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Best Hunting Dogs: OL Picks the Best Retrievers, Pointers, Flushers and Hounds

Best Hunting Dogs: OL Picks the Best Retrievers, Pointers, Flushers and Hounds

Our picks for the best modern breeds of sporting dogs that track, find and retrieve anything we care to hunt.
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from schmakenzie wrote 1 year 28 weeks ago

Nice article. I live with an epaneul breton (ukc) or a brittany (akc). Most people recognize my dog as a French Brittany. Just using the word Brittany can mislead. I use my dog for rabbitt hunting, pheasant hunting, dove hunting, tracking wounded deer and shed hunting. She is a good hunter and a very good family dog.

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from GuyGene wrote 1 year 42 weeks ago

I agree with the posts about running hounds being very much alive! Dogs are amazing crits! My cousins used to have a bunch of what my Dad called "slop hounds". Unidentifiable dogs of various backgrounds - one was kind of a spaniel looking dog, whose name was "Jump Dog" - that's right, Jump Dog. Guess what he was good at while rabbit hunting? That rascal would crawl into the most ridiculous places to jump a rabbit... My present best hunting dog is the mixed chocolate lab laying snoozing next to me right now.. she hates squirrels. I cannot even say the word around her, unless we are hunting them. I just love dogs.

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from Frank Picorale wrote 2 years 14 weeks ago

Brittany's indeed are the Best Pointing dogs by far and Quail Hollow Kennels in NJ has the best Brittany's anywhere....

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from mcsidney wrote 2 years 14 weeks ago

Unfortunately, the "top" breeds and all of the pedigree and inate hunting instinct in the world is useless without proper training. Rather than agonizing over which breed to get and paying for a top breed with super pedigree, choose your pup from good stock and invest more money in a good trainer to bring out the best in what will likely be a lifetime hunting companion and friend. An average dog groomed and trained by a good trainer will almost always far outshine a highly touted breed and pedigree with little or no training. How often have you been out after pheasant or ducks and seen and been frustrated by your buddy's "super dog" running out of range, not sitting in the blind and generally just going wild? Get a good dog of the breed of your choice and then invest in a good trainer. THAT's what makes a good hunting dog, not just breed and pedigree.

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from J-NO wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

I would love for you to tell all the guys competing this weekend for the $26,000 pkc world hunt title that coonhunting is dead. It amazed me that you didnt even mention walker dogs in with the hounds, even though they hunt bear, coon, mountain lion, bobcat, deer, small game, and other animals with them, and consistantly win more titles than curs and booticks together. The author of the article was very misinformed, and has misinformed the readers now. So while you hurry home to sit on the couch and catch the next "dancing with the stars" episode, I'll be in the woods chasing the hounds.

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from GriffGuy wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

It's unfortunate there even has to be a "best dog". Let's face it, it's the dog you're most comfortable hunting with. As the name says, I like wirehaired pointing griffons because they are great all-arounds and match my hunting style (which is a step slower than others!). They are just a pleasure to hunt with but intense hunters and killer in the water. Most never even heard of them which is why I also tend to think the authors are going on the most popular ones in the AKC and with the "non-hunting public".

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from tsansing wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Hound hunting is an "echo from a distant past", really?
I run deer dogs, (Walkers, Black and Tans, redbones. There's nothing like hearing a hot race; whether you see anything or not. and There are plenty more like me.
Last week a Black and Tan Coonhound was brought to Alabama, from Illinois to be burried at the coondog cemetary. 400 were in attendance. This does not seem like "so yesterday" to me.
apperantly the author thinks that hounds are so much of a thing of the past that, a curr was picked for the top spot. Nothing against a curr, but is that even a hound?
Don't forget about us houndsmen.

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from land_cruiser_73 wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

I commend O.L. for even running an article like this. The 'best' dog breed can't be picked any more than the 'best' gun, but it sure is fun to talk about our dogs.
The dog that brought the most joy to my heart was a Weimeraner. That dog had a better sense or humor than most of my friends. I never hesitated to let my kids play down by the creek "Just take the dog with you!"

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from JM1993 wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

this gallery is great, but arent the "best" hunting dogs the coyotes/wolfs etc?

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from akferraro1 wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

I'm with RES1956 100%. Opinions are like as*holes- everybody has one. German Shorthairs win over 90% of all the versatile completions nationwide. I'll take mine over any of your "winners" any day.

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from bberg7794 wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

I used to have a half lab/half American water spaniel that was a great bird hunter. She retrieved ducks and geese through whitecaps in the saltwater and also flushed or pointed pheasant and grouse. If the bird held, she would point it. She was, to me, a perfect bird dog and pet at the same time. I will take a close look at the American Water Spaniel for my next bird dog.

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from sucngas wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

We hunt pheasants and huns with my brother's beagle. There isn't a bird that gets the better of him. Not to mention it is a hoot chasing a pheasant down behind a baying hound. It has started working much better now that the dog is a bit older, fatter, and out of shape. Bird hunting has become much less strenuous for us.

Training him was just a matter of getting him to realize what we were after. After several unproductive and very frustrating trips, I finally flushed and shot a rooster. We showed him the pheasant, he cocked his head to the side, and I swear you could read his mind. "That's what you are after? What the heck is wrong with you morons, those things are friggin' everywhere." He took off and all three of us had a limit of pheasants in about an hour. Things haven't slowed down a bit in the several years we've hunted with him since. If there is a pheasant in the field, its time is very, very limited.

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from JM1993 wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Best hunting dog I ever had was a mutt that just decided one day it was going to live on our farm. Started feeding it with our other dogs and every once and a while it would follow me into woods and we eventually learned how to hunt together. Now she's half blind and spends most of the day lying down inside =\, but we had many years together.

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from Smitty18 wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

My dad had a beagle who would not only run the cottontails with the best of them, but was a great flusher for mountain pheasants (ruffed grouse) and would even flush ringnecks. The good old dog worked close so the birds were in range. Pretty cool watching old hunting videos of him, wish i had the chance to meet old major.

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from washburs wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Again, I feel that the typical information from OutDoor Life about dogs only talks about what they hear, not what is really happening in the world of dogs. I have been hunting with the Small Muensterlander since 1975 and hunted in Germany for 9 of those year. Even the Germans consider the SMP one of the best all purpose hunting dogs there is. I dont ever recall even seeing an article in Outdoor life about the SMP, though all other American gun dogs magazines have the SMP featured. The english Lab is a great retriever, but the Labs on the east coast have gotten fatter and have less energy with each breeding. Also, seems that outdoor life only pays attention to AKC breeds, which is well known for ruining breeds like the Irish Setter and Poodle. Conformation is not the defination of a good hunting dog, but skills and abilities are, if the AKC ever realizes that, we can go back to breeding for success in the field and not "pretty, deformed dogs"

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from sambar02 wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Here in Australia we chase sambar deer with beagles,so the comment about rabbits is a load of crock to me,according to the GPS tracker old Fatty an9year old beagle covered over 30 kilometres last saturday morning chasing a stag in very mountainous regrowth terrain

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from VaDeerHunter wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Poor choice of words in your talk about hounds. The research is lackluster and really hurt this article. There are many well deserving hounds that would be ranked higher than a cur. No disrespect to the breed intended but your reasoning is poor. Blueticks, walkers, beagles, black and tans, redbones are all more deserving of mention. There is a healthy contingent of owners who treasure there hounds and think of them as much more than what you describe them as.

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from res1956 wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

BTW, the best all around dog I ever saw was a German Shorthaired Pointer (not even mentioned) that would fetch ducks in the morning, point quail midday, tree squirrels in the afternoon, trail wounded deer, and tree coons at night. Old Sue was a hell of a dog, she just deserved a better owner.

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from res1956 wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Everybody has an opinion, including the author of this blog, but,,
I agree with buckmeister2 that the swamp collie (aka: golden retriever) depicted does look a bit odd, but it could be that it is an aged dog and this was the only decent hunter within that breed that could be found, but, I saw a jam up golden that pro trainer Woody Thurman was working at a DU Shoot in Atlanta several years ago that looked more like a Chow than a golden.
No doubt, the Lab is the undisputed winner in it category, but I will run any of the five I have against any flushing dog out there. Which brings to mind a good point, there was no category for 'versatile' dogs. Meaning, what's the best breed for picking up your ducks and geese in the morning and then hitting cover to flush upland game in the afternoon. I declare the Lab to be the winner in that category also.
But Like I said, everybody has an opinion,,,

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from pofallon wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

I own a Silver Lab, (you know there is no such thing as a Silver Lab!) and I would put him against any dog for his ability to retrieve. Especially a Frisbee in the pool.

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from buckmeister2 wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Man, I don't know how I would react if I saw a man shoot his own hunting dog.

You guys need to learn what the standard is for a Golden Retriever. The dog pictured is NOT a Golden Retriever, it is a mix. Pure Golden Retriever's do not have any white, and that dog is full of white. With the short, wavy hair, it looks more like a cross between a Golden and an Australian Cattledog. I am sure it is a nice animal, but it is not a Golden Retriever. BTW, I agree that the lab is probably the best retriever, and you did choose the Golden as the best runnerup.

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from thins28 wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Well no doubt the dogs listed are very good at what they do. I have had the fortune of having some very eager dogs, an Irish Setter field type that would pick up bird scent from incredible distances that other dogs passed by. Only problem is he had so much energy I would run him for like 5 miles before we started hunting and then he would still go all day. Also had a dachshund and later a little mix breed that would hunt pheasants right with my setter and they found birds just fine. The little mix was only about 5 lbs and one time I wounded a pheasant and she was hanging on to his tail feathers for all she was worth as he was trying to run and her little feet would bounce into the air and she was just not going to let him go. If you get a dog turned onto birds they will do great for you. Saddest thing I ever saw is a guy got mad at his Springer once and shot him. Someone should have shot the man but that is just my humble opinion. Good hunting with your favorite companion.

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from floridahunter wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Here in Florida most hunting dogs are Walker hounds for deer,and currs and bulldogs for hogs

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from VaDeerHunter wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Poor choice of words in your talk about hounds. The research is lackluster and really hurt this article. There are many well deserving hounds that would be ranked higher than a cur. No disrespect to the breed intended but your reasoning is poor. Blueticks, walkers, beagles, black and tans, redbones are all more deserving of mention. There is a healthy contingent of owners who treasure there hounds and think of them as much more than what you describe them as.

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from Smitty18 wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

My dad had a beagle who would not only run the cottontails with the best of them, but was a great flusher for mountain pheasants (ruffed grouse) and would even flush ringnecks. The good old dog worked close so the birds were in range. Pretty cool watching old hunting videos of him, wish i had the chance to meet old major.

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from floridahunter wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Here in Florida most hunting dogs are Walker hounds for deer,and currs and bulldogs for hogs

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from sambar02 wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Here in Australia we chase sambar deer with beagles,so the comment about rabbits is a load of crock to me,according to the GPS tracker old Fatty an9year old beagle covered over 30 kilometres last saturday morning chasing a stag in very mountainous regrowth terrain

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from washburs wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Again, I feel that the typical information from OutDoor Life about dogs only talks about what they hear, not what is really happening in the world of dogs. I have been hunting with the Small Muensterlander since 1975 and hunted in Germany for 9 of those year. Even the Germans consider the SMP one of the best all purpose hunting dogs there is. I dont ever recall even seeing an article in Outdoor life about the SMP, though all other American gun dogs magazines have the SMP featured. The english Lab is a great retriever, but the Labs on the east coast have gotten fatter and have less energy with each breeding. Also, seems that outdoor life only pays attention to AKC breeds, which is well known for ruining breeds like the Irish Setter and Poodle. Conformation is not the defination of a good hunting dog, but skills and abilities are, if the AKC ever realizes that, we can go back to breeding for success in the field and not "pretty, deformed dogs"

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from JM1993 wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Best hunting dog I ever had was a mutt that just decided one day it was going to live on our farm. Started feeding it with our other dogs and every once and a while it would follow me into woods and we eventually learned how to hunt together. Now she's half blind and spends most of the day lying down inside =\, but we had many years together.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from tsansing wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Hound hunting is an "echo from a distant past", really?
I run deer dogs, (Walkers, Black and Tans, redbones. There's nothing like hearing a hot race; whether you see anything or not. and There are plenty more like me.
Last week a Black and Tan Coonhound was brought to Alabama, from Illinois to be burried at the coondog cemetary. 400 were in attendance. This does not seem like "so yesterday" to me.
apperantly the author thinks that hounds are so much of a thing of the past that, a curr was picked for the top spot. Nothing against a curr, but is that even a hound?
Don't forget about us houndsmen.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from thins28 wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Well no doubt the dogs listed are very good at what they do. I have had the fortune of having some very eager dogs, an Irish Setter field type that would pick up bird scent from incredible distances that other dogs passed by. Only problem is he had so much energy I would run him for like 5 miles before we started hunting and then he would still go all day. Also had a dachshund and later a little mix breed that would hunt pheasants right with my setter and they found birds just fine. The little mix was only about 5 lbs and one time I wounded a pheasant and she was hanging on to his tail feathers for all she was worth as he was trying to run and her little feet would bounce into the air and she was just not going to let him go. If you get a dog turned onto birds they will do great for you. Saddest thing I ever saw is a guy got mad at his Springer once and shot him. Someone should have shot the man but that is just my humble opinion. Good hunting with your favorite companion.

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from res1956 wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

BTW, the best all around dog I ever saw was a German Shorthaired Pointer (not even mentioned) that would fetch ducks in the morning, point quail midday, tree squirrels in the afternoon, trail wounded deer, and tree coons at night. Old Sue was a hell of a dog, she just deserved a better owner.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from sucngas wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

We hunt pheasants and huns with my brother's beagle. There isn't a bird that gets the better of him. Not to mention it is a hoot chasing a pheasant down behind a baying hound. It has started working much better now that the dog is a bit older, fatter, and out of shape. Bird hunting has become much less strenuous for us.

Training him was just a matter of getting him to realize what we were after. After several unproductive and very frustrating trips, I finally flushed and shot a rooster. We showed him the pheasant, he cocked his head to the side, and I swear you could read his mind. "That's what you are after? What the heck is wrong with you morons, those things are friggin' everywhere." He took off and all three of us had a limit of pheasants in about an hour. Things haven't slowed down a bit in the several years we've hunted with him since. If there is a pheasant in the field, its time is very, very limited.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from J-NO wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

I would love for you to tell all the guys competing this weekend for the $26,000 pkc world hunt title that coonhunting is dead. It amazed me that you didnt even mention walker dogs in with the hounds, even though they hunt bear, coon, mountain lion, bobcat, deer, small game, and other animals with them, and consistantly win more titles than curs and booticks together. The author of the article was very misinformed, and has misinformed the readers now. So while you hurry home to sit on the couch and catch the next "dancing with the stars" episode, I'll be in the woods chasing the hounds.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from akferraro1 wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

I'm with RES1956 100%. Opinions are like as*holes- everybody has one. German Shorthairs win over 90% of all the versatile completions nationwide. I'll take mine over any of your "winners" any day.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckmeister2 wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Man, I don't know how I would react if I saw a man shoot his own hunting dog.

You guys need to learn what the standard is for a Golden Retriever. The dog pictured is NOT a Golden Retriever, it is a mix. Pure Golden Retriever's do not have any white, and that dog is full of white. With the short, wavy hair, it looks more like a cross between a Golden and an Australian Cattledog. I am sure it is a nice animal, but it is not a Golden Retriever. BTW, I agree that the lab is probably the best retriever, and you did choose the Golden as the best runnerup.

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from pofallon wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

I own a Silver Lab, (you know there is no such thing as a Silver Lab!) and I would put him against any dog for his ability to retrieve. Especially a Frisbee in the pool.

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from res1956 wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Everybody has an opinion, including the author of this blog, but,,
I agree with buckmeister2 that the swamp collie (aka: golden retriever) depicted does look a bit odd, but it could be that it is an aged dog and this was the only decent hunter within that breed that could be found, but, I saw a jam up golden that pro trainer Woody Thurman was working at a DU Shoot in Atlanta several years ago that looked more like a Chow than a golden.
No doubt, the Lab is the undisputed winner in it category, but I will run any of the five I have against any flushing dog out there. Which brings to mind a good point, there was no category for 'versatile' dogs. Meaning, what's the best breed for picking up your ducks and geese in the morning and then hitting cover to flush upland game in the afternoon. I declare the Lab to be the winner in that category also.
But Like I said, everybody has an opinion,,,

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from bberg7794 wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

I used to have a half lab/half American water spaniel that was a great bird hunter. She retrieved ducks and geese through whitecaps in the saltwater and also flushed or pointed pheasant and grouse. If the bird held, she would point it. She was, to me, a perfect bird dog and pet at the same time. I will take a close look at the American Water Spaniel for my next bird dog.

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from land_cruiser_73 wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

I commend O.L. for even running an article like this. The 'best' dog breed can't be picked any more than the 'best' gun, but it sure is fun to talk about our dogs.
The dog that brought the most joy to my heart was a Weimeraner. That dog had a better sense or humor than most of my friends. I never hesitated to let my kids play down by the creek "Just take the dog with you!"

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from GriffGuy wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

It's unfortunate there even has to be a "best dog". Let's face it, it's the dog you're most comfortable hunting with. As the name says, I like wirehaired pointing griffons because they are great all-arounds and match my hunting style (which is a step slower than others!). They are just a pleasure to hunt with but intense hunters and killer in the water. Most never even heard of them which is why I also tend to think the authors are going on the most popular ones in the AKC and with the "non-hunting public".

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from mcsidney wrote 2 years 14 weeks ago

Unfortunately, the "top" breeds and all of the pedigree and inate hunting instinct in the world is useless without proper training. Rather than agonizing over which breed to get and paying for a top breed with super pedigree, choose your pup from good stock and invest more money in a good trainer to bring out the best in what will likely be a lifetime hunting companion and friend. An average dog groomed and trained by a good trainer will almost always far outshine a highly touted breed and pedigree with little or no training. How often have you been out after pheasant or ducks and seen and been frustrated by your buddy's "super dog" running out of range, not sitting in the blind and generally just going wild? Get a good dog of the breed of your choice and then invest in a good trainer. THAT's what makes a good hunting dog, not just breed and pedigree.

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from GuyGene wrote 1 year 42 weeks ago

I agree with the posts about running hounds being very much alive! Dogs are amazing crits! My cousins used to have a bunch of what my Dad called "slop hounds". Unidentifiable dogs of various backgrounds - one was kind of a spaniel looking dog, whose name was "Jump Dog" - that's right, Jump Dog. Guess what he was good at while rabbit hunting? That rascal would crawl into the most ridiculous places to jump a rabbit... My present best hunting dog is the mixed chocolate lab laying snoozing next to me right now.. she hates squirrels. I cannot even say the word around her, unless we are hunting them. I just love dogs.

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from schmakenzie wrote 1 year 28 weeks ago

Nice article. I live with an epaneul breton (ukc) or a brittany (akc). Most people recognize my dog as a French Brittany. Just using the word Brittany can mislead. I use my dog for rabbitt hunting, pheasant hunting, dove hunting, tracking wounded deer and shed hunting. She is a good hunter and a very good family dog.

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from JM1993 wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

this gallery is great, but arent the "best" hunting dogs the coyotes/wolfs etc?

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from Frank Picorale wrote 2 years 14 weeks ago

Brittany's indeed are the Best Pointing dogs by far and Quail Hollow Kennels in NJ has the best Brittany's anywhere....

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