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?