By DICK NELSON
For The Recorder
Unless you were celebrating a birthday or wedding anniversary, this past Friday was of little or no significance. But if you own hunting dog and enjoy running that dog on rabbits and/or upland birds you were definitely aware Aug. 15 was the day you could legally start field training your dog.
It's no secret the reason most sportsmen purchase a hunting dog is to locate more game. But after the first few days of the season, many of them come to the shocking conclusion they would have been better off had they left the pooch at home.
Now that doesn't necessarily mean the hunter bought a poor dog -- sometimes referred to as a "biscuit eater," because it hunts only what it eats. On the contrary, it's generally because the owner didn't take the time to properly train the animal.
You don't have to tell anyone who has hunted over a poorly trained dog how frustrating it can be -- myself included. But if you take the time, hunting over a properly-trained dog is not only a pleasure, it's a rewarding experience. In fact, half the fun of the hunt is watching the dog work -- be it a Beagle, Labrador retriever, Brittany or Springer spaniel, German shorthaired pointer or another preferred breed.
One key element in training a hunting dog is to give the dog as much field time as possible. That can be easier said than done, because during certain times of the year, this type of activity is in direct conflict with family responsibilities. But section 11-0927 of the Conservation Law prohibits the training of dogs afield during the months of April, May, June and July except in designated dog-training areas.
That only leaves about six weeks until the small-game season opens, and unfortunately too many dog owners write off August as too hot. This is foolish, because training should begin with obedience, which can be done at any time and in any place -- even if it is just teaching them to sit quietly until you give the command to move.
A dog that will not respond to basic commands at home cannot be expected to be an enjoyable and cooperative hunting companion.
Generally speaking, August is not too hot, especially if your efforts are confined to the early morning or late hours of the day.
During the afternoon, ground conditions are generally so dry animal scent doesn't hold well. In addition, most of the wildlife has withdrawn to a cool, shaded spot, which doesn't leave much scent for Fido to follow.
By contrast, early morning is an excellent time for training dogs. Pheasants, grouse and cottontails have been out for their morning feed, leaving their scent on the moist vegetation. The temperature is ideal for both man and beast, and the exercise the both of you will get will pay off when the season rolls around.
In addition to excellent working conditions, the wildlife population is at its peak, with large numbers of young your dog can sniff out.
While a hunter may get a dog in hopes of bringing home more game, good dogs may in fact, result in fewer game animals being killed.
Sound ridiculous? Don't bet on it.
With a trained dog, hunters leave less cripples. By being prepared when the game is flushed, hunters are more likely to make a clean kill. On the other hand, when the first warning is the whiff of wings, a quick snap shot is more likely to result in a cripple. Besides, a good bird dog can be worth its weight in gold when it comes to retrieving wounded birds.
Good figures on crippling losses are hard to come by, but US Fish and Wildlife Service records show that one out of every five waterfowl is a cripple. And grouse hunters know how hard it is to find even a clean killed bird that has fallen on the forest floor.
One that has just enough life to move a few feet can become almost impossible to find without a good nose. A large percentage of the improved take by hunters with dogs is made up of these recovered cripples.
Woodcock numbers remain stable
Considering how wet it's been throughout the year and that New York woodcock hunters had the highest harvest along the eastern seaboard, there is a strong possibility that pointing and flushing breeds will lock onto woodcock. According to the 2013 USFWS Wing-collection survey, of the 3,900 hunters who actively pursue timberdoodles -- spending a combined total of 15,300 days afield -- the total harvest was 11,700, providing an average return of 3 birds per hunter.
The primary objective of the Wing-collection survey is to provide data on the reproductive success of American woodcock. The survey is administered as a cooperative effort between woodcock hunters, the USFWS, and state wildlife agencies. Participants in the 2013 survey included hunters who either: (1) participated in past surveys; (2) were a subset of hunters that indicated on the Harvest Information Program (HIP) survey that they hunted woodcock, or (3) contacted the USFWS to volunteer for the survey.
New York's woodcock hunting season runs from Oct. 1 to Nov. 14. And, should you be wondering, a federal migratory bird stamp is not required.
Applications available for GSLFF summer fish contest
The Great Sacandaga Lake Fisheries Federation is gearing up for its 13th annual Fall Fishing Contest. Headquartered out of Sport Island Pub, Riverside Blvd, Sacandaga Park, Northampton on Saturday, Sept. 6, the pre-registration only entry fee is $30 per angler. Contest fishing hours will be 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Registration includes a 2015 GSLFF membership.
A total of $5,600 in cash prizes is up for grabs -- $2,600 in cash paybacks plus $3,000 in tagged trout. Each of the 10 tagged trout is worth $300 and redeemable only during the contest and only by contest participants.
The tag must be attached to the fish to be valid.
Prizes of $300 for first, $200 for second, $100 for third and $50 for fourth will be awarded in each of the four fish categories: Bass, walleye, northern pike and trout. Winning fish will be determined by length from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Contest applications can be downloaded from the GSLFF website at www.gslff.com. Contestants can also sign up at Ross' Bait Shop, Hagaman; Dave's Bait & Tackle, Mayfield; LaPort's Bait, Edinburg; Jim's Bait Shop, Mayfield; Frank's Bait Shop, Vail Mills; Sport Island Pub, Sacandaga Park and Fuel N' Food in Mayfield. The registration deadline is Sept. 5th.
For more information call Jack Smith at 518-0863-4271 or Randy Gardinier at 518-848-7248.
Deadline nears for Reid Hill picnic
The Reid Hill Fish and Game Club's will host its annual Fall Picnic and Steak Bake on Sunday, Sept. 7 at the Perthshire Picnic Area, beginning at noon. While much of the menu includes that of previous years -- clams, hot dogs, sausage and peppers, clam chowder, salads and corn on the cob -- this year's outing will feature a "steak bake". And, you can wash it all down with beer and/or soda.
Attendees can also show off their bocce and horseshoes talents, so get your team together. Tickets are $15 for members and $25 for guests, and advance reservations are required. The deadline is Aug. 27. According to Ray Fyfe, you can also sign up at Tuman's Tavern, 373 Forest Ave., Amsterdam or St. Michael's Club, 38 Reid St., Amsterdam.
For more information and/or tickets contact Fyfe at 518- 843-3451 or Ed Krzysko at 518-842-5456.
Youth pheasant hunt set for September
Speaking of upland birds, the Montgomery County Republican Club will be sponsoring its eighth annual youth pheasant hunt on Saturday, Sept. 27 in the town of Mohawk starting with a brief safety refresher at 7:30 a.m. According to Tom Georgia, the hunt is opento youngsters ages 12 to 15 who have taken a hunter education course and who have a 2013 junior hunting license. Participants will be hunting over a variety of bird dogs.
Since space is limited, Georgia recommends anyone who would like to participate to sign up ASAP. He also noted that each of the young guns must be accompanied by an adult who also has a valid 2013 small game hunting license.
Following the hunt, a complimentary lunch and refreshments will be offered. For more information and/or registration contact Georgia at 518-258-9448.
The MCRC will also be sponsoring its eighth annual veterans pheasant hunt Sunday, Oct. 12 in the town of Glen. Breakfast will be provided to all vets and the helpers. Here, too, bird dogs will be provided and again Georgia is urging veterans to sign up as soon as possible. The same contact number applies.
Bass fishermen have a new challenge
Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced the details for the I FISH NY Challenge -- a statewide fishing contest that calls on anglers to show off their prize largemouth and striped bass catches by using the New York Fishing, Hunting & Wildlife smartphone app (www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/96470.html). The Challenge runs Aug. 11 through Sept. 1, with winners announced during the first week of September.
Winners will receive a free lifetime fishing license for both the longest largemouth bass and longest striped bass caught and properly submitted to the challenge. Runners-up in each of DEC's seven Watchable Wildlife Regions -- Long Island, New York City, Catskills, Hudson Valley, Adirondacks, Central New York and Western New York -- will be awarded other prizes, including a B.A.S.S. Gift Basket with a year's subscription to Bassmaster Magazine, Taste NY Gift Baskets, DEC Watchable Wildlife Guides and Conservationist magazine subscriptions, lift tickets valid at Gore, Whiteface or Belleayre mountains and more prizes to be announced. All prizes are subject to the terms, conditions and procedures in the official rules found on the DEC webpage at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/98107.html.
Early season bear hunters no longer have to wait for the early bear season to open in the Northern Zone, now that the DEC has opened an early bear hunt in Wildlife Management Units 3A, 3C, 3H, 3J, 3K, 3M, 3R, 3P, 4R and 4P. That season runs from Sept. 6 to Sept. 21 and just as you can during the Sept. 13 through Oct. 17 Northern Zone season you can use a bow, crossbow, muzzleloader, handgun, shotgun, or rifle (where permitted). Early season hunters will also need a 2013-14 hunting license and bear tag through Sept. 30.
Beginning Oct. 1, you better have a valid 2014-15 license or be prepared to face the consequences. Judges don't usually take "l didn't know" as a valid excuse
In addition, hunters that submit a premolar tooth from the bear for DEC to determine the bruins age will receive a commemorative patch recognizing them as a NYS Black Bear Management Cooperator. For more information on this program visit www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/45598.html.
Dropping anchor 'til next time.
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