Bird Hunting is Over, Right?  WRONG!!!
By Tom Hayes

A comfortable winter day can make for a great experience afield.

For a lot of folks the Holiday Season spells the end of Bird Hunting Season. It gets cold. The snow accumulates. Pheasant and grouse seasons close throughout the Midwestern states. Nothing to do but give the dogs the next 9 or 10 months off and take up other Winter activities.

Not so fast, here. My Labs are never ready to choose to sleep on the basement floor over a trip afield. Just because the Dakotas are shutting down pheasant seasons does not mean I will throw away my ammunition and sell my guns. For me, the “Hunt Club Season” is just getting under way in earnest!

A lot of my time afield this fall was spent on a couple of trips to South Dakota, some outings for waterfowl here in good old Wisconsin and then deer hunting here and in Iowa. With all that going on, I did not get out to Good Go Ing but three or four times. 

Hunting the winter season does take some thoughtfulness. It can easily be “too cold” for a rigorous outing with the pooches, but my Labs can handle an hour or two at 10 to 20 degrees, given a couple of rest breaks out of the wind and weather and a good supply of fresh water to sip at. I also like to slip them an extra treat or two this time of year. I do not know if the energy snack helps them but it makes me feel better about having them out in The Weather.

Deep snow can put a damper on things, however. Jason and Errol can make a hunt do-able when they lay down 4-wheeler or snowmobile tracks in the snow. The birds can be planted within a reasonable distance from the tracks so that neither hunter nor dog has to venture into the wilderness.

An option I like is to have the birds placed in the cover one of the many tree rows. Have Jason or Errol put a 4-wheeler or snowmobile track down both sides of the row so that you and your guest can walk both sides easily. The birds will sit well in the tree row cover and you can make a great outing out of a moderate winter day. 

Good cover is essential for a successful hunt.

Just remember not to try to push your pooches too hard, and be easy on yourself, as well. Have the birds planted at reasonable intervals. This should not compare to an Expedition to the South Pole. A breeze is good, but don’t forget that a WIND is something else. Dogs are affected by the wind chill factor just like the hunters. 

I normally use orange vests on my yellow Labs and suppose they do add a wee bit of warmth, but when the temps get down to as low as I want to be out there, I have put the dogs in their neoprene waterfowling vests with the blaze orange on over them. 

If the snow is crusted, it is probably a good idea to consider dog boots. I have a set for each dog but they are not accustomed to them. This winter, I am thinking it will be a good time to “train” them to wear the boots. In addition to ice and crusted snow, the boots offer a lot of protection from sharp rocks, old sheet metal hiding in the weeds or plants like cactus and grass burrs.

Sleep by the fire or watch TV if that is what you like to do in the winter, but Sugar, Anna and I will be out there giving some pheasants, quail or chukkar a good workout. Happy Hunting. 

Tom Hayes
Good Go Ing Member