Box Style Bird Launcher Buyer's Guide - By Steve SnellBox Style Bird Launchers are an important piece of equipment to be used in the training of pointing dogs, flushing dogs, and retrievers. The launcher lets you control the bird's location and when it will flush. The bird can't walk off or run away and it can't flush until you pull the release lever. With the strong springs, the bird is tossed high enough that it must fly.
Bird Launcher Quick Picks
If you are in a hurry, here's the skinny. I train alone the majority of the time so I don't use manual launchers. A remote system saves me time and gives me better control. If you want a manual system, both the Scott launchers and the EZ Bird 711's do a good job. The Scott is a little louder, but it also has a stronger flush. The 711's are smaller and lighter. This is great if you are carrying 3 or 4 of them out to your training area. There are no options for turning a Scott launcher into a remote system and the EZ Bird electronics are really out of date. If you have no plans of upgrading later this isn't a big deal.
The Dogtra systems come in a manual version that is easy to upgrade but it is a little more expensive. DT Systems launchers can be purchased as manual launchers but are difficult to turn into remote systems. It can be done but it is tricky.
I have been using the Innotek Bird Launchers for the last few years and have been very pleased with them. If I was starting over today and was only training a flushing dog or a pointing dog, I would not buy Innotek. I would go with go with the DT Systems launchers because of the added features of the side entry door, the super quiet launch and the beeper locator. These systems are basically priced the same but the DT launchers have more features and I love their quality.
I own both pointing dogs and retrievers so that makes the Dogtra launchers a better choice. The Dogtra bird launcher electronics are the same ones that are used for launching remote wingers like Zinger Winger or the Etch-Marc Thunderbirds. If you train both Upland and Waterfowl dogs, you can use the same electronics on both your systems and save money in the long run. The Dogtra launchers will also work with the Tri-Tronics Pro Control release system. Tri-Tronics has an advantage over Dogtra because it has dual outputs. This means you can have two bird launchers close to each other (with in15 feet) and use one receiver to independently launch both birds.
Getting Good Game Birds for Training Your Upland Dog
For most of us, the days of training a bird dog only on wild birds are long gone. The majority of today's bird dogs get their start on pen raised birds.
The first step in training a bird dog is finding good birds. Many of these pen raised birds tend to run instead of flying or in the worst case not moving at all, having been raised like "chickens" and only associating people with feeding time.
I have several good breeders in my area but I also have my own flight pen that I use to make the young birds strong and wary.
It is important to locate a game farm that understands what you are doing and raises its birds to be strong flyers and "afraid" of human and dog contact. A good source for locating birds in your general area is on the Quail Unlimited website.
Select your State and the Species that you need and you will find a list of folks in your area. The majority of these folks will sell you birds for a fee. Always be sure to buy from the folks that have their own shooting preserves and not the ones that only raise birds for restaurants.
What is a Box Style Bird Launcher?
Even with good birds, it is important to be able to control the location of your birds and the timing of their flush when you are working a young dog. A box style bird launcher allows you to create the setup that you need and it will keep the birds where you put them. You can also launch them the moment that you need to. This is very important in the working of a young flushing dog or pointer.
Box launchers allow you to control where the birds are placed and when they will flush. Even when birds aren't great flyers, they will still move on when you toss them 6 to 8 feet in the air.
Flushing birds with remote “catapult” type launchers is the closest thing to training on wild birds. Better yet, you can control the location of the birds and when they will flush with remote launchers. When steadying a pointing dog to wing and shot, using two or more launchers at the same location can help maintain the dog’s interest and intensity after the initial flush. An occasional second and third delayed flush will help the dog anticipate additional flushes on all points and, therefore, help maintain it's interest and intensity longer. Manual launchers can also be used for the delayed second and third flushes.
The steel box has an open design which permits good air flow so dogs have the advantage of plenty of scent to help them locate the bird.
A box style bird launcher is a metal box that has a cordura or mesh pocket that allows you to place the bird inside. The box has strong springs attached to the arms and is held in place by a locking arm. When you are ready for the birds to fly, you press the release mechanism and the springs throw the bird 6 to 8 feet in the air. This create a simulated flush and the bird then flies off to the closest cover.
Bird Launchers come in regular sizes that can be used with pigeons, quail, and chuckar. Many of the models also have larger versions for pheasants. The Pheasant sized units can launch the smaller birds also, but the regular sized boxes are too small to be used with pheasant hens or roosters. If you want to use both pheasants and smaller game birds, you can either purchase all pheasant sized boxes or you can mix and match. The remote systems allow you to use both sized boxes with the same transmitter.
Manual Bird Launchers
All of the launchers that we sell come in manual versions where you have to trigger the launch by pulling a cord or stepping on the release arm with your foot. This is the inexpensive route but it also requires that you have some help to either control your young dog or a helper to launch the bird at the correct time. There is nothing worse then the young dog that does everything perfect and then you screw it up by not being able to create the flush at the right time.
The easy way to use a manual launcher is by adding a pull cord. Simply attach a long cord to the launcher and lay it out down wind from the launcher. I recommend that you stake the launcher to the ground so that you will have something to pull against. It's very frustrating to pull the cord and flip the launcher over instead of having it launch.
Normally your dog should be brought in from the down wind side (for best scenting conditions) and you should end up close to the cord. You can also add multiple cords and lay them out in several directions so you can increase the odds of being close to one of the cords. I also recommend that you use a bright color so you can see it in the grass.
Remote Bird Launchers
Remote Bird Launchers allow you to train alone. You have a small transmitter that you carry with you and can launch the birds from a distance without having to take you eyes off your dog. This is the way to go, but it is also very expensive compared to using all manual versions.
Many folks will mix it up and use both kinds depending on what kind of training situation they are trying to create for their bird dog
Remote Launchers do not need to be staked down since they are shooting up
Remote Bird Launchers are very useful in staunching and steadying well-started pointing dogs and in encouraging flushing dogs
We also recommend that all dogs be on a check cord or otherwise under complete control when using manual spring-loaded "catapult" type launchers.
How old should my dog be before I start using a bird launcher?
It's hard to put an exact age on anything in dog training. Some dogs will be ready at 6 months while others may be 12 to 16 months.
You want to wait until your dog has been introduced to birds, gunfire, and is showing a good interest in "hunting"
Bird launchers should not be used to introduce young dogs to birds. The last thing you want is a young pup getting too close and then have the launcher go off and scare your dog. This is a great way to turn your pointing dog into a "blinker."
Bird Launchers they should not be used with young dogs that do not have a certain amount of control.
I always recommend that you work your young dogs on a check cord when using a bird launcher so you can stop them before they get too close. You can always pick them up and move them back before you flush the birds if needed.
Why would you need a Beeper on a bird launcher?
I asked the same question the first time I saw one. It's a great idea but it has nothing to do with the training of the dog. The beeper allows you to locate the launchers after you are finished and have put your dogs back in the truck. Until you have spent 20 minutes searching a grass field for that last launcher because you can't remember where you hid it, a beeper makes a lot of sense. I have had to go back to the truck in the past to get a dog out to "find" a missing launcher. It is a cool idea that will save you time in the long run.
A beeper attached to the Remote Launchers allows for quick and easy location with a touch of a button from your transmitter. This is a very handy feature when you are working with several bird launchers in a large area. At the end of your training session, you can activate the beeper locator to go back and pick up your launchers. DT has a battery saver feature that shuts down the system after it has lauched the bird, but the remote beepers will work even when the launcher is shut off.
Both Dogtra and D T Systems launchers have a built in remote beeper locator.
Choosing Between the Dogtra Remote Release and the Tri-Tronics Pro Control
When you are looking at buying many of the remote launchers, wingers and bird throwers on the market today, you will also need to pick between the two major remote release systems. Remote electronics are required for the operation of all of the Dogtra Bird Launchers, Thunder Equipment / Etch-Marc Thunderbirds, Zinger Wingers, and the Train-Rite Dummy Launcher Stand.
Both of these systems will operate most units on the market and they both work in the same basic way, so you really only have to look at a few differences to pick the correct remote release electronics system for your training needs.
Dogtra and Tri-Tronics Similarities:
Both Systems are priced around $300.
Both systems are rugged and well built. They will hold up with heavy use.
Both systems' receivers have dual outputs that allow you to independently activate two launchers from one receiver. You can either plug directly into the left and right outputs or you can use an extension cord allowing each launcher to be 15 ft. from the receiver. This can be very handy if you want to have two wingers side by side or two box style launchers next to each other for a pointing dog.
Both can be purchased as a one transmitter / one receiver system and later expanded with add-on receivers, allowing you to add units over time as your needs increase or your budget will allow.
Both systems are "field programmable." This means that you can order additional receivers at any time and when they arrive, you can match them up to your existing transmitter in about 5 seconds.
Both have independent sound features that can be used as attention getters to focus your dog before a mark or as a locator for a misplaced box launcher (hey...it happens).
Dogtra has two different sounds: a standard beep locator sound, and a very realistic "Duck Call" attention getter. I'm not saying it will call ducks out of the sky, but it sounds real and you and your dog will like it. The Tri-Tronics offers multiple combinations of beeps and tones, plus a simulated duck sound that is more like a squawk. It does not sound anything like any duck I have ever heard, but your dogs will notice it and key in on it.
Dogtra has an optional loud speaker that can be added to increase the volume and pinpoint the direction of the sound.
Dogtra Transmitters are rechargeable while the Pro-Control Transmitter uses a standard nine volt battery. There really isn't a major difference here because the 9 volt lasts between 6 months and a year. The Dogtra Transmitter can be charged using the y-splitter when you charge your receiver.
You can control up to 16 different launchers with the Dogtra RR Deluxe and 20 different with the Tri-Tronics Pro-Control.
Dogtra offers a one-year warranty on their system, while Tritronics offers a two-year warranty on theirs.