Thursday, June 17, 2010

Can't Get Your New Dog To Fire-Off?

If you have young started dogs that are well bred and not firing off, maybe the solution is not getting new dogs, but handling them differently. And... this is very important: give them time. Some dogs are late bloomers, and do not fire off until a year and half or two and a half. I know many people who were convinced the dogs were not any good because they were not baying at a year old and got rid of the dog and later regretted the rejection. Even if you get new dogs, and you keep repeating the same thing that didn't work with the last bunch of started dogs, if it is not the dogs, and it's you, changing dogs don't change nothing.

Based upon the last few years of doing business on the Internet, I have learned there are a lot of people out there assuming they are going to find a good finished hog for cheap. The reality is, there are too many people hunting hogs at the moment to find good finished hog dogs at a cheap price, unless you are very lucky, and find someone who is getting out of it, or going through a divorce, lost their job, or moving and the dogs can't go.

You are more likely to to succeed in purchasing a good hog dog at a price you can afford if you get a well bred, well raised(as a puppy), well started, hog dog and invest some time in the dog and get them warmed up to you before you expect to see some positive results in the woods. It is not uncommon for me to spend a 3-6 month time frame warming a dog up in my yard before bringing them to the woods.

But this article is not so much about breeding or the very important factor of relationship with our dogs as much as diet.

And the point I want to make here is we have to go back to nature and understand what motivates a wolf to hunt in the wild: he is hungry!

I was speaking to a young man in Florida who had 5 started dogs who wouldn't fire-off and get out and hunt. These dogs were young, well bred and had experienced many hunts with dogs that would leave out and find hogs. Even though they would honor the bay, most of the time they were hanging around his feet. He tried everything and was about to give up and get some more dogs, but he just so happened to call me shopping for dogs and I began to coach him and question him about his past experiences, and the results have been very encouraging. He thought he would come to me to get some more, because the 5 he had weren't working. After talking a few times he started trying different things, and 2 of the five are fired off real well, and the other three appear to be catching on too.

And what did he do different?

He started cutting back on their feed.

Often times we think if we are nice and generous to our dogs they will reward us, but in nature a dog doesn't hunt unless they are hungry.

What makes you think it is any different in your domestication of your hunting dogs.

Now don't starve your dog, Please!

But cut back gradually, and don't feed them the day before you hunt.

And better than that, don't feed them for 48 hours before hunting.

And the day you hunt, bring feed with you and feed them in the woods before you leave the truck. But only feed them about a cup so as not to fill them up. And this is very important: when you get back to the truck after hunting, feed them well, say about 4-8 cups of feed before you leave to go home. If they have not eaten a day or two before the hunt it is a reward after the hunt, especially if they have gotten out and hunted, to pour the feed on them and let them eat as much as they want.

When you do this it not only rewards the dog for hunting with you, but if they get lost, and are hungry, and know you fed them before the hunt, and the last time they got back to the truck after a hunt, and there was feed there, they may save you a scouting trip looking for a lost dog at the end of the day, and come to the truck on their own.

I guess you are thinking if they are hungry and know there is feed in the truck, they won't leave out. But stop second guessing me here, I am trying to teach you something about natural instincts in a dog and common sense in us. Most of us do not operate from a point of common sense. We're not living off the land like our ancestors did; we get our groceries at the store. We feed our dog from a bag. And so we are out of touch with common sense things our ancestors understood from the necessity of living off the land and depending upon their dogs to put meat on the table and survive in the frontier days and during the Great Depression of the 1930's.

Point is, like us, our dogs have gotten spoiled by the abundance of our prosperity in the last century. In the old days, people lived off the land and they hunted for meat regularly. Even if they had domestic livestock, the dogs were a part of the slaughter and would receive scraps and fresh blood when a domestic animal was killed.

Today we are so domesticated, us and our dogs, that most of us are out of touch with common sense things which our ancestors used for everyday survival. If you want good dogs, you need to be open-minded. Better yet, find an old timer, sit with them, talk to them, and more importantly, listen to them. Even if it does not make sense, go try what they tell you to do. I don't want to say forget everything you know about training a hunting dog but be careful about assuming something you "think" makes sense, when you actually haven't experimented a whole lot of different ways to train or make a dog fire off and get out of your feet and hunt.

I believe a lot of dogs are hanging around our feet because they are trying to figure out exactly what it is we want them to do.

Even if they are bred to hunt and you don't need to "train them" because the hunt is in them genetically, you need to motivate your dog to hunt, by controlling the diet.

Let me repeat this: In nature a hungry dog hunts, and a dog with a bellyfull of food lays around, and hangs around and won't leave out to hunt until it gets hungry again.

For years, I thought I knew better than the old-timers trying to tell me what to do. It wasn't until my dogs showed me what the old timers told me, that I realized I was wrong all along, and most of the time! The old timers never lied to me, and they never told me anything that I did not live to see with my own eyes, but it really was often not until my dogs taught me what the old timers told me, that I believed it.

Now, if you want to believe you're smarter than your dog, go ahead. But I want to advise you, no two dogs are the same, and if you have these Blair bred dogs I am presently breeding and working with, you need to change the way you handle them in the woods and change the way you relate to them in your yard or they just won't hunt for you. If a dog does not hunt the way you want him to hunt, you might consider trying to hunt the way the dog wants to hunt. And... learn something new about hunting hogs, because hogs are getting smarter all the time, and we need to adapt or change the way we hunt to keep up with these new, smart, fast running hogs. Your dog may need for you to let him show you how he hunts for you to understand that hog hunting is an ever changing scenario, that differs from geographical local to season, to hog and to dog. No two hog hunts are ever the same.

Let me finish telling you about the young man in Florida.

After he started cutting back on feed, his dogs were not standing around his feet as much. Now they are young, and they wanted to hunt, but as long as they had a belly full, they had no natural motivation to hunt. In nature, a dog gets hungry and then they hunt. That is the natural order of things. If you think you're going to change this, good luck!

In the last month, since he started cutting back on feed, Clayton's dogs have hunted. They have found hogs every time because he took them to where there were hogs and they were hungry, so they hunted.

It is so pleasurable and satisfying for me to know that he didn't need a new dog, he needed a little understanding, and some coaching, and to be point-blank, from my perspective, some common sense.

Now,I could have sold him a dog, and before it's over I may sell him a dog, but before he gets my dogs, I want him to know how to handle them.

Breeding, raising, training, are all important. Even if you buy a finished dog, if it is not properly handled when you reach the woods, it may not hunt for you. The most important part of handling a new dog starts at your house, in your yard, and in your truck. If you get a new dog, and it's well-started or even finished, I suggest if you know that it hunts, give it four to six months just to warm up to you because a good dog that was raised by someone else may not hunt for you until he trusts you.

And what I mean by that is: he can trust you to back him up and be there, when the baying starts. If he knows it is his job to find, stop and bay a hog, and wait for you to get there to catch, he will live to be a great dog.

I know what you're thinking: if it's a good dog, it'll hunt for anyone, and that may be true for experienced dogs that are handled by a lot of different people. But there will definitely be a warm up period of several months if you buy a started or finished dog, which could be a lot longer than most people want to give a dog. I understand you paid a lot of money for the dog and you want it to hunt, but hunting hogs with dogs is team work. And you need to work with them as much as they need to work with you; try to find a balance; be a part of the team; don't expect your dog to do it all by himself. And one the most important things you can do to warm up and motivate a dog to hunt for you is to pet them, and talk to them enthusiastically, and love on 'em.

Especially if it's a young dog. You should walk him through the woods; follow them as close as possible; try to be as silent as possible. Ideally, I like a mule, horse, or electric golf cart, and if that don't fit, walk it out.

I'm making two points here. Number one, diet. Number two, relationship. Although diet is easy for many people, relationship is a challenge, for the simple fact that they don't understand that their dog understands English, and thus they don't talk to them. I cannot emphasize this enough: you need to talk to your dog in pleasant tones. When you get excited, notice your dog gets excited with you. They should hear it in your voice, and if you have that kind of relationship with your dog, where they live to serve you, they literally worship you, and they will be watching your every move and hanging on every word you say. And this is very important: your dog is analysing your every word and move. If you spend enough time in this kind of relationship with your dog, especially with a good well-bred dog, you will learn there are some kinds of things that need to be in a dog that cannot be bought, no matter how good and experienced the dog is, they must be earned.

Now if you think you don't need to spend time with your dog, how about you ignore your wife and kids? Let's see how long they stick around. Let's see if they will worship you, and serve you?

While I was writing this, I got a call, and so I just got off the phone with Clayton. His new dog, nine months old, just found and bayed, and he caught, about a hundred pound hog. He sure was proud of his new dog, and they did this with a couple of the year-and-a-half-old that just fired off in the last month on account of he does not hunt them with a belly full like he did when they weren't firing off and getting out. He does not feed them the day before he hunts, and when he gets out of the truck and opens the box, the dogs aren't hanging around his feet the way they did when I first started talking to him a couple months ago.

They are getting out and they are hunting hogs. And at a year and a half, this is the perfect time for a dog to begin to get out and engage a wild hog in the woods and survive.

Now you may think I just talked myself out of selling a dog. But, what I have done here is made a new friend, and I'm not in this for the money, because if I was, I would have declared bankruptcy a long time ago and quit breeding dogs. I love my dogs, and according to Reggie Little, you can ask him if you don't believe me, he claims I am one of the top trainers and I got the best handle on dogs in the business. I'm assuming he knows why: that is I talk to my dogs. I spend time with them, and I let them be their own peculiar self, but I'm always the boss in the end. So if you're new at this, and you want some good dogs, the first thing you need to understand going into this, it's going to cost you a lot of money to hunt hogs. and before you start shopping for a dog, I suggest you save your money, and buy yourself a GPS tracking system because if you have good dogs, and you are hunting hogs, you're going to waste a lot of time looking for them and you're going to lose a lot of dogs and it's going to cost you a lot more than the five or six hundred for the tracking system.

Now should you get a new dog, and you don't have a tracking system, spend time with the dog, months even--letting the dog warm up to you. Save your money, and get yourself a tracking system before you lose your good dog. If you have a good dog, and you're hunting hogs, you're going to need a GPS tracking system. If you can't afford a tracking system, try to hunt with people who do have one and use their collars on your dog. In the near future, I plan to write another post dedicated to dogs diet in relation to hunting hogs, and talk about another important aspect of a dogs natural diet: raw meat.

Now let's get of this Internet and go spend some time in the woods with our dogs.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Alligators Love To Eat Dogs

Below is a warning from Reggie Little to all hog hunters on Facebook.

Yes, Reggie is on Facebook. I know... what is this world coming to?

Anyway, I copied and pasted below:

Reggie Little on Facebook: All you hog hunters!!
If you are hunting the rivers and bayous, watch close, the gators are hungry!!!
The Poticaw crew lost a hell of a gyp to a big one today.

Reggie's warning caused me to consider writing a little more about this issue of gators eating dogs.

And being an authority on the subject of gators,
I thought I should share my knowledge, and experiences.

You see I am a swamp tour guide and I deal with gators every day.

Last year 5 dogs(not mine) were eaten by gators at the boat landing where I launch my tours.

Alligators are like many predators, they are opportunists and like to hang out and wait for an opportunity to present itself and then they pounce with lightning speed. Opportunity translates into; something approaches, gets too close and then: Easy catch.

After they catch their prey they usually drown it to kill it, but a small prey, like a dog, could be killed instantly by the crushing force of the gators jaws when it clamps shut on the initial catch. So if your dog gets caught by a gator and you are there, you should do everything you can do to free it because it may survive. Problem is, there is a very slight chance it may survive, and there isn't much you can do if you are on land and it is in the water except shoot it. And my advise is even if you know your dog is dead, shoot it, because if it ate one, it will likely eat more if it survives.

Oh we could start a large argument as to whether you are legal to shoot an alligator or not. They are federally protected, and so is your dog. You have the right to protect your property. The idea that alligators are an endangered species is some city slicker nonsense, as ridiculous as eating Popsicles in February.

One day, I came up on Maurice baying at the waters edge, and I knew it was a good bay, because he was backed up and serious in tone. If you hunt a dog a lot, you can tell a lot about what they are baying, by the way they bark. I was hunting by myself, with no one but Maurice and some young ones. Well, as I approached, it appeared he had him backed up and in the water. So I slowly moved up because I didn't want the hog to bust and start swimming away from land. We were on a point and the only escape the hog had was to swim across open water, and if he did that, Maurice was going in and catch, and probably drown the hog or get eaten by a gator.

And the only thing I could see was a black plastic trash bag with garbage in it, slightly floating. Interesting...

So I thought about it, and I knew Maurice had already seen dogs get eaten by gators and I know they have tried to eat him too. And I realized that the garbage bag looked just like a gator in the water, it was black and shiny, textured by the trash inside, and floating. The scene brought a smile to my face. He wasn't taking any chances.

Well the baying brought the rest of the pack, and they came rushing up directly behind Maurice and I observed him doing the smartest thing I may have ever seen him do. He began backing away from the "bay" before the young ones got there. For two reasons, if it was a gator as he assumed, he could be bumped into harms way if he stood there, and if the gator charged him and someone was behind him, he might be blocked in his retreat. Or... and this is nature, maybe he was willing to allow the young to be sacrificed so he could survive. Nonetheless, as soon as help arrived Maurice backed out.

Now understand Maurice had covered thousands of miles on his own in the swamp and survived many a gator. He knew what a gator was by sight and smell, and he knew what a gator was capable of in terms of the speed of a gator in the water, is lightning fast. That spot where I came upon him had gators in the vicinity, so the smell was there and the garbage bag looked like a gator, and that was enough for him to bay.

Which first brought me in, and then a few minutes later, the young ones came charging in.

A few years later, I was camped on the Vermillion River behind Lafayette and I heard Maurice's sister baying over by the water edge not far from the camp. I went over to investigate because it was a serious bay and if it was a gator, the young ones could come rushing in and be eaten. As I approached Desire' was well back from the water and sure enough, right where all the dogs had been going down to the river to drink and to bath, was a 10 footer just waiting for someone to get stupid. I went back to the camp and got the 22 magnum bolt action rifle and put him to school. He learned the hard way about the consequences of trying to eat de la Houssaye's dogs.

I have shared these two stories to illustrate that a seasoned dog has sight and scent detection allowing them to survive gators to some degree. They can survive gators if they are careful at the waters edge when drinking, and if they don't get in the water to cool off. But if you hunt in the summertime, your dogs need to drink and to get wet to stay cool. Always be aware that your dog cannot out swim a gator in the water. A hungry gator can propel themselves so fast by the power of their tail, they can literally get up on the water and run on the surface. I have seen them do this, and the first time I saw a gator running on the surface of the water, I could not believe my eyes.

Another dog that had great respect for gators was Bobalou.

Because Bob witnessed gators eating dogs, I had to leash him and drag him in with me if he smelled gator and I wanted him to cross a swamp with me. He would not obey the command to follow me if it was across water and he smelled reptiles in the area.

He had run hundreds of miles in the swamp and was taught to survive by Maurice.

When a hog is on the run, he has one objective and that is to get the dog off his trail. A hog is smart enough to run through a herd of cows or deer and hope the dog is distracted by the movement of other animals long enough to allow him to escape.

A hog uses every aspect of the environment to his advantage. And an alligator presents a very easy way for him to get a dog off his tail. Imagine if you will a hog on the run, and then stopping to be bayed at a gator hole. It shouldn't take too long for the gator to come out and seize the opportunity for an easy meal. Here is another example of how a GPS tracking collar can help you know exactly where your dog is and what happened to your dog. And... at that point if you want your collar it is very simple. Kill the gator and open up it's belly.

I like to hunt in the marsh and swamp, and I am painfully aware of the dangers there, because I have had some dogs come up missing in certtain places. And it may be difficult for you to imagine that a hog is smart enough to use an alligator to get a dog off his tail, so I will try to get in touch with Joey and have him tell me the story about the gator they killed a few years ago that had several tracking collars in its belly. It has been a long time since I heard the story, and I want to hear it again, because at the time I first heard it, I couldn't believe a hog was that smart, and before I retell the story here, I want to hear myself again. I have gotten a lot wiser since then. And considering the close calls I had at the boat landing last year before we took out the dog eater there, it looks like a hog who has figured out that alligators love to eat dogs, is going to lead your dogs to a gator hole if he can.

This is Simon, and had I not been paying attention to the dog eater at the landing, he would have got him right about the time I took this picture last year.

And had I not been paying attention that day I saw the gator go down, and then I run over and grab my dog, and stepped back to watch the gator surface right where Simon was playing in the water, before I plucked him out, you would not be able to to see these photos now.

It amazes me how many people are looking for finished dogs, and don't understand the value of raising a puppy in the environment where thy will ultimately be hunting in maturity.

I suggest your main objective be to keep your dogs healthy and alive, because them hogs got some very hungry meat eating friends out there.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Lets Hunt Smarter, Not Harder

If you are new at hog hunting and are shopping for your first dog, you might consider investing in a tracking system first. It can help you to know if the dog is hunting, and how far she is ranging out, and if she is going farther each time you go. And should she be a good dog who gets out, finds a hog and stays on a running hog, she could go miles before she stops the hog, and then you can find her when she gets bayed up. If... you have a tracking system.

This is Captain Jack Sparrow, a son of Angel and Handsome

I want to share a situation where the hunter was putting the cart before the horse. And in this case the hunter should have gotten a tracking system before the dog. It is important to get things in order if you are going to hunt hogs. Scout the area, set up wildlife cameras if you have them. And a good idea is to get to know the neighbors beforehand if possible. Most people don't like wild hogs and are happy if they know you are coming into the area to hunt. Happy if they know beforehand, not so happy if you come walking into the back of their property looking for your dog and looking like a trespasser, or worse your dog comes walking in and looks like a stray.

One way to avoid a lot of trouble is to have a GPS tracking system on your dog. Most people I hunt with have them now. Ten years ago everybody had the radio tracking system.

Here is Smoke, a littermate brother of Jack

About this time last year, I had a young man names Aaron Cravy calling me because he was looking to buy a hog dog. He told me he was new at hog hunting and was shopping around to find him a dog. I told him I would help him.

About a month later, out of the blue on a Saturday morning I get a call from Aaron that he and his family are on their way over from Silsby, Texas to buy a dog. Now I had not picked out a dog for him, nor set up an appointment and I thought it was funny how these people were driving two hours to come and meet with me, without an appointment or even prior discussion of such a trip being planned. Like in Cool Hand Luke, "What we have here is, failure to communicate".

I had already made plans with people who had called and set up an appointment that morning to do a de la Houssaye's Swamp Tour right about the same time I estimated that the Cravy family would arrive, so I advised Aaron that they could meet me at Lake Martin Landing and join the tour.

We met there, did a swamp tour

and then went out to eat crawfish ettouffe with fried shrimp in it, at The Chicken on the Bayou in Henderson,

and then went to my house to see some dogs.

While on the tour of my yard, David, Aaron's father, asked what dogs were for sale that were ready to go, as in finished and ready to hunt. I advised him, that the only finished dogs I had were not for sale, because they were my breeding stock. I sell only puppies and started dogs for the most part.

One such dog is named Blue, who I purchased for $300 at the Uncle Earls for breeding purposes.

I pulled Blue off his chain and brought him to the bay pen, and he hammered down on the hog. Blue had never found a hog in the woods on his own, but I had bought him for breeding purposes based on his papers, because I planned to breed him to Ruby. He was not for sale.

But I liked these folks and I figuired their son could not afford a really good, ready to go, started dog so I advised them that these dogs were not for sale, and I would allow them to have Blue on some conditions. So I picked Blue, a grandson of Camp-A-While's Tomcat and thus a great grandson of Two Diamonds Cutter, and Camp a While's Absenthe on the top, and C.W. Crews bloodline on the bottom. Blue is an N.A.L.C. registered top line pedigree, of old foundation bloodlines top and bottom, through and through. And if I had to put a price on the dog:$1,500 for the bloodline alone. And at two years old he was ready to hunt. You see, unlike most people, I don't like to start my dogs until they are two years old. Why so late? Because if they are bred to hunt you don't need to train them to hunt, you need to train them to survive, and I can do some of that in a bay pen with the right hog. These foundation bred dogs are fast, gritty, smart, and if you wait till they are two years old, they have a much higher survival rate just starting out when you do bring them to the woods and put them in harms way.

I bought Blue at the Uncle Earls a couple of years ago, and put almost two years into him so I figuired he would most likely be firing off right about now if they hunted him regularly.

Here is a couple of photos of Toulouse, another littermate brother of Jack, showing the young ones on the other side of the fence how to do it.

I thought everything was going well until they were ready to leave and I stated my conditions for them using my dogs.

So here we are on my driveway, and my conditions are being stated to Mr David Cravy, Aarons father. I said, #1. I wanted them to report back to me, as to the dogs progress, #2. send me some business, meaning when you are hunting and catching hogs, refer people to me to buy hog dogs, #3. put a tracking system on these dogs.

To which David Cravy replied: Oh we don't need a tracking system because we are only going to hunt behind our house, and the dogs can find their way home if they get lost. I didn't say anything, but I thought: He isn't listening. And another case of failure to communicate.

Now along with Blue I also allowed them to take Jack Sparrow, a son of Angel and Handsome, who was almost one year old. And in a few months I was getting positive reports from these people, who were hunting hogs with my two dogs. I thought they valued my dogs and were taking good care of them.

What they told me was that Blue was getting out and finding hogs and Jack was being a puppy and not ranging out, so they were thinking about sending him back. I said I was fine with that, because Jack had just barely past a year old. This is typical of many people expecting too much too soon from a puppy. They also mentioned that they were talking about coming to get some more dogs.

And I thought to myself you left with two dogs, no charge, and you want to come get some more? Meaning what? No charge again?

Hmmm...considering that they didn't have to spend money on BUYING the dogs, you would think, they have money to buy a tracking system.

Well soon after that, I was travelling to Village Mills, Texas to attend a hog dog field trail, and visit with Charlie Fontenot in Beaumont. That brought me very near to where Aaron and David Cravy lived in Silsby, so on the way, I called them to advise them that I was in their neck of the woods. I figuired I might pick up Jack Sparrow, and save them a two hour trip.

They came and met me in Village Mills, but I never saw Jack, because they failed to return him to me as they said they would. Soon after that excellent opportunity to return my dog to me, they travelled over to a hunt near Toledo Bend, and turned the dogs loose, Blue came back, but they never saw Jack again.

Ohh... they looked and looked, and went back and looked some more, but without a tracking system, slim chance of finding a lost dog.

Now this is hog hunting, and dogs get on hogs and can go for miles. If we don't have a tracking system to know where they are going and when they are stopped. We are very likely to lose our dogs. And in the case of Jack Sparrow, they lost my dog. They didn't put a tracking system on him as I stated I wanted, and they did not hunt him only behind their house as they said. Nor did they return him as they said they would. They didn't do what I said, then they didn't do what they said. And I wish they would have returned him to me as they said they would, but they didn't do that either, even when I was just a few miles from their house. Jack would be almost two, and ready to go. If he is still alive someone has a fine dog by now.

Here is a photo of Jack taken just before he left.

Just like Angel and all her pups, he will smile at you.

Now the hardest thing for me to believe is I get a text message on my phone recently, stating they want to come get more dogs to hunt with Blue!

So I called Aaron, and asked him if he thought he could come and get dogs no charge, and turn them loose with no tracking system and lose my dogs, and then come again and I would cooperate with this. He didn't know what to say. So I asked him if he has a tracking system, and he tells me he is working on it. At this point I think he is catching on that I am not happy with the way this is going.

I have even called his father and left a voice mail because they are not answering my calls. I advised him that I would write up my experiences with them taking my dogs no charge and losing them. I guess at this point, they think it is their dog and I gave it to them, no charge, and they are not accountable to me! I also have to guess that I really did not HELP these really nice folks if they think they can take my dogs, lose them and come get some more! Am I being too nice to people? Or do I have four letters written across my forehead? Let me go look in the mirror... Yep! It says: FOOL ...right there where everyone can read it. Good thing I am not in this for the money, because I would have to declare bankruptcy if it kept going like this. Now if you want to give them a call and check up on my dogs, here is David's phone number: 409 651 3336, and the home phone is:409 385 1417and Aaron could be reached at: 409 651 7508.

I sure would like to know how my dog is doing. And should you have the good fortune of finding that dog named Jack, take good care of him, most likely he should be firing off right about now and could make someone a jammed up hog dog. But one word of advise: Buy a tracking system, because you are gonna need it.

So if you are planning to hunt hogs and get good dogs that are going to get out, you should invest in a tracking system first, because apparently it is hard to find your dogs without one.