Best breed of bird dog



Best breed of bird dog

When all the stars are in full display and the Moon shines down upon
The campfire murmuring down to coals and the Jameson whiskey’s gone,
The double guns are cleaned and oiled and the boots propped up to dry,
And the dogs are sleeping in their crates with many a moan and sigh,
Some drowsy fool is apt to spout, “The best bird dog’s the setter!”
And another will take the bait and say, “Except for five that’s better.”

Six dogs in camp, six different breeds, each one of them tried and true,
And claiming that yours is the best of the pack is a risky thing to do.
This business of choosing best bird dog breed dates back ’most fifty year
For each man seated ’round the fire with cigar stub and can of beer.
We all of us settled on the best breed for us a long, long while ago.
We have cast our lot with that tribe and cult, and branded friend and foe.

Five decades afore, the candidates for “best breed of all” were few;
Pointer, setter, Brittany, shorthair, and the Gordon setter, too.
Labradors received some votes, and springer men were always present,
But pointer handlers scoffed and said “They’re just for duck and pheasant.”
It’s gotten complicated since versatile breeds came through the door:
Vizsla, Munsterlander, Weimaraner, Drahthaar, at least a dozen more.

The conversation’s not too contentious, but it’s quite opinionated
With sketchy facts and much anecdote about breeds we’ve loved and hated.
“A versatile breed’s the only choice,” says the man who hunts with Griffons.
Setter man says, “Yes, good at everything and excellent at nothin’.”
“Hunt with a setter, retrieve your own birds,” the Brittany handler smirks.
“I could force train him to fetch if I wanted, but that’s not his type of work.”

“I admit you’ve got a good workin’ Vizsla, but truth is that I’ve found
It just don’t seem right to be shootin’ quail over a redbone hound.”
“Your pointers can cover some country; it’s fun to watch them, of course,
But to shoot a limit of birds with them, you’d need a GPS and a horse.”
“That wirehair ain’t real steady on point, but you know what French dogs say:
German dogs are true sportsmen; give the bird a chance to get away.”

The other man’s dog either runs too big, or else he’s always at your shoes.
But how far out a pointing dog should hunt is a personal point of view.
We’re either “cattlemen” or “shepherds” in “the range wars” bitter fight:
The cattlemen want their dogs running wide, the shepherds keep ’em tight.
“Pointers and setters get out and find birds, not go for a walk in the park!”
“And they tell you ’bout all the birds they found when they come in after dark.”

Well, good bird dogs come in many breeds, and the not-so-good ones, too.
If you want to hunt with the best of the lot, here’s some sound advice for you:
Pick a pup whose sire you’ve seen hunts well, and its dam hunts even better.
That’s step one to a truly great bird dog: retriever, flusher, pointer, setter.
Add days and days of training, and many more days afield hunting birds,
And one day – amazing! A dog that’s become the best beyond words.

Then one night with stars in full display and the Moon shining down upon
The campfire murmuring down to coals and the Jameson whiskey gone,
And your double gun is cleaned and oiled and your boots propped up to dry,
And the dogs are sleeping in their crates with many a moan and sigh,
You can play the role of fool and brag “My French spaniel is the best.”
A couple of friends will agree with you; just ignore that jibes of the rest.


More stories about bird hunting, bird dogs. and life in the North Country are published in my five  collections of essays, all available in Kindle and paperback editions at  Jerry Johnson Author Page at, and in paperback edition at Dragonfly Books in Decorah, Iowa, and through IndieBound independent bookstores.

About Jerry Johnson

Curmudgeon. Bird hunter and dog trainer. Retired journalist and college public relations director. Former teacher, coach, mentor. Novelist and short story writer. Husband, father, grandfather.
This entry was posted in Bird Dogs, Bird hunting, Dogs and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Best breed of bird dog

  1. Bob Wilson says:

    Wow…so comforting.

  2. Ray says:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s