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Pheasants before grouse?

The Ryman Setters Forum Forums Hunting Pheasants before grouse?

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    • #672

        I read an article claiming that it is a bad idea to work Ryman pups on pheasants before they have hunted grouse (assuming you plan to hunt both). The basic idea is that the techniques a pup figures out to circle and trap pheasants between himself and the hunter would spook a grouse, causing a wild flush. Any thoughts from the forum if this is good advice or just a myth? Thanks.

      • #681
        Thunder Bay Setters

          I believe it is better to start pups on grouse if that is to be their primary purpose.  I have been told that a good dog should be able to transition quickly, however, grouse are tough and a dog is best taught early what a grouse will not tolerate.  My dogs hunt both but I like my pups to have grouse exposure first.  YMMV

        • #714

          I think that one of the keys to your question is “puppy.”  I have watched adults who are experienced on pheasants transition to grouse: the ones I have personally witnessed handled the transition, and the grouse, pretty well.  Pups might be a little different story. I personally do prefer to start pups on grouse, either sharptail or ruffed, because I think it is usually a “cleaner” learning situation from which pup to learn. Like you, I hunt pheasant where we encounter single birds, not the large numbers found in SD for example, and these single birds are genius at sneaking and slipsliding around their home cover. A 300 acre field with very few pheasants can present a challenge for any pointing dog to pin a rooster, let alone a pup. I have seen pups do a good job trying to trail and pin a phez but then bird just cuts some 90 degree angles and escapes unseen. With grouse at least the pup most often will at least get feedback through a nice, noisy flush to tell them that they were on the right track but didn’t do well enough. Pheasants who have sneaked away just leave pup wondering if there really was a bird afterall.

          A couple of other points though (no pun intended).  One is that when many people think/talk about hunting pheasants they are talking about places like SD where there is a ton of scent because the phez numbers are so high. That is a very different skill and experience for a pointing dog than a few phez scattered in large spaces.  The second thought is about the circling a bird to pin it back toward the gunner: I have read about that and have even seen it happen on a few occasions but am curious if anyone here has witnessed it on a consistent basis? It would take consistently performing that for me to believe that it was intentional on the part of the dog.  Maybe some do, I’d love to hear if anyone reading this has such a dog.

          I don’t know if this answered any of your questions or not!

        • #786

            My hunting is mainly on woodcock and stocked quail.  The quail are in low scrub oak and often run from the point. In his 5th or 6th season my setter learned that, if I approached the point and the bird had run off before I flushed, he could relocate by making a wide circle and re-estabishing the point.  The fact that he is making the wide circle rather than trailing the bird makes me believe that he is actually trying to cut off the bird.  This has become a very consistent behavior.  He has done this with preserve chukkars but I haven’t had enough contacts with pheasants or grouse to get a good feel on how he would handle them with consistency.

          • #795
            October Setters

              I used to hunt wild Idaho pheasants a lot, but we haven’t targeted them very often since getting into Ryman-types, so I guess take my comments with a grain of salt.

              In our experience the same cautious approach and pointing from a distance that works on grouse is also good for western covey birds. So grouse dogs can adjust to covey birds and visa versa. Pheasants are different in that the cautiousness usually is not the way to go so it does take some getting used to for the dogs.

              Typically when our dogs see pheasants (if they ever do) it has been late season in sagebrush. Here that basically means mostly bare ground in between the sage so nowhere to hide. The dogs point and move a few times and eventually a rooster will flush way out ahead. If they see enough pheasants they can figure it out, but it’s definitely an adjustment of style. Usually a more aggressive approach works better, where they get a lot closer before pointing and don’t let the birds run off without following right away. We did have one female who would get on pheasants and sort of tiptoe along not looking very serious, and gradually get close enough to pin them. We joked that they got bored with her and quit running. We have also seen dogs figure out to circle around ahead, even running around outside of a ditch and then coming back at us to pin the bird. With one who did that you could see she almost got mad that they kept running away from her, and then she started racing around to get ahead of them.

              I probably would not recommend hunting a young dog exclusively on pheasants if you also plan to hunt grouse. You don’t want the dog to get set in it’s ways with an approach that doesn’t work for grouse. I would recommend making sure you mix it up and hunt both from the start so the dog learns right off that different birds can require different technique to pin. If stuck with one or the other I would say it’s best to start on grouse. But, if it’s a good dog it’s probably not going to ruin it either way.


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