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Lap Dogs for Longtails? Small Dogs Will Work for Big, Bad Roosters

“It’s not the size of dog in the fight…” the old saying begins, but the concept doesn’t carry much weight with a certain segment of wingshots, to whom bigger dogs are automatically more capable pheasant hunters. “Are you sure that dog will be big enough to carry a rooster?” If I had a dog biscuit for each time someone’s asked me that about my first bird dog, a not-even 25-pound English cocker spaniel, “Sprig” would be set with treats for life.

Surely some other “small” (a relative term if there ever was one) dog owners feel my pain, like the owner of “Gretchen,” the 21-pound female French Brittany who stopped by the Pheasants Forever booth at the recent Game Fair event. “That dog will carry a pheasant?” a fellow attendee asked the master of the two-year-old pointing dog. I bet they get that a lot…

Tell this rooster the Boykin is small! “Trigger” belongs to PF supporter Bruce Warnimont of Germantown, Wis., and is an extremely avid pheasant hunter.

For all its gaudiness, a big ringneck rooster checks in at all of three pounds, with more than 20 inches of its length contained in its tail. In other words, small working breeds will have no problem showing who the field boss is. The following breeds all check in at 35 pounds or less, perfectly sized and suited for the field, home, truck, lap…and in my case, bed.

American Water Spaniel – The “Townhouse Chessie” is something of a one-man dog, which could work out great if you’re a one-dog man.

Beagle – Not normally thought of as a bird dog, but search “beagle pheasant hunting” online and you’ll find enough evidence to the contrary.

Boykin Spaniel – Notoriously good for working in hot weather, which means no problem when the heat of your gun barrel has it raining southern quail or big ol’ roosters.

Cocker Spaniel – The bluegill of bird dogs, the smallest of the American Kennel Club’s sporting breeds is regarded by some as pound for pound the toughest gun dog.

English Cocker Spaniel – Have deservingly acquired the nickname “Pocket Rocket”: “Pocket” for their size, “Rocket” for their drive.

French Brittany – If you ever want to insult a French Brittany owner, just call their dog a “Brittany.” If you ever want a close-working pointing dog, consider the Epagneul Breton.

Jack Russell Terrier – Longtime Pheasants Forever magazine contributor, photographer Mitch Kezar, hunts a Jack Russell on pheasants, with much success. It’s always a good idea to trust the guy behind the lens.

Read more in the “My First Bird Dog” series here.

Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

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6 Responses to “Lap Dogs for Longtails? Small Dogs Will Work for Big, Bad Roosters”

  1. jeff says:

    I agree that smaller dogs are the way to go. My dogs are 33, 37, 45, and 47 lbs and I wish they were smaller than they are. With small dogs you can:

    -fit more dogs in a truck (or in the home for that matter)
    -pick up less poo
    -save $$ on feed
    -save your back lifting dogs into/out of truck box
    -have more room in your bed
    -they are easier on wood floors

    You certainly aren’t going to use them as your go-to goose dog, but for the uplands it is the way to go in my opinion.

  2. Dave says:

    I wanted a big lab for goose hunting, but Frank turned out to be smaller than your average male Lab, and I’m so glad! He does a great job on geese, plus he has more stamina for pheasants than the hundred pounders. I think breeders and hunters are trying to make dogs bigger than they ought to be. Bigger is NOT better!

  3. mike says:

    I have a black and white female gap who is only
    35lbs but is a terror on grouse woodcock and phasants.Small dogs rule

  4. Thanks for the recognition of my pheasant machine, Anthony! Trigger is from J&L Boykins in Hammond, Wisconsin and that kennel is well known for producing many accomplished upland dogs in addition to retrieving dogs, and usually both in the same package. I’ve got another Boykin, Ted, and my vehicle is a classic 1980 Jeep CJ. Just enough room to fit two crates side by side, and not much front-to-back depth. Overnight trips and stays at the hunter’s favorite “back up to the door” motel means being able to smuggle them in and out, another cost savings. And these two guys don’t miss birds and don’t return from retrieves empty-mouthed. I used to hesitate allowing them to pursue through the really thick and nasty stuff, before they cured me of underestimating. Anyone who wants to see 20+ Boykins in action at a pheasant hunt can do so Sept 15 and 16 at Hunters Point Hunt Club, Fond du Lac, WI.

  5. Mark Reilly says:

    Great photo Bruce. My 42 pound Boykin, on the large side for a female but trust me there isn’t any extra fat on this girl, from Brandywine Creek Boykin Spaniels is also a bird finding machine. This will be her first full season in the field and we are chomping at the bit to get it going. We will be kicking things off this Saturday in pursuit of doves here in our home state of Oregon. Good luck to all you “small dog” guys out there. Nothing is more satisfying that to see my little brown dog erase the look of doubt on folks faces when she goes out and scoops up a big old rooster and returns it to hand. Happy hunting!

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