Hunting for a Good Dog

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Published on: Sep. 2, 1999

Last revision: Nov. 3, 2010

widely taken, and doves in the bag are not the result of a man/dog partnership.

Havilah Babcock writes, "Seven ounces of avoirdupois could be wrapped up in no other shape or form that would posses such power to befog and confound the senses of disconcert and disorganize the human nervous system."

the quintessential quail dog is the pointer. Generalizations get you into trouble with the person who owns the exception to the rule, but generally pointers mature early, are suited to warn climates because of their short hair are better for quail than any other dog.

Charley Dickey, another quail writer, is obviously a pointer man, for he referred to Shakespeare's Richard III to describe the pointer: "His better doth not breathe upon the earth." dickey also resorted to Shakespeare at the head of his chapter on bird dogs: "He hath eaten me out of house and home."

Setters probably are the most widely-distributed bird dogs, used for more game birds than any other. And of the various setters, the English is far and away the most common.

German shorthairs probably now are the fourth most popular breed behind setters, pointers and Brittanies. They dated in this country only to the 1920s

They tend to be close-working, versatile dogs, big and strong and intelligent. My hunting pard, Dave Mackey, has a line of shortairs that hunt extremely close... but he kills more quail annually than anyone I know.

I also hunted chukar partridges behind a shorthair in Nevada and was amazed at the dog's nose and durability in tough rimrock hunting conditions. They don't wear out.

First major hurdle with a vizsla is learning to spell the name. Vizslas originated in Hungary nearly 1,000 years ago and became the favored dog of noblemen hunters during the glory days of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

While there may have been a few in this county earlier, the vizsla didn't arrive in numbers until after World War II. As a breed they are sensitive, good-nosed and intelligent - easy to train if you don't cow them with harshness.

The mystery of scent is one humans never will solve. Dogs themselves don't always. Writer/gunner Ray Holland said, "I have seen the best of dogs blunder into birds through no fault of theirs." Holland said he'd rather have a dog with brains and a mediocre nose than a "keen-nosed dog that was shy on think power."

Nash Buckingham, the elder statesman of outdoor writers, said "Too many dogs along are worse than none", and summed up what makes a good quail dog: "...It requires bobwhites, continual contacts with them, and patient work, to shape any pointer's or setter's true destiny."

"Sometimes a dog points because he's a jolly good fellow," Charles Dickey wrote. Another Charley, Waterman, dedicated his book on upland birds hunting to "Old Kelly. He wasn't the best bird dog in the world, but none ever tried harder."

Waterman talked of the dog/man partnership: "The attachment of hunters to their dogs is difficult to explain, but perhaps it is tied to the fact that however strong their mutual regard they can never really converse as two humans. So the loss of a longtime field companion is a special kind of sorrow, and no one knows what to say to a dying dog. I failed to find any words when I was a kid and I have failed since as an old man."

Maybe a whispered, "Thank you for all the good times" is appropriate.

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