As hunting dog owners we think of the spring and summer as training season for our dogs when in reality one of the best things we can do as hunters is a little training of our own. A lot of us take a long break from quality trigger time and then chalk up early season misses to being “rusty”. Here are some simple tips to make sure that doesn’t happen and you are as prepared for the season as your dogs will be.
One: Research. With a little time online, asking a local gun shop (or dog supply store) you might be surprised by how many ranges or clubs there are within driving distance of your home. For a hunter, a sporting clays course is hard to beat, but trap and skeet are equally as fun and beneficial. Remember the goal is more time shooting. You can always adapt how you shoot to what you have available. For example, I only had a trap range close by for a few years so instead of starting with the gun mounted as you would traditionally, I’d call for the clay with the gun un-mounted and set the thrower to oscillate, those two changes made the trap range much closer to the hunting situations I’d likely encounter.
Two: Shoot the gun you plan to hunt with. I would often shoot trap with my 16 gauge side x side. Not your standard trap gun but it is the gun I hunt upland with the most.
Three: Join a league. If you have the opportunity to join a league, do it. It’s easy over the course of busy weeks to skip an hour at the range but being part of a league or team has the added incentive of your teammates counting on you to show up. I also picked up a few tips along the way from some seriously good shooters and I know it helped me out in the field.
Four: Take a kid with you. Shooting in these controlled environments is great experience for a young shooter or hunter. They’ll build confidence, learn safety and will end up more composed and relaxed when a rooster busts from some cover in the field.
I wouldn’t say that a downed bird is the only way to define a successful hunt, but I do know that you and your dog will be happier when you end a day with something in your game bag.