Ranking Your Gun Dog: If Gun Dogs Were College Football Stars

I am, as I'm sure many of you are, a big college football fan. As I was watching a game last weekend the announcers were talking about a player who had been lightly recruited out of high school, but had blossomed into a big-time college player.

In recruiting parlance, he had been a lowly three-star recruit, lacking the hype, expectations and fistfuls of scholarship offers of the more desirable, highly-touted four and five-star recruits he was currently kicking all over the field.

And it occurred to me that there are some remarkable parallels between the expectations we place on college athletes based on their recruiting rankings and the expectations we place on our dogs based on pedigrees and price. Just like four or five-star football recruits, dogs that come from titled parents have expectations of greatness. And just like those recruiting rankings, sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't. And sometimes, just like those overlooked, under-recruited superstars-in-waiting, dogs from "undistinguished" lines can turn out to be prodigal talents.

Such is the mystery of chance. You just never can tell. You roll your dice, make your pick and hope. But naturally, that thought led me to start giving "recruiting rankings" to all the dogs I've owned, and many of the dogs I've hunted over.

Most of my dogs have fallen solidly in the "three-star recruit" range: blue-collar dogs of solid, working lineage who sported a smattering of titled dogs scattered throughout their pedigree, as most gundog pedigrees do. And I can honestly say that most of them have lived up to that expectation; just good, reliable field dogs with enough drive and natural talent to get the job done in a workman-like, non-flashy manner. Yeoman dogs. Using the recruiting analogy, most of my dogs would have been small-college recruits, good players who did their jobs, but just didn't have the skill set to play at a big-time school.

But I have owned two dogs who were different than the others. One was an honest-to-goodness "five-star" recruit with an impeccable field trial lineage. He was the product of a very special frozen semen breeding between a long-dead sire and an amazing field trial dam, and he certainly lived up to the expectations I had for him. In fact, I was the one who failed him, miserably, by not following through on the great promise he showed. The other was--based on lineage alone--one of those aforementioned three-star recruits. But she had more drive, more go and gasp-inducing raw talent than any dog I've ever owned, and I'm convinced that had I known what the hell I was doing way back then she could have gone far in the dog game world.

What about you? How would you rank the dogs you've owned, using the college recruiting analogy?