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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.

DSC_0026

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

Making the Transition

It’s that time of year that really gets every waterfowler excited to be afield.  Early season is coming to a close and the time to chase ducks is almost here.  So what changes do you have to make to have success when heading to your favorite little honey holes?

Finding where the ducks want to be is the first step in being successful.  A lot of waterfowl hunters have the same blind or the same little bay they like to hunt when opening day finally rolls around.  In a way I like that sort of traditional aspect when it comes to duck hunting. Going out there with your close friends and family and having a good time.  You may not always be heading back to the truck with limits but you can always create memories that you can share for the rest of your life.  Now if this isn’t the case for you and finding the “X” is priority one, then you better be ready to put some miles on your vehicle.  Scouting is the name of the game and if you aren’t where the ducks are coming to, your success rate is going to decrease.  Finding those duck magnets and gaining permission will help put more ducks in your freezer.

As for my areas that I frequent the main target is field hunting Canada Geese.  Again scouting is on the top of our list. Splitting up your crew of guys and covering more ground is always a good idea if you can because you just never know what the geese are going to do from day-to-day unless you are there watching their every moves.  Gaining permission from the landowner can be tricky at times. There are certain areas where farmers will give out permission to anyone who comes to their door and asks and then the flip side landowners that don’t allow hunting at all.  If you get fortunate enough to get the go ahead and hunt be sure to thank them and assure them that you will clean up your set up when the hunt is over.  Making the landowner happy will give you that edge for future returns year after year. If you are unsuccessful in gaining permission then you need to just find a way to adapt.  Try to get on an adjacent field and put out more decoys than usual aka. “Run Traffic.” This is because you are not exactly where the birds want to be and therefore you need to show them a reason to come give your spread a look.

NoDak2012Next step is to disappear in the field in which you intend to hunt.  I suggest deciding on what blind to use by the amount of cover or debris left after the field is harvested.  On short cut fields the Avery Power Hunter is my go to blind. It is low profile and easy to stubble up and make you invisible.  And on the flip side if you are able to find a field with a lot of left over cover in it then my favorite blind is the Avery Ground Force.  This blind is a little higher profile than the power hunter and is also fully framed.  It allows for a little more comfort and is very easy to hide as well.  Don’t be afraid to try new decoy spreads as well.  Experiment and see what might work and what doesn’t.  My friends and I have tried all sorts of patterns and have fine-tuned what we think is the most effective when it comes to getting geese feet down.  Setting your blinds outside of your decoys to help keep the incoming bird’s eyes from finding your hide is a great technique and we have used it for the past two years now.  Also shying away from the traditional “U” shaped spread and opening things up more is a good method to try.

Successful Youth Hunt

Successful Youth Hunt

To make your fall hunting experiences the best be sure to share them with friends and family. Take youth out every chance you can as well. They are the future of this sport and we want it to continue for generations to come.  And most importantly, just have fun. Getting your limit is fun but making memories will last forever.

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.