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Pressure

In the context of upland hunting, the term "pressure" is usually used in two ways - similar, but applying to two very different players (the hunters and the hunted). Most often, you'll hear the term used in relation to dog behavior. In essence, pressure on a dog is any form of stimulation or presence of something in the dog's environment that may influence its behavior in a way that its human counterpart may not want. In the example of a pointing dog that is making game, the most pressure comes from the game itself - such as a bird that breaks out of its cover and starts moving right in front of the dog. Younger dogs that are being asked to hold a point, or flushers that have been told to "hup," often can't take the pressure of seeing that bird run around in front of them, and will want to give chase. The dog is really fighting two sources of pressure: the pressure to respond to its intincts by reacting to a distraction, and the very important, also primitive pressure to please its pack (the hunter/handler/owner) by doing what it knows is expected of it. In younger dogs, the pressure to please the owner usually takes a back seat to prey-related instincts, and that friction is at the heart of almost all bird dog training.

The other main usage of the term is in relation to game behavior in the field. Once a hunting season kicks off, the woods and field will be filled with hunters and dogs in pursuit of their chosen dinners. Once a bird population begins to feel the pressure of the hunt, behavior readily changes - especially among birds that are in their second or later year. Pheasant hunters will readily tell stories of how cagey those birds will get after being pursued for a couple of weeks during the season. At first, the dogs can surprise a bird up close, but as the season wears on, birds in that same field can be seen moving to different cover as soon as they sense hunters and dogs within a few hundred yards. The repeated pressure of hunters in certain areas, or carrying on in a certain way, will alter the behavior and territory of the animals. A hunting team with a good undertanding of how hunting pressure impacts their chosen game will use that knowledge to change their approach to a field, their dogs, their gear, and even the type of loads they carry for their shotguns as the season progresses.


 
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