Hunting Rabbits With Air Guns and Dogs


The Basic Retrieving Dog

What I call the basic retriever or deer dog function, is where a dog is walked at heel or very
slightly ahead of the hunter, and is stopped whilst the gun takes the shot.
The dog is then used for the more difficult retrieves or for locating the game, but never for the
simple retrieves. The reason for never using a retriever on a simple fetch is that it encourages the
dog to charge in for every retrieve.
If you cannot control this, you are then in the situation where the dog is a liability and will lose
you game when you come across two rabbits rather than the one. Quite often, when using an air-
rifle, you will be able to kill one rabbit of a pair and then the second because the weapon is so
So the rule is, only send your dog for retrieves across water, in cover, or where a wounded rabbit
is running. Retrieving a running rabbit should only be undertaken when a dog is well trained on
cold game and real retrieves, and is steady to shot. Under other circumstances you will
encourage running in again.
The Squirrel Dog

The second way of using a dog when shooting with an air-rifle, (or rifle or shotgun) is when
hunting for squirrels. When pursuing these animals, you will often find that they will keep the
trunk of the tree between yourself and them.
In this situation, the breed is immaterial, even a terrier will be sufficient to achieve the desired
result. All you need is a dog that will respond to hand signals, and that you can send away from
you. The squirrel will then tend to keep the trunk between itself and the dog, and present a
straightforward shot. Just remember to stay still whilst the dog is doing its job.
After a while the dogs will get used to hunting in this way. Never send a gundog to retrieve a
wounded squirrel, the fact that they bite so hard will ruin the dog’s mouth (ie they will become
hard mouthed). If you are using a terrier though, let it run in – you are not training it as a gundog.

Rabbits, Pointers and Air Rifles

The third and last way of using a gundog with an air gun, and one I particularly like, is to use a
pointer to point rabbits in light cover. Ideally suited for the hunting air rifle, as you will disturb
very few rabbits and the dog can spot them much better than you can.
Ken Devonald has been training gundogs on and off for twenty years, currently having two
GSPs. The older dog, now twelve years old, is still trying to jump gates when Ken isn’t looking.

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