While I'm not as young as I once was, I still like to get up and go fast. It took awhile but I finally learned that it doesn't pay to speed more than five mph, but I often tend to go to fast in the field--especially compared to other hunters I've coursed the uplands with.
How fast is too fast when it comes to hunting upland birds with a good dog? Should you, or do you, force the dog to slow down? Or do you follow the dog's pace, or even push the dog?
Over the last couple of weeks, Kona and I have put miles upon miles of boot leather upon the basalt-coated earth and outcroppings, on public land here in Washington state. We move fast and cover lots of ground in short order.
After hunting with a friend and his two dogs, I realized just how fast we work. While out alone together this past week, I got to thinking about it. Do we work too fast?
The speed at which you hunt the uplands depends upon several factors, the greatest being, of course, the amount and thickness of cover you're in. The more dense, thick and unyielding the cover, the slower you must go and the more time you must allow your dog to work through the underbrush to scent hiding game birds.
Sometimes you have to slow a dog down and force them to circle back and take their time. They can get as excited as you, and if they're inexperienced dogs that don't know the game, they might get even more excited and bypass opportune hiding spots.
While I'm sure Kona and I miss a few birds now and then, I trust his scenting ability, range and experience. Working into the wind he'll diligently scour any cover, coursing back and forth and seeking out objectives in which to investigate. Moving with the wind, he'll work ground scent when present but will lift his head to air-scent cover he's passed, or he'll circle around prospective spots and air-scent them just to double check. Watching him intelligently play the wind is one of my favorite sights when afield.
He does work fast, but he is diligent and we work together to pin likely birds into advantageous areas. On very rare occasions I'll ask him to slow down, work more thoroughly or come back and double check a spot. I'm not sure he's ever found any scent, much less a bird, where I've specifically asked him to hunt.
What about you Gun Doggers? How fast do you work the upland field? Do you let the dog set the pace or do you?