Gordon Setters/bird dogs

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D-nymph
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2008/02/13 15:53:46 (permalink)

Gordon Setters/bird dogs

I recently had to put down my Gordon Setter mix, and my wife and I are starting to warm up to getting a new pup.  He was never a hunting dog, and I'm not an avid hunter like some here are.  However, as a teenager I used to hunt pheasants & grouse with some friends who had English setters that hunted pretty well.  I could just never hit the darn grouse as a kid.  My family also had two English setters that were great family dogs, neither one ever hunted. 

My wife suggests, if we get a pure bred Gordon that I take it hunting, especially for pheasants and/or grouse.  Never having had an actual hunting bird dog of my own, I have a few questions.  I'm probably not going to become an avid hunter (the season conflicts too much with steelhead season), but it would be fun to do it sometimes, 4-5 trips a year, or so. 

Is it totally out of the question to get a dog to be able to hunt well enough to only go that infrequently?  Is training a bird dog all or nothing?  Either, you go hunt alot or don't bother at all?  I'm not expecting to have a super great hunter, obviously.

I love the setters' temperments as a family dog.  And that's the biggest reason I'm thinking I'll get another one.  But if I can drop a few birds now and then, that'd be great.

Anyone have any advice?  Am I being unrealistic?
post edited by D-nymph - 2008/02/14 10:22:37
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    MuskyMastr
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    RE: Gordon Setters/bird dogs 2008/02/13 16:42:54 (permalink)
    I'm not much on bird dogs, but do have beagles.  I can say from my experience that I get out of them what I put into them.....That being said, I have great days in the field with the ones that have less work too.  I think if you can find enough game to train on every once in a while you will have an OK bird dog and a GREAT time......good luck.

    Better too far back, than too far forward.
    #2
    woodnickle
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    RE: Gordon Setters/bird dogs 2008/02/13 23:52:06 (permalink)
    Buy a lab. I,ll have some ready to go in 8weeks. She getting ready to have them now. Had a spinger that new how to hunt without me even training it. Just in her blood. Lost her , now i have labs. Just played alot with her and the first goose I shot she retrieved it. Prould moment. She really surprised me with stalking ringnecks the way she does. Good dog.

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    casts_by_fly
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    RE: Gordon Setters/bird dogs 2008/02/14 06:47:50 (permalink)
    don,
     
    I agree with Mika here.  If you are looking for an occasional trip out with the dog and won't be putting in the training time, I think you will be better served with a flusher.  Work obedience pretty heavily so that they listen in the field and it will put up some birds.  You won't have a finished retriever that is steady to release, but you'll have a dog that comes when called, sits when told, and can find a few birds.
     
    I have a lab.  I put in quite a bit of time with her and she is a great hunter.  She is fairly steady to shot and release.  She isn't steady in a blind since I never hunt from a blind.  She is a bird finding machine and once you learn to always trust your dog you'll get up some birds.
     
    Pick your litter from recognized hunting stock, give the dog some bird exposure when it is ready, and do obedience.  Keep in mind your needs when you are picking the litter.  If you don't duck hunt, don't gravitate towards barrel chested labs bred for a blind.  If you don't want a trial dog, find some lines known for hunting, not trialing.
     
    A lab would be hard to beat.  My next dog will be a cocker because they are very common over here and there are some great working lines.  A field bred golden is something else too.  They will have a thin build, almost like an irish setter and can run all day.  I'm not a springer fan, but some guys like them.
     
    Thanks,
    Rick
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    woodnickle
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    RE: Gordon Setters/bird dogs 2008/02/14 10:11:38 (permalink)

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    D-nymph
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    RE: Gordon Setters/bird dogs 2008/02/14 10:20:08 (permalink)
    ORIGINAL: Mikastorm



     
    Wow, congratulations.
     
    Tell me a bit about your labs.
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    Guest
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    RE: Gordon Setters/bird dogs 2008/02/14 13:12:30 (permalink)
    D-nymph -
     
    Just a disclaimer first: I know very little about hunting dogs in general.  All I know is from having a lab for 2 years and working with him pretty constently on training mainly for waterfowl retrieving.
     
    If you are planning to hunt mostly for grouse with a dog, I'd probably consider getting a setter or pointer.  I'm sure it's done, but I've rarely heard of labs being used for grouse.  Like I said, I'm sure somewhere out there does it and probably does it well, but that really seems to be the domain of a setter or pointer.  Labs are flushers, for the most part, and it doesn't seem that their style of hunting would work out real well in heavy grouse cover. 
     
    Having said that, I was pleasantly surprised at my dog Hank's natural ability to find and flush pheasants this year.  I got him at 7 weeks old, started obedience training at 8 weeks, and retrieving training at about 12 weeks.  All that I ever taught him intentionally about hunting was based strictly on basic obedience (sit, stay, come, heel) and retreiving (directional retrieves, stops, corrections & returns).  He is certainly no trial dog, not even close, but does well on duck & goose hunts on water retrieves.  I am a pretty casual hunter - probably about 15 waterfowl hunts this year.  Unfortunately, I'm much better at calling birds in than I am at actually killing them.  In the first year, I put in lots of time with him every day.  It was well worth the investment though. 
     
    Anway, on a whim, I decided to hit a game lands this fall that is stocked with pheasants.  Gave up bowhunting a few years ago, and didn't have time that day for a waterfowl hunt.  Almost immediately, I put up two pheasants with Hank by my side.  And I missed two of the easiest shots I'll ever have in my life.  Hank marked where they went down, and we headed across the field.  He sniffed them out and flushed them on his own.  I never spent any time training him for this type of hunting.  Went back a few days later, and just kind of let him do his thing.  He put up three birds in about an hour, and I dutifully missed them (by the way, he hates when I miss.  Drives him nuts). 
     
    I know nothing about his parents, other than that they were just household pets.  As far as I know, neither one of them hunted a day in their lives.  He was free (long story about why they were giving away full blooded labs), unregistered and the people that had the pups just wanted to get rid of them to good homes.  When I went to pick out my pup, I made the mistake of taking my daughter.  She chose him because he had a white chevron on his chest.  He was the runt of a 10 puppy litter.  I say all of this to make the point that my lab (certainly not all labs, maybe not even most labs) has a lot of natural ability and instinct when it comes to hunting. 
     
    Certainly, if you have the cash, and intend on getting a good hunting dog, you'll probably want to invest in a dog with some good blood lines and experience.  Maybe I just lucked out with a dog who can do what I want.  He is a great family pet too.  Labs seem to be pretty versatile for different hunting situations.  There are some folks on this board with tons more experience than I have with dogs, and use them for field trials and hunting who could probably give much better advice than I.  Just thought I'd share my limited experience with you. 
     
     
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    D-nymph
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    RE: Gordon Setters/bird dogs 2008/02/15 08:59:14 (permalink)
    Thanks for all the input guys.  By all means if there's any other advice out there, keep it coming.
     
    Very informative posts, all of you.
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    STH FEVOR
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    RE: Gordon Setters/bird dogs 2008/02/15 19:52:01 (permalink)
    D-nymph,   I had a red female gordon years ago she was one of the best dogs i've ever had and also one of the softess mouths,well after she passed i started looking for another and i was at the sports show at the expo mart and ran into a guy who had agame farm and he had gordon's for sale. So i asked him if he ever got any red ones to give me a call, and he about had a fit, saying you'll never get one from me cause if we get one we drown them cause there bad for the breed, and will never be reconized by the akc.I told the guy that i knew this ,but i also told him that the akc will still register them and to each his own . But i to now own a lab and with just the basic's in training she's a good dog. But if anyone out there know's of any red gordon's give me a shout....
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    duncsdad
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    RE: Gordon Setters/bird dogs 2008/02/17 14:42:53 (permalink)
    D-nymph,
     
    There is a lot of good advise in the responses to your post.  Please allow me to add my two cents.
     
    In the way of background, I have been refereeing birddog hunting events (not field trials) for over 10 years.  In that period of time, I have had the honor and privilege of walking behind some great dogs.  I have probably refereed just about every imaginable breed except for the really, really rare ones.  In addition, I train and hunt English Pointers. 
     
    So here goes.
     
    I agree that if you are going to be a casual type bird hunter and trainer, the best choice for pheasants is a Lab.  If all you are looking for is that the dog produce some birds, then if you can keep a Lab in gun range (which isn't a difficult training thing), they will find and flush birds for you.  Labs, because they work off foot scent and not body scent, are also a good choice for PA stocked birds that prefer to run rather than hold to a point.
     
    How much further you wish to train the dog is entirely up to you.  If you want to get into retrieving to hand, blind retrieves, multiple retrieves, etc., that will take substantially more effort.
     
    That being written, you mentioned that grouse may also be a targeted species.  I have friends that have excellent Labs, but I must say Labs are not the greatest choice for grouse.  You will "hear" far more grouse that you will "see."  You will "see" far more than you will shoot at.  And you will shoot at far more than you will harvest.
     
    A pointing dog, which will occasionally bust a grouse (more the nervousness of the bird than any wrong doing on the dog's part), for the most part, they can hold a grouse to a point long enough for you to see most, shoot at most, and bag some.  A good pointer will hold a grouse in such a manner that you can approach the bird at an angle that will give you not only the best opportunity for a shot, but a kill.
     
    However, training a pointing dog takes considerably more effort than a Lab.  It is not that they won't find birds or point birds instinctively, the best breedings will.  It is that they must learn to hold a point, point at a distance that won't bump a bird, box in a running bird, etc.  This takes time, effort, and a lot of bird exposure.
     
    I currently have a 4 month-old English pointer pup.  He has yet to smell a feather.  To this point it would have done no good.  His hormone level just kicked up to the point that he discovered that he has a nose.  Before last week he would look for things rather than smell for them, so feathers or birds would have been a waste.
     
    He won't come in contact with birds until he is 6 months old.  At that point, he will be over carefully planted birds every other day (it takes about 2 hours from start to finish) until October.  In October he will start to have birds shot over him every day in the training field.  By the time actual shots are fired at non-training birds, he will have had at least 300 to 400 birds under his collar (most of which will be re-used by utilizing a hose tether).
     
    Now, the dog that results from this will be a competition level finished pointer and that may be way more than you are looking for.
     
    But, whether you chose a pointing dog or a flushing dog, be very careful of the breeding.  You mentioned that you had a Gordon.  They are beautiful dogs that unfortunately have had most of the hunting strain bred out of them in favor of show dog characteristics.  That is not to say hunting Gordons aren't out there, they are.  I have been behind some very good ones.  But specifically ask if they are hunting stock and if you can, hunt over one or both parents.  The same is true of Weimaraners and Irish Setters.  Most of the ones available are of show stock.
     
    Even some English Setters are of show stock and have no interest in birds whatsoever.  A friend of mine has one and it has been used in dog training videos as a bad example.
     
    When looking at a Lab, there are three distinctions, Waterfowl, Upland, and Show.  This doesn't mean that one can't cross over into the other, but they won't do as well outside their element.
     
    Best of luck in picking a breed and a pup. Please post pictures.

    Duncsdad

    Everything I say can be fully substantiated by my own opinion
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