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A Year of Hunting with Pudelpointers

Pudelpointers are a versatile hunting breed that can give you a vast array of hunting opportunities.

A Year of Hunting with Pudelpointers

The hunting versatility of Pudelpointers has lead to a rapid growth in their popularity during recent years. (Photo courtesy of Scott Haugen)

A loud, sharp bark resonated through the calm timber. Two more barks quickly followed. It was a familiar sound, easy to identify this time of year.

Kona, my male pudelpointer, had treed a Western gray squirrel 150 yards down the ridge. As I approached, Kona looked back at me, then up in the tree, multiple times as he always does, as if to say, “If you hurry you can get a shot!”

The squirrel was treed in a young, 40-foot-tall Douglas fir. Standing under the tree, I struggled to locate the bushy tailed master of deception. Then it grew nervous and scampered across a wispy limb into the next tree, then the next. When it paused, I quickly found an opening, put the .22 crosshairs on the shoulder, and pulled the trigger.

The squirrel tumbled to the ground. Kona couldn’t bring it to me fast enough. It was our fifth gray of the day, our limit, and Kona treed and retrieved each one. The day was calm, how I prefer hunting squirrels, as Kona spots more moving at a distance than what he detects by scent. He hits high speed, fast, and runs them up the nearest tree. It’s his favorite hunt.

Our six-week gray squirrel season never seems long enough. Fortunately, it ends in mid-November, a month packed with hunting opportunities.

At this time, waterfowl season is in full swing where we live in western Oregon. We also have a late dove season, blue and ruffed grouse along with mountain and valley quail are nearby, and crows and snipe are moving through the valleys. November also marks the time to hunt fall turkeys.

Turkeys can be hunted with dogs by tracking and pointing, as well as by scattering a flock on sight, then calling them back in. (Photo courtesy of Scott Haugen)

Hunting Turkeys with Pudelpointers

Echo, my nine-year-old pudelpointer, never barks when hunting, only when an unfamiliar visitor enters our house. Kona barks then, too, his deep, guttural, man-bark stopping people at the door. Then, tails wag and they approach, sniffing and giving the okay to enter.

Kona is seven years old. He has a third bark. It’s higher pitched, abbreviated, and excited, and I hear it every fall when I cut him loose to bust up a flock of turkeys. We hunt fall turkeys by tracking and pointing, as well as by scattering a flock on sight, then calling to them.

Our tracking hunts happen by chance, as with upland birds. We head into timber patches and oak forests hoping to catch a scent, then the dogs follow it. Kona weighs 62 pounds, is tall, and picks up scent with his head held high as he moves through chest-deep cover. Echo is shorter, weighs 15 pounds less than Kona, and always has her nose to the ground. They’re the perfect team.

When we’re targeting turkeys, the dogs know it. Last November Kona and I hunted alone for a Thanksgiving tom. We hiked through timber toward the backside of a ridge with the hopes of locating a flock for Kona to rush in and disband. A quarter mile into the hike, Kona’s nose shot skyward. His tail stiffened and his pace slowed.

Reading the wind, Kona took a few deliberate steps, then it was nose to the ground. He swiftly melted into the briars. I followed on a nearby game trail. Fifty yards later I caught up to him, locked on point. The briars were knee-high and thick. I inched forward, shotgun ready, anticipating the explosion. This wasn’t our first rodeo.

I was 10 paces from Kona and failed to see the turkey in thick cover between us.

Another step and the forest erupted. One tom took flight through dense trees, and I had no shot. The second tom ran, it’s head sticking above the briars. I quickly found it with the little bead of the .410. Soon Kona was delivering a 21-pound tom to hand. He loves retrieving turkeys. He’s gotten many over the years.

One month later, Echo and I hunted for a Christmas dinner tom. When using dogs to disperse a flock, I like hunting one at a time because it can be a lot to keep both calm when birds reassemble to our calls, often surrounding us, mere feet away.

On our seventh day of searching, Echo and I located a bachelor flock feeding along a recently thinned hillside amid Douglas firs. When the toms began feeding uphill, away from us, I sent Echo for the flush. She quickly covered the 125 yards, slipping under tall ferns and around trees, emerging right on the flock. The birds had no idea she was near and shot into the trees.

I beeped Echo back, and we skirted the hillside, hidden from the turkeys. I got situated at the base of a massive old growth stump while Echo burrowed into the ferns beside me. We were 50 yards from where Echo had scattered them, still out of sight. Fifteen minutes later, I began making soft assembly sounds. With a diaphragm call, kee-kees and light tom yelps did the trick, and 20 minutes after the calling began, the .410 put down a tom at 12 yards as it walked right into our lap. Echo was quiet and still the whole time, body tense with anticipation. She’s often had birds within 10 yards and has never broke.

Oregon offers upland hunting opportunities in addition to other small game and waterfowl. (Photo courtesy of Scott Haugen)

Using Pudelpointers to Hunt Upland Birds

Earlier in the fall, both dogs and I took the forest slam in a single day.

It started with Kona going on point with a ruffed grouse, followed by both dogs sticking a flock of blue grouse, resulting in a double. We saw 11 blues that day. We get quite a few blues each fall. Then, we got on a big covey of mountain quail. Both female and male mountain quail sit on a nest, and if both hatch, the brood can be sizable—over 20 birds—when they join to raise them, together.

Both dogs worked ahead, simultaneously locking up on a small flat covered in five-inch tall salal. Both dogs were tense, Kona pointing straight down, almost at his paw. Echo was also standing over a bird. When I moved in, nothing happened. I kicked the noisy, stiff, green leaves, and still nothing. Then I thrashed the ground cover with vigor, and mountain quail darted in every direction. I missed the first shot, hit the second, missed the third. Reloading, I doubled as quail continued to flush. Birds kept flushing but I stopped shooting. The retrieves weren’t easy, taking place in dense brush over 10 feet tall in places. The day ended with a pair of valley quail, completing our single day forest slam, one I’ll never forget.

two Pudelpointers with a couple of Canada geese
The Pudelpointer's size makes geese perfect for retrieving. (Photo courtesy of Scott Haugen)

Pudelpointers in the Duck Blind

Echo loves duck hunting more than anything, as she thrives on spotting approaching birds then marking and retrieving them. When I miss, I get the look. Both dogs have to be searching for ducks and geese, and they’ll do it for hours, three to four days a week, all season. They hate being stuffed into a layout blind.

Last December, we had over two weeks of breaking ice to set decoys, rare where we live. Neither dog skipped a beat, busting and pushing ice when needed to get the job done. They handle cold, wet conditions well. They even did great in extreme situations when we lived for a year in Alaska.

One pond we hunt is over a quarter mile from where the truck is parked. A series of narrow dikes lead to the pond, and as soon as the dogs are geared-up, I send them ahead. When I get there, Echo and Kona are both sitting on their platform, ready. They watch me set decoys for thirty minutes, their eyes glowing in my headlamp.

They’ll sit for eight hours or more, only moving to retrieve birds. On good days they’ll fetch three or four limits of ducks and a handful of geese for me and my buddies.

The dogs love goose hunting, too, especially cacklers. They get fired-up when a flock of 15,000 little Canadas seemingly take forever to funnel into the decoys. And the more hunters in the blind, the better. Cacklers are perfect retrieving size.

Pudelpointers can make great shed hunting dogs because of their versatile breeding. (Photo courtesy of Scott Haugen)

Shed Hunting with Dogs

Cackler season extends into early March, but by then we’ve been shed hunting for over a month. One reason I chose this breed was their ability to cover ground and find deer and elk sheds. The first time I went shed hunting with a friend and his two pudelpointers, we found over two dozen blacktail deer sheds and a set of Roosevelt elk sheds. That’s more than I’d find in three years of searching on my own in the jungle-like habitat these ungulates call home.

Not only will Echo and Kona run the hills and root in thick brush all day for fresh sheds, they’ll pick up old ones, too. Echo, with her nose to the ground, sniffs out more sheds than Kona, but Kona with his height and high-head demeanor locates more sheds by sight. Both dogs were trained to look for bleached sheds. When hunting for mule deer and Rocky Mountain elk sheds in open country, I often spot them on hillsides and send the dogs via hand signals.

One October, Echo and I started the morning by jump shooting a limit of ducks on the river, then she put up limits of ring-necked pheasants and valley quail for a buddy and me. She also found four mule deer sheds—one in the sage, three on the river. She retrieved a snipe we jumped on a creek, too.

Whether you are hunting birds or small game such as squirrels, Pudelpointers make great hunting companions. (Photo courtesy of Scott Haugen)

Versatile Dog Breeds Have No Off-Season

April and May mark the start of our California ground squirrel hunting, which peaks in July. These pests do a lot of damage around farms, and we’re often called to alleviate the problem. With several kills a day, such lowland hunts are great for teaching restraint and more. We also hunt ground squirrels at 2,500 feet in the Cascades. A few kills make for a good day up there, with focused hand signal work being a goal. These hunts are ideal for covering ground in steep country, getting the dogs’ feet and slender backends in shape.

Nutria also inflicts major destruction on farms throughout the valley. They’ll drain ponds of coveted irrigation water and undermine creeks and canals, resulting in crop loss. Their dens and tunnels are hard on equipment.

Both dogs have retrieved a number of nutria I’ve shot on the water and feeding on land. Kona retrieved one that tipped the scales to 26 pounds. One day he got seven. We’ll get after nutria all year, but most heavily in the spring and summer when farmers battle them.

Two other invasive species we hit in the summer are Eurasian doves and European starlings. Both can be hunted year-round, but in the spring and summer they’re great training tools for me and the dogs. I get to brush-up on shooting skills, test shotguns and various loads, while the dogs hone their marking skills and just get to have fun.

Before we know it, September has arrived and it’s time to hunt forest grouse, quail, and band-tailed pigeons in the Cascades. Echo and Kona love pigeon hunting one ridge, in particular. It’s a 3⁄4 mile hike to an open point. We’re in position soon after daylight, and they know where to look for distant pigeons flying our direction. As with duck hunting, they’ll spot most of the birds before I do. My 82-year-old father loves this hunt with the dogs.

Mourning dove season is also here, which we hunt in fields and along hillsides as they leave and return to roost. Sometimes we’ll head to a preserve for an upland primer. For pheasant, chukar, and Huns, we drive to the eastern part of the state in October. This is also waterfowl, gray squirrel, and fall turkey time. With Echo and Kona, there is no off season.

Having versatile gun dogs has enriched my life in more ways than I ever imagined. Thanks to Echo and Kona, I go hunting more and have a deeper appreciation of the outdoors. I never tire of watching these relentless, driven dogs work. Like you and your dog—whatever breed they may be—I push hard to make the most of our brief time together, because we all know it passes too quickly.

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