The Essence of Life

The Essence of Life

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Observations on Pointers

Alteza and the author, ready for the next perdiz

Over the last several years I have had the opportunity and pleasure to hunt upland birds over pointing dogs in the United States and Uruguay and the differences in the behavior of birds and dogs are nothing short of impressive.
In the US I hunted mostly pheasants (Phasianus Colchicus) with German Shorthaired Pointers (I would never accuse Tupã, my Labrador retriever, of being a pointer and we will discuss differences and preferences between flushers and pointers at another time), both released preserve birds in Michigan and the fantastically wild roosters of North Dakota.
In the prairies of North Dakota pheasants prefer heavy or dense cover and there is a strict limit of three roosters per day. Hunters demand that their dogs “freeze” when they go on point, and then the “gun” will circle around the dogs until they believe that they are in a straight line with the pheasant and the dog. The “gun” then will walk towards the dog until the bird is flushed, and during all this time the dog must remain locked on point, bringing great pride and joy to their owners.
This is almost an exercise in aesthetics, but the unruly and uncooperative pheasants do not necessarily follow the script, and many times they just disappear through the cover, and the pointing game must start again.
In Uruguay I have been hunting perdiz or codorna (Nothura maculosa), a fantastic upland bird, primarily following English Pointers and Epagneul Bretons. Perdizes prefer much lighter or sparse cover than pheasants, and both would rather run away from dogs than sit tight under the dog’s nose.
In the first year that I hunted in Uruguay all my North American friends had a very hard time killing perdizes, as they attempted to hunt just like they would have done in the United States by making wide circles around the dogs once they were on point, and in most cases the perdiz would just slip away or present a wild flush.
The “proper way” to hunt with pointers in Uruguay, and all other South American countries, is to follow close behind the dog once it starts to herd the bird and once it goes on point the hunter comes directly behind the dog and nudges him with a leg. The dog will break point and crawl forward. This may be repeated several times until the perdiz loses its nerves and flushes, many times almost under the hunter’s legs.
As a rule the dog will break point and charge after the bird in an attempt to catch it, and the hunter must be very careful when shooting low flying birds as not to hit the dog.
On that first year I did my best to try to explain the difference in dog culture and educate my friends on how they should behave with the local dogs. But old ways die hard, and by the fifth day I had bagged more birds than my four “gringo” friends. However on the following years they may have learned the lesson to well.
The daily bag limits in Uruguay can only be considered lavish when compared to the three roosters a day in North Dakota, and the way that dogs are handled in the south appears to be a lot more productive in terms of flushes per point and birds shot.
I know that many northern hemisphere pointing dog purists consider it an aberration and will disagree when I say that I prefer to hunt the South American way. One of the reasons is that I believe that the southern way allows the dogs to better use their atavist hunting instincts, as they not only locate the bird by scent, but stalk very close and upon the flush pursue their prey. But, maybe most important, this is the way that I learned from my father.

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