When searching for a bird dog puppy, the inevitable question surrounding whether or not you desire field trial bloodlines always comes up. Put me into the category of guys who have said the following about field trial dogs in the past:
“I don’t want a high-wired, big running dog with a bunch of titles. Pure and simple, I want a hunting dog.”
Over my ten years with Pheasants Forever, exposure to hundreds of bird dog experts, and personal hunting experiences over countless pups and breeds, my opinion on field trial dogs has changed. Personally, I’m still not interested in running my dogs in trials. My focus remains hunting and putting birds in the bag. However, I do have a greater appreciation these days for dogs with the ability to win field trials and hunt tests.
Ultimately, successful field trial dogs carry the genetic capacity to both mentally and physically out-perform their peers. For guys looking to train a hunting pup themselves, this is an incredibly important benefit. Who wouldn’t want to start with the best ingredients? A field trial pup with personal training will more easily adapt to your hunting style, than trying to “coach up” a puppy with less superior genetics. It’s a logical equation.
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending the Minnesota Bird Hunters Field Trial near Milaca, Minnesota. The event was hosted by Berg Brothers Setters. I enjoyed the company of some fantastic “dog guys” and appreciated the exciting dog work on display. At the end of the day’s run, John Edstrom, Pheasants Forever’s own Merchandise Manager, and his English setter “Molly,” earned the top award of the Gun Dog portion of the trial.
Edstrom had this to say about his perspective on the overlap between successful trial dogs and hunting dogs. “The very best trial dogs are all hunted, and hunted hard. Just like Molly, the successful trial dogs become hunting dogs in the fall. That is the secret to a good performance at a trial. Without that experience they do not know how and where to use their genetics and talent. They need to learn where to look for birds, how to use the wind etc. You will hear this said about trial dogs “he/she is a good bird dog.” If the dog is not a bird dog, it is just running not hunting, and those dogs will not win a trial or put birds in your game bag.”
The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever's Vice President of Marketing. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.