Posts Tagged ‘bird dog’

Field Trial Dogs Produce Great Hunting Puppies

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

When searching for a bird dog puppy, the inevitable question surrounding whether or not you desire field trial bloodlines always comes up.  Put me into the category of guys who have said the following about field trial dogs in the past:

“I don’t want a high-wired, big running dog with a bunch of titles.  Pure and simple, I want a hunting dog.” 

Over my ten years with Pheasants Forever, exposure to hundreds of bird dog experts, and personal hunting experiences over countless pups and breeds, my opinion on field trial dogs has changed.  Personally, I’m still not interested in running my dogs in trials.  My focus remains hunting and putting birds in the bag.  However, I do have a greater appreciation these days for dogs with the ability to win field trials and hunt tests. 

Ultimately, successful field trial dogs carry the genetic capacity to both mentally and physically out-perform their peers.  For guys looking to train a hunting pup themselves, this is an incredibly important benefit.  Who wouldn’t want to start with the best ingredients?  A field trial pup with personal training will more easily adapt to your hunting style, than trying to “coach up” a puppy with less superior genetics.  It’s a logical equation. 

Minnesota Bird Hunters Field Trial

Placing at the Minnesota Bird Hunters Field Trial were, from left, Ophelia, owned and handled by Neil Anderson, 3rd place; Berg Brothers Prairie Hawk, owned and handled by Scott Berg, 2nd place; and The Texas Liberal (“Molly”), owned and handled by John Edstrom, 1st place.

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the Minnesota Bird Hunters Field Trial near Milaca, Minnesota.  The event was hosted by Berg Brothers Setters.  I enjoyed the company of some fantastic “dog guys” and appreciated the exciting dog work on display.  At the end of the day’s run, John Edstrom, Pheasants Forever’s own Merchandise Manager, and his English setter “Molly,” earned the top award of the Gun Dog portion of the trial. 

Edstrom had this to say about his perspective on the overlap between successful trial dogs and hunting dogs.  “The very best trial dogs are all hunted, and hunted hard. Just like Molly, the successful trial dogs become hunting dogs in the fall. That is the secret to a good performance at a trial. Without that experience they do not know how and where to use their genetics and talent. They need to learn where to look for birds, how to use the wind etc. You will hear this said about trial dogs “he/she is a good bird dog.”  If the dog is not a bird dog, it is just running not hunting, and those dogs will not win a trial or put birds in your game bag.”

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.

My First Bird Dog’s First Pheasant Hunt

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

“Sprig,” and 11-month-old English cocker spaniel, with her first rooster find. Photo courtesy Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

“Find it! Dead bird, find it!” “Sprig” and I came out of a cattail draw after flushing out a few ringnecks, one of which my buddy winged down. She was now tracking her first cripple.

A minute or so went by, but with the warm, dry conditions on this Minnesota pheasant hunting opening weekend, I wondered if the scent trail would vanish as they had all weekend. But Sprig’s tail kept wagging while her other end kept sniffing. She followed the trail off the edge of the cattails, up into the surrounding grass stand and zigzagged up and over a hill. A few seconds after she disappeared, I saw the flutter of the rooster on the ridge…and then Sprig came into view. The bird made it about another 10 yards before she smacked into him headstrong; hunting without pulling the trigger has never been so much fun.

I embarked on the “My First Bird Dog” series with the goal of choosing a dog breed, breeder, a litter, a pup, taking the little he or she home, naming it, training it and heading out pheasant hunting. Twenty one blog posts, 229 online comments and a year and a half later, my baby bird dog grew up right in front of my eyes during two days of pheasant hunting.

My only regret is that I didn’t get a dog much sooner. Most everyone I know either works too much, worries too much or whines too much – including me, at times – and having a devoted dog, I’ve found, is perhaps one of life’s best defense mechanisms against all that. Sprig goes with me practically everywhere I go, including work, sleeps in my bed and, including my significant other, Kailyn, has become the joy of our lives. We’ve become “those crazy dog people” and subsequently are wondering When’s the right time to add bird dog number two?

My desire to upland hunt, wingshoot and conserve wildlife habitat through Pheasants Forever’s conservation mission has only grown since Sprig entered my life. And Kailyn, smitten with her puppy and not wanting to spend her entire autumn as a “hunting widow,” without any prodding from me, completed her firearm safety course and joined hunting’s ranks. She’s become a Pheasants Forever member and is recognizing how conserving wild places is important for our wildlife, our environment, our quality of life and our dog’s quality of life.

As the “My First Bird Dog” series draws to a close, I’d like to thank Pheasants Forever’s community of members and supporters for participating. You’ve helped create an online catalog that future hunters and conservationists will find valuable. As for Sprig and me, this isn’t the last you’ll hear from us, but we’ve got to get to work and flush some more roosters. See you in the field!

“My First Bird Dog” posts:

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

Meet My First Hunting Dog

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

“Sprig” has taken a liking to dog-friendly hotels. Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

A few weeks back, after another so-so performance at our local training group, I asked the pro trainer if I should even take “Sprig” out in the field. “Heck yes!” he said, “She’s quartering and flushing and the retrieve will come, and we can work on that next spring. You have yourself a hunting dog. Go hunting!”

You don’t have to tell me that twice, or Sprig either. We’ve been hunting our way through the early upland seasons in Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana, driving too much, eating too poorly (okay, just me) and finding enough birds along the way to keep us coming back for more. We still have a world of work to do as a hunting unit, but she’s impressed me with her drive and her eye for birdy cover – she’s developing into the little pistol I hoped she would.

As referenced earlier, while she’s performed reasonably well with dummies, Sprig hasn’t put the pieces of the field retrieve together, and I’m hoping things click as she hunts more and has more birds shot over her.

But for now, I’m a happy hunter with a tired dog, and I wouldn’t trade places with anyone…except maybe Sprig. Move over!

I’ll be wrapping up the My First Bird Dog series next weekend following the Minnesota pheasant opener and Sprig’s first pheasant hunt.

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 and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

To Love a Bad Bird Dog

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

The first time I shot an honest-to-gosh limit of roosters over a dog – no party hunting, no “I’m pretty sure I dropped this one” – just man and beast, couldn’t have been any less textbook if I tried.

Back home at the family farm for Thanksgiving Day 2006, my dad let me take the family dog, “Nicky,” a (then 7-year-old) German shorthaired pointer, out for an afternoon hunt. “Let” and “take” merely serve as operative words here, because the human realm had virtually no control over Nicky.

Nicky didn’t sit on command. He rarely came when called. When the deer hunting guns had been put away, he’d dig up the buried deer carcasses and drag them across the lawn. One October day, after a grueling duck hunt, I’d carefully removed the breast meat from a bluebill and moved on to the next bird, glancing back to the corner of the table just in time to see Nicky gleefully devouring half my day’s take.

“Nicky” was always ready to hunt. Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

I once asked my dad what he truly thought of Nicky. Sure, he wished more time had been spent working with Nicky when he was a pup, but with three kids and work, it just didn’t pan out (and let the record show I offered no help in the training department). “But,” my dad then said more happily, “he gets me eight or 10 roosters a year, so he’s earned his keep.”

The dog could hunt, which brings us back to that Thanksgiving. I loaded Nicky into the backseat of my Mercury Grand Marquis (I wouldn’t recommend as a hunting vehicle) and headed around the section to walk a piece of river bottom. No sooner was the door open and Nicky was off to the races. I whistled a few times – bringing the lanyard was more to look the part – and watched as he took a commanding lead, and then vanished.

Nicky had a habit of showing up – usually – so I continued on with the hunt-turned-nature walk. After nearly a half mile, and even by Nicky’s “adventuresome” standards, I grew concerned about his whereabouts. I backtracked, called, whistled, and listened as it was dead calm so I should have heard something…but nothing. Consumed by the “I lost the dog” feeling – I hadn’t seen him in nearly an hour – I continued on…

Around the next bend is when I noticed the rounded edge of a head and moon-sized eyes peering just above grass level back at me. Point! How long had he been frozen-like on that bird? I’ll never know…and knowing would ruin the fun…

I made the shot. Nicky miraculously stayed close, and a couple hundred yards later we did it again (naturally, Nicky hard-mouthed both retrieves). Then he pointed two more just for show. We snapped a few photos back at the farmyard, none of which Nicky could look at the camera for, his way of saying I’d prefer you remember the horizon runs and crazy eyes and not some staged pose.

It may sound funny, but to a young pheasant hunter, what Nicky did that holiday seemed unbelievable. A little older, and finally a dog owner myself, I’ve since learned about what qualifies to others as fine dog work. In spite of that experience, Nicky, who wasn’t a field champion, never earned a ribbon and brought on his share of hoarse voices, is, at 13, now officially retiring from the “Pointing Dog” profession a great one in my eyes. Because until I’m convinced otherwise, I’ll maintain that at the end of the hunt, it’s as much about what you feel beneath your vest as what’s in it.

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

Can you Teach your Bird Dog to be a Morel Mushroom Hunter?

Friday, April 27th, 2012

My bird dog didn't find this morel and she appears skeptical about even taking a picture with it.

I love eating morel mushrooms in the spring, but I have a heckuva tough time finding them.  I was lamenting my morel mushroom hunting shortcomings to fellow PF blogger Anthony Hauck last week when he asked the question; “can you teach your bird dog to find morels?”

The premise seems logical, right?  Folks are teaching their bird dogs to hunt deer antler sheds nowadays and they are also being used to find truffles, like the Lab in this story from Oregon.  A quick Google search will provide a few leads like this guy with three mushroom hunting dogs and pictures of an obscene volume of morels he claims the pups helped him find.

YouTube also provides a couple compelling examples of shroom dogging evidence:

By the way, this pup’s name ranks as one of my all-time favorites: Axel Foley, a tribute to Eddie Murphy’s hilarious character in the Beverly Hills Cop series.

So what about the bird dogs across pheasant and quail country; do any of your pups double as a morel mushroom hunter in the spring?  How did you train your shrooming dog?

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.


My First Bird Dog – When everyone’s a Dog Expert

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Pheasants Forever's "My First Bird Dog" series follows a pheasant hunter's journey into bird dog ownership.

This weekend is pick-up day for my first bird dog, and excitement is paired equally with a dose of “Am I ready for this?” After months of digesting all dog-related material I could get my hands on, picking the brains of dog trainers and soliciting insight from dog owners and Pheasants Forever members right here online, I announce myself as…fully unprepared for my first bird dog as I was six months ago.

That’s not quite true, but the path to a bird dog is one filled with questions – What breed? Pup or started dog? Male or female? Pick up at seven or eight weeks? Use a pheasant wing to select your pup? Pet insurance? – and consensus answers that are about as slippery as a dog on kitchen tile.

So you look for some direction, some sort of dog compass, only to find too many dog owners, every one of them with their own expert advice – your co-worker says pickup at eight weeks, your hunting buddy says the magical 49th day is the day, the breeder says he can go either way and the latest issue of Gun Dog magazine has an article about a new fad of waiting 10 to 12 weeks. It can leave a lot of head scratchers while waiting for that new, little head to scratch…

While I’ve come across few certainties in the process, I’m sure of one thing – I’m ready to learn by doing…and maybe that’s when you know you’re really, officially ready for your first bird dog.

Previous “My First Bird Dog” posts:

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

My First Bird Dog – Best Bird Dogs for an Apartment

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Pheasants Forever's "My First Bird Dog" series follows a pheasant hunter's journey into bird dog ownership.

Pheasant Blog reader Jeff posted recently: I am surprised that only 65% of (Pheasants Forever) members own a dog. Who hunts pheasants without a dog? Who’d want to?

Probably not many, but circumstance and desire don’t always match up – just ask any apartment dwelling pheasant hunter such as myself. My last two weeks included a phone call informing me dogs would no longer be allowed in my apartment building (evidently someone’s unapproved dog had bitten someone else), to a lengthy conversation with the apt. owner going over every detail of my upcoming pup to earn an exception to the newly instituted “no dogs” rule. With just five weeks until my pup is in my hands and a week-long Rooster Road Trip in the mix, moving just wasn’t an option.

The first question from my apartment owner was “What breed are you getting?” A valid question, as when it comes to an apartment, not all dogs are created equal. Recently, Kyle Wintersteen from the NRA’s American Hunter wrote about Five Bird Dogs for Today’s Suburbs. In addition to his solid list, here are five more (and yes, the breed I’ve selected is on either his or my list) worthy of consideration in the tight quarters of the concrete jungle:

American Water Spaniel. This small (25-45 lbs.) sporting breed is obedient, a good family fit and the State Dog of Wisconsin, where they must have lots of apartments.

English Springer Spaniel. Their breeding stock learned the Queen’s manners before crossing the pond.

Golden Retriever. Very adaptable and eager to please, which pleases other tenants.

Poodle. With its hypoallergenic coat, can accommodate almost any living situation. Perfect if you want a hunting dog with the look of a city dog.

Weimaraner. This breed is known for getting along easily with children, which urban areas are usually full of.

What do you consider the best breed(s) for an apartment or urban area?

Previous “My First Bird Dog” posts:

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

A Farewell to Mooch the Pooch

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Pheasants Forever's "My First Bird Dog" series follows a pheasant hunter's journey into bird dog ownership.

Pheasants Forever’s Rooster Road Trip 2011 happens to be my last major pheasant hunting trip without a bird dog to call my own. And if ever there was a case study about the power of dogs when it comes to chasing ringnecks, this week has been it.

PF’s Bob St.Pierre, with his midst-of-her-prime shorthair, Trammell, has three times as many shot opportunities as me on this trip, and PF’s Andrew Vavra, with his coming-into-her-own lab, Beau, has twice as many shot opportunities as me. Me? All I have are my own two feet – “Mooch the Pooch” – sandwiched haplessly between these two trying to scratch out a bird off their scraps.

This is not to say I don’t fully enjoy my time afield; rather, I want that “next level” of pheasant hunting only made possible with a four-legged companion. The relationships Bob and Andrew have with their dogs is something I aspire to. This Rooster Road Trip has also been a crash course in what will be asked of me when I become a dog owner, a day that’s just five weeks away. In that respect, it’s been the ultimate training ground for the soon-to-be trainer.

But I’ve also grown impatient. I’ve waited a long time to get “My First Bird Dog.” I’ve appreciated Trammell and Beau’s field work. I’ve enjoyed watching Bob and Andrew’s wingshooting. And I’ve been a congratulatory bystander after either pair has earned a sporting rooster. But a part of me is also completely selfish and wants that all – for me. What mooch wouldn’t?

Previous “My First Bird Dog” posts:

Follow Pheasants Forever’s Rooster Road Trip 2011 at, on Facebook , YouTube, and Twitter (#rrt11). 

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

My First Bird Dog – Rationalizing the Sticker Shock

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

"My First Bird Dog" follows a pheasant hunter's journey into bird dog ownership.

After being stuck between two litters, I just received word the one I ultimately selected entered the world over the weekend and everyone is happy and healthy (well, I assume they’re happy). I’ll be picking up a female puppy and introducing it to you around Christmas time (anticipate the ubiquitous puppy in bow under the tree photo).

While I’d like to coast through the next two months, there is business to tend to. The business end of a bird dog may be its nose, but the business end of getting that dog is your hand as you hand over your hard earned cash. Anyone purchasing a bird dog these days can easily expect to pay high three or even well into four figures. That’s a lot of puppy chow before the puppy chow!

I’m finding it rather helpful to liken the purchase of a bird dog to that of an automobile, an association I had ample time to correlate a couple weeks ago as I sat on the side of the road in my broken down truck waiting for a ride, a tow and a hefty repair bill: Like any vehicle, the care and lifetime maintenance of a dog – food, veterinary care, gear, general “spoiling” of your new family member – will far outweigh the initial sticker price and subsequent shock. One recent estimate from a pet insurance company estimates the lifetime cost of owning a dog today is approximately $17,000. An average puppy purchase price equates to just four to six percent of that cost.

We don’t have to like the sticker prices, but this is a way to put things into perspective. As for my truck, it’s fixed, my bank account has dwindled, and I’m ready to roll and pick up my first bird dog in seven or eight weeks.

Previous “My First Bird Dog” posts:

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

Don’t Forget to Pack your Dog De-Skunking Kit this Pheasant Opener

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Photo credit: SHUTTERSTOCK

My bird dog’s encounters with skunks have been well documented in this blog.  So as I prepare for this season’s pheasant opener, I’ve added the six items comprising a dog de-skunking kit to my grocery list.  Sometimes, preparation is the best method of prevention.  I’ve got my fingers’ crossed that line of thinking keeps the black and white critters away from my pup this hunting season.  If not, I’ll have all the ingredients necessary to handle the situation. 


Dog De-Skunking Ingredients

  • 1 quart of hydrogen peroxide
  • ¼ cup baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of dishwashing soap with grease cutter
  • Sponge
  • Rubber gloves
  • Small bucket


As I found out a few years back, it’s important that you mix these ingredients together in the instructed proportions.  Simply dumping a bottle of each doesn’t create an effective de-skunking mixture.  After you’ve got the paste-like mixture prepared, here are the directions for de-skunking your bird dog.


De-Skunking Directions

  1. Put on rubber gloves
  2. Mix solution in proper measurements
  3. Wet dog down
  4. Work in the solution
  5. Leave on the dog for 3 to 4 minutes
  6. Rinse and repeat if necessary


Good luck this opener, and I hope you don’t get skunked . . . literally and figuratively.



The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.