Getting the most out of your gundog - 9 April 2020
Part 1-Buying a gundog
Choosing a Breed
So, you’re thinking you could benefit from investing in a gundog.
I shoot on a side stream of the Waitaki River, over a pool with banks covered in willow, black-berry, gorse and broom.
On opening day of duck-shooting in 2018, for the first time ever, I shot my limit of 50 ducks.
My (then) four-year-old dog Pippa retrieved 48 birds without me having to leave my hide.
She only missed two divers which I was able to retrieve the following day with the help of my older dog, Becky.
And, by the way, all 50 birds were fully utilized.
If you’re into game bird hunting, you definitely need a gundog.
The question is what sort of gundog do you need. There are three main groups of gundogs; pointers, spaniels and retrievers.
There are many breeds of pointers, German Shorthaired and Vizslas to name a couple, but there are plenty more.
Pointers are wide ranging dogs, excellent at scenting and pointing the whereabouts of game, allowing you to get into position for a shot before flushing.
They’re great for hunting ground dwelling game like pheasants, quail, and rabbits.
A well-trained pointer is a delight to shoot over, but they are generally considered to be challenging to train and are probably not the right dog for a first- time gundog owner. They also require a great deal of exercise.
Spaniels are flushing dogs, ranging and flushing game within gun range.
They’ll also happily retrieve your ducks from rivers or ponds.
As with the pointers, there are many breeds of spaniels, the Cocker and Springer probably being the best-known hunting breeds.
They are busy, lively dogs, with lots of character and are generally smaller than other small-game hunting dogs, making them ideal for town sections.
Both pointers and spaniels should retrieve your game, but the retrievers specialize in it.
If you’re a waterfowl shooter, a retriever is for you.
My preference is the Labrador, but there are many other breeds of retriever.
Retrievers are generally good-natured dogs and, if properly socialized, make great family dogs.
They will retrieve from water and heavy cover with ease and will also range and flush land-based game.
Like the pointers, they can be trained for hunting larger game like deer, but that’s another story.
Choosing a Breeder
I recommend that you buy a pup which is registered with Dogs NZ (formally the NZ Kennel Club) and has papers to prove it.
One reason being, that many breeds, potentially, have inherent disorders and Dogs NZ requires that the parents be tested for the more serious ones before the pups can be registered.
Also, of course, if you buy from a reputable, registered breeder, you’re more likely to get what you’re paying for.
Choose a breeder of dogs which are of hunting strain and have hunting strain genetics.
Both parents should be proven proficient hunters.
A successful gundog trialist should be your first choice of breeder.
There are gundog clubs throughout New Zealand and a list of these, with contact details, can be found on the NZ Gundog Trial Association website, www.nzgta.co.nz.
Next issue I’ll write about bringing your pup home and how to start training.
John Stevens, President, Waimate Gundog Club.