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The Best Bird Dogs I’ve Ever Seen

The author watches

The author watches Sam Cook’s “Lucy” work a western Minnesota Walk-In Access hunting area. Photo courtesy Sam Cook / Duluth News Tribune

I’ve joked with friends that I’ve never met a dog owner who wasn’t an expert. While in jest, when it comes down to it, there’s nothing wrong with having extra confidence in your training and your dog if things are working for you. “The best dog in the world” phrase may be about as ubiquitous as “Best Dad” coffee mugs, but it’s all relative – as a shamelessly biased owner and utterer, I would know.

But what if you put aside partiality and emotion for a second, then what dog(s) stands out as the best you’ve ever seen. What friends or relatives had a pup that impressed you with its all-around ability – field work, obedience and personality? What dog made an indelible impression on you at a field trial or hunt test?

Here are four from my experiences that stand out:

“Lucy,” Yellow Labrador Retriever. Sam Cook is the longtime outdoor scribe at the Duluth News Tribune, and I joined him and his Lucy in 2011, touring some of western Minnesota’s first Walk-in Hunting Areas. Bird numbers were as low in this part of the state as they’d been in years, but if there was a ringneck in the field, Lucy found it. And what we did find were runners, but that’s where her ability to stop on a whistle came in handy, allowing us to catch up before the chase resumed. She retrieved to hand and, like any lab worth their weight in kibble, made you feel like their best friend.

Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

Brad Mccardle’s “Teigen.” Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

“Teigen,” English Setter. Brad Mccardle is a bird bum living in Lewistown, Montana whose singular upland passion is hunting Hungarian partridge. Lucky for him, he’s got Teigen, a beast of a big-running setter bound with athleticism, drive, a nose and style. I hunted with Mccardle and a small group of pro-level dog guys – making me the odd man out – but even a relative novice like me could see a dog oozing with greatness. If I lived in open country, I’d want a dog like Teigen.

“Finn,” Black British Labrador Retriever. It’s practically a prerequisite for an outdoor scribe to have a good dog – see previously, Sam Cook – and Chris Niskanen, the former outdoors editor at the Saint Paul Pioneer Press, is no different. Niskanen hunted with my family and other members of Minnesota’s Lac qui Parle County PF chapter for a pheasant hunting season opening story a few years back. Already a decade-long veteran, Finn was the workhorse for a big group. And all the flushing and retrieving came in a compact British size, or about half your typical lab. I saw online this past autumn that even at 13-years-old, Finn was retrieving ducks in North Dakota for Niskanen, who is now the Communications Director at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Bob St.Pierre's "Trammell." Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

Bob St.Pierre’s “Trammell.” Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

“Trammell,” German Shorthaired Pointer. Regular readers of Pheasants Forever’s blog know of Trammell, who is dog #1 in Pheasants Forever Vice President of Marketing Bob St.Pierre’s family. I’ve seen her in the field enough to witness too many points to count, a few outrageous retrieves, but mostly I’ve seen quality performance after quality performance. There’s consistent and good, then there’s consistently good – that’s Trammell.

If you still end up listing your dog, consider yourself biased beyond repair. And that’s okay. Just know that you don’t have the best dog in the world…because I do.

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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7 Responses to “The Best Bird Dogs I’ve Ever Seen”

  1. Tony Lee Arneson says:

    I have called my yellow Lab “Best Dog Paisley” (BDP)since she was a pup. She is known by that still at 13 years and 9 months old. Now retired from the field after 13 seasons of outstanding adventures. Thousands of flushes and retrieves of pheasant, ruffed grouse, woodcock, quail and ducks. From Wisconsin to North Dakota to Kansas. She was a hunting dog, pure and simple. She had a hard mouth, sometimes got out of range with a runner and barked with excitement to keep hunting whenever we stopped to take a break. I picked her out of barbed wire more times than I can count. Didn’t matter where we were I couldn’t keep her out of the water. Would she fail in a field trial? Absolutely! But I am a “hunter” and she was a “Hunting Dog” and her drive and desire left her exhausted after every outing. Regardless of the size of our hunting party she would always hunt in front of the whole group. 13 years of stories and memories with Best Dog Paisley. You may have or had a better dog but I will always have had “Best Dog Paisley”. The best hunting dog I could ever have been blessed with. Ever.

  2. jeff says:

    I think everyone has a different idea of what makes a good bird dog and how a good bird dog works. This is why we have so many different breeds. At the end of the day, a great bird dog consistently gives its handler a opportunities to shoot birds and puts a smile on the handlers face. A dog that will curl up calmly on the couch is an added bonus.

  3. I’d have to say my best dog was by far princess she could do a bit of everything and for a beagle that’s not bad she hunted till her dieing days 3 years ago. and is sadly missed she could flush a pheasant and catch the rabbit as well as retrieve them all. miss her tons. but i got lot’s of her pups all equally as well. ok i am bragging bout my dogs but hey don’t we all :)

  4. Tony Lee Arneson says:

    Jeff’s comments I am sure are echoed a thousand times over. When people ask me what makes a great hunting dog. My reply normally is “One that makes you happy”. My wife and I have three dogs now; our retired Best Dog Paisley (currently under my desk), my active hunter Rusty a German Shorthair Pointer (currently on my couch in my office) and our non-hunting Beagle (on my couch also). See ya in da field!

  5. Scott Siman says:

    Sorry guys but I really do have the best hunting dog ever. Buck has been shown on the blog as “Dog of the day” but that’s a misnomer. Buck is the best pheasant dog that ever graced the planet earth. That’s no brag, it’s just fact. At 11 he has a bad knee so is semi-retired but even on 3 legs is better than most dogs at finding, flushing and retrieving the wily rooster. We’ve hunted with pro trained dogs, Grand Hunting Retrievers and just plain hunting dogs and the next one that finds more roosters than Buck will be the first one. He is a hunting dog to the core of his soul. he can’t run hunt tests because he just wants to hunt and waiting at the line just doesn’t cut it cuz he’s a hunting dog. More to the point he’s my hunting dog. Which means his world is just not right unless he’s with me. Whether we’re hunting, training, going for ride in the truck or watching TV, he has to be close to me. I’m sorry everyone who hunts hasn’t gotten the pure joy of hunting behind the mighty Buck. He’s one of a kind. I can’t bear to see what time is doing to him.
    I have kept a journal of all the special times, training, testing, hunting and retrieving that I call “Buck Moments”. When it’s over I can read these again and again and in this way Buck will live forever.
    Happy hunting to all of you and may you be blessed with your own “Buck”

  6. Kaily says:

    You do have the best dog in the world, Ant (and the cutest!).

  7. Josh Houchin says:

    I have had the pleasure of hunting with Brad and Tiegen, and “oozing with greatness” sums him up quite nicely.


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