How do Spaniels hunt?

Spaniel breed specific questions. Kennel information requests, etc.

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Postby Rick Hall » Tue May 13, 2003 4:15 pm

TC - I used it generically to refer to dogs used in grouse and woodcock type cover. You may have read/heard of "cover dog trials," which are run on grouse and woodcock, and I reckon their participants might refer to "cover dogs" as dogs competing in those trials to differentiate them from dogs run in other trial formats. Could be some would frown on my more liberal interpretation. Dunno.
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Postby stephen brown » Fri May 16, 2003 3:34 pm

I loath the ESC key.....good bye long post.

Rick, I've had my silent hunters and my ranging hunters. All have been retrievers that where pressed into hunting the uplands. All have had to be belled. They where good hunters and provided good hunting if you could keep them in range. They're retrievers and don't have the necessary traits for upland hunting bred into them.

Birdhunter, hunting with flushers is not easy. Given time and the right dog, you'll have enough time to sense the flush and position yourself for a shot. It's not everyones cup of tea and I think you have a bent and twisted personality to hunt with a flushing dog. Or just enjoy being around them that you don't mind getting lousy shots.

TC, 1 flush/hr is poor hunting. A good flusher is a beater with a nose that will not miss a bird in its path and produces some shootable birds. The likely hood of getting delayed flushes depends on level you train the dog and the location of the birds. Expect all birds up at once.
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Postby thunderchicken » Fri May 16, 2003 5:37 pm

Stephen,

I know that one flush per hour isn't good as compared to other areas. We are not blessed with an abundance of birds and most hunters supplement their hunting with preserves. Seems like alot of work for such poor shooting, but then again you are talking about averages, there have been days that I'll move six birds within two hours. I think that one of the reasons it is so hard to train really good dogs here is how hard the hunting is. There are several people that will disagree with me, and it all depends on what part of the state you are in. Rick has experience in the Ohio Valley area of the state, I come from another part of the state that has some of the best hunting around. What takes the averages down are those who are hunting the wrong place at the wrong time. Something else I've noticed is that the grouse don't seem to cycle as drastically here as they are reported to do in the Northeast or the Great Lake areas. The RFG society recently published a study that was conducted here. One of the study areas is less than two miles from my home. Makes for some interesting reading, we have a mortality rate for chicks of around 80% a year here, whether the birds are hunted or not adults have a 59%. The trick I've found is to find a good clear cut or strip mine that has 6 year growth in it, the averages sky rocket then, but you know it is still a numbers game.
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Postby Rick Hall » Fri May 16, 2003 5:41 pm

stephen brown wrote:I loath the ESC key.....good bye long post.

They're retrievers and don't have the necessary traits for upland hunting bred into them.



Grrr... My first Chessie was an upland hunting son of a gun. Pretty much legendary in this area and with out of staters who hunted with him as a waterfowl dog, but I honestly believe he prefered the uplands. Unquenchable prey drive and the coat, build and stamia to hunt hard as long as I could or would. Not pretty like a bright colored, high drive springer but he could and would hang. Had him at the very peak of my quail killing period and even let my long time pointing dog ownership lapse for a few years of it, 'cause Bud and I were doing so well without one. Am convinced that the prey drive he showed in the uplands was much of the reason he was such a fine retriever of long, hard waterfowl.

Current Chessie is more of a sport. Wrong coat and build for warm weather upland endurance. And his prey drive is pretty much proportional to the availabilty of game. When the hunting's good, he's a dead serious hunter. But when it slacks off, his enthusiasm wanes.

When waterfowling, he's a comfortable companion that marks well and handles as far as he can see or hear direction. An absolute retrieving fool. But he lacks the prey drive to stick with the search for the really tough stuff for long once he's out of contact. My morning blind last season was in a genuine booger of a marsh, and the "retriever" lost his morning slot to a Brittany that doesn't handle as tight but has more hunt.

In any event, I'm inclined to believe the best retrievers do have what are also the most important upland traits bred in.

And don'tcha hate it when this sucker eats a long post? Maybe it's just me, but when I get especially long winded the site seems to get bored and punishes me my eating the post when I try to submit it. Has put me into the habit of saving ("edit", "copy") anything I've put much time into before I hit "submit".
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Postby stephen brown » Wed May 21, 2003 2:57 pm

This sucker ate another post....

Rick, you just growl and don't bite???

You think on the whole that Chessies make good upland dogs? I think spaniels can do a passable job as retrievers but I wouldn't suggest getting one for a dedicate duck hunter. Also, I wouldn't recomend a spaniels for a dedicated ruff hunter. However, if you like shooting a variety of game when hunting then I'd recommend a spaniel.

TC,

If you stick to the numbers, and you sound like you pay attention to numbers, then I'd go with a pointing dog. Sounds like you're used to pointing dogs. Training and hunting with a flushing dog is a different universe.
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Postby Rick Hall » Wed May 21, 2003 5:03 pm

Stephen - Put me in a bad enough bind, and you can dang well betcha I'll bite. Pull hair, too.

I would suggest that anyone looking for an upland Chessie be very careful choosing his stock. Think you'd be surprised by how many folks use them primarily for upland work (least I've been) and are tickled with 'em, but, as noted, my experience with them in the uplands has been both great and not so. I'll be giving coat and build a harder look next time around, because I very much enjoy flushing dog work in some venues - and moods.

Truth be told, however, I've often thought that, if it weren't for geese, we could get along quite nicely, even in our commercial work, with just the Brittany for all of our hunting. He retrieved up to two dozen ducks a morning from a gosh awful floating marsh most days last season, and the only time he'd drag was on days when too many geese showed, too. 'Course this ain't coastal Maine and we did vest him, but I'd be surprised if a springer of similar blood and given the training and chance wouldn't manage as well.

Reckon I'm the anti-specialist. Know I believe the notion of only certain breeds being "versatile" a silly one.
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Postby thunderchicken » Wed May 21, 2003 9:08 pm

I'm going to go out on a limb here and probably have someone cut it out from under me. But here I go anyway.

I've always thought that training a spaniel would be easier than a pointing dog. Seems the main training would be hup, and quartering. Then if you are going to use it to retrieve alot then blind retrieves and such would take more training. Seems that you could almost hunt with a half trained flusher and do ok, where as a half trained pointing dog is a liability.

What I want to do with a dog is hunt upland birds, have it retrieve doves, and maybe some waterfowl. Nothing to drastic or hard, I want the dog to work with me and provide me with some good shooting. The flushing aspect is appealing as I don't have to fight the tangles so much as I do with a pointing dog. I dunno, I've had a lot of time on my hands lately and have done to much thinking.
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Postby Hunters Edge » Thu May 22, 2003 1:14 am

thunderchicken a half trained dog whether flushing or pointer is a liability. If a flusher will not stay within range guess what? If when the dog is on scent and will not stop, guess what? A half trained dog is a liability no matter what. Both dogs if trained properly takes time and practice.

Will or can a person hunt with a retriever as a flusher, the answer would be yes. Lets reflect on something though the reason why Kings, lords, earls etc.. used pointers to find birds and retrievers to retrieve them is basically this. A flusher to be effective needs to stay within 30yrds of the hunters so quartering he is making a swath of 60yrds. A pointer for the foot hunter not an all age field trial dog usually hunts between 100 to 200 yards from the hunter lets use the smaller number so 100 yards on either side is a 200 yard swath. Now most times you walk or work back to your truck, cabin, home instead of working the same area so the flusher works or searches a 120yrd swath and a pointer a 400 yard swath using the smaller number, it is still more effective in its search because of the ground coverage. I hope this will clear things up as well as the training or lack of it for a flusher or a pointer.

Just between you and me I vote for the continental breeds or versatile breeds. They came about because of individuals (hunters) wanting a dog to find birds as well as retrieve them on land and water, they also wanted dogs to track or be able to recover big game as well. I have no doubt a spanial from a proper breeding can be used on upland but it would be in reference to personal taste not because of its productiveness in the field.
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Postby thunderchicken » Thu May 22, 2003 10:42 am

I guess I was speaking in general terms, seems that a spaniel that has a natural range that keeps them pretty much in gun range, would be easier to train than a pointer which by breeding does not stay in gun range. For example a dog that doesn't hup but is in range will still produce shootable birds. A pointer that isn't staunch won't, because the birds they will flush will be out of range. Any dog that is uncontrollable is a liability.
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Interesting B.S.

Postby Shawn » Thu May 22, 2003 3:10 pm

"reason why Kings, lords, earls etc.. used pointers to find birds and retrievers to retrieve them is basically this"

What unabashed nonsense. What Kings and Lords were such fans of using pointing dogs, certainly not the Kings and Lords of the UK were we in the US got 90+% of our shooting heritage from. The current royals have spaniels and labs and the history of nobility is replete with various breeds of spaniels and labs. Lord Gordon was one of the few to bring along a breed of pointing dog. Though much of wingshooting history the only place a birddog (pointer or setter) was used was on moors or the highlands and even then their were always spaniels and retrievers.

On the continent forthe few who could hunt it was almost exclusively hounds not bird dogs. In France they like to pursue woodcock and a belled bird-dog is the choice but in many area's of northern europe were they can hunt there is a healthy spaniel following including test and trials.

As for ground coverage a pointing dog if working properly will cover more ground but without a doubt will leave holes in it's coverage. I've been hunting and watching dogs for to long to believe all the hype about ground coverage. It's a advantage in large open tracts but even then if you are a savvy hunter you can still use a spaniel to very good effect and I know many folks who do just that.

Sorry for the late reply but I've been to busy to check up on all the internet shannigans.
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Postby Rick Hall » Thu May 22, 2003 4:22 pm

TC - Stephen and Shawn would be better qualified to respond to what you're thinking than I, but I don't know that you'd want a spaniel that didn't have the genetic hustle to carry it well beyond the range at which you'd want to train it to work.
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Postby thunderchicken » Fri May 23, 2003 9:01 pm

where are you at stephen and shawn. Do you have any experience in training a pointing breed and spaniels. Which require more time?
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Postby stephen brown » Sat May 24, 2003 11:26 am

TC,
I've only trained spanels and retrievers, and they've all been trained, more or less, as spaniels. In other words, I don't train my labs like American retriever trainers. I supose my methods would be nearest the English system of training Springers.

Personally, I'd to see Ricks view on the which is harder: retrievers or pointers.

I'll give my views latter in the day.
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Postby Rick Hall » Sat May 24, 2003 12:40 pm

Stephen - What I thought you guys might be much better qualified to opine on than I was whether there are worthwhile flushers that naturally stay within gun range, as I've zip, nada, no experience with such an animal.

As for the relative ease, or not, of training flushers and pointers, so much depends on the individual dog and what you expect of it that I don't know that it's safe to generalize.

I will say that I've not owned a flusher that naturally stayed within gun range, as TC is surmising - and I wouldn't want to. If there is such a thing that still has the drive to find game, and that's all it's owner cares about, then I guess there'd be no training involved.

Of course, if one bought a pointing dog that naturally hunted that close and didn't care whether he was hunting over a flusher or pointer, then it wouldn't much matter whether the dog was staunch on game or not, and there'd be no more training involved than with the official "flusher" of similar disposition. And I have definitely seen continental breed pointing dogs that stayed under foot and wouldn't be apt to accidentally or intentionally put anything up out of range. Wouldn't want to feed any of those, shall we say "less than driven" dogs, either.

It has, however, taken considerably more doing to condition my flushers to stay within gun range than it's taken to condition my pointing dogs to work at what I think the optimum range for them. The former required a good bit of handling, the later little more than the choice of suitable blood and balanced exposure to a variety of cover types. (Teaching pointing dogs to hunt at an artificially close range, for their breeding, requires much the same handling as limiting a flushing dog's range.)

On the other hand, it takes more (and more varied) land to train my kind of pointing dog, as well as more game birds.

Beyond that, however, basic good citizenship, plus "hup" or "whoa" (no matter what), training is essentially the same. And while the flushers also being my primary waterfowing dogs has meant more advanced retrieving work and training for them, I teach both they and my pointing dogs basic retrieving and handling by exactly the same means.

How's that for straddling the fence?
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Postby thunderchicken » Mon May 26, 2003 8:46 am

Rick,

Also understand that I want a dog that stays close due to my mobility problems. I'm just not able to run to keep up with a dog on a hot track. I hunt for leisure and want a leisurely hunt, the weight of the game bag isn't as important as watching the dog work and bagging a bird or to for the dog as much as for my dinner table.
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