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My black lab has shown some potential for bird hunting. I had him evaluated by a trainer at a bird farm/shooting preserve (she is a pretty good trainer, I've watched her dogs work and they are phenomenal), and she felt he was best trained as a flushing lab.

I'd like to try going for grouse, as I've never really done much grouse hunting, and he and I have enjoyed shed antler hunting for just the walks in the woods, with probably 20 miles of walking for the 2 antlers we found.

Anyway, I'd like to give it a whirl, but most of what I hear about for grouse involves pointers. Has anyone hunted them with a flusher? If so, any tips to get a newbie started?

Thanks!

Oh, and he got injured very badly in August (long story, but he got a nasty gash on his shoulder/side), and is nearly 100% again now. Actually, he probably is 100%, and the vet said he can resume normal activity. All sutures are gone, his wound is closed up, and he's back to his normal self again, but you can see the scar because where they shaved him for his two surgeries (that hurt the bank account!) hasn't fully grown back yet.

Anyway, I want to get back on track with his scent trail training and long line retrieves (the trainer gave me "homework"), as well as getting him used to a command for "far enough". I haven't settled on a command for that yet, but she told me I need to use something I'll find easy and consistent for me to use so he is clear on what I want him to do.

I have him whistle trained, and he comes very well to a double-whistle from a coach's whistle.

I want to get him out to the bird farm for some more training here soon, and would like to do a few hunts there with him to get him more accustomed to it. The trainer evaluated him (using a starter and then a 22) for being gunshy, and he showed ZERO reaction to the shots. She is not concerned about him being a problem there, although we still have to work our way up in noise yet.

Just looking for ideas.....he loves being in the woods, and I'd like to try for a grouse this year.

Thanks!
 

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tdd,
We had Boykin Spaniels in our family for years, had a
black lab on the farm for years also. When trained properly a good flushing dog can be a fantastic Grouse dog.
CoCo one of my brothers Boykins accounted for more Grouse than many pointing dogs I saw in the field and forests.
Ocourse she was a well trained flushing dog and could be used in conjunction with my pointing dogs. They were incredible to watch in the forest together. Train your Lab to hunt within gun range, and he should make you a fine huntng companion. I also knew a man who owned a Chocolate lab who was a very good Grouse dog and was a great Pheasant dog.
Pine Creek/Dave
 

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Thanks, Dave.

I know from flushing pheasants with my dad, we always held the dogs to about 30 yards. I would think, though, for grouse we'd want him to stay closer?

I have an 870 I use for most "general duty" shotgunning, but my dad has a few guns I can bum off him for such hunting. One is a Lefever SxS 20ga, choked full and more full, and the other is a 12ga Beretta O/U choked IC/Mod. Both are fixed choke guns.

The Beretta is light and relatively short, since it has 26" barrels.

Since I recall grouse being in thick, miserable cover, I was thinking the Beretta would be the ticket, and then accordingly, I'd want to hold my dog to probably 20 yards? Something like that?
 

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I would build on what the lab has a knack for.

I had one that I used for retrieving waterfowl. She liked being out with me, so I always took her along grouse hunting. Worthless as any of a traditional grouse dog. She would stay so close to me that I could feel her nose bumping on the back of my legs. But when it came time to retrieve.. she was on the case.
 

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I use mine for grousing. She can find them and flush them, but i cant hit them.

Keep him a close worker. Lilly is not allowed past 25 yards or so. Keep him calm and try not to have him running through the woods. Grouse spook easy. If you can get him to hunt slow you have a better shot. Some times grouse can flush 50 yards away from you, so if your dog is out in front of you and the grouse flushes from him, There is no way you can hit him.

I found it easier to hunt them in the snow as well, You can find tracks and get the dog to go in and out of the brush piles and such.

I think the most important thing is being able to tell exactly when your dog is on something, and even more how he acts with a bird. My lab will duck a bit, lower and move her head back and fourth to try and find the scent. She will start sniffing very hard and often keep her nose down a bit more. Her tail wags more in a circular motion when she is tracking.

I think the points you would focus on should be,

keeping him close
keeping him slowed up a bit
really learn his behavior, and how he acts on birds

again I am no pro but this is what i know from my lab and how we hunt together, might be different for others. Also I hate the look I get when she flushes one and I miss. I see this all to often. I hope to get my buck early and take her out for grouse and pheasants. She didn't get out too much last season because of the baby being so young, but I owe it to her this year. Good luck!
 

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If the dog loves looking for birds and stays close enough and in control he will be fine. Had a lab that was great at finding grouse, and much better than I was at shooting them. Plus you can cover far more territory than you ever could hunting without a dog. If the dog likes hunting you will be able to tell when a bird is in the area so that you can try and be ready when the bird flushes. From my view it is much easier to teach a flushing dog how to hunt for grouse than a pointing dog. I have had both and it takes a while for a dog to learn enough so that it is able to point a grouse. Plus with a lab recovery of a hit bird is far more certain than if you are hunting alone. Now having a good place for grouse is another matter.
 

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The best bird dog I ever hunted behind was the yellow lab my buddy had when we were in high school. We shot pheasants, grouse and woodcock over him all the time.
 

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had a flusher before (lab) great nose and I think that it takes a little to learn the dog when he/she gets birdy but was great fun....want to do the same with the new pup but I would have to do less archery so....maybe
 

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Just my .02... but I've hunted Grouse with "flushing" type dogs. What I found in every case, was that we could get more shots flushing ourselves without a dog. It could be they were improperly trained, etc... but they would range so far out, the birds would flush well out of range. Again, could be just my example, but I would think it would be tough to get a dog to range close enout for shots (consistently) without actually pointing the bird. Good Luck if you give it a try, you may have success.
 

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I guess that depends on the dog and how you train it. With luck the dog hunts inside a range where you could get shots. If the dog ranges out too far you can train it not to which is higher up on the difficulty scale of training but can be done. I used to change direction if the dog got too far out so that it would have to run and get back in front of me. After a while they tend to try and see where you are. But if the dog is a big runner and likes to hunt on its own well you cant hunt anything over it unless you commit to training that out of him. I had good luck with always keeping a check cord on my dog until it just knew what I wanted. Not to say that my lab did not get out too far at times because if game is scarce they tend to stretch it out a bit. Not a solution but often grouse would fly up and go right back down maybe 100 yards away. I often would have an idea about where it landed so I would get my dog to stay at heel until I got up in that area. then I would let him start to hunt and try to stay close. You can also do some things with planted birds where the dog learns that it is better to be around me when a bird flushes. But if you get your dog to hunt close enough to you, you will never hunt without a dog again.
 

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I've been hunting upland game behind flushing labs for almost 40 years. A consistent, effective training program is key to success. An untrained and/or disobedient dog will almost always be more hassle than he worth whether in the field or at home. And that applies to almost all breeds.

I do all my own training following Richard Wolters' methods and my labs are very obedient. They sit, stay and come when they are told, as soon as they are told no matter what else is going on. They are trained to work close, the thicker the cover the closer they work. They are trained to be steady to the shot and deliver everything me and my friends shoot to my hand.

We are ready to start a push through a favorite culvert.


Shad was told to retrieve this grouse then told to sit for the photo op just before he picked it up.


Shadow flushed this double for my buddy (pictured) and retrieved both birds. He's thinking the heck with pictures, lets keep hunting.


He fetches a rabbit he flushed and I killed.


He has hunted himself bloody.


Fetching a grouse.


Supervising the cleaning or waiting for a treat?


He's a great pheasant hunter too.


We put up nearly 30 game birds (pheasant, grouse and woodcock) this day. Shadow earned his pay.


Shadow is actually my youngest daughter's lab. She assisted with his training. He is very protective of her.


Shadow is also an excellent trap line companion. He goes with us almost everyday to check traps.


If your lab is well trained, take him grousing!
 

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I have been hunting grouse over labs/Goldens for about 20 years and we do OK. I like them in close for grouse hunting (20 yards is close for me) and I also like the flushers to be on either side of me and not in front so much. the birds in front I will flush on my own but the birds on either side are the ones I want the dog to find. If we are hunting a swamp edge or alder run, we put a gun on each side and let the flushers run in between. It can be allot of fun if you are in the right place. I liked the Spencer book and the Dobbs Retriever training book for upland and waterfowl but I also took some from Lardy and his Total Retriever training for advanced Water blinds.

Enjoy your lab!



























 

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Man I love labs,

Another thing that would make you an unstopable hunting force, is if you can find someone with a pointer as well. This is great to hunt a flusher and pointer together. My buddy and I took our dogs out when they were young. Lilly would be withing the 20 yard range and pick up birds that his more far ranging pointer would miss. Also she quickly learned that when he stopped there was a bird in the area. She listens to the "wwoooo" command well and will stop if I tell her too. This can give you and your partner time to get ready for a shot. At her name call she would go in and flush the bird. This was when she was younger though, and has not worked in this manner of hunting in a while. I hope to get a buck early so she gets the upland time she deserves.
 

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Hmmmm..... a buddy of mine has a GSP that's about the same age as my lab. She's farther in her training, but that sounds like an interesting strategy. He hooked me up with the trainer, as she's at the bird farm he has taken me to shoot chukar/quail/pheasants on a few times. Could work the dogs together there for a season, get them sorted out, then next year try them together on grouse maybe....

That one has my wheels turning.
 

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I have a lab-mutt that I inadvertently trained to be a flusher. I would take him out for walks when he was a pup and if he got more than 20-30 yards away from me I would give him one whistle. I basically trained him to look back and wait until I had closed the distance. Then he would go back to working. Low and behold I took him out grouse hunting the one day and he did great. Now if his master could just connect more than once every other year this would be a great story. Like was said before you just need to learn what the dog acts like when there's a bird in the area.
 

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tdd said:
Hmmmm..... a buddy of mine has a GSP that's about the same age as my lab. She's farther in her training, but that sounds like an interesting strategy. He hooked me up with the trainer, as she's at the bird farm he has taken me to shoot chukar/quail/pheasants on a few times. Could work the dogs together there for a season, get them sorted out, then next year try them together on grouse maybe...

That one has my wheels turning.
Two dogs in the grouse woulds could be tough. They spook pretty easy. But your dog will learn that when the pointer stops its for a reason. This could give you time to get your dog calmed down and you and your buddy can move in for the shot. Having both is pretty awesome for sure, but just not sure how it would pan out for grouse. it worked great on the Chukar and Pheasants.

How old is your lab by the way?

This same friend of mine got anonther GSP and another buddy got a "Louwellan" sorry for the spelling. I can't wait to work a field with that many dogs. LOL might be a little tough though keeping track of them all.
 
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