Getting your dog ready for waterfowl season
By Hookemharry

Posted: September 19, 2002

If you there are strange noises coming from your neighbor’s garage or basement, don’t be alarmed. Chances are it’s only someone who is practicing and honing their goose or duck calling skills for the upcoming waterfowl opener in Montana.

Youth Waterfowl Days will take place this Saturday and Sunday, with the general goose and duck season is slated to open next Saturday Sept. 28. Sunrise in Zone One, according to the official Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks guide, is 7:32a.m. If you are hunting on the Flathead Indian Reservation that is when you can start to shoot. Off the reservation, hunters can start firing away at a half an hour earlier – at 7:02 a.m.

There are a lot of things that make waterfowl hunting a fun and challenging pursuit. One of the main enjoyments derived from duck and goose hunting for hunters is spending time with their hunting dog while they are out in the field.

In the spirit of that, I called Dan Mar, who is a renowned dog trainer that you might have had a chance to see at the Big Sky Sports and Outdoor Show that was held at Adams Event Center last spring.

“The main thing that hunters need to make sure of when they go hunting for the first time is that their dog is in good condition,” Mar said. “The way I recommend you do this is to start taking your dog for daily runs, or swims if you are going to be hunting over water.”

Mar recommends about 15 to 20 minutes per day of running in a field and about 8 to 10 minutes worth of swimming. Since the chances are it has been a while since you have spent some time hunting with your dog, Mar also suggests having a refresher course.

“I like to go over all the obedience drills in the field,” Mar says, adding “But I would suggest you don’t spend more than 10 minutes a day doing it leading up to the waterfowl opener.”

The reason for the short time period, according to Mar, is that your dog will lose interest. At the same time, Mar also recommends going over basic retrieving skills as well.

“The main thing to keep in mind is, on opening weekend, it is best to keep things simple for your hunting dog,” he said.

For example, if you are going to duck hunt out of a blind, at first try shooting just one duck out of a flock so your dog can get the idea of retrieving again and doesn’t get confused by more than one bird falling.

If you are goose hunting with your dog, it might be a good idea to limit the number of guns in your blind to two or three for the same reason.

Mar also adds, if you have a young dog that has not been trained, don’t take it out hunting before training it properly. You and the dog will get frustrated.

Mar, who has over 35 years of experience of training hunting dogs, recommends you also put your dog on a nutritious diet right before and during the hunting season.

“I like mixtures like Purina Pro Plan” Mar says. “It supplies them with the energy they need before the hunt day and gives their body back what they spent during the day.”

Mar has produced six videos on gun dog and basic hunting dog training. His products are available at Bob Wards in Missoula, or you can call him directly with any questions you might have at 316-686-2505.

Mar will also be our special guest on the Montana Outdoor Radio Show at 7:30 a.m. this Saturday morning. If you have any questions for Mar you can e-mail them to or call in Saturday to the show at 1-800-568-5309.