Friday morning at the Minneapolis Convention Center, dozens of dogs gathered to strut their stuff. No, this wasn’t a debate among candidates for the Minneapolis City Council. These were actual dogs, canines, some 100 of them representing 47 sporting breeds.
The event was the Bird Dog Parade, kickoff to the Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic, the annual shindig sponsored by Pheasants Forever (PF), which was founded in 1982 in St. Paul and remains headquartered in the Twin Cities.
Some 30,000 hunters and other conservationists are expected to have attended the event (information: www.pheasantsforever.org) by the time the get-together draws to a close Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m.
Next year, Sioux Falls will host the roving exhibition, as PF celebrates its 35th anniversary. That South Dakota city then also will be overrun by dogs that travel distances great and small to participate in the festival’s Bird Dog Parade, a pooch party like no other, in which owners and their charges — from Labradors to Slovakian Rough-Haired pointers — preen for photographers and, especially, for one another.
Here are snapshots of some who paraded proudly Friday morning.
Breed: Yellow Labrador retriever
Dog’s name: Sully, age 3
Owner: Joe Strang, Cascade, Iowa
Times in parade: Joe’s 12th, Sully’s third
Birds hunted: Pheasants
“I’ve been in every Pheasant Fest Bird Dog Parade. My yellow Labrador Gordon was with me in the first eight, and now Sully, Gordon’s grandson, has taken over. This will be his third parade. Both Gordon and Sully are very light-colored Labradors, almost white. And both are excellent breeding dogs. In his lifetime, Gordon sired 399 pups, and now Sully has sired three litters himself.
“We live about 20 miles southeast of Dubuque. Pheasant hunting has been tough there the last four or five years, but it’s picking up. We’re starting to see a few more birds.
“Our PF chapter, the Twin Rivers chapter, was the seventh one formed in Iowa, and I’ve been a member since 1985. ... The last time Pheasant Fest was in Minneapolis I remember the windchill was 45 degrees below zero.”
Breed: Slovakian Rough-Haired pointer
Dog’s name: Reaper, age 3
Owner: Scott Anderson, Princeton, Minn.
Times in parade: First for Scott and Reaper
Birds hunted: Ducks, pheasants, grouse
“Before I owned Reaper, I had a pudelpointer. But I lost him early, and while looking for a new dog I stumbled across a breeder of Slovakian Rough-Haired pointers, and it took me 1½ years before I got Reaper as a puppy. There are probably only 300 of these dogs in the U.S.
“He’s a lot like a pudelpointer but a little heavier built. His coat is similar to that of a wirehair but a little shorter. He’s an absolutely fantastic dog, very quiet in the house, sweet and soft. But in the field he’s a hard charger. He’s a good pointer, but his style varies. Sometimes he crouches low while pointing, sometimes he stands tall. It depends on the cover.”
Breed: Braque d’Auvergne (French pointer)
Dog’s name: Charlie, age 1½
Owner: Jeff Ames, Richfield
Times in parade: First for Jeff and Charlie
Birds hunted: Pheasants, grouse, quail
“Charlie is a French breed. But I couldn’t come up with a cute French name for him, so I called him Charlie. He just looked like a Charlie to me.
“I used to raise Brittanys. But for me, they range pretty far. I wanted a close working dog. I’ve been interested in French Brittanys for about 30 years, so I finally got one. I couldn’t be more pleased. Charlie is a good pointer, and he’s a friendly, gentle house pet. He has short hair and is about medium sized, about 55 pounds.
“I’ll probably be the only person in the Bird Dog Parade with a French Brittany. We were encouraged to come to the parade by the staff of Pheasants Forever, a group I absolutely support, along with Quail Forever and Ducks Unlimited.”
Breed: Epagneul Breton (French Brittany)
Dog’s name: Atos, age 2
Owner: Jackie Hutwagner, Lumpkin, Ga.
Times in parade: First for Jackie and Atos
Birds hunted: Pheasants, quail, woodcock, grouse
“I was at Pheasant Fest before, in Des Moines, but I’ve never been in the Dog Parade, and I’ve never been an exhibitor. This time I’m doing both. I’ve got a kennel, as does a friend of mine from Illinois, and we have a booth at the show.
“I’ve owned French Brittanys about 11 years. I switched from Labradors because I hunt a lot of upland birds and I wanted pointing dogs. One attraction of French Brittanys for me is their size: They’re the smallest pointing breed. Plus, they’re great family dogs and good in the water.
“Here in Georgia, we don’t have the wild birds the Midwest does. So I travel. This year, Atos and I hunted in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana. I’ve also hunted in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Montana and the Dakotas. My favorite birds? Ruffed grouse in Minnesota.”
Breed: Boykin spaniel
Dogs’ names: Wyatt, age 8, and Faith, 5
Owner: Lyne Rabern, Hartford, S.D.
Times in parade: First for Lyne and her dogs
Birds hunted: Pheasants
“I live in the southeast corner of South Dakota, where we go pheasant hunting in our backyard.
“My husband’s family is very big into pheasant hunting. Years ago when I went hunting with them, the only way I could get out of driving the truck from field to field was if I had a dog. So I bought a Boykin spaniel because the size was perfect, 30 to 45 pounds. Also they have good temperaments and they’re quick learners. I’ve taught Wyatt to roll over, beg, and shake hands.
“Boykins are a rare breed. They’re flushing dogs, and I’ve traveled quite a distance with mine to run them in hunt tests in Nebraska, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa. They’ve got their upland hunting titles and also their AKC Canine Good Citizen awards.
“They don’t sleep with us, but I guess you could say they’re spoiled. They are allowed on the furniture.”
Breed: Black Labrador retriever
Dog’s name: Cruiser, age 5
Owner: Mark Meyocks, Yakima, Wash.
Times in parade: First for Mark and Cruiser
Birds hunted: Pheasants, quail
“I grew up in Iowa and lived in Las Vegas for many years before moving to Yakima. Every year before I moved up there I traveled to eastern Washington to hunt birds. Finally I just moved there, and soon got active in our local Pheasants Forever chapter, which has been great.
“In 2015, my dog got seriously hurt while hunting. His injury led me to develop a protective vest for dogs that I now market. That’s one reason I’m at Pheasant Fest: I have a booth there. I call my vest, and my company, Cuga Vest. I started it about a year ago because I thought other hunters would want a good American-made vest that provides great protection for their dogs.
“Cruiser and I are excited to be here. We’re staying at the Hilton in downtown Minneapolis, and being in the Bird Dog Parade will be great.”
Dennis Anderson email@example.com