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Choose hunting companions with care

March 25, 2011 at 07:48 AM

The State Journal-Register

Choosing human hunting companions is relatively easy.

After a few trials and errors, most of us settle in with partners whose hunting goals and methods match ours. We move toward hunters with whom we can get along.

They are companions who hunt safely and legally, who pay their share of the expenses and who can take a good-natured jab.

Finding the right hunting dog, and making it your hunting companion, is more difficult than Advanced Placement biology.

I can send Buckwheat home at the end of the day. Mickey and Toby go home with me. They expect to be fed and cared for no matter what else I have to do.

If you’re thinking about getting a hunting dog, study up on it before you plunk down your hard-earned cash — especially if it’s your first dog.

With no preconceived notions, deciding on a breed of dog can take weeks. All breeds have their strengths and weaknesses.

Think about the dogs you have hunted over. List your likes and dislikes. Did the dog hunt for you, or was it the other way around?

If you want your new dog to be a family member, pay special attention to the dog’s temperament.

The time spent afield with a hunting dog is only a fraction of the time you will spend with that dog.

If you’re asking a fellow hunter for advice, take a look in the back of his truck. No doubt, his breed recommendation will be sitting back there hoping for a doughnut.

Even if he hates that dog, he’ll never admit it. His favorite may be a good choice for you … or not.

When you’ve picked the breed that suits you best, next is the all-important consideration of how much you are willing to spend.

I’ve hunted over high-priced dogs with famous bloodlines that were hunting machines, and good hunting dogs with pedestrian bloodlines that found a lot of birds.

I had a great time watching both of them work.

No matter what the dog costs, it will quickly become the cheapest thing in the cost-of-a-hunting-dog equation.

By the time you invest in collars, kennels, training, vet bills and food for the next 10 years, even a free dog gets expensive.

When your head is about to explode from information overload, you’re about half done.

Do you want to raise a puppy, or do you want a “started dog?” A “started dog” is a young dog that has had some training and possibly some hunting experience.

You and your family will bond with either dog. The puppy experience is lot of fun, if everyone involved has the patience. So is taking a started dog out and watching him lock up on a bird the first time out.

It may come down to deciding how soon you want a return on your investment.

Either way, take your time, do your homework and you’ll end up with a hunting partner and a friend for life.

Contact George Little at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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