Dogs Make the Hunt Better

A Boykin Spaniel splashes into the water on the way to retrieve a duck. Photo by Derek Stoner.

Four-legged friend. Canine companion. Fur baby. There are a lot of different ways we may refer to dogs with nicknames, but there is no doubt that these domesticated descendants of wolves have captured our collective hearts and minds. When it comes to hunting, there is a powerful connection that we share with dogs which can help make any hunting experience better.

From the early humans who depended upon half-tame wolves to help them chase down prey animals or chase away predators who might eat them both, to the modern-day sportsman with a fleet of high-dollar pure-bred hunting dogs, we have depended upon canines to help us with a variety of important tasks.

A Chocolate Lab brings in a shed antler. Photo by Derek Stoner.

Now firmly ensconced in our life of leisure and less-needed for survival purposes, the sporting dog family is one that navigates a world constantly shifting between working and playing. If you have a dog at home, you know how readily they can shift from playful puppy mode to snarling sprinter when a perceived threat appears. Fortunately, these dual modes can be harnessed in creative activities like shed antler hunting (pictured above) that combines a dog’s retrieving drive with its ability to cover territory and make visual discoveries of the target object.

That instinctive drive to hunt and protect is what we attempt to harness when training a dog to help with the hunt. Whether trailing a wounded deer, retrieving a downed bird, or pointing grouse in a dense thicket, there are myriad ways that a dog can improve our hunting experience.

A trained Bloodhound tracking a deer through the forest, nose to the ground with huge ears helping funnel scent.
Photo by Derek Stoner.

Recently Pennsylvania joined the ranks of many other states when the use of tracking dogs was legalized for the recovery of big game animals shot while hunting. Now hunters can train and utilize a variety of dogs, from Dachsunds to Bloodhounds (pictured above), to assist in locating deer, bear, and elk that have run off and are unable to be found by the hunter in a reasonable time after the shot. Often, the incredible nose of these dogs is all that is needed to help bring the hunt to a successful conclusion with the recovery of the dead game animal.

A yellow Labrador Retriever brings in drake Mallard on a frozen pond. Photo by Derek Stoner.

For some folks, there may not be a more classic representation of dogs hunting with humans than the role of the retriever in waterfowl hunting. From diving into frigid water to retrieve a duck to grabbing a big Canada Goose and parading it proudly back to hand, these retrievers (quite likely Labrador Retrievers, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, or one of the other popular breeds in this category) are known for their desire to please and the ability to work hard in adverse conditions to fetch downed fowl.

If you are interested in learning more about hunting dogs and how to train them, there are several organizations in Pennsylvania that focus on educating and sharing information about different breeds of hunting dogs.

North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association – Keystone Chapter

Pennsylvania Sporting Dog Clubs

Hunting Dog Breeders of Pennsylvania

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