point’

Sarah Gaffney

EvoOutdoors Team Member

lab 1 Even though hunting season is over, your hunting dog needs consistent work to stay in shape for next season. Without work during the off-season, your dog will become out of shape and likely forget many of the lessons it learned during last season. A year-round conditioning program offers the obvious benefits of making your dog more productive during the hunting season but it also provides for an overall healthier dog too. Healthy physical condition will likely mean a longer, more comfortable life for your hunting companion.

Williams 1Sloan and Samantha Williams of S&S Outdoors have a passion for the outdoors that developed at an early age. Hunting dogs have been a part of their lives since the day they were born. They were raised by a dad that loved to hunt and a mom that loved dogs which promoted a lifestyle that is often not enjoyed by girls. Sloan and Samantha have proven to be exceptions.  To them, it made sense to combine both of the family’s passions into a career that they not only excelled at, but love.

The sister’s share, “A dog that stays in shape throughout the summer will hunt harder and last longer in the fall.”

The Williams’ sisters use this time to also keep their retriever’s hunting skills sharp through regular training. Therefore, killing two birds with one stone [pun intended].

Arguably, nothing is more important than keeping your dog in top physical condition. There’s no better way to keep any breed of hunting dog in good shape than daily exercise. Whether you throw a ball, a stick, or a bumper—get your dog on their feet and moving. Here are some tips given by the Williams’ sisters that will ensure you and your companion a long and healthy hunting season.

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  1. Your dog may not admit when their tired, so be careful not to overdo it. Keep an eye on them and know your dogs limits. Short fun training sessions are just as important; remember your dog misses hunting season just as much as you do—so keep training enjoyable.
  2. Labs and other retrievers are built to swim. Swimming is extremely gentle on dog’s joints and provides a full-body workout in a shorter amount of time.
  3. Simply exposing your dog in the off-season to the scent of birds. This is especially important for puppies and young dogs with little experience on live birds.
  4. Keep challenging your dog, but also add some fun simple days in the mix. If you noticed something your dog wasn’t as strong with, work on improving that area. You will get out of your dog what you put into them!!
  5. DIET- You want to make sure you are feeding your dog high quality food to help them perform to the best of their abilities. A higher protein food will help keep the “good” fat on your dog that they need!
  6. OBEDIENCE- You want to make sure your dog is going to follow your every command. This is a great tool to keep your dog safe and out of harm’s way!
  7. HUNTING SCENARIOS- You want to make sure you set up some hunting scenarios to prepare your dog for the season. (gun shots, decoys, birds, water- whatever type of hunting conditions you will be in)!FB_IMG_1456538752968 (1)
  8. FIGURE- Your dog needs to be in good shape. You don’t want them under weight or over weight. Either way you are putting their health and well being at risk. Your first priority should always be doing what’s best for your hunting companion!!
  9. Always make sure to keep a good eye on your dog – their safety comes before everything else! When training or hunting make sure they don’t get over heated, too cold, or worn down! Your dog can be the best hunting partner of your lifetime if you give them the right skill set to do so!

sloan sisters

Sloan and Samantha of S&S Outdoors combined their love for hunting and the outdoors with their love for dogs. Based in Mooresville, North Carolina, S&S Outdoors offers retriever and gun dog training, upland training, HRC Event training, obedience, boarding, puppy socialization as well as Labrador Retriever breeding. The award winning sisters are some of the best dog trainers in the area and are eager to meet your pup and get them ready for the hunt. For more information contact info@sandsoutdoors.com  or call (704)577-2511

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Sarah was born and raised in South Eastern Pennsylvania where she followed the footsteps of her father pursuing all the game the land has to offer. Her passion ranges from coon-hunting to trapping as well as hunting whitetails. As with family traditions Sarah has embraced the outdoor lifestyle. She is an avid hunter whose focus is her hunting dogs. Sarah raises, trains and hunts Redbone Coonhounds and Black Labrador Retrievers.

Sporting Clays: How to get started

I shoulder my shotgun and yell “pull”!

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I take my aim and miss the first two clays. I’m at my very first sporting clay competition and to say that I’m nervous is an understatement. I hear encouraging words from the other competitors behind me as I shoulder my gun again and prepare for the next two clays. Again, I yell “pull”, but this time I bust both clays! The other competitors in my group start cheering for me and giving me high fives, easing my nerves as we walk to the second station.

I recently shot at the 16th Annual Women’s Charity Shotgun Event hosted by the Ozark Shooters Sports Complex in Branson, MO. The proceeds from this shoot went to the Shriner’s Hospital for Children, a hospital that provides high quality care to children in need, regardless of the family’s ability to pay.

Before now my only experience in this area was shooting trap in my backyard a few times, as well as hunting doves, pheasants and crows. One thing that I truly believe is that you learn the most by forcing yourself to get out of your comfort zone. Going into this sporting clay competition by myself, not knowing what to expect was definitely a little uncomfortable for me, but I am so glad that I did it!

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The women competing in this event were not only very friendly and encouraging, they were excellent shooters and I was happy that they were willing to give me some pointers. One tip was to lift my right elbow up just a little higher & keep it parallel to the ground. This creates a “pocket” in your shoulder that the shotgun fits into better which helps with recoil, especially after shooting 50 shells. I learned that other shooters really want to help you and want to see you succeed. Sure, it’s a competition, but it’s all in good fun and for a great cause.

For those like me that are new to sporting clay shooting, here’s a basic run down on what to expect:

How It Works

AndiEvo4_copyOut of all the shotgun sports, sporting clays is the closest thing to actual field hunting. With skeet and trap you have clays thrown at generalized distances and angles each time. Sporting clays are designed to simulate actual wing shooting of ducks, pheasants and other upland birds. The clays can be thrown from any direction, at any speed and any angle. Some clays even vary in size, giving you the next best thing to real world hunting conditions.

Sporting clays are usually shot in squads of 2-6 people and is played over a course of about 10 different shooting stations throughout fields and the natural features of the land. Being from the Ozark Mountains, our stations overlooked some beautiful scenery and was naturally, very hilly. Each person in a squad shoots a determined number of clays, usually around 4-6, before moving on to the next station.

Safety

Like all shooting sports, safety comes first in sporting clays. As soon as you remove your gun from the vehicle, make sure the breech is open and the gun is not loaded. If you shoot an over/under shotgun, make sure you break it open and the barrel is pointed down or up towards the sky. Even if you know the shotgun is not loaded, always treat it as if it is.

Ear and eye protection are also a must any time you are on a sporting clay course.DSC_0071_copy3

Shooting a Round

Once each squad is at their designated first station, hand the score cards to the referee. Before anyone shoots, the referee will show you the targets so you can see how they are being thrown.

Step up to the station when it’s your turn to shoot and load your shotgun. Point it safely towards the firing area and yell “pull” once you are ready. The target is considered a “dead bird” if any part of it is broken. When you are done shooting, make sure the breech is open and exit the station. Remain behind the station until everyone in your squad has finished shooting and is ready to move on.

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Shooting sporting clays is a great way to sharpen your shooting skills and “extend” your hunting season. If you feel sporting clays is something you would like to get involved in, here are a few ways to get started!

Join a Local Club. Check out the National Sporting Clay Association (NSCA) website to search for clubs in your area.

Link: http://www.nssa-nsca.org/index.php/nsca-sporting-clays-shooting/clubs-associations/club-search/

Once a member, you can use your clubs facility on a regular basis and meet other shooters. Like I mentioned above, my experience with meeting other shooters was a positive one. They were very helpful, encouraging, and these ladies could shoot very well!

Join the NSCA. The NSCA is the ultimate resource for all things sporting clays. They are dedicated to getting more people involved in shotgun sports, no matter what level they are at, and promoting healthy competition within its membership.

Shoot In a Competition. I think one of the best ways to improve your shooting skills is to actually shoot in a competition, like I did. You can watch other great shooters and learn from them. Don’t worry about “not being good enough”. You only compete within your own class, so you’re only competing against others that are at the same level as you.

Keep Practicing! Shoot, shoot, and shoot some more! Experience really is the best teacher. Also, if any upland seasons are open, get yourself a tag. I ended up getting 1st place in my class and I feel that my experience with hunting live birds prepared me the most for sporting clays.

-Andrea Haas, Huntress View

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Texas Disabled Youth Hunt

Texas Youth DIsabled Hunters
The North Texas Disabled Youth Hunt is put on through the combined efforts of several area ranches that are located in northwest Texas and members of the North Texas Sportsman’s Consortium as well as a non profit 501 c3 organization, Dream Catcher Outdoor Adventures.  2012 was the first year this hunt was conducted and it was viewed as a resounding success by all.  The children had a wonderful time participating in a wide variety of activities and most were successful in harvesting deer.
Ranches generally in the Eastland County area offer opportunities to harvest excess does and management bucks.  These ranches typically are highly managed for quality and quantity, and offer top notch hunting conditions.  These young hunters have an excellent opportunity to see lots of wildlife and harvest a deer.
Youth learning about firearm safetyAmong the various activities the children participated in were a hunter safety course including firearm handling, loading, and firing.  A guide was assigned to each child and they were able to spend time before hunting so they could not only bond, but the guide was able to evaluate the hunter’s capabilities and skill level.  Besides the deer hunt itself, there was a trip to a local fire station for a tour through the facility which included discussion with fire station personnel about fire safety and a ride in a fire truck.  Ready for the FIretruck RideMeals (three/day) were a focal point. Not only were they top shelf cuisine, but they allowed everyone to hear the stories of each other’s outings and events.  Stories of successes and failures were told and enjoyed by all.  The last evening was a blow out bash with a campfire, barbeque, guitar picking and singing, and a ride up in the dark by an assembly of cowboys mounted on horseback ready and willing to take anyone on a ride that was ready, willing, and able.  Youth Hunters meeting the cowboysA hayride to and from the barbeque was enjoyed as well!!
The event ran from noon Friday,  to departure after hunting on Monday morning.  It was open not only to the children, but their parents/guardians were encouraged and welcome to join as well.  Attendees were provided lodging in a local hotel in Eastland, Texas.
The 2013 North Texas Disabled Youth Hunt promises to be even better than our maiden voyage last year.  Our goal is to learn from prior year’s experiences and to focus on bringing  joy into these kids hearts through a wonderful outdoor experience.  We want to grow the event without sacrificing quality for numbers. Each year will be a learning experience and the following year will benefit from what knowledge we have gained.  If we can provide a quality time for these youth, and grow the numbers so that more can participate, that will be the best of all worlds.
 Dream Catchers Youth Event Harvest
If you would like to contribute and help us make this year as successful as the LAST!!!!
“Keep your blades sharp, and your powder dry”
David Frisbie