Training a dog for the hunt

Pudelpointer could be antler dog and bird hunter

Gary Lewis /

Published May 7, 2014 at 12:11AM

We put away the fishing pole and the pheasant wing after a few sessions in the sagebrush. The goal was to find out if the pup had “prey drive,” and if she did, could we promote the idea of the point and the chase?

She is 20 weeks old and has been a part of the family for 10 weeks now. We call her Liesl, which, on a good day rhymes with lethal and on other days rhymes with weasel.

So far every major stride she has made has involved either a bird or a dog biscuit. She is a pudelpointer, bred for intelligence, love of water, retrieving instinct and willingness to please. Her lineage can be traced back 135 years to seven German hunting pudels and 20 English pointers. The breed was brought to the United States in 1956.

Six years ago, my friend Steve Waller showed me how adept the breed was at finding deer and elk antlers. Later, we hunted pheasants. Waller introduced me to fellow breeder Rod Rist and this year we got our first pudelpointer.

Prey drive, both Rist and Waller told me, is the most important quality at this stage.

At 16 weeks old, she hunted for the first time with a French Brittany named Beau and a black Lab named Max. Over the course of the afternoon, she watched Beau point chukar, saw the birds flush, saw the hunters shoot and the dogs retrieve.

Next, I hid sausage in the yard then watched as she began to hunt with her nose instead of her eyes. This was a trick I learned from Scott Linden. Two days of this and we had to leash her up to get her out of the yard.

On her second hunt, while on a lead, Liesl pointed two chukar then trailed them, made both retrieves and brought the birds to hand.

Since then we have trained with frozen chukar and with mule deer antlers. This dog, we hope, will be an antler dog as well as a bird hunter.

Steve Waller, who lives in Oakland, Ore., was the first one to teach me about pudelpointer shed antler hunting.

“Any dog can do it, but some breeds are better than others,” Waller said. “I believe it is a genetic thing; it comes down through the (pudelpointer) gene pool. I believe the pudelpointers do so good because they are trained on fur and hair and antler in the old country.”

When I called Waller for advice on antler hunt training, he said the first step is to let the pup play with an antler then take it away before she gets bored.

“Next, hide them around the house,” Waller said. “After that you can put them in the yard, let her trip over them. Always hunt into the wind.”

We did that today and she caught their scents and gave them a sniff. She began to retrieve then decided it was more fun to chew the antler than bring it back. Once she learned a treat was waiting for her, she was eager to give up the antler.

We use the command, “fetch the horn.” Waller says she will learn to know the difference between bird hunting and antler hunting.

Every week or so, I talk to Rist, who owns High Life Pudelpointers, in Terrebonne. “Let her be a puppy,” he tells me, which I’m content to do, but our play centers around her future careers as bird hunter and antler finder.

At 20 weeks, she points, trails and retrieves. But she has a lot of other things to learn, like how to swim and bust through the bushes. Rist said right now she should go for runs in the sagebrush, swim and practice scent-trailing.

Like any toddler, she seems a little unsure around water. She swims, but she doesn’t seem to like it. She proved she will leap in the creek and dash across when I call, but we want her to jump in on command and swim out to grab a bumper. I think it’s going to take a bird or a biscuit to get her there.

— Contact Gary Lewis at www.GaryLewisOutdoors.com.