Hunting pattern

Jerry works one-year-old Northwoods Vixen on her pattern. She looks good in this shot--hunting forward at a good distance--but Jerry is constantly watching and will nick her if she strays too far past the 2 o'clock position.

Jerry works one-year-old Northwoods Vixen on her pattern. She looks good in this shot–hunting forward at a good distance–but Jerry is constantly watching and will nick her if she strays too far past the 2 o’clock position.

During a hunt, a bird dog’s place is in front of me. I want to see what it’s doing. My ideal pattern is when a dog covers the ground in a crossing pattern at the right distance while hitting likely bird areas. It must also keep track of me.

Many handlers use the clock analogy. A dog should spend most of its time in a pocket between 9 – 10 o’clock position on the left and the 2 -3 o’clock position on the right.

Good dogs seem to have a compass that keeps them oriented to my whereabouts, i.e., they can hunt and pay attention to me. The worst don’t have that capability and spend much of their time behind me or, something that really drives me crazy—yo-yo in and out.

Right- or left-handed dogs.
When a bird dog completes a cast to either side, it should turn forward. Due to terrain or wind direction, a forward movement isn’t always possible or practical and the dog should be given some leeway. I’ve noticed that dogs seem to be either right- or left-handed in their pattern. They’ll naturally turn out on one side of me and in (and back) on the other side. The pattern becomes a large clockwise or counterclockwise loop.

Wind and patterning.
Wind direction plays a big role in patterning—and rightly so from the dog’s point of view. Most dogs pattern wider and more laterally in a headwind because they tend to not want to run directly into it. In a tail wind, most dogs will run farther forward and work back towards me.

How to develop a pattern.
When dogs are puppies, many owners focus on bird work but this is also best time to develop a hunting pattern. Good habits are formed young!

Betsy and I begin patterning with our puppies’ first walks in the field. (They always wear short check cords.) We move slowly so puppies can stay in front. Often we change directions and call/sing to get their attention. Occasionally, a subtle and gentle tug on the check cord becomes necessary if a puppy wants to go behind or on either side.

Other tips.
•    Don’t go back to get a puppy. It needs to learn a tough lesson—to pay attention to the handler and find the handler when it gets out of touch.
•    Begin calling/singing when the puppy gets at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions. Don’t wait until the puppy is too lateral.
•    Keep the walks/pattern work short when puppies are young. Consider their short attention spans.

When the puppy matures and becomes ecollar conditioned, pattern work can be continued (if necessary) with nicks and/or continuous stimulation.

In the end…
The goal is to find birds, not run the perfect pattern. In general, though, they’re not mutually exclusive. Over time, a dog that runs a good pattern will cover the ground more effectively, be easier to handle and, in the end, find more birds.


    Spotlight:  Northwoods Mercury

    Northwoods Mercury (Northwoods Parmigiano x Northwoods Rum Rickey, 2014)

    Shot this pic this morning. He had a single grouse stapled.
    ~ Paul Fischer, hunting sharptails in North Dakota

    Good stuff about puppies

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    A pointing dog’s first hunting season
    Bird and gun introduction
    Early development of puppies
    How to correct a dog
    How to pet a dog
    How to pick a puppy
    Patience and puppies
    Picking puppies: the unimportance of picking order
    Puppies and fireworks
    Puppy buying mistakes
    Raising puppies at Northwoods Bird Dogs
    The pointing instinct
    Training puppies on a stakeout chain

    Good stuff from previous posts

    blog sidebar hunting steve oscar 250

    Finer points on...

    A brace of bird dogs
    Accuracy of location
    Bird finding
    How to flush grouse and woodcock
    Hunting pattern
    Running grouse
    Scenting ability
    Speed and scenting
    To point a bird, first a dog has to find it
    Using grouse dogs on pheasants


    A bump or a knock
    Backing point
    Bird dog basics:  hunt, handle, point birds
    Bumping grouse
    Electronic training collars...a little perspective
    How to correct a dog
    How to pet a dog
    Patience and puppies
    The pointing instinct
    Transition to wild birds
    Unproductive points
    WHOA and NO


    Dogs, not averages, matter in breeding
    Evaluating litters
    Pointers of Northwoods Bird Dogs
    Proper conformation
    The tail of a bird dog


    Bird dogs and hidden traps
    Feeding bird dogs
    Feeding for ideal body condition
    First aid kit for bird dogs
    Get your dog ready for the season
    Hazards in the grouse woods
    How to maintain a good weight for your dog
    Quick lesson on poisoning and how to induce vomiting
    Tick-borne diseases in dogs


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