Saturday, July 13, 2019

Back from the dead

Can't believe it's been over 3 years since I dropped a post on here. It's not that I gave up bird hunting, just that the time and energy I used to pour into this site have been going to a couple of other projects, which is the point of this post.

More Bobwhites

The first is something I'd been working on in the background for a few years and then we actually got it off the ground and it's been going wide open ever since. The South Carolina Bobwhite Initiative started as a never-say-die effort to restore wild quail populations in our state and it turns out that what was missing in previous attempts was having everyone on the same page and working in the same direction. Sounds simple, but when we assembled a partnership of what is now almost 30 federal and state agencies and NGOs things took off in a hurry.

I'm extremely proud of what we've achieved in a little over four years. For the last three years, whistle counts statewide have increased, a string of success we haven't seen since the 1970s. The model is working and momentum continues building. We've gone from zero full time quail biologists to four and will be hiring a fifth in the coming months.

Our partners include the SC Department of Natural Resources, the US Forest Service, NRCS, Quail Forever, Tall Timbers, Clemson Extension, the NBCI, NWTF, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, Audubon and others. If you're interested in what we're up to, our Facebook feed is a good place to keep up with the latest. Our website has some general information but honestly is in need of makeover. In hindsight, having an agency IT department host it wasn't the best idea given the lower priority it receives, the dated technology they're stuck with and strict limitations on who can update it. Hopefully we'll have it freed this year and really start putting it to use. There's also an Instagram account.

All in all this effort is delivering amazing results at an early stage and the enthusiasm from bird hunters in our state and neighboring states is overflowing.

Bird Dog Owners

The second project is an idea I've been tinkering with for a while but only sat down and started putting in honest work on this year. Bird dogs have been part of my household for over 25 years but unfortunately for me and I assume many others, they don't come with an owner's manual. Sure, there are plenty of books and videos out there about how to train your bird dog, many of them quite good, but there's nothing that talks much at all about how to keep from screwing up your bird dog.

More specifically, there are many things we do unknowingly that hold our dogs back or undo the work of pro trainers. I know because I've done all of them and learned the hard way. Things like setting timelines, talking too much to the dogs, letting emotions get in the way, and generally lacking awareness of ourselves, our actions and situations in the field. I did most of these, and in some cases kept doing them, because no one gave me a heads up that I shouldn't. They're common sense if you just know to keep an eye out for them. is a discussion of all these things we do that get in the way of having a really good bird dog. My hope is that they become part of the everyday conversation in the way that e-collars and check cords and pigeons are.

Bird Dog Logic home page

I'm really interested in what you guys think about it since most of you are dog owners and avid bird hunters. You can leave comments on the site or email me through the links on the Contact page, and I want you to be honest. Is the information helpful or confusing? Is this a benefit to the bird dog community or a lame idea on my part? The handful of people I spoke to beforehand thought this was badly needed, but you never know how myopic your focus group might be until you put it in front of your intended audience. The site went live late in the day on July 12, so ya'll will be some of the first visitors. 

There's also a Facebook page that's mostly there to let you know when a new post is up on the site. Give it a follow if you're into that.

Lastly, this is not a return to regular posting on the Wingshot blog. I may jump back on here if there is something that might be of interest, but for now the time will go to the two projects above and the occasional piece for someone else (thanks Chad and Nick).