Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A poem by Frost we can all relate to

My November Guest

My Sorrow, when she's here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She's glad the birds are gone away,
She's glad her simple worsted grey
Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise

Robert Frost

Enjoy your day, everyone.... BnT

More Patch Beagle history

I found some more history on the Patch Beagles, later in Willet Randall's life when he was working out of kennels in North Creek, NY.
This is some interesting stuff, and gives some insight into this working man's working dogs...

Rather than post it all, I'll post the link to the site...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Why Show Gordons ain't Field Gordons

I ran across this article from an old issue of Time Magazine, from February 1997, after the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show had concluded.
As everyone I'm sure is aware, Westminster is the AKC's annual showcase of the state of the art of dogdom, or at least as the AKC sees it. The once a year Bacchanalia of canine elitism, for dogs that cannot perform the tasks that they were bred for. The cornucopia of useless doggie ideals that serve the ego's of fanciers rather than the usefulness of their overly furry friends..
As one can readily tell, these farces of canine bigotry raise the hackles on the back of my neck, as did the following article...

STEVE WULF, TIME's sportswriter, usually covers pampered, overpaid athletes. At last week's Westminster Kennel Club show, however, he found himself covering some pampered athletes of another species. As Wulf watched a Gordon setter and a Brittany spaniel finish one-two among sporting dogs, he found himself reliving childhood memories of Troy, New York, where his family kept two dogs--a Gordon setter named Beau and a Brittany named Brill. "They were like George and Lennie from Of Mice and Men," remembers Wulf. "Brill was a small but brilliant hunting dog. Beau was big and not very bright; he always seemed to be asking Brill to tell him about the rabbits." Like the Westminster winner, Wulf's report on the show is both handsome and smart.

This report is "handsome and smart?" I leave that for the readers here to decide... And BTW, would you ask an 85 or 90 lb. Gordon like the one pictured here to work a full day in the field???

Monday, April 28, 2008

Something you've got to see

I've been to birddogdoc's site many times to read, but I never noticed the Youtube video clips on the right sidebar. I saw something I'd love to lift for this site, because it's sooo relevant, but, my conscience forces me to post original content...
I just wish I had thought of it myself....
It's an old video clip of The Everly Brothers singing "Birddog". It strikes me on two levels: one, the obvious, a birddog tune on a birddog site.. two, that I'm old enough to remember this song when it was popular.
I like the Everly Brothers then, and Don and Phil's harmonies still do it for me 50 years later..

Go over to Birddogdoc's Chronicles, listed in my blogroll, and listen to a bit of Americana.... at least for us older guys.

If you'd like a link to "Birddog", click here...

A warm welcome

to our newest contributor, Skip, The Snipe Hunter.

Skip and I have been frequenting the same Bulletin Boards for a few years now, and I've come to know him, and respect him, as the ultimate authority on the gunning of the little bird he treasures, the snipe.
I've gained a lot of knowledge on a subject I knew absolutely about by reading Skip's post, looking at his photo essays, and following his exploits in search of snipe.

I'm very glad to have Skip as a contributor, and look forward to any comments he'd like to offer... Skip is a true "Renaissance Man"... and we're proud to have him.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A great little read..

No, it doesn't pertain to Setters, but another working dog that makes his living the hard way... by keeping his nose to the ground! The beagle...

This is a great little book, by Willet Randall, for anyone who appreciates the working dog. Mr. Randall, now deceased, started the Patch Beagle Kennels, out past Fagan's Flats between North River and Indian Lake, in the Adirondacks of New York.
He had a kennel full of beagles, and derived his most enjoyment listening at night to the baying of the pack running a hare. Oddly enough, his favorite dog, and we all know about "that one dog", was a dog that would take a nip out of him for the slightest provocation.
Willet Randall is one of those crusty old folks that appear larger than life. He spent much of his time living in an old house haunted by a spirit, out in Beaver Meadows. He was a long way from civilization, and he'd fondly recall when the boys from Indian Lake would extend their tour a little to come plow him out..
There's also a great little tale about an Indian he met back in the wilderness while the hounds were on a trail, whom he befriended and had out to the haunted house for a wilderness dinner.
For those who would care to read the book, I won't give too much away. Suffice it to say that it's a worthwhile read for any dogman, wilderness lover, those who can open their minds to the possibility of the occult, or anyone in general looking for a book they won't be able to put down until it's finished..

I heartily recommend it!

A Thank You

To start the day off, I'd like to thank the folks at Upland Feathers for adding The Bombshell to their blogroll. I created this for folks to read and exchange ideas.
Upland Feathers is one of my favorites, and a blog I check daily.
You can get to Upland Feathers from my blogroll on the sidebar...

Thanks again

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Quote for the Day

Near this spot are deposited the remains of one who possessed Beauty without Vanity, Strength without Insolence, Courage without Ferocity, and all the Virtues of Man, without his Vices. This Praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery if inscribed over human ashes, is but a just tribute to the Memory of Boatswain, a Dog. ~George Gordon, Lord Byron, "Inscription on the Monument of a Newfoundland Dog"

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Story of a Conservationist

Paul Schaefer, pictured left in 1963, was a hunter, hiker, and conservationist of uncommon virtue since he was 11 years old in 1919, wearing a tiny pin stamped with "New York Conservationist" after attending a meeting held by State Conservation officials.
Until his death in 1997 at his beloved home in Niskayuna, NY, at the age of 87, Schaefer had preserved that memento in a small leather change purse.
This great monument of a man went to work after completing just one year of high school, to help support his family, yet he became the most vocal and articulate supporter for preservation of the Adirondacks. Schaefer's greatest fight for preservation came during the late 1940's, when Utility companies proposed 35 major hydroelectric dams and reservoirs that would have involved clearcutting and flooding several hundred thousand acres in the Adirondack Park... including the largest deer wintering grounds on the Moose River Plains.
In his forward to Schaefer's book, Defending the Wilderness, Charles Callison writes "As the decades passed, others may have been up front in the halls of legislation or courts of law, but it was Paul Schaefer who was their coach, their cheerleader, their pamphleteer and their supplier of facts, facts gleaned not only from books, but firsthand on innumerable hikes and camping trips into remote reaches of the great region, as often carrying a camera as a fishing rod or deer rifle."
Schaefer's legacy is now preserved at the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, temporarily based ay his home in Niskayuna, pictured above right..
Paul Schaefer's efforts are still felt today, from his rustic cabin in Baker's Mills, to the entire area inside the Blue Line...
Every Adirondacker owes Paul Schaefer a debt of gratitude...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A print by Abbett

A little time off from my previous three day rant, and on to things more pleasant.

Here's a famous painting by Robert K. Abbett entitled "Dash and Dare". I consider Abbett the finest of the Upland Birddog artists. Although these Gordons appear a bit "generic" and don't reflect the form of what I consider to be a "true" Field Gordon, the print speaks for itself, and feeds the soul of the lover of Gordons.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Heart.. Part lll

Pal Joey

Suffice it to say that the '90's saw a fairly radical change in style, type, and performance of many Gordons running exclusively under the AKC. The show breeders interested in putting watered down field titles on their dogs are taking more control of the Field segment of the breed. There was always a rift, with accusations flying about certain breeders having an interest is splitting the breed, and so on. The show types are consolidating their stranglehold on the breed, to the detriment of field standards.
There are still many bright spots in this era, however. Pal Joey, The Bladerunner, Shadowfax Casey Jones, the Belmor dogs, the dogs from DoubleDee Kennels, Gordon 'Ach Remington Steel, Randy Mackey's WildWing Raven, Sure To B, Ismus Be the One, among others are still true Field Gordons, and making their presence felt, but, the march toward the "dual dog" is on, and the movement will take a greater hold amongst breeders who consider themselves "the keepers of the flame". Unfortunately for the noble Gordon Setter, the only flame they keep is the burning branch of mediocrity.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Heart of the Matter, Part Deux

Belmor Field Titles in AF competition... Pretty Belle owned the Field!

1982.. The Mid Atlantic Gordon Setter FT Club held the Gordon Setter Open Shooting Dog Championship in Ohio. The Championship title was withheld. The Gordon Setter Club of Northern California held the second annual Alec Laurence Open Shooting Dog Classic on May 7. The Mid Atlantic Gordon setter FTC held a trial in September. Belmor's Pretty Belle competed against 29 all-breeds in the Northern District Amateur Walking Shooting Dog Championship..

1983.. The highlight of the year was the running of the Gordon setter Open Shooting Dog Championship by the Mid Amerca GSFTC, Kildeer Plains, Ohio. The Championship had been run in 1981 and 1982 but no title was awarded either year. This time the title was awarded to Belmor's Pretty Belle. It was the first time that a Gordon Setter ever earned an American Field Championship title in the history of the breed.

1984.. The Mid-Atlantic GSFTC ran the Harry Malcolm Amateur Shooting Dog Classic. Page's Shurridge Liz (Jack Page, CT) was elected to the American Field Hall of Fame. Belmor's Pretty Belle (J./B. Morris, VA) won the Gordon Setter Open Shooting Dog Championship. Springset Kahua Viper (J. Hustace, HI) won the National Gordon Setter Amateur Shooting Dog Championship in Hawaii.

... A memorial was placed in the field for Danny Boy O'Boy, much loved Gordon, owned by Norm and Sue Sorby (CA). Springset Cascade Thunder, also owned by Norm and Sue, was elected to the American Field Hall of Fame. The Mid-Atlantic GSFTC ran the Gordon Setter Open Shooting Dog Championship. The stake was judged by Ken Marden, later to become President of the AKC.
The GSCA ran a "dress rehearsal" for the National Championship at Medford, New Jersey. Belmor's Pretty Belle won the championship. She also won the annual Walking Shooting Dog Award given by the Maryland Field Trial Association.

1986.. Belmor's Pretty Belle won the Gordon Setter Open Shooting Dog Championship for the fourth time. She also competed in the Region 1 Amateur Shooting Dog Championship in Connecticut in a field of 27 starters. Belle won the Amateur Walking Shooting Dog trophy awarded by the Association of Virginia Field Trial Clubs.

1987.. Belmor's Pretty Belle was the first Gordon Setter in the history of the breed to win a Regional Runner=Up All Breed Championship in the continental United States. This was earned at the Region 2 All-Breed Walking Shooting Dog Championship in NJ with 24 Setters and Pointers.... Belle won both the National Gordon Setter Open and Amateur Shooting Dog Championships.

My thoughts,
It can readily be seen that Belmor's Pretty Belle was the force to be reckoned with during the eighties. She was a fearsome competitor against All-Breed competition in American Field Trials. Some Gordons of the day did not even bother to show up for a trial in which Belle was entered.
Today, Red Setters are the only breed giving the English Setters and Pointers a run for their money in AF Stakes. In my opinion, today's Field Gordon breeders need to follow the same path that the Red Setter folks chose. Playing in the AKC against AKC English Setters and Pointers is at best a farce, and not showing what a real Field Gordon is capable of...

More tomorrow..

Hang on to your seat belts, as this could easily turn into a week-long rant!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Getting to the Heart of the Matter

The following are excerpts from an article written by Dr. Joel Morris (Belmor) and published is the GSCA Review, 1978-1988...

The American Field sets forth a Shooting Dog Standard for Gordon Setters. This is a Field Trial Standard of Performance for Gordon Setter Championships. The standard provides a benchmark to judge Gordon Setter championship performance, to recognize class Gordon Setters who possess these characteristics and to improve the breeding of superior Gordon Setter field qualities. It is acknowledged that a Gordon Setter may not demonstrate all of the championship characteristics listed, however, it is desirable that he approximate as many of these characteristics as possible. The following qualities are to be evaluated in judging a championship stake:

Point. The dog stands proud, intense, rigid, confident, high head and tail, is steady to wing and shot, an immovable picturesque statue.

Application. The dog demonstrates an intense desire to find game, is animated, cracking, a joy to watch, independent, makes intellegent use of the wind, confidently attacks ground, cover and objectives.

Nose. He stops on a dime when he scents birds, accurately locates the birds, and uses body rather than foot scent.

Range and Run. He adapts his pace and range to terrain and cover, may be absent for periods of time. He hunts his way out in a forward direction, making appropriately wide casts and hunts the limits. He runs gracefully with little wasted effort.

Handling. He responds positively to handler's voice and whistle. He may verge on being "out of control" but comes around. Rough handling can be a sign of superior desire to find birds rather than not handling, and should be judged accordingly rather than penalized.

Backing. He naturally backs his bracemate with a high head and tail.

Stamina. He can finish the hour strong with capacity to continue.

Undesirable characteristics include lack of intensity and style on point, creeping, pottering, lacking application, lack of desire and independence in finding birds. It is indesirable if the dog stays within shotgun range, avoids or steals a point or has insufficient stamina to finish a course properly.
It is a serious blemish on the integrity and character of the championship as well as to the reputation of the judges to award a championship to a dog that does not demonstrate championship qualities. The judge has the responsibility to award the championship to a class dog. Anything less is a disservice to the breed, participants, the sponsoring club and field trial community. It is better to award the title to a class dog with minor errors than to award it to a mediocre dog with multiple finds that does not approximate the championship qualities outlined above. Style, desire, intensity, range and application should be stressed. It is better to withhold the championship than to award it to a dog that made it around clean, but lacks overall class performance. In other words, "don't give it away," "don't do us any favors." This is an American Field championship, the dog must be championship quality. It must be capable of placing in (non-A.K.C.) all breed American Field competition(from the American Field Shooting Dog Standard for Gordon Setters).....

The Gordon Setter Club of America runs it's field trials under the sanction of The American Kennel Club. However, many of GSCA's regional committees also run trials under the sanction of the American Field. There are currently three major Gordon Setter field trial organizations running events under American Field rules. They are the National Gordon Setter Association, the National Gordon Setter Field Trial Club and the Heart of America Field Trial Club.
The Mid-Atlantic Gordon Setter Field Trial Club was very active during the 1970's and early 1980's. It ran championship stakes during 1984 and 1985. Many of it's members are also members of the National Gordon Setter Field Trial Club. This club was established in 1956 with George Penterman as it's president. An American Field club, it has run both regional and National Gordon Setter field championships.
The National Gordon Setter Association publishes a quarterly newsletter called The Gordon Castle Setter. It also helped establish the Open and Amateur Gordon Setter Shooting Dog Championships. It oversees the election of Gordon Setters into the American Field Trial Hall of Fame. Member clubs of the National Gordon Setter Association include the Gordon Setter Club of Hawaii, the Gordon Setter Field Trial Club of Northern California, the United States Gordon Setter Field Trial Club and the Heart of America Gordon Setter Club.

My comments...
To put this, and the current state of the Field Gordon Setter in perspective, all of the Field Trial Clubs that ran under the auspices of the American Field are now defunct, and it's exceedingly rare to find a Gordon running AF events. There are a few that could make a mark, but, the vast majority would rather seek mediocrity under the AKC. The Gordon had a chance to make the big time... I fear that time is lost!

More on Dr. Morris and the impact that he and his Belmor dogs had on the breed tomorrow....
Stay tuned....

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Old Magazine Covers

Here's an old Field and Stream cover featuring a Gordon. Gordon covers are not easy to find, and I can't recall where I found this one.
I've done a little research, as I can't read the date cleary, but the price went to 25 cents in the early twenties, and the logo went to this style around the early thirties, so, this cover goes back pretty far. I've got a few more covers, one from an Outdoor Life from the mid eighties featuring the Mom of my first true Field Gordon, Duncan.
More to come...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

My Old Friend Dallas

Pictured here is Dallas. A little Tennessee Walker that was at the barn for quite a few years. He was bought by a FT aquaintance who kept him as a tool, paid for his "room and board", and took him to FT's from time to time. I used to clean his stall, brush him, give him carrots and apples, and just generally spend time with him. Over the years, we bacame quite close, and I knew he used to look forward to seeing me.
The owner bought him from a fairly prominent handler who used to twist his ears to get the horse to comply. I can't understand why that was necessary, but, there it is. It took us a loooong time to get this horse to the point where he trusted, and enjoyed the company of people. Eventually, I could even rub his ears, and he came to enjoy it.
But, as always, all good things must come to an end. The owner's divorce sounded the closing bell for our time together. Sadly, the horse was sent back to the original owner who used ear twisting as a form of control. As if this horse needed it! The initial idea was to sell the horse, but, from what I understand, that has not happened, and he remains with the handler who mistreats him unnecessarily..
My only hope is that he'll eventually end up with someone who will treat him the way he deserves to be treated...
Good Luck, Dallas...

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Here's a dog, Stargazer, or Star for short, that came back from a Pro trainer because she wouldn't point. Point she does, but, she also flags. Before she left to go to the Pro, she didn't flag at all. This little dog is well bred. I won't mention who this dog is out of here, for personal reasons, but, suffice to say that this dog came back a virtual basket case. Afraid of men and extremely hand shy. She will now respond to me, but, under certain conditions, she'll still shy from my hand. The dog is mentally quite tough.. although not as tough as her Daddy.
She'll make a nice gundog, although she'll probably continue to flag on point, but her future is happy and secure. She's one of the lucky ones, in my opinion...
Be extremely careful in sending your hunting pup off to a trainer. Do the same type of homework that one would do in selecting a breeder. Go with your pup so you can be trained as a team.
Don't allow what happened to this nice little dog happen to one of yours....
Another situation where "Caveat Emptor" applies.... Let the buyer beware!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Electronic Dog

E-collars are getting "smarter" and smarter, with tones, pagers, etc. More and more features controlled by the transmitter. Tracking collars, beepers, and now GPS units to pinpoint your dog's location on a topo map featuring roads and landmarks... Where does it end?
Before anyone gets the idea that I'm anti-technology for dogs.. Forget it! I own all the units specified, but maybe for different reasons.
Years ago, when e-collars were truly "shock collars", I eschewed their use, employing tried and true, old style, methods. Then, the collars advanced a bit, and one could train without really "juicing" the pupil. I bought the state of the art collar of the day, and became a believer. Things seemed easy, but, were the dogs truly learning their lessons being "tickled" by many shots of low level stimululation, or were they just becoming "collar wise". I think they truly were learning, but, what turned me around was unintended stimulations at inopportune times. I never used the collar around birds, I didn't want any negative associations, whatsoever! Those with more e-collar experience that I, do it unabashedly, but, I just didn't trust the technology enough..
So, I'm back to check cords and traditional methods, for the most part. Check cords may trip me up, give me rope burns, and nearly yank joints from their sockets, but, they're still my tool of choice. The e-collar is still in use, and it has it's place in my toolbox for limited situations, but, it's no longer the "go to" tool it once was.
I love the new Garmin Astro though. Particularly on my big running English Setter that is out of sight and beeper range more than I'd like. It gives some peace of mind.
The beeper collar is also still in my arsenal also. I don't like the noise; a traditional bell is much more pleasing to the ear, but, It allows me to know where a black dog, that is very difficult to see in the woods, is, and lets me know what she's doing.
So, what's the answer?? Use the technology at hand, or go traditional??

If we're to use it all, perhaps it's time to start breeding selectively for longer necks??
Just my "thought of the day"...

Monday, April 14, 2008

William F. Brown

Bill Brown was a past Editor of "The American Field", The Recognized Authority, the premier "newspaper" of the Sporting Dog World. He also penned a book, "How to train Sporting Dogs", for Pointing Dogs, Spaniels, and non slip Retreivers in 1942...
Mr. Brown had a fair number of great quotes as applied to Sporting dogs, and, I'll post a couple here..

“The object of field trials is the promotion and development of the high-class bird dog. It is a means of enjoying the great out-of-doors sport of bird hunting in its most aesthetic fashion.”

Kind of a commentary on the way that the rules of the Field Trial game relate to the sport of hunting, and how intertwined they are, or were, or should be. I'll leave that for the reader to decide for himself...

Another.. and one that rings true for me..

"Better a diamond with a flaw, than a polished pebble"

I agree with this completely! I'd rather see a dog out there running, as it's genetic makeup tells it to do, on the ragged edge of control, showing all the spark and snap bred into it, than a dog "trained" to work within gun range, showing no initiative or emotion for it's work!
Yes, one can take a dog with mediocre abilities, and turn it into a fair "meat dog" through training. But, is that preferable to the dog that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up? The dog that thrills you, and leaves you with question marks, whenever it hits the ground??

For me, at least, I'll seek out the "diamond with a flaw" and take my chances!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Kipling on dogs....

A good friend recently had a scare with one of his much loved English Setters chasing a deer, as they are all wont to do, crossing a road and being hit by an auto. The driver did not stop, an unconscienable act in itself. Luckily, the dog survived, and by all accounts will be roaming the fields in search of grouse and woodcock with his beloved Master again.
But, these reports just send chills up my spine, and remind me of how tenuous the relationship between a dogman and his charge can be, and how, in an instant, a man and his dog can be seperated..
For me, these moments bring to the forefront the old adage "There, but for the grace of God, go I ".

This is the type of story that brings back thoughts of what Rudyard Kipling penned here...


There is sorrow enough in the natural way From men and women to fill our day; But when we are certain of sorrow in store, Why do we always arrange for more? Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy Love unflinching that cannot lie-- Perfect passion and worship fed By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head. Nevertheless it is hardly fair To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits, And the vet's unspoken prescription runs To lethal chambers or loaded guns, Then you will find--it's your own affair But . . . you've given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will When the whimper of welcome is stilled (how still!) When the spirit that answered your every mood Is gone wherever it goes--for good, You will discover how much you care, And will give your heart to a dog to tear!

We've sorrow enough in the natural way, When it comes to burying Christian clay. Our loves are not given, but only lent, At compound interest of cent per cent. Though it is not always the case, I believe, That the longer we've kept 'em, the more do we grieve: For, when debts are payable, right or wrong, A short-time loan is as bad as a long So why in Heaven (before we are there!) Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

Be careful with your dogs... it's a dangerous world out there!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Are there dogs in heaven?

For those who love dogs, it would be the worst form of a lie to call any place where dogs were banned "Paradise." Certainly no loving God would separate people from their canine friends for eternity.

Stanley Coren, dog psychologist

The question of whether our dogs go to heaven when they pass on has often puzzled me. I'm not a highly religious person as far as attending Sunday services, but, I do believe in a Supreme Being, and common sense would tell me that our beloved dogs will go where we do for eternity.
Some religions apparently do not accept whe I call common sense, and do not allow for dogs to exist in the afterlife with their former Masters..
I've been gifted with a couple of great Field dogs. Some not so great, but they all touched my heart in a beautiful way, and I miss them all terribly.
But, you get that "one dog". Many of us are lucky to get one. Not to lessen my love for the others that have passed through my life since, but, my Duncan and I were that rare team that comes along once in a lifetime.
When he left me years ago, he left a big hole in my heart that I thought would never completely heal.
They say that time heals all wounds, but that's not completely true. I've been lucky enough to get another dog that has touched me deeply, and I'll expound more upon her in a future post.

But, for now, suffice to say that if dogs are not allowed in heaven... just send me where they are welcome...
I look forward to roaming the woods behind them for all eternity...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Big Cats in the Adirondacks???

I hope not! But, a few of my neighbors in the central Adirondacks claim to have seen what they call a "puma". They have also come across deer kills that look like nothing they have seen before. Even the DEC people who have responded are baffled, since the DEC holds the position that there are no big cats in the North Country of New York.
Here's an interesting dissertation from the February 2008 edition of "The Conservationist", the official publication of the Department of Environmental Conservation...

Big Cat Tales
By Scott Van Arsdale
The caller said he could see the cougar--it was lying down at the edge of his lawn by the woods. I immediately began the half-hour drive to the site, but by the time I arrived, the animal was gone.

Once the most widespread of land mammals in the New World, cougars roamed the continent from Patagonia in South America to the 48 continental United States to southern Canada. However, all changed with land settlement. Settlers considered predators such as cougars competitors, and shot them whenever possible. Some areas had lucrative bounties for dead cougars. By the mid-1800s, these cats were very rare in New York. The state's last known wild that cougar was killed in 1894. A few years later, the cougar was gone from the entire eastern United States, except for a small remnant population in Florida.

The phone call about the "backyard cougar" was one of several cougar sighting reports DEC received in August 1995 from a small area near Oneonta. I was hoping to find irrefutable evidence of exactly what animal was leading to these reports. To me, the most intriguing point was the clustered nature of the sightings. It led me to question DEC's standard response of "mistaken identity." Perhaps we were being too hasty in dismissing such reports. I decided to personally visit sites where there was a good chance of finding physical evidence proving whether the animal seen was, in fact, a cougar.

I also decided to start a regional log of cougar sighting reports. A year later, my log contained 44 reports of cougar sightings in east-central New York. Although wildlife staff visited many of the locations where cougars had been reported, we couldn't find any physical evidence (hair, tracks or scat) proving the presence of a single wild cougar. So how can an animal officially considered "extirpated" in New York State generate so many sighting reports? And if people aren't seeing cougars, what are they seeing?

While looking for physical proof of cougars in the region, we have found that people often mistake other animals for cougars. Dogs, coyotes, bobcats, and a surprising number of house cats have all been the subject of reported cougar sightings. This isn't unusual. When seen fleetingly or from a distance, these animals may appear to look like a cougar. In December 2006 we received a call from a man in Greene County. He and his family saw what he was sure was a cougar in their yard several times, and he had managed to take a few photographs of the animal at a distance. I asked the man to e-mail the photographs to me. The cat depicted in the photo was similar in color to a cougar, but to a trained eye was almost certainly a house cat. To be sure of my assessment, I visited the site of the incident and placed a life-sized cardboard cutout of a cougar on the spot where the cat was photographed. Then I took several pictures from where the original photographer was standing. The new photographs clearly showed the cat was much too small to be a cougar and was indeed a house cat. We also measured objects that were near the cat in the photographs, which further proved that the animal was not a cougar.

Wildlife agencies in other states corroborate our experience: even in areas with known cougar populations, it is common for people to mistake other animals for cougars. Upon closer inspection of evidence such as tracks, scat, photos or videos, we can sometimes tell exactly what kind of animal had been in an area when the sighting was reported. Unfortunately, most reported cougar sightings lack good physical evidence, making it impossible to positively identify the animal. This can cause hard feelings, as many people are convinced they have seen a cougar and feel frustrated that wildlife officials don't believe them. A few individuals question wildlife officials' credibility, suggesting that they are covering up a wildlife reintroduction or "stocking" program, which may discourage others from reporting sightings. With so many clear cases of mistaken identity, it would be irresponsible for biologists to consider a sighting without physical evidence as proof of existence. Although a sighting is a key component of determining presence or absence, physical evidence verifying the identification is also critical.

While we have not found definitive evidence of cougars in east-central New York, a DEC wildlife biologist investigated a deer carcass in the Adirondacks in 1993, and concluded it was probably killed by a cougar. In 1997, DNA testing confirmed that scat found in Massachusetts was from a cougar. Similarly, DNA testing confirmed the presence of cougar hair in four instances in the Province of Quebec and two in New Brunswick.

Assuming these incidents of free-roaming cougars are true, does this mean there is a wild breeding population of these big cats in northeastern North America? Not necessarily. It's more likely that these animals were accidental escapees or illegally released individuals that managed to survive for a time in the wild. Under strict guidelines spelled out in permits issued by DEC, people can possess live cougars for scientific, educational or exhibition purposes. However, it is illegal for cougars to be kept as pets. Despite this deterrent, a number of individuals illegally bring these cats into New York from other states. While cute and manageable as kittens, adults weigh more than 120 pounds and are expensive to keep, consuming large amounts of fresh meat. These captive cats can be unpredictable, posing a danger to their owners. It's not hard to imagine someone who illegally possesses such a dangerous animal to try to solve their problem by releasing the cat. Nor is it difficult to imagine such a strong animal escaping confinement.

In 1993, a hunter shot a juvenile cougar in Saratoga County, mistaking the animal for a bobcat. The animal's poor condition and other factors led DEC Wildlife Pathologist Ward Stone to conclude the young cougar was a recently escaped or released captive. DNA testing conducted on tissues from the animal supported the findings. The tests showed the cougar was closely related to cougars from South America, a source of some of the captive cougars in the U.S.

There have been other cases of free-roaming cougars in New York with captive origins. In fact, information I received a few years after beginning my log indicated that just before the sightings occurred in Oneonta, a cougar had indeed escaped from captivity in the area. Escapes don't eliminate the possibility of a wild cougar population, but it is likely that any real cougars sighted at large in New York are previously captive animals.

Some people suggest that cougars were never extirpated from the northeast, but that a small remnant population survived in a remote area such as the Adirondacks and has spread to other areas. On the surface that may seem plausible, but scientific study doesn't support it. In 1981, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry's Dr. Rainer Brocke released the findings of a study (requested by DEC) to determine if the Adirondacks were suitable for the reintroduction of cougars. In that study, Dr. Brocke examined the possibility of cougar populations existing outside the known locations in the western U.S. and in Florida. Dr. Brocke noted that although genuine sightings of cougars are rare, cougar sign was quite easy to find in areas known to be occupied by cougars. Since cougar sign is not generally observed in New York, Dr. Brocke stated that this was a good indication a population does not exist.

Furthermore, after comparing the Adirondacks with known cougar habitat, he concluded that a cougar reintroduction attempt would likely fail in the Adirondacks because the state's relatively high road density and human population would lead to human-induced mortality rates greater than such a cougar population could support.

Cougars have expansive home ranges. They travel great distances, and in so doing, cross and re-cross roads. Road-kills are not uncommon in cougar range, even in areas with far fewer roads and less traffic than the most remote areas of the northeast. If a cougar population existed in New York, the high road density and heavy traffic (relative to the western U.S.) would almost certainly result in road-kills. Yet road-killed cougars are unheard of in New York.

Additionally, when cougars travel, they leave tracks- lots of them. The tracks are relatively easy to spot, and in cougar country, biologists use track surveys to estimate cougar population levels. A lack of tracks means a lack of cougars. To date, no one has been able to find cougar tracks in New York.

Another clue to cougar presence is livestock predation. Out west, offending cougars are killed by ranchers, farmers or government officials. And while there are rumors of cougar attacks on livestock in New York, none have been substantiated and no carcasses of problem cougars have turned up.

While most wildlife professionals agree that it is highly unlikely a sustaining cougar population exists in New York or neighboring states, western cougar populations are spreading eastward. A few individual cats have shown up in states along the Mississippi River. Could they eventually populate New York where there are large areas of forest and plenty of deer? Maybe. But to be successful in New York, cougars would have to overcome the same factor that led to their initial demise-human-induced mortality, including the "new" threat of being hit by cars. For now, we'll continue to examine the physical evidence associated with reported cougar sightings with an open mind, one case at a time.

For more information on the eastern cougar, search "cougar" on DEC's website, or visit: or

Scott Van Arsdale specializes in bald eagle work in DEC's Stamford office, and is routinely called to investigate reports of cougar sightings.

Cougar facts:
Cougars are also called mountain lions, pumas, panthers and catamounts.

Slightly smaller than jaguars, cougars are the second largest cats in North America, with adults weighing between 80-225 pounds (average is 140 pounds), and measuring between 5-9 feet in length (including the tail).

Cougars have long, slender bodies and small, broad, round heads. Ears are short, erect and rounded. The short fur is usually tawny, more tan in the summer months and grayer in winter. The muzzle, chin and underparts are creamy white. Black appears at the tip of the tail and behind the ears. Young cougars have obvious dark spots on their flanks.

Cougars are solitary, territorial hunters. They feed on large and small mammals, and prefer deer. An adult cougar will kill about one deer per week.

A cougar's average life span is eight to ten years. Adult cougars have no natural enemies except man.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Hutchinson's Dog Encyclopedia

The image on the left is an old oil painting from the collection of a Mrs. T. Rishworth, showing what is believed to be a Gordon of the day holding a grouse. The painting is by Richard Ansdell, and appeared in Hutchinson's Dog Encyclopedia, England, circa 1935....

The image to the right is a head study of a much darker Gordon. Again, from the Hutchinson's Dog Enclycopedia of 1935.

These two images underline the eclectic color variations that a Gordon Setter can take on even today, due to the Duke's constant mixing and matching, ans stirring of the genetic soup. I've seen a number of Gordons nearly pure white. Some attribute to the influx of English setter blood, which is known to have been done, and may still be being stirred in. Most is rumor, but, with the Gordon's varied background, and efforts to set type being a relatively recent trend in the history of dogdom, who can really say?

By the way, for the well heeled, I see Hutchinson's Dog Encyclopedia on various web auction sites in the $600 +/- range for the three volume set... For those that like to have everything.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Gordons for postage..

Here's something a little offbeat that should be of interest to Gordonites.....

A stamp from Tanzania with a beautiful headshot of a Gordon Setter. Why or how this came about, and the signifigance of Gordons to Tanzania is unknown to me, but, there it is for all to see.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Another quotation

this one by the Dean of Birddog Sporting Literature, the inimitable George Bird Evans.. This is not among the quotes by GBE that we all know and love, but a bit more obscure...

"Until you have bred dogs and have drawn and painted them, it is difficult to realize that no two are identical in conformation. You need do no more than gun for a day over two of them to recognize that each is an individual. It requires the intimacy of daily living with a dog to know the subtle quality of his mind, the ham-smell of his ears, and that his wet nose in your mouth tastes salty."

George Bird Evans

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Where dogs and heritage collide..

I was born in Wales, and am very proud of it! The Welsh have a strong nationalistic pride that courses through the body of each Welshman. My love for dogs is powerful, and here is a story in which both loves meet...

The story of Gelert, from Welsh folklore...

One of the best-known Welsh legends is that of Prince Llewelyn and his dog Gelert.

Prince Llywelyn of Gwynedd's favourite dog is Gelert, a fearless hunting dog and loyal friend and companion who was said to have been a gift from King John of England.

Llywelyn leaves his baby son with a nurse and a servant while he embarks on a hunting trip with his wife. The nurse and the servant go for a walk in the mountains leaving the baby alone and unprotected.

After a while Llywelyn notices that Gelert isn't with the hunting pack. Reasoning that the only place Gelert would go is back to the lodge, he calls off the hunt and heads back home.

As the party is dismounting, Gelert comes running out of the lodge towards his master, covered in blood and wagging his tail. The princess, calling her child's name, faints. Llewelyn rushes in to find the cradle overturned, the bloodstained bedclothes thrown all over the floor, and no sign of his son.

Filled with anger and grief he draws his sword against the dog. As Gelert dies, he whimpers and his cries are answered by the sound of a baby crying from behind the overturned cradle. Llewelyn pulls aside the cradle to find his son unharmed and the bloody body of a huge wolf next to him. Gelert had killed the wolf as it tried to attack Llewelyn's son.

From that day onwards Llewelyn never speaks again. Filled with remorse, he buries Gelert in a meadow nearby and marks the grave with a cairn of stones, though he could still hear its dying cries.

The village of Beddgelert (Gelert's grave) in North West Wales is thought to owe its name to the legend, although there is no evidence of the story having a historical basis.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Birddogs running deer

Here's a post I made last year concerning a topic I consider of great importance to birddog owners. I pass these thoughts along to everyone I know, to inform them that it's NOT OK for the "good ole' boy" network to shoot dogs at will anymore. It may take some time to change this culture, but, I'll do everything in my power to do so....

I do my best to break this behavior in my birddogs, and with an e-collar, have little difficulty. But there's always an outside chance.

I don't like putting dogs on the ground during the regular big game season due to archaic laws that allow virtually anyone to kill a dog running deer.
There was a recent case in Pennsylvania in which three hunting dogs (beagles) were shot by a landowner's son who claimed the dogs were running deer. The hunting party was legally hunting the parcel and an adjoining parcel.
For me, this incident was jarring enough to contact the NYS DEC and start pushing to get the laws of New York changed.
I received a letter from Jeremy Hurst at the DEC in Albany. To my surprise, the law had just been changed and signed into law by our governor in August of 2006.
A synopsis of the letter I received............

A recent change to the Environmental Conservation Law should make the
situation you describe from Pennsylvania less likely to occur in New

Bill A10600 passed the Senate and Assembly in June, 2006 and was signed
by Governor Pataki in August, 2006
Provides that only an environmental conservation officer, forest
ranger, or member of the state police may kill a dog that is pursuing
or killing a deer.

This bill would amend Section 11-0529 of the Environmental
Conservation law under dogs pursuing deer. This bill would enable only
environmental conservation officers, forest rangers or members of the
State Police to kill a dog pursuing a deer.

Under the existing law, any person over the age of twenty-one years
possessing a hunting license can kill a dog pursuing a deer. This bill
would protect the hunting dog so that the officers would have sole
discretion of killing a dog in pursuit of a deer.

Jeremy Hurst

Jeremy Hurst
Wildlife Biologist
NYS DEC, Bureau of Wildlife
625 Broadway, 5th Floor
Albany, NY 12233
Phone: 518-402-8867
Fax: 518-402-8925

Now we need to educate the public of the changes and get the word out.

I still will not put a dog down without a beeper and a "quick spot" vest though. I've come to like the quick spot vest for the protection it provides and visibility. Particularly for a Gordon.........

Friday, April 4, 2008

Quotable quotes...

"The great pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too.”

Boy can I ever relate to this quote by Samuel Butler, the English novelist and essayist. This is probably one of the main reasons I carry an affinity for dogs. I cannot count the times I've done something foolish, or made a complete ass of myself, and my canine companion just looks at me with dark, soulful eyes... You see, it really doesn't matter, as we're subject to the same foibles and frailities.
Years ago, I once took a bad stumble in a woodchuck hole. The gun and I went down hard! It took some time to regain my composure and try to right myself, but, my Gordon, Duncan, was right there licking my face in encouragement.. He didn't help me up, but he got his licks in while he could!

I love quotes concerning dogs, and I have many of them stashed away in a small book. Some are well known, some fairly obscure, but, those who frequent this little blog will read many of them in the future.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Quality from the Knotsmith

Here's an item that I believe every dogman and birdhunter deserves, and, in my opinion, should treat himself to... A custom made whistle lanyard by Larry Smith, aka the Knotsmith.
These lanyards are simply beautiful, and, since we only pass this way once, I've got two. The one pictured here was made in 2006, and features my colors of choice, Black & Tan... what else?? It's also a few inches longer than standard, because I prefer whistles to fall around my belly, instead of the breastbone area.
Larry thought that this color scheme was really rich looking, and he's got a few on his website that are very similar.
Admittedly, these are not cheap, but for those that appreciate the best, there are none finer, and they are custom made per the owner's requests..
Do something nice for yourself... Think about your color scheme, and give Larry Smith, The Knotsmith, a call.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Ithaca/SKB 280

Here's the obligitory "artsy fartsy" photo of my 20 gauge, 28" barreled SKB 280. This is the gun I refer to as my "poor man's RBL."
The guns with 28 inch barrels come choked Mod/Full, so, the first order of business was to have the chokes bored to Skeet/Light modified by Briley. The buttstock was a little short also, so, the butt and forend went off to a local stocker, whom I know from PRSC, to add an Old English pad, and recut the checkering that SKB so thoughtfully fills with finish..
I've got some 3/4 ounce 2o ga. loades loaded up, and plan to shoot a little Skeet with her today. This will be the first test of my shoulder that was fractured and dislocated last August also.
As of this moment, I plan on this gun seeing action as my bird gun of choice for the coming season...

Time will tell...


I'll call our first outing a success! Missed a few targets attributable to general rust (me, not the gun), and forgot to flick the auto safety off twice (damn those things!). The gun felt good and broke properly pointed targets with authority.. As for the 3/4 ounce loads, all I can say is "Where have you been all my life?" Recoil is virtually non-existant, targets are well broken, and saving 1/8 ounce of shot per shell appeals to my more frugal side..
Now to load more 3/4 ounce loads...

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Bad news for the lowly pigeon

NEW YORK - Put your hands up and back away from the breadcrumbs. Feeding New York City pigeons could soon be banned under a proposal to thin the flocks of the birds sometimes referred to as "rats with wings."

City Councilman Simcha Felder plans to introduce legislation to ban pigeon feeding and fine those caught flouting the ban $1,000.

The ammonia and uric acids in pigeon droppings can rust steel and corrode infrastructure, he wrote in a report outlining potential solutions to the pigeon problem. A pigeon excretes an average 25 pounds of droppings per year, he said.

"We have pigeons doing whatever they do all over the city without anyone trying to stop it," Felder said outside City Hall on Monday. "If people like pigeons, take them into their homes, feed pigeons in your house and let them crap all over the place in your living rooms."

He also suggested appointing a "pigeon czar" to orchestrate the fight, a plan that has ruffled the feathers of animal lovers.

"Cities are lifeless places. People don't appreciate the fact that we have some wildlife," said Al Streit, director of The Pigeon People, an organization that rescues injured birds.

Felder countered that "the fact is that people have been disgusted and annoyed." Noting that he frequently dodges pigeon droppings at his Brooklyn subway station, Felder added: "I might as well say that I'm sick and tired of it."

What other cities have done
In his report, Felder recommends looking at how other cities have gone about reducing their pigeon populations.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone banned pigeon feeding in Trafalgar Square, closed down the official feed vendors there and brought in hawks to scare away pigeons that remained.

Los Angeles has begun a trial use of pigeon birth control called OvoControl P.

Venice, Italy, is trying to stop the sale of bird seed in St. Mark's Square and prevent pigeons from chipping away at marble statues and buildings. Licensed bird feed sellers do not want to go and animal rights activists have also expressed concern.

And Basel, Switzerland, helped reduce its pigeon population by stealing the birds' eggs and replacing them with fakes, fooling them.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has not endorsed a feeding ban but said at a news conference Monday that he thought the city's pigeons were a problem.

"We do have a lot of pigeons and they do tend to foul a lot of our areas, and people would be better off not feeding the pigeons," he said.

Attack on Chihuahua ended hawk strategy
Attempts to shoo pigeons from parts of the city have had mixed results.

Electrifying roosting areas under elevated subway tracks has had some success, but noise deterrents — using recordings of hawks and other predators — haven't worked as well because New York City pigeons appear to be unfazed by noise.

An attempt to use hawks in Manhattan's Bryant Park in 2003 was scrapped after a hawk attacked a pet Chihuahua.

European settlers brought pigeons to North America as domesticated birds; the animals that rule New York City are their wild descendants.

Despite their reputation as disease carriers, the city Health Department does not consider pigeons a major danger and says the average New Yorker is not at risk of catching anything from the birds or their droppings.

Hearings on Felder's plan may be called before the end of the year.

BlacknTan's take..

Without the pigeon, the birddog trainer would be in dire straits... The pigeon is no more a "flying rat" that the bat is a "flying mouse"! Just ask any of the legions of pigeon fanciers!
For the bird dog owners who's pups will point them, and some dogs disrespect pigeons to the point of refusing to point them, the birds provide cheap, consistent, and re-usable training.

Pigeons go with birddogs and horses the way bread goes with butter and jam!