How William Crawford Has Trained More Than 200 Labrador...

How Labrador Retrievers Use Cues to Know What to...

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How William Crawford Trains Labrador Retrievers to Be Multi-Purpose Hunting Dogs

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Editor’s Note: William Crawford of Montevallo, Alabama, the director of the Outdoor Scholars Program at the University of Montevallo and a longtime hunter, has been a Labrador retriever trainer since he was 13-years old. He trains Labs to: find wounded deer; to locate, pick up and bring back shed antlers; to find and retrieve doves; and to pinpoint and retrieve ducks. With bow season starting, the bowhunter is the one most likely to need a blood-trailing dog, although that’s not a completely accurate term. “Often there won’t be a blood trail,” Crawford explains. “But because a wounded deer leaves a scent from the glands between his toes, our dogs can find deer – even without a blood trail. They can identify deer in the water, and our best dogs even can find and retrieve deer that may be underwater.” 

Another trait that some hunters want in their Labrador retrievers besides being able to blood trail is the ability to find and retrieve shed antlers to better inventory the herd after the season and to know what bucks have survived hunting season. Shed antlers are also nice trophies and may tell you where to start your hunt the next season to look for the bucks that shed those antlers. According to Crawford, “To train a dog to be an antler retriever, all you need is several sets of deer antlers that you hide and send the dog out to locate. In the beginning, you want the dog to find the antlers easily. Then you continue to make finding the antlers more difficult.

“Regardless of what the owner wants me to train the dog to do, all the training I can put into a dog begins with obedience training. If I’m just training the dog for tracking, I’ll spend one month on obedience training and two months on tracking training. If someone wants me to train the dog to find and retrieve antlers, the dog goes into a force-fetch training, a program very similar to how waterfowlers train their dogs to locate and bring ducks back to them. This type of training teaches a dog to pick up any object that the hunter wants it to find with its mouth, hold that object in its mouth and not drop it until the dog returns to its owner. The dog shouldn’t release that object until its handler tells the dog to release it. This training teaches a dog that if he finds an antler and has to come back through thick cover, then if the antler gets knocked out of the dog’s mouth, the dog will turn around, pick up the antler and carry it straight back to the trainer. This is a way to foolproof the dog’s retrieving system.”

To contact William Crawford, call 205-792-9288 or go to his Facebook page or For more information about the University of Montevallo’s Outdoor Scholars Program, visit

For more information about deer hunting, check out John E. Phillips’ eBooks, print and Audible books, at and for Nook books. You can type in the name of the book and download it to your Kindle, and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer. For a free download on how to make jerky from venison to provide a protein-rich snack, choose “How to Prepare Venison Jerky: The Ultimate Snack Food” at

Tomorrow: How Labrador Retrievers Use Cues to Know What to Hunt with William Crawford

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