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Who Hunts Upland Birds With Flushers?

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December 08, 2011

Who Hunts Upland Birds With Flushers?

By Chad Love

Recently I blogged about trying to turn my duck dog into a flusher. That experiment is ongoing but thanks to the absolute dearth of quail in my area, I haven't yet been able to get my old, set-in-her-ways duck dog into any birds. But my efforts have left me wondering how many of you choose to hunt upland birds with flushers.

Now I don’t mean pheasants, which a great many people (perhaps even a majority) hunt with flushers, with great success. No surprise there. What I mean are the more traditional pointy-dog birds like quail and grouse--particularly quail.

I think there are probably more than you'd think. I have a friend with an American water spaniel who's probably notched more quail contacts this year than my setter. A flusher is exactly how I started out hunting with dogs. My first two real gundogs were a lab and a chessie, respectively. And since I didn’t know any better and only had room for one dog, I hunted everything with them. Ironically my lab, a breed quite well-represented in the uplands, was a mediocre flushing dog while my chessie, a breed more closely associated with big-water duck hunting, was a fantastic quail flushing dog.

In fact, the first quail I ever shot over my own dog, as opposed to someone else’s, was shot over that vacuum-nosed Chesapeake Bay retriever, which might help explain why I fell in love with – and have faithfully remained so ever since – with that particular breed. I shot a fair number of quail behind my chessie before getting my first pointing dog, and when my old pointer finally passed on I went right back to quail hunting with my chessies until I felt I was ready to dip my toe back into the pointy-dog world.

There’s no denying the massive visual appeal of a pointing dog. To bear witness to a beautiful, well-trained pointing dog hitting scent and suddenly transforming from a flowing, liquid form into a carved, immovable chunk of granite is one of the most breathtaking sights in all of hunting. It’s poetry, beautiful poetry. But aesthetics aside, there’s also no denying that a lot of people choose not to own pointing breeds, and in fact routinely commit the bird hunting heresy (in the eyes of pointing dog fans) of hunting behind flushers. And do quite well at it.

I love, absolutely adore my setter and the pointer before her. But at the same time I don’t think I suffered from the experience of spending my first few years quail hunting behind flushers. Everyone knows flushers make superlative pheasant dogs. Everyone knows pointing dogs make superlative quail dogs. Ultimately, however, what matters is the singular joy of being afield with a dog, and thankfully there’s no hard-and-fast rule for achieving that.

Anyone else ever hunted or still prefers to quail hunt behind a flushing dog?

Comments (14)

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from Puffy wrote 2 years 18 weeks ago

I'll take hunting with a flusher who stays close over a far ranging pointer any day. Nothing like seeing late season wild birds that don't hold fly way out of gun range due to a dog that won't stay in.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ejunk wrote 2 years 18 weeks ago

I frequently hunt grouse with a flusher. His name is Richard and, while larger than your average flusher (~5'11", 170 lbs), he does a great job and doesn't eat too much.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ksmdmi wrote 2 years 18 weeks ago

I hunt with a couple of English Cockers and they're about as different as night and day when hunting grouse and woodcock, they do great but I have to keep an eye on them otherwise the male will crash through the next 5 counties and the female can sneak right by a bird and me without us even knowing.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from poetwild wrote 2 years 18 weeks ago

My black lab,Katie, is enthralled with woodcock,grouse,Hungarian partridge and quail. Great nose for the birds and terrific retrieval instincts under the worst conditions. Won't leave home to hunt without her!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 18 weeks ago

You can see my two labs and my "pointy" French Brittany in my profile photos album. I hunt uplands with them all together and generally without restraint (labs allowed to work as flushers). The Brittany pup is just getting the hang of the pointing game and doing well. I am quite thrilled that she did not learn the "evils" of flushing from her lab mentors. Nature cannot be denied.

They hunt woods grouse up here in NW Ontario and all manner of uplands when I get back to Montana every fall. I have never been hunting in quail country but they work fine with huns and sharptails. Personally, I'm not sure which is more exciting, seeing my pointer go from liquid to ice or watching my labs go birdy and then having the quarry explode without warning. I have to admit it is more exciting to shoot birds over my flushers. I know when they're onto a bird but I rarely know when or where the birds are going to get up. Whereas over the pointer it's a total setup. Much less of a rush.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from NCorley wrote 2 years 18 weeks ago

I hunt over flushing Labs and thoroughly enjoy it. Here in Alabama, wild quail used to be much more widespread and almost eveyone had a pointer. Hunting realities have changed, as they have many places. I hunt over Labs because they are so versatile - for a one-dog owner, IMO the Lab is it. Dove, quail, ducks, geese, crows, you name it. Now I have a Lab and a Lab/German shorthair cross (accident). She points but also retrieves well and is coming along nicely as a gun dog.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Serious Birdman wrote 2 years 18 weeks ago

Chad, most Ruffed Grouse Society members have Labs, apparently. I have one just about inbound, will see how it goes....

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from scratchgolf72 wrote 2 years 18 weeks ago

ive shot birds over numerous brittany's, most of which my own brittany has pointed. i only once hunted over a flusher, it was a springer spaniel, and no birds were seen that day. so i will have a bias opinion in this one. i do think that you should hunt upland birds with pointers, but to each his own and if you want to hunt them with flushers go for it, i will have no qualms with you for it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Wags wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

I've been hunting over a flushing setter all this season.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Wouldn't have anything but!! My labs stay close, and work hard when I only hunt ONE AT A TIME! They compete when I take both. But it is a team concept of working together with your best buddy, not what I have witnessed this year with several guys hunting pointers. They follow them with electronics....can be 600-800 yds out on point somewhere! Then they head off to locate their pointer. Not for me. One good aspect, however, is a guy's pointer flushed a rooster for me coming at me following the bird, and the hunter was no where in sight. I talked to him a good 20 min. later.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark-1 wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

Like Wags I hunt over a young 50% flushing Brit. A couple more seasons, a couple more seasons.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Wags wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

Mark-1, I just keep telling myself that the next covey or single is going to be when the light bulb goes on. I've actually gotten a point or two this season, so I think it is just about to sink in. Been all kind of frustrating up to this point (no pun intended).

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Gaston wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

Hunting bobwhites with a flusher?? Havala Babcock and Nash Buckingham would both be rolling in their graves. Just kidding (sort of)...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 2 years 13 weeks ago

Haviliah Babcock, Nash Buckingham, what classics. Babcock's "Jaybirds Go To Hell" and Buckingham's "Great Day in de Mawning" are two of my favorites. They sure don't turn out scribes like that anymore (no offense Chad).

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Puffy wrote 2 years 18 weeks ago

I'll take hunting with a flusher who stays close over a far ranging pointer any day. Nothing like seeing late season wild birds that don't hold fly way out of gun range due to a dog that won't stay in.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ejunk wrote 2 years 18 weeks ago

I frequently hunt grouse with a flusher. His name is Richard and, while larger than your average flusher (~5'11", 170 lbs), he does a great job and doesn't eat too much.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from NCorley wrote 2 years 18 weeks ago

I hunt over flushing Labs and thoroughly enjoy it. Here in Alabama, wild quail used to be much more widespread and almost eveyone had a pointer. Hunting realities have changed, as they have many places. I hunt over Labs because they are so versatile - for a one-dog owner, IMO the Lab is it. Dove, quail, ducks, geese, crows, you name it. Now I have a Lab and a Lab/German shorthair cross (accident). She points but also retrieves well and is coming along nicely as a gun dog.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Wags wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

I've been hunting over a flushing setter all this season.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Wags wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

Mark-1, I just keep telling myself that the next covey or single is going to be when the light bulb goes on. I've actually gotten a point or two this season, so I think it is just about to sink in. Been all kind of frustrating up to this point (no pun intended).

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 2 years 13 weeks ago

Haviliah Babcock, Nash Buckingham, what classics. Babcock's "Jaybirds Go To Hell" and Buckingham's "Great Day in de Mawning" are two of my favorites. They sure don't turn out scribes like that anymore (no offense Chad).

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ksmdmi wrote 2 years 18 weeks ago

I hunt with a couple of English Cockers and they're about as different as night and day when hunting grouse and woodcock, they do great but I have to keep an eye on them otherwise the male will crash through the next 5 counties and the female can sneak right by a bird and me without us even knowing.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from poetwild wrote 2 years 18 weeks ago

My black lab,Katie, is enthralled with woodcock,grouse,Hungarian partridge and quail. Great nose for the birds and terrific retrieval instincts under the worst conditions. Won't leave home to hunt without her!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 18 weeks ago

You can see my two labs and my "pointy" French Brittany in my profile photos album. I hunt uplands with them all together and generally without restraint (labs allowed to work as flushers). The Brittany pup is just getting the hang of the pointing game and doing well. I am quite thrilled that she did not learn the "evils" of flushing from her lab mentors. Nature cannot be denied.

They hunt woods grouse up here in NW Ontario and all manner of uplands when I get back to Montana every fall. I have never been hunting in quail country but they work fine with huns and sharptails. Personally, I'm not sure which is more exciting, seeing my pointer go from liquid to ice or watching my labs go birdy and then having the quarry explode without warning. I have to admit it is more exciting to shoot birds over my flushers. I know when they're onto a bird but I rarely know when or where the birds are going to get up. Whereas over the pointer it's a total setup. Much less of a rush.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Serious Birdman wrote 2 years 18 weeks ago

Chad, most Ruffed Grouse Society members have Labs, apparently. I have one just about inbound, will see how it goes....

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from scratchgolf72 wrote 2 years 18 weeks ago

ive shot birds over numerous brittany's, most of which my own brittany has pointed. i only once hunted over a flusher, it was a springer spaniel, and no birds were seen that day. so i will have a bias opinion in this one. i do think that you should hunt upland birds with pointers, but to each his own and if you want to hunt them with flushers go for it, i will have no qualms with you for it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Wouldn't have anything but!! My labs stay close, and work hard when I only hunt ONE AT A TIME! They compete when I take both. But it is a team concept of working together with your best buddy, not what I have witnessed this year with several guys hunting pointers. They follow them with electronics....can be 600-800 yds out on point somewhere! Then they head off to locate their pointer. Not for me. One good aspect, however, is a guy's pointer flushed a rooster for me coming at me following the bird, and the hunter was no where in sight. I talked to him a good 20 min. later.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark-1 wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

Like Wags I hunt over a young 50% flushing Brit. A couple more seasons, a couple more seasons.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Gaston wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

Hunting bobwhites with a flusher?? Havala Babcock and Nash Buckingham would both be rolling in their graves. Just kidding (sort of)...

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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