The Dogs

Brittany spaniel with ruffed grouse
Glenna’s first day hunting: a nice batch of ruffed grouse

I started chukar hunting in 2000 with my first Brittany, Glenna. She was an awesome dog with a fantastic nose but decided it was more fun hunting for herself and she ended up running too big. At age 10, she developed mega-esophagus, and I had to put her down way too early. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But that’s another story.

When Glenna was about six we got her a puppy brother, Angus. You’ll see he is the star of this show, but only after Glenna died. I couldn’t bring myself to take Angus hunting while leaving Glenna behind, so I just didn’t go for several years. The day after Glenna passed I took Angus hunting for really the first time, just to see how he’d do.

Engaged

Well, he was a natural. Without much training at all (just a little of Wolters’ wing-on-a-string work) and some great bonding between us over his first few years, he quickly figured out not just how to find and point chukar (and Huns and grouse and quail and pheasant), but exactly how close he could get before busting them. And did I mention that he loves retrieving?

Upland bird vest
Good dog, happy man

As I write this (January 2012), Angus is 4-1/2 years old. I’m nursing a badly sprained ankle and we’re both going stir-crazy hoping to get out for the last few weeks of the chukar season. Chukar hunting with Angus, and – when my wife can come along with the camera on a day off – has become my favorite outdoor activity. I look forward to sharing our experiences in more detail.

35 Replies to “The Dogs”

  1. I found you on youtube. Loved your videos which brought me here. I love chukar hunting more than anything else. Better say I love chukars more than anything else. Just moved to Sacramento from Southern Cal. Was a terrible year for hunting chukars for me. Went out so many times. Fired my gun maybe 5 times, shot only 3 birds and bagged only one. Will be better this year as I will be getting a dog I hope (after I buy a house), and that I have found some good spots towards the end of the season. Whereabouts do you live? Loved your dog too. I might get a French Brittany. There is a breeder in Reno which has beautiful tricolored dogs. Where did you get yours? You are lucky to have your wife following you. Maybe we can hunt together some day.
    Sean

    1. Hi Sean,
      Thanks for your nice message. I can’t imagine hunting chukar without a dog. Without Angus I would have killed a lot of birds without ever finding them. He’s a standard Brittany, but a little on the small side, which is just fine with me (and my wife; he sits in her lap on long car rides!). I’ve never known a French Brittany but they seem a little brittle for big chukar terrain. Angus is from a breeder in Emmett, Idaho, about 40 miles from where I live in Boise. Tons of great habitat around here, and it was a great year for birds. With the mild winter we’re having I’m expecting next year to be just as good if not better. Good luck with picking out a dog. If you haven’t read it already, Richard Wolters’ book “Gun Dog” is – in my humble opinion – the best guide for getting the most out of your upland dog, especially from the puppy days. Stay in touch.

  2. One thing: On the top of your page it says “chukar hunting” . I would capitalize “Chukar”. These birds demand respect. 🙂
    I am a teacher. Am I sounding like one????

    1. I’m a writer/editor/teacher, and so appreciate your comment. I’d be the last person to disrespect a chukar, and would have capitalized the title of the blog but the theme designer put an unchangeable lower-case tag for the title field. There’s some debate on whether it’s a proper noun, too, so I’ve opted not to capitalize it in my blog.

      1. Hi Bob and Friends,

        Bird names in the USA and North America are designated by the American Ornithologists Union, and are considered proper nouns. Consider “chipping sparrow” vs. “Chipping Sparrow.” The first one is any old sparrow that chips, and the second is a recognized species with a scientific name, Spizella passerina.

        Um, spoken like an ornithologist?

        Thanks for an awesome site.

      2. Thanks, David. So, am I, an English teacher, having to eat crow (or Carrion Crow) and start capitalizing chukar? It just feels wrong (no disrespect to the bird or any other creature intended)…

  3. Hey Bob
    I am looking for dog which might be looking for a good home. A smaller one: either a springer or a brittany. Let me know if you come across one.

  4. Bob,
    I have enjoyed your hunting blog for some time now. I read at some point that you purchased Angus from Sunburst Kennels in Emmett. Can you give me a sense of your experience with the folks at Sunburst? I am planning on meeting the owners in the near future and touring their facilities. I am also planning on meeting with Dave and Fay Walker in New Plymouth. Where the Walker’s on your radar when you were looking for a new dog? Any help and/or advice is greatly appreciated.
    Greg M.
    Boise

    1. Hi Greg,

      Thanks for the kind words. We plan to get our next Brittany from Sunburst, particularly if we can get as much of the lineage we can that Angus has in him. I think when we got Angus 5-1/2 years ago it was one of Gabe’s first litters. He was young and eager and enjoyable. I’m glad he’s still in business. I’ve heard good things about the Walkers, but wasn’t aware of them when we got Angus. I’d be grateful if you let me know who you went with and what the experience was like (and of course I wish you luck in the process). We’re looking at getting another puppy in a year or two… Cheers!

  5. Hi Bob,

    I wanted to update you with our Brittany quest. We decided to purchase a puppy from Dave and Fay Walker. We picked up our 10 week-old Liver female, Ava, last Saturday. I spoke to Gabe at Sunburst a few weeks back and was looking forward to meeting with him. Something must have come up, as he didn’t call me back to confirm our meeting time.
    I hunt the Brownlee area, so perhaps we will see each other next season.

  6. I just found this blog bob. I’m glad Angus is doing well. I have many very happy customers who have received puppies from me. I wanted to apologize to Greg m. I was in between litters. I’m extremely busy with my other business. I don’t always have puppies on hand like Dave Walker, but believe i provide a better quality Brittany. I enjoy your blog, and like seeing pictures of Angus. If you could email me some pictures I will put them on my facebook page. Thanks

    1. Hi Gabe, good to hear from you. I just ran into one of your puppies yesterday, 16 weeks old, black & gray, named Indy. Beautiful dog. Made me want another. I’ll mention your comment to Greg M. When we’re ready for another, you’ll be the first guy I call. Angus has been – and continues to be – the best dog I can imagine, in every way. Thanks.

  7. I stumbled onto your blog today. I have a Brittany from Dave Fay Waller, she is about a year old now and for here first hunting season she is doing great, just wish I had more time to take her out. We mainly head out to the Mountain Home Reservoir (close to the house) or CJ Strike and the WMA’s. Brittany are great bird and all round family dogs.

    Andy

  8. Hi Bob, after finding you you tube videos the other day, I found this blog. I’ll be reading a trying to catch up. Love the videos and look forward to following your blog. I am on the look out for a Brittany pup. You mentioned Sunburst. I sent them and Dave walker emails inquiring. Take care.

    1. Hi Gabe, thanks for your message. I wish Angus was available to stud, but we had him “fixed” (“broken” would be a better term). Is his line gone? I want another puppy with his line like Paddy and Quigley (the two folks in Cambridge who got pups from you last year). I’ll send you an email with my contact information.

      1. Bob, would you be able to email me. I have a few questions for you in regards to your Brittany.

        Thanks

  9. Hi Bob
    Sean here from Sacramento again.
    I ended up getting a Springer which is 22 months old now. Love Chelsea to death. Couldnt be happier. This will be her second season with more chukars to hunt hopefully. Nevada report is promising so, we have to see.
    Will be awaiting your videos and pictures, my friend.
    My hunting buddy has got a french brittany which this will be her first season. She is coming along fine.

      1. Hey bob, I went out last weekend sage grouse hunting for the first time in my life. It was great despite being done at one bird a day. We got into a few Huns though. I’m working with my 5 month old french Brittany now, really a nice puppy. Well, I have 3 liver & white males available out of angus’s line. I like the looks of them, you can tell angus is kin. We should go chukar hunting sometime. Gabriel mouritsen

      2. Awesome to hear your report, Gabe. Yes, I’d like to chukar hunt with you. Let me know if you want to come up here to Cambridge and we’ll hook up. Would love to see those puppies, too (but we’re still going to wait a bit on getting another one!).

  10. Hey Bob I ended up getting a vizsla and have begun training him. Your blog and a handful of others (mostly in your blogroll!) inspired me to start my own blog account of me trying to train this bundle of chi: http://rookiebird.wordpress.com/ If you’ve got advice on how to make it more engaging/easier to read, I’m all ears, cause you’ve done a good job here. Cheers!

  11. Hey Bob- always had two brittanys but just lost by 14 year old Louie who lost back leg to cancer but still hunted last three of four years. He was my sec ond great dog from Dave Walker. If anyone knows of a 3 to 5 year old started dog or dog with no hunter anymore let me know. By the way Dave Walker broke his neck at 81 but is still with us. His operation has been slowed since he lost Faye two years ago

    thanks John,Reno Nv

  12. Hi Bob,

    Just watched one of your newer videos and am impressed with the work you’ve done with your new dog, “Peat”, in a relatively short time. I’m picking up a brittany pup from Bragdon brittanies in my home province of BC next month and would love to hunt with it later this fall. Was wondering if there was a particular program you followed with Peat; any other advice would be appreciated as well. Thanks!

    Sean

    1. Hey Sean, thanks for the kind words. I wouldn’t claim any expertise with dogs, but will tell you Peat has been (still is) a big challenge, so any progress we’ve made with him has been hard won. Generally, we tried to work as much as possible from Wolters’

        Gun Dog

      . I also relied on advice (much of it contradictory) from a variety of friends and experts. To be fair, though, Peat is a diamond in the rough, with a HUGE prey drive, natural retrieving desire, and big motor and joie de vivre. He still keeps us up at night, but we’ve tried to be consistent with him and exercise him as much as possible. The other revelation was the e-collar, which I was reluctant to use until he was 9 months old, but it made a huge difference in his response and recall, and allowed us to hunt him earlier than we might have. We got the Garmin Delta e-collar from Gun Dog Supply (highly recommend) which came with a training DVD that was pretty good. So, if Peat went from stealing and eating birds to rock solid location, pointing, and retrieving in a few short months, any more biddable dog should be as good or better. But as we know, it’s a crap shoot. Love and bonding go a long way in my opinion; if the dog likes and wants to please you, that’s half the battle. I made my first dog dislike me, and consequently could never hunt with her. A hard lesson. Best of luck – please stay in touch and let me know how it goes. I’d love to know what hunting in BC is like (and if you should find yourself down this way, let me know).

  13. Hello Bob I read one of your comments where you said you made a dog dislike you and could never hunt with it, I guess my question is what did you do if you don’t mind me asking and how did you know the dog disliked you? Im asking because our GSP wont point or retrieve for us but he did great for the trainers.

    1. Sorry to hear about the GSP. My first question is did you see the dog work well with the trainers, or did they say he worked well. I’ve heard of some questionable trainer reports on dogs. The next thing would be the bond, and this is just based on my experience, filtered through Wolters’ Gun Dog. Despite having read that book carefully, I still managed to mess up the bond I had with my first Brittany (Glenna). How do I think I did that? By beating her hard when she was 6 months old after she came back from a long solo bird hunt (she ran big and where she wanted). My frustrated tone of voice when we hunted made it unpleasant for her to be near me, so she would stray, and that made me angrier, and it just devolved from there. I think she was naturally a big runner, but my frustration with that made it worse and our bond was messed up as a result. My next dog, Angus, was different. We had three years together as buddies before we ever seriously hunted, and I never hit him or raised my voice at him. Our bond is solid. Of course, I probably lucked into a better hunting dog and pet with Angus, genetically speaking, but I think the relationship is first. But I’m no expert on this stuff, just a keen observer, and have never used a trainer. I bet you can improve your hunting partnership with your GSP.

  14. I had watched him a couple of times (maybe 4) work with the trainers and he did a decent job pointing and retrieving but has never pointed or retrieved birds for me and am sure I had a frustrated/disappointed voice since I paid good money. The first couple times I assumed it was because of his age since he was only 9 months when I got him back from the trainers and a lot of friends said just keep taking him out and he’ll do fine so I hunted my butt off that year and never seen any progress. Last year we didn’t get to hunt very much due to my youngest being born and the twenty or so times we did get out the dog never seemed very interested in the birds he does great with his range, moving over the country and acts very birdie when we come up on areas that birds have been but once we get into the middle of birds he acts very disinterested. My wife shot a chukar yesterday and he went to retrieve and when he came up on the bird he got close, sniffed it started to pick it up and as soon as he did he spit it out like it tasted awful and wouldn’t pick it back up. I really appreciate your quick response and hope you keep the videos coming!

    1. Glenna wasn’t disinterested in finding birds, but learned to enjoy busting them and relocating singles and busting those. I’d see her four ridges away clearing every bird in the area. But your description of his not liking the bird in his mouth is exactly like Glenna’s. I don’t know what you can do about that, but I’m sure someone has some advice that’ll probably work. I think he’s young enough that you can get him to work with you and be great, but it might involve not hunting for a year and rebuilding a stronger bond. I love the Monks of New Skete’s books on being your dog’s best friend – not hunting-oriented but really good on relationship do’s and don’t’s. I feel for you, believe me. Dogs pick up on emotions we aren’t even aware we’re feeling, so any frustration on your part is probably working against what you want. That’s a tall order to identify, much less repair, especially if you’ve got a dog that’s sensitive. But if he is sensitive, I’d think that could actually be a plus if you can make him feel you think he’s the greatest thing since sliced chukar breast.

  15. Thank you very much for the advice that you have had and I agree I might stop hunting him and just have him do fun stuff for a while. I also have a Brittany that is just over a year and has never been trained or hunted other than the little yard training I’ve done with him so maybe its time to start taking him out to see how his natural ability is and try training on my own. I shouldn’t get frustrated if I don’t expect him to really do anything other than come back when called.

Chirp away