There are many reasons, unrelated to wingshooting, that we buy hunting dogs.
The decision to get a hunting dog puppy was made last spring. Though that decision was not necessarily made by me and it wasn’t necessarily made primarily for hunting purposes. It happened like this…
I was sitting on the sideline of my son’s soccer game, watching the ball bounce merrily back and forth between clusters of second graders. My son, playing goalie at the time, was most certainly not watching the ball. His eyes were trained on a little brown blip that was running back and forth along a chainlink fence fifty yards away, marking the edge of the park.
“DAD!” shouted my inattentive goalkeeper, “look at that awesome dog!”
I squinted. Recognizing that the brown blip was actually a chihuahua, I sighed, realizing I had to teach my son what the word “awesome” means.
After a fatherly admonition (“Watch the game, son!”) I turned to my wife. She simply nodded. We knew the time had come.
I’d spent the last year or so researching hunting dog breeds and hunting over a buddy’s pair of Brittanys, but I had already decided on the dog breed we were going to get: Braque du Bourbonnais. It’s a little-known breed that excels both in the field and in the home. I had stumbled upon an article in Gun Dog Magazine about the breed and my imagination had been running wild ever since. The only question: with a very limited number of breeders across the country, was there a litter on the horizon?
Side note for a moment. I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say that the name Braque du Bourbonnais sounds awfully pretentious for a hunting dog. So, when people ask what breed she is, I mumble something about her being a pointer and being from the region in France that inspired the good folks of Kentucky to name their liquor “Bourbon.” That usually gets me off the hook.
Fast forward about five months and five thousand requests from my son to “get a dog.” I found myself pulling up to Elk Run Kennels in Southern Idaho—a mere 5 hours from where I live—to pick up our new family member. The best part is that, while I described the breed in great detail to my son and got his own little imagination churning, he was under the impression that we were going to Elk Run to “film something for Project Upland.” We walked up to the house and the breeder, Lonn Kuck, opened the door—a nine-week-old female with liver ticking and a perfect brown spot on her eye came careening down the steps of the front porch, colliding with my son’s shins. It would not be a cliche to say that it was love at first sight.
After rubbing his face on nearly every square inch of the dog, he looked up at Lonn and asked, “What kind of dog is this?”
Lonn smiled, “That’s a Braque to Bourbonnais.”
My son, in a move that you only see on slapstick sitcoms, whips his head to me and with wide eyes says, “Dad! This is the breed that we want to get!”
As I reflect on the decision-making process of picking a hunting dog breed, I’ve found myself thinking about all the reasons I bought a hunting dog. To my surprise, there were a lot of them that had nothing to do with hunting.
Now, my son would have been content with a chihuahua (the shame!) but mere contentment wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted him to have a real dog. I wanted a breed that could keep up with him…maybe even wear him out. I wanted a breed that would be affectionate and loyal. A breed that knew how to hunt hard and terrorize our cats, but also knew when to calm down and curl up for a fireside nap. I wanted a breed that was eager to please and happiest while working. I wanted a breed that was overflowing with intelligence and instinct and was as doggy as a dog can be. In other words, there was no possible option to get a non-hunting breed.
You see, Pearl isn’t just the best hunting dog I’ve ever owned. She’s the best dog I’ve ever owned. Period. And that’s important for all those off-season months when we all want (need?) more than just a good nose and elegant point.
At the end of the day, it brings a smile to my face thinking that my son’s childhood memories will be full of this amazing creature and that he will always know exactly what a dog is supposed to be. And that is the primary reason I bought a hunting dog.
Chet Hervey is the Managing Partner of Business Affairs at Northwoods Collective. He lives in the chimney of northern Idaho with his wife, son, and their Braque du Bourbonnais. Chet spends his falls chasing pheasant and quail, his winters coaching youth hockey, his springs chasing turkey, and summers tenkara fly-fishing and/or boating on the Snake River.