A Vizsla To Hunt With

Amante and Mel hunting wild pheasant in eastern Colorado

I want a Vizsla to hunt with!  So, you say you want a Vizsla to be your hunting companion? And you live in Colorado? Here’s the scoop on hunting upland game in Colorado. First, it ain’t easy. If hunting upland game with a bird dog (Vizsla or otherwise) is your thing, you’re in the wrong state. Colorado is a “big game” state. Silly little upland game hunters like us just don’t bring in enough revenue for the state to take us, or the habitat for upland game, too seriously. There are a lot of good people and groups working hard to improve it. But, Colorado is also a strong tourist attraction with much of the focus on our glorious Rocky Mountain resorts and the high-priced ski industry. Given the above, if you’re still determined to get a Vizsla to hunt birds with, read on for a realistic picture to consider.

    • Any way you look at it, you’re looking at a lot of “work” and cost a lot of money. Yes, we have CRP and state land to hunt but compare our harvest numbers to those in other states.
    • Wild bird populations are lower in Colorado than many other states and you’ll need to plan on traveling a distance if you live in the greater Denver Metro area. Thus, thinking you’re going to be able to teach a young Vizsla on wild birds in Colorado is like believing unicorns are real.
    • A good bird dog needs birds. And lots of them early on when they’re young. See the first comment on this list. This means you’ll be buying birds for your Vizsla to awaken and hone on those “pointing” instincts. And, plan on buying a lot of birds (at $6-$25 each bird). It adds up QUICK! Don’t believe me? You would cringe if you added up all of the receipts for birds I’ve bought for my Vizslas. Remember, this is just the cost for the birds. Finding land to train on is another challenge we face here in Colorado. You’ll likely want to join a hunting or sporting club where you can buy birds and have access to land for training your bird dog. Then, of course, you’ll need gear…check out my “Bird Dog Training Supplies” list.

Forget about hopping in the car with your Vizsla and driving 15 minutes to hunt (again, if you live in the greater Denver Metro area). Not even the hunting preserves are that close. Here’s a more realistic scenario:

  • To hunt wild birds, plan to be on the road by 4 a.m. and drive a good 3+ hours (greater Denver Metro area). Since it will be winter, the roads might be treacherous and travel slower than you had hoped. Arrive at spot and be ready to see several other hunters arriving or already in the field hoping to drop those few precious birds too. ;-) Okay, I exaggerate…sort of.
  • Alternately, you could head out a day before, hole up in a dog-friendly hotel (with your Vizsla inside the warm, cozy room of course and NOT left out in the car!) to minimize the drive time. Still, this is an extra effort–the planning, locating a dog-friendly hotel, packing food and gear, etc.
  • Birds in Colorado aren’t exactly easy to get to. See previous points. Our upland birds are pretty far out east, south, and of course in the mountains or the flat lands. Out west (and southwest) you can find chukar and grouse.

Be prepared to invest a lot of time into training your Vizsla to be your hunting companion. Be creative! Much of the “yard” or foundation work can be done in the city (See my “Bird Dog Training City Slicker Style” article), but you will also need to get your pup out to areas with different and thicker cover. Once you’re actually working your pup on birds, you’ll likely need to travel to areas where you can do this sort of training (releasing game birds, pigeons, blasts on the whistle, firing shotguns and blank pistols). The “yard” work alone takes a lot of time for the average 45+ hour per week desk jockey. You’ll need to set up a schedule to make sure your puppy Vizsla is getting regular, consistent hunt training in addition to all of the training/socialization it will need because it’s a puppy. After years of talking with those interested in Vizslas as a hunting dog, I work hard to impress upon others the work that goes into being able “just hunt with my Vizsla”. It sounds kind of glamorous and cool to say “yeah I have a Vizsla and I actually hunt him/her”. Other avid outdoors people will “ooo” and “ahh” and be eager to exchange stories. Always keep in mind getting those stories is a lot of work if you live in Colorado. Vizslas aren’t the heartiest of the pointing dog breeds. Obviously, I love them and couldn’t imagine not sharing my lives with them. However, they aren’t the right breed for everyone (please, please take the time to read “Is the Vizsla the Right Breed for You?” to familiarize yourself with the Vizsla breed). I won’t hunt my Vizslas in single digit temps and I wouldn’t think of having them retrieve waterfowl in the heart of a Colorado winter. Early in the season, perhaps, but it would seem cruel to ask them to do this type of work in extreme weather when they are built very differently than Labrador and Golden Retrievers. Vizslas don’t have the extra insulated layer or undercoat to keep them warm when in freezing cold water or out in the field. My Vizslas wear neoprene vests and boots when the temperatures drop. They don’t have a thick, wiry coat to protect them from really tough cover. Again, mine wear vests to protect their bodies but after a few days of working thick cover, they’re a cut up, bloody mess. Do I hunt them in the really tough stuff? Yes, but sparingly and with adequate protection (vests and boots). Keep in mind as well, the temperament of a Vizsla. They are softer than most of the other pointing dog breeds. Vizslas generally don’t hold up to traditional, heavy-handed training methods. There are plenty of trainers to pick from, most too eager to take your money, but few who really understand how to train a Vizsla for field work. Most hunting/bird dog trainers we’re aware of still train with the old-school, traditional and quite forceful methods. Tightly tied to Vizsla’s softer temperaments is their intelligence. They are thinkers. They are a very smart, inquisitive breed, needy breed. This can make them challenging to train for the novice. I love this about our Vizslas but understand how others might misunderstand these breed-specific traits, thus ruining a potentially fine gun dog. Vizslas are also slower to mature. This requires your patience. You just gotta let your baby Vizslas grow up! With the proper encouragement, training, bird exposure, consistency, and handling your Vizsla will be one fine hunting dog around 3-4 years old. Does this mean you won’t be able to hunt a younger Vizsla? No! But, be prepared to come home from your first hunting trips without birds in the bag. Have the mind set to use these hunting trips as opportunities to train your young Vizsla instead of being determined to limit out each day. Pushing your young Vizslas too hard in the early years can really shut them down. They can lose their style, intensity, run, and love for hunting. If you’re a competitive, overachiever who needs to have a broke gun dog by the time the dog is 1 year old, consider an English or German Shorthaired Pointer. The bottom line is that getting a Vizsla to hunt with isn’t like going out and buying a video game.  It isn’t something you just “do”–you must put a lot of work into it.  They aren’t “push button” hunting dogs (nor should any dog be!), but require a great deal of time to dedicate to training, early exposure to birds, and heavy socialization.  Hunting a Vizsla in Colorado is way more work than hunting in Kansas, Nebraska, Montana, Nebraska, Missouri, (shall I keep going?). I’m not trying to be discouraging or sound like a naysayer. Instead, I’m trying to give you a realistic depiction of all that really goes into “getting a Vizsla to hunt with”. We do have wild birds in Colorado and you can limit out during hunting seasons–just be ready to work harder for those birds! I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss where and how you should go about getting (buying) a Vizsla puppy. First, please DO NOT (yes, I’m begging you) ever buy a Vizsla puppy or any dog from a pet store. These pups are usually supplied from puppy-millers and high volume breeders who are simply “in the business” for the money. These pups and their parents usually live very sad, abusive, and unfulfilled lives. Go tohttp://www.puppymillrescue.com/ and http://www.stoppuppymills.org/ to learn more about the horrors of puppy mills. Please take the time to read the comparison chart on “Traits of a Responsible Breeder vs. a Backyard ‘Breeder'”. Please also take the time to read my “Interested in a Vizsla?” page to learn about adding a Vizsla puppy to your family the right way. It’s very important to understand the differences between responsible and irresponsible breeding. The Rocky Mountain Vizsla Club’s breeder referral program can help connect you with a local responsible Colorado Vizsla breeder as well as an out-of-state Vizsla breeder. Below is a list of hunting/sporting clubs in Colorado. Call around and find out about annual memberships, how much birds cost, the numbers of acres, training fields, etc. A-Plus Game Birds Aspen Outfitting Company (1.5 hours from Aspen, CO) Auer Bird Valley (35 miles NE of Denver) Box T Cowboys (35 minutes southeast of Colorado Springs, Colorado) The Bluffs (40 miles E of Denver) Broken Spoke Game Ranch (Whitewater, CO – near Grand Junction) Colorado Blue Cliff Pheasants LLC Colorado Gun Dog Association (Strausberg, CO) Colorado Wingsport (Windsor, CO) Cottonwood Hunt Club (Crawford, Colorado) Eastern Colorado Hunting Opportunities, LLC (Stratton, CO-150 miles east of Denver) High Lonesome Lodge (N of Grand Junction, CO) High Plains Sportsmens Club Kiowa Creek Sporting Club (45 minutes E of Denver, sporting clay courses too) Laybourn’s Hunt Club (dog permitted to stay INSIDE guest house – Cope, CO) Longmeadow Game Resort, LLC (Wiggins, CO) Outwest Guides (Marble, CO) Quail Run Sports (Kiowa, CO 45 minutes outside of Denver) Rocky Mountain Roosters (Colorado Spring, CO – sporting clay courses too) Rocky Ridge (Wellington, CO) Steel Fork Pheasants, LLC Stillroven Farm Strasburg Gamebirds (45 minutes E of Denver) Valhalla Kennels and Gun Dogs (Bennett, CO)

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