Christmas Gifts for the retriever lover

Pro-staff Contributor:  Zach Raulie

Important not to forget your hardest worker in the field on Christmas morning!

Important not to forget your hardest worker in the field on Christmas morning!

It’s creeping up on us faster it seems every year; Christmas that is.  My wife and family members are always asking what I’d wish for this Christmas.  Another new puppy isn’t likely this year but outfitting our newest pup is.  We’re not easy people to shop for, us hunters.  I bet most hunters’ families agree that “he has it all, so what do I get him”.  Here are some great pre-holiday thoughts on my top picks that will be for both me and my retriever Finn, for Christmas 2013.

Stocking Stuffers

Avery EZB Mallard

Avery EZB Mallard

A retriever owner can never have too many training bumpers and this really goes without saying as each season we lose some, pups chews some up or a couple extra just to make sure you have what you need next training season.

Whether by Mud River or Avery Outdoors these bags are fantastic for weekend hunting trips and overnight stays at the in-laws while you’re out of town keeping the dog food dry and transportable in an easy to tote bag.

You can never have enough.  Get a fluorescent color for upland game, one for waterfowling and another for the local playground.  Inexpensive and always useful in the day-to-day retriever world.

Nice list

My mother mentions that Christmas is a time when you gift something to someone that they wouldn’t normally buy for themselves.  Maybe the hunter in your life would like an item that they’ve done without for some time, but it sure would be nice to have.  Here are those items.

Maybe that new puppy you bought last Christmas is now ready for advanced training or maybe it has taken on a few bad habits that need some attention.  Whether for an upland bird dog or a new waterfowler SportDog has the right electronic collar for the job.  The Sportdog Wetland hunter is by far my pick of the litter.

Avery Jr. Ruff Stand

Retriever feeling extra comfortable Avery Jr. Ruff Stand and vest

A retriever never knew luxury could be so good until the Ruff Stand was developed.  This is a gift that every waterfowler has dreamt of and it sure makes waterfowling with your best friend a whole lot better experience whether in the marshes or the timber.  On many days this has provided a dry stable location for all my retrievers.

Products made by Avery Outdoors or Drake have years of experience in fine tuning the correct fit for man’s best friend.  A Dog Vest makes a great item for the retriever to insulate them on cold mornings in the blind and protect them from potential harm beneath the water’s surface.

Check out these and the entire selection of proven Guide Recommended Gear at www.krugerfarms.com

Tips for your Retrievers First Hunt

Pro-staff Contributor:  Zach Raulie

I picked up my pup Finn up north of Atlanta, Georgia as a 7 week old black lab pup on soggy and cold January en route to a Kansas duck hunt.  What have I done since to prepare him for hunting this season, is he ready?

A young Finn

A young Finn

Fast forward 10 months, the migration has started and fall is well upon us.  Many states upland and waterfowl seasons have already begun.  Hopefully you have spent time this summer with your new retriever pup working on the basics, socializing in many environments and transitioning from yard work to field work.

Zach putting in the preparation with Finn

Zach putting in the preparation with Finn

Proper Preparation: My buddies that know me well know I am a big believer in the 5P’s.

PROPER PLANNING PREVENTS POOR PERFORMANCE

Silly as it may seem, this college acronym is one of the few that stuck with me.  I like a retriever who’s prepared.  I hope to have Finn going into his first duck hunt thinking “been there, done that”.  Like an athlete who understands their role and at game time puts forth a solid effort and gets the job done.  I don’t expect that player to do this without countless hours conditioning, practice and watching film.

Don’t let “game day” be the day your pup experiences everything for the first time.  So here are 4 Keys to making your retrievers first hunt a success:

  1. Introduce your retriever to birds early.
    1. Start with a duck wing & live pigeons in your back yard.  Graduate up to using live mallards or pheasants in field-work to simulate a real hunting situation, so when that first greenhead hits the water he isn’t just nosing it and licking it.
  2. Train how you hunt.
    1. If you hunt out of a boat or ground blind make sure your pup is familiar with these and the dog stand/blind they may hunt from.
    2. Introduce your dog to all types of decoys that they’ll be running or swimming through.
    3. If you use duck/goose calls, use them in and around your pup while training
  3. Gun shots
    1. Familiarize your retriever with the tools you’ll be using; you don’t want to create a gun shy dog on its first hunt.
  4. Set realistic expectations of your hunt
    1. Don’t expect a young retriever to do a seasoned retriever’s work.
    2. If you haven’t mastered a blind retrieve in training don’t try it in the field.
Important to work with real birds before the first hunt!

Important to work with real birds before the first hunt!

One of the best ways to prepare your retriever for hunting situations is by joining a local retriever club.  Participate in their monthly or weekly training days and their semi-annual hunt tests.  A great way to learn training tips, experience real hunting situations and see what finished retrievers can do.

Training days will simulate almost all situations presented to a retriever while hunting; allowing you to train, practice and teach your pup invaluable lessons.  All the sights, sounds and smells associated with a real hunt are present at these events, including your own excitement.

Finn equally comfortable in both the field and water

Finn equally comfortable in both the field and water

Hunts tests are sanctioned by UKC or AKC organizations and designed to challenge your retriever against a minimum standard for grading.  These are also fun competitive events, and much can be learned by simply attending and observing; or for those with a competitive heart they tend to be very addictive and truly rewarding as you watch your retriever handle tough conditions and excel during challenging hunts.

I mention all of this as a way to prepare our retrievers for “game day”, the big hunt or season opener.  When you show up with pup on their first hunt, hopefully the sounds, smells and excitement are nothing new to them.  One of the best suggestions I was ever given about a retriever’s first hunt is for the handler of the dog to put his or her gun away that day or at least to the side at first.  Focus on your retriever.  Make sure they are steady to gun, obedient and controlled.  Taking this time to focus on the dog will be more rewarding here on out as they are less likely to form bad habits.

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Finn is ready for his first hunt, but prior to that he will be participating in his first UKC hunt test in November.  I think we are more than prepared but I’m sure he will exploit an area or two that we will need to work on before opening day here in Florida.

Zach Raulie is an avid hunter and amateur retriever trainer living outside of Jacksonville, Florida.   He is a multi-year qualifier for the World’s Duck Calling Contest and is highly competitive in AKC and UKC sanctioned hunt tests.  You’ll see Zach representing krugerfarms.com and Lodge Creek Calls in all of his endeavors each year.  You can contact Zach at zraulie@gmail.com and find him on Facebook

Getting Ready for Fall with White Rock Decoys

Brian and crew

Pro-staff Contributor: Brian Cote

It is no secret. We wait all summer long counting down the days until opening day.  We watch movies, clean out trailers and do other activities that help calm the itch of the off-season.  Then, we finally get to this time of year and the time comes to get everything lined up for the coming fall.  So we start by figuring out what has to be replaced or maybe some simple upgrades we can make to our rig.

Stay Hidden

When it comes to waterfowl hunting, there are many factors that are crucial to having a successful hunt.   I am primarily a field hunter so I believe the two most important factors are scouting and concealment.  When I first started out waterfowl hunting, I could only go to a few places and knew nothing about scouting.  My success rate was quite low to say the least.  Then my crew and I started getting more dedicated and we all put some miles on our vehicles to find that elusive “X”.  Taking the extra time to find the perfect location increased our harvest numbers dramatically—but an important step in finding the right location was checking for a the “hide.” I would ask myself, “What kind of cover are we able to use to stay out of sight and get the birds close?”  There are many ways to disappear from the birds’ keen sight, but when you’re faced with situations where it is tough to hide you have to adapt and find new solutions to the problem.

New to the Game

I got very excited when I learned about the Blind Door Decoys from White Rock Decoys. They now have a full lineup of Blind Door Decoys that include Canada Goose and Mallard models.  These decoys can help solve many issues when it comes to trying to hide a blind.  Their ability to break up an outline, something that can easily stand out in a spread of decoys, is a large advantage.  During the last year or two, the guys I hunt with have played with many different types of set ups sometimes the blinds would be outside of the spread or other times we’d try radical spread formations to help draw the birds’ attention elsewhere.  With these new decoys you can now place yourself just about anywhere in the spread and be well hidden.  They will also help cut down on the time spent brushing in blinds–which is especially great for me because this is my usual job in the field and I am very picky about making sure every blind is invisible.  If you have ever tried to hide 5+ guys in a field, you know this can get rather difficult.  These blind door decoys remove the empty holes from your setup that look unnatural.

I’m also excited about White Rock’s new field Canada Goose and Mallard decoys.  Having the ability to set up, maneuver, and take down a spread is a huge bonus when it comes to field hunting and these decoys give you all three of those things.  We hunted a field last year at least 12 times within a couple weeks only because we had a system down:  set up, shoot our birds, pick up, and get out as soon as we could to let the late arrival birds get to the field and have it all to themselves.  These field decoys are the little difference that will make the season better.

If you want to check out these decoys in-person, come join us at the Game Fair August 15-17th!  Or, as always you can find these awesome decoys on our site!

Brian Cote is a website administrator at krugerfarms.com and a devoted outdoorsman.  He’s eager to take up any opportunity to hunt waterfowl, deer and turkeys in the Midwest region. You can follow him on Twitter @BrianJr22 and find him on Facebook facebook.com/brian.cote.148.

Blind Door Decoys