Bird dogs point to better hunting


April 03, 1994|By LONNY WEAVER

If you have convinced yourself that the only thing between you and bird shooting immortality is a quality bird dog, now is the time to take the plunge. A pup bought now should be hunting worthy by late October or early November.

The pup still will have a bit of learning to do by then, but it will do at 8 months or so, especially if matched with an older dog.

I speak from experience and good luck. Ed, my now retired Brittany, was nearly 2 months old when he pushed himself into the family. That was in early June.

I spent a lot of time with him and, when dove season opened Sept. 1, Ed came along. By mid-November he had trailed behind Gary Johnson's older Brit, Meg, during a half-dozen game-preserve safaris.

That year, the first day of the pheasant season opened in mid-week and my usual gunning pals couldn't break loose from their offices until the weekend. I opted to give Ed a solo try and inside of an hour he had pointed my two birds and we were on our way home.

Now, those were not perfect points and he did not hold to the shot. But he found the birds for me, stayed close enough to allow me to stay within gun range and his retrieve left a lot to be desired. But, I had a bird dog.

If you want to see what a truly top-notch dog can do, then try to break away from work for a day this week and attend the American Kennel Club's First All Breed National Bird Dog Championship beginning Tuesday and continuing through Friday at the Blair Valley Wildlife Area in Clear Spring, Md.

This also will present a perfect opportunity for you to see the various breeds of hunting dogs in action.

Choosing the right breed of dog is a trying experience. I wavered between the Brittany spaniel, Springer spaniel, English setter and golden retriever until I tied myself up in knots.

Luckily, I got to see the various breeds in action at a local field trial and, combined with my slow hunting style, modest house, etc., ended up with the best friend I've ever had.

In choosing the breed that's right for you, consider the type of hunting you need the dog for -- cold-weather waterfowling, for example, should point you to one of the retriever breeds such as the lab, Chessie or golden. Most upland hunters will prefer a pointing breed.

I was a fanatical pheasant hunter when Ed and I were in our prime and did most of my searching in heavy brush, which called for a sturdy, close working breed with a thick, protective coat. The size of our home, at the time, ruled out a large dog.

Popular pointing breeds, in addition to the Brittany, include the English pointer, English setter, the Vizsala and the German shorthaired pointer that my friend Gene Abelow favors.

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