Airgun Hunting With A Dog
A few people have asked about the dog I use for Jackrabbit hunting, a 3 year old Dachshund/Lab mix named Marley. I have used dogs growing up for hunting rabbits, hares and birds quite often over the years. Marley is very unique as some may consider her breed a house dog, she is simply not the case at all. The standard size dachshund was developed to scent, chase, and flush out badgers and other burrow-dwelling animals, while the miniature dachshund was bred to hunt smaller prey such as rabbits. In the United States, they have also been used to track wounded deer and hunt prairie dogs. Marley is a Lab mix that adds to her hunting ability being fairly larger and too very good at retrieving and swimming if need be. This mixed breed has more of the temperament and strength of a Lab but obviously being so short she has a much easier time getting in under cover more easily and too being so small can stalk better. The downfall of her size as a hunting dog is I need to sometimes keep her close as shes susceptible to birds of prey and other predators. In some areas I will even leash her for these reasons as I have had birds stoop on her in the open plains.
I first started Airgun hunting with her about a year ago and found that she was very natural at it, needing very little work making her safe around a gun. She quickly learned what a gun was and too what it was capable of, seeing me take several Cottontails and Jackrabbits excited her. After taking her on several hunts she began to learn that when I aimed the gun and fired it she could hear the “hit” and go that direction finding a kill. I would let her get familiar with the scent of the animal and too familiarize her with the areas they are found. Before I knew it she was spotting them before me and getting really good at it.
We had spent several months hunting by ourselves before I felt comfortable bringing another hunter along with us. I wanted to make sure that she was 100% safe and followed all commands such as STAY, HERE and GO AHEAD. The first word is STAY and that means I want her to stay where she is and wait for me. The second word is HERE and that means I want her to stay by my side within several feet and sometimes be on a leash if I feel predators may be in the vicinity. The third word is GO AHEAD and that means I want her to seek out animals by scent, sight or by flushing them. After working with her and giving rewards when she follows a command it became much more natural for us both and became almost automatic and in some cases she would just know what to do. We sometimes would just sit and wait with both of us watching the hillsides for activity.
I remember our first successful hunt together and how excited and happy she was to finally get a kill on a very large Jackrabbit that we took down at 85 yards. We were hiking across a dry river bed up into a thick brush-line where we spotted a Jackrabbit running up an embankment. I took my shot leaving a very loud THWACK that was very identifiable sending Marley at full speed up the hill to make sure it was expired and to retrieve.
After several more hunts I ended up feeling comfortable enough to invite Terry to join us and too for Marley to get familiar with being around other hunters. Her safety was my number one concern so I kept her close to my side for the first few minutes just to let her see that we now had “two” guns in use. Pretty soon I was comfortable letting her GO AHEAD and to now be able to assist us both in locating some Jackrabbits. Marley and Terry became friends very quickly and sometimes she would walk with him for awhile.
Marley was soon getting very good at what she does.
After awhile she was joining us on several hunts where we ventured deep into the back-country for days at a time camping in some very unforgiving terrain.
One of our hunting trips took us miles from camp where her and I killed several Jackrabbits from over several hundred yards away, some of the retrievals she made were from rocky hillsides and thick brush.
Using an Airgun to hunt with is difficult enough so having some help from a well trained dog like Marley makes hunting a whole lot more enjoyable. The nice part about using an Airgun is the noise levels are much lower than with a traditional firearm, this makes it enjoyable for both me and the dog. Here is a kill we made using a .357 Slayer Big Bore Airgun, she loves this gun as much as I do.
I hope my writing may open some eyes to look towards a dog as a valuable hunting tool, I know Marley has really brought some light into my hunting adventures. She has become a valuable companion and the best hunting buddy I’ve ever known.
Fabulous story, Dana! As a falconer and and air gunner, I can really appreciate the companionship of a good 4 legged hunting partner. Congrats on the relationship you two have!
Great story Dana,
Tell Marley I’ve got a nice big Bacon Flavored Milkbone waiting for her !
The best times I’ve had in my life where hunting with my Dad over his Beagle Hounds Peter and Slivers. I was about 5 years old when I shot my first cottontail with Dad’s 12 gauge 1100. Two years later, after asking to hold the gun when you could no longer hear the hounds, knowing the rabbit was on his way back…I got my single shot 20 gauge. I never missed a rabbit with that old gun, knowing I only had one shot, making it count! I was able to pay him back 20 years later, when he duck hunted with me and my best friend/lab Nika. Nika long gone and Pappy and I too crippled to hunt anymore…I look back on the hundreds of good times hunting with dogs! Now we sit around on Pappy’s porch, shooting ourair guns, talking stories bout the good ole days!…The Bigman