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

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 mherwig@pheasantsforever.org.

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25 Responses to “They Don’t Point, but Flushers Have Their Bird Cues Too”

  1. Steve Quesenberry says:

    My last Springer would stop, look around for me, then stare at a bush before going in for the flush. When I told people about this, most had no comment but looked at me very funny. Finally my wife saw him do this several times and was able to verify my story. I sure miss that old boy. He was so obsessed with hunting.

  2. Mark Herwig says:

    I love it Steve…I’ve had dogs do that too. It’s like they are talking to you…and they are, in their own way. Bird hunting is my favorite because of the movement, fast pace and the DOGS!

  3. Jim Bowman says:

    I’ve owned & hunted ESS all my life. Had nothing else but Springers. From show stock to field trial. When there on foot scent the head is down & once they hit body scent the head is raised. The dog scenses the bird is near. Field stock dogs have a much bolder flush, which is a given if you partake in field trialing your dog. Body language, body movement,excessive drive, down to the tail wagging, etc., is all part of an individual dogs makeup. Knowing how to control that energy is where the fun begins. And, I wouldn’t have any other way.

  4. Mark Herwig says:

    Thanks Jim. You can always tell a springer man…the fire in the belly really comes through(just like a springer)! It kills me to see my springer Hunter languishing at home now…like parking a Ferrari in the garage…what a waste of a top performer.

  5. erzola says:

    I have always said the dog you are currently hunting with is “the best dog” you have hunted with. I have had my share of flushers and pointers, mostly pointers. It doesn’t matter as long as you have a dog that hunts next to you and comes when you call it in.

  6. Dick Greene says:

    My English Springer Smudge passed in 2012 – she would yip when she was hot on a bird -100% guaranteed. I’ve downsized to an English Cocker now – Midge – and she starts to “kangaroo” when she’s on a bird, we’ll see what other tells she develops.

  7. Duncan says:

    My Springer Hunter would snort like a pig when he got birdy. He would literally be taking in the scent and grunt like a pig when the trail was hot.

  8. Mark Herwig says:

    I love it Duncan……there’s nothing like a springer on a hot trail, gulping the scent, primed and pumped to put ‘em in the air for his master!

  9. Mark Herwig says:

    Dick, ‘tells’ is a good term…….springers are so communicative……..they are second only to border collies in intelligence.

  10. Scott Siman says:

    Pointer, shmointer…there’s nothing like a lab for pheasants. Buck (the greatest pheasant dog to ever live) gets obviously birdy when he gets a scent. His body language changes…nose down, more jerky motions, tail going like a propeller. Better be ready for a rooster. Good dog!

  11. Mark Herwig says:

    LOL Scott…….I love a springer’s size for my lifestyle and handling, but I do wish they had the brute force a big Lab brings to the field, especially in sloughs and also for waterfowl. That’s why have male springers….a bit larger.

  12. Kevin Callahan says:

    My Springer Droopy would look like he was plugged in to an electric wire the closer he got to birds. He had a stubbed tail and it would go like a whirly bird just before he stuck his nose in cover. If you watched Droopy, you shot birds.

  13. Jerome Jussaume says:

    I’ve hunted ESS for over 20 years. I currently have two at home and will probably get my fifth one this spring. My older dog will “porpoise” when close to a bird in grassy cover. It’s a fault! The fault likely developed from the dog successfully trapping a bird on a flush at some point. When close,the dog should drive into the bird and make a solid flush. The “porpoise” action and the yip will merit a “Thank you” and an early dismissal from a judge at a field trial. I’ve been there.

  14. Mark Herwig says:

    Jerome, I respect field trailing……..did a little myself when I had Brits……I’ve never trialed with my ESS, but can’t imagine holding back their boundless spirit!

  15. Scott Siman says:

    Be VERY careful trying to control your dog’s enthusiasm. You can take it out but you can NEVER put it back in. So what if he yips or porpoises. That’s what him YOUR dog. It’s just his thing and that’s why you love him and what makes him special. I tried for a while to get Buck quiet enough at the line to run hunt tests and was successful enough to get his HR and Uh titles but he hated it and it made him nervous so I retired him to a life of busting cover after roosters which he loves even at the ripe old age of 12

  16. Mark Herwig says:

    Well aid about curbing enthusiasm……..it comes down to what you have a dog for……….winning ribbons or tail feathers!

  17. erzola says:

    Well, you fella’s might have some good dogs but if you don’t own a Deutsch Drahthaar, (VDD), you ain’t huntin birds, you’re just chasin your spaniels around hopin they bump into sumpin.

  18. Wonoo says:

    This last season my Lab (4 years old) finally came into his own. not that I’m complaining , he is a great dog, my best friend. Now if my shooting could only improve. He was always energetic and willing, just seemed a little sidetracked. More interested in marking territory than finding birds. This season, he step his game up a notch,and showed definite signs when he got birdy. Actually pinned a bird d
    own with one paw on its tail and one on the birds back. Definitely agree with the post that your best bird dog is the one you have now! Pointer, Flusher doesn’t matter, as long as your hunting with a friend, your dog.

  19. Mark Herwig says:

    Yep Wonoo, my experience is at four years a bird dog starts to ‘get it.’ Your Lab will only get better from now on.

  20. Wonoo says:

    That’s encouraging to hear Mark….my dogs in the past always took a few years to “get it”……

  21. Scott Siman says:

    Wonoo: Not sure when you first put your dog on birds but my experience has been the sooner the better. I put my dogs on live pigeons as soon as they know their name (8-9 wks. old). I really believe that the sooner they get after live birds the sooner they will “get it”. Experience also tells me that they get better every time they go out so your dog will too. Good luck and keep working with your buddy.

  22. David says:

    I love hunting over a pointer, but since I don’t own a dog, I’ll take whatever my friends bring, as lot as they are good dogs. I think every dog, pointer or flusher has tells. The ones I have hunted with all get more “focused” when on scent.

    A couple of times we have been walking back from the field (assuming the hunt is over) with my friend’s lab and she stops listening to us, won’t heel. Both times she has busted birds. Now we know when she won’t come, she is on scent.

  23. Scott Siman says:

    My lab Buck is the same way. he is very obedient but occasionally will ignore me and every time he has done that, he has flushed a bird. I was guiding last year and we were back at the trucks. Buck was out of sight and when I whistled twice and he didn’t come I told the guys “get your guns cuz the next sound you hear will be a bird flushing” Sure enough about 10 seconds later we heard the bird get up.

  24. Wonoo says:

    Scott….I come from the same school as you..the earlier the better. I know the Field trial boys I know disagree, they say too many bad habits are picked up by a young pup. I’m looking for a gun dog and a bird dog, not a field trial dog. So a few mistakes for me are tolerable. God knows I make a few…..

  25. Scott Siman says:

    Wonoo: I’m with you brother. A wall full of hunt test ribbons and titles are nice but I’ll trade ‘em all for a bird finding machine.


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