Flush, Retrieve, Tree, Repeat

By David Stonner | November 1, 2022
From Missouri Conservationist: November 2022
profile of a dog
Flush, Retrieve, Tree, Repeat

“It’s not really important that Tip was a good dog to hunt over, but it is important to me that she was a good dog to be with. She was my pal. We enjoyed being with each other. I don’t know that you can ask for much more.” —Gene Hill, nature writer

Traditionally, a hunting dog is defined as a canine that hunts with or for hunters. Dogs groomed for hunting are usually narrowed to hounds, terriers, dachshunds, cur-type dogs, and gun dogs. There are several different types of hunting dog developed for various tasks and purposes, and further distinctions can be made, based upon the dog’s skills and capabilities.

The hunters you’ll meet in these next few pages might balk at that traditional definition of hunting dogs in favor of author Gene Hill’s thoughts on the subject.

Their dogs are much more than hunters. They are family members, just as likely to be found curled up in the house, next to a fire or on a warm bed at night as running afield. They are hunting buddies, eager to join the next adventure, whether it be flushing a bird on a crisp fall day or diving into frigid water after downed waterfowl, without complaint. They are companions in the truest sense of the word, as happy hunting as lounging on the couch.

And pedigrees? Not necessary, according to at least one of these hunters. You don’t need a fancy bloodline to tree a squirrel, for example. All you need is speed and a strong nose to get the job done.

These hunters have flipped the traditional thoughts of hunting dogs on its ear. For them, gone are the days of keeping a working or hunting dog separate from their in-home pet. These hunters are enjoying their hunting dogs on and off the field, and these dogs are loving every minute of it.


Brian Bernskoetter keeps his yellow Labrador retriever, Chief, warm and dry for as long as possible while breaking sheet ice amidst falling sleet and snow on a New Year’s Day hunt at Grand Pass Conservation Area.

Chief keeps his eyes on the sky, shaking with anticipation while Brian calls to mallards seeking shelter from the winter storm. Chief eagerly leaps into the frigid water, crashing through ice and frozen corn stubble to retrieve the downed birds with a soft mouth and polite release to Brian’s waiting hand.

Time spent afield with a good dog warms the heart and brings a smile in even the most bitter weather.


Elsa Gallagher (hat) and her sister Jessica Hann (visor) ply the uplands near Gallatin, Mo., for quail on their annual “Sisters Hunt” with German shorthaired pointers Nova, Ginny, Charlie, Huck, and a vizsla named Patch. Nova (showing off a quail above) and Ginny (snuggling with Elsa) are sisters themselves.


Matt Smith, daughter, Sophia, and dog, Lucy, hunt for squirrels at Apple Creek Conservation Area in southeast Missouri. The Catahoula/chocolate Labrador mix was free from a Craigslist ad and has proven to be a wonderful family dog. Lucy constantly keeps watch over Sophia and is a tenacious hunter with her eyes, ears, and nose locked on treetops for squirrels.


Black Labrador Bowie retrieves a mallard drake in the waning light of a long day in the field.

Gary Campbell and Bowie spent several days with friends hunting the fog-shrouded flooded timber holes at Duck Creek Conservation Area in southeast Missouri.

The close bond between Bowie and Gary has been even tighter after the dog nearly lost an eye to an embedded smartweed seed during an early season teal hunt. Bowie recovered and was retrieving with gusto during their days in the southeast swamps and timber.


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This Issue's Staff

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber
Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Associate Editor - Larry Archer
Photography Editor - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek
Staff Writer – Dianne Van Dien
Designer - Shawn Carey
Designer - Marci Porter
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Circulation Manager - Laura Scheuler