Man’s Best Friend

“The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven,
not man’s.” – Mark Twain

 

For these gentlemen, dogs are more than a means to an end. Even though they produce amazing results in the field and are instinctually driven to hunt, they also have unique personalities that make them loyal friends.

 

By Katie Faulkner | Photography by Lanewood Studio

Paula McDaniel Group Chattanooga Realtor Ad

Jay Morgan

with Sam, Patch, & Georgia

 

With two upland bird dogs and a yellow Labrador retriever, Jay has a companion for nearly any type of bird hunting. Each of his three loyal friends came to him in a different way, but they all live a cohesive life together at home now. Jay shares, “I had only ever owned pointers before, but they are very high-energy. I wanted to find some dogs who could also be family dogs and enjoy life romping around on the farm with us. So I went with setters, who have more personable personalities.”

 

The dogs are very important. Not just for the success of the hunt, but also for a more enjoyable experience.”

 

Patch, a female English setter who is nearly 5 years old, was picked from a litter in Middle Tennessee. “All of the puppies would point, but there was this one in particular who just seemed more determined than the others – and that was Patch,” Jay says. A couple of years later, Jay decided to add to his upland bird dog family and researched English setters who were already partially trained. He found a facility in Texas, near where his son lives, that trains bird dogs and prepares them for their future owners. After watching several videos of Sam, Jay asked his son to go meet him. “He gave Sam a big thumbs up, so I asked him to bring Sam home. He had to fly him in.”

Georgia, his 6-year-old Labrador, enjoys going on the pheasant hunting trips with the other two. “To be honest, she’s really my wife’s dog. She spoils her!” Jay laughs.

Together, the group makes multiple hunting trips each year. They travel to Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and even Wisconsin to hunt all kinds of birds. “Quail, pheasant, and grouse are more typically what we hunt. And sometimes woodcock,” Jay explains.

“They’re driven. They get out in front of you, and they’re going to find the birds. They are leading the way and trying to cover as much ground as possible,” Jay says. “It’s always a thrill to get out with the dogs and find birds. And I have to say, a bushy, flowing setter tail on point is really a nice sight!”

Southern Pro Kennel Chattanooga Ad

Bart Brannon 

with Ally, Pippa, Beau, Jackie, Pippy Sue, & Ginger

 

Bart and his father, Bart, Sr., are avid hunters. For as long as Bart can remember, hunting dogs have been a part of the family. In fact, the Brannons have maintained an illustrious breed line from the famous Grand National Champion English pointer, Snakefoot. “We’ve maintained his bloodline through the males,” Bart explains. “And for as long as I can remember, my family has always had at least two pointers at a time. But I really have enjoyed our setters. They’re just a little bit more compliant when hunting, and they typically make better pets.”

Bart’s oldest dog, Ally, is a red setter. She’s 10 years old and was professionally trained. Bart adds, “She’s also one of the sweetest dogs you’ll ever meet. When my grandmother had dementia, we let Ally go and live with her so she’d have a companion.”

 

Our two oldest dogs are so sweet– they’ve really been more like caregivers and companions in our family.”

 

Then there is Pippa, a 9-year-old English pointer whom they rescued on a hunting trip. “She had been lost in the field by other hunters and ended up at a groomer in Dade County. We were some of the last bird hunters in the area, so we got a
call about her and brought her home,” Bart explains. She’s the mother of the other four pointers, Beau, Jackie, Pippy Sue, and Ginger, who are all 3 years old.

“Dad and I like to go on hunting trips at least twice a year, and we try to only take four dogs at a time,” Bart shares. “Pippa stays home a lot since she’s the mom, and she’s a little older. Ally goes all the time; she’s one of the best hunters and has more training. But she’s reaching the peak of her age, so I imagine half-day hunts are about all she’ll do now.”

With the younger group of pointers, Bart says training is fairly easy: “It’s very instinctual. They’ll point bumblebees, butterflies, and paper blowing in the yard as puppies. So you really just have to teach them to identify smell.” Bart trained his group with young birdlings and socks stuffed with feathers, and he looks forward to all the growing pains of busting coveys as they each develop their own skills. “Pippy Sue is all hunt. She just wants in the field and hunts so hard. I can tell she’s going to be a great hunting dog.”

Lawson Electric Chattanooga Ad

Don Oscai

with Molly & Riggins

 

Don is a family man. He loves to hunt, but more than that, he loves to share the experience with his grandsons, Max and Mason Bates. “I picked Molly up about five years ago in North Carolina after a sermon I heard. The pastor talked about all the great things that owning a dog teaches children. He said it teaches them to feed and water it, to keep it clean and healthy, to discipline and teach it – basically to care for another living thing. And then, eventually, a dog will teach children how to deal with loss. He said a dog will teach every life lesson they need. And that just really resonated with me,” Don shares.

Molly, an English setter who is now 10 years old, is a sweet, smart dog. Molly was bred just twice, and out of both litters the Oscais only kept one pup – Riggins, who is three. The two live a cozy life, well-loved by Don, his wife Paula, and their children and grandchildren.

 

Watching a kid hunt over a dog is fascinating. They get so mesmerized watching them run and freeze on point that they don’t even care about getting birds. They just want to watch the dogs.”

 

Don likes to travel to Oklahoma to hunt quail and pheasant and some grouse. Each dog has its own special skill that shines. For instance, Riggins is a great retriever. He can find and return the birds quickly and be right back at it. And Molly has a very strong sense of smell. She’ll often find birds that other dogs miss. “She only walks on my left side, and sometimes she’ll fall behind. You might think she’s just being slow, but she’ll always hit on a bird that the other dogs walked right by!” Don shares. He also reveals that the two are competitive. “They’ll both honor each other’s points, but if Riggins is on point, Molly will creep up, almost even with him, as if to say, ‘I got it too!’ And Riggins won’t move while Molly’s on point, but he’ll run so much harder afterward.” Whoever picks up the scent, Don assures, “It’s a beautiful sight when you see a long-haired setter tail on point in the Kansas wind.”

Together with his grandsons, Don likes to walk his property with Molly and Riggins. He teaches Max and Mason about handling the dogs, caring for the dogs, and the ins and outs of bird hunting. After a long day of training or hunting, Molly and Riggins like to settle down in their place in front of the fireplace. They’re as at home with Don as he is with them. “This is my first run at having hunting dogs, so I don’t know a lot about other breeds. But after these two, you’d be hard-pressed to talk me into anything else.”

Chili Pepper Ranch Chattanooga Ad

Tom Eberle 

with June Bug

 

Tom has had great hunting dogs with sweet personalities who became long-time companions. But when he found June Bug, his new black Labrador retriever, he and his wife, Beth, both earned an immediate friend. “Oh, when we went to meet June Bug, Beth hit it off with her right away. And then I finally got a little one-on-one time with her and found out I liked her too,” he laughs.

They took her home, and Tom was able to start training her with a bit of a head start. “She was a starter dog, which means she was already past the puppy stage and working on basic commands and hand signals when I got her. I decided I wanted to do a starter dog this time, because I’ve trained several dogs from puppies in the past, and this way you know what you’re getting.”

June Bug, who is now three and was named after the month of her birth, is an avid duck hunter. She will retrieve quail, pheasant, and other upland birds, but she really shines on a duck hunt. “Her hand signal skills are really great and getting better all the time. She can be nearly 200 yards out and look to me for a sign, and she’ll go right to a down duck,” Tom says.

 

Duck hunting is her passion. She loves to watch them in the air, and she just shakes with excitement. And her excitement makes the whole experience more exciting for you, as the hunter too!”

 

She loves it so much that she doesn’t mind being in a blind for hours. Even if she dozes off waiting on ducks to appear, Tom says that just the sound of taking the safety off his gun will cause her to shake with excitement. This past year, she learned the difference in pit-style blinds and tree blinds. “June Bug is really good at getting in the pit, but this past year, I took her into a bit of a different scenario,” Tom recalls. “There was a blind way up in the air with a ramp leading to it that had iced over a little, and she was not going to do that!” he says with a chuckle. After June Bug’s boycott of the ramp, Tom took her home and built a little ramp in the yard to play with. It started at just two feet off the ground, and he steadily adjusted it higher and higher until she was comfortable walking up and down it. “She’ll be ready next time!”

June bug black lab hunting dog stares up at owner Tom Eberle chattanooga

Cambridge Square Neighborhood Ad Chattanooga

DeFo Spencer

with Penny

 

Penny is a rescued German Shorthaired Pointer who fortunately found her way to a lifelong companion in DeFo. “One of my dearest friends is also my vet, and when someone surrendered Penny to him, he recognized that she was a full-blooded bird dog. So he sent an email out to all his hunting buddies to see if anyone wanted her,” DeFo explains. Even though he wasn’t really in the market for a new dog, he asked his friend if he could borrow her for a hunting trip to Wisconsin.

“I had two older dogs, but I thought we were a little short on dogs, and she might round out the group well,” DeFo says. “She was a little needy at first, I think because of her background, but she was so sweet and affectionate. And her hunting instincts were strong.” After that trip, he decided that Penny was a perfect fit for his personality and kept her.

Penny, who is now nearly 8 years old, spent that first year with DeFo training at a quail farm where he had a membership. DeFo also sent her off for a couple of months of more formal training. By the time the season opened the next year, she was ready. As DeFo tells it, “On that very first walk the following year, she pointed a grouse, and shooting a pointed grouse is one of the great thrills of upland bird hunting. I knew then that all the time and effort for her training was going to pay off!”

Although she is high-energy and can jump his four-foot fence flat-footed, Penny is obedient and loyal. “I’ve tried correctional collars on her before, but I found out pretty quickly that there was no need. She just listened to me so well.” And DeFo listens to her too. “She’s a funny thing when she’s trying to tell me something,” he says. “She has very distinct barks for what she wants to do, and some of them are more like chirps. It’s really pretty comical!”

Her sweet nature and social attitude make her enjoyable to be around for the friends that DeFo hunts with as well. But there is no mistaking that she is DeFo’s dog – without him on the hunt, Penny wanted nothing to do with it.

“She’s really just a joy for me to have. She’s a perfect fit and exactly what I was looking for in a dog.”  SG

 

She’s really just a joy for me to have!”

Shares