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Wild Bird Training In March

March is a very exciting month for the pointing dog owner.  It’s the month we’ve waited for all winter…the month we celebrate the return of the American woodcock.

Nothing is as important with pointing dog training as wild birds.  And the return of the woodcock gives us a solid dose of wild birds for a good two to three weeks. Every pointing dog owner should take advantage of this opportunity.

Your author lives in Southern New Hampshire.  Depending upon snow depth, we typically see our first birds toward the end of the first week in March.  If there is total snow cover, it might mean another week.  If there are seeps, with a little grass showing around the seep, you’ll have birds.  Since the birds need some soft ground to find food, you won’t find birds without seeps.

The returning woodcock are on a mission…to get to their homeland, which, for your author’s area, would be New Hampshire, Maine, New Brunswick or Nova Scotia.  Once arriving in their homeland, they begin to mate.  The continuous flow of migrating birds gives the dog’s fresh scent almost every day.  How much better can it get?

Nature has purposely staggered the migration to ensure survival of the species.  Frequently we’ll have a good flight of birds go through and then suddenly get hit with a March snow storm.  These spring storms produce high mortality for the early arrivals.  Fortunately, Mother Nature ensures survival with more flights coming through.

Let’s get back to locating the birds.  We mentioned above that seeps, or small pools of open water, are necessary.  These areas may not be your typical woodcock cover.  Even in fairly open cover, if there is water, you’ll find birds.  If the woods still has heavy snow cover, you’ll often find birds in a ditch right along a road, between two houses in a heavily developed area, in an industrial park next to a city, in a town park; be creative and always on the lookout for potential rest areas for Mr. Timberdoodle.

There are some simple rules to follow with spring woodcock training.  First, don’t follow-up a flush.  These birds have a great deal of stress in their lives at this particular time and continuous follow-ups are not good for the bird.  Next, pull your dogs out of the woods in early to mid-April.  Let the birds enjoy mating season without dog interference. And, be sure to check with your state fish and game department regarding running game during off-season.  You may need a special license.

Make March your number one training month.  That young dog you have can make great strides in a short amount of time.  Have fun!

Paul Fuller is a lifelong sportsman.  He’s been an outdoor writer since 1971. He’s the host and producer of the award winning Bird Dogs Afield TV show ( and produced the epic video Grouse, Guns & Dogs. Paul shot over his first German short-haired pointer in 1961.

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