This video shows Ben and Leslie’s dog Katie during a recent training hunt. Ben is the shooter and Leslie is handling. I’m the one barking orders as usual. Katie handles the bird well and does a beautiful “flush/stop” on Leslie’s cue. And yes, Ben killed the bird.
Here is one of our black pointer pups learning my flush/stop cue. You’ll see in the video, when she gets in a birdy area and begins to stalk, I physically connect her to me via a clamp on my vest to the checkcord. I do this in part, because I am not only the handler, but also the shooter. I need to help her understand that steadiness is necessary, both before and after the flush in order to be successful. It also makes it possible to show her that success requires she wait to retrieve until my “fetch” release. You’ll see I didn’t shoot until she was finished flushing and had stopped. Steadiness based on when a bird flushes, when the gun goes off or when the bird falls will soon become irrelevant. We will have a free running dog hunting the field, beautiful stalking and pointing, a flush/stop on cue and steadiness until released.
In the first part of the video, you’ll see just before I gave her the flush/stop cue (a verbal “alright”), I realized I had forgotten to put in my earplugs. She waits for her cue maintaining all of her beautiful intensity. Later in the video, when I shoot over her, the camera angle makes it look like I took the shot right over her head. I didn’t. It’s important to always be aware of where the dog is when shooting. In addition, I’m using a 28 gauge side-by-side and subsonic shells. Don’t want a deaf dog down the road.
When watching the video, pay close attention to the checkcord. You’ll notice that it’s loose. This guarantees that any of her movement is her choice. There is no obedience involved here. By giving her this freedom, I allow the bird to teach her. I don’t teach a “whoa” command. I feel that’s the birds job. If she jumps in before my “flush/stop” cue, the bird will flush and she will lose. But if she is focused and patient, waiting for my verbal cue, she will be rewarded.
I made a deal with the dogs. I’ll let you do what you have always wanted to do, flush the bird. But, in return, you can only do it when I ask you to.
I use a verbal “all right” cue. Once the dog is in the birdy area and points the bird, “All right” does not mean flush the bird. It simply means do what you think is right to stop the bird (if it’s running), manage it, and prepare it for the flush. I can’t expect the dog to do an aggressive flush until it has established where the target is. The goal is stylish, thoughtful bird management, an aggressive flush followed by an instant stop to flush.
We have a ladies hunt and wingshooting day coming up soon.
I’ll be explaining and demonstrating the differences between wingshooting and the shooting games including skeet, trap, sporting clays, etc.
Wingshooting is unique and requires different timing and procedure because real birds don’t simulate the flight of clay targets. With real birds, you can’t see one fly first, you don’t know where your feet (stance) will be, you have no hold point or break point, etc. In addition, the flight of targets is opposite of that of real birds. Clays start out fast, slow down and drop. Birds do the opposite, they start slow, accelerate and rise.
The method I advise and practice for wingshooting is similar to the Churchill or Instinctive style of shooting.
Higgins Gundogs Rules to Successful Wingshooting
After the flush:
1: As the bird flies, focus on his leading edge (usually his head)
2: Square your shoulders to the bird and keep them squared (follow the bird with your upper body)
3: With your shoulders already squared to it and following the bird, mount the gun in front of the bird
4: When the gun touches your cheek, pull the trigger (the gun touches your shoulder and cheek at the same time)
One of my favorite Churchill quotes: ”In practice the shooter should not be conscious of his muzzle, the rib or sight. His eye, or rather his attention, should be fully occupied with the bird, and, if he holds his gun properly, he will hit whatever he is looking at.”
Higgins Gundogs hunting etiquette
Dogs: Stay in touch and handle well. Always honor another dog’s point, be steady when necessary and manage the birds for the gun.
Handlers: Be silent in the hunt. Allow the dog the freedom to do his work. Nurture the natural retrieve.