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The versatile and lovable Brittany really isn't built, for one thing, for bitter work from a duck blind, because its coat is too thin, and a big, crippled Canada goose is too much for it. The Lab or the golden, unlike the Brittany, pointers and setters, are flushing dogs; they won't point in the uplands. When hunting grouse and woodcock, one has to stick close to the Labrador or the golden, learning to recognize when they ''get birdie'' in order to be prepared for the shot when the bird flushes. And a pointer, the traditional quail dog in the South, is often too wide ranging for thick grouse and woodcock coverts.
There are other excellent hunting breeds: The German shorthaired pointer is first rate in the uplands, and the Weimaraner, which can also point, can be marvelous on waterfowl. I've seen a brilliant performance by an Irish setter on a quail plantation, and the springer spaniel can work well on upland birds and waterfowl.
Training a dog for retrieving (preparing one for upland bird hunting is another matter) can Canada Goose Discount Montebello Parka Australia usually be accomplished with a minimum of fuss, and some dog owners go to extremes in this direction. I recall hunting 15 years ago with a North Carolina waterfowl guide whose technique was utter simplicity. He brought two black Labradors to the blind with us, one a mature, accomplished animal, the other a puppy.
I once had a pointer that on similar excursions would not try to get into the raft or canoe but would swim around the lake for hours. If a floating log was available, he would cling to it, making the surrounding forest ring with his wailing.
Mr. Wolters, whose latest book, ''The Labrador Retriever'' (Petersen Prints) is a beautifully illustrated, meticulously researched history of the breed, encourages participants to bring their own retrievers to the courses. But he says that the courses, which involve both field work and lectures, concentrate on training dog owners, not dogs.
Some dogs are specialists: the beagle for rabbits and hares, the pointers for quail, the setters, English and Gordon, for grouse and woodcock, and some, such as the Brittany spaniel and the Labrador and golden retrievers, will find grouse and woodcock for you one day and retrieve ducks from an icy, wind torn bay the next.
There was a time when I would have added a Chesapeake Bay retriever to my list of preferred waterfowl dogs, but nearly every one of that breed I have encountered in the last 30 years was as stubborn as an oak knot. I shut the door on Chesapeakes 25 years ago when a friend brought his along on a trout fishing trip to a remote, mountaintop pond. Each of us used an inflatable raft, and when my friend was on the water I was amused by the dog's efforts to join him in the raft, despite curses and a flailing paddle. When my friend went ashore, the animal displaying the same persistence that would drive him incredible distances across rough, cold, open water for a downed bird that was drifting away nearly as fast as he could swim turned his attentions to me. After he had reduced the blade of my paddle by half, I, too, had to go to shore. The dog couldn't get it through his head that we were trout fishing, not duck hunting, and he was imprinted with the notion that when someone was afloat he should be beside him, his cold, unblinking eyes scanning the skies for incoming birds.
''I let the pup watch his daddy, and if he ain't showin' real promise by the end of the season, I get rid of him,'' he said. That technique is pleasingly simple. But it eliminates those animals that might have, with a little help, done very well; it leaves too much room for learning bad habits. And, of course, not every hunter has both a seasoned dog and a pup.
For thousands of years, man has used dogs to assist in locating and gathering upland birds and waterfowl. Every hunter has sometimes wished for an animal that would perform with equal skill in all situations, just as he has wished for one shotgun that would cover all contingencies. Workable compromises are possible, but that is all.
Mr. Wolters begins training his own retrievers in the puppy stage, as early as seven weeks, and both he and the Orvis people say that if one begins training a puppy this fall, one will have a working retriever next fall. He also stresses that his method is designed to produce a practical hunting dog, not a candidate for honors in shows or field trials.
A DOG IS A HELPER AS WELL AS A FRIEND
He is using his own black Labradors in this fall's classes. One of the dogs is 5 years old, the other 7 months old. This month's three courses are filled, but there will be two more in October. The $300 fee includes tuition and two nights lodging and meals. For reservations, call Susan Woodward at Orvis (802) 362 3434.
Now and then, of course, dogs of a certain breed come along that defy the generally held belief about their capabilities. He then admits, by indirection at least, that his love for the breed may be affecting his judgment.
I have a particular fondness for the Lab for many reasons, among them its diligence, devotion and pleasant temperament. A Lab makes a wonderful family dog. Children can crawl all over it, pull its ears, sit on it. All the animal does when this becomes too onerous is to rise and walk away.
In the Northeast, the all round hunter should have a Brittany, a pointer or English setter for grouse and woodcock, a beagle for rabbits and hares and a Labrador for waterfowl.