The subtitle of this Post could be An Evolution in my Preference for Hunting Dogs. Way back when I was just a lad living with my parents, they bought me a half Lab/half Weimaraner who was a flusher. When She died of cancer she was replaced by a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, who obviously was a flushing breed dog. At one point we also had a Brittany Spaniel ( a pointing breed ).
Unfortunately my Dad had no interest in dog training. In fact; in his view a dog should know what to, and to do it right regardless of any training or lack thereof. Being just a youngster I didn’t know anything about dog training or about the needs of high performance dogs. The Brittany was a complete bust, no doubt due to complete lack of training it received. The Lab/Weim was competent enough as was the Chessie.
The town where I grew up is on the Mississippi Flyway. Most everyone had a Duck dog, mostly Labs with only a very few pointing dogs. Which is why my parents bought the type of dogs they did. The could be purchased locally and they were cheap. In the 1960’s and 1070’s some of the finest duck dogs in the country could be found in Louisa County, Iowa.
The bottom line is I grew up with flushing dogs, in flushing dog country. Pointing dogs were some exotic species owned by rich hunters . At least that’s how I saw things when I was a kid.
I went to college and didn’t hunt much. I had a buddy at the same college who actually kept a Springer Spaniel in his dorm room. His Springer was quite the hunter and a well-mannered guy. So a few years after college I decided to get a hunting dog that I could keep in an apartment. That meant a small dog and of course a flushing breed.
After looking around I found a lady who had one male black and white Cocker spaniel left in a litter that was mostly female. The little guy was built like a tank and cute as could be. I had a good feeling about the pup or maybe I was just gullible. So I took him home. This pup turned out to be one of the most stubborn dogs you could want. One of the things he was most stubborn about was running the fields.
I would take him out to go potty, and he would just mosey around until I got distracted and then disappear. I would find him tearing around in the woods or out in a nearby field. Which wouldn’t have been such a big deal except he would come back all happy and covered in mud! So one day I decided to figure out how he did it. I pretended not to be looking but really was. As soon as he thought I wasn’t looking he sprinted around the corner of a neighboring building, using it for cover as he made his escape. Did I mention this guy was pretty clever.
He turned out to be a great hunting dog. He could find birds like he had radar. It took him a while to accept retrieving but once he did, he was unstoppable tracking down cripples and bringing them back. He had two faults, he would not stop chasing running pheasants, and he would hunt for everyone but me. (When group hunting). I think the last was payback for all the obedience training he suffered through.
After the Cocker passed on, we picked up a Chessie/Lab mix for free. He looked pure Lab and was very well-built and handsome. I hunted with him for eight years until he started to have hip problems. He was similar to the Cocker, very stubborn, but could find birds like he had radar. He once sat in the back of my pickup for 30 some hours. He refused to get out and I had to drag him out so he would go to the bathroom and get food and water. Yes, we had a few tussles over who was in charge.
Great dog to hunt pheasants after a heavy snow. He could really root them out. However he refused training to stop on command. When Chip was around 4 I started to have hip problems as well. I was having a lot of hip pain when hunting. It was really slowing me down and I couldn’t keep up with Chip anymore and he wasn’t exactly fast.
It was the hip problem and a long-held wish to get a Weimaraner, that caused me to buy a Weime pup. As far as hunting goes Rose was a good fit. Once she matured and her hunting instincts kicked in, she was a foot hunters dream. I had hoped that a pointing dog would help me to get better shots and improve my chances to take more game home. Rosie did just that. Rock Solid on point and almost always within gunshot range. She gets the credit for changing my view of hunting with pointing dogs versus flushing dogs. It’s highly unlikely that I will ever own a flusher again.
There is something special about a pointer, locked up on a bird, quivering with intensity, waiting for his partner to move in and make the flush for the shot.
There is no one right kind of hunting dog. Flushing breeds can produce plenty of game, mine did. Once in South Dakota the Cocker Spaniel found 9 birds to a well-bred Brittany’s one bird. They both were in the same patch of grass at the same time. I just prefer hunting with a pointing dog as I get older and slower. The short-haired coat of a pointing dog is also a plus for me. Because a short-haired dog so much easier to bath and requires a lot less after hunt care. I know, I know there are some longer haired pointing dogs. I’ve put my time in cleaning off cockle burrs and sticky seeds back in the day.
The type of habitat that a person hunts regularly is a huge factor in what type of dog (flusher or pointer) best suits a hunter. I would argue that flushers are best suited to hunt cornfields and fence rows. They are also well suited for open-timber areas holding grouse. I believe pointers are best suited for large open prairies and thick aspen woods. I hunt a lot of tall prairie grass mixed with shorter grasses and tall weeds. A pointer has a big edge in this environment because the dog can be lost from sight in just a few feet. Hard to get the shot with a flusher, if you don’t have a clue where the dog is. A pointer with a beeper that tells the hunter where the dog is, when it goes on point, is a big advantage in the prairie grass.
This article wasn’t really intended to be a comprehensive analysis of flushing versus pointing dogs. It is a synopsis of my experiences hunting over flushers in the early years and then becoming a big fan of pointing dogs. Especially a fan of German Shorthaired Pointers with their well-rounded personalities and exuberant hunting style.
Thanks for taking the time to share my experiences.