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Pheasant Hunting With Rescue Dogs

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September 29, 2011

Pheasant Hunting With Rescue Dogs

By Chad Love

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of expending a truly inordinate number of Federal's new Prairie Storm FS Steel shotgun shells during a pheasant hunt at Dakota Hunting Farms in Hecla, South Dakota. The hunt was jointly sponsored by Federal Premium Ammunition, Pheasants Forever and Benelli.

I discovered many new things on this hunt, but these three stand out: the Prairie Storm FS steel loads work very, very well on pheasants and will be an absolute boon to those of us who hunt steel-shot areas, the new 28-gauge Benelli Legacy is sweeter than my grandmother's cinnamon rolls, and when your guide tells you that the dog who just flushed and then retrieved the pheasant you shot isn't a lab, but rather a lab/Dalmatian mix, don't let your jaw hit the ground, 'cause there's stickers down there.

That's right, many of the dogs at this first-class hunting operation aren't registered high-dollar dogs from big kennels, but rescue dogs; cast-off, abandoned, forsaken, unwanted, a motley crew of shorthairs, wirehairs, labs, weimaraners, weimie/wirehair crosses, shorthair/wirehair crosses and probably a few others I didn’t notice or couldn’t recognize. Not a high-born blueblood among them, just a scruffy, convivial lot of good-natured canine Everydawgs. And what a joy they were to watch spreading out across the fields like the Dirty Dozen, finding, pointing and/or flushing bird after bird and then methodically picking up the ones that fell before the guns.

According to guide and lodge manager Gabrielle Meyer, the lodge's dog string includes a number of dogs rescued from area shelters or left abandoned at vet offices when their owners couldn't or wouldn't pay the vet bill. In fact, "Molly" the lab quartering in front of us wasn't a lab at all, but the aforementioned lab/Dalmation mix, and Molly worked the field as well as any flusher I've ever hunted behind. In fact, all these dogs did was hunt, and hunt well. It was a hoot to watch them, and it's refreshing to see someone - especially a hunting lodge that could easily afford the most expensive dogs out there - give these dogs a second chance to do what they love to do.

"In all my gun-dog life, the finest dog who ever took me hunting was a three-quarter English pointer, one-quarter German shorthaired pointer named George. He only had one ear; as a pup his daddy had bit the other one off. This was a road-hunting dog, working out the back of a pick-up breaking at the sound of the safety. He hunted for a man named Gyp who shot a Western Auto shotgun with a sawed-of barrel. The front sight consisted of a penny-pencil red eraser held on top the barrel with electrical tape. Now, that's not fancy, and it sure 'aint classic, but this dog and this man put meat on the table."

That's Bill Tarrant, from his book "How to Hunt Birds With Gun Dogs." I think Tarrant would have gotten a helluva kick hunting with the second-chance dogs of Dakota Hunting Farms. I know I did.

Comments (30)

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from vasportsman wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

Was online last night looking at a beautiful looking pointer setter mix that was an owner surrender to the local humane society, great post!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jeff Bowers wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

Thank you. Some people don't get it that "undocumented" rescues are as fine a hunter as any other.

Love to see rescues that work that happy, too.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Levi Banks wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

My GSP(certain)/lab(not so certain) mix was free, she is as birdy as can be, I maybe could have turned her into a pointing dog, but was lax in training. She loves to find and flush all manner of gamebird, she sits well with me in the weeds while hunting ducks and no matter what (including bow and arrow), when, or where you shoot she wants to find the bird that surely hit the ground as a result. She's my first dog that's my own, but I couldn't imagine a better one.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from OutdoorEnvy wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

That's funny this was posted as I'm looking at maybe adopting a goldern retriever from a rescue club. I'm hoping to find one that will hunt as I just can't break my lab of being gun shy...I've tried everything.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

Best dog I will ever own was a lab/golden mix. Only paid $35 for her. Unlike the rescue dogs, though, I had the pleasure to view Ethyl's mother before I picked her out. There are some fine stories coming out of the shelters. But there are a LOT of not-so-happy endings too. Sad to say, dogs frequently wind up in the shelter because they are incorrigible.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from berniedog wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

I have a black lab who was a rescue dog. He was picked up as a stray off the streets of Philadelphia and surrendered to a no kill rescue in Quakertown where we were lucky enough to meet. He flushes pheasant on the preserve (no wild birds in PA), and hunts duck and goose with me. He's not the best gun dog but he's still learning and very eager to please. More importantly, he's a great dog around the house and with my 7 month old son.

There are always incredible dogs who need homes out there.

Check out www.petfinder.com

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bass2Buck wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

This just proves that you dont need a 10K dog to have a good hunt.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Joe Derringer wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

I think this is great since my dog is a lab mix...my wife found him as a stray in Kentucky working at a Vet hospital...he does great for waterfowl and did pretty good dove hunting this year....

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Joe Derringer wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

@bernie...i agree mine is not the best cause I am not the best trainer but he works his but off for me and loves it and loves to be out hunting...he gets all excited just when I grab my gun to move it..

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jeff Bowers wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

SoILLHunter: How was he a stray if he was working in a Vet hospital?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from DSMbirddog wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

This was a great story about giving a dog a chance, even if not purebred. I lost my Brit a year ago in August and last May took a chance on Ginger a weimie/shepherd cross breed. She's birdie so far and I will take her hunting the first few times by myself to see what she will do. Even if she ends up not hunting she is still a great dog around the house.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Nixstyx wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

I love to hear these great stories of dogs getting a new lease on life. A few years ago we adopted a weimaraner who was abandoned by her owner. She had never been hunting before, and when we got her, she was terrified of everything from cars to loud noises. I thought hunting with her was out of the question, but we took her out one day just to see what would happen. She didn't know what to do at first, but eventually we bumped and shot a grouse. After that it was like flipping a switch. She started finding and pointing birds that same day. She died of cancer last year, but those days in the field were the happiest I ever saw her.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from FlyBorchetti wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

That's a great story that brought a tear to my eye. Thanks for sharing.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from shadbuster wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

Dogs I hunted with when I was a kid weren't even hunting breeds just a bunch of mutts and a purebreed Rottweiler, any dog can be taught to hunt a little 10 lb toy breed looking mutt and the Rottweiler were my best boar flushing dogs.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hornd wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

I have a rescued Chesapeake Lab that is a great dog, but afraid of the water! My guess is a traumatic experience as a pup. The old adage holds that One man's trash is another mans treasure.
More often than not a dog is "bad" because the owner fails to take the time to train them.
Many complain of their dog being high strung yet they never exercise (walk) them.
Mine gets 1.5 miles everyday (all weather). It's good for me and him, and he sleeps much better.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Nyflyangler wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

It's not hard to find pure breed rescue dogs. Use petfinder.com or do a google search for whatever breed you want rescue. You'll be surprised what you can find.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Coachcl wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

Love this post. I hunt with 2 English setters right now. Pure Blood. But I also found a little mutt, part min pin, part something else....and he is the most devoted dog I have ever owned. Too many people just throw these types of dogs out and figure they aren't worth anything. Although mine doesn't hunt. He does serve his purpose of companionship and bullying the larger setters around. For sure lives the small dog complex life.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

If you love dogs as I do, it is not hard to find virtue in any animal that loves to hunt and share the sport with you. As a kid, I probably killed more wild quail with a nondescript 'drop' (1/2 pointer, 1/2 setter) that just 'took up' around our house and ended up being a permanent resident. She was the ultimate family dog and a heck of a quail finding machine. Not big running, but worked cover where she knew birds should be. In those days, I had no idea of what 'steady to flush and shot' meant but she was. RIP: Molly.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Joe Derringer wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

@jeff it was an equine vet hospital that my wife worked at and one vet found the litter on the side of the road...so he was the last pup so she took him...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

SolLhunter, I think that guy was just being sarcastic. Don't pay any attention. We're not sticklers on grammar or spelling here and most of us don't appreciate those who ridicule others for their shortcomings. If anyone wants to have a bit of fun with someone else for their writing style, add a smiley or something so we know you're not being serious.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from spentcartridge wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

This post sure resonated with the masses, and for good reason. Non-purebreds don't get a lot of press, maybe because it's hard to tie them to one breed and hunters tend to be loyal and a bit partial to their breeds. The fact that's often overlooked is that all breeds were, at one point, a mutt of some sort. The ones that performed well were bred into a 'breed'.

Any dog that works well in the field is a good hunting dog and any dog that gets along with the family and doesn't tear up the house is a fine dog. I hope that as this economy tightens rescue dogs will get more of a look. Wouldn't take more than a few years for this to be the new vogue, and that would suit me fine.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jerry A. wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

Great story.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jeff Bowers wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Jeez, people. How thin-skinned can you get?

No, it was not a grammar dig, it was not an insult by any stretch of the imagination.

It was an out-of-context pun. Those who know me know if I'm irked, you know it.

If people have absolutely no sense of humor at all, why be on this site? At least I'm not foaming at the mouth using this as a political broadcast. Lighten up!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Jeez, Jeff, YOU lighten up! I'm not sure what the difference is between a "grammar dig" and an "out of context pun." A very fine line for sure. In any event, the point made - and it's a very good one - is that if you want to have fun with what some of these guys write, make sure they know it is just fun. Wasn't clear to me that it wasn't sarcasm, and obviously the butt of the humor didn't know it either. I think he might even be feeling a little foolish right now and none of us wants that. Once in a while I may take a jab at people on here by employing a bit of sarcasm, but I always make sure they know I'm only having fun ("heh, heh").

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Jeff, I'm VERY pleased you're not one of the "political broadcast" crowd. The volume of partisan propogandizing on here wears very thin with me too!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from dogwood wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

The rescue dog programs throughout the states are wonderful both our four-legged and two-legged friends. A buddy lost his Boykin to a rattler several years ago and his wife located another Boykin a 1000 miles away through Boykin rescue. The dog's owner had passed away and a new home was needed. It was a perfect match and the dog is a first class retriever in the field.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from resq wrote 2 years 24 weeks ago

we get a lot of high dollar dogs surrendered to us because people do not have the time for them or training. we have a rescue who is a hunt guide in Sd as well as a trainer who works with our dogs that want to hunt.They all get great family homes! Rescue dogs are not always broken and this was a great article to see!
www.greatpointers.org NE and IA

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kpw Lee wrote 2 years 24 weeks ago

My dog is some sort of pointer/monster mix and is incredible on birds. He'll point, flush and retrieve. We got him from a local shelter knowing nothing of his heritage. I am too naive to get the best from him but when I took him to a bird dog trainer the guy was basically drooling over him. I am also active in weim & gsp rescue groups and there are a ton of great dogs out there, ready to be put to work!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Max Barker wrote 2 years 23 weeks ago

I've never had a dog that wasn't a mixed breed. Get a dog of the right disposition and it may be the best hunting partner you'll ever have.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from phantomfly wrote 16 weeks 3 days ago

Just finished training a Staffordshire Terrier/Lab Bernese Mountian dog to hunt pheasants in SD. She is a joy ! She hunts like a champ and is force broken to retrieve to heel and hand.I have had no problem keeping her off non game animals. I found her in an Aberdeen SD shelter where they couldn't handle her because she was so wild from being cooped up and a lack of training. We are going to have a great time together. I recommend rescue.

Quote: "All I know about dogs,a horse taught me." Delmar Smith

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from berniedog wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

I have a black lab who was a rescue dog. He was picked up as a stray off the streets of Philadelphia and surrendered to a no kill rescue in Quakertown where we were lucky enough to meet. He flushes pheasant on the preserve (no wild birds in PA), and hunts duck and goose with me. He's not the best gun dog but he's still learning and very eager to please. More importantly, he's a great dog around the house and with my 7 month old son.

There are always incredible dogs who need homes out there.

Check out www.petfinder.com

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from vasportsman wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

Was online last night looking at a beautiful looking pointer setter mix that was an owner surrender to the local humane society, great post!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jeff Bowers wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

Thank you. Some people don't get it that "undocumented" rescues are as fine a hunter as any other.

Love to see rescues that work that happy, too.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

Best dog I will ever own was a lab/golden mix. Only paid $35 for her. Unlike the rescue dogs, though, I had the pleasure to view Ethyl's mother before I picked her out. There are some fine stories coming out of the shelters. But there are a LOT of not-so-happy endings too. Sad to say, dogs frequently wind up in the shelter because they are incorrigible.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bass2Buck wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

This just proves that you dont need a 10K dog to have a good hunt.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Joe Derringer wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

I think this is great since my dog is a lab mix...my wife found him as a stray in Kentucky working at a Vet hospital...he does great for waterfowl and did pretty good dove hunting this year....

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from DSMbirddog wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

This was a great story about giving a dog a chance, even if not purebred. I lost my Brit a year ago in August and last May took a chance on Ginger a weimie/shepherd cross breed. She's birdie so far and I will take her hunting the first few times by myself to see what she will do. Even if she ends up not hunting she is still a great dog around the house.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Nixstyx wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

I love to hear these great stories of dogs getting a new lease on life. A few years ago we adopted a weimaraner who was abandoned by her owner. She had never been hunting before, and when we got her, she was terrified of everything from cars to loud noises. I thought hunting with her was out of the question, but we took her out one day just to see what would happen. She didn't know what to do at first, but eventually we bumped and shot a grouse. After that it was like flipping a switch. She started finding and pointing birds that same day. She died of cancer last year, but those days in the field were the happiest I ever saw her.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from shadbuster wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

Dogs I hunted with when I was a kid weren't even hunting breeds just a bunch of mutts and a purebreed Rottweiler, any dog can be taught to hunt a little 10 lb toy breed looking mutt and the Rottweiler were my best boar flushing dogs.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hornd wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

I have a rescued Chesapeake Lab that is a great dog, but afraid of the water! My guess is a traumatic experience as a pup. The old adage holds that One man's trash is another mans treasure.
More often than not a dog is "bad" because the owner fails to take the time to train them.
Many complain of their dog being high strung yet they never exercise (walk) them.
Mine gets 1.5 miles everyday (all weather). It's good for me and him, and he sleeps much better.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Nyflyangler wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

It's not hard to find pure breed rescue dogs. Use petfinder.com or do a google search for whatever breed you want rescue. You'll be surprised what you can find.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Coachcl wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

Love this post. I hunt with 2 English setters right now. Pure Blood. But I also found a little mutt, part min pin, part something else....and he is the most devoted dog I have ever owned. Too many people just throw these types of dogs out and figure they aren't worth anything. Although mine doesn't hunt. He does serve his purpose of companionship and bullying the larger setters around. For sure lives the small dog complex life.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

If you love dogs as I do, it is not hard to find virtue in any animal that loves to hunt and share the sport with you. As a kid, I probably killed more wild quail with a nondescript 'drop' (1/2 pointer, 1/2 setter) that just 'took up' around our house and ended up being a permanent resident. She was the ultimate family dog and a heck of a quail finding machine. Not big running, but worked cover where she knew birds should be. In those days, I had no idea of what 'steady to flush and shot' meant but she was. RIP: Molly.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Joe Derringer wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

@jeff it was an equine vet hospital that my wife worked at and one vet found the litter on the side of the road...so he was the last pup so she took him...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from spentcartridge wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

This post sure resonated with the masses, and for good reason. Non-purebreds don't get a lot of press, maybe because it's hard to tie them to one breed and hunters tend to be loyal and a bit partial to their breeds. The fact that's often overlooked is that all breeds were, at one point, a mutt of some sort. The ones that performed well were bred into a 'breed'.

Any dog that works well in the field is a good hunting dog and any dog that gets along with the family and doesn't tear up the house is a fine dog. I hope that as this economy tightens rescue dogs will get more of a look. Wouldn't take more than a few years for this to be the new vogue, and that would suit me fine.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Jeff, I'm VERY pleased you're not one of the "political broadcast" crowd. The volume of partisan propogandizing on here wears very thin with me too!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from resq wrote 2 years 24 weeks ago

we get a lot of high dollar dogs surrendered to us because people do not have the time for them or training. we have a rescue who is a hunt guide in Sd as well as a trainer who works with our dogs that want to hunt.They all get great family homes! Rescue dogs are not always broken and this was a great article to see!
www.greatpointers.org NE and IA

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Levi Banks wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

My GSP(certain)/lab(not so certain) mix was free, she is as birdy as can be, I maybe could have turned her into a pointing dog, but was lax in training. She loves to find and flush all manner of gamebird, she sits well with me in the weeds while hunting ducks and no matter what (including bow and arrow), when, or where you shoot she wants to find the bird that surely hit the ground as a result. She's my first dog that's my own, but I couldn't imagine a better one.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from OutdoorEnvy wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

That's funny this was posted as I'm looking at maybe adopting a goldern retriever from a rescue club. I'm hoping to find one that will hunt as I just can't break my lab of being gun shy...I've tried everything.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Joe Derringer wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

@bernie...i agree mine is not the best cause I am not the best trainer but he works his but off for me and loves it and loves to be out hunting...he gets all excited just when I grab my gun to move it..

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jeff Bowers wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

SoILLHunter: How was he a stray if he was working in a Vet hospital?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from FlyBorchetti wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

That's a great story that brought a tear to my eye. Thanks for sharing.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

SolLhunter, I think that guy was just being sarcastic. Don't pay any attention. We're not sticklers on grammar or spelling here and most of us don't appreciate those who ridicule others for their shortcomings. If anyone wants to have a bit of fun with someone else for their writing style, add a smiley or something so we know you're not being serious.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jerry A. wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

Great story.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jeff Bowers wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Jeez, people. How thin-skinned can you get?

No, it was not a grammar dig, it was not an insult by any stretch of the imagination.

It was an out-of-context pun. Those who know me know if I'm irked, you know it.

If people have absolutely no sense of humor at all, why be on this site? At least I'm not foaming at the mouth using this as a political broadcast. Lighten up!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Jeez, Jeff, YOU lighten up! I'm not sure what the difference is between a "grammar dig" and an "out of context pun." A very fine line for sure. In any event, the point made - and it's a very good one - is that if you want to have fun with what some of these guys write, make sure they know it is just fun. Wasn't clear to me that it wasn't sarcasm, and obviously the butt of the humor didn't know it either. I think he might even be feeling a little foolish right now and none of us wants that. Once in a while I may take a jab at people on here by employing a bit of sarcasm, but I always make sure they know I'm only having fun ("heh, heh").

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from dogwood wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

The rescue dog programs throughout the states are wonderful both our four-legged and two-legged friends. A buddy lost his Boykin to a rattler several years ago and his wife located another Boykin a 1000 miles away through Boykin rescue. The dog's owner had passed away and a new home was needed. It was a perfect match and the dog is a first class retriever in the field.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kpw Lee wrote 2 years 24 weeks ago

My dog is some sort of pointer/monster mix and is incredible on birds. He'll point, flush and retrieve. We got him from a local shelter knowing nothing of his heritage. I am too naive to get the best from him but when I took him to a bird dog trainer the guy was basically drooling over him. I am also active in weim & gsp rescue groups and there are a ton of great dogs out there, ready to be put to work!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Max Barker wrote 2 years 23 weeks ago

I've never had a dog that wasn't a mixed breed. Get a dog of the right disposition and it may be the best hunting partner you'll ever have.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from phantomfly wrote 16 weeks 3 days ago

Just finished training a Staffordshire Terrier/Lab Bernese Mountian dog to hunt pheasants in SD. She is a joy ! She hunts like a champ and is force broken to retrieve to heel and hand.I have had no problem keeping her off non game animals. I found her in an Aberdeen SD shelter where they couldn't handle her because she was so wild from being cooped up and a lack of training. We are going to have a great time together. I recommend rescue.

Quote: "All I know about dogs,a horse taught me." Delmar Smith

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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