BS. Here is a thread I made on a another site after a few guys asked me for advice on how to train their pup/dog.
Let me know about the DVD. I will mail it right out to ya. Pike
Over the last few months, prior to adopting my pup Mojo I researched this very same topic on the net, hunting mags etc. and even though I found numerous articles they were very vague and not very informative on how to actually train an antler dog. All the experts seemed to contradict each other and seemed to make it look more difficult that it really is.
So I just decided to train Mojo just like any other hunting dog that I have trained over the years.
Here is what I did and still currently doing.
Feb. 1st, I adopted Mojo from a rescue when he was 10 weeks old after spending an hour so with him to make sure (as much as you can with a pup) that he would make a good hunting dog.
When I got him home the first thing I did was give him his only toy/chew toy etc. he will ever have, a deer antler. (I don't worry about my human or other scent on the antlers that I consider his toys)
Feb 2nd I started doing two 15-20 minute training sessions per day and still do. (many of those take place after dark)
First it was just playing tug of war and fetch in the house and outside in order to get Mojo as attached to the antlers as possible. Every time I tossed the antler I told Mojo to find the bone!!
I also took some antlers and washed them off very good and then put them out side on the picnic table to get any human scent off them and then stored them in a tupper ware container.
Feb. 11th I started placing these sheds wearing plastic gloves (never use latex) in the yard in plain sight ( in my opinion at this point playing fetch were Mojo could see where the antler landed and not have to locate it, was useless) I would again tell Mojo to find the bone!! And purposely walked Mojo right past them, when we got to each one I made a huge deal about it even if he didn't pay any attention to it. Said gooood boooy and gave him hugs etc, then picked the antler up (wearing gloves) put it in a garbage bag and then put the antler in my back pack, then I gave Mojo a treat
( treats caused me problems later on with his training) but since he learned to be house broken using treats I thought it was good idea at the time.
I did this same process over and over, twice a day every day (repetition is the key)
Once Mojo was at the point where he was stopping and picking up the antler or laying down with the antler and chewing on each one etc. I moved on to the next phase in his training. ( but I was going nuts because it was mid Feb. and we had over 15 inches of snow on the ground and I really wanted to be using fresh sheds by this point, but because of the snow shed hunting was useless.) I then started placing antlers in plain site in the yard and then told him to find the bone!! And just let Mojo wonder across them on his own by accident with out me walking him past or leading him in the right direction etc. Again repetition is the key!! After a week or so of this it seemed like some thing inside his cute little head just clicked and he realized that the reason we were in the yard was to find deer antlers (or to him, new and exciting play toys) then when I told him to find the bone he started looking for them on his own.
(it was that simple)
I then started hiding some of the sheds in harder to find places as well as some still out in the open, I then would let him out of the house and tell him to find the bone, over and over and again for 15-20 minutes twice a day and every time he found one I repeated the same process. After a few days he was getting very good at this, (too good at it) I started getting suspicious that even though I was wearing knee high rubber boots that he wasn't picking up the scent of the shed and figured out to just follow my scent right to the antler. So I started
throwing the antlers from the front of my house (came inches away from breaking one of my windows when the shed slipped out of my hand one time) over the roof and into my back and side yards so he couldn't follow my trail, and because of the deep snow they were hidden very well because they sank down in it. But this didn't slow Mojo down at all, he was finding the antlers just as fast, even though he couldn't see were they landed or hear them hit the ground because of the deep snow. Doing this also (by accident) taught Mojo to bring the antler back to me because I started staying in the front yard while Mojo went off to the back and side yards to find the bone(see pics below)
I continued to throw the antlers over the roof twice a day for 15-20 minutes per session until finally I decided that the snow had melted enough to take Mojo out for his first shed hunt on Sunday Feb. 28th. I didn't expect much out of him, I just wanted him to start getting use to the woods, briar's, dead falls, thickets etc. and the distractions like deer poop he was going to encounter in the near future. We arrived at 1:50 PM. and started walking up the steep hill and into a large cedar thicket, there was a lot more snow than I thought there would be, varying between 6-12 inches with some bare spots under the cedars. We immediately got into deer trails and deer droppings and we started following one of the well used trails. Not even 150 yards from the truck I look at a bare spot about 18 yards to my left and I see a nice shed laying there, then I look 4-5 feet from it and I see another smaller shed laying on the ground. I decided to stay put and let Mojo work the area until he finds them (even if it takes 3 hours) I then tell Mojo to find the bone as he is sniffing every deer track etc. and after 10 minutes or so he finds the larger shed ( a real nice 6-pt shed) he seemed as shocked as I was to find it laying there and just stood there for a minute, then he laid down and started chewing it and I told him to bring me the bone, which he did, I put on a plastic glove and took it and placed it in my back pack, then gave him a huge hug and a treat. After a couple minutes I was able to coax him to forget about the shed we found and he started to search again in the area of the first shed, after another minute or so he discovered the 2nd shed ( a 2-pt shed) and stood there like he was puzzled again, I then said bring me the bone, he picked it up and took off running with it this time instead of bringing it to me so I had to catch him to get it away from him and gave him another hug and another treat as he tried to get in my back pack laying on the ground. I was able to finally get him going back to searching but we didn't find any more sheds, just way too much snow and by 3:30 PM. he was plum tuckered out. Below are pics of our awesome afternoon.
Since that first shed hunt, Mojo and I have been out shed hunting 5 days so far (and still do our training sessions every day we don't get out shed hunting) and ended up finding 24 sheds in all, 23 of which I saw first and once I saw them stayed put until Mojo found the bone on his own. But last Saturday (March 13) during our first shed hunt in OH., Mojo found and brought to me his first un-assisted shed ever (with out me seeing it prior to him) while I had stopped to get a drink. It took me a few minutes to realize what just happened and was in shock for a while! Here is a pic. of Mojo's first shed.
Mojo's is at the point now that if you put a shed in a couple acre field etc., hide it in the wheel well of a truck, hang it off a fence post or in the camps fire wood pile he will find it with in 2 minutes after you tell him to find the bone.
I hope this very long post helps any one thinking about training their dog to hunt antlers since there is so little info on the subject out there. But just remember that like people, (kids more like it) dogs are all different and have different personalities and just because the methods I used to successfully train Mojo doesn't mean that if I got another pup today and trained it the exact same way for the next month and a half that the new pup might just end up running around the woods aimlessly eating deer poop and require to be trained using completely different methods.
Also never try to base when its time to move your dog onto the next more advanced stage by a time schedule etc., once again dogs are like people, and some dogs will pick a certain thing up faster than another dog and vice verca. Let your dog let you know when its time to move on to the next level or stage. Pike