Style & Function

by | Apr 7, 2022 | What's Happening

Northstream Blue Belle duck hunting in May 2015

30 years ago when I had arrived in Denmark and took up the editor role in the Danish Pointer Club, we had to respond to an article in the Danish hunting association magazine that they had called “Adelsmand paa nedtur” (Nobleman on the downturn), about how the Pointer had fallen out of favour with the Danish hunters. Not just the pointer but all the British breeds, up against the various German pointer breeds and the French Brittany spaniel.

While there was no disputing the popularity of the versatile, slower and closer working German Wirehair and German Shorthairs in particular, the British breeds were cloaked in myths about being hard headed, running too big and limited in their scale of work. This type of criticism had already made the British breeds agree to pass the same kind of retrieving tests as the continental breeds. If you want to compete in a championship trial for British breeds in Denmark the dog must have passed such a retrieving test. The test consists of retrieving two birds thrown in a field, a rabbit hidden in the field and one bird retrieved in deep water. Of course every British dog isn’t a natural born at retrieving but they can be trained to be exceptional at it. When a pointer or a setter has gone through the training process and loves doing this kind of work, they do it with the same aplomb as they do when ranging to find and point live birds.

With my background from Norway (where English setters are the 2nd most registered breed in the Kennel Club) and Sweden, where the setters & pointers are highly rated for their work in mountains and forests, there the retrieving side has often been kept to more basic levels. Arriving in the Danish fields and with the the more comprehensive retrieving training was new but very rewarding. I had the opportunity to take several pointers through this training regime (Agertoften Kazan, Agertoften Sonja, Agertoften Silvia, Takese Rolf and setter Myrteigens Nappe. Nappe was also trained by Jørgen Andersen. He also did the retrieving training of Agertoften Isabella, who I did a lot of training and competing with in the field. The work with Isabella really developed my own skills with bird dogs more than any other dog I had between my hands. She qualified as an Elite dog in Danish Pointer Club but for some reason the club has not included her on their historical list.

Pictured above is Bjarne Johnsen with Agertoften Kazan, myself with Northstream Blue Belle (her last ever bird), my best retrieving dog Wingfield Warrior opening morning of the duck shooting in Waikato (with two of the Stables brothers) and Lapphaugen’s Moulin delivering a Californian quail to me in the South Island. Kazan was the first dog I trained in Denmark. He was a half-brother of Isabella (through their mother Dual Ch Lydehøjs Line), his sire was the German Blackfield World Master (litter brother of the famous European champion Blackfield Wildcat). I would have loved for us to have kept him in the Agertoften kennels as he showed great promise in the field and he turned into a superb retriever. However, we had several adult dogs and more pups coming through, with me busy with Isabella and soon also Sonja. So Kazan was sold to Bjarne, who had previously only worked with German Shepherds. They became a popular duo at hunts where they lived, with Kazan outshining many continentals in retrieving trials and hunts. The first time he was sent after a shot fox he retrieved it without hesitance. The picture above is one I took at the Danish Pointer Club’s main trial in April 1993. Here he was rewarded a 2nd in the Open Stake with two situations on pheasants. A more experienced handler would likely have secured 1st but Bjarne was happy!

In Denmark I often trained in the field with owners of the German breeds and the Brittany. Many of them were excellent hunting dogs with very good bird work. But I still don’t find the thrill to see them work, like we do with a high flying pointer or setter. Of course they must also be efficient and polished in their work and for sure it’s a cliche about comparing work horses with Thoroughbreds. But when you have a fully trained pointer or setter there is so much potential to be released. If you don’t seek that kind of thrill of the most athletic of sports dog, there is nothing wrong with being satisfied with a well bred German shorthair or wirehair. Or as my late friend Leon Mortensen described in his book “Bird Dogs Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow”, the first generation cross between an English pointer and Labrador might be the perfect hunting dog in New Zealand conditions. If you do a lot of hunting in thick gorse it might be more practical with a field cocker.

Here in New Zealand I have gone through the same retrieving regime as I did with the dogs in Denmark. The first one was actually a German Shepherd called Hogan who I looked after my first six months in the country and took through a full obedience program as well as retrieving. Wingfield Warrior (Quinn) got a lot of drilling and became superb at it. So far he is probably the best I’ve had. Lapphaugen’s Moulin was such a strong dog and impressed more in sheer power (like carrying fully grown turkeys up steep hills or grabbing possums). Her daughter Bella showed more of the brilliance like her father Quinn. Now in early 2022 it’s young Bentley who is being prepared for the upcoming season.

Pictured above are two pictures I took of my Norwegian mate Geir B. Larssen and Agertoften Jalco in 2004. Jalco was a litter brother of Sonja that I had, who Jørgen Andersen ran while I ran Sonja and Isabella. Jalco was an excellent dog who became a Danish FTCh before we sent him up to Geir in North Norway. He also did well in Norwegian mountain trials, autumn and winter. In the pics above Geir has just shot a ptarmigan that is being retrieved by Jalco. (Jørgen named him Jalco, after having been amused by my story of a basic energy drink/meal that my grandfather used to make when we were tramping in remote mountain areas. He had simply given the drink the name Jalco.)

Also pictured above left is Geir on a visit to NZ in January 2008, enjoying a pipe and a Macallan, and right he is in February this year, after a 1st/CK in a Championship trial with Barentsviddas E Little Wing (Barentsviddas C Nansen – Barentsviddas D Wind Cries Mary). The two middle photos I took of Little Wing when she was 6 months old in July 2017. He also has a talented younger pointer called Barentsviddas F Hey Joe, from Wind Cries Mary’s 2019 litter with the French dog Led-Zep de l’Azur et Or (Mose del Sargiadae – Ekta de l’Azur et Or). 

Now we’re seriously starting to look forward to the NZ hunting season that kicks off next month. We’ve let Bentley take his time to mature and he’s been growing into a sensible dog but still packed full of energy. Hopefully the weather will allow us to put plenty of upland work into him. It’s always very special with a young bird dog’s very first season. I’m in no doubt he’ll be a good duck dog. His retrieving has come on nicely and he loves the water. He turned one on April 1st and the photos above show his fairly care free upbringing, now about to become a bit more serious and meaningful… Clockwise from left at 8 weeks old, sitting in the back yard at 8 weeks old, checking out some doves at 4 months and chilling in the backyard at 7 months. 
Since the last updates on this page we have of course been doing plenty more fishing, Aidan in particular landing some good Snapper and several Kingfish. He also dived the Chicken islands again and shot a few Trevally and Butterfish. In a previous post I mentioned how I think Blue Maomao is the most underrated and a very versatile food fish in NZ. Lately we’ve made it into more of the Norwegian style fish cakes and fish gratin. Some have been smoked and made into a nice fish dip, as seen in pics above (with cream cheese, chilli, capers, lemon juice, dill etc). Also pictured above is Hayley one day she came out with Aidan in the upper harbour and a nice sunrise over the Chicks as Aidan and I were heading out early one morning. On our latest trip we brought our friend John, an ex-boatbuilder originally from England who got to catch lots of fish. We’ll keep fishing & diving up until hunting season starts, then eventually also adjust to winter fishing which also can be very productive. However, I suspect the next few updates will mainly be focused on hunting! 
Another addition to the Links is the background story of the page English Setters & Pointers in Hunting & Trials.