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HUNTING FOR A BARGAIN?

Pointing Dogs Volume One is on sale 
for 40% off!



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North American oders only. Regular price $99, sale price $59. Prices in US dollars.

SALE EXTENDED TILL DEC. 24!

ABOUT THE BOOK
Over a decade in the making, Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals is more than a rich collection of photographs. It is a definitive guide to the versatile gundog breeds of Continental Europe. It is an in-depth study of the history, development and current status of the pointing dog. And it is a remarkable travelog of an incredible journey. Written by a hunter for hunters, this volume provides detailed descriptions of all the pointing breeds from Continental Europe and it is illustrated with stunning images of hunting dogs doing what they were bred to do: hunt! Click here or on the image above for a preview of the book.


REVIEWS
 The scope of this work is truly amazing.William (Sandy) Gunn, Canada 
When, at the outset, the author compared his research with that William Arkwright had undertaken at the very outset of shows and trials, but chronicling only one breed, the Pointer, I felt that he was perhaps guilty of self aggrandizing. Arkwright wrote the bible on the Pointer. As I proceeded through 'The Continentals' I soon realized that my impression was not only unfounded but unfair. Mr. Koshyk's work IS the modern day 'bible' on the continental pointing breeds, and its comprehensiveness is remarkable.
If my use of superlatives is off-putting I apologize but, when you are able to read this yourselves, and please do not neglect to do so, you will find my descriptions not only accurate but understatement, such is the value of this book to the serious student of pointing breeds. Nothing can replace being present and experiencing the thrill of a great dog, of whatever breed, doing his thing with the scent of game birds filling his being with purpose but we can now live that experience vicariously through Craig Koshyk's marvelous book of photos and word paintings. --William (Sandy) Gunn, Canada


 In short, this book is a staggering opusJoanna Laurens, UK 
It features all the HPRs I've ever heard of, and then a whole lot more besides, along with comprehensive sections on the History, Form and Function of each breed. (Caution: This book is dangerous. You will find yourself making a shopping list. Personally, I am now coveting the Braque du Bourbonnais. It has a natural bob-tail, did you know?)
The photos are stunning and effortlessly capture the beauty of the dogs in the field. There are many whole-page photos of dogs, and I found myself wanting even more, and wanting the smaller photos BIG. I wanted huge posters of these photos, they were so stunning. Realistically, though, I think the photos couldn't be any bigger without something having to go, in this 364 page book. It must have been very difficult for Craig to choose which photos to use and which not to include; which photos would go full-page and which would have to stay smaller. (Writers call this 'killing your babies'. Craig must have killed many. I feel for him.) 
I have only read the Weim and the SRHP sections thoroughly, so far, but have dipped in and out of many others and I look forward to reading more. I've already learnt things I didn't know: I had no idea Weims were listed in the German GSP stud book until the 1920s and were considered a grey variant of the GSP! I'm no expert myself, but I have no doubt that even the most experienced owner of their breed will learn something new from this book.
The quality of the book is top-notch: The hardback is thick and heavy, the pages are dense and creamy and (very important to me, this one) it has that 'new book' smell! The book is (probably must be, to cover costs) pricey. However, when you think that it costs about the same as a tank of petrol and a couple of entries in a field event, it's a worthy investment.
In the book, Craig often refers to people who have done a great service for their breed by, say, bringing it back from near-extinction or promoting working abilities. I think it's clear to anyone with their hands on this epic that Craig, himself, has done a great service for all these breeds through creating something which is such a breathtaking tribute to the dogs we all live with, and love.


 What an incredible book!Hank Phillips, USA.
The quality and depth of the content, the design, your personal observations, and of course the fabulous photos, make this one of the best dog books (especially sporting dogs) I have ever read (and I have read quite a few). I'm sure this book will get some high praise from the dog community and the upland hunting crowd, both in Europe and North America. Besides its aesthetic qualities, it is highly educational and should do an excellent job introducing those unaware, myself included, of the many fine hunting breeds that exist in Europe (Yes Watson, there is life other than the GSP). 



 This is THE book about the Continental pointing dogs. Zsofia Miczek, Hungary
I don't think there is any similarly thorough, well-put-together, high quality book about the pointing dogs anywhere in the world. Not only are the pictures fantastic, but the very profound content makes the book a precious piece for anyone interested in hunting dogs. Not one breed of Continental Pointing Dogs is left out of the book, including breeds I have never seen or heard of. The descriptions of their working styles covered in each chapter gives a great overview for the reader.



 Wow, I am in awe! Anne Taguchi, USA
Of course I went to the Weim pages first, but enjoyed randomly flipping around and reading about breeds I'd never heard of before. It will sit proudly on my book shelf!


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It's TIME!!!




In the immortal words of Bruce Buffer...



The 2014 hunting season is now upon us, and it is a very special one indeed. It is Lisa's very first season with a gun. For many years, Lisa has been 'hunting' with a camera. Many of her awesome images are posted right here on this blog and some are featured in Pointing Dogs Volume One: The Continentals. But this year, armed with her brand new Yildiz A5 side by side (a sweeeeet gun!), she will be doing her best to put some free-range, organic meat on the table. And I will try to capture as much of the action as I can with my still and video cameras.

So stay tuned. I will be adding photos and videos to http://www.craigkoshykphoto.ca, in the gallery located here: http://www.craigkoshykphoto.ca/p1063773707#h22f6be34

Henri pointing a snipe for Lisa

Lisa's first duck in hand.
Lisa's first duck, right out of the oven.

Better Cold Than Sorry

The fact is, it’s hard to freeze a working dog to death on even the coldest days. But it’s quite easy to accidentally kill a hard-hunting dog on even a mildly warm day. — Brian Lynn

Every year, right about now, hunting publications everywhere run articles warning hunters about the dangers that early season heat can pose to hard driving gundogs. And I've done my best to heed those warnings, even up here in the great white north were anything above zero is considered a 'mildly warm' day.



But last year, despite our best efforts, Henri gave us a scare. We were in North Dakota in late October hunting pheasants. The days were cool and nights were down right cold. Since the dogs were spending nights in the truck, we put insulated covers on their kennels to keep them warm. And the covers worked like a charm. Despite plenty of frost on the pumpkin outdoors, I always found the dogs comfortably warm inside their kennels each morning.


During the day, as we ran one dog, we would leave the others in their kennels. We kept their kennel covers on but we cracked the windows on the truck to make sure things didn't get too warm — even though the outdoor temps never got above 5 degrees (40F).  Again, it worked like a charm. Every time we got back to the truck, we found comfortable dogs eagerly awaiting their turn to hunt.
And then Henri's eagerness got the better of him, and of us. 

Eager Henri
On day three of the hunt, we decided our first stop would be a small patch of great looking rooster cover. Since Uma is our closest working dog, she got the nod.  45 minutes and three roosters later (Uma was on FIRE!!), we were back at the truck. As I opened the tailgate I saw our dog Souris in her crate fast asleep, shivering. Next to her was Henri in his crate. But he wasn't asleep, and he sure as heck wasn't shivering. He was laying on his back, panting, wide eyed. His bright red tongue was hanging out like he'd just run a marathon in the desert!


Henri was showing the classic signs of heat stress. We needed to cool him down, fast. Fortunately, the grass right outside the truck was cold and wet with melted frost. So I opened Henri's crate, picked him up, put him on the ground and said "down!". He was more than happy to oblige. He plopped down and began to roll in the grass as we poured an entire jug of cool water on his belly, under his arms and inner thighs. 



In a couple of minutes Henri was up and around, seemingly no worse for wear. We dried him off and took him for a short walk just to make sure he wasn't woozy or wobbly or suffering from any lingering effects. And right there and then we decided that 1. Henri would not hunt that day. We'd give him some time to recover from what was probably not a severe case of heat stress, but what could have easily been much worse and 2. from now on, when we leave any dog in a crate while we hunt with another, it is better to be cold than sorry.


Henri overheated in a cold truck on a cold day. He was in a crate that was covered with an insulated jacket. And such a setup is designed to keep a dog relatively warm when it is sleeping or just chillaxing waiting for its turn to run. Unfortunately, when we started the day with Uma instead of the usual 'first stringer' Henri, well, let's just say that he did NOT take it lightly. Henri did NOT sleep or chillax. In fact, it seems that while we were in the field with Uma, out of sheer frustration and indignation, Henri decided to paw at the bottom of his crate like he was digging to China. There is no way of knowing how long it took for the crate to heat up, but as Henri threw a tantrum, heat up it did. And heat stress suddenly became an issue.


And there is also no way of knowing what would have happened if we'd been in the field with Uma for longer than 45 minutes. Clearly, Henri had stopped doing whatever he was doing to heat things up before we got back. His brain said 'cut it out you idiot!" and forced him to just lay there and pant. So would he have recovered on his own just by being still (and panting his tongue off)? Or would the temperature have remained high enough, for long enough, to cause permanent damage...or worse?

We will never know. And we never want to find out.



Since Henri's near melt-down, we've installed wireless temperature gauges in the crates so we can monitor them from the cab of the truck as we drive. And we've decided that from now on, when we are in the field with one dog we will leave the others in kennels with all the cover flaps off and all the windows open. The dogs will just have to get used to shivering. It’s hard to freeze a working dog to death on even the coldest days. But it’s quite easy to accidentally kill a hard-hunting dog on even a mildly warm day.



Stay safe everyone!






Opening Day, Waterfowl 2014


This morning, my nephew Craig James and I headed out at insane o'clock for the waterfowl opener. We had scouted a great new spot over the weekend and were pretty sure that we'd be bringing home some fresh duck for diner. And we were right. By 8:30 am, we had 6 mallards and 3 teal, all fetched to hand by my go-to dog Henri. By 9 am, temps were rising fast so we decided to shed the chest-waders, lace up the upland boots and head to the field in search of snipe. 


Snipe are migratory, so we can hunt them when the general waterfowl season opens, usually a week before the upland season. But in some areas they are actually found in the very same pastures frequented by sharp-tails. So we had a hunch that we'd come across both. And we were right again. Henri had a total of 10 points in a little less than an hour. 6 points were on snipe and 4 on sharptails. All the snipe were singles, the grouse were in pairs for the most part, but one point was a sort of 'popcorn all around him' kind of thing with probably 8-10 birds flushing in one's and two's.


As for our shooting, well... it sucked. We only shot at snipe of course (sharptail season doesn't open till next week), but we missed them ALL! I blame it on the new shells. You see, I ran out of my regular snipe cartridges, so we had to use a new load, Kent TealSteel #6s. And sure, they went 'boom' just fine when we pulled the trigger, I am sure they are a decent load. But blaming them is easier on the ego than blaming our rusty shooting skills, so I will stick with the 'bad shells' excuse until I start knocking down more snipe with them. Then I will change my tune to 'these shells are awesome!'


All the photos in this post are from today's waterfowl hunt. I didn't take the camera with me for the snipe hunt and now I regret it. I am pretty sure I would have shot better with my Canon than I did with my side by side. 







Do Spaniels POINT?

An illustration from the Quadrupedum Omnium Bisulcorum Historia by Ulisse Aldrovandi, published in 1621.
The writing on the left reads: Canis Hispanicus auribus demissis, Espagneulx Gallis, Can Limier Gesnero
 “Spanish dog with hanging (or drooping) ears, Gallic (i.e.: French) Spaniel, Lymer type dog”


Like the term “braque”, the word épagneul can be a tough nut to crack. For English speakers, an approximate pronunciation would be Ay- (rhymes with “say”) Pan- (rhymes with “dan”) YUL (rhymes with “pull”). Ay-Pan-YUL. The origin of the word is unclear. Gaston Phébus wrote in Le Livre de la Chasse 1388 that:
There is another type of dog that we call chiens d’oysel and espaignolz, because this type comes from Spain, even though there are some in other countries.
Chiens d'oysels from Le Livre de la Chasse
From this and other lines in Le Livre de la Chasse, many have concluded that épagneul means “from Spain”. It is also considered by many to be synonymous with chien d’oysel (dog of the bird) and to refer only to long-haired pointing dogs. But not all authorities agree on these points. Jean Castaing wrote an excruciatingly detailed analysis of the word épagneul in his monumental book, Les Chiens d'Arrêt. He suggests that épagneul may not mean “from Spain” since épagneul-type dogs probably developed somewhere further north. He presents a fairly good argument that is supported, in part, by other authors, that épagneul could have come from the Old French espanir which means to “spread out”. In any case, getting to the bottom of the word’s origin does not really help us with the main problem that it presents today: Spaniels don’t point, but épagneuls do!

Épagneul type dogs on a cart. They could be Brittanies,
but are more likely "épagneuls du pays" (country spaniels)
of mixed/unknown ancestry
In English, when it comes to sporting breed nomenclature, the word “spaniel” is used almost exclusively for breeds that flush game and never for breeds that point game. So when the name of a pointing breed such as the Épagneul Breton is translated as “Brittany Spaniel”, it causes all kinds of confusion. In fact, the “spaniel” part of the Brittany’s name was such an irritant to many English speakers that it was dropped altogether by national breed clubs in the US and UK. Today, most English speakers just call it the Brittany. 

Pont-Audemer Spaniel with Ruffed Grouse
(Manitoba, Canada)

To add to the confusion, none of the other épagneul breeds from France—the French, Picardy, Blue Picardy, Pont-Audemer and Saint-Usuge—have dropped the “spaniel” part of their names in English. English speakers who own and breed them, use the term spaniel — and soon get used to explaining that yes, the dogs point, and no, not all "spaniels" are flushing dogs. And that's not all! In French, just about any breed of pointing dog with long hair can be called an Épagneul. So to many French hunters, a Small Munsterlander is a Petit Épagneul de Munster, a Drenthe Patrijshond is an Épagneul de Drenthe and the German Longhaired Pointer is an Épagneul Allemand (or sometimes even a chien d'oysel!)

Épagneul Breton at full gallop, Picardy, France

Small Munsterlander with a nice rooster, South Dakota, USA.
In France, the breed is known as the Petit Épagneul de Munster.

And finally, there is one more curious linguistic twist. The French do not translate the English names of the flushing spaniel breeds. They call them by their English names, often with a thick French accent. So in France, you will hear French hunters call Springer Spaniels is a "Spreenn-gairz”, Cocker Spaniels is a “Coke-air Span-yellz” and Irish Water Spaniels "Eereesh Vat'air Span-yellz". 

German Longhaired Pointer in the Netherlands
In France, the breed is known as the Épagneul Allemand or Chien d'oysel.
Here is the list of the various French "épagneul" breeds still being bred in France (and elsewhere) today. 

Épagneul Français (French Spaniel)
Épagneul Picard (Picardy Spaniel)
Épagneul Bleu de Picardie (Blue Picardy Spaniel)
Épagneul de Pont-Audemer (Pont Audemer Spaniel)
Épagneul Breton (Brittany [Spaniel])
Épagneul de Saint Usuge (Saint Usuge Spaniel)

Épagneul Français (French Spaniel) in Québec.
In my view, the most elegant of all the épagneul breeds.

Get The Lead Out

Lead shot has been banned for waterfowl hunting in the much of the world for decades, yet it still poses a risk to many species of birds. A new study takes a looks at the impact of lead from ammunition and fishing tackle on population levels of birds in the US (spoiler alert, it's not good!) and then explores ways of reducing that impact (spoiler alert: hunters can play a key role in getting the lead out of bird populations).



I've embedded the study below. It is a fascinating read!


Many thanks to Richard Sojda for bringing the study to my attention and to Susan Haig, the main author of the study for allowing me to share it on my blog.  



Skinny Puppy?

Yesterday, I posted an article about the new laws for e-collars in Quebec. As usual, I shared the link to the article on various social media platforms and discussion forums. Overall, the article was well received. I got some positive feedback and many 'thanks!' for explaining the nuances of the laws.

But, surprisingly, I also got some very negative feedback about the photo (below) that I posted to illustrate the article. 



The photos is of my dog Henri on an intense point in the middle of the hunting season. It is from a burst of shots that I took machine-gun style as he pointed a covey of nervous sharp-tailed grouse. When I got home and looked at the series, the one I finally chose was the frame of Henri inhaling deeply, taking in a huge gulp of scent. I felt that the shot really showed Henri's muscles, his lean, fit build and the intensity of the point. I then did more than my usual amount of post-processing to the shot, increasing the contrast, clarity, sharpness etc. to add drama and definition to Henri's physique. 

I've used the photo before in other contexts and I've received a lot of compliments on it from people who are used to seeing super-fit field trial dogs or hard core hunting dogs on a super intense point, sucking in scent. But when I posted it yesterday, it seems that some folks only saw a dog that, to them, looked like it was 'starving', 'ill',' or 'abused'.  

And that is fine. I believe that everyone is entitled to an opinion. If they feel that they are able to judge the weight and fitness of a dog in a single photo, then so be it. But basing an opinion on a single photo is almost never a good idea. And if the opinion is backed up by nothing more than a profound lack of knowledge about how hard-core, high-performance dogs actually look when they are doing what they are bred to do in the field or how photos can be 'tweaked' to exaggerate a certain look, maybe that opinion should remain private. Just sayin'

But post they did. Some folks made comments suggesting that I should immediately double or triple my dog's daily food ration to 'put some weight on him'. Others thought I should never hunt a dog in such 'poor' shape. So I thanked them for their concern (sincerely, I am sure they mean well and only want to help) and then I proceeded to explain why they were wrong:

First of all, as mentioned, the image is part of a series of about 15-20 shots taken over the course of maybe 5 seconds, as Henri was pointing a nervous covey of sharp-tailed grouse. Whenever I shoot a series like that, I weed through them after the shoot, deleting the less-than-great shots and only keeping the 'keepers'.

Here is a shot of Henri taken on the same day. To my eye, he looks anything but 'starving'. 



And here are some photos of Henri taken just minutes before I took the series of photos of him on point. 









But the one I kept, tweaked and them posted was this frame taken as Henri inhaled deeply, drinking in a huge gulp of scent. Here it is before any real 'tweaking' in Lightroom and Photoshop:


And here is the shot that was taken half a second later as Henri exhaled. Note how the muscles all look the same, but the ribs are less prominent. 
Obviously not a 'keeper'!

But that is not the only reason the ribs in the posted photo are so obvious. By adjusting the contrast, clarity and other things in the image, all the lines of the physique are enhanced. Here is a comparison on the 'inhale' shot, before (top) and after Lightroom and Photoshop tweaks (bottom):

So another step in the process made the ribs even more apparent. Personally, I like the look...but maybe it is because I like my dogs to look like Georges Saint Pierre (and my wife wishes I looked like Georges...)


But I can understand why some folks might look at the shot and think WOW, what a skinny dog! Maybe they are just not very familiar with the kind of athletic build many of us prefer, and maybe they are not aware of just how much a photo can exaggerate things. 

Take a look at this photo of an all-age Pointer. I took it during a field trial in Manitoba. Does his food ration need to be doubled? Or is he fit to run in the national championship? (the answer is the latter!). 


And take a look at this historical photo of a Weimaraner in Germany. Is it 'starving' or just really, really fit?




And if you want to see what Henri looks like in action on sharp-tails and snipe, and also see the effect that sucking in scent has on the appearance of the rib cage, take a look at this video. It was taken a day or two before the photo of Henri on point. Watch as he breaths in, you will see the ribs appear..and disappear.



And finally, here is a shot of the actual covey of birds Henri was pointing that day. SHARP-TAILS!!