St. Pierre: Can Field Trial Dogs Make Good Gun Dogs?

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posted on April 25, 2013
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My buddy Bob St. Pierre at Pheasants Forever has asked one of those can-of-worms type questions: Can field trial dogs produce great hunting dogs?

At one time, St. Pierre was among the doubters. According to his blog post, he used to say, “I don’t want a high-wired, big running dog with a bunch of titles.  Pure and simple, I want a hunting dog.”

Then something changed. He writes:

Over my ten years with Pheasants Forever, exposure to hundreds of bird dog experts, and personal hunting experiences over countless pups and breeds, my opinion on field trial dogs has changed. Personally, I’m still not interested in running my dogs in trials.  My focus remains hunting and putting birds in the bag. However, I do have a greater appreciation these days for dogs with the ability to win field trials and hunt tests.

In full disclosure, I attended my first field trial prior to turning one year of age and have remained active in the trial game ever since. So, I am biased in favor of trial lines, and this is especially true for certain breeds. I am an unapologetic fan of the English springer spaniel, and I appreciate that the goal of a springer trial is to simulate real, on-foot hunting conditions as closely as possible. The field trial rules are not the same for every breed though; I believe that those seeking to duplicate real hunting conditions would logically result in the best hunting dogs for the average person.

However, regardless of the breed and the rules of its field trial game, the following quote in St. Pierre’s blog sums up my feelings on the subject:

“The very best trial dogs are all hunted, and hunted hard,” said John Edstrom, merchandise manager for Pheasants Forever. “Successful trial dogs become hunting dogs in the fall. That is the secret to a good performance at a trial. Without that experience they do not know how and where to use their genetics and talent. They need to learn where to look for birds, how to use the wind etc. You will hear this said about trial dogs ‘he/she is a good bird dog.’  If the dog is not a bird dog, it is just running, not hunting, and those dogs will not win a trial or put birds in your game bag.”

We all have our own personal tastes and preferences when it comes to bird dogs. But I will say this: Whether I’m looking for a great trial dog or great hunting dog, I buy from field trial lines.

What say you: Have you ever owned a “meat dog” out of field trial lines? Would you ever consider buying one?

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