Bird Hunting in Maine with Dogs: Off Season

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Bird Hunting in Maine with Dogs: Off Season.

What do you suppose Tom Brady is doing these days? Or any NFL player for that matter, now that the season is over?  You suppose they’re spending their days sitting on the couch playing video games and gaining weight?  Madden, anyone?

Probably not. My guess is they’re hitting the gym. Running drills. Staying in shape. Already planning for next season.

Now, what’s your hunting dog doing these days? If his couch-to-exercise ratio is a little heavy on the couch side, it might be time to get back to hunting. 


Pheasant Hunting in Maine During the Off Season

There are opportunities to keep hunting even after the season has ended. Sure, those opportunities aren’t as abundant. But you and Rover certainly aren’t condemned to the couch until fall.

You only need to look as far as your nearest commercial pheasant hunting opperation.  Like the one at Camp Katahdin.

In Maine, you can pheasant hunt year round without a license at properties commercially zoned to allow you to do so. Camp Katahdin has over 400 acres zoned for pheasant hunting whenever you, or your dog, feel the need to get a little spring training in.


Bird Hunting in Maine with Dogs: Off Season

As you can assume, there’s a lot of value to getting out and burning some calories chasing birds in the off season. But the benefits go beyond that, especially if you train accordingly. Think about it; professional football players don’t just play scrimmage games in practice. They work on drills, learning plays, and of course, staying in shape.

The same could be said for your dog’s off season training.

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Bird Dog Training Tips for the Off Season

1. Drills 

Hunting dog drills could include hand signals, whistle commands, loading in and out of the truck, delivering to hand, you name it. All those minor little details that make the real hunt so much better when they go as they should.

Sure, some of this could be done in the back yard, but there’s a lot of value to closely replicating real hunting conditions. You know well that when there’s birds to be found, it’s a whole different ballgame. So unless you happen to have pheasants inhabiting your backyard, you won’t be able to replicate those conditions at home.

Focus on one drill at a time and stay focused on the dog. The great thing about hunting a game farm is that you don’t have to worry about missing opportunities. At the game farm, you can add as many birds as you need to get the training done.

2. Learning plays 

With dogs, there are a number of “plays” you can work on in the off season. And just as with real teams, some will work and some won’t. That’s why you try things out before the big games of the real season. Try working the wind at different angles. Focus on learning to “read” the dog. What’s her body language say as she zeroes in on a tight-holding bird? How is he different when working the trail of a runner? This is all great practice for dog and hunter both.

3. Staying in shape 

The miles you put on in the off season probably won’t begin to compare to what you log in the regular season. Stamina and endurance may wane a bit. Keep that in mind, especially if you’re not getting out regularly. Overworking the dog is especially easy to do in the off season.

You may also need to adjust your dog’s diet. Back off on the protein and maybe cut back on the amount you feed. It’s easy for a hunting dog to put on some extra weight through the off season. All breeds can gain weight given enough couch time with no diet adjustment. Those extra pounds can be hard on joints and stamina, especially as they age.

4. Pre-season games 

While you should work on staying sharp and in shape throughout the off season, you really want to ramp up your efforts as the season nears. Use the game farm opportunities to start harvesting more birds over the dog and working on the finer points of the hunt now that you’ve mastered the drills. Structure these trips more like real hunts and less like trainings. Then identify areas that need some fine tuning and return to drills to work out the kinks.

That way, when the real season finally starts again, you’ll both be in shape and on top of your game.

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Camp Katahdin is a luxury hunting retreat in Northern Maine.  Our 15 person Hunting Lodge is set in the most beautiful hunting grounds in the Katahdin area.  Step out the door and walk, ATV, or snowmobile to prime hunting locations.  Then, come back and rest easy in our new luxury lodge. We like to hunt deer, grouse, coyote, moose, anything, but we are commercially zoned for Pheasant hunting – that means, no license needed, 7 days a week hunts.

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