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Versatile Hunting Dogs Open the Doors to Many Outdoor Opportunities

Tom Lounsbury

Fri, 09 Feb 2018 07:48:03 EST

 


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Versatile Hunting Dogs Open the Doors to Many Outdoor Opportunities
                               By Tom Lounsbury

The first dogs in my memory were the farm dogs we used for herding our dairy cows. This was back in the 1950’s when the Thumb had countless small farms, usually entailing milk cows in the mix. A common dog in the scene was a collie-type that had been brought into the Thumb by settlers, many from Canada (my great grandfather Lounsbury came to the Thumb directly from Canada). The dogs were actually what we in my local neighborhood called “coalies” due to the fact most were a longhaired brindle colored affair, with often black muzzles. They usually had the typical white “neck collar” of collies, but had shorter noses and blockier heads than the modern breed today. There is no doubt that their original ancestors hailed from Scotland and probably other breeds got added in along the way in the New World.
The coalies were not only great herding dogs, but during the heyday of pheasant hunting in the Thumb, they held their own in flushing pheasants with blue-blooded bird dogs (our one coalie would even lockup on point). They were also pretty good rabbit dogs, making them a very versatile breed. Sadly, when small working farms with various dairy herds went by the wayside in the Thumb, the coalie breed that I knew (which other than being a set type with no registration entailed) faded away. My late Uncle Harland Lounsbury who continued on as a Thumb dairy farmer had the last coalie I can remember, named “Leo” (that was in the last litter of pups our coalie “Lady” had, fathered by our neighbor Ray Brown’s coalie named “Bob”), that was a great versatile farm dog and enjoyed hunting too. Leo passed away in the mid-1960’s and I haven’t seen what I consider as a true Thumb farm “coalie” since.
Thanks to my early association with our versatile farm dogs, I have ever since looked upon my hunting dogs as being versatile in the field. I have been with bird hunters who got upset when their dogs showed an interest in rabbits, and I have been with rabbit hunters who got upset if their beagles started chasing pheasants. Personally, I don’t have any issues with a dog, well, being a hunting dog. An example is my beagle hunting pheasants with my Brittanies and the Brittanies joining the beagle for a good ‘ol rabbit hunt. In this manner, all of my dogs have a very lengthy and happy hunting season from fall to spring which I much enjoy as well.
There was a registered blue-tick hound I owned some twenty years ago that was one dandy pheasant and rabbit dog, and even retrieved. A whole lot has to do with how you train a dog, especially when hunting is in their genes, which pretty most all dogs have. A truly versatile breed for both upland and wetland environments is the Labrador retriever and a good example was my lab “Ebony”, who passed away just before Christmas.
We shared a dozen years together, and we were tight enough in our relationship that my wife Ginny claimed Ebony and I were attached with an umbilical cord. Ebony knew when we were pheasant or waterfowl hunting, and she also knew when we were rabbit hunting, and she tutored younger dogs in all avenues along the way. She also retrieved downed and wounded game that may otherwise have been lost. I will always remember the time we stalked in on a remote pond filled with mallards, and Ebony without any commands from me automatically knew we were stalking in slow and followed my lead, and went to work only after the shooting started. She without question could read my mind.
Of course Ebony, like all dogs, went quickly from a puppy to her prime, and suddenly was an old dog, and all too soon gone. If you are lucky, you get only a decade to share together. It is a reality I have learned to accept after a lifetime association with dogs, but I remember each and every one.
An organization which promotes versatile hunting dogs is the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (www.navhda.org ) and they place an emphasis on dog breeds that can readily cover all upland and wetland hunting avenues, as well as small game hunting, and including trailing and recovering wounded game. They have quite a list of breeds, which I’m sure will continue to grow. One listed is the German shorthair pointer (GSP), and I have a good friend who uses his entire GSP kennel to upland and waterfowl hunt, as well as for rabbit hunting. Also listed was my beloved Brittany breed.
Not listed, as yet anyway, is the “Mountain Cur”, a notably American breed developed in a very unforgiving frontier environment. Listed as belonging to the hound family, the Mountain Cur’s ancestors came to these shores from Europe nearly three centuries ago and were bred and maintained by settlers of the mountains of Ohio, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, and eventually further west. It was used as a herding dog, and when called upon, for all avenues of hunting including small game and large game which entailed bears, mountain lions and even wild boars. It could also tree raccoons and squirrels, and is noted as being a great “treeing dog”.
The Mountain Cur breed almost disappeared when World War II began, and many rural folks went to work in factories. It was considered a rare breed by the end of the 1940’s, but was revived in the 1950’s and recognized as a breed by the United Kennel Club (UKC) in 1998. It is most noted today for treeing squirrels and raccoons, but for me personally, I’ve been truly interested in obtaining a Mountain Cur to use for what it was intended, a very versatile hunting dog. This all came to fruition not long ago when I purchased a 7 month old female I have named “Jilly-Dog”.
Jilly-Dog’s original owner had treated her very well, but due to sudden health issues, he had been unable to train her, which was fine by me as I don’t mind starting from scratch. What I had was a very amiable dog (to both people and other dogs) with a bobtail, black body and brindle undercarriage and muzzle. For a fact, she has what I call “smooze eyes”, meaning she is a real friendly and willing to please pooch, and I’ve learned to understand a dog’s character by the look in their eyes. I also discovered she has a real soft spot for kids, which works for me, because she adores my grandchildren.
First in order was getting to know each other, which I made a point of every day by simply talking to and petting her. I also put her in the kennel run right next to my 8 year old male Brittany “Ranger”, as I wanted them to get to know each as well, because the greatest tutor for a young dog is a seasoned old dog. I then took Jilly-Dog out of the kennel with a check-cord (I love the retractable leashes which allow variable distances and quick adjustments with a dog’s movement). Jilly-dog didn’t care for the check-cord at first, and in fact did a few acrobatics until she realized it was futile to fight matters. Within a short time she knew how to “heel”, and come to me when I called, and became excited whenever she saw me at the kennel with the check-cord in hand.
Then came “graduation day”, of sorts anyway, because we are just getting started, and I would turn her out without a check-cord. I recently arranged a rabbit hunt on my farm with friends and had them posted at various positions when I turned out Jilly-Dog with my Brittany “Ranger” and Beagle “Boomer” to perform a rabbit drive. Jilly-Dog latched right onto Ranger’s lead and headed out, and all the dogs began working together in earnest. Ranger’s collar bell was also a beacon for the young dog in the heavy maze of cover. Boomer was the first to sound off, quickly followed by Jilly-Dog’s distinct baying, and Ranger’s collar bell was tinkling at a high rate. The rooster pheasant they were after quickly decided it was time to flush up and change locations.
Pheasant season of course is over, but it was a thrill just the same seeing the gaudy bird flying up against a late January sky. I complimented all the dogs on doing their duty and we resumed rabbit hunting. At day’s end, I was elated by how my young Mountain Cur eagerly fell right into rhythm with the other dogs, and came to me whenever I called. We clearly have established the necessary connection, with a great future ahead working as a team for a variety of hunting pastimes. Next on the agenda, is seeing how Jilly-Dog enjoys working on her own and treeing squirrels, because squirrel season is open for another month.
Versatile hunting dogs have a natural way of shortening up long winters.




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Jilly-Dog's expression says "I aim to please". You can tell a lot about a dog's character by the look in its eyes.








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   Tom Lounsbury's Mountain Cur Jilly - Dog is following Tom's seasoned Brittany's lead, Ranger, into heavy cover. Ranger's collar-bell was aconstant beacon for the younger dog in the thick maze.







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   Jilly-Dog, who adores kids, smoozing it up with brothers Hugh (right) and Oliver Walker of Cass City during a recent rabbit hunt in the Thumb. Mountain Curs are know to be very friendly to people and other dogs.

 

 

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