A potpourri of hunting dog breeds will be unleashed on Minnesota grasslands beginning Saturday as canines and their owners open another pheasant hunting season.
Labrador retrievers, ubiquitous in Minnesota, will be there in force, of course, but they’ll be joined by numerous breeds of setters, spaniels, pointers, other retrievers and mutts.
Which is best for hunting? That’s easy. Yours. Here’s a sampling:
German shorthairs: do-everything dogs
Bob St. Pierre grew up with Brittanys, his wife with Labs. So when it came time to get their own hunting dog, a compromise was needed.
“We got a German shorthair. As it turned out, I have the best of both worlds,’’ said St. Pierre, 39, of Hugo, who hunts pheasant, ruffed grouse and ducks.
“I know you can hunt grouse without a pointer, but it makes life so much easier with one,’’ he said. German shorthairs are considered one of the “versatile’’ breeds. “They point and retrieve,’’ he said.
Even with the dog’s short coat, St. Pierre hunts late-season pheasants.
“You don’t want to break ice with them, but I absolutely hunt pheasants in the snow with them. They make very good pheasant dogs.’’
And good pets.
“They definitely are good around the house; they are lovers, very affectionate. You just have to make sure you get exercise for them.’’
Springer spaniels: versatile, friendly
John Smith, 53, of Eden Prairie, was raised in the Detroit area. He was introduced to pheasant hunting by his father-in-law. “I got hooked,’’ he said. “And I could see a dog was essential.’’
So he got a springer spaniel. “My Lab friends joked that I only got half a dog and I should take it back,’’ he said — until they saw his springer flush and retrieve pheasants.
“It’s versatile — I can hunt anything, pheasants, ruffed grouse, ducks, even geese. They have great noses and retrieve. I personally feel the springer is, if not the best, one of the best pheasant dogs out there.’’
His springers love to swim and will gladly retrieve a rooster or duck dropped in water. But Smith also wanted a good family pet, and said springers fit the bill. “They work hard in the field, but the switch goes off in the house, and they are a nice family pet,’’ he said.
Labrador retriever: tough to beat
“I’ve been a Lab guy my whole life,’’ said Fritz Basgen, 62, of Minnetonka. Poppy, a 5-year-old yellow Lab, is his latest. Why Labs?