Get your dog ready for the hunting season
By Hookemharry

Posted: July 12, 2007

Hunting for upland birds is just around the corner. Now is a good time to start thinking about getting your dog ready for the hunting season.

Noted dog trainer Jeff Smith, of Rocky Mountain Retrievers, of Pablo, tells us that there are a lot of things that go into getting your four-legged hunting partner ready to hunt the season opener.

“First thing is to get your dog into condition. By that, I am mean in good physical condition,” says Smith who also goes by the nickname of “The Dogman” on the Montana Outdoor Radio Show every Saturday morning.

Starting off with obedience training is the first step in preparing your dog.

“Everything evolves around three commands – here, heel and sit. Most hunting dogs don’t get these commands during the off-season so it is a good idea to start to refocus them on these basic commands well in front of the season opener,” Smith said.

“There is nothing wrong with going back to the basics from time to time even with a well-trained dog,” adds Smith, “That means back to the lease and collar.”

Smith recommends to use the lease and collar on your dog and spend a week or so once or twice a day for a half hour on obedience.

Taking your dog for real walks on a busy trail is also a good idea where it will have to put up with some added distractions like people on bikes or running.

When you ask your dog to heel, make the dog really heel, keeping it ahead just a touch in front of your knee. If your dog wants to lag behind, encourage the dog to move up to you and be sure to praise when it does.

Keep the mood upbeat and try to make your training fun! “I like to work with my dog for at least a week on the commands heel and sit before I start the here and come command,”, adds Smith.

“I also know that most people have only a few hours a week to work with their hunting dog so the main thing is to start early and keep a constant schedule so you are not trying to do everything the week before you go hunting,” he said.

Smith also reminds all dog owners that with the hot July weather to make sure your dog gets plenty of water, shade and doesn’t get overworked. For complete detailed training tips from Smith like gun conditioning, multiple tasks, marking and understanding your dog, you can log onto You can also e-mail him at or call him 406-360-3311 with any questions.

Grouse season along with partridge season opens Saturday September 1st. Pheasant season for upland bird hunters open Saturday October 13th. The waterfowl dates have yet to be announce by Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks.

As we head into the hottest weeks of summer, it’s also a good time to change your fishing tactics as well, whether you’re a lake fisherman or a river fisherman.

Plan your trips to take advantage of the first hours of the day and the last hour or two of daylight. Just as you get beat down by the hot summer sun, it seems that the fish do, too.

The cool water temperatures at dawn will often find fish on a feeding spree. They’ll lay low and deep during the middle of the day. Then, they get active again as the sun goes down and the waters start to cool again.

Look for this pattern to get stronger and stronger for fishermen from now into September – which is time to grab that in-condition dog of yours and go bird hunting.