Keep your shooting skills sharp this Summer

What are your plans to keep your shotgun shooting skills sharp this summer? How many of you are going to wait until the weekend before your first Fall hunt to break out the shotgun and do some shooting?  And does practice really make perfect?  Did you get a new shotgun over the summer?  Some new shotguns can have up to a 500-round break in period.   Well, the first step to successful shooting at ring necked pheasants, quail, and other upland game is to get out to the range during the summer.   Most shooting clubs offer a 5 stand or sporting clay course.  Here are some tips to keep your shotgun shooting skills in check over the summer.

BAnquet Chair David vogelsang at elm Fork in dallas, tx

BAnquet Chair David vogelsang at elm Fork in dallas, tx

·   Most ranges have a practice area.  Find your weakness, and work on it.  Especially the trap, or “flushing” shot.

·  Be prepared and practice leading the clays. When we miss, we are usually shooting behind the bird.

·   Don’t hesitate to try pheasant loads at the range.  How will you and your shotgun handle heavier loads?

·   Get good at the long shots, and learn how far you need to lead the clay.  This is a good time to try out those heavier loads.

·   Don’t mess with your chokes, use what you will use in the field. If you shoot modified, stay with the same choke out on the range.

·   Go Dove hunting.  Dove Season is usually the first season of the year, and it is a great way to get tuned up.

·   If you have your own property, or a lease, you can use a thrower.  Try a hand thrower or pick up a clay thrower.

·   PLEASE do not take your puppy or young dog to the gun range! In my opinion, 90% of gun shyness is created by humans.  And a very high percentage of that happens at shooting ranges.

Get out and practice some with your shotguns.  You will drop more birds, and wound less by shooting better and you will get refamiliarized with your shotgun.   Have fun, meet up with buddies, plan a lunch after words.  Our Lone Star Quail/Pheasant Forever chapter is going to meet once a month from March to August out at the range.  You are welcome to join us!


Alan Blakemore is an upland enthusiast and an owner handler, owner trainer of Hungarian Vizslas. ( He is currently the Secretary of the Lone Star Quail/Pheasant Forever chapter of Dallas/Fort Worth. (

Can AKC Hunt Tests be a great way to bond with your bird dogs? Yes!

There are several organizations that offer a way to test or compete with your bird dogs.  NAVHDA (North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association), NSTRA (National Shoot to Retrieve), American Field, and AKC Hunt Tests.  For this Blog, I am going to focus on the AKC Hunt Tests.


Breakaway at an AKC Hunt Test

Breakaway at an AKC Hunt Test

An AKC Pointing Dog Hunt Test is an opportunity for a person to demonstrate a dog’s ability to perform the task for which they were originally bred.  The test gauges the dog’s natural hunting ability and training against a set of standards.  There are three levels of performance:  Junior Hunter, Senior Hunter and Master Hunter.  I am not going to go into the specifics of each level, just an overview and how this type of event can help create a better bond with your dog and help you in the field.  If you want more info on AKC Hunt Tests, here is an article written by Mel Reveles of Fusion Vizslas:

The AKC Hunt test is a great way for you and your bird dog to get ready for the next hunting season.  The benefits are almost endless.  I will give you a few thoughts on how the event has helped me with my Vizslas.

Randy Russell with "Lilly"

Randy Russell with "Lilly"

It’s a great opportunity to bond with your dog:  There is no doubt that by working with your dog to achieve any of the above listed titles, that you are going to be bonding with your dog.  The more that you work, and bond with your dog, the more it will help you in the field during hunting season.

Get your dog in shape: Each year I see dogs that are not in shape and out hunting.  That puts stress on the dog, and puts them at risk for injury, or worst, heat stroke.  When you are working and training with your dog, you will be helping them get in shape.  A nice side benefit, you will get in better shape also.

Learn what areas to improve your dog’s training:  A lot of you send your dog’s off to a trainer.  You can’t expect your dog to be on remote control when you get him back.  You need to apply the dogs training, and learn to handle the dog yourself.  Make sure that you spend time with your trainer when you pick your dog up so that you understand the commands he has been taught.

Improve your dog handling skills:  I have been on lots of hunts where dogs are running around, and the handlers are screaming at their dogs, or blowing their whistles non-stop. Now that’s a great way to scare off all of birds.  By training and running your dogs in the AKC hunt tests, you will become a much better dog handler. The end-product will make your hunting trips more enjoyable and create a better bond with you and your dog.

Force you to get an earlier start in training: A lot of us procrastinate and do not start getting our dogs ready for hunting season until the weekend before your hunt or trip.  If you start getting your dog ready for a hunt test, it will force you to start earlier in the season. By working your dog months before hunting season, your dog will be in better shape, and you will enjoy the season more. 

Will make you a better trainer:  Now by making you a better trainer, I am referring to the ground time with your dog.  You have probably already had someone train your dog.  But you need ground time with your dog as mentioned above.  As you work more with your dog, you will become a better trainer.  You will learn methods to help your dog maybe honor, or become a better retriever.

Your dog will learn to honor and become a better retriever:  Speaking of, your dog will need to honor and be a good retriever.  These are both important and basic tasks for a complete hunting dog and are also tasks that will apply when out hunting.  One of the most basic skills a hunting dog should have is retrieving dead or wounded game.  The Hunt Test will help your dog be a better retriever.

I have been participating in AKC Hunt Tests for over 15 years. I have helped put them on, I have been a chair, bird planter, gunner, and all of the above. I have also trained two AKC Master Hunters, and countless Senior and Junior Hunters.  So, I can tell you from a personal standpoint that I have become a better trainer, and better handler of bird dogs by training for, and running in AKC Hunt Tests.  I believe that if you give it a try, you will become a better companion with your bird dog.  I hope to see you at an event one day. 

Alan Blakemore is an upland enthusiast and an owner handler, owner trainer of Hungarian Vizslas. ( He is currently the Secretary of the Lone Star Quail/Pheasant Forever Chapter of Dallas/Fort Worth. (

Hunter Orange and Upland Hunting

While I was quail hunting this past weekend at Sandy Sanders WMA in Southwest Oklahoma, I paused for a moment to look to see where the line was.  I noticed something obvious, so I thought I would touch on a very important hunting subject that is not discussed very often.  The importance of blaze orange.  While this blog post is mainly focused on upland hunting, it is appropriate for anyone out in the field, especially on public land. 

Wearing orange has always been a pet peeve of mine.  Just ask anyone who hunts with me, or my wife who is kind enough to remind me that I have more orange clothes, then regular clothes.  I have always been aware that hunting in groups can be rather dangerous.  We here of hunting accidents all the time,   Just ask Dick Cheney.   When I paused a moment to take this photo, it really dawned on me how important orange can be.  Click on the photo below, and you can really see the difference in my buddies  orange and how effective orange can be. 

Sandy Sanders WMA

Hunter closest to me: Really nice orange vest, but a camo hat (it was very cold).

Next Hunter: Basically an orange hat.  The strap vest provides very little orange.  (most of his orange was left at home).

3rd hunter down:  Notice the difference with a vest, orange on the sleeves, and an orange hat (mad bombers style).

Last one on the line: Again, an orange hat and a strap vest with very little orange (he is currently moving, and most of his upland gear is in storage).

Now, I will be the first to admit that upland clothing in orange is not always easy to find, and can be expensive.  Also, depending on the weather, you may need to resort to wearing some of your deer hunting clothing.  But just consider the additional safety for you and your buddies.   I believe that the above photo helps prove that point.

Alan Blakemore with "Colt" at sandy sanders wma

And what was I wearing?  Yes, plenty of orange.  Oh, and Colt was sporting a really nice orange protective vest from Cabelas.

Alan Blakemore is an upland enthusiast and an owner handler, owner trainer of Hungarian Vizslas. ( He is currently the Secretary of the Lone Star Quail/Pheasant Forever chapter of Dallas/Fort Worth. (

Dog Manners & Bird Hunting Etiquette

Next time you are out with your buddies or a new group, think of not only yourself, but the group you are hunting with. Everyone has spent lots of time and resources to get to this point.  You have been planning this hunt for months.   Don’t let you and your dog ruin it for everyone. 

When folks want to go hunting, and have dogs, they want to take them.  But sometimes we do not realize that sitting on the back porch, or sofa, or chasing squirrels is a good way to get our dogs in shape for hunting.

Something to think about the next time you decide to take your dogs on a hunting trip.

Etiquette for Hunting with dogs:

1.       Keep your comments to yourself and don’t yell at other dogs.  Kindly remind the owner to keep control of their dogs.

2.       Before you hunt, decide which dogs to hunt together.  If there are several young, or untrained dogs, run them separately from the dogs that are trained well. 

3.       If you see a dog on Point, put your orange hat up in the air to let everyone know you see a dog on point. Keep the noise to a minimum to avoid spooking the birds.

4.       Time in the field is of the utmost importance – Especially with young dogs. But be aware how young dogs can interfere with the hunt, or spook and chase birds.

"Parker" and a Garmin Astro

5.       GPS Tracking Collar, these are invaluable and are a great insurance policy. Though they are not perfect, they are very helpful.  I use a Garmin, and overall, it has been very useful.

6.       Lost Dog – have a plan in mind in case you lose your dog.   If you can, plan to camp out in the area as long as you can.  If you have several dogs, they can act as a beacon and help guide your lost get dog back to the area by barking.

Dog Manners:

1.       Keep from over handling, or screaming at your dog or the over use of whistles.

2.       Get your dog in hunting condition or in really good shape.

3.       Teach your dog some manners:  Recall (come, hear) whoa, and heal.

4.       Bird Down – No Man’s Land.  This is a real pet peeve of mine. If I shoot a bird that my dog pointed, I want my dog to be rewarded with the retrieve. 

5.       Use events such as the AKC Hunt Tests or NAVHDA to help you with your dog handling and training: and

6.       Why is backing (honoring) important?  I was on a hunt in South Dakota when I noticed one of my Vizslas on point.  It did not look like a very stylish point, but she was honoring another dog. If she hadn’t provided us that honor, we may have never noticed the other dog on point.  He was down in a low area where we could not see him.  Another situation is a dog is on point in the middle of a spread out covey feeding. If your dog goes charging in there, then that covey will bust, and there will be no shooting opportunities. 

Dog on point with an honor at Elephant Mountain WMA.

I am not saying you need to be hunting with a Master Hunter quality trained dog, but hunting with a dog with some basic obedient training will make you and your buddies hunt much more enjoyable.  You will be rewarded, and who knows, maybe you will be invited to another hunt!

Alan Blakemore is an upland enthusiast and an owner handler, owner trainer of Hungarian Vizslas. ( He is currently the Secretary of the Lone Star Quail/Pheasant Forever chapter of Dallas/Fort Worth. (

Quail Forever Youth Pollinator Event

The Lone Star chapter of Quail Forever hosted  Boy Scout Troop 293 for the first ever Texas Youth Pollinator event June 11th at the Texas Independent Birds Hunters Association training grounds in Anna, TX.  TIBHA is dedicated to the improvement of habitat for Bobwhite Quail. The training grounds are used to train and host competitions for bird dogs along with promoting and sharing the outdoor experience with the local community.

 We had a fantastic day with a dozen scouts,  troop leaders, and Lone Star chapter members all working together to plant an acre of habitat and educate the scouts on the importance ofpollinators.

 The group planted a combination of Showy Blackland Mix & Wildflower Mix which was comprised of 17 species that is dominant with native grasses and wildflowers. This mix is to copy what was native to the Blacklands of Texas in which the training grounds sits. 

 After the planting of habitat Laura McIver, Texas Representative of Quail Forever gave a interactive presentation on pollinators, followed by several activities in the field to involve and educate the scouts on plants, insects, pollinators and the importance of each to Quail survival.

 We all shared in a lunch provided by the Lone Star chapter as we listened to thunder nearby and took pleasure in a good day’s work.  The scouts of Troop 293 and their leadership team were fantastic partners in this habitat improvement project.

 To cap it off we had several rains on the newly planted habitat that afternoon and the following days!

Jason Erwin,  Youth Director Lone Star Chapter

Boy scout troop planting seeds

Boy scout troop planting seeds