"English Setters are a neat dog that you can really develop a relationship with and they have great prey drive," says Smith, who notes that setters can mature a bit slower than other breeds, which will means you could be up to a year behind in your training when compared to the maturation process of some other breeds.
Known as the gentleman’s game bird for the Southern hunts that take place in locations like Georgia, quail, in reality, can be downright nasty to hunt in the South or anywhere else for that matter. They’re small birds that flush in large coveys, often flustering the hunter, and only offer a clean shot for a moment. Found throughout the country, from thick pine forests to sun-baked deserts and everywhere in between, the various species of quail require a special dog to hunt ’em up–and the best dog for the job is often dependent upon where and when you’re going to pursue these delectable birds. To find out more about quail dogs, we asked the folks at Quail Forever, as well as one of the best bird-dog trainers in the country, Ronnie Smith of Big Cabin, Okla., what they considered some of the best breeds and the pros and cons of each. English Pointer
Perhaps the epitome of a quail dog, the lean, well-muscled pointer is a tireless worker with great range. “More than any other breed, pointers have the focus and high prey drive that makes them perfect for hunting quail,” says Smith, who guides hunters in South Texas where everything sticks, pricks or bites hunter and dog alike. Smith cites the breed’s short, slick coat as a huge benefit in hot climates and burr-filled areas. Dogs from big-running lines are useful when covering huge expanses of area, too.
The biggest problem most folks have with pointers is that they use the wrong type of dog for a specific application. “People too often choose the wrong blood lines,” says Smith. “They’ll find a big-running pup from field champion lines and then try to use it for pheasant hunting–which a flushing breed is probably your best choice.” To get the best pointer, choose pups from parents that participate in trials that require them to work within the range you’re looking to hunt. Don’t go for an all-age dog that trials with hunters on horseback and expect it to work well in the thick cover of an overgrown pine forest.
Brittany Spaniel Small and fast with good prey drive, Britts are great for the hunter working smaller patches of ground and for those wanting a house dog for the family when it’s not hunting season. “Brittany spaniels have really neat personalities and can make a great family dog,” says Smith, whose family has bred champion Britts for years. “They’re smaller dogs, which means they cost less to feed and take up less space, which can be a big deal for guys living in cities or suburbs.”
A downfall to the liver-and-white dogs is their longer coat. It will attract seeds and burrs and can cause the dog to overheat on warm days. To help combat both problems, Smith shaves the dog’s coat when hunting them in South Texas.
German Shorthair Pointer The versatile GSP, along with the Brittany, could be the best quail dogs going for the average hunter. The perfect combination of prey drive, trainability and short-to-medium range make it ideal for most guys to train and hunt behind, while their disposition make them great house dogs and family pets.
“Unless they’re really dark, GSPs do well in the heat, and their slick coat helps them avoid burrs and other snags,” says Smith, who uses the combination of GSPs, Britts and pointers when guiding the big ranches of South Texas. “One drawback they have is that they were bred to pursue feather and fur. It’s a genetic thing and that can make them a little harder to handle if they get on to rabbits or other small animals.”
English Setter Like the other long-haired breeds, English setters can attract every burr, nettle and seed in the county. “Setters and burrs are a bad combination. The burrs can get caught and then work their way up and tear a dog up,” says Smith. To avoid the problem he completely shaves the dogs, if the climate allows. At the very least, you can shave the “pit area” between the dog’s legs and body cavity, as well as the feet and between the toes.
“English Setters are a neat dog that you can really develop a relationship with and they have great prey drive,” says Smith, who notes that setters can mature a bit slower than other breeds, which will means you could be up to a year behind in your training when compared to the maturation process of some other breeds.
Wirehairs German Wirehair Pointers are ideal for cold, wet climates and most possess a good amount of prey drive that will keep them hunting in those adverse conditions. While their use in heat is a drawback, the breeds’ development as versatile hunters, like GSPs, can also hamper their pursuit of game birds if they happen to push some fur during the hunt. Their ability to track, however, due to the same ancestry, can come in handy on running birds. Those hunters looking for close-working dogs might want to consider one of these breeds because as a general rule they tend to have a shorter range.
“GWPs, in particular, generally have a great attitude. Their trainability is very good,” says Smith. “You can take them out for training one day, and if you screw up or apply too much pressure, they can take it and they’re not going to hold it against you; they’re very forgiving in that manner.”
The various species of quail require a special dog to hunt ’em up–and the best dog for the job is often dependent upon where and when you’re going to pursue these delectable birds.