The Outdoors

By Scott Rall, Outdoor Columnist

Writing about dogs is my favorite subject. If you have been a reader of my column for any length of time you can already tell this by the number of times they occupy this space. Dogs, especially hunting dogs, are a 12 month a year effort. Whether it’s training a new dog or keeping the older dog sharp as a tack, both take consistency, time and commitment.

With dove season opening a few days back and prairie grouse and pheasant season opening in short order there are a few things you should be doing with your dog if you have not already been doing so.  The first one is as good for you as it is for the dog and that is just an uptick in the exercise level. 

Dogs that lay on the couch all summer are far more likely to die of heat related stroke and other muscle/joint problems than dogs that are in great physical condition. This can be hard to do when daytime temperatures are still in the 80s and 90s. It requires you get up a little early and do these conditioning exercises in the cooler morning temperatures before work for most working stiffs. 

Add to this effort the need to exercise your dogs on a gravel road might mean getting up even earlier. A dog’s foot pads get soft when they are not in contact with hunting conditions for a period of time. I make a dedicated effort to take my boys on a 2-mile walk/run on the gravel starting about Sept. 1. This contact with rougher ground will toughen up their pads to avoid the all-too-common issue with sore feet after the first two days afield. Not many hunters take the time and it shows about half way through day two of the pheasant season.

Have you ever spent any time teaching your dog to drink from a squirt water bottle? Not many hunters do. They get to drag on a collapsible dog bowl to water their dogs in the field. To each their own, but my hunting vest needs to carry other important stuff and dragging on a dog dish is not one of them.

Have you squared away your hunting lands app? I use ON-X for all my hunting maps identifying all of the public lands available to utilize and for $29 you can pick any state. I pay $99 for the whole U.S. Just because you might have the app on your phone does not say that you can utilize all of the features. I know I cannot. I try to explore that app on a regular basis to become more familiar with its features. It has a plotter to tell you how far you walked.  It can measure distance on a map in order to help you determine the yardage to a deer shot you might want to take. It does all sorts of stuff and if I can use half of what it does, I will be more able than most of their other users. If you don’t have this app, get it and you will find out just how much more flexible you can be when hunting in new areas.  I use it when deciding which public lands to hunt in states like the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas and Montana. You use the app to see which units have a food plot nearby or which ones have a water source that you could never see from the road.

If you don’t travel out west much a rattle snake vaccine might not be in your wheelhouse but for many it is a real thing. You don’t have to go all that far west either. You get west-river South Dakota and you could run into a prairie rattlesnake. I have only seen them about three times, but other hunters tell me they are more common than you think. This is a two-shot vaccine, and the second shot is 30 days after the first. Proper planning done now for grasslands hunting out west can keep your hunting companions out from under a cross.

One other item you should have, and in some cases is required, is a health certificate for your dog. If you travel outstate you are required to carry proof of rabies vaccination and a health certificate. These are issued by your vet and have to be current within 60 days or so. If you would ever get stopped by a CO you might very well get asked to see these documents. I have never been required to show proof before, but it would just be my luck that my dogs could get impounded for lack of the proper documents. Each traveling hunter will have to make their own decisions on that one, but I do carry them to keep in the clear.  

Don’t let the hunting seasons find you unprepared. Start working the dog now and make time to get yourself prepared as well. Nobody ever went on a hunting trip and lamented they were too well prepared.

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