How do Spaniels hunt?

Spaniel breed specific questions. Kennel information requests, etc.

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Postby Rick Hall » Sat May 03, 2003 11:08 am

Stephen - I'm sure it's largely a matter of what you're used to.

I once loved the sound of a bell, because of all the neat associations I had with them. And I hated beepers, because they all belonged to other fellows I was none too happy to encounter in "my" coverts.

Now that my hearing's shot and beepers have become necessary for me to enjoy a pointing dog with decent wheels, I find the incessent clamor of even what was once my favorite bell grating. And I've built a deep file of pleasant associations that help make a beeper fade into a hunt's fabric, until I call it to the fore - or its point mode does so.

Never got into a hyper-handling habit with my flushing retrievers. Just condition them to stay in range, and that pretty much mandates that they "quarter". But I've seen more than a few retriever operaters directing every turn in "upland tests". Wears me out just to watch. And makes me wonder about passing dogs requiring such.

Re: bells on flushing dogs. Never had need for such on my flushing retrievers, but I used to have a beagle that doubled as a flusher and we benefited from having him wear one. While I required that he work within gun range, unless running game, he made little enough commotion in cover to often be hard to track without the noisemaker. (Could well have saved his bacon in front of some of many guest guns he worked for, too.) I found that bell a blessing on the little dog and wouldn't hesitate to bell or beeper another flusher that lacked the size or hustle to keep us aware of its location.
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Postby thunderchicken » Sat May 03, 2003 6:21 pm

Rick,

Did you ever use flushers while grouse hunting, or were you a strict pointer man then? Tell me how your springers handled for you. I'm not so concerned about a generality as real life experiences, I'll get enough of the general stuff from books.

Also, has anyone ever used a silent whistle? You know the ones we can't hear but the dog can, I wonder how well they work, and whether they are still audible to the birds.
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Postby Rick Hall » Sun May 04, 2003 8:03 am

TC - I wrote a big, ol' long winded reply to your question, which the board's gemlims ate in a blink when I tried to post it, so here's the relatively short answer, instead:

If I've somehow implied that I have owned springers, it was inadvertant and in error. I've been blessed with the chance to hunt over some dandies and liked 'em a lot. Also hunted over a few that were, shall we say, disappointing. Same could be said of any breed I've hunted with. If I were going to have have an upland flushing dog for that primary purpose, it would most likely be a springer. Not going to tell you they're the most efficient option. Will say I find them the most attractive one. Small size makes them seem even busier than they are, and showing a lot of white makes them appealing to the eye.

The only grousing I've done over flushing dogs was over those of pheasant hosts I was treating in return. Didn't know anyone who chose them for grouse in my part of Appalachia. Bet you can't point to any or many in your's, either. The primary reasons are lack of ground coverage in an area where birds are few and far between and lack of opportunity to maneuver for a decent shot when game is encountered.

If I were you, hunting where you do and dealing with your mobility limitations, I'd want a pointing dog that gave me some time to get into decent shooting position and stayed close enough to let me choose which slopes I must climb to get to birds.
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Grouse and Springers

Postby Shawn » Sun May 04, 2003 6:14 pm

Strangely enough I've had very good luck with flushing dogs in tight cover and in really heavy cover I honestly doubt the pointing dog owner is going to be able to position himself just tight to flush a nervous grouse (maybe a bird of the year in early season) but not a bird that's been moved around. Funny in the northeast we have pretty heavy cover and it doesn't and many grouse fall to springers, labs the odd golden or beagle.

The one valid point is if the birds are sparse and the cover disjointed than a good pointer or setter will simply cover more ground and should find more birds but that's if you don't mind the dog getting out there or mind the task of finding the dog on a limb find.

Since I don't live in W. VA I can't comment on the types of cover but it's funny that their are some really big covers in VT, NH and Maine and we silly little springer runners seem to find birds just fine. I wouldn't say they are better than a Setter but they seem to perform just fine and they are excellent markers, retrievers and will perform water work.
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Postby Rick Hall » Mon May 05, 2003 7:41 am

Shawn - Seems like everyone on the internet deals with spookier grouse than I've found, even on Ohio's relatively hard hunted public lands. Don't know if it's because of an amazing run of dumb birds, the places we've hunted, the dogs used or the manner of approaching points, but you can dang well betcha I've enjoyed a whole lot better odds of positioning myself for a favorable shot over pointers than behind flushers.

Same goes for woodcock. The heavier the cover, the more apt I am to pass it up, unless I have the pointing dog in the truck. When it's important that well kill some birds, rather than just listening to them go, I've been known to park by super woodcock cover while hunting ducks and yet opt to drive several miles back to camp, swap our retriever/flusher for one that points and drive back to hunt that cover in a less frustrating manner.

It's nice that you and others enjoy grousing over your springers, but that won't make them a lick more popular or effective in TC's neck of the woods.
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Postby thunderchicken » Mon May 05, 2003 1:36 pm

Rick,

You are correct most people here use pointing breeds, the dog of choice here is the English Setter, interestingly enough most are big running. I know of only one man who hunts with a Lab, he had polio as a child and doesn't want to try to keep up with anything very fast. He is an excellent woodsman with more quality years in the field than anyone I know. He is a straight shooter both literally and figuratively, he gets his fair share of grouse, but only hunts in the early part of the season. I've been trying to get up with him to see how well his lab really is in the field. I absolutely love to see a dog point, you know as well as I do that 1 flush an hour is pretty good here, so it takes a special dog to keep plugging away until they find the birds. The main problem with my GSP is that if she isn't into birds within 30 minutes or so she starts ranging farther out. I usually call her in, try to calm her down and release her again. I think this year will really mature her fully into a grouse dog, she was just to high strung before. I like the idea of a spaniel, and would consider one as part of the total package of hunting this wonderful bird. The smaller coverts of some of the abandoned farms, near more urban areas, then their retrieving skills for dove shoots and so on. Just trying to get some ideas.
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Postby Birdhunter » Mon May 05, 2003 2:37 pm

I don't see how you do it. I can see how a flushing dog could be valuable for pheasants in the open terrain where they live. But I can't imagine hunting behind a flushing dog in the woods. I have never hunted ruffed grouse but I have hunted a lot of woodcock. It is my understanding that they live in similar terrain and are often hunted together. Woodcock I think are the slowest game bird and I am pretty sure that ruffed grouse are faster. That being said woodcock can be very hard to hit. Even when a dog points and you have time to position yourself they are very adept at putting a tree between yourself and them. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to have to be on constant alert and lightning fast on your shooting to hit one that flushes unexpectedly in front of a close working flushing dog. And the dog would have to work even closer than a flusher in the open just to give you time to find the bird on the flush. All that being said I know that cocker spaniels derive their name from flushing up woodcock so I guess it can be done.
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Endless argument

Postby Shawn » Mon May 05, 2003 4:40 pm

Rick,

How odd that we poor spaniel fanciers seem to be able to shoot grouse and woodcock just fine. For some odd reason some birds actually flush right back at the gun, I don't know how one gets an easier shot.

At several of the cover tials I'v attended I always been amazed at how often the handler and judge seldom know exactly where the bird will flush from. Even on TV in tight cover I'm always amazed at how hard it seems for Dez, they guy's on Grays SJ. the guy's on the Handler on Shotgun Journal to actually see the bird flush. Even the rare treat of going oout with a firend who has a Britt or Mike who has a GSP and how they seem to get tandled up or miss the flush always amazes me, maybe they should move down to your neck of the woods were shooting is better. :roll:
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Postby Rick Hall » Mon May 05, 2003 4:51 pm

Shawn - Reckon grouse hunters are just slow learners. Two hundred years of chasing the boogers with dogs, and the vast majority of them still haven't come around to your view of the thing. Maybe in another couple hundred...
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200 Years

Postby Shawn » Thu May 08, 2003 5:07 pm

Rick,

Beleive what you please but lets get real, the pursuit of grouse over dogs is hardly a 200 year event. In some of the old American manuals Spaniels were very much admired for their ability to furnish shooting and much of what we have come to believe about dogs developed post civil war pursuing quail not grouse.

If you read Foster, Sheldon etc, first off you realize how few people hunted grouse period not to mention grouse with a dog. No the sport of the day was hounds and foxes or shooting waterfowl not the sad little grouse. All the lore of the land "Pointers and Setters" really found it's way into the american grouse hunter via writers like Foster and later Spiller and Ford.

Funny isn't it that in the land of the Pointers, Setters and Spaniels no one would use a Pointer or Setter in tight cover, in all those tight covers in the UK (England, Scotland and Ireland) the Spaniel rules. I guess your right we are slow learners but more and more hunters are selecting spaniels and retreivers for their grouse hunting and I'm pretty confident that today as many if not more grouse fall to the guns of men hunting behind flushing dogs and that's probably going to increase.
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Postby fattire » Fri May 09, 2003 4:04 pm

I hunt with a lab and hunt with a buddies Springer every year and have hunted with many good Springer over the years. A good Springer should be able to hunt upland and ducks. A good Springer should hunt like a close working pointing dog but flush birds. They should retrieve to hand naturally.

I have had owned several britts and labs.

For quail and grouse a pointing dog is better than a flushing dog. For pheasant any hard hunting controlled dog flushing or pointing works well.

Springer and pointing dogs have equal noses and better than labs I will admit.

Labs learn to pheasant hunt springers and pointing breeds just do it.

I am able to get out on a lot of wild birds pheasant with my lab so she is great and I do a lot of duck and goose hunting on a big river.

My buddies GSP find a few more roosters than my lab but she ends up helping them find more downed birds after the shot.

My hunting buddy and me hunt with my lab and his GSP and often joined by two other guys with a Springer and a Britt.

For me having a dog that hunts downed birds as hard as looking for new ones is very important. If a dog will not search hard for shot birds I do not consider it a good bird dog. I have hunted with plenty of pointing dogs that retrieve very well all my britts did. I just don't like it when guys do not put the time into their bird dogs training to find shot birds.

Springers are excellent upland dogs and work very well for ducks.
Hunting without a dog is just shooting.
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Postby Rick Hall » Sat May 10, 2003 7:20 am

Shawn - "Believe what you please, but let's get real."

Foster didn't invent grouse hunting with dogs. Folks have probably been fooling with it since about the time someone decided to try dividing the big round ball into lots of little ones.

And once it got to the point where information on such things was commonly shared through the written word, the Yankee grousers of old were likely every bit as apt to point to the perceived disparities between their needs and the quail hunters' as they are today.

And what I've read of flusher use in dense British woodcock cover has gunners surrounding those patches of cover and the dogs and their handler going in to drive birds into the open. Making woodcocking there sort of like miniature driven grouse, rather than what most know it as here.

In any event, the ottom line is: pointing dog use has flurished among grousers while flushing dog use has dragged behind by a whopping margin. And it's highly likely that a good percentage of the relatively few grousers using flushers do so because they favor them for other work. IE: most are probably Labs that double on waterfowl.

None of which is meant to imply you shouldn enjoy the path you have chosen.
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"Get Real"

Postby Shawn » Sat May 10, 2003 4:06 pm

Rick,

Sorry but you don't have a clue what your talking about.

To even believe that folks have sport hunted for grouse to 200 years borders in ludicrous. Few if any folks had the money or resources to own a "sporting dog". Where all the grouse lore was written "New England" hunting over dogs was fairly rare, more grouse were potted along railroad tracks, shot in trees etc. than were ever taken over nice points.

It was the southern traditions of Pointers and Setters used by post civil war quail hunters and field triallers that set the course for pointing dogs, that's what men wanted down there and when theuy came back thats what they wanted.

Unless you can point me to all the hutning lore or records of grouse hunters using pointers and setters in the 1800's (I don't remember reading about Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone with his trusty setter downing grouse) then I'd say your full of some of that Cajun white light'n.

Tou seem to pull out that one poll from a little periodical subscribed to many by pointing dog owners as proof poisitive of your views. And before you give me the lowdown on British Shooting traditions maybe you should do a little more research. Plenty of game is rough shot (not as much as driven shooting but still plenty and guess what seldom ever is a pointing dog used and these guy's are serious because game is sold to market. If you ever see any of the tapes of the British Nationals (Spaniel Championship) it will quickly demonstrate the complete folly of your post. No offense but you simply are just wrong.
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This real enough?

Postby Rick Hall » Sun May 11, 2003 12:01 pm

Shawn wrote:Rick,

Sorry but you don't have a clue what your talking about.

To even believe that folks have sport hunted for grouse to 200 years borders in ludicrous. Few if any folks had the money or resources to own a "sporting dog". Where all the grouse lore was written "New England" hunting over dogs was fairly rare, more grouse were potted along railroad tracks, shot in trees etc. than were ever taken over nice points.

It was the southern traditions of Pointers and Setters used by post civil war quail hunters and field triallers that set the course for pointing dogs, that's what men wanted down there and when theuy came back thats what they wanted.

Unless you can point me to all the hutning lore or records of grouse hunters using pointers and setters in the 1800's (I don't remember reading about Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone with his trusty setter downing grouse) then I'd say your full of some of that Cajun white light'n.


Shawn, I haven't had a drink in over a dozen years, how 'bout you?

My library is meager, but the earliest mention a look there turned up of sport hunting grouse over pointing dogs in this country is a piece titled "Heath-Hen Shooting on Long Island" published in The Sportsman's Companion in 1783. The birds referenced were actually prairie grouse then found on Long Island, but I think it "borders on ludicrous" to assume they didn't also pop the ruffed grouse found in nearby woodlands.

The earliest reference that quick scan showed for shooting ruffed grouse, per se, over pointing dogs was from a fellow named Henry William Herbert, who became quite popular under the pen name "Frank Forester" and frequently wrote of employing them on grouse in the US and Canada as early as 1831. Which, if memory of my history lessons serves, was well prior to the Civil War. And, again, I believe it "borders on ludicrous" to think Herbert/Forester invented the practice. My references, btw, point to British, rather than carpet-bagging influences.

Tou seem to pull out that one poll from a little periodical subscribed to many by pointing dog owners as proof poisitive of your views.


Proof positive? No. Evidence available, yes. But "Grouse Tales" isn't just subscribed to by pointing dog owners, as you seem to imply. It's geared toward gung-ho grousers in general - all but 11% (6% favored Labs and 5% springers) of which happend to have overwhelmingly favored pointing dogs for grouse hunting. Perhaps you can point to stats showing flushers to be more popular with grousers than pointing dogs?

And before you give me the lowdown on British Shooting traditions maybe you should do a little more research. Plenty of game is rough shot (not as much as driven shooting but still plenty and guess what seldom ever is a pointing dog used and these guy's are serious because game is sold to market. If you ever see any of the tapes of the British Nationals (Spaniel Championship) it will quickly demonstrate the complete folly of your post. No offense but you simply are just wrong.


Didn't know the Brits were focused on shooting their upland game, much less in the woods, for the market. Was my impression they shot for sport and then sold much of the game as a secondary means of subsidizing a fraction of that sport. Also didn't know that shooting woodcock in cover was part of the British Nationals, but that would hardly demonstrate "the complete folly" of repeating what I've read of the practice of flushers driving woodcock to guns outside the cover. That doing so was reported to be common practice certainly doesn't mean I doubt some folks also follow flushers into the woods with guns - just as Brits who hunt woodcock with pointing dogs do. I'd be surprised if some didn't.

Couldn't speak to the veracity of your claim that pointing dogs are seldom ever used in England, but do know wealthy Brits who weren't well enough born or connected to enjoy as much as they'd like of their own country's woodcocking used to take their dogs to France to hunt them there. And thank goodness many of them were pointing dogs, or those who thought such outcrosses valuable might have screwed up that great little French cover dog, the Brittany.

Perhaps those early woodcockers tried Brittany/springer crosses, too. But I've seen no record of it and wouldn't want to speculate on where that might have led. Just know what wound up popular with Amercan woodcock and grouse hunters.
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Postby thunderchicken » Tue May 13, 2003 12:14 pm

Ive seen the word cover dog used more than once lately. What is a cover dog????
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