upland bird hunting dogs
Brian Grossenbacher

We live for the anticipation that builds with each step in an upland field, knowing that at any moment a rooster might rise. We never tire of the sound of a flush—a wild alarm that stops the heart for a split second before muscle memory takes over and the shotgun comes to the shoulder. We take pleasure in the mix of gun smoke and stray feathers wafting in the air after a good shot. More than anything, though, we simply love watching the dogs work—flushing, pointing, and when we’ve done our job, retrieving.

Few hunters have seen more good dogs at work than Brian Grossenbacher, who has been documenting upland hunts all over the world for 10 years. “Without a doubt, my favorite part of photographing hunting dogs is their athleticism and tireless enthusiasm,” says Grossenbacher, who captured every image in this story. Looking back through his photos, Grossenbacher smiles when he recalls the distinct personalities of each dog, but adds that every one shares a single quality in common: a full-hearted passion for hunting. “They are so dedicated to the sport we love,” he says, “and so excited just to be there and to pursue what they’ve been put on this earth to pursue.”

hunter giving water to english setter hunting dog
Tim Linehan gives his English setter, Maisy, a well-deserved water break after a high-country flush and retrieve of a blue grouse in Montana’s Yaak Valley. Brian Grossenbacher
a hunter and a boykin spaniel standing in the snow
Subzero temps be damned. Sancho, a Boykin spaniel, enjoyed rolling in the snow during a pheasant hunt. Brian Grossenbacher
german shorthaired pointer dog in hunting vest
Rocky, a hard-headed German shorthaired pointer, looks on during an Idaho grouse hunt. Brian Grossenbacher
a hunter petting cocker spaniel hunting dog while hunting woodcock
Scott ­McKenna and his cocker spaniel, ­Diesel, share a moment during a woodcock hunt in Vermont. Brian Grossenbacher
man holding grouse over hunting dog
Even at 11 years old, Trammel, a GSP, has what it takes to hunt the grouse woods in Minnesota. Brian Grossenbacher
german shorthaired pointer
The long hair of Willie, a GSP–German wirehaired pointer mix, flows in the wind during a break in a sage grouse hunt in Wyoming. “We were all hunkered down on the passenger side of the truck eating sandwiches,” says Grossenbacher, who took this impromptu shot while grabbing a water from the back of the truck. “Willie had hunted hard all morning and couldn’t take it anymore. He just put his head to the wind and closed his eyes.” Brian Grossenbacher
an english setter sitting in the grass
Maggie, an English setter, takes a breather in the shade of a spruce during a ruffed grouse hunt. Brian Grossenbacher
English pointer running through a field
AK, an English pointer named after his home state, moves fast and low on a hunt for ptarmigan. “This is actually the way you see AK,” Grossenbacher says. “As soon as you set that dog down to hunt, he takes off. And he has only one speed. He’s either on or off.” In Alaska, the bird-­hunting grounds are often accessible only by small aircraft. AK was calm on the flight leading up to this hunt, but as soon as they landed and his lead was removed, Grossenbacher says, he went into “Tasmanian devil mode and never stopped.” Brian Grossenbacher
hunting dog running through a field
A gun dog in training bounds after a bird. This pup was one of 30 working with legendary trainer Ronnie Smith. That day, Grossen­bacher says, the dogs practiced on sharptail grouse and Hungarian partridge near Stanford, Montana. The birds were everywhere, and Smith and Grossenbacher couldn’t walk 50 feet without the dogs going on point. “We hiked 13.9 miles, and I guarantee the dogs covered 10 times that,” Grossenbacher says. “It was a beautiful thing to have dogs that were enthusiastic, fresh, and ready to hunt. Watching them learn under a master trainer was a gift.” Brian Grossenbacher
a black lab with a woodcock in its mouth
Romi, a black Lab, blazes by as she retrieves her first-ever woodcock during a Minnesota hunt. Brian Grossenbacher
A german shorthaired pointer carrying a sage grouse in its mouth
Scout, a GSP, clenches a sage grouse in her maw during a hunt in Montana. Grossenbacher has been hunting with Scout since she was a pup, and he knew from the start how intelligent she was by her big, inquisitive eyes. “Without a doubt, Scout is the smartest dog I have ever hunted behind,” he says. “She now hunts with a younger brother, Sancho, and like any older sister worth her salt, she never lets him slouch on the job.” Brian Grossenbacher