WORTHINGTON -- There are more than enough words used together that really don't belong together. Jumbo shrimp is one everyone is familiar with. This list goes on and on, but I have several words in particular that I hate anywhere close to each other.

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WORTHINGTON -- There are more than enough words used together that really don't belong together. Jumbo shrimp is one everyone is familiar with. This list goes on and on, but I have several words in particular that I hate anywhere close to each other. They are barbed wire and Labradors. If you hunt even occasionally, you are going to have encountered this unfortunate combination. It hardly ever comes out pretty.

On the private properties I hunt in, most of the barbed wire has been removed. The posts are left to mark the property boundaries and they present a much less serious hazard. This hazard avoidance is not possible for most of the places you might like to hunt. The only thing you can do is teach your dog to wire-wise, and be ready if you are called on to deal with a dog that has tangled with a fence.


The very first dog I owned that could actually be called a trained hunting dog was a yellow lab female named Scout. My daughter, Brittany, named her after a character in the book, "To Kill a Mockingbird". I have not yet read that book, but it is on my bucket list.

We trained Scout to a very high level, and I was more than a little excited to take her out on her first pheasant hunt. I went on opening weekend with Thad Lambert, who was the brains behind her training back in 1996. He showed me what to do and when to do it. I had the time of my life experiencing pheasant hunting with the best dog I had ever owned.

I can remember it like yesterday -- my first solo outing with Scout on the Monday after opening weekend. We went to the USFWS property just north of Lake Bella and waited for the last 45 minutes of shooting time that day. As we headed out, just me and my dog, my excitement level was more justified for someone 25 years my junior. We flushed two roosters and bagged those two birds with five shoots. Three were needed on the first bird and only two on the second. My shooting skills have improved since then.

I have the pictures that I took that day framed and on my wall of fame at home. It was a momentous day. What also happened that day was that, during one of the retrieves, Scout connected with a metal T-post that was bent over and only inches off the ground. She cut herself wide open right where the stomach meets the hind quarters. The cut did not expose her insides, but it was pretty bad, about 7 inches long. When this happened she did not even let out a yelp. I had no idea she had injured herself.

I took the pictures and loaded up and went home. When I got off work on Tuesday, I went home and was going to try to repeat the events of the previous evening. As I was petting my dog, I must have rubbed the injury and she let me know that she was injured. When I looked at the wound I knew that a vet was needed.

The injury was not life-threatening, but because almost 24 hours had elapsed since the accident, the vet could not just sew the tissue shut. The tissue on the edges of the injury had died and this required that it be cut away so the sutures could reconnect live tissue. The end result was that the dog went on the injured reserve list and was out of action for two weeks. I was leaving for a South Dakota hunting trip that weekend and, needless to say, my dog had to stay home. This was quite the heart-breaker, and one of the primary reasons I now have more than one dog.

I learned two things from this experience. The first lesson is to always give your dog the once-over when you get home from every hunting outing. They are so driven to hunt that they will often not show you they have been hurt. The second thing I learned was to be prepared to deal with these issues if they arise. If you hunt like I do, it really won't be a matter of if they arise but when they arise.

Know the phone number of your vet and carry it with you. Unfortunately, over the past 15 years and multiple dogs, I have had more than a few after hours worth of emergency calls to my vet. This knowledge carries the same weight as having the number of a vet in the area where you will be hunting -- even if it's in another state. After several rounds of stitches and different dog injuries, I have grown more confident to deal with some of the less severe cases by myself.

I carry a first aid kit that contains a small stapler for stapling closed smaller cuts. It works great and you can close up most cuts with a few staples in just a few minutes if you can get the help you need to keep the dog still. There is a special pliers that is used to remove the staples 7-10 days later. The stapler without the removal pliers is worthless.

After this hard-learned lesson, I started taking special training time to help educate my dogs to become wire-wise. I do this using a woven wire fence with no barbed wire attached. Working your dogs in and around woven wire helps them learn to navigate this obstacle with less chance for injury.

Once the dog bumps into the woven wire a few times -- even at slow speeds -- they have a much higher level of respect for all wire. This has limited the number of injuries since I started the exercise. I can remember during one hunt that my now deceased dog, Ace, had made a retrieve and was returning with a bird in his mouth. As he came up to a well constructed four-wire barbed fence, he stopped, positioned himself and, just like a gymnast, jumped between the wires and completed the act with the bird in his mouth. He didn't even touch the wire. I had tried to stop him but did not act fast enough. I, to this day, cannot imagine how he successfully managed that feat.

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Dogs and wire are going to interact, and you need to be aware and prepared to deal with it when it happens. Avoidance is the best solution, but not always an option. Between a good vet and some hunter preparedness you can keep these interactions from ruining your trip or, worse yet, your entire season.

Waterfowl season opens again tomorrow and pheasant season is only two weeks behind. Have a safe -- hunter and dog -- hunting season.