Relationship with dogs key to a good hunt

Published 12:36 am Sunday, January 6, 2008

NATCHEZ — Every time Peter Trosclair goes out to hunt doves and ducks, two good friends go with him.

They’re good companions. They don’t bore him with tall hunting tales. They don’t scare off the birds with a wayward shot. They just hunt.

Trosclair’s two friends are a pair of black labs named Oni and Toby that assist him when he goes hunting for dove or duck.

Email newsletter signup

“It’s just like having a hunting buddy except you can’t shoot the dog’s limit,” Trosclair said. “They don’t know anything but to hunt.”

Trosclair has a great relationship with his dogs, which is imperative for a successful hunt. he said.

“The hunter and his dogs have a very tight relationship,” local veteranarian Byron Garrity said. “The dogs get excited when they see their owner get out his gun and boots.”

A bird hunting dog’s job, except in quail hunting where the dog flushes out the quail, is to retrieve the game for the hunter after it is shot out of the sky.

It’s a difficult job finding a small bird in a field of tall grass or an icy pond, which is why it demands the hunter and dog work well together.

Sometimes, the dog will see the bird come down and have not much trouble finding it. Other times, however, the hunter must use hand signals and a whistle to point the dog in the general direction of where the bird fell to earth.

Once the dog gets within a certain area, about 30 feet for Trosclair’s dogs, it will be able to pick up the scent of the game and find it quickly.

“If he didn’t see anything fall and you saw it, he needs to have confidence in you that you’ll lead him in the right direction. If he has that, he’ll hunt his heart out. If you tell him something is there, he needs to have confidence in you that it’s there.”

Building that kind of relationship with a bird dog takes a lot of work, local dog trainer Milton Garrett said.

Garrett, who has been training dogs for about eight years, said a lot of work is needed in the offseason in order to keep the dog in shape.

“Most people don’t take the time in the preseason to work the dogs,” Garrett said. “The dogs need training year-round or their not going to be ready to do it when it’s time to hunt.”

Garrett said dogs that aren’t ready to hunt due to a lack of offseason training are not only ineffective, but can be dangerous as well.

“An untrained dog is probably the most dangerous thing at a duck blind,” Garrett said. “The gunfire can startle the dog or he may run up under someone’s feet as their firing, which can make for a dangerous situation.”

Trosclair keeps his dogs in shape in the offseason by using dummy birds and having the dogs find them.

He will also hide things from them and have them find it in order to improve the dogs’ blind retrieving skills.

“You’ve got to keep them in shape,” Trosclair said. “That’s the most important thing. You’ve got to work them other than hunting season if you want them to do their best work.”

And when hunters and dogs keep a good relationship, it can mean for successful hunts.

“Those dogs think the world of me,” Trosclair said. “They’re working dogs but are real affectionate. They’re a pleasure to hunt with.”