Jim Niemiec's Blog

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The hunt for a field partner
One lonesome hunter’s quest for a canine hunting buddy has not been all that easy

Looking ahead to bird hunting season and I don't have a dog yet. The last goose hunt of the season was very lonesome and it just reinforced my desire to find a new hunting buddy in the way of a little yellow lab female puppy with a black shinny nose.

Despite all the efforts to find a couple of female lab pups the right ones have not been located.  With valued leads from dog trainers, breeders, hunting buddies, WON's gun dog guy Grady Istre and contact with friends this hunting editor has evaluated each of the labs that have been  available. While Istre found two nice labs pubs last week, unfortunately they were black labs with fine papers, but they were both males and hopefully they have found a good home to grow up in.

This hunting editor's desire (shared by my wife Toni) is to find the best lab(s) to bring in to a world of hunting a variety of upland game birds and waterfowl, while still allowing the dog to be a Labrador Retriever and grow up as part of the family.

Timber had an untimely passing, we all expected at least another year out him, before he would be retired to his bed and just do walks around the neighborhood expecting a pat on the head from all the kids that passed by.

Time is running out to find a young puppy and have it ready to start hunting in less than 6 months, but hopefully our dream will become a reality. While interviewing chukar guide Harold Horner for an upland game story for Western Outdoor News he introduced me to his young black lab that at just 4 months and well on its way to being ready for hunting season. A fine looking dog it was with the right confirmation and an extremely alert personality. I am sure he will make a find gun dog for Horner and those who hunt upland game birds as clients.

One reason we are having a difficult time in finding a new lab is that we are looking for two female yellow labs that are litter mates. Our son Brook also had to put his yellow lab Caeli to rest late last year. The decision was made to raise the labs together and that would be just fine. There is a huge kennel constructed along the side yard, a nice open park-like area just a block away and our labs would be introduced to the world of upland game bird hunting at many clubs, ranches and refuges as they develop into fine hunters on their own. Thanks to the pages of WON Timber was a great attention getter in the many photos published over his 11 years of hunting and it is the hope of this editor that our next lab will also be very representative of this excellent breed of gun dog and assist my hunting buddies in retrieves until it's time to retire.

Western Outdoor News had an opportunity to talk with Carrie Raney of Raney Ranch Retrievers at the Fred Hall Tackle Show and watch master dog trainer Steve Raney put well trained gun dogs through a variety of retrieves and the importance of teaching dog obedience. While the Raneys' will have a litter soon from a couple of their great dogs, both with AKC Master Hunter titles, having worked trials circuit over the years with labs, we are looking for a family dog that loves to hunt.

While visiting the Raney Ranch Retrievers booth a new CD was being offered for sale. This is a Quick Dog Productions video that's titled "Retrievers In The Field - From the Dog's Perspective". The Hunter Version was established to encourage better training practices by understanding the natural behavior of working dogs. This film was masterfully brought to life using up to 8 different high-definition cameras and custom made dog mounts to show a dog's point-of-views from a multitude of real competition and hunting scenarios. Viewing this film a dog's owner can discover just what a dog sees, while learning the secrets to better marks, blinds, obstacles, brush, slopes and big open water.

This hunter's desire is try to be patient enough with a new puppy to avoid mistakes of pushing a female too hard and fast. My hopes are to learn proper training techniques, follow as close as possible suggestions on the CD and count on expert tips from master dog trainers Steve Raney, Paul Cacciatore and a few tips from Istre along the way.

In the weeks ahead there are a number of fund raisers for DU, CWA, CHOA and other conservation groups, which often offer up a lab puppy for auction. Even though I have donated lab pups to the Newport Beach Chapter of DU over the years (with kennel and training), unfortunately there is usually only one dog up for bidding and most often it's a male. As fund raisers dates are posted in WON, this hunting editor intends attend as many as possible in hopes of locating a breeder that has two extra yellow labs for sale. Wish me luck.

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