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Shoot your shotgun better by paying attention to your dog

If no feathers fly after a tail-stiffening point, you've disappointed your dog to no end. Once he's locked up, how do you ensure you'll actually hit something? Pay attention to him. You'll be putting the odds in your favor instead of the bird's.

I was recently reminded of how thinking like a dog, simply being mindful of him, can produce better shooting from us. In South Dakota, a companion got so nervous (or was he dazzled at Buddy's performance?) the bird was on the verge of flying wild. This guy snuck, skulked, minced and tiptoed over 100 yards - it seemed to take eons for him to flush the dang bird!

The rest of us were going batty, urging him to step on it, I was hoarse from yelling across the stubble. Luckily the bird held and the outcome was fatal for him. Here's the lesson:

First, ensure a solid point and a bird that holds still rather than a scampering off. Be punctual. Once your dog stands the bird, walk in with alacrity. The longer you dawdle or admire his stunning good looks, the greater the chance a bird will flush wild, run off or the dog will do the flushing for you.

Then, assert yourself. Both birds and dogs hold better when the gunner moves with confidence. Once your dog shows you the bird, stride right in and everyone will likely do what's expected of them. This is the time to show you are in charge.

Choose your route with care. When approaching birds, swing wide around the dog and you'll cut off one of the bird's escape routes. Two gunners performing a pincer movement means even fewer bolt-holes for a cunning bobwhite covey more inclined sprint than fly. If you can put the birds between you and the dog there's a good chance they will fly, not run.

Flanking your dog has another benefit: "Allelomimetic behavior" is a highfalutin' word for that flock of birds that jinks in unison, or pair of wolves on the hunt, trotting in parallel. Sauntering close alongside a pointing dog is an invitation to follow you into the flush — that's how we teach ";heel," after all.

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