Wednesday, January 21, 2009
An Affair with Setters (part 1)
Although I had been hunting grouse for almost twenty years with Springer Spaniels I had never hunted with a pointing dog. Finally in 2000 I took the plunge and after much research I decided on a Ryman-type English Setter from Warren Sheckells Pinecoble Kennels near Cherry Valley NY. The first thing that impressed me with Warren's setters was the fact that most other kennels breeding Ryman-type setters were using dogs with Warren's bloodlines in there breeding programs. Then a trip to meet the man and see his dogs clinched it. A more soft spoken, unassuming man I had never meet with not one unkind word to say about other breeders (unlike several kennels I had talked too) he simply let the dogs sell themselves. After a year long wait it was finally my turn to pick out my pup. I had two blue belton females to chose from and as I peered into the whelping pen a big headed masculine looking pup looked back at me. With long low set ears and a deep muzzle it was hard to believe I was looking at a female pup but I instantly knew that was the kind of setter that I wanted. That fall I went into the woods with Hattie following behind me not at all acting like a hard hunting bird dog. Luckily I'm a man of patience and hoped that her breeding would some time "kick in" and she would realize what we were hunting for. On one of our first trips afield I bumped a grouse , fired and saw it drop into a mass of blackberry briers. As I trampled through the briers looking for the bird I noticed that Hattie wasn't following on my heels like usual. Looking around I saw her standing on the other side of the brier patch looking into the ground. It took me several moments but I suddenly realized she was pointing my dead grouse. As the season progressed she made several nice finds on fallen birds that I would have never found without her and she also began to hunt out in front of me. Finally during the late season on a isolated ridge in southern Somerset County she froze out in front of me. Being as much a novice as she was at this pointing dog game it took me several moments to realize that she was pointing. As I moved up to her a grouse erupted out of a brushpile and I dropped it with one shot and there on that steep, windy ridge my love affair with setters was born. As the years have slipped by Hattie and I have shared many wonderful days together in the Allegheny Mountains and down into West Virginia on the Dolly Sods wilderness area. She has been everything I could have ever hoped for in a birddog and I feel blessed to have had the chance to follow her through the many grouse and woodcock coverts we have explored.