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Re: How Do You Introduce Guns?

The Ryman Setters Forum Forums Training How Do You Introduce Guns? Re: How Do You Introduce Guns?

October Setters


    Your comments make me realize I need to clarify some of what I said in my previous post.  First I want to expand on your method of throwing quail for a pup.  We do essentially the same thing with pigeons, which have the advantage of not landing to temp the pup to catch them.  They make a short chase, at which time we can fire the blank pistol, then come back to get another bird.  They learn very quickly that the birds are coming from you and returning to you after the chase gets them another bird.  You could also do this walking along with a bird bag.  I like the idea of teaching pups that you are the source of the excitement.

    What you describe, shooting the blank pistol during one session, shotgun during the second, seems awfully quick to introduce the gun.  I’m sure you are shortening the process by using the hammer, etc. but I want to clarify that our method is much slower than that.  We show them pigeons and get them acquainted them birds before ever firing the pistol.  Then I start by firing the pistol from a distance of 30 yards or so.  I stay at that distance for the entire session, firing a blank about every other bird with a total of 8-10 birds thrown.  Next session I move a little closer, maybe five or ten yards and stay there for the entire session.  It probably takes us in the neighborhood of 12-15 sessions to get to the point where we fire right over their head.  Timing depends on how the pups respond.  I probably fire the shotgun for 6-8 additional sessions.  This whole process takes us a month or so to complete depending on our work schedules, weather, etc.  I want to stress taking your time on this.  Pushing it can cause serious problems but progressing slower than necessary will never hurt.

    Another difference is age of the pup.  We usually start blank pistol drills at 3-5 months of age.  That makes them five months or more when we plant quail for them.  Yes many (most?) will point them much earlier but they don’t have nearly the attention span or awareness of their surroundings they will two months later and I think this is important at this stage. 

    Which raises another point.  We feel training quail should be used at the bare minimum required to get the job done.  Too much exposure to hapless pen raised birds is detrimental to a pups development.  They quickly figure out they can catch them easily and that makes them less likely to want to point.  Some will eventually stop pointing and just try to catch them.  The pup that really wants to point is also a problem, learning they can get very close, even to the point where they want to see the bird before pointing.  Too much of this can cause real problems when you switch to real (wild) birds.  Been there, done that, so buyer beware.  Keep exposure to training quail to a minimum.  We use them just enough so the pup is finding and pointing them, then shoot a couple.  For most pups this is 4-6 sessions with 2-3 contacts per session after which they may never see another training bird the rest of their life.

    As for introducing the gun on wild birds we’ve done it both ways but we much prefer the controlled situation created with training birds.  We’ve carried a blank pistol on early hunts, firing when birds are flushed and gradually getting closer but it can take quite a few hunts to get the job done, especially if bird numbers are down.  Getting them conditioned to the gun in the yard, before actually hunting, is more efficient and has the advantage of getting pups ready to have birds they find shot for them from the very first hunt.  This way they learn about birds being shot from their first few contacts on, which can be a big advantage.  I’ve seen a few dogs that didn’t recognize woodcock as something we were after.  Firing the blank pistol didn’t convince them woodcock were our quarry but shooting them did immediately. 

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