The Vizsla Newzsletter (Oct / Nov 1998)


A Hunters Tale By Win Smit

Easter Friday 1978 two weary 15 year olds battled up the ridge track, packstraps heavy with gear and provisions biting into shoulders. Still the track ran up; the sweat ran down!

Stopping for a much needed break the young men talked quietly, awed by the Ruahine landscape, eyes searching slips and open tops for that elusive quarry, Red Deer. Breathing easier they donned their packs and headed off up the ridge into a gentle breeze towards the tarn campsite. Rounding the first corner but a few metres away came WOOF and the Red hind fled into the bush. The two intrepid hunters stood unable to move, adrenaline coursing through their veins. @#%^&!!!

One of those mighty hunters was me and although this, my first encounter with deer, did not conclude in a desirable way, the next day on the Mokai Patea tops I managed to secure my first Red skin.

Over the years I've often thought of that day and I've often come across similar situations where all the hard work was done; right place, right time, right conditions, NO Deer.

Eventually to even the slowest thinking of us the penny drops! What we needed was an early warning system! A radar perhaps? Heat sensing equipment? A scent diagnostic machine? YES YES YES!!!!

But where to find such equipment? Newspaper - nothing. Yellow Pages? Not on your life. Stumped.

Occasionally while hunting I had come across blokes using dogs. "Leave them alone" all my mates said. "They'll cost you more deer than they will ever help you get. So and so had a dog when he was meat hunting and it sent him broke".

Still it niggled at me. If a quiet dog under good control was able to utilise a superior sense of small and warn me that the quarry was there ... Hmmmmmmm.

Image: The Cute Puppy Photo!
One of our Barat Brandy Litter
Photo by Gareth Williams

Eventually after enough "should have got that one's and enough deer launching themselves up from my feet (I now know that adrenaline is brown) I needed a dog. There, I've said it. Just two things to sort out.

Point # 1: Breed.
My experience as a shepherd had taught me that a smart dog is easier to train than a dumb one. Hunting ability was another important aspect, so I was pretty much limited to the gundog group. I expected the dog to stay reasonably clean of it's own accord; a shorthaired breed was desirable. The dog had to live with a family on a Kiwi quarter acre and go to work with me in the truck so I didn't want a horse. No contest on sex. It had to be a bitch. I detest marking on car wheels etc. Those who have ridden in a landrover with lots of working dogs will know why. They are designed with sliding windows in the back of the cab, just the right height for 20 dogs to mark the poor unfortunate shepherd. Little wonder my swanny's didn't last long. Besides bitches are generally sent in a smaller package. This really limited me to just a few breeds. It was after reading Roger Lentle and Frank Saxon's book "Red Deer in New Zealand" that I seriously looked at the Vizsla.

Point #2: Wife
This proved to be an even harder exercise to accomplish than Point 1. All the considerations in point 1 were done in a plus/minus type equation. This however was something else altogether. Eventually however, bless her, Sandra relented albeit with all the conditions we Vizsla owners have tossed out the window (or should that be the Vizsla tossed out the window).

A litter was located and we were the proud owners of the aptly named Minx Seeks A Red or Amber as we know her. Training time arrived, ours not hers, although I've since managed to find some common ground.

Training initially consisted of learning about the environment, 4 wheel motorbikes, water, fences, firearms and stock; what to leave alone and what was OK; where the chokky bars hid in my bumbag and don't eat my pie while I'm out of the truck!

We also went along to obedience for a short while until the instructor tried to get Amber not to smell everything. Time for hunting methinks. Amber was now working reasonably well to hand signals, Heel, Come and Stay. So it is time to hunt and hunt and hunt. Success wasn't immediate but I shot about 8 deer in the first 6 months of her training. We were becoming a team and reading each other. There were times she told me deer were about and I refused to believe her. When the deer took flight Amber gave such a look of betrayal. Oh yes, I needed training too.

I have been fortunate in having chosen a Vizsla (been chosen by a Vizsla?). As a hunting companion Amber is quiet in the bush, especially if game is around. This allows us to cover unproductive ground quickly and to hunt productive areas more thoroughly.

To those who wish to hunt deer with a Vizsla I offer the following thoughts. Plan your training with some idea of what you intend to end up with. You will not end up with an effective hunting dog if you're yelling all day Heel, Heel, Heel because the dog is ranging too wide or worse still hunting of it's own accord. Never, never take your dog hunting a species that is not an intended target for your dog. By this I mean don't take your dog goat shooting and then expect it to ignore goats while deer stalking. It is no fun having a dog locked up pointing a hidden hare on a Toi Toi covered clearing when you are searching intently for the flicker of an ear or some movement to betray the presence of a deer. Hunt, hunt and hunt some more. Initially at least you are the teacher in this partnership. Your pupil will learn nothing in the kennel or on the sofa as the case may be. Be prepared to put in the hours in the bush. Sooner or later you will start to score. Hunt alone. The last thing you need is a mate ribbing you about the dogs performance. Your dog will sense your uneasiness and become uneasy also. Hunt sensibly. Your dog is not a replacement for sloppy hunting technique. Hunt quietly into the wind at a time of the day and in an area that gives your partnership the best chance of success. When you shoot a deer, if you are sure of a good shot, wait! Let the animal die or go into shock of its own accord. If you let your dog go to the animal you run the risk of activating an adrenaline rush and possibly losing it. Wait, go to where the animal was when you shot it and give your dog the track command, keeping the dog under control. As your dog matures so will it's tracking ability and confidence.

You have just about the best scent discriminater there is; never needs batteries; is waterproof, fog proof and colourfast; but wait there's more ...... Give your Vizsla the best chance to be a deer finding machine. I'm sure you won't regret it, I haven't.

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