OUTDOORS PHEASANT OPENER

The best upland bird dog is ...

Many of Minnesota’s 45,000 upland bird hunters and their canine companions will take to fields October 12 when pheasant season opens. Every hunter is convinced that his or her dog’s breed is the best for chasing birds, and made their cases for their champs.

Click or tap a card to read more about the dog.

  • Mitzy

    Brittany Spaniel

    Brittany Spaniel

    HUNTER: Larry Cramer, 74, St. Paul

    BIRDS HUNTED: Pheasants

    WHY THE BREED IS BEST: "I’ve hunted Brittanys for 20 years and owned them for the past 14. Why? Because they are fantastic pointing dogs, easily trainable, not too big, and they’re also a great family dog. Their demeanor is virtually always positive in the field, and they respond happily to commands. Plus, they have a ton of energy, making them fun to hunt with."

  • Smidge

    Cocker Spaniel

    Cocker Spaniel

    HUNTER: Anthony Hauck, 37, Lino Lakes

    BIRDS HUNTED: Pheasants, ruffed and prairie grouse, quail, gray (aka Hungarian) partridge and woodcock

    WHY THE BREED IS BEST: "The English cocker spaniel may be the perfectly engineered bird dog for the modern uplander. This speedy and sporty spaniel is busy doing everything — finding, flushing and retrieving — with one distinct advantage: their heart, which manifests as a handy forest feature in rooting logs for grouse and woodcock (what they were originally bred for) and an athletic asset in navigating thick cattails for pheasants."

  • Scoter

    Drahthaar

    Drahthaar

    HUNTER: Meadow Kouffeld, 36, Grand Rapids

    BIRDS HUNTED: Pheasants, ruffed grouse, quail, gray partridge, woodcock

    WHY THE BREED IS BEST: "The Drahthaar is a versatile dog bred to perform every task you could ask: trailing and treeing, retrieving geese through difficult water, blood tracking wounded big game, dispatching small predators, pushing heavy cattails in late season for pheasants, and handling and pointing grouse and woodcock. Their typical durability, toughness, and coat coverage make them an all-season dog in northern Minnesota."

  • Jaxon

    English Pointer

    English Pointer

    HUNTER: Jared Wiklund, 33, Forest Lake

    BIRDS HUNTED: Pheasants, ruffed grouse, quail, gray partridge, woodcock

    WHY THE BREED IS BEST: "What’s not to like about the English pointer? They’re the ultimate upland hunting breed! They're known for being eager to please, working hard in the field, and for keeping watch at the front door. They have the best personality for the all-around upland companion. Retrieving is both pivotal and ethical for upland hunting. English pointers can do a great job at it if given the correct incentives."

  • Blue

    English Setter

    English Setter

    HUNTER: John Edstrom, 57, Otsego

    BIRDS HUNTED: Pheasants, ruffed grouse, quail

    WHY THE BREED IS BEST: "English setters are the ultimate upland dog. They have been bred to run, find and point upland species of game birds. They don’t need to drink much water in the field, they can handle warm temperatures that we find during season and they can hunt well for extended periods. They are wonderful companions at home with a very soft personality and they love people. They can be taught to retrieve because even though some are natu-ral retrievers most are not — but I don’t care because they are great dogs!"

  • Lux

    Flat-Coated Retriever

    Flat-Coated Retriever

    HUNTER: Emy Marier, 28, Vadnais Heights

    BIRDS HUNTED: Pheasants, ruffed grouse, quail and woodcock

    WHY THE BREED IS BEST: "In the uplands, you want a dog that’s going to work with you, and flat-coated retrievers always score high in trainability. They work close and work smart. If there is bird scent, you can be confident your dog is on something. At times obnoxious in their always-cheery state, flat-coats will always bring positivity and pep. In short: When the day gets long and your morale is low, you need a dog that makes you laugh. And, when the hunt is over, you need a family oriented dog that can relax indoors."

  • Esky

    German Shorthaired Pointer

    German Shorthaired Pointer

    HUNTER: Bob St. Pierre, 45, White Bear Lake

    BIRDS HUNTED: Pheasants, quail, gray partridge, ruffed and sharp-tailed grouse, prairie chickens and woodcock

    WHY THE BREED IS BEST: "The German shorthaired pointer personifies the versatile superstar with skills as a pointer, retriever, people-pleaser, big ranging runner, and endurance runner. The “GSP” is never going to be the single best at any of these necessary hunting skills, but the GSP is the Swiss Army knife of bird dog breeds able to adapt from bumpy ruffed grouse in the North Woods to running pheasants on the prairie to skittish blue quail in the desert."

  • Albert

    Labrador Retriever

    Labrador Retriever

    HUNTER: Tony Jones, 51, Edina

    BIRDS HUNTED: Pheasants and ruffed grouse

    WHY THE BREED IS BEST: "Like baseball and apple pie, Labs are the all-around, All-American champion of breeds. They will hunt anything, from upland birds to waterfowl, and do so with an indefatigable tenacity. They’ve been bred for generations to be trainable, and they are eminently so. The reason that 80 million Americans own Labs is that they aim to please their masters like no other breed, which makes them equally wonderful on the couch or in the field. Don’t let their ubiquity fool you — Labs are simply the best."

  • Anne

    Red Setter

    Red Setter

    HUNTER: Rehan Nana, 34, Kansas City, Kan.

    BIRDS HUNTED: Pheasant, bobwhite and blue quail, ruffed and sharp-tailed grouse, prairie chicken and woodcock

    WHY THE BREED IS BEST: "Still waters run deep with red setters. They’re thinking hunters, so they adapt quickly to different species and cover. Setters are known to develop a strong bond with their owners. They want success and will do all they can to make that happen. They understand when to be a good bird-dog and when to be a good citizen. Drop the tailgate and they’ll cut out ringing hell’s bells for any bird around. Then, back at home, they flip a switch and just want to play with butterflies.

  • Kona

    Springer Spaniel

    Springer Spaniel

    HUNTER: John Pauly, 71, Bloomington

    BIRDS HUNTED: Pheasants

    WHY THE BREED IS BEST: "These dogs are extremely biddable — they truly want to please. They are hard-charging in the field and easy in the house. Springers are very personable, and my clients ask for them by name when I guide pheasant hunts in South Dakota. Springers are true athletes of the prairie like no other."

  • Kato

    Vizsla

    Vizsla

    HUNTER: Craig Flaskerud, 47, Inver Grove Heights

    BIRDS HUNTED: Pheasants

    WHY THE BREED IS BEST: "I love hunting with Vizslas because of their eagerness to please, excellent nose and strong drive. They’re versatile, and their short coat means they have excellent endurance in warm weather but can still handle the cold. Vizslas are also loyal and affectionate with a strong bond with their owners. I like the athletic and sporty look they have, especially when on point. Since they are medium-sized, Vizslas are easy to have around in most any situation, both in the car and at home or on short outdoor vacations."

  • Roo

    Weimaraner

    Weimaraner

    HUNTER: Doug Whitney, 68, Inver Grove Heights

    BIRDS HUNTED: Pheasants, ruffed grouse andgray partridge

    WHY THE BREED IS BEST: "A good Weimaraner is an elegant pointer and intrepid hunter. Deft and stealthy in woodland, grain fields, heavy cover and all grasses, they are blessed with a strong nose and excellent scenting ability. Weims are very enthusiastic, extremely dedicated retrievers — even on deep water if properly introduced to it. Weimaraners are beautiful animals and great hunting and family companions. I’ve hunted mine all over Minnesota, both Dakotas, Iowa and Montana."

Photos: Images credited to hunters, but for Labrador retriever (Courtney Perry); German shorthaired pointer (Logan Hinners); English pointer (Josh Dahlstrom); and Weimaraner (Sarah Beth Photography)