It's not uncommon for a bird dog to work a field, and start to show
all the classic signs of
making game, and even to (in the case of a pointing dog), lock
up on a point... with nothing there to point. Such compelling but empty
spots, usually in the form of cover
where a bird or other game has very recently been, are referred to as
These spots can be where a shot bird has previously fallen, perhaps
where a single bird has gone to ground or been roosting for some time
(long enough to generate a convincing scent cone),
a major hot spot where an entire covey
has recently been, or even a tiny area where a flying bird's droppings have landed.
For younger dogs, it can be very difficult to discriminate between
a fresh hot spot and a live bird in cover. Some pups, so sure that they're smelling
a live bird, will even pounce on the empty place where they're scenting
phantom game. It's usually best to let a dog work through a hot spot, the
better to convince them that they're not missing out on anything (otherwise,
they may be inclined to return to that spot until they're satisfied), and
to help them categorize, in their minds, the difference between the scent
of a live bird, and the scent of a bird's recent presence.
In a hunt test, a dog that locks up and solidly points a hot spot might
be considered to have been "non-productive" on that point, and
it's at the whim of the judge, and at the request of the handler, that
the dog is encouraged to move off of the point and onto something else
to redeem himself.
In a real hunting scenario, where lots of handlers aren't romping through
the field, a hot spot is a more telling and important experience. If you
know you're the only team in the field, especially where you know that birds
get up and run a lot, a hot spot may be an important clue that you've
got game nearby.
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