Montana winters seem to last forever. This year’s winter hasn’t been that rough but if you don’t ski, winters can seem longer. Ice fishing helps to pass the time but we need to stay active.
I use the short day time to train the dogs. A little exercise is also good for the Big Fat Daddy! We all tend to put on a little weight each winter. Exercise helps to keep our “guts” in check. Maybe just an extra hole or two on your belts is all you will need.
Winters do concentrate where the birds will be. Huns are very active and fun to work with. Pheasants can be tracked in the snow so you can set the pups up for success.
Use a blank gun to add some excitement. Go through the motions of flushing, shooting, and retrieving. I use a pheasant retrieving dummy that I throw when the real deal flushes. The dogs love the excitement and the training will pay off big rewards in the fall.
Winter means no rattlesnakes or other “buggie” problems. A pair of booties can be helpful to protect your dogs’ feet. Buy the hunter orange ones so you can find any boots that kick off.
You can also do some Antler Training now. Take some old sheds and cut off the sharp points. Start by hiding the sheds with a treat. Pieces of hot dog or something stinky work well. Go through the commands and reward process as the dogs discover an antler. The antlers also make a great chew toy. Be sure to trim the sharp tines first. If antlers are a dog’s favorite, you will be happy when they walk over with a fresh shed that they found during a winter hike.
Picking up trash or junk is a great way to show respect to all landowners. We all need to be stewards of our environment. As a Boy Scout, we always teach how to “leave a campsite better than you found it.” Your winter dog walks are also a way to just reflect upon how lucky you are to survive another year. Dogs and people don’t live forever. Take a walk to celebrate our precious time on Earth and maybe lose a few pounds too!
Spring is just around the corner!