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Meet My First Bird Dog!

The quest for "Sprig," the author's first pup, was chronicled in Pheasants Forever's "My First Bird Dogs" series.

The serious search for “My First Bird Dog” began at Pheasants Forever’s National Pheasant Fest* earlier this year. Initially, I’d zeroed in on an English springer spaniel, but after seeing my first-ever English cocker spaniel up close and personal at National Pheasant Fest, I knew. And just before the holiday break, I picked up “Sprig,” a lemon and white female field-bred English cocker, from Thunderstruck Gundogs in Balaton, Minnesota – my first bird dog!

*Speaking now from personal experience, Pheasants Forever’s National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic is the must-see event for bird dog owners or soon-to-be owners. While I didn’t purchase a pup on the spot, I gained first-hand info from an exhibiting professional dog trainer and his valuable reference on a quality breeder closer to my home. This year’s show is in Kansas City on February 17, 18 & 19.

An English cocker is the perfect fit for me: A close-working dog – check; adept in the grasslands and wetlands – check; a small breed that’s sized for my small apartment – check; and good looking to boot – check. The breeder, Mark Mercie, said, in his experience, he found females a bit easier to work with, so I heeded his advice. In fact, in the six-month lead up to getting Sprig, Mercie took many questions from Kaily, my significant other, and I on an all-too-regular basis – I can’t overstate how important this was to us. We picked her up at her seven-week mark, and didn’t have to dangle a pheasant wing or practice puppy psychology as she was the only female in the litter.

As I type this, Sprig is sound asleep on my lap. An hour before, she was treating the flesh of my hands as a chew toy. These are the highs and lows of puppy ownership, but she’ll age so quick – my day is her week, seven times faster than me – that doing anything other than simply enjoying this time is silly.

The “My First Bird Dog” series will now shift gears to the training process, with sights set on the pheasant hunting opener in 2012. The thought of this teething, 6-lb. peanut ever flushing and retrieving a pheasant is a near-foreign concept right now, with dog training like a foreign language. My puppy passport has been punched – know any good translators?

Previous “My First Bird Dog” posts:

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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11 Responses to “Meet My First Bird Dog!”

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  1. Dr. SherryMcKenzie says:

    Anthony and Kaily,

    Sprig is absolutely perfect and adorable! I am sure she will be a great pheasant hunting partner for years. I love your blogs and humor. Happy New Year. Sherry

  2. Thanks Dr. McKenzie, Happy New Year to you as well! – Anthony Hauck, PF Online Editor

  3. Adam F says:

    Congrats Ant & Kaily! Hoping to spend some time with you behind Sprig this fall! Keep your fingers crossed.

  4. Dawn S says:

    Congrats Anthony and Kaily!! You picked the best kind! Love the ECS. I know Mark and his dogs well. Good choice. Come on out and visit a few of the spring cocker trials this year. What a great time! Best of luck to you and Sprig!

  5. Steve Horton says:

    Congratulations! Although 7 weeks is early to remove pups from mom and the litter IMHO, I sure hope all works out for you. Hopefully you’ll be leaving a lot of time in your schedule for training, and fun time together. And hopefully your wife will be part of it too, so you can give the dog more time. My wife like training, and working with the dogs, just has no interest to hunt. Except sometimes when it’s just us and the dog, then she plays the handler and I the hunter. Much easier for her than before we had bird dogs, as back then she used to flush the birds for me, lol.

    You are in for a lot of joy!

  6. Kyle McCracken says:

    Anthony!
    What a gorgeous dog! I’ve been following you PF gents all fall. I am also from the Twin Cities and am the proud owner of a 1.5 yr old GWP. I know a fantastic translator around here. He Is a friend of mine named is Josh Miller. He is Sales Manager for SportDog Brand and also professionally trains all types of dogs. He is located in Hudson, WI. Josh and his chocolate lab Easton can be found in the most recent issue of Gun Dog Magazine on page 62. Josh is very connected in the dog training business and is a very good reference as well as trainer. I encourage you to at least shoot him an email and check things out. Jmiller.training@hotmail.com. Good luck with Sprig. All the best.

    Kyle McCracken

  7. Kyle McCracken says:

    @Steve Horton, I think your post shoulve gone on anthony’s other article titled “My First Bird Dog- When Everyone’s a dog expert”

  8. DINGER says:

    Hey Fellow Blog Watchers; Last week I stopped in at National Pheasants Forever for a little Christmas and New Years cheer and there in Anthony’s office, I was greeted by a little rooster hunting dog named, Sprig. She just had to come over to me and show me her puppy toy ( Rooster I think ) She told me that she can’t wait until next Fall and Rooster ( Just what is a Rooster ? ) Hunting Season . . . .

  9. We did a Hunt Test last year, so a Field Trial is in order this spring. Thanks! – Anthony Hauck, PF Online Editor

  10. Thanks for supporting PF and following along this fall, Kyle. If you have a pic of your pup you’d like to share, email it to me at press@pheasantsforever.org. – Anthony Hauck, PF Online Editor

  11. Thanks Dinger! – I hope we’ll have at least answered that question by then…Anthony Hauck, PF Online Editor

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