Many Pennsylvania bird hunters are out in the fields and woods in full swing with their pointers searching for pheasants, grouse and woodcock.
Hunting with a well-trained hunting dog adds enjoyment to the hunt and a companion to a hunter that can be measured in the years of memories.
But choosing a bird dog puppy and picking a hunting partner is a big decision that requires a time commitment.
While a dog still needs to be selected to fit into one's home, deciding on the right hunting dog requires cooperation from family members and dedication to training and developing a close bond to the breed chosen.
Dick Stroup at Needlepoint Kennel in Evans City has been breeding hunting and field trial English Setters for more than four decades. He's bred and seen his share of good hunting dogs over the years.
“Picking a hunting dog has a lot to do with family members,” said Stroup.
“What family members likes are, and the needs of the house, factor in making a decision on what type of hunting dog.
“Do your research. Find a reputable breeder,” he said, adding when choosing a dog, the buyer should be able, if possible, to see the sire and dam characteristics that will be passed on to their pups.
Also, buyers should view the puppies to see if their personalities match up with the person, what they may want in a hunting dog or if they are going to participate in field trials.
“We try to help people zero in on a puppy,” said Stroup, who whelps all of his pups in the family's basement.
“The pups are with us seven or eight weeks, and we spend a lot of time with them.
“Once the buyer gets here, we get to see their personality and learn about them. We try to steer them (to a puppy) that would match their needs,” he said.
Stroup has raised setters for more than 45 years and for a short period also raised Labrador retrievers.
“If I had liked anything else, I would have raised them. They're (English Setters) good dogs.”
Stroup has six setters in the home with his wife, Nancy.
“They're really good companion dogs. They bond with you. They enjoy being part of the family,” he said.
However, Stroup said other hunting dog breeding kennels raising English pointers, Brittanys, German short-haired pointers and other versatile breeds, including flushing dogs like labs and Springer Spaniels, are breeding quality hunting dogs these days.
“There are a lot of very good breeders out there, but ask for references,” he said, encouraging prospective hunting dog owners to talk with people who own one of the breeder's dogs.
Stroup said his satisfaction over the years has been the stories and joy his English Setters have given their owners over their lifetime.
“We've never made money breeding dogs,” he said. “But we've met a lot of nice people along the way. We've heard good stories.”