Woodcock hunting with your dog

Why is it necessary to have a dog during a woodcock hunt? The woodcock is a very clever migratory bird that has a special feature: mimetism. Indeed, the colour of its feathers blends easily with the surrounding biotope. It is not readily visible to the naked eye. The dog therefore plays a key role in the visual and olfactory pursuit of this queen of the woods.

Woodcock hunting with your dog

Breeds & specificities

It can be hunted with a variety of dogs, although the pointer is the most commonly used dog, as a matter of custom. Indeed, its role is to find the game and block it. In this way, it indicates to the hunter the bird's presence. The hunter then has time to get to the dog to try to bag the bird.

The most commonly used pointing dogs are: the English setter, the griffon khortal, the Brittany spaniel, and the pointer. Some of them are said to be long-distance tracking dogs, hunting between 200 and 300 metres, like the setter or pointer. Others are referred to as short-distance tracking dogs, hunting between 30 and 50m, such as the Brittany Spaniel for example. This information is important when choosing the right hunting dog. 

Hunting with a game dog, such as a springer for example, is different because the role of the dog is to find and flush the game out of its hiding place. The dog will not stop it, so the hunter must be on guard at all times and in close proximity to the dog if they are to have any hope of catching the game.

Woodcock hunting dog
woodcock hunting dog equipment

The dog's equipment

You can equip your companion with a traditional bell such as a woodcock bell or nay bell, so that you can follow its search from a distance and locate it in the biotope in which it is moving.

If you use this type of traditional equipment, we recommend equipping the dog with a bell with open sides to prevent brambles from getting caught in the gaps of the closed models, which would prevent the bells from ringing.

In recent years, new products are appearing on the market such as the electronic bell. This is an electric sound transmitter producing a particular tone when the dog is running, and a different one when the dog stops.

The main difference with the classic bell is that this electronic bell will only be triggered when the dog stops or when the hunter decides.

You can also equip your dog with a pathfinder type GPS collar. Your companion can travel up to 40km in 3 hours of hunting. Thanks to this equipment you will be able to follow its quest as well as the number of kilometres covered. This information can also be useful for controlling your dog's energy requirements and calibrating its diet according to its daily effort.

Training & hunting maturity

You can take your dog on a woodcock hunt starting at a young age, however, it will be more of a discovery hunt than a pure hunt.

If your dog is young, prefer to take it on short trips.If your dog is not yet fully grown, working it for too long could lead to problems with muscle and body development, etc.

As for the dog's hunting maturity that it can develop, this will vary according to the dog's origins and aptitude. However, one thing is for sure, the more birds the dog encounters, the better it will become as a woodcock hunter.

You can combine these outings with training to reinforce the dog's skills. There are a few trainers who specialise in woodcock hunting. Among other things, the dog is taught to be cautious towards the bird. However, this training is not compulsory, especially if the dog has a good pedigree.

Setter hunting dog

Preparing your dog

Outside the hunting season, Michael advises feeding your dog low-fat kibble to prevent it from becoming overweight. Even if you take your dog out regularly, the physical activity is not the same as in hunting season and the energy expenditure is less.

Then, roughly one month before the hunt begins, you can start feeding your dog a higher-fat kibble. You should also take it out for longer to prepare it properly.

In season, feed your dog only high-fat kibble. Michael suggests varying rations depending on the weather, the outside temperature, and the amount of hunting time. In addition, he recommends mixing the kibble with an energy drink to boost recovery.

After the hunt

After the hunt, the priority is to give your dog a good cleaning. We advise you to brush your dog after each outing to remove any parasites, especially thorns and other elements of the biotope that it may have picked up. Michael recommends you systematically clean sensitive areas such as the eyes and ears with lotion.

If necessary, you can shower your dog after the hunt. Taking along a portable shower can enable you to do this on the spot. Not only that, it can also be very useful for hydrating your pet in hot weather.