Pointer dogs for game bird hunting first appeared in the 14th century. As soon as they sensed the presence of game, these spaniels laid down and remained motionless, allowing hunters to throw a net over them to catch the game…this was before the invention of the powder gun. It is still fascinating today to see a puppy freeze when it smells a partridge for the first time! It’s like travelling centuries back in time for a fraction of a second to see the instinct it inherited from its ancestors. This is the collaboration between man and dog that pointer hunters love. Over the centuries, breeders have succeeded in improving the quality of the olfactory sense as well as the speed and docility of these dogs through selection, making breeds evolve based on hunters’ needs right up until today, to the delight of small game hunters.
When hunting, the pointer does not see the game, it smells it, its olfactory capacity being far superior to that of the human. So the dog runs, nostrils open wide, in search of scents revealing the presence of game. When it detects a grouse or woodcock, it stops in a taut, characteristic pose, “pointing” the presence of game out to its master.
Education and training begin at an early age and span a few years. Although pointing is in the dog’s genetic background, it must be controlled through training to be useful to its master. Having the dog wear a bell on its neck helps the hunter follow the dog’s movements in dense undergrowth. As soon as the ringing stops, it’s the long-awaited moment…:adrenaline soars, the hunter first locates the motionless dog pointing to a specific spot, then slowly moves forward, heart pounding and shotgun in hand. He passes the dog, which is as still as a statue, and without warning, a woodcock flies away making the characteristic wing noise. The shotgun is hoisted to the shoulder and the hunter sees the bird fall in the distance. The dog rushes to find the pretty woodcock and bring it back to its master, who congratulates his dog amicably before going off in search of another woodcock or grouse.
Hunting with a pointer dog is a passion, a delicate ritual, which renews the ancient partnership between man and his canine helper. Enthusiasts are truly passionate about hunting with their pointer dogs. They know the forest and its game well and respect both. This unique traditional activity is practiced in the sumptuous colours of autumn and is worth discovering for its nobility and spirit of conservation.