Too old to learn?

Discussion in 'Cast & Blast' started by Sageman, Nov 11, 2007.

  1. I married a South Dakota girl last year and last week I made my first ever bird hunting trip with her family. I had the time of my life! I bought my first shotgun about a month before and shot probably 750 rounds at clay pigeons before the real thing. It paid off, but I have a long ways to go. Long and short of it, I'm hooked. Nearly all of our hunting was without dogs, but I gained a HUGE appreciation for the utility of having a dog. Especially after I spent about 10 miles of beating through chest high cover one day, and also after leaving more birds on the ground than I care to admit...

    I'm definitely going to start exploring the areas around me here in Yakima and will probably spend some time looking for pheasants in other areas of the state (although after being initiated in SoDak, this may be tough....) My question is, what are the prospects of training a 3 year old Golden Retriever to hunt? I'd have it done by somebody who knows what they are doing, but I don't want to waste time and money if it is a lost cause. Bello is a 3 year old, reportedly with some hunting blood, but has been a house dog for his short life. He clearly has some instincts as we have watched him chase birds and stalk rabbits around the house (the rabbits are hilarious, when one comes into the yard, he crouches down and stalks it like a cat until it runs. One foot at a time....). I've seen him drop a ball to sniff a bush after he catches the scent of quail or rabbits (I actually think the latter is more likely...), something my 9 year old would NEVER do.

    So, can you teach an old dog new tricks, or would I be wasting my time?
  2. there is a shot you could get him to figure it out. Try getting him on some planted birds up in e-burg and see how it goes.
  3. If your 3-year old likes to retrieve and chases rabbits, you're half way there already. Really, the steps for training an adult dog and a puppy are pretty much exactly the same. I would get yourself a few books (I really like the 10-minute retriever by John and Amy Dahl) and start training him.

    You're going to new to get him on birds as much as possible. Pheasant preserves are great for this- try Reecer Creek or Cooke Canyon in Ellensburg (both have websites for more info). Definitely get him used to gun fire before hand, though.

    Keep one or two dead birds in your freezer and bring them out ocassionally for a little extra fun in training or for creating scent trails.

    It shouldn't take too long to make bird dog out of him!

    PS- You've been ruined to WA bird hunting by SoDak! It doesn't get better than that! :rofl:
  4. let me know if you want to get out and see how he does... I will be in Yak for a bunch of time this fall and staying over there house-sitting over thanksgiving.
    I have a BLF that is all business so if you guys want to come chase some quail or pheasants let me know. You will be very spoiled by South Dakota though.
  5. First, let me say I am envious of you for hunting roosters in SD! Pheasant capital of the world. I've never made it there, but I have two daughters in Iowa and I plan to drive there over the Christmas week and hunt pheasant. I used to hunt the Yakama Rez every year for pheasant, but the numbers have dropped so low in the past few years I don't bother anymore. The WDFW does have some pheasant release site that are worth checking out, though. Some are on this side of the mountains, but I usually head for the dry side for that. Google up WDFW Pheasant Enchancement Program and you'll find out where they are located. I believe they stock birds up until Thanksgiving weekend. These are pen-raised birds and perfect for training young dogs. If you PM me I'll give you the location of a good one I use.

    I started upland bird hunting around 1988, and I hunted without a dog for the first few years, mostly on driven hunts for roosters on the Yakama Rez, or valley quail in central Washington. Then, I inherited my older brother's female Golden Retreiver. She was three or four years old at the time, a big, dumb, happy Golden. She was the birdiest dog I've ever seen, right up there with the two setters I now have. I had a problem with her in that she was timid and gunshy, but in the fields she was just fine with the gun as long as she was into bird scent. She turned out to be a really good hunter, despte my ignorance of training bird dogs. I now know I made huge mistakes with her that set her back continously, and I often wonder how she might have done if I had sent her to a pro trainer. She was 12 years old when I lost her to cancer. I took her for one final hunt for pheasant on the Yakama Rez and she just plodded along without much energy, but I could tell she wanted to leap through the tall grass. I knew she wasn't long for this world and she died a few weeks later. I still get a tear in my eye when I think of her.

    I think it's entirely possible to turn her into a bird dog. CWUGirl has some great points. I have hunted the Cook Canyon Hunt Club and it would be perfect for starting a young/new dog in the field. If you want, they can flag the areas they've released the bird in so your dog can get on the fastlane scent-wise. As you now know, pheasant have a tendency to sprint, which throws off young dogs, so they will even hobble the birds for you so they stay put. I'm not qite comfortable with that, but if I was starting a new young dog out from scratch I might consider it. I would also look into some pro training for him. A good pro will know if it's a lost cause and will be honest with you. I worked extensively with a pro trainer with my Llewellin Setter. I was low on cash and we worked out a deal where I would help him every other Friday in his training of at least a dozen dogs, and I'd get a freebee at the end of the day for my dog. This guy was a pointing dog specialist and most his client's dogs were setters, pointers, and a few european breeds. But one day I showed up and he had a big silly Golden in tow that a client needed trained. The dog had been strictly a house pet. I kidded him about that, but that dog turned out to be one of the easiest dogs he ever trained; smart, bidable and quick to learn. He ended up being a really good bird dog. This was at Canine Country Club, in Fall City. That trainer, and the others, have changed roster since then but they may be worth checking out. I can personaly vouch for the owner and admin staff there.Their url is: What's nice about CCC is that you can pay small fee of $5 and purchase their birds, usually pidgeons, or pen-raised quail, and plant them yourself in their fields and let your dog hunt them up.

    My own trainer for my young English setter is R.J. Marquart, of Quicksilver Kennels, in Moses Lake RJ is the kind of guy who would be very honest with you. He's not cheap, but he's the best trainer I've ever seen. My young Setter was/is timid and scared of things and was gunshy to boot. He spent a few weeks with RJ last year and came back with no gunshyness and is a hell of a bird dog.

    CWUGirl is right on about the myriad of training books, videos and training info available on the net. There is a ton of training you can do on your own. On the other hand, a little of that mixed with a pro trainer is a smart idea. Whichever way you go, I'm sure your pooch will make a good bird dog. Having owned a Golden (or did she own me?) I think the most important thing is introducing him to the gun. There are a lot of puppy tricks you can do such as banging on a pot or pan lightly when he feeds, as well as other methods.

    Good luck, and welcome to the world of bird dogs. You can certainly hunt and have much fun bagging birds, but when you get into hunting with a bird dog it changes everything. you will have a relationship with your dog that far supercedes that of a pet. One of my biggest joys in life is driving back from a hunting trip to central Washington with a tired dog in my cab resting his head on my leg, occasionally looking up at me and licking my hand, then laying his head down again and falling fast asleep. Neither one of you will ever be the same again.

  6. Cliff, I was checking out the Carlson Country Club link you provided and was pleasantly surprised that my dog's half brother is one of their stud dogs (the yellow)! My dog Cooper definitely is better looking, though. Not that I'm biased.
  7. If my five year old Standard Poodle can flush birds, in range, I'm sure your dog can learn new tricks too.

    Story and photos to follow tomorrow...
  8. Poodle? Damned right!

    Many regard them as France's answer to the black Lab.

  9. Hey, that's pretty cool! I liked the folks at CCC. The lab trainer I knew there a few years ago is gone now, but I spoke with their current trainer a year and a half ago and he sure seems to know his stuff. I still make the long drive out there to board my dogs if my wife and I have to go out of town.

    Roper - the infamous Standard poodle from Upland Journal! I'm going to have to see you guys hunt sometime.

  10. I don't think 3 years old is too old; it really depend on its willlingness to hunt and how its nose develops. My 14 year yellow lab is a case in point. I took here in the field a couple times when she was less than a year old and then never took her hunting again until she was 7. Within a year she was a creditable bird dog. She would hunt cover slower than most labs but what birds she put up were nearly always in easy shotgun range. Also did some nice work on ducks.

    However for whatever reason I could never get her to retrieve birds on land. She was a strong swimmer and had no problem getting to the ducks and retrieving them to the beach but then she would just drop them on the bank. With upland birds she would go to the down bird and just stand on it - as if to say here it is pick up your own bird. Given here age I never worked too hard on forcing her to do a better job on the retrieves. While old age has caugth up with her I still take you out a couple times a week for a 45 minute "hunt" on some easy ground better putting her in the crate and taking the younger yelllow female (3 years old) out for the serious hunting.

    Tight lines
  11. I'm a little late chiming in here.
    I have had Goldens for 15 years, one of the easiest dogs to train. Just my .02.
    Gun shy can be a real problem, some dogs don't like shooting at all.
    Banging a pan after you put their food down and they start to eat will tell ya if you might have a problem. As long as there is trust you can fix most problems.
    All of my dogs have started to hate fire works as they got older.
    But you could shoot over their head all day long if they were into birds.

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