Posts Tagged ‘hunting dogs’

Bury Me with My Dog

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

“Hunter” the springer dug deeper into the author’s heart after this successful pheasant hunt in Winneshiek County, Iowa, last December.

“Hunter” the springer dug deeper into the author’s heart after this successful pheasant hunt in Winneshiek County, Iowa, last December.

In the book “The Vikings” by Else Roesdahl (first published in 1987 in Denmark, a Viking homeland), she writes that Viking men were buried with their weapons, tools and hunting dogs. The Vikings Age ran from the late 8th Century to the mid-13th Century (Common Era).

I found myself reading this book after viewing the first season of “Vikings” on the History Channel (great series, by the way). What does it say about man’s relationship with hunting dogs that they were once buried with them? At first, I thought how wrong to have a hunting dog killed so it could be buried with its master. But then, Vikings were pagans who believed they needed their dogs in the afterlife (warriors went to either Valhalla or Folkvangr). Or did they take them as a mercy, believing it cruel to leave a dog without its master?

We’ve all heard the sad tales of dogs that mourn the loss of their masters, dogs that never recover or die of a broken heart. Take the story of “Shep,” a sheep herder’s dog in Montana. The herder died in 1936 in Fort Benton. His body was taken away on the train, but sadly, poor Shep kept vigil at the train station for years, waiting for his beloved master to return. Today in Fort Benton a large bronze statue of Shep, still waiting for his master, graces the train station. It is entitled “Forever Faithfull.”

Many dogs are “one man” dogs. The pack instinct remains strong in our hunting dogs. The hunter is the pack leader and our hunting dogs will go to great lengths to remain with the pack for, in the dog world, it means survival. My hunting dogs have never liked it when I leave them behind, whining, barking and pacing, according to my wife, Terri.

There is a poem that I’ve run in the Pheasants Forever magazine a few times entitled “To Bury a Good Dog” that proffers another option. It goes on about all the places a hunter could bury a favorite hunting dog. In the end, however, the story concludes, “The one best place to bury a good dog is in the heart of his master.”

I like that. I have several buried there already.

The Nomad is written by Mark Herwig, Editor of the Pheasants Forever Journal and Quail Forever Journal. Email Mark at mherwig@pheasantsforever.org.

Bird hunting’s Instant Replay

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Photo by Nancy Anisfield / Anisfield Hunting Dog Photography

Photo by Nancy Anisfield / Anisfield Hunting Dog Photography

Am I the only one who starts telling the story of my hunt in my head before I’m even done hunting? It’s not intentional, and I don’t usually talk to myself. So why do I do it in the field?

Muttering to myself while I walk through the switchgrass, thumb double-checking the safety, one eye on my dog who’d resumed hunting after we worked two birds, … “Scratch went on point about 80 yards in,” I hear me saying in my head. “When I got to him, he started tracking real slow, but his tail kept wagging fast, and I thought I heard a bird moving somewhere in front of him but I couldn’t tell where exactly. So I kept up with him, and just when we were almost to the drainage ditch – you know the one where they planted that strip of milo perpendicular to the road and the deer pounded it down – two birds came up, definitely sharptails, one straightaway and one veering off to the left, and I missed them both. I got so wound up trying to pick one, I missed them both!”

No doubt one of the fun parts of hunting is rehashing the day – how many birds and where, the good shots and the bad shots, and the other surprises long the way. Whether we report in immediately back at the truck or wait until a more mellow moment at home or camp, everyone gets a turn. Trading tales is part of the sporting tradition, but it usually occurs after the hunt.

Since I prefer to hunt alone, my internal storytelling is paradoxical. If I choose to be in the woods or fields by myself with my dogs, why does my mind want to talk to someone?  The answer must have to do with time.  Reliving moments of action by retelling them not only extends the excitement but fixes those moments in my brain.

There are always days hunting wild birds when you don’t find many. On those days, each bird encounter seems especially vivid. Those few minutes of bird contact, with or without shooting, are very short compared with the many longer minutes of walking and stalking, searching and hunting.

Police try to question witnesses to a crime as soon as possible after an incident, knowing that with the passage of time, details fade in memory. Say what you saw soon after you saw it and the information will be more accurate and lasting in your mind. Similarly, why do we repeat things aloud when we’re trying to memorize something? Saying it makes it stick. So too, with going over what happened when that spectacular rooster sprung out of the cattails and Scratch leapt upward, spinning in the air trying to catch the bird’s tail. Or when the covey of quail split in two with four birds flushing forward and three right over my head. Or when both dogs locked on point facing that deep crevasse in the ledge where I could just barely see the porcupine’s back as it huddled in the far corner.

I’ve decided to let my mind wander into these one-sided conversations while I hunt. The way I figure it, anything that replays the intensity, surprise and wonder deserves a place in my thoughts.

Nancy Anisfield, an outdoor photographer/writer, sporting dog enthusiast and bird hunter, serves on Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s National Board of Directors. She resides in Hinesburg, Vermont.

Top 5 Pheasant Dog Owner Mistakes

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Avoid the five mistakes for gun dogs and save yourself a lot of trouble: good genetics, check; good weight, check; stay cool yourself, check; e-collar, check; and lastly, keep an eye out for their well-being, check. Photo by Mark Herwig / Pheasants Forever

Since I just examined The Biggest Mistakes Pheasant Hunters Make, next let’s examine the biggest mistakes made when it comes to the other hunters in the field – the bird dogs.

The first mistake you can make is to buy a dog that’s not a hunter. Ask someone who knows a breeder of good hunting dogs, a pup whose parents are both field hunters…not some amateur starting out in his basement. You’ll pay more up front most times, but you’ll save a lot more down the road (No, I don’t breed dogs!).

Second, letting your dog get fat and not training them during the off season. I’ve seen many dogs following their owner, gasping for breath or put back in their kennel after an hour’s hunt because they are so fat and out of shape they can’t take hunting. Don’t get a dog if you can’t work it year-round; use your buddy’s – it’s better for you, the dog and hunting buddies.

Third, don’t lose control of yourself. I’ve moved away to the other side of the field to get away from clowns screaming at their out-of-control dogs. I’ve even left hunts over this or at least told the owners to get ahold of their emotions, kennel their dog and do some training with them before taking them out again.

Four, don’t go afield without an e-collar on your dog. There’s no excuse these days not to because you can’t train a dog enough, practically speaking for most folks, to make them work like they can with an e-collar. E-collars are also very affordable. E-collars were a big game changer for hunting dogs, like going from typewriters to computers. Get one. But be careful: you can screw up a dog’s behavior while hunting if you overdo it. Read the directions. I overdid it with my late, great springer, “Wolf,” one frustrating day when I borrowed a buddy’s e-collar and used it without breaking him in correctly. It took weeks before Wolf would confidently leave my side and hunt.

Lastly, watch them carefully afield. Dogs, tough as they are, are flesh and bone…they get hurt and can die. I lost a Brit, at age 7, in the prime of his hunting life when he was attacked by a coyote or badger in the woods. I tended all his wounds, but missed one hid deep in his thick chest fur. It got infected, got in his liver and killed him…all after spending hundreds at the vet.  Watch your dog close in the heat, especially a new dog you haven’t hunted in hot weather. My springer, “Hunter,” came close to big problems a few years ago dove hunting in South Dakota. I let him run because we were heading to a shaded pond. He got wobbly on me just at the pond, where I bathed him in the cool water. He came out of it, but I kenneled him for the rest of the day. Close call. Scary. With a dog, the hunt comes second, the dog must come first. No hunt is worth a dead dog.

Your thoughts?

The Nomad is written by Mark Herwig, Editor of the Pheasants Forever Journal and Quail Forever Journal. Email Mark at mherwig@pheasantsforever.org.

Hunting Dogs Increasing in Popularity?

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Last year’s American Kennel Club (AKC) listing of most popular dogs revealed hunting breeds struggling to gain traction among dog owners, but bird dog breeds served notice in the just-released list, buoyed by four Setters making big jumps in the past year.

More English Setter pups found happy homes in 2011. Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

“The Year of the Setters” is how the AKC described it, with the English Setter (from 101 to 87), the Irish Setter (from 77 to 70), the Irish Red and White Setter (150 to 147), and the Gordon Setter (from 98 to 94) all moving up the chart. Are hunting breeds gaining in popularity? More than 10 breeds commonly associated with bird hunting moved up the chart this year. Hopefully that translates into more interest in upland hunting and upland conservation.

Other notable upward bird dog trends in 2011 include:

  • English Cocker Spaniels flushed up three spots on the list since last year, and have leapt 13 breeds in popularity since 2001. Count me among the new English Cocker owners; check out Pheasants Forever’s “My First Bird Dog” series about the experience.
  • Flat-Coated Retrievers made a big one year move, from 103 to number 90.
  • Vizslas keep pointing higher, from 41 in 2010 to 37 this year.
  • Wirehaired Pointing Griffons moved up another spot (from 93 to 92). The breed continues to gain popularity, having moved up 23 slots in the last decade.

Listed below are the ranks of selected sporting dog breeds according to the AKC. In parentheses after each breed is its rank from 2011, followed by its rank from 2010 and then its rank from 2001, respectively. Note: Many pointing dogs are registered with the Field Dog Stud Book as opposed to the AKC.

  • Labrador Retrievers (1, 1, 1)
  • Golden Retrievers (4, 5, 2)
  • German Shorthaired Pointers (15, 16, 22)
  • Cocker Spaniels (27, 25, 14)
  • English Springer Spaniels (29, 29, 27)
  • Brittanys (30, 30, 31)
  • Weimaraners (32, 32, 29)
  • Vizslas (37, 41, 45)
  • Chesapeake Bay Retrievers (46, 48, 41)
  • English Cocker Spaniels (63, 66, 76)
  • Irish Setters (70, 77, 59)
  • German Wirehaired Pointers (75, 73, 73)
  • English Setters (87, 101, 89)
  • Flat-Coated Retrievers (90, 103, 98)
  • Wirehaired Pointing Griffons (92, 93, 115)
  • Gordon Setters (94, 98, 84)
  • Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers (107, 107, NA)
  • Pointers (115, 111, 100)
  • Spinoni Italiani (123, 118, 122)
  • Welsh Springer Spaniels (130, 127, 112)
  • Clumber Spaniels (133, 131, 120)
  • Boykin Spaniels (138, 133, NA)
  • Field Spaniel (141, 132, 133)
  • Irish Red and White Setters (147, 150, NA)
  • Irish Water Spaniels (150, 148, 131)
  • Curly Coated Retrievers (154, 146, 129)
  • American Water Spaniels (157, 143, 124)

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.

Too Much Pride in My Bird Dog

Monday, November 7th, 2011

My bird dog, Trammell, searching for the scent of a crippled rooster.

Do you suffer from hubris when it comes to your bird dog?  I confess to often displaying symptoms of the affliction.

 

As you may recall from high school English lit class, Odysseus paid dearly for his own hubris in Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey.   Odysseus’ hubris, or excessive pride, led the gods to punish Odysseus by sending him on a ten year journey following the Trojan War to teach humility. 

 

Like Odysseus, I’ve been guilty of having excessive pride in my bird dog, Trammell.  My own hubris became apparent to me while reading Grayson Schaffer’s excellent blog post on the Filson website recently.

 

Below, you’ll find some of my favorites from Mr. Schaffer’s unofficial rules of dog etiquette for people who take their gun dogs seriously.

 

1. You might have the best dog in the field back home, but that likelihood lessens with each mile driven.

 

2. Undersell your dog—always. He’s a better shower than you are a teller.

 

3. Every time you’re about to brag about your dog, stop yourself and compliment another dog’s fine retrieve from the day, instead.

 

4. Only the underdog can overachieve. The best the over-dog can do is meet expectations.

 

7. Never give another guy a hard time about his dog. Believe me, he knows.

 

10. When your dog leans against you, it either means that he’s trying to dominate you or that he has an itch he’d like you to scratch. Your call.

 

After reading Mr. Schaffer’s rules of dog etiquette, I realized that I’ve boasted with pride about my own bird dog far too often during the early days of this pheasant season.  And after my pup’s failure to retrieve two crippled roosters during my most recent pheasant hunt with my good friend “The Captain” Billy Hildebrand, I’ve been burdened by the guilt of my own hubris. 

 

Consequently, with the Rooster Road Trip fast approaching, I felt it appropriate to repent for this hubris.  The last thing I want is to spend 10 years on the road with Andrew and Anthony trying to get home.  Never can be too careful, right?

 

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

 

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

Flushing retrievers rule – At least according to PF’s Gun Dog writer, PDJ/RJ editor!

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Flushing retrievers get high marks even from pointer dudes in today's blog. Even though the author is a springer-head, he's hunted over many a crack pointer.

I enjoyed Tom Davis’s Gun Dog column for the upcoming Summer issue of the Pheasants Forever Journal (out at the end of April) so much that I wanted to share some of it with our loyal blog readers. As a springer man, I must say I agree with Smith. But as I pointed out to Davis, I’ve hunted over many awesome pointers. Here it is:

“My friend Steve Smith, the editor-in-chief of both Pointing Dog Journal and Retriever Journal and one of the most respected figures in the mingled worlds of bird dogs and wingshooting, is probably better-qualified to speak to this than anyone I know. I asked Steve if he’d share some of his thoughts on this topic and, as usual, his reply cuts straight to the heart of things:

 “I’ve written and said more times than I can recall that when it comes to bird hunting, all of this is supposed to be fun. But it’s also true that men don’t trifle with their sport. Bird hunting isn’t what we do – it’s who we are.

         “So let’s talk about fun. If your idea of a good time is a German shorthair pointing, relocating, pointing, relocating all the way down a fencerow or creek bed with typical Teutonic thoroughness until the runner runs out of running room, then that is the dog for you, and that is your version of the sport. I’ve done it and have to remind myself to breathe.

         “If you thrill to a pointer or setter blasting through the CRP for a hundred yards and then screeching into a pretzel point on a rooster that thought he’d wait there while the dog cruised right on by, then that’s how you should hunt. My pointers and setters have all sent shivers down my spine doing that very thing.

“If the shorthair never does catch up with the running rooster, so be it; if the pointer or setter does the screeching thing too close to the bird and it takes wing, well, it happens.

“But if someone said to me, ‘Mr. Smith, here are five 12-gauge shotshells, and there is an eighty-acre patch of grass. If you do not return within two hours with three rooster pheasants, we will pull the fingernails off your grandchildren,’ then I take the shells, load my double, and whistle up Murphy, my Lab. Fun in hunting takes many forms; but when the weather closes in, the birds are scarce and spooky, and you are deadly serious about the whole enterprise, nothing puts birds in the bag like a flushing retriever. Nothing.”

I tend to agree with Steve—but I have a hunch there are plenty of readers out there who take strenuous issue with this opinion. The debate rages on…”

   Tar and feathers anyone?

One Dog vs. Two? One works better for this city dweller

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Roading one dog isn't so bad (the author and the late Wolf). But try running two with a bicycle! It works, but you have to be careful.

When I could no longer avoid the fact my old springer, Wolf, couldn’t cut it in the field anymore and had to retire (which broke my heart and his), I finally had to get another springer (Hunter, three years ago).

I waited a long time before getting Hunter for various reasons, but mainly because I knew it would be a lot more work – and boy was I right.

We had never had two gun dogs. My wife and I found having two in the big city (Minnesota’s Twin Cities) was a lot more work in every way: cleaning up after them in the house and on walks, cleaning up waste in the yard and kennel, walking and biking them, space they needed in the house during harsh summer and winter weather….and on and on. Having two dogs really made our lives more complicated and cut into our time.

Yet, I know lots of hunters who have two and more dogs. It was more fun having two in some ways. Wolf had a companion at home for the first time and they played together a lot, which was fun for us to watch. Since Wolf couldn’t hunt much anymore when I got Hunter, the two rarely hunted together – a big reason why many hunters have two dogs. I enjoyed having two dogs afield the few times we did it, but training them was also much more work – poor Wolf absolutely hated being tethered while I trained Hunter. Yet, I think young Hunter learned a few things from the experienced Wolf when hunting, though.

Having two intact males, there was lots of dominance behavior going on, especially on Wolf’s part. Now that Wolf is gone, Hunter seems more at ease and our workload has gone down a lot.

I suppose it’s a lifestyle thing too. I love my dog and will always have one. But, I have other interests too and need time and energy for those, so two dogs is not in my future until another old dog-new dog transition. Your thoughts and experiences?

The Nomad is written by Mark Herwig, Editor of the Pheasants Forever Journal.

The Hunting Dog Top 20 Chart

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever puppy, number 107 on the AKC list, but number 1 at Pheasant Fest.

One needed only attend National Pheasant Fest 2011 last weekend for proof that nothing draws people to the world of wildlife habitat conservation like sporting dogs. Quite frankly, I’m surprised someone didn’t straight up try and steal the fuzz ball Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever puppy. It was that cute.

The opportunity to see less common breeds such as this is a real draw of the show. But just how common or uncommon are certain breeds? The American Kennel Club last week released its annual list of the most popular dog breeds in America (Spoiler alert! The Lab retained its eternal hold on the top spot).

Either there are less bird hunters or hunting dogs are drowning in a sea of Shih Tzus (the complete AKC list includes all dogs), or both, but most working breeds are maintaining or declining in terms of overall dog popularity. Two breeds, Boykin Spaniels and Irish Red and White Setters, took serious nosedives on the chart, each dropping more than 40 spots. If someone can clue me in as to why, I’d sure like to know.

There are some notable exceptions. Proving that facial hair can really shape image, the breed with the biggest increase in ranking over the past year – hunting or non hunting dog – is the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon  (from 108th to 93rd). And if you examine data going back a decade, German Shorthaired Pointers are pointed in the right direction, jumping from 24th to 16th in that time period.

Listed below are the ranks of selected sporting dog breeds according to the AKC. In parentheses after each breed is its rank from 2010, followed by its rank from 2009 and then its rank from 2000, respectively. And considering the exposure the Duck Tolling Retriever pup got at Pheasant Fest, look for the breed to break the Top 100 next year.

Note: Many pointing dogs are registered with the Field Dog Stud Book as opposed to the AKC.

Labrador Retriever (1, 1, 1)

Golden Retrievers (5, 4, 2)

German Shorthaired Pointers (16, 16, 24)

Cocker Spaniels (25, 23, 14)

English Springer Spaniels (29, 29, 26)

Brittanys (30, 30, 31)

Weimaraners (32, 31, 32)

Viszlas (41, 42, 47)

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers (48, 49, 41)

English Cocker Spaniels (66, 66, 76)

German Wirehaired Pointers (73, 74, 73)

Irish Setters (77, 73, 62)

Wirehaired Pointing Griffons (93, 108, 112)

Gordon Setters (98, 97, 84)

English Setters (101, 95, 91)

Flat-Coated Retrievers (103, 106, 98)

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers (107, 110, NA)

Pointers (111, 114, 100)

Spinoni Italiani (118, 119, 143)

Welsh Springer Spaniels (127, 136, 113)

Clumber Spaniels (131, 128, 121)

Field Spaniel (132, 137, 132)

Boykin Spaniels (133, 92, NA)

American Water Spaniels (143, 139, 125)

Curly Coated Retrievers (146, 145, 130)

Irish Red and White Setters (150, 80, NA)

And in case you missed it, Pheasants Forever’s Bob St.Pierre also touched on the most popular bird dog breeds among Pheasants Forever members in his recent blog post What’s the Most Popular Bird Dog Breed in Pheasants Forever Land?

Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Public Relations Specialist

Please Don’t Name Your Bird Dog That

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Good training can overcome even the worst name for your dog.

A good name may not make your pup a better bird dog, but a solid name for your pooch will keep your hunting buddies off your back.

Got a new bird dog puppy at home?  Having trouble picking out that perfect name?  The name you choose says as much about the bird hunter as it does about the bird dog.  Choose wisely and you’ll be the envy of your hunting party.  Choose poorly . . . well, your hunting buddies won’t likely let you up for air.

I know that ragging on a hunter’s bird dog can lead to a fist fight.  If your dog is named one of the following below, then let me please apologize right now- 

A)    Yes, the performance of a dog is more important than its name. 

B)    Yes, you are probably more secure in your masculinity than I am and can indeed hold your head high as you call “Muffin” back to you with a rooster in her mouth.

C)    Yes, having a popular name isn’t a bad thing.  You probably did think of it first.

D)    Yes, my female dog has the name of retired male baseball player that last took the field almost 15 years ago (Trammell).  I am indeed living in the past.

E)     Yes, my bird dog has an affinity for skunks and is sprayed by them regularly.  I should probably have named her “Stinky.”

Without further adieu, here’s a short list of hunting dog names I would personally avoid. 

Rooster

You’d think the problem for a pheasant hunter owning a dog named “Rooster” would be obvious, but I encounter a “Rooster” every year.  The problem with the name surfaces any time you hunt pheasants in a group.  The dog’s owner shouts “Rooster” only to have his entire hunting party jerk their heads and gun barrels to the sky only to see blue.  Meanwhile, the obedient “Rooster” returns to the oblivious owner as instructed.

Drake

Although naming your dog “Drake” doesn’t cause the same problem as “Rooster,” it is likely the most common dog name on the planet in today’s bird dog world.  I actually like the name, but “Drake” must represent 40 percent of the hunting dog world.  Coming in a close second in “commonly good” names are bird dogs named after an owner’s favorite brand of shotgun; “Remy,” “Winchester,” “Beretta,” and “Benelli” for example.   

Note: According to VPI Pet Insurance, the top 5 most common names for male dogs in 2009 were Max, Buddy, Rocky, Bailey, & Jake.  The top 5 most common names for female dogs in 2009 were Bella, Molly, Lucy, Maggie, & Daisy.

Rascal, Trouble, Dizzy, Tank, or Rampage

Ever met a dog that lived up to its name?  Well name your dog “Rascal” and I guarantee that bird dog will live up to all the negative connotations of being a rascal.

Buck, Huck, Luck, Puck, or Tuck

Yelling your dog’s name should never sound like a swear word.  Be careful about what rhymes with “Tuck.”

Precious

Head-over-heels for the gal you are married to, engaged to, or dating?  That’s great; but, draw the line at fluffy names for the family hunting dog.  Remember, you’re the one that’s gotta call the dog while afield with all your buddies around.  If your gal is a bird hunter too, then she’ll understand from the get-go.