Results 1 to 13 of 13

Thread: Houdini the Ptarmigan

  1. #1
    Member SkinnyD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    20B
    Posts
    1,379

    Default Houdini the Ptarmigan

    I was wandering along near the treeline yesterday looking for ptarmigan. I finally flushed some birds, but they flew directly behind a spruce tree and no shot was presented to me, even though I had my scattergun. I watched five or six flutter off down the ridge and land, just as I expected them to do. They didn't fly far... perhaps 80 yards or so. I watched them land. So I leashed my dog and sneaked my way toward the birds. As I got closer, I could hear them clucking to each other. I was positive that I was about to find feathery success.

    But the birds disappeared. As I said, I was at the treeline and I would have known if they flew again. Did they run away like pheasants or is it possible that all five hid in the snow? I couldn't find any tracks, feathers, depressions in the snow. Nothing. Anyone got any ideas?
    Passing up shots on mergansers since 1992.


  2. #2
    Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Fairbanks
    Posts
    975

    Default

    Skinny,

    Not to many options here other than the obvious. The birds either walked/flew off and you didn't see them, or they hunkered down and let you walk past them. Ptarmigan are quite secure in their camouflage. If there really were no tracks then it's a matter of the birds not actually landing where you thought you saw them land. Often this is the case unless you actually saw them go to the ground, and then the birds will likely walk off and hunker down somewhere. What did your dog say about all this?

  3. #3
    Member bnkwnto's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Eagle River Alaska, United States,
    Posts
    540

    Default

    I have to agree with Jim. Ptarmigan don't normally run too far after they land. My bets either they hunkered down or you got confused on the actual spot. My buddy and I will sometimes see the same birds land but then disagree on the cover they landed in once we get there. The good thing is that as long as we are in the general area the dogs will always find the birds.
    Have you trained your dog at all with an e-collar? I never take a leash with me when I'm hunting. If the pup gets excited and gets too far out a heel command or a tap on his "hearing aid" will reel him back in.
    Good luck, I wish I was out hunting right now

  4. #4
    Member SkinnyD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    20B
    Posts
    1,379

    Default

    I'm sure you're right. They landed right behind that spruce tree. Or was it that one? Or that one? They do all look rather alike.

    I guess the clucks were the bothersome part. I heard them as plain as day and I know there were no ground squirrels chirping at each other in the Whites yesterday. Will a ptarmigan flop straight into the snow without landing? I remember an old Marty Stoufer episode of a grouse trying to get away from a hawk by burying into the snow with a flying start. I'm thinking the kind of hole as if I were to throw a softball into the snow.

    I wish I had a better report about the dog for you, Mr. McCann, but she's much less skilled at upland birds than ducks. It seems that without the duck blind and the splash of a dead bird, she just wants to run around. I think her nose completely turns off in the snow. I leashed her because her running habit has flushed many a ptarmigan at 45 yards already this season and I have grown wary of her tricks. I've started wearing my wading belt around my overalls and leashing her to it. Now she has to watch the birds flush and she can mark the fallen ones as before. I do let her run most of the time though because she is particularly good at chasing hares out of the thickets that I usually walk around. Once we find a covey, she stays at my side--whether she likes it or not.
    Passing up shots on mergansers since 1992.


  5. #5
    Member Hoyt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Fairbanks
    Posts
    1,154

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by SkinnyD View Post
    I'm sure you're right. They landed right behind that spruce tree. Or was it that one? Or that one? They do all look rather alike.

    I guess the clucks were the bothersome part. I heard them as plain as day and I know there were no ground squirrels chirping at each other in the Whites yesterday. Will a ptarmigan flop straight into the snow without landing? I remember an old Marty Stoufer episode of a grouse trying to get away from a hawk by burying into the snow with a flying start. I'm thinking the kind of hole as if I were to throw a softball into the snow.

    I wish I had a better report about the dog for you, Mr. McCann, but she's much less skilled at upland birds than ducks. It seems that without the duck blind and the splash of a dead bird, she just wants to run around. I think her nose completely turns off in the snow. I leashed her because her running habit has flushed many a ptarmigan at 45 yards already this season and I have grown wary of her tricks. I've started wearing my wading belt around my overalls and leashing her to it. Now she has to watch the birds flush and she can mark the fallen ones as before. I do let her run most of the time though because she is particularly good at chasing hares out of the thickets that I usually walk around. Once we find a covey, she stays at my side--whether she likes it or not.
    No offense, but it sounds like she just needs a little more specific training or time to figure out this new kind of hunting. Is this her first season on upland birds? If she is that good on ducks, then she should have the same desire and drive on upland birds. It sounds like she would do just fine if you had a little more control on her, and she had a better understanding of what she is doing. She may be superb on water fowl, but that is a different beast entirely. There are plenty of pointers out there that are great upland dogs, but if you dump them on a duck pond, they wouldnít be worth squat (unless trained for it) I grew up around my grandparents and uncle (in Iowa) who raised Labradors for field trials and bird hunting (both upland/water fowl), and I've never know a Lab who turns off its nose (even the not so skilled ones)! She is working, I can guarantee that! I bet she just needs some time and direction! Like I said, I hope you don't take offense to this, as it wasn't meant that way. Itís just my opinion, and I am by far not a pro!

  6. #6
    Member SkinnyD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    20B
    Posts
    1,379

    Default

    I promise I'm not offended by any bird hunting advice, and I read these posts often enough to know who is giving smarty-pants answers and who offers decent advice (you fall into the latter category). It's the first season for both of us and we are learning everything together. At 14 months, she's got plenty left to learn, and at 25, I have plenty to figure out myself. I know you're right about the nose thing, but it was all I could do to get her ready to mark dead ducks last summer. I think with a full season under our belts, next summer's training will be much more focused on hunting under control.
    I taught her by the Water Dog book page by page. I think the upland version was called Gun Dog... would that be worth incorporating into next year's training or is it a matter of reinforcing what we already know?
    Passing up shots on mergansers since 1992.


  7. #7
    Member bnkwnto's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Eagle River Alaska, United States,
    Posts
    540

    Default Keep at it.

    I know what you mean we are all trying to learn. That's why I love this forum. Gun Dog is an excellent book. I think if you have your dog trained well enough to retrieve ducks you shouldn't have much trouble making the switch to ptarmigan. As you know for ptarmigan controlling your dog is one of the hardest parts. I normally let my pup range out a little far but as soon as he gets birdy (this is the part you have to learn) I bring him in close. We then move back to the spot he was getting birdy and I tell him to huntíem up but keep him close enough that the birds will be in range when they come up. It took several hunting trips before Nitro really learned what to do. At first he would run back and forth (youíll learn that in gun dog) and not really use his nose but once I shot a few birds in front of him it was game on.

    For training I kept wings from last yearís birds and put them on bumpers. I would throw the bumper into the weeds and give him a dead bird command and release him. Gun dog has several drills that will help you.

    My pup is almost 15 months old and he gets better every time I take him out. Iím sure your dog will pick it up quick. If you havenít been using one I highly recommend you get an e-collar. Just make sure you use it correctly.

    I hope this helps out. You still have a lot of season left to work on it. Iím no expert either so hopefully you donít think Iím one of those guys trying to be a smarty-pants.
    Good Luck,

  8. #8
    Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Fairbanks
    Posts
    975

    Default

    Skinny,

    If your dog has the nose and the will to hunt upland birds, than you need to train your dog with planted birds. If you choose to use the services of a pro than I'd recommend either Tom Simpson or Bob Sjordahl. PM if you require more info on these top trainers.

    Jim

  9. #9
    Member Hoyt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Fairbanks
    Posts
    1,154

    Default

    Got some good info to work with Skinny! Just keep working with her this winter, use this summer to train (no time off), and remember she is a 14 month old Lab......she is still a baby!

  10. #10
    Member SkinnyD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    20B
    Posts
    1,379

    Default

    Thanks for all the help, folks. If I had any expertise to share, I'd do it, but I'm pretty sure ALL of you know more than I do. It's probably a thousand wonders that I haven't drowned, frozen, or caught myself in a bear trap already.

    Here's one more dumb question. When a dog goes to a professional trainer for a period of time, how does it respond to its original master once it comes home? I am reminded of the old addage "When you start feeling big and powerful, try ordering someone else's dog around." If she learns the commands and mannerisms of another hunter/trainer, how much of that will be lost when she returns to me? For that reason, I am hesitant to send her off because we have such a good rapport between ourselves now. I'd mostly like to get her to range closer to me so that when we flush birds, I can shoot them and she can see them. If she sees them, she will retrieve them; and if I am close enough, usually at least one will be on the ground for her to pick up.
    Passing up shots on mergansers since 1992.


  11. #11
    Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Fairbanks
    Posts
    975

    Default

    Skinny,

    No problem at all 'cause any pro trainer I know would ask you to be involved in part of that training along the way, especially before the dog goes home. But our dogs are quite willing creatures and will do just about anything for the person that houses and feeds them. You've already developed a lifetime bond with your dog. It won't go away over a couple, three months of being with a trainer. The key part of this is that you continue the training all of the time after the dog comes home. A lot of folks expect the dog to come home all trained up and that they don't ever have to do anything. Not so. The trainer puts the foundation on the dog and you do the rest.

    Jim

  12. #12
    Member Hoyt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Fairbanks
    Posts
    1,154

    Default

    What Jim said! Iím sending Paxson to Minnesota for three months this winter to work with a pro. In April, I'm flying down to spend a few days or so to learn what he has learned, how to maintain what he has learned, and how to handle him. They do not take dogs that are less than 8 or 9 months of age. That gives the dog some time to mature a bit, and also time for the owner and dog to build a relationship. I've set the foundation with basic commands, bird exposure, gun exposure, and retrieving exposure. The trainer will polish him up, and solidify what I started. He will be worked twice a day between obedience, and field work. Plus he'll see thousands of birds (something that I cannot provide). It isn't cheap, but worth it. Instead of Paxson sitting around on these cold dark days of winter, he'll be in the hands of a pro learning and working. I grew up around working dogs, and have a decent idea how to do some basic training, however I am not a pro. Proís not only have all the tools (birds, etc), they have the time and the knowledge. I have to work, and with life in general, time becomes very valuable. A pro has the time, because itís what they do! If I didnít have to work, and could put in hours a day to train, then I would. Like Jim said, there is going to be training maintenance, but that is manageable. Youíre dog will have a solid foundation; it will be up to you to keep that foundation intact. I look at it like thisÖÖ..I am not a carpenter, but being slightly handy, and with the little knowledge I have, I could build a small house. In the short term I would save some money by building it myself, then if I hired a carpenter. However, if you look at it in the long haul, I would probably end up spending more money on the house that I built (in repairs) than the one a carpenter built, because I am sure I would make a ton of small (maybe big) mistakes. The carpenter has better tools, more time, and much more knowledge (all those little trade secretes) than I have. This is all just my opinion though. Hope it gives you something to think about!

  13. #13
    Member Burke's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Palmer, AK
    Posts
    735

    Default

    Skinny, I agree with the above posts.....all good info.
    One thing you might want to think about, is how do you want your dog to handle upland birds. I know guys who keep the dog at heel until they themselves flush and shoot the bird, more like marked retrieves in a duck blind. The other method is to actually teach them to quarter and flush the bird. Once you determine the goal, you can have a clear picture of the training you will need to follow.
    If you want a dog to quarter and flush, the spaniel owners/trainers are probably the best folks to learn from. That is not saying a retriever person couldn't, but the spaniels specialize in the flushing world.
    My Chessie began as a waterfowl dog, and once he was proficient at that I worked him into flushing upland birds. I used him for thicker cover that was hard to keep track of a pointing dog in, like large cattail marshes. He wasnt the most controlled quartering dog, but I could keep him in range with some signals. I learned and trained with friends who had spaniels. Tremendous knowledge base for those particular skills.
    One idea to start.....If you have taught the dog to sit on a whistle for blind retrieves, You could start with just hitting the sit whistle any time your dog flushes a wild bird. You probably would have to focus on that one thing and not take shots for awhile. At least you would then stop the chasing birds and be on the way to a safe shot when he does flush in range. I did that for my Chessie while I hunting pheasants in ND. He learned really quickly to sit to flush because there were so many birds. We had to maintain the practice over time but wild birds were key training devices.

    Sure sounds like your dog is capable and you are willing, so achieving what ever you want is highly likely....great place to start! Carry on with the good work.

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •