Posts Tagged ‘pointing dogs’

They Don’t Point, but Flushers Have Their Bird Cues Too

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Photo courtesy David Hendee

Just as pointing dogs signal birds, flushers have ways of notifying hunters that birds are in the area. Photo courtesy David Hendee

I really like the lead time a pointing dog gives for shooting upland birds. I owned Brittanys for 10 years and have hunted with friends’ pointers all my life. A point gives you time to change up from stalking mode to shooting mode. It’s a big advantage over fast-flying game birds.

But, I’ve owned flushing dogs most my hunting life. There are many ways a flusher will cue it’s near a bird. My late English springer spaniel, “Wolf,” would “porpoise” into the air and yip if he was close to a bird. He also ran faster and held his nose more to the ground when on a hot trail. In addition to pace, many other flushing dog owners keep their eyes keyed on dogs’ tails, as the more it wags, the birdy-er that dog is.

Wolf hunted with pointers so much, in fact, that he started “flash” pointing himself as he got older. In case you don’t know, a flash point is just that, a quick point before the dog once again breaks into running pursuit of a bird. Even a flash point is helpful in telling me to get ready for a flush and shot – and it improved my kill rate. My current springer, now six-years-old, has yet to flash point – we’ll see.

Not that I’d ever say a flusher is better than a pointer or vice versa; it’s really a matter of personal hunting style and how you’re geared. I just prefer the faster pace of hunting a flusher provides. I love the more dynamic, unbroken flow of following a flusher and the added challenge of having to quickly stop and make a shot in one, unbroken action. When it works, to me, there’s nothing like it in the hunting world.

If you have a flushing dog, what are the birdy cues?

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

Why Do My Bird Dogs Like Turtles?

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

While running my shorthairs earlier this week, we encountered a large snapping turtle.  The big “hen” snapper had left the confines of a nearby wetland to (I presume) lay her eggs.  My older GSP, “Trammell,” caught a whiff of the turtle and b-lined for the reptile.  After a moment’s wavering point, Trammell went in for a closer look only to be nipped in the snout with a glancing blow from the turtle’s pliers-like jaw.  Seconds later, in spite of my scolding, my younger shorthair, “Izzy,” mimicked Trammell’s path.  Fortunately, the younger pup was quicker and avoided the snapper’s jowls.

Box turtle

This flush could take a while. Pheasants Forever File Photo

This encounter immediately had me recalling a visit to the Fort Pierre Grasslands of South Dakota in which Trammell locked up solid on point . . . of a box turtle hidden in a stand of beautiful bluestem.

My next thought was to Bob West, Purina’s bird dog expert who I often call upon when my own bird dogs leave me perplexed.  “Do you have any idea why pointers have a propensity to lock up on turtles?” I questioned.

“I have no idea,” West responded with a chuckle.  “I can remember a particular field trial many years ago where I lost track of points after dozens of pointers locked on box turtles that day.  There is just something about the scent of turtles that makes a pointer lock up.”

Bob and I discussed the fact most turtles in the north (painted and snapping) spend almost all of their life in the water, so turtle points are less common compared to areas further south with lots of terrestrial box turtles.  Either way, West went on to assure me, “There is nothing wrong with your dog, it’s very common for pointing dogs to lock up on a turtle.”

How common is it?  Has your bird dog ever pointed a turtle?

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.

Bird Dogs in Competition

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

When Izzy joined our family last May, it marked the first time I’d ever owned two dogs at once.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been amazed at the amount Izzy has learned from my 5-year old shorthair, Trammell.  Good manners, bad habits and excellent hunting skills have all been passed along from one dog to another.

Rooster Road Trip competitors “Izzy” (left) and “Trammell.” Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

However, as we progress along the Rooster Road, I’ve observed a new dynamic developing between my two shorthairs – competition for birds.  This competition has been manifesting itself primarily in running pheasants, rather than tightly holding bobwhite coveys.   Allow me to explain my observation of this competition through a sequence I witnessed on Monday in Nebraska.

Trammell locked up on point and Izzy dutifully honored Tram’s staunch point; however, no bird flushed after I proceed to walk in front of the point.  Quickly, the dogs and I deduced that we had “a runner.”  When hunting solo, Trammell and Izzy would relocate on the bird and lock up on point again without bumping the bird.  Together, in contrast, the race began between the two dogs to be the first to find the running pheasant.  With this particular hen pheasant, the faster Izzy accelerated by Trammell and flushed the hen at full sprint without considering a second point.  I’ve had a similar sequence in which Trammell’s more-seasoned nose led her to the bird first only to bump it without a secondary point.

I like a competitive streak in my bird dogs.  I believe it makes them better retrievers in particular.  However, with Izzy’s exceptional progress for a 7-month old pup, I’m planning to err on the side of caution and begin rotating Izzy and Trammell between fields in the hopes of steadying her pointing and tracking abilities.  To be honest, I’d planned to rotate my two dogs for the simple reason of resting them during the 5-day, 5-state grind, but now I’ve got added purpose behind the rotation.

All that being said; I’ll return to the point I made in the first sentence starting this blog – I’ve never owned two bird dogs at the same time before.  And, I’m certainly not a professional dog trainer.  So, that’s where I’m looking for the owners of multiple pointing dogs to offer me some advice based on their experiences.  How should I best handle the evolving competition between my two bird dogs?

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

How to Approach a Dog on Point

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

John Edstrom, PF & QF’s Merchandise Supervisor, approaches a Brittany on point

I learned to bird hunt behind a Brittany.  I don’t remember my dad ever teaching me how to “approach” a pointed bird, but it has always felt natural because it’s how I got my start.  What’s interesting and more than a little humorous is watching my various hunting partners the last few years who have only hunted behind flushing breeds react to my German shorthair on point.

In almost every case, I’ve witnessed “human vapor lock” as these friends look at me with twitching eyebrows, tip toe with caution as they approach the dog, then stop behind the dog and look at me again.  Are they waiting for the weasel to go pop?  Honest to goodness, I’ve witnessed pure fear on the face of a fellow hunter.

“When a rooster flushes in front of my Lab it’s all instinct and excitement,” one friend explained last season.  “With your darned pointer, it’s like watching a Friday the 13th movie and you know Jason is around the corner with an axe.”

I’ve also been told by pointing dog purists to never walk up directly behind a pointer, but rather come in from the front or at an angle.  The pointer purist worries about inadvertently causing “creeping” by approaching a dog from behind.  “Creeping” being the unwanted broken point and creep forward of the dog toward the bird.

With this subject in mind, I called Purina’s “top dog” and pro trainer Bob West for his guidance on how best to approach a dog on point.  “There is no clear cut, best way to approach a dog on point.  You have to factor in the dog’s level of ability, the scenting conditions that day and the species of bird you anticipate being pointed to properly make the best approach for the situation,” explained West.  “When hunting pheasants, it’s not uncommon for me to make a big 20 yard circled approach in front of a dog on point in an attempt to prevent a rooster from running.”

Approaching a dog on point from the front.

West went on to explain to me that he does believe young dogs could be caused to creep by approaching them from behind and an angled approach would be advised; however, he didn’t think a seasoned bird dog would be susceptible to the same problem.  He stressed repeatedly in knowing your own dog’s tendencies and making the best decisions with your dog in mind rather than what some “expert” advised.

West did add that “perhaps more important than what angle to approach is the speed at which to make your approach.  It’s critically important, especially with pheasants, to approach a dog on point at a pace as fast as safely possible.  That bird isn’t going to hold all day and the conditions of the scent and scenario are also constantly changing for your dog.”

Lastly, West reminded me that the bird isn’t necessarily where the dog is looking.  “It’s important to be ready the entire time you approach a pointed dog and be alert in all directions.  The bird may be exactly where the dog is looking, but it oftentimes is not.  Where the dog is looking simply is where that dog picked up the scent to lock into a point.  That dog has been trained not to move any closer than the moment the scent reached a level to cause the dog to freeze.  Its eyes should have nothing to do with it.”


Listen to FAN Outdoors this Thursday evening from 7PM to 9PM on

To learn more about the pointing instinct and a variety of dog training questions, tune in to FAN Outdoors radio this Thursday evening at 7:45PM (CDT) as Bob West joins the show for a live interview with me and host “The Captain” Billy HildebrandFAN Outdoors airs live on 100.3 FM in Minnesota and can be streamed live across the globe at

Billy Hildebrand, host of FAN Outdoors radio, and I approach Trammell on point.

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