Buy this book: Building a Grouse Dog, From Puppy to Polished Performer

January-February 2020 edition of Shooting Sportsman magazine
January-February 2020 edition of Shooting Sportsman magazine

Check out my latest article from the January-February 2020 edition of Shooting Sportsman magazine. Scroll down to read the entire piece.

My latest Shooting Sportsman article, page 30, January - February 2020
My latest Shooting Sportsman article, page 30, January – February 2020

Building a Grouse Dog: From Puppy to Polished Performer, by Craig Doherty

True love and truly great dog trainers are hard to come by. It has taken me decades to find both. I married in 2012 and, in 2014 I started sending my Pointers to Craig Doherty, author of the new book Building a Grouse Dog, From Puppy to Polished Performer.

Building a Grouse Dog, From Puppy to Polished Performer.
Building a Grouse Dog, From Puppy to Polished Performer.

I met Craig back two twenty years ago when I started hanging around field trials. Since then, he has been breeding top-notch grouse dogs for hunters throughout the Northeast and bringing home ribbons from field trials throughout the country, including a first-place win at the 2007 Grand National Grouse Championship–the Superbowl of upland-hunting style dog competitions. While doing all this, he has also built a guiding and dog-training business in northern New Hampshire. So when it comes to top-notch bird dogs, Craig knows what he’s talking about. He has walked the walk, and his new book teaches you how to walk down your own path to success.

Lexi pointing a pigeon
My pointer Lexi with Craig, the book’s author

As it says on the cover, Craig Doherty’s Building a Grouse Dog, From Puppy to Polished Performer is a how-to, and across its 168 pages, and with dozens of full-color pictures, it covers everything from a pup’s first time out of the whelping box to finishing it up on its second season in the grouse woods and beyond. It suggests what training gear you should own, gives you tips on buying, using and introducing your dog to a GPS e-collar, and even discusses where to hunt Ruffed Grouse, and the gun to carry while doing it.

The lessons it teaches are practical, gimmick-free, and easy to apply to any pointing breed. They’re also kind to the dogs. Some current “alpha dog” training philosophies inspire people to be heavy-handed with their pups. Craig doesn’t practice that nonsense or promote it in his book. Instead, he believes “…you need to work at becoming a hunting partner as opposed to a hunting master” and tells you how to do it.

Craig working a gorgeous pointer he has in his kennel
Craig working a gorgeous pointer he had in his kennel

My favorite parts are the bits of wisdom Craig drops in throughout his book, insights like what the breeder of your next grouse dog should be obsessed with, the best time of year for your new pup to be born, why leather collars are not ideal, and how to deal with bloody tails. I’m sure Craig has spent years gathering this knowledge. Gaining just reading his book feels like cheating — but I’ll take it.

Craig was a writer and educator before he became a full-time dog trainer, and his storytelling skills and ability to break down complex ideas into easy-to-understand lessons are evident throughout his new book. So is his empathy for his students, four- and two-legged. Building a Grouse Dog, From Puppy to Polished Performer is easy to follow and a joy to read. Best of all, its lessons are easy to apply and it’s full of wisdom anyone interested in gun dogs will benefit from discovering.

Like I said in the beginning, great dog trainers are hard to come by. It’s even harder to find ones who can teach you their skills. Craig Doherty new book Building a Grouse Dog, From Puppy to Polished Performer does just that, and like true love, it’s something worth experiencing for yourself.

Building a Grouse Dog: From Puppy to Polished Performer, by Craig Doherty,

Available at

Kickstart Project Upland’s A Bird Hunting Anthology: Volume No. 1…

Fund it now: Project Upland - A Bird Hunting Anthology: Volume No. 1
Fund it now: Project Upland – A Bird Hunting Anthology: Volume No. 1

As a way to feed yourself, bird hunting makes little sense. Consider everything that goes into putting a grouse on the table: Buying a gun, buying ammo, buying gear, learning to shoot, finding a spot, getting to the spot, and on and on.

It’s far easier–and cheaper–to buy chicken and stay home.

But few of us hunt birds to put meat on the table. We don’t do this to live. We do it to survive.

If you’re a new-media type, you’ve probably seen Project Upland: The Bird Hunting Epic Series. With videos, a website and Instagram posts, Project Upland chronicles all the ways upland hunting nourishes us. It has combined personal points of view and a refreshing lack of commercialism to created a phenomenon which has reached huge numbers of people (their videos have been viewed 2 million+ times).

Even though Project Upland is very 21st century, they’re now ready to do something old school by publishing a book. Project Upland’s Creative Director A.J. DeRosa says “This book will be a compilation of short stories and visually-stunning photography, all celebrating what makes upland hunting so special”

They’re asking you to help them bring this book to life by contributing to their Kickstarter campaign for Project Upland – A Bird Hunting Anthology: Volume No. 1. Contributions of $25 or more will guarantee you a copy.

Love Dicksons? This new book will be your bible…


About twenty-five years ago, the beginning of the double-gun renaissance began. The Double Gun Journal was a big part of this resurgence. So were Donald Dallas’s books on the famous London gunmakers.

Dallas published his first book  — Boss & Co, Builders of Best Guns Only — in 1995.  Books about James Purdey & Sons and Holland & Holland followed. While information about all these makers had already been published many times, Dallas’s books were these firms’s definitive histories. His original research corrected many errors and resulted in page after page of new information.

Dallas’s latest book — JOHN DICKSON & SON, THE ROUND ACTION GUNMAKER — does the same. With 352 pages and 447 photographs, this hefty, coffee-table size book tells two amazing stories: One is of  John Dickson & Son; the other is of how much love the author has for this firm.

John Dickson & Son trade label, circa 1962. Pic courtesy
John Dickson & Son trade label, circa 1962. Pic courtesy

Dallas spent years researching and writing this book, and to get it into print he used his own funds. It is based on hundred of hours of original research, as well as on Dallas’s exclusive access to the maker’s archive and records. Along with the history of the company, readers will also find:

-Full color pictures of some of the finest Dickson firearms to ever be built.

-The ledgers of John Dickson & Son, with information on the 7,000 or so firearms the company built from 1840 – 2010.

-Production figures for Dicksons guns, rifles, and pistols.

-The patents of John Dickson & Son.

-The trade labels used by the company.

-A reprint of two John Dickson & Son catalogs, 1935 & 1962.

– The story of Charles Gordon, The mad Scottish gun Collector and Dickson patron.

The price for all this is just £60 plus postage.

16g John Dickson & Son Round Action, ca 1962. Super rare, stunning original condition. Sold by Lewis Drake & Associates. Pic courtesy
16g John Dickson & Son Round Action, ca 1962. Super rare, stunning original condition. Sold by Lewis Drake & Associates. Pic courtesy

JOHN DICKSON & SON, THE ROUND ACTION GUNMAKER: A stunning, detailed history of John Dickson & Son from 1794 to the present day.

Established in 1838 at 60 Princes Street, Edinburgh, the firm quickly gained a reputation for building very high quality guns and rifles, their two-groove percussion rifles achieving international acclaim. John Dickson (3) made the greatest contribution to the firm by patenting the round action gun in 1880 that instantly achived critical acclaim as a best gun utilising a trigger plate action. The beautiful and elegant three-barrelled gun followed in 1882 and by the time the ejector had been patented in 1887 the Dickson round action had been perfected. In 1923 John Dickson (3) retired and the business was sold. In 1928 the firm moved to 32 Hanover Street and in 1937 to 21 Frederick Street, the present day location of the firm.

This book goes into great detail on all the types of Dickson guns and rifles built and was written with the full permission of John Dickson & Son. 352 pages, 447 photographs.

We’re heading back to Montana. This time, we’re chasing chukars…

Head out again with author Malcolm Brooks to hunts chukar and rabbits. He heading in Montana, hunting in the areas that inspired his debut novel: Painted Horses.

Upland From No Where: Part 2, Silvertip Creek
Upland From No Where: Part 2, Silvertip Creek

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.

A new book from the author of Steady with Style….

Steady with Style is one of my favorite bird-dog blogs. Informed and well written, I always come away from it a bit more informed (and usually a bit chagrined by how ignorant I am). That’s why I’m excited to check out the author’s new book.

Steady with Style
Steady with Style

You can download a free PDF of it by clicking here: What’s the Point? A Collection of Bird Dog Writings by Martha Greenlee. The book is a collection of articles about dog training and field trialing, plus a piece called “Thoughts on Scent” and some helpful training tips. I’m sure I’ll enjoy reading it.

From Guy De La Valdene’s Making Game…

I’ve read Guy De La Valdene’s book Making Game last week and I’m going to share a few quotes here of the next few days. If you enjoy them, I suggest reading the  entire book. It’s well worth it.

Descent Through the Alders - American Woodcock painting. A by Patrick R. Godin.
Descent Through the Alders - American Woodcock painting. A by Patrick R. Godin.

“The Seneca Indians believed that the Creator made the woodcock from the leftover parts of every other bird. If that is true, his heart must be that of an eagle, for it is big and filled with the unique courage required to wander in solitude through the mysterious forests of his continent.” pg. 29

Breed of the Week: The Pachón Navarro

The Pachón Navarro, a Spanish pointing dog
Double-barrel nose on a Pachón Navarro

I’m interested in side by sides — that’s pretty obvious. So when I came across the Pachón Navarros, a  Spanish pointing dog with a double barrel nose, I was intrigued.

According to Craig Koshyk’s Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals, the Pachón Navarros trace back to the very first sporting breeds to appear around the Pyrenees Mountains, way back in the 13th century. The dogs almost disappeared in the early 20th century, but today a growing group of hunters and enthusiasts are rebuilding the breed.

You can go hear to read more about Pachón Navarros. And for the full story, along with tons of great info on a lot more hunting dogs, pick up a copy of Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals today.

The Pachón Navarro
A Pachón Navarro in the field

Introducing Breed of the Week…

Over the last 12 years Craig Koshyk has been on a mad pursuit. You should thank him. Koshyk has dedicated thousands of hours and even more $$$$ to create a beautiful new book titled Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals.

Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals
Buy this book now

You’re probably thinking breed book, great (eyes rolling, fight back a yawn). But please understand this: Pointing Dogs is much, much more than that.

While it is filled with original research on 52+ breeds, Pointing Dogs book is as much about Koshyk’s passion for these dogs as it is about their ancestry, coat colors, and hunting styles. This passion is what makes the book such a great read.

Starting tomorrow, I’m going to feature a bit about each breed in the book: one dog a week, 52 weeks. To get the full story behind these dogs, purchase a copy Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals for yourself.

BTW: I want to ask you for a favor: Spread the word about this book. Email your buddies. Talk it up. Give it as a gift and buy multiple copies for yourself. This will help Koshyk complete his next book — Pointing, Dogs Volume Two: The British Pointing Dogs.

Quick thought on making a great grouse dog…

As a primer to the upcoming bird season, I was flipping through Common Sense Grouse and Woodcock Training by Roy W. Strickland today.

Common Sense Grouse and Woodcock Dog Training by Roy Strickland
Common Sense Grouse and Woodcock Dog Training by Roy Strickland

Roy Strickland was a revered gun dog trainer. Is his 60+ year career, he trained lots of great grouse dogs and saw many more. The fifth chapter of his handy little book is called “What Makes a Grouse Dog Different?” The chapter is a few pages long, but it’s summed up in the third paragraph and I though it was sharing.

“In a long, long lifetime of training dogs, I have seen a number of big-running dogs who could handle grouse with incredible precision. I have witnessed some close-working dogs who were equally successful Wide of close, fast or slow, the good grouse dog is careful. He learn that he cannot get to close to the bird without flushing it, and therefore points his birds, generally speaking, from a greater distance than a pheasant, quail, or woodcock dog does.”

So “careful” – that’s the difference.

Superior Pointer's Mack - a beautiful grouse dog
Superior Pointer's Mack - a beautiful grouse dog