Posts Tagged ‘shorthair’

The Best Compliment for a Bird Hunter: I Want a Bird Dog like Yours

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Me with my pride and joy, Trammell, a German shorthaired pointer

Me with my pride and joy, Trammell, a German shorthaired pointer

Last autumn, on a bird hunting trip with Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s online editor, we stopped by my brother’s house in Rhinelander, Wisconsin.  Anthony’s little nugget of a bird dog, “Sprig,” was in tow.


Sprig, an English cocker spaniel, made fast friends with my niece, nephew, and brother.  So much so that my sister-in-law, Julie, said that Sprig might be just the ticket for helping push my brother over the ledge to adding a bird dog to their busy family.  We ventured further on the trip to Escanaba, Michigan where both my parents also offered to “take Sprig off Anthony’s hands.”


While “nice shot,” is always an appreciated sentiment on a pheasant hunt, I don’t think there is any greater compliment for a bird hunter than a fellow hunter remarking “I want a bird dog like yours.”  For all the trials of potty training and the tribulations of obedience afield, bird dogs provide the greatest rewards when others appreciate the fruits of your labor.


Although my immediate family seems fixated on Anthony’s Sprig, I’ve been honored to have many hunting partners comment on their desire to have a shorthair like my “Trammell” pup.  A few have even gone so far as to connect with Trammell’s breeder and seek out her bloodlines through Top Gun Kennels.  That’s a fact I’m flattered by . . . although Top Gun’s breeding has more to do with Trammell’s prowess than any training I accomplished.


At its foundation, following the bloodlines of a bird dog you enjoy hunting behind is a great formula for finding a bird dog pup that you’ll cherish for a decade and more.  Have you ever pursued the pup or breeding of a hunting partner’s stellar bird dog?


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.


The Marriage Proposal Puppy

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Steve Ries, owner of Top Gun Kennels

Steve Ries, owner of Top Gun Kennels, may have stumbled upon a new business model for his German shorthaired pointer kennel business: incorporating marriage proposals with puppy pickups.  For at least one customer, that was the business arrangement last Saturday.


When Brandon Berg of West Concord, Minnesota visited Top Gun Kennels in Iowa this spring and put a deposit down on a GSP puppy, he told Ries the puppy was part of a surprise for his girlfriend.  Yes, only part of the surprise.  You see, Brandon was also in the process of designing a one-of-a-kind engagement band for Shay Jurgensen of Kasson, Minnesota.


Shay meets her new German shorthair puppy

“Shay loves German shorthairs and I wanted to make the perfect proposal very special and unique to her,” explained Berg.  “After I told Steve my idea, he was all-in and excited to give me advice on how to best pull my plan off.”


So with Brandon’s plan in place, the couple road-tripped from southern Minnesota to Iowa last Saturday to “look at” Top Gun Kennel puppies.  Shay had no idea what lay in store for her.


“Steve handed me the pup I had picked out earlier this spring.  Around the pup’s neck was the collar I had given him with the engagement ring I designed attached,” explained Berg.  “When I handed Shay the puppy, I dropped to one knee.  With puppy in her arms and Shay’s eyes fixed on the ring, the tears began to roll pretty quickly down her face.”

Brandon proposes

The happy couple named the new pup, “Remington,” and plans to hunt pheasants, ducks and geese over him this autumn.  Most bird dog owners will tell you that there is one dog that stands out as their “dog of a lifetime.”  I’m confident Remington will be exactly that dog for Shay and Brandon.  No word yet on Remington’s role in the wedding ceremony, but I’m placing the smart money on the position of ring-bearer.

Shay said "yes"

Tune in to FAN Outdoors radio this Saturday morning at 7:30AM CDT to hear Steve Ries tell the story in his own words.


NOTE: In a twist of serendipity, Remington happens to be from the exact same litter as my new shorthair pup, “Izzy.”


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

Naming my Second Bird Dog, Part 1 of 2

Monday, May 14th, 2012

Pictured here is Hope, my new pup's dam. Photo courtesy of Top Gun Kennels

Bird dog names are a big deal to me.  Admittedly, they’re probably too big of a deal.  However, as I’ve written about in previous posts about dog names, a bird dog’s name says a lot about the owner as well as what you hope the bird dog will become. In naming a bird dog, there are two qualities I hold as important guidelines: creativity and personalization.



Although you may not realize it at first blush, a creatively named dog is an advantage in the field.  I’ve often been in hunting groups with multiple dogs named the exact same way.  Not only are the owner’s commands confusing for the dogs, they’re confusing for the other hunters too.  Under this guideline, I personally throw out the nation’s most popular dog names as well as a few names commonly popular to other bird hunters.  The names “Drake” and “Hunter” fall in this second category, as does any name referencing your favorite brand of shotgun.


If you’re struggling to find a creative name, consider a different language to fit the breed of dog you’re getting.  There are lots of fun ways to connect a dog’s German, French, Spanish, English or Irish heritage through their name.



For me, a bird dog’s name should tell a story about the owner.  Read some of the comments at the bottom of my Please Don’t Name Your Bird Dog That post and you’ll find fantastic examples of dog names in honor of people’s heroes, favorite book characters and idolized musicians, as well as fun stories of the circumstances surrounding the dog’s personality.


Admittedly odd for some to understand, I named my now five-year old female shorthair “Trammell,” in honor of a male Detroit Tigers baseball player, Alan Trammell, who retired two decades ago.  However, naming my pup “Trammell” immediately personalized that pup to me.  Her name has also always served as a conversation starter about my love of baseball and my roots as a grouse hunter from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.


Pictured here is Fletcher, my new pup's sire. Photo courtesy of Top Gun Kennels

Later this month, my wife and I will be adding our second bird dog to the family.  The new pup comes from the same Top Gun Kennel bloodlines as Trammell.  In the sequel to this post, I’ll finally spill the beans on our new pup’s name.  Got any guesses?


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

Is your Bird Dog’s Nose in the Air or on the Ground?

Friday, March 9th, 2012

I recently joined Pheasants Forever co-worker Rehan Nana on a visit to Berg Brothers Setters.   Rehan, with his heart set on finding a pup from a red setter litter, and the Berg Brothers having a famous reputation for their hunting lines of both English and red setters, made for a natural match.  To Rehan’s credit, he wanted to complete the due diligence of examining the expected litter’s dam and sire in hunting action.  With a day of bird dog talk on deck, I eagerly accepted the invitation to tag along for the observation.


To my great pleasure, I learned an absolute ton about bird dog training and breeding during the afternoon’s proceedings.  However, one observation left me babbling for days after the visit.


As I observed the sire, “Slim,” elegantly work the field in search of a planted quail, I realized the dog held its nose in the air the entire time.  This was in stark contrast to my own German shorthaired pointer’s nose to the ground, then to the wind, then back to the ground, method of searching for bird scent.  While I’ve hunted with a myriad of bird dogs over the years, including a wide variety of setters, I typically am focused on my own shorthair’s progress in the field.  Consequently, watching Slim with complete and sole focus, I was startled by the difference in scenting style.


“Nose to the ground appears in bird dogs with hound in the breed, like your shorthair,” explained Ben Berg.  “The nose in the air is what makes a setter so special.  That scent cone is more dispersed in the air than it is on the ground, so an excellent wind-scenting bird dog should have a bigger scent cone than a dog that scents the ground alone.”

This jewel of wisdom opened my eyes and my understanding to why so many ruffed grouse hunting traditionalists favor setters.  A dog with a wider scent cone would logically bump far less ruffed grouse, a naturally skittish bird.  Conversely, a bird dog that uses the ground scent to track roosters prone to running, as well as tough-to-kill winged roosters would have obvious advantages.


As I listened, the female red setter, “Belle,” scented the ground where Slim had earlier pointed a quail.  “Most of us bird hunters love to chase all the birds of the uplands,” Scott Berg explained, “so the magic in finding an exceptional bird dog is completing the due diligence like Rehan to find the selectively bred litter that’s going to produce your best chances for the magic.”


Scott offered this list of five key questions for puppy buyers hoping to find that magical bird dog:


1) How many females does the breeder evaluate to find a female suitable for breeding?  Producing the best of any breed is by definition a numbers game.  The more highly selective the process, the better the result.  In other words, evaluating five females for every one that is kept of breeding is better than two.

2) How was the stud dog chosen?  Stud dogs should be chosen on an even more selective basis given breeders have access via stud fees to a variety of top dogs.  The essence of this question is “how wide was the search to find the ideal stud?”

3) Are the parents trained to an advanced level?  (steady to wing & shot / stop to flush / honoring)  While hunters may not require their dogs to be trained to advanced level, breeders should train all potential breeding candidates to this level.  The process and end result provides better insight in terms of whether the prospect is suitable for breeding in terms of natural ability, trainability and intelligence.

4) Do they hunt and/or train on a variety of wild birds?  Observing the dog in a variety of different types of cover, handling several species of wild birds is a great process for evaluating breeding candidates.

5) Can the breeder provide references of hunters with needs/preferences the same as the prospective buyer?  For starters it’s a good indication if the breeder understands the buyer’s preferences.  Ask for 10 names without contact information.  Pick three names at random and ask the breeder to provide contact information.  Any breeder can come up with three satisfied buyers.  This helps to provide a more random sample.


Follow this link to learn more about Berg Brothers Setters.


In my opinion, this list is a gold mine of litter selection advice.  As I reflect on my observation of the difference in Slim’s scenting versus my shorthair’s scenting, it seems ludicrous that I hadn’t noticed such a stark difference before.  However, I don’t think I’m that out of the ordinary.  I believe most of us categorize bird dogs by the way they react when they encounter bird scent rather than categorizing them by the way they search for bird scent.  My shorthair being more similar to a setter by reacting in a point when scent is encountered; however, in the search for that scent my shorthair is more akin to a Labrador with its nose more often focused on the ground trail.


So my question is this: Did you already know that certain breeds focus on the scent in the air, while other bird dog breeds focus their attention to scent on the ground?  What breed of bird dog do you have and where is its nose primarily focused?


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

Hanging your Bird Dog above the Fireplace

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Kreig Jacque took this photo and . . .

While flipping through a recent bird hunting periodical, I encountered an advertisement for dog head urns.  That’s right; there’s a company selling taxidermy replica heads of your favorite breed of bird dogs with a quail or pheasant in its jowls and inside your pup’s ashes are stored for posterity.  Check out the photos by following this link

Call me a traditionalist, but I favor the classic bird dog portrait over a fireplace as a way to memorialize a beloved pup.  In fact, Iowa artist Kreig Jacque’s sketch of my shorthair, Trammell, already hangs in my living room and Tram is only 4-years old.  I’ve considered giving a dog portrait as a Christmas gift before, but I’ve never thought about it with enough time in advance.  Maybe this will be the year!

turned it into this amazing pencil sketch.

Here’s a little info from Kreig on one-of-a-kind dog portraits.

Portrait Format: Unframed pencil and painting portraits are created on a 17″ x 22″ format. 

(Size and format may vary depending on the expectation of the client)

Timing: The time that it takes to create the original piece of art primarily depends on the amount of detail (subject matter, background, etc.) that the client wishes to include in the portrait.  All of these specifics need to be considered in the turnaround time.  Typically, a single dog pencil portraits take four days to complete.  The paintings may take anywhere from two weeks to a month for completion.  Again, the time will vary depending on the amount of detail the client chooses as well as scheduling constraints.

What’s needed for the portrait: The more images that the client can supply as references, the better.  Every dog has its own disposition and way of showing emotions that are particular to that dog and his or her handler that will show up in these images.  Being able to include these components is what helps to make the portrait so personal to each individual client.

Cost: The cost of the portraits vary depending on the time, subject matter, background, size, and detail that the client wants to include into the portrait.  Typically, one dog pencil portraits will be $400 and the painting of the same stature will be $800.  These quotes are based on a basic hunting scene including one dog.

If you’d like to contact Kreig with other questions, you can reach him at

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.

When is the Right Time to Add Bird Dog Number Two?

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

At 3 1/2 years of age, Trammell is now entering her prime bird dogging years.

My good friend and FAN Outdoors radio partner, “The Captain” Billy Hildebrand stopped by the Pheasants Forever office this morning.  In tow was his new Brittany pup “Snap.”  Snap joins his eight year-old golden retriever, “Tess,” as the Hildebrand’s newest hunting family member.

I currently have a 3 1/2 year old German shorthaired pointer named “Trammell.”  If you’ve read my blog before, then you know how much I adore my pup.  Last year about this time I started toying with the idea of adding a second bird dog to the mix.  I went so far as to put my name on the first pick of females in a shorthair litter planned for April.  As that litter’s birth neared, I had second thoughts about the timing of adding that second dog to the family and pulled my name off the list.

As I enter the mid-point of this hunting season, I’m thankful I did remove my name from that litter.  While I missed out on the joys of having a puppy this spring, I am benefiting from focusing on Trammell as she enters her prime bird hunting years. 

The more seasoned dog owners I talk with, the more consistent the advice:  “Add dog number two when your first dog turns six or seven.  That way, you’ll always have a dog in its prime.” 

Do you agree with that advice or do you have a different opinion?

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.