The fascinating part of sporting dogs is that they’re all so different. Never mind the fact that you can find a setter that casts at 40 yards, one that runs inside of bell range, or wins AA as the late Shadow Oak Bo did (twice in fact). That’s a wide range of performance in just one breed. Start to include other pointing, flushing and retriever breeds and the view expands. The icing on the cake comes when you add in 30 breeds of versatile hunting dogs acknowledged by The North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA).
Spring weather makes every dog trainer and handler smile. Low temperatures, occasional rain, and breezy winds bring dogs alive. Conditioning is regular, scenting conditions are good, and it’s a time when regular progress is made. If only we could roll right into hunting season…
But summer is in between, and the hot, dry temperatures and bright, cloudless skies threaten to undo all of our hard work. Keeping your pup safe in the heat is the first order of the day, and continuing to build on their foundation is the key to a successful fall. Here’s how some pros handle the heat.
Chris Mathan has joined the ranks of local heroes working to introduce kids to the shotgun sports. Ms. Mathan, through her online field-trial publication Strideway, recently formed the non-profit Youth Field Trial Alliance to acquaint youngsters in the U.S. and Canada with the benefits and beauty of bird-dog field trial competitions.
The heaps of papers, folders and boxes in Dr. Rick Carlisle’s office conjure an Ivy-Tower academic in pursuit of a big cosmic revelation. But wait, what about his shirt? It’s a vented short-sleeve embroidered with a prominent Ames Plantation logo of two bobwhite quail on the wing.
Robert Milner of Duckhill Kennels is upping the ante in what constitutes a well-trained bird dog. The influential source of British Labrador Retrievers based in Somerville, Tennessee is now mandating that all of its dogs complete the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Test.
When a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? The answer is “Yes the wolf hears it.” The wolf’s direct descendant, the dog, shares the wolf’s very sensitive hearing. According to the sparse research available, the dog’s hearing is four times more sensitive than man’s.
I set out quail hunting with David Lanier at Carr Farms in the plantation belt around his hometown of Albany, Georgia. He’s an affable guy with your average mid-50s paunch and a friendly clean-shaven face shaded by the brim of a blaze ball cap. The brush pants, frayed at the hems, bunched up at the buckled wingshooter boots scuffed and rough, his forest-green hunting shirt nicely ironed and the pouches of his vest swollen with gear (he always hunts with a camera).
The West Highland White Terrier cast back and forth around the broomstraw and Johnson grass. It caught a whiff of scent and moved rapidly in a manner customary with all short-legged dogs. That Westie smelled a covey of quail as I do a morning plate of biscuits and gravy and he was looking for a way in. A gust of wind must have pushed the scent around for suddenly the pup found the entrance to a maize. In an instant it zig zagged to the covey and the birds busted every which way into the air. His owner, the noted sporting artist Gordon Allen, took a crosser. The Westie is now immortalized in a line drawing and might reappear in an oil painting or in an etching.
Two years ago, I was living in an apartment in the basement of a brownstone in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I was working in private practice as a psychiatric nurse practitioner and spending most of my weekends driving two hours both ways to upstate New York to do something in the outdoors. I was tired and burnt out and when a relationship I had been in ended, I needed a change. Little did I know that the catalyst for that change would be my seven-year-old black Labrador, Goose.
In 1803, London sporting dog expert William Taplin published the first of two volumes titled “The Sportsman’s Cabinet” – an elaborately leather bound and illustrated compendium described as “A correct delineation of the canine race.”
In 2003 Chris Mathan paid homage to Mr. Taplin by starting her own business called The Sportsman’s Cabinet, which brought her highly acclaimed dog photography to an Internet audience. Ms. Mathan’s Sportsman’s Cabinet started when, after seven years as a senior designer and art director at one of Portland, Maine’s most prestigious advertising agency, she opted to become professionally immersed in upland bird hunting and pointing-dog field trials.
Every March in the Red Hills Region around the bobwhite quail hunting capitol of Thomasville, Georgia, an invitation-only field trial has taken place for the past 36 years that celebrates the rich tradition of African-American bird dog trainers who have been thriving on the local plantations for generations.
“No” is the favorite word of Englishman Robin Watson when it comes to teaching his British Labrador Retrievers their gamebird craft.
“I train a lot around the word ‘no’ because it’s like in the wild when animals growl at each other,” he explained.
When I developed the “Hunting With Hank” television series starring my Llewellin Setter Hank, for what was then The Outdoor Life Network, I had confidence that the series would find an audience. But, the amazing success of Hank’s show actually caught me off guard. Along with its popularity, came requests from viewers all across the country to explain how I trained Hank for the work they saw him performing on our upland bird hunts that spanned the country.
Dog trainer extraordinaire Robert Milner wants to ask sportsmen a personal question: Would you discipline your own children with a shock collar?