Murph Training, Part XX: First Hunt…Sorta

Pickett and Murph

Pickett (left) and Murph get ready for a grouse and woodcock hunt, Murph’s very first.

photo by Tim Bronson

The other day, I took Pickett out to try and run up a few woodcock and maybe find the one resident grouse in southern Vermont. As I was gearing up and Pickett was jumping in the car, it occurred to me that perhaps this might be the time to take Murphy and expose him to a real hunt. I’m not hunting him this year, as he is only a yearling and has a long way to go, but he’s doing really well at close obedience work. I thought this might be a good opportunity for him to get some real-time experience at heel pushing through tough cover and work on his honoring—having to stay at my side while Pickett worked the cover. Another benefit would be sitting to the flush, which we work on daily: me throwing bumpers as he walks at heel and him sitting immediately when the bumper goes up. He needs to be eased into the real thing and this was a fairly low-key opportunity.

While I am working him more and more off lead in training exercises, in this first exposure to a hunt he was going to be on lead without question. Pickett got out front, began quartering, and we pushed through some thick cover. To Murph’s great credit, he stayed right where he belonged, no pulling on the lead or trying to go out and run with Pickett.

I carried my 16-gauge in my right hand and had Murph on the steady tab on my left. If a bird got up, my plan was to drop the steady tab, blow the whistle for Murph to sit, mount the gun, and fire. It sounded good, but when the first flush came, by the time I got to the gun mount part, the woodcock was long gone. After the first bird flushed, I realized this was going to be a pure training session and resigned myself to not trying to shoot, but it was good and valuable time in the woods and was an excellent first step in real-time hunting for Murph. Pickett was a bit bummed, but he had gotten to make a long retrieve on a goose the previous morning, so he was fine. Murph got to see three wild birds flush, and I was able to reinforce his sit to flush in a live situation. I then took him over to get a whiff of where they launched. It will pay great dividends soon enough, and Murph and I will eventually get our share of woodcock.

Next up this weekend, a pheasant shoot at Sandanona where Pickett will get all the retrieves he wants, and if the situation is optimal, Murph might get his first down bird or two.

Catch up on all the previous installments:

Read Week 1 of Series
Read Week 2 of Series
Read Week 3 of Series
Read Week 4 of Series
Read Week 5 of Series
Read Week 6 of Series
Read Week 7 of Series
Read Week 8 of Series
Read Week 9 of Series
Read Week 10 of Series
Read Week 11 of Series
Read Week 12 of Series
Read Week 13 of Series
Read Week 14 of Series
Read Week 15 of Series
Read Week 16 of Series
Read Week 17 of Series
Read Week 18 of Series
Read Week 19 of Series

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