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Use the form on the right to contact us. We should get back to you within 24 hours. If not, it means we are out chasing birds with dogs, shotguns and Canons. In that case we will get back to you as soon as we've finished the roasted Teal and Bordeaux . 


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Winnipeg, MB, R3A 0X5


Through words and images, we are on a mission to share our passion for pointing dogs, upland hunting and sporting dog photography. 


Pointing Dog Blog

The world of pointing dogs in words and images, moving and still.

Filtering by Tag: Versatility

Kent Bismuth Ammo Delivers!

Craig Koshyk


Full disclosure: I am NOT an expert when it comes to shotguns, shotgun ammo, ballistics and the art of wing shooting. I shoot a few rounds of clays every summer and pattern my guns and chokes once in a blue moon. Beyond that, I just take the same guns to the field every year and feed them the best ammo I can afford. So the following review of Kent's new Bismuth cartridges is the opinion of a hunter who just wants his gun to go boom! when he pulls the trigger so that delicious game will end up on his dinner plate... nothing more, nothing less.

A while ago I wrote about my desire to go completely lead free for all my hunting and my journey down the rabbit hole of trying to find lead-free, non-steel ammo for my beloved Darne shotguns. I then updated one of the posts with the following great news: Owners of vintage guns rejoice! ... Kent Cartridge recently announced "the rebirth of an old favorite" by introducing their new Bismuth Premium Shotshells

Here is a video from Kent Cartridge that explains the development of Bismuth shot shells and the improvements that have been made in the new loads.

Just before the 2017 season opened, I managed to get my hands on a good supply of the new Kent ammo in 12 and 20 gauge loads. Since then, my wife and I have been using it exclusively. We've taken snipe, woodcock, ruffed grouse, sharptailed grouse and a few ducks and geese. My wife even shot a scotch double* ON GEESE with her 20 gauge loaded with #5s! I wrote about that amazing shot and posted some photos here. (*two birds with one shot).


In terms of performance, I could not tell the difference between Bismuth loads and lead loads. Now before you get your bloomers in a bunch and start rattling off newtonian physics equations let me qualify my statement by saying it applies to me, to my guns, in the areas I hunt, on the game I pursue. As with all things related to shotguns and shotgun ammo, your mileage, as they say, may vary.

My hit/miss/crumple/wound ratio was nearly identical this year compared to last. For example, on a trip to North Dakota in 2015, I shot 14 pheasants with 16 shots (lead #5s). All but two dropped stone dead. This year, in the same general area under the same basic conditions and with the same gun I shot 15 roosters with 17 shots (bismuth). All but one crumpled, and that one did not go far. (note: the above stats make me seem like some kind of superhero wing shooter. I am not. I am a terrible trap shooter, useless at skeet and barely on the scoreboard at 5-stand. The reason I bag a decent number of roosters with so few shots is because I am a very patient pheasant hunter with decent dogs. I pass up all birds that are not pointed, all birds beyond about 35 yards and only pull the trigger on birds I am pretty confident I will kill outright.

In terms of actual ballistics, as mentioned above, I can only confirm that the shells did indeed go boom! when I pulled the trigger and that birds did indeed crumple when my aim was true. If you want an expert opinion on the witchcraft of shotgun ballistics as they apply to Kent Bismuth loads look no further than gun guru Randy Wakeman to see what he has to say about them:

As a practical matter, assume that you want a minimum of 1.75 inches of ballistic gelatin penetration for pheasant. This cannot be exact, for gel penetration does not consider feathers, much less breaking bones. It is a comparative simulant for soft tissue only. If you are using #2 steel shot at 1400 fps, you are out of gas at 35 yards. With the lower recoil 1350 fps Kent Bismuth #4 load, you are good past 41 yards. #4 bismuth has better penetration at all ranges than #2 steel. In addition, a 1-1/4 ounce load of #4 bismuth has 24.5% more pellets than 1-1/4 ounces of #2 steel. If you are sick of the poor ballistic performance of steel (why wouldn't you be?) and can afford to pay twice the price for your shotgun shells, the new Kent Bismuth loads just made steel shot obsolete.  (full article here).
© Craig Koshyk_WP_8513161016-2.jpg

Kent Bismuth shot sizes are apparently true American sizing and not one size smaller like some other loads from Europe. Kent Bismuth #4s are the same size as any other American #4s. The other maker of bismuth ammo, Rio, apparently uses European shot sizes. So Rio's #4 shot is actually closer to American (and Kent's) #5 shot.  Kent shells are clearly marked and seem to be made of  high quality materials. Word on the web is that the hulls are Cheddites.  UPDATE: Kent now sells their new Bismuth loads in boxes of 25. 

Bottom line: I will go one further than Randy Wakeman and say that for me, the new Kent Bismuth loads have made steel AND LEAD shot obsolete.

Furthermore, shooting bismuth shells allows me to focus more on the actual hunt. With a few boxes of #5s and #6s, I can use any gun I own to shoot any gamebird I pursue on private or public land no matter what the regulations are. No more swapping out ammo when going from lead-allowed to non-tox areas, no more sorting through different brands, sizes, and loads trying to get the perfect combination for geese in the morning, snipe in the afternoon and ducks at dusk. I am now lead-free in the field and thanks to Kent, when it comes to ammo, I am also worry-free.

NEW BISMUTH® Premium Upland & Waterfowl Shotshells

  • High Density 9.6g/cc non-toxic shot, has 24% greater density than steel
  • Each configuration is loaded to optimal velocities, maximizing ballistic performance
  • Softer than steel and higher performance, won’t harm barrels and safe in any choke
  • Now conveniently packaged 25 rounds per box
Bismuth ammo and Darne shotguns, a match made in heaven!

Bismuth ammo and Darne shotguns, a match made in heaven!

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The Picardy Spaniel: What's What and Who's Who.

Craig Koshyk

In a previous post I wrote the following about an excellent Picardy Spaniel that Lisa and I saw in a field trial in France.
Watching Aramis run, I realized that the Picardy Spaniel would probably thrive in the US and Canada. Speaking to Lisa after the trial, I said that it would be perfect for many North American hunters since, among all the French pointing breeds, it is probably the best suited to NAVHDA testing and to the kind of mixed-bag hunting we do. She replied: I think you are right. It’s a shame that the Picardy is such a well-kept secret. But if you write about dogs like Aramis, the secret won’t last very long!
Photo: Sarah Caldecott
Well I am happy to say that the secret may finally be getting out. In addition to a club for the breed and a number of breeders in France, there is now a Picardy club in the UK and Holland and breeders in Germany, Austria, England and Finland. This summer, the Picardy Spaniel population of Canada is set to double -- from one to two -- when we welcome our new pup Leo from the UK and there will soon be several more pups coming to in North America and even a litter or two on the ground in the next couple of years.

So I thought it would be a good idea to write a post about the current state of the breed, as of February, 2016.

Photo: Claire Josse
THE GOOD: The Picardy is a hidden gem among gundogs. Created by hunters, for hunters, it is still an artisanal breed. The vast majority of Picardy Spaniels look like they are supposed to look and hunt the way they are supposed to hunt. There are no large kennels breeding dozens of litters per year, no trucks full of Picardies on the major field trial circuit or show-only breeders seeking blue ribbons in the ring. Picardy Spaniels are still bred the old-fashioned way; mainly in the homes of hunters who produce a litter or two every couple of years from their personal hunting companions.

Like all breeds, there is some hip dysplasia, and eye issues like ectropion are not unknown either. But in general, the average Picardy enjoys good health. Overall, the breed's gene pool is relatively wide and inbreeding coefficients are usually not particularly high in most litters, even if it may seem that way on paper (see below).

The overall population of Picardy Spaniels is very low and that means the dreaded popular sire syndrome can occur more easily and have a stronger negative effect. Have a look at the graph I drew up showing the registration stats from the French kennel club. It shows that while the breed has gained ground over the last 45 years it still averages less than 100 registrations per year. Of course there are dogs that are not registered, but even if we include them, the number of Picardy Spaniels whelped in France has probably never been more than 200 pups in any given year.

Outside of France, stats are harder to come by, but my guess is that an additional 20 to 40 Picardy Spaniel pups are whelped in places like Germany, the Netherlands and Austria each year. So if the average life span of a Picardy is 9 years and there are say, 125 pups whelped per year, that means the entire world-wide population of Picardy Spaniels is only about 1000 individuals right now.

Testing rates for hip dysplasia and other health concerns are also too low, especially in France. There are still too many breeders out there that just assume that their dogs are fine, then breed them without taking advantage of diagnostic tests now available.

Photo: Claire Josse
CHALLENGES: Even before the breed was fully formed, "foreign" blood (mainly English Setters) had made its way into French Spaniels all over France, and in particular, into the French Spaniel type dogs bred in Picardy, Normandy and Brittany. I wrote about one such case here. When the Picardy Spaniel was officially recognized as an independent breed in the early 1900s, it was supposed to remain pure. But like every other French breed of épagneul, crosses to setters occurred. It is believed they happened between the wars and again in the 1980s and 90s and have probably occurred as recently as just a few years ago.

Over the years, some of the crosses were sanctioned by the club, others were not. In any case, no one denies that if a Picardy could talk, it would have a slight English accent. And in some ways, that is a good thing. Limited and controlled doses of setter blood have helped widen the gene pool of the breed and given the average Picardy a bigger run, more point and better style.

But there have also been some drawbacks. It now seems that there may have been a few too many crosses in some lines and that breeders may have over-estimated their knowledge of basic genetics. In any case, there are some issues in the breed that need to be dealt with. For example, pups with so-called "lemon" colouring -- a coat like that of an orange and white setter -- have popped up in some lines. Breeders will now have to test their dogs to identify carriers of the gene to avoid "lemon" coats in the future. In addition, coats with a faded brown colour, very light or no tan points, lacking grey roan and/or having a lot of white are also occurring in some litters.  Another issue is that the overall build of some dogs is becoming more setter-like and there is a real fear that the versatility and practicality of the breed's continental hunting style may also be at risk.

So in some regards, the Picardy is facing a situation similar to that of the Korthals Griffon (although on a much smaller scale and with far less vitriol). Unwanted genetic material has made its way into the breed and it is now posing a challenge to breeders seeking to produce clean litters of pups that look and hunt like Picardy Spaniels. That said, I am actually optimistic that the breed will be just fine in the long run. The French tend to have a worldly, pragmatic view about these sorts of things. They are certainly much less puritanical about it than some of the more zealous purists in the US and UK where a similar situation would end up with torch carrying mobs looking for witches. No, in France there may be a bit of mud-slinging and hurt feelings, but in the end breeders of Picardy Spaniels, with the help of a growing community of supporters outside of France, will put the breed back on a more or less straight and narrow path and continue to breed some really good dogs.

Photo: Claire Josse
OPPORTUNITIES: I know I sound like a broken record, but I will say it again: the Picardy Spaniel should be better known, especially among North American hunters. It represents exactly the kind of dog many of us want: an easy-to-train, easy-to-live-with, naturally-talented upland birddog that is also an excellent water worker. And yes, Picardies can also blood track, hunt fur and fetch foxes. Just ask the increasing number of German and Austrian hunters that are getting into the breed.

And that, I believe is the biggest opportunity for the breed right now. There are exciting new horizons opening up for the Picardy Spaniel. After languishing in its native Picardy for too long, hunters from outside of France are bringing new energy and new ideas to the breed. And as they do, a renewed sense of pride and purpose is emerging among the creators and guardians of the breed, French hunters. They've had a real treasure on their hands for over a century, but needed a friendly reminder about just how precious it is. The Picardy Spaniel was a well-kept secret for too long. I'm happy to report that the world is finally finding out about it.

Here is a list of currently active breeders with links to their websites or Facebook page or email. If you are interested in getting a Picardy Spaniel pup, you may want to read my post about importing a pup from overseas first.


Photo: Claire Josse
And here is a brief overview of some of the more influential kennel names of the past and present that you will see in the pedigrees of most Picardy pups today.

Mr. Loir no longer breeds, but his kennel was among the first to be established after World War II and his efforts were key in reviving the breed in the post-war years.

DU PRÉ DES AULNAIS: Mr. Demagny no longer breeds dogs, but was one of the first breeders of Picardy Spaniels, along with Mr. Lempereur, Mr. Charron and Mr. Mailly to focus on fields trials to raise the profile of the breed. Mr. Demagny's dogs Joconde, Only One, Tina, Excel and Iroo achieved great results in the field. Other kennels active on the field trial scene in that same period include du Bois Bruyant (Mr. Lecaille) and du Mont Galant (Mr. Charron).

DE LA VALLEE BROUTIN: Mr. Marc Lempereur's kennel is perhaps the most well known and prolific in France. Mr. Lempereur, along with Mr. Demagny and Mr. Charron were the first to bring the Picardy back to field trialing in the 1960s. Pacha de la Vallée Broutin, an excellent trial dog was the foundation of Mr. Lempereur's kennel and greatly improved the pointing talents and coat quality of the breed. Pacha's son Truffe dominated the field trial scene for Picardy Spaniels and was followed by other excellent descendants such as Astuce, Chipsie, Echo, Futile, Futée, Pandorre and other champions including the well-known dog Fax.

DES MARAIS DE SAINT HILAIREMr. Lemonnier was one of the rare breeders of Picardy Spaniels to successfully compete in woodcock and snipe trials. His dogs Roxane des Terres de Pitance, Aramis des Marais de Saint Hilaire, Candy des Marais de Saint Hilaire, Comtesse des Marais de Saint Hilaire and Coyotte des Marais de Saint Hilaire established the excellent reputation of the kennel. Mr. Lemonier has produced a number of field trial champions but may no longer be breeding.

Mr. Joël Mailly started his kennel with Catch de la Vallée Broutin et Farah at the beginning of the 1980's. Since then, his small family-run kennel has produced field trial champions and field pointed dogs in every generation. Dogs such as Jaffa, Jeff, Milord, Rambo, Roxane, Vénus, and his latest dog Gena are the stars of his kennel. Vénus is in fact one of the very few female Picardy Spaniels to attain the title of spring-time field trial champion.

DES ETANGS ENSOLEILLÉS: Only produced one or two litters and is best known for Theo des Étangs Ensoleillés, an excellent dog used by Mr. Mailly.

DE LA VALLEE DE BOUCHON: Sébastien Roze continues to breed the occasional litter for the kennel founded by his late father, Dominique. Sébastien often participates in Saint Hubert events (shoot to retrieve trials) and typically gets excellent ratings for his dogs at the national breed show.

DU MARAIS DE LA MALVOISINE: William Brutelle's kennel has produced several high-profile Picardy Spaniels in recent years. Dogs such as Archimède du Marais de la MalvoisineAxel de la Malvoisine and Astro de la Malvoisine earned the kennel a good reputation for producing excellent field trial and hunting dogs. Axel also earned a BICP (versatile dog test) championship title and other dogs from the kennel have won and placed in field trials in France and the Netherlands. Mr. Brutelle also breeds English Setters.

Mr. Bruno Demoulin produced a number of excellent Picardy Spaniels including autumn and spring-time champion César du Rideau de la Louve and Natt du Rideau de la Louve, the first ever spring-time field trial champion Picardy Spaniel. Mr. Demoulin no longer breeds Picardy Spaniels and now focusses on breeding English Setters.

Photo: Julia Kauer

Enjoy my blog posts? Check out my book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals


Craig Koshyk

Who goes to Sioux Falls, South Dakota for a weekend in January? Crazy dog people like me, that's who!

The North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association held its annual meeting in Sioux Falls this past weekend and it was a blast!! Not only did I get to meet a ton of great people and talk dogs over fine food and adult beverages, I was given the tremendous honour of delivering the keynote address!

Yes, you read that right. Me, a guy who might hold the record for the lowest passing score ever in a NAVHDA test was given a microphone and a soapbox in a room filled with the who's who of the NAVHDA world.

I did my best to keep the speech short and to the point (pun intended). I managed to cover about 500 years of pointing dog evolution and explained how NAVHDA is now absolutely crucial to their further evolution in North America. I concluded with the following thoughts:

The golden age of gundog creation ended about a hundred years ago. The modern age of gundog development came to an end in the early 2000s. And that means we are now in a new age, a post-modern age of gundogs and all the traditional structures that led to the creation and development of our dogs are in flux.*

We now produce puppies via artificial insemination and analyze their DNA. We vaccinate them and inject microchips under their skin. We transport them across the ocean in airliners and through the marsh on all terrain vehicles. We keep track of them with the help of satellites floating in the sky above and can now access more information about them in a few minutes on our smartphones than William Arkwright or Jean Castaing could have accessed in a year in the biggest library in the world.

So dog breeds, breeders, breed clubs and registries all face a choice now. They can evolve, or wither on the vine. Currently some of the most influential structures in the canine world are paying the price for their reluctance or inability to evolve. Memberships are in free-fall, boards are floundering, wracked with internal conflict. 

And then there's NAVHDA, an organization well-positioned to actually thrive in this new knowledge-based society.  You see, in our high-tech global world, information and communication are king. They are the dominant driving forces behind just about every aspect of life. So for an association like NAVHDA, designed from the get-go to collect, store and share information, this new age might just turn out to be a new golden age.

After all, when we are in the fields with our dogs, we are following in the footsteps of Gaston Phebus. And every time we test a dog we pay homage to Hegewald and Oberlander, Solms and Korthals. But even as we honour the past, NAVHDA's main focus is, and always has been, firmly on the future. NAVHDA has but one real purpose: to help shape the future for hunters, breeders and their canine companions.

Prior to the main event, I gave a seminar about the Continental pointing breeds, using a number of photos and videos from this very blog. Here are links to some of the things I mentioned in the talk for those in attendance that would like to see them again:

And finally, thank you to everyone who purchased a copy of my book and my apologies to those that wished to purchase a copy but were unable to do so after all copies were sold. If you would like to order one, you can get it at the same price it was selling for at the meeting. 

Just go to this link and look for the coupon code box above and to the right of the BUY NOW button. Type in NAVHDA and instead of paying the usual $99.00, you will get the book for only $79 with free shipping!!

* UPDATE: I've been asked to expand a bit on the idea of the various gundog eras I spoke about. I will do so in much more detail in my next book, Pointing Dogs,Volume Two: The British and Irish Breeds, but for now, here is a quick overview:

The National Bird Dog Championship, one of the greatest and oldest events in canine sport starts next Monday, Feb 8, 2016. First held in1896, the National Bird Dog Championship was a key player in what I think of as the golden age of gundogs. During that time, breeders, handlers, trainers and trialers all made great leaps of progress. Breed clubs and registries were formed, established breeds became more uniform and reached new heights of performance and most of the Continental breeds were created around that time. 

But all that ended just before the first World War as the British breeds began their long decline into near obscurity in their native lands and the creation of new breeds of pointing dogs ceased completely.

And that is when I feel we entered into the modern age, characterized by continued growth and development of the British breeds outside of the UK and the rapid expansion of various continental breeds throughout North America. It is the age of the GSP, the Brittany, the GWP, Pudelpointer etc. and the continued rise of the Pointer and Setter. It was an age when a growing middle class of Americans and Canadians swelled the field trial ranks, when new trials and trial formats were developed and new clubs, new registries, organizations flourished. And it was a time when news and marketing of the gundog scene relied on newspapers, magazines, books and to a lesser extent radio and TV.

But that age came to an end just after the advent of the Internet, around the early 2000s. Almost overnight, everything changed. Yes, we still have trials and tests and yes, our dogs continue to improve. But the average age of participants across the gundog world is creeping upward and many club membership numbers are in decline. Few, if any new clubs are being formed, few if any new trial venues or formats are being created and we no longer rely on the traditional media to spread the word, we rely on the Internet, just as you and I are doing right now. And as I said in my speech:

"We now produce puppies via artificial insemination and analyze their DNA. We vaccinate them and inject microchips under their skin. We transport them across the ocean in airliners and through the marsh on all terrain vehicles. We keep track of them with the help of satellites floating in the sky above and can now access more information about them in a few minutes on our smartphones than William Arkwright or Jean Castaing could have accessed in a year in the biggest library in the world." And to me, that is what defines what I think of as the post-modern world of gundogs. It is smaller, faster, more knowledge-based and information dependant. It is an era in which we will probably see breakthroughs in canine genetics that will astonish us. I recently read a paper by a fellow I know in Germany. He and his team think they've found the area of dogs' genetic code that determines pointing behaviour (link below). Will we one day soon have genetically modified dogs like we know have genetically modified corn? I have no idea. But even posing a question like that 20 years ago would have been crazy. Nowadays, it is probably being studied by someone in a lab coat. We are beyond the modern age. We are now in a sort of post modern age for gundogs. Hang on to your hat, it's going to be an interesting ride!

*Homozygosity mapping and sequencing identify two genes that might contribute to pointing behavior in hunting dogs:

Enjoy my blog posts? Check out my book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals

A New Pup!

Craig Koshyk

Aramis des Marais de Saint Hilaire 
Dog folks are a curious bunch. No matter how many dogs they currently have and how happy they are with them, thoughts of the "next dog" still pop up from time to time. For Lisa and me our next dog is always an ongoing conversation since we are constantly exposed to dangerous levels of puppy cuteness. After all, in our travels, we often meet with top breeders and handlers of all sort of dogs and many of them offer us a pup at some point. So we'd probably have a dog or two from every pointing breed in the world if our credit cards could handle it.

But somehow, we've been pretty good at resisting temptation. We keep just enough dog power with us to cover our hunting needs and keep us warm on cold Manitoba nights.

But then, last May, Henri died.

Henri the Pocket Rocket nearing the sound barrier in pursuit of snipe. 
His passing left a massive hole in our hearts and massive shoes to fill. We were suddenly down to two ancient gundogs: Souris nearly 16 and Uma 12. Sure, we had other dogs we could hunt with when needed. We chased roosters with the Amazing Maisey.  Zeiss rocked the prairies in honour of his buddy Henri. Beebe, a daughter of Henri , spent the fall with us cuddling, hunting and getting her freak on with Zeiss (pups are due next week!). But when the season ended, we were left with a nagging void around the house.

As our hearts began to mend, we considered getting another Weimaraner. But over the years, we'd lost two magnificent Weims to terrible diseases so now, every time we talk about it, we end up on the verge of tears. So we thought about the other breeds we'd always wanted. The list was long. Lisa and I have never met a breed of pointing dog that we didn't like. But we do have a short list of dogs we want next. It includes breeds with a lot of white in the coat (I wrote about the reasons why here) and a couple of other breeds that we've always loved, the Portuguese Pointer and the Picardy Spaniel

Aramis des Marais de Saint Hilaire, one of the best Picardy Spaniels I've ever seen. 
Then a couple of weeks ago, photos began to pup up on my Facebook feed. They were of the first litter of Picardy pups whelped in the UK. I had been helping breeders of Picardies and fans of the breed connect via Facebook and email for a number of years already. I'd even set up a Facebook group for the breed and told anyone that would listen that the Picardy would be a great choice for North American sportsmen and women. 

So last week I 'shared' the post with all the photos of cute Picardy pups and wrote: If you've ever considered getting a Picardy pup, now might be the time! Check out these photos of pups from the first litter whelped in the UK and try to resist.

One of the shots that shattered my resistance. Photo: Sue Axtell

And the more I looked at the photos, the more I felt my own resistance fading. At one point I had to step away from the computer and plead with Lisa,: "Talk me down dear, help me step away from the edge". I fully expected her to provide me with some solid, logical reasons why I should not get a pup at this time. But instead of being reasonable and helping me resist, she said: "A new pup!? I'll go get my purse..."

So, despite my best efforts, it looks like the first person to give into temptation!

SAY HELLO TO LEO!! He's headed to Canada!

Photo: Sue Axtell

Since announcing that we were getting Leo, I've received a lot of questions about him, his breed and our reasons for the choice. Here are a few answers to the most common among them:

Why that breed? Do you just want to show off by having a breed nobody else has?
How rare or popular a breed is has zero influence on our choice of hunting dog. I have always maintained that you can find hard-hunting, well-bred gundogs in any pointing breed. The only difference is how much time and effort it takes to actually find and get one. With some breeds it is dead easy; just find a litter, reach in and pick a pup. Your chances of getting a decent hunting dog are excellent. With other breeds, it is a total crap shoot, you really have to search high and low to find a good one among all the crap.

Having studied the pointing breeds for nearly 2 decades and having excellent contacts in a ton of breeds means that Lisa and I can find a decent gundog in just about any breed we choose. So it comes down to which breed is best suited to the kind of hunting we do (there are quite a few) and all the little things about it that, for whatever reason, we find appealing. Lisa loves the expressive eyes of the Portuguese Pointer, I love the tri-colour coat of the Picardy. Lisa loves the curly coat and quirky characters of the Pont-Audemer Spaniel and I like the class and style of Pointers and Setters.

This is Leo's father Justus, a fantastic dog in all respects. 
So why did you choose the Picardy in particular? Was it a spur of the moment decision?
We met our first Picardy Spaniels in France about 10 years ago and have been a fan of the breed ever since. In fact on one of our trips to Europe, I would have purchased the handsome fellow at the top of this post right there on the spot! I wrote about him in my book and used his photo for the main shot in the breed chapter. So, no, it was not a spur of the moment decision.

I'd always known that one day, I would get a Picardy. As a mediocre trainer and someone who just wants an easy-to-live-with gundog, French breeds tend to fit my style better than German breeds. And since the Picardy region has a lot in common with Manitoba --good to great waterfowl and upland game hunting -- the pointing breed native to that area seemed to make sense. And finally, I've always thought that among all of the French pointing breeds, the Picardy may be the best suited to North American hunters and the types of game and terrain we hunt. By bringing Leo to Canada I am putting my money where my mouth is and making a commitment to the breed. With fellow hunters in Québec and the US I want to establish a breeding population of Picardy Spaniels on this side of the Atlantic.

Loves water you say?

Aren't rare dogs way more expensive? Aren't they rare for a reason (ie: they suck)?
Short answer: no. Long answer here.

Leo left side. Photo: Sue Axtell

Picardy SPANIEL? Spaniels are flushing dogs, not pointing dogs! 
There are actually more breeds of 'spaniels' that point than breeds of spaniels that flush! Sort of.  It's complicated.

Are you abandoning the Weim? 
No. I love Weims and will continue to support the efforts of those in the breed that are committed to producing solid hunting Weims. We will continue to hunt with Zeiss and Maisey even if they don't live with us and will probably get another Weim at some point in the future.

Leo right side. Photo: Sue Axtell

The Picardy intrigues me. How can I get more info? Where can I get a good one?
Start by buying my book!  lol..  If you are on Facebook, check out the group I set up for the breed in North America here. There are breed clubs for the Picardy Spaniel (and Blue Picardy and Pont-Audemer) in France and the Netherlands and a Picardy club in the UK. If you are serious about getting a Picardy, drop me a line via Facebook or via email: and I will be happy to lend a hand.

Leo in full cuteness mode. Photo: Sue Axtell

UPDATE: New photos of Leo posted here

Enjoy my blog posts? Check out my book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals

VGP, the Master Test

Craig Koshyk

VGP is the tongue-friendly abbreviation for Verbands-Gebrauchsprüfung (say that quickly three times!). Translated, Verbands-Gebrauchsprüfung means "Association utility test" and refers to the extremely difficult master test for pointing dogs in Germany. 

One of my dogs, the Amazing Maisey, ran the VGP a couple of years ago and achieved a prize one despite almost losing an eye earlier in the summer while training. You can read about the drama here. I've also posted some video clips from a special VGP (equivalent) test in Austria that Lisa and I attended in 1999. You can see them here

Recently, I came across a video (in German) that features a young woman and her Drahthaar Laika participating in a VGP test in Germany. The video is featured on the Youtube channel of the German sporting magazine "Deutsche Jagd Zeitung" and is an excellent overview of the test. Even if you don't speak German, it is well worth the viewing.


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Point! ....Now what?

Craig Koshyk

So there you are, just you and your dog. 
You are in a perfect field, on a perfect day, 
hunting partridge. 

Suddenly your dog slams on point.
Your heart beat quickens.  You make your way to him. 
When you finally get there..

What do you do?

Hunters from all over the world love watching dogs search for game. And while they may have different views on just how far or how fast a dog should run, they all agree that a pointing dog's job before the shot is to hunt, find and point hidden game. And what hunters want a dog to do after the shot also varies. Some want their dogs to retrieve the game, others do not.

However, there is a wide variety of expectations to how a dog should behave after a point is established but before the game is flushed.

So there you are, your dog is on point, 
you've managed to make your way to the dog and are ready to shoot. 
So what does the dog do now?

If you are in North America, the answer is 'nothing'. North American hunting traditions and field trials rules generally demand that once the dog is on point, it should remain as still as a statue as the hunter or handler moves in front to flush the game. Here is a video clip showing this method as used in the hunting field:

And here is how it is done (in training) from horseback:

And here it is in a field trial:

Note that in all three situations, the dog finds game, points it and then remains on point as the hunter or handler flushes the bird. To North American hunters, this is the 'normal' way to hunt with a pointing dog. Some hunters may, on occasion, get their dog to flush birds out of tight cover (I do), but in most field trial and test formats, if a dog moves after establishing a point it is usually seen as a cardinal sin. 

So what about other parts of the world were pointing dogs are used to find and point game? What does the dog do after it establishes a point? If you are in the UK, the answer is: the dog flushes the birds on command.

In the UK, once the hunter is in position the dog that is expected to flush the game, on command. At about the 1m 15 second mark of this clip there is a good example of that method (seems to be during a training session on wild birds). The dog is on point, then given the command to flush. He then charges in, the birds fly up and the dog sits to the flush. 

On the continent, there is yet another way. For French, Italian, Spanish and hunters from some other countries what happens after the point is that BOTH the hunter and the dog move forward to flush the game together. In French, this is known as "coulé", in Italian it is 'guidata' and in Spanish 'guia'. And it is reflective of the most ancient way of using pointing dogs.

In 1570 John Caius wrote the following lines in De Canibus Britannicis.
Another sort of Dogges be there, serviceable for fowling...when he hath founde the byrde, he.. layeth his belly to the grounde and so creepeth forward like a worme.  This kinde of dogge is called Index, Setter, being in deede a name most consonant and agreable to his quality.
Watch the dogs in these videos. You will see that in some countries, the setting style of their dogs hasn't changed much in nearly 500 years!

If you watch only one video today, make it this this spectacular video of a setter hunting ptarmigan in Iceland!

UPDATE: Here is another video that you absolutely MUST SEE. It features well-known Swedish hunter and trainer Anders Landin and three of his dogs during a pheasant hunt. All the dogs point, back, flush on command and remain steady to wing, shot and fall until one is sent, by name, to make the retrieve...absolutely incredible!!

Enjoy my blog posts? Check out my book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals