Friday, April 12, 2013

Airedale Hunting Style

This is from the Traditional Working Airedale board recently authored By Henry Johnson, a good article to put up here on the blog and share.

Al Kranbuhl

In my experience the Airedale hunts like a combination sighthound/bird dog/terrier/catch dog.  Their first love is a sight chase.  They will occasionally yip a time or two during the chase.  They run to catch and catch to kill.  If you are around sighthound people doing lure chasing, see if they will let your Airedale run.  If they do, he will likely be a strong competitor and put on a show.  Better hope the lure keeps moving.  If the Airedale catches up with it he's likely to rip it up pretty bad.

Second best way an Airedale likes to hunt is on airborne scent.  Like a wide-ranging bird dog.  Big circles out to a quarter mile or more on wild hogs, coon, bear, lion, looking for hot airborne scent he can follow to the source.  Will normally come back in to check on you every 15 or 20 minutes if he doesn't strike something.  "If they're not back in 20 minutes, best tighten up your boots and go looking for them because they'll be treed" said Max Searls, a British Columbia bear/lion hunting guide.  If they catch quarry on the ground you are likely to hear a roar from them.  "What was that?  Do we have any lions around here?" a new-to-Airedales Texas hunter said upon hearing an Airedale strike on wild hogs for the first time.

Because of his love of airborne scent the Airedale makes a good shooting dog on Upland Game.  Hunted as a flushing dog, the biggest problem I had with them was keeping them working within gun range.  They think if you can see the bird you ought to be able to hit it.  But by whoaing them down and growling at them you can eventually get them to hunt to the gun and stay within range.  I never tried to get them to point but about one in twenty will point naturally and you can get them to do it if you keep whoaing them down when you see them start to make game.

Can the Airedale follow a track on the ground, does he have enough nose?  Yes, he can follow a track on the ground, if he wants to.  If it's hot enough to interest him.  Coming down from the Otterhound, who was down from the Bloodhound, the Airedale has plenty of nose.  But the terrier blood in him wants action.  He can likely smell a cold trail but is not interested in it.  He thinks, "Ok, I know that critter has been here but that trail is old and cold and he may be in the next county by now.  Let's swing out wide and circle for hot airborne scent."

When hunted with hounds the Airedale may pay little attention to them if they are cold trailing.  But he will go to them if they pick up the tempo and he knows they are on hot scent.  He is likely to run the track faster than the hounds when he does get in the race and he will run silently and hope to catch the quarry on the ground while it still thinks the hounds are far away.

An example of the Airedale's scenting ability.  David Short and I were working terriers in a rugged region of Middle Tennessee.  Limestone country.  Karst topography with many small sinkholes and occasional bigger ones up to 30 feet across.  A region that had been devastated by an ice storm a year or two earlier.  No agriculture there, just a tangled mess of down timber and rock ledges and a few tall trees still standing.  Very  hot and dry that day.  Poor scenting conditions for the dogs.  Four or five small terriers scrambling through the down timber and going into the sinkholes and finding nothing.  My Airedale following along with the terriers, ready to take part if they found something.  Then I noticed the Airedale leave the terriers and walk slowly away for two hundred feet or so and stop at the base of a single standing tree and look up.  No indication of following any track on the ground and no indication of any such track by the terriers, who also have good noses but are strongly ground oriented.  I moved slowly to follow the Airedale and began searching the tree from the base toward the top.  Looked to be a dead tree.  No vegetation.  Maybe 75 or 80 feet tall. Just bare trunk and bare limbs.  Saw nothing at first but the dog would not leave the tree.  Kept looking and finally saw a coon on a limb a few feet from the top of the tree and right against the trunk.  Still as a lump, no movement, no eyes showing.  Left that coon up that tree and leashed up my Airedale and took him back to follow the terriers, who never knew anything about the coon.  Am sure there was no track on the ground that brought the Airedale to the tree.  Just airborne scent I am sure.

As draw and catch dogs with the terriers the Airedales quickly learned their part in the "terrier task force."  We never allowed more than one terrier working to ground at a time.  The Airedale would look for bolts and frequently run down and catch a groundhog who was trying to get out the back door.  And they saved a lot of wear and tear on terriers when sent in to draw the quarry at the end of a dig.  And sometimes when we were talking instead of watching the terriers we would lose track of one and not know if it had gone to ground somewhere.  But the Airedale would always know where the terriers were and would lead us to the site if one had gone to ground.  A very versatile and useful dog, the Airedale, in my experience.  And always a great companion in field, forest, or at home.  /hsj, fults cove, tennessee.

Henry and one of his favorite Airedales "Rowdy"