I’m in Montana getting my first hands-on look at the new Garmin Alpha GPS dog-tracking system. And I got the chance yesterday to hunt with (and pick the brain of) pro trainer Nolan Huffman of Beeline Brittanys, who is justly famous for his incredible line of hunting and field trial Brittanys.

Getting the opportunity to hunt behind some of his string was a special treat. Huffman (pictured here) is a North Carolina native who spends every summer and fall training, hunting and guiding on the bird-rich prairies around Lewistown, Mont. As I watched a pair of his Brittanys eat up ground while racing from one patch of cover to the next, handling and working ground efficiently without so much as a whistle or gesture from Nolan, I asked him how he trained his dogs to recognize and focus on good bird cover while avoiding unproductive ground.

“I don’t,” he replied. “Truly exceptional dogs just know. They’re born with it. The trick is to recognize it and try to breed for it.” He continued, “I’ve been breeding and training bird dogs for a long time, and in all my life I believe I’ve only had three truly exceptional dogs. One of them is Rusty (one of the dogs we were hunting over at the time) and the fourth one just might be that little female right there (Cedar, Rusty’s daughter and the other dog we were hunting). They’re rare. Extremely rare. You can, through training and lots of hunting and bird exposure, make a mediocre dog decent and good dog better, but some dogs just have it from the beginning.”

And the two Beeline Brittanys I saw yesterday certainly had it. Have you ever owned a dog that had it? A dog that was truly exceptional?