BS..ing with Bob Foshay, Maine Hunting Guide…

You can learn a lot from magazines and books. But to really know something, you have to experience it. Bob Foshay has been guiding upland hunters in central Maine for twenty plus years. When it comes to experience with wild birds and bird dogs, he has plenty. A day in the field with Bob is like a master’s class in chasing grouse & woodcock. I look forward to it every year.

Bob turned 79 this year and he thinks this will be his final season of guiding. I’m grateful for the time we’ve spent in the field, and for all he taught me about bird dogs and grouse/woodcock hunting. I’ll miss him next year.

BTW: here’s a post I put up a few years ago about another trip I made with Bob.

Field Report — Saturday, 10/27…

October is the greatest month of the year. I’m sorry to see another one go. My last day in the field was full of woodcock – 24 in all. I spent the day with friend & Maine Guide Bob Foshay. We hit a string of his picture-perfect covers in central Maine and we were accompanied by nice weather and decent dog work. In all, I managed to down 2 birds. It’s not bad shooting, it’s what I like to call flush & release. Here are pics and video from the day.

My review of Pointing Dogs Volume One: The Continentals…

Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals
Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals

If you follow this blog, you know how much I love Craig Koshyk’s book Pointing Dogs: Volume One: The Continentals. Here’s a review of it that I wrote a little while ago. It was published in July/August 2012 edition of Shooting Sportsman magazine:

I’m selfish with my time, and the older I grow the worse I get. This makes me reluctant to pick up most new books I come across. I wonder if they’ll be worth the time they’ll take to read.

Pointing Dogs: Volume One: The Continentals by Craig Koshyk is a big book with a big title, and at first this title worried me. It sounds a lot like the other breed bibles out there. Fortunately, Koshyk’s book isn’t anything like them. Part history lesson, part guide, and part love letter, Pointing Dogs is one of the finest books about hunting dogs that I’ve ever read.

Passion is what makes Pointing Dogs so worthwhile. Early on in the book Koshyk writes “We will always love our pointing dogs, and through them, forever seek a closer connection to the natural world,” and “Hunting over them (pointing dogs) is about pleasing the senses and soothing the soul.” Koshyk loves bird dogs and bird hunting, and his ardor makes this work glows. What follows in the book is as much a tribute to pointing dogs as it is a tribute to all the ways they enrich our lives.

Accuracy is an crucial part of this tribute. Instead of just recycling old breed standards and previously published information (much of which is incorrect), Koshyk spent twelve years doing original research for this book. Crisscrossing Europe with a notebook, camera and credit card, he talked to breeders, attended field trials, and hunted behind the breeds in his book.

Today, Koshyk is probably the only person in the world to have seen every one of the continental pointing breeds in action, in their native lands. This gives Pointing Dogs an impressive authority. When Koshyk writes that the Pachon Navorro (nicknamed the Double-Nosed Spanish Pointer) “…showed a good degree of desire, hunting hard despite the thick, thorny cover,” you know he didn’t just read that on the Web or in some out-of-date field guide. He actually traveled to Guadalajara, Spain, and saw Pachon Navorros in the field. This commitment comes through on every one Pointing Dogs, and it’s a big part of what make the book so special.

The three-hundred-and-sixty-five pages in Pointing Dogs go over a lot. To keep the book readable, Koshyk breaks it into six sections. First is “Pointing Dogs,” which covers the origins and history of these animals. The next two sections – “South and West” and “North and East” – detail current Continental breeds. Next there’s “Outliers,” which is about pointers at the edges of Europe, and then “Lost and Forgotten” discusses extinct breeds. At the end is “Appendices,” which includes everything from how to select a breed and dog to comparisons in sizes, gaits, populations, and more.

In all, Pointing Dogs covers 52 breeds from Europe and into Turkey and Russia. Koshyk writes about each dog’s history, form, function, and character. He also details the pointer’s selection & breeding prospects, and gives his opinion of each dog’s hunting ability.

There’s information about dogs we’ve heard about, like German Wirehair Pointers, and about dogs few people have seen, like the Saint-Usage Spaniel. Koshyk judges each breed with an understanding of how different dogs have been bred to hunt in different ways, while still holding to an objective standard of what it takes to be a good gun dog.

The handiest part of the breed reviews is a synopsis called “At A Glance”. It outlines the breed’s Pros and Cons and includes a useful little blurb called the “Risk Profile”. Buying a hunting dog is a gamble, and when you bet on any of the rarer breeds presented in this book, the odds against getting a good one for the field can really grow. The Risk Profile accounts for this phenomenon. It’s good to see that Koshyk is knowledgeable enough about hunting dogs to include this and responsible enough as a writer to report on it.

Beautiful, full-color pictures are another impressive part of Pointing Dogs. Koshyk is just as talented with a camera as he is with a pen, and page after page of his book come to life with photos of the dogs he writes about. This mean Pointing Dogs is rewarding to study and just plain fun to flip through and admire.

Early on in his book Koshyk explains what drove him to put the time, money, and effort into creating Pointing Dogs: Volume One: The Continentals. “If I wanted to read a book that did not exist,” he says, “I’d have to write it myself.” I’m glad he did, and I’m happy to spend time reading it again and again. If you love bird dogs, you will be, too.

Upland Hunting — the 2011 season begins…

The upland hunting season in Maine started on October 1st. But due to the crummy weather, my first day chasing grouse and woodcock was this past Saturday – 10/8. It was hot out all day – above 80 degrees at the peak – and the leaves were still up and very green. It looked like September. Right now fall’s about 2 weeks behind. I hope colder weather is on the way. I want those leaves down.

The hunting was hard. The thick cover and heat teamed up on us to make the shooting tough and the walking even harder. I went out with Master Maine Guide Bob Foshay. I’ve been hunting with Bob for the past 6 years. He’s 79 now and still going strong. We went out with his GSP Nelly and my girl Puck. In all, we moved 10 woodcock and 2 grouse – not bad. I shot two grouse. From here the season should only get better. Now if only those leaves would turn and drop.

Ducks on opening day…

October 1st finally arrived! Hunting season in Maine started yesterday and I was up at 4:30am to kick off the season. It was pouring rain and dark when I headed north, and the wet weather stayed with us throughout the day. My girl hates the rain – so this was bad for grouse and woodcock hunting. But ducks loves lousy weather, so my plan to jump shoot woodies in the AM worked out well.

I met my friend & registered Maine Guide Brad Cullivan at 7am and we were out looking for ducks by 7:15. Brad guides and trains dogs in the central Maine. He grew up in the area, so he has an local’s perspective on where the birds are and how to get them. His insights really paid off. We hit a handful of spots throughout the day and had a great time.

I’ve never shot ducks before, so this was my introduction to the sport. We jumped lot of woodies and a couple dozen actually came within range. I fired three shots and took down 2 – both drakes. Not bad for my first time. Brad’s GSP Owen did a great job of fetching both birds.

Now it’s back to work for the week. I’ll be back in central Maine on Saturday, hunting grouse and woodcock with my friend Master Maine Guide Bob Foshay. Enjoy the pics. To put together a hunt with Brad, email him at: owengsp@gmail.com

Article in the WSJ about quail hunting…

Nice to see some positive press for a shooting sport in a major U.S. paper. I always forget that some people have never done this kind of stuff before. Check out the recommended gear at the end. Funny.

The Thrill of the Hunt

“In a late December chill, I went quail hunting amid tall pines and waist-high broomsedge grass. My mission was to shoot 10-inch bobwhite quail, and then to hear a guide shout to the hunting dogs ahead of me: “Dead in here! Dead in here!” That command alerts the hounds to locate a downed bird…only in South Georgia’s fabled quail plantation belt the drawled order sounds more like, “Deh-ud-n-heah! Deh-ud-n-heah!”…

You can read all of it and see more pics here.

Here’s a slide show of pictures from the hunt.

The Thrill of the Hunt, from Wall Street Journal
The Thrill of the Hunt, from Wall Street Journal
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