“I never thought I would ever own a long-haired, long-tailed, mostly black gun dog, but here’s Annie, my 5-year-old Large Munsterlander,” says Gene Miller. “After having Weimaraners for 20-plus years I decided I also wanted a pointing breed that would hunt grouse and woodcock close to where I live in northern Michigan, then retrieve ducks and geese where we hunt in the southern part of the state.
“Compared to my Weimaraner’s short hair, Annie’s long hair helps protect her from the briars and brambles in the woods and certainly works to keep her warmer when fetching waterfowl out of freezing cold water,” Miller adds. “She’s a good ruffed grouse dog that tends to search and stay close to the gun when in the trees. And she’s a great ‘dead bird’ finder in any kind of thick and gnarly cover. In addition, she’s very dependable in finding and bringing in dead or wounded ducks in heavy, thick cattails.”
Though Annie’s long hair and dense coat are an asset in most hunting habitat, Miller finds some liabilities in its length and thickness. “All my hunting buddies call Annie a ‘bur magnet.’ No matter where we go, she will be stuck full of cockle burs, burdock, sand burs or any other weed seeds that stick to a long-haired dog. And though she’s pretty patient when I pull out the burs, it’s a job to clean her up at the end of most every hunt.”
“Most Large Munsterlanders I’ve seen are easy for their owners to bond with and are naturally cooperative in training for basic obedience,” says Jim Keller, a professional trainer near Lincoln, Neb.
“I’ll tell most anyone with a Large Munsterlander pup to teach basic obedience at home using standard training methods.
“For advanced training, however, I usually suggest getting some professional help, especially if an amateur has a first dog or if the more experienced dog owner doesn’t have the time and facilities to do the work on their own. Most of the Large Munsterlanders I’ve had in my program have been easy to introduce to gunfire and live birds and have been natural pointers and retrievers—though some have progressed quicker than others,” Keller adds.
“No matter who does the advanced training, one main factor should be emphasized and that’s birds, birds, birds,” Keller advises.
Point & Retrieve
“When we first got Ace as a 10-week-old puppy, he wouldn’t point any live birds,” says Roger Draper of his now 2-year-old Large Munsterlander. “He fetched dummies and a dead quail, but he wouldn’t point a live pigeon. Sure, he would chase the bird, pick it up, and walk around with it. But he showed no interest in pausing, even for a brief second, before jumping into the grass and grabbing the bird.
“I called the breeder to complain about this pointing dog that wouldn’t point and was told ‘to be patient and pointing will develop naturally.’ That sounded like a cop-out and a lame excuse, though we waited as advised,” Draper recalls.
“Then one day I was flipping a pheasant wing on a string, which Ace loved to run after. All of a sudden he slammed into a perfect, rock-solid point. He’s been pointing everything with feathers ever since, well enough to get a passing score in his NAVHDA Utility Test the first time he tried.”
Filling the Gap
Though Chuck Wilson has primarily used Llewellin setters to hunt bobwhite quail, he decided he would like to have another breed of gun dog to help retrieve dead and wounded birds from the thick and nasty habitat of western Texas. “I had heard Large Munsterlanders, in addition to being natural pointers, were really good at fetching up gamebirds—something at which my setters were not always great,” Wilson says. “I didn’t want a Labrador because their body build and coats were too heavy to deal well with the heat where we hunt.
“So the Munsterlander, with medium size, lighter body build and ‘cutable’ coat for keeping cool, seemed like a good fit for what we needed.
“My Munsterlander has been, in fact, a natural retriever for quail in whatever cover the birds fall. Likewise, the Munsterlander loves to retrieve ducks when we jump shoot them in cattle tanks—something my Llewellins just don’t want to do. In addition, however, my Large Munsterlander is a consistent and stylish pointer that hunts closer to the gun than do my Llewellins with their tendency to range out a lot further. I found that the Large Munsterlander fills the habitat gap where the birds might have been overlooked by the Llewellins,” Wilson adds.
Though Large Munsterlanders have been tested by the North American Versatile Hunting Association (NAVHDA) since the 1970s, the breed has done best in the last decade with more passing scores in Natural Ability and Utility. Several Large Munsterlanders, in fact, have earned the Versatile Champion (VC) title—all of which suggests that
Large Munsterlander breeders are producing much improved lines of dogs and final products.
“Large Munsterlanders are one of my favorite breeds to train for testing in NAVHDA and as hunting dogs,” says Eddie Erickson, who owns and operates Autumn Breeze Kennel in Isle, Minn. “I’ve seen a real increase in the innate talent of this breed in general. Of the rare breeds I specialize in, generally the Large Munsterlanders are among the quickest and easiest to develop on pointing, tracking and retrieving,” Erickson says.
“Most Large Munsterlanders just need an early exposure to birds to develop their desire to search for game. And most of them are able to take the normal training pressure to earn passing scores in Natural Ability and Utility tests,” Erickson adds.
House or Kennel?
“We chose the Large Munsterlander because we had been told that this was a gun dog bred to be a calm house dog and a well-adjusted kennel dog,” say Allen and Alicia Humphrey, who live close to Tucson, Ariz. “For a couple of years, we had another breed of gun dog that was just too high strung to be either a good house dog or a good kennel dog.
“This breed of dog was just too wild in the home, always running from one room to another, barking at the telephone or doorbell or chewing up anything it could get its teeth on. And out in the kennel, it was a constant pacer, a relentless barker, and a real escape artist.
“Our two Large Munsterlanders are completely laid-back and easy-going in the house and the kennel. They spend the night on dog beds in our utility room, lie at our feet when we watch television and pay no attention to the phone ring and little attention to the doorbell. They do greet friends and strangers who come to visit, but after the greeting is over, they lie down and stay out of trouble,” Alicia Humphrey says.
“They need regular exercise, which we give them on a daily basis by throwing dummies for 15 minutes twice a day, and in the summer, swimming them for a half hour once or twice on weekends,” Allen adds.
“One reason I chose a Large Munsterlander as my first gun dog was because I was told most of them were natural hunters. This meant that I would be able to train my dog myself without hiring a professional trainer,” says Alex Schmidt, who bought Gerti five years ago from a litter with NAVHDA tested parents.
“Though I used pigeons for my yard work when Gerti was a puppy, I hunted her first season on wild sharp-tailed grouse, Hungarian partridge and pheasants close to where I live in eastern Montana. She learned a lot and so did I that season so that by the next year she was amazing in her search for birds, pointing when she found them, and retrieving nearly everything that fell to my shotgun,” Schmidt adds.
Because Schmidt liked his Large Munsterlander so much, he recommended the breed to his 68-year-old uncle who wanted a natural hunter easy to train and naturally willing to stay close to him in the field. He also wanted a dog that would retrieve waterfowl he knocked down while pass shooting ducks and geese in northern Minnesota,
“My uncle used the same training methods I did but found that Duke, his year-old Large Munsterlander, sometimes wanted to range too far and to bump ruffed grouse and pheasants way out of the shotgun range.
“When he got professional help, the trainer showed him how to use an e-collar to keep Duke in close. Now his dog stays from 25 to 75 yards in front of him and holds point with 95 percent consistency,” Schmidt says. “And wearing a neoprene vest, Duke makes long water retrieves on late season diving ducks in icy water and regularly fetches giant Canada honkers in freezing weather.”
For anyone interested in buying a Large Munsterlander there are two clubs in North America that can provide information and insights about the breed as well as sources for finding puppies, started dogs and finished dogs. The biggest group is the Large Munsterlander Association of America (LMAA) with a nationwide membership made up of owners, breeders, trainers and hunters. The other club is the Large Munsterlander Association of Canada (LMAC), a newer and smaller group.
Though each organization has similar breed standards and adheres to specific types of hunt testing procedures and conformation requirements, the LMAA, formed in 1977, has “Americanized” the Large Munsterlander by putting more gamebird point into their dogs. In addition, the LMAA has decreased the emphasis on the original German need for the dogs to hunt furred animals and track wounded big game animals.
The LMAC, conversely, has made an effort to maintain the focus on finding furred game and big game with a corresponding effort to keep a more restrictive German standard of physical conformation in the breed.
Both clubs have a breed warden who judges and approves all breeding that club members propose, so that club standards are applied to the production of registered and club certified litters. Club members are scattered across North America, which means that almost anyone interested in purchasing a Large Munsterlander can see the pups and parents within a day’s drive from home.
A Better Setter?
“Many people look at Barney, my 7-year-old Large Munsterlander, and ask if he’s an English setter,” says Jim Dixon, who has owned, trained, and hunted Barney on all the upland gamebirds and waterfowl in his home state of North Dakota. “No, Barney’s a Large Munsterlander, I tell them, and add that he is sort of a German version of an English setter.
“He’s a ‘better setter,’ though, I say, because he searches for and points pheasants, prairie grouse and Hungarian partridge the same as any setter would. But unlike many setters, he retrieves with a natural enthusiasm everything that falls when I shoot and that includes all kinds of ducks and geese in all sorts of hunting conditions.
“Last year, in fact, on a tundra swan hunt, Barney swam 300 yards across a lake to retrieve a wounded swan that was swimming almost as fast as the dog. He grabbed the bird by the butt and pushed it all the way back to where I was waiting. Then he dragged it through the cattails and across a rocky shoreline to deliver the big bird right to where I was standing.”
A performance like this, Dixon says, ”is why I call this Large Munsterlander a better setter.”
Active Large Munsterlander breeders are listed on the LMAA website, which also has information on registering the breed according to LMAA policies.
Anyone interested in purchasing a certified LM puppy can obtain guidelines from Romy Shreve, the Breeding Official for the LMAA. Shreve has up-to-date information on existing or planned LM litters as well as started or finished adult LMs for sale.
She also can answer questions about training and provide names of professional trainers who are LMAA members with experience in producing LMs that hunt. She and her husband Curt operate Snowy Oaks Kennels in Prior Lake, Minnesota; see their website, firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (952) 440-7639 for more information.
At the same time, pointing dogs were becoming more popular in Europe and a select group of French breeders set out to develop a breed that had the athleticism necessary to hunt hard all day and the instinct to point and retrieve birds. Using Spanish pointers and various European hounds as their root stock, these breeders began to develop dogs that embodied all of the qualities they desired.
The result of their efforts was the Braque Francais. The Braque became known for its keen determination and overwhelming desire to please its master. Careful breeding resulted in a dog that could be relied upon to obey commands in the field and hunt hard all day long, a dog that had intense prey drive and could also serve as a family companion, playing with the children, yet acting as a watchdog in the dark of night.
If ever a dog was created to hunt pheasants, it is the springer spaniel. I simply can’t understand why the breed isn’t more popular, given the vast number of rooster hunters in the U.S., but there you go. The really good ones—and I had one like that—can be almost wizard-like in the way they approach the game.
German shorthaired pointers are also one of the main dog breeds in many kinds of field trials and a variety of hunting contests. And all across North America, shorthairs are the common pointing breed for the average gamebird hunter just about anywhere there are gamebirds to be hunted.
For whichever task they were assigned, the dog needed to have an outstanding nose, be exceedingly biddable, and when they were working for the poachers, be fast and agile enough to escape the bull mastiffs the gamekeepers employed to patrol the estate during the hours of darkness. These traits, still present in the breed today, are a not-so-well-kept secret for this relatively rare retriever breed, which has achieved the highest levels of success in all of the AKC’s dog sports except for retriever field trials. Flat-coats were in 90th place in 2011 on the American Kennel Club’s “popularity list” of the 173 breeds recognized by the AKC.
“For example, when being taught to force fetch, some French Brittanys will squeal and squirm in an effort to get the trainer to leave them alone. And some trainers will back way off and let the dog have its way,” Keller says.
Up close, the curly is much different from a Labrador: Its coat is made up of short, stiff hairs tightly wound into ringlets covering the main body, the top of the head and the ears.
These events come in three distinct formats: one for pointing breeds, one for retrievers and one for spaniels. Thus, for a breed to participate, it must not only be AKC-recognized as a Sporting Group breed, but must also be grouped in one and only one of AKC’s three classifications: pointing breed, retriever or spaniel. AKC doesn’t allow dual classifications.
The canines in this case were two Llewellin setters on a South Dakota pheasant hunt last fall. The two dogs stood frozen with heads and tails high in a picture-perfect pose. As one of the hunters walked in to flush the pointed bird, two hens and one rooster rocketed out of the prairie grass. One well-placed shot brought down the long-tailed ringneck and one dog ran out, picked up and brought it in.
“My wife said, ‘Look at this dog I just happened to come across on the internet,’” Fedele recalls. “I looked at the pictures and said, ‘That’s the dog. Let’s call this guy and get that dog.’ My wife, just completely coincidentally, is Portuguese, although she had no prior experience with the dogs.”