All Bird Dogs Should Work At About 125 Yards. Says your old roommate from college who hunts with spaniels. He also only hunts pheasants and only in fairly thick cover. Brad, the energetic, young gentleman you met in at the bar in Pierre, South Dakota feels that if his pointers aren’t out 800-1,200 yards in front, they are wasting the opportunity. “Once the Tek 2.0 says he done lock up, then I load the pea-shooter and head that way. Dexter held point for over 35 minutes last fall on some sharptail.” Plow-horse vs. race horse to some extent.
The discussion on how far a bird dog should range is similar to the best elk rifle caliber or the best bass lure of all time. There are no limits to the answers or arguments for each. When you consider the type of habitat being hunted, the bird species involved, pointer or flusher, early or late season and the gait of the hunter behind the dog, the sky is the limit on what the ideal range is. A finely-tuned setter from the Vermont grouse woods should probably not have the same range as a litter-mate that ended up as a chukar dog in Nevada. Breeding and training will both come into play when determining just how much ground the dog will cover, how often then check in with you and how much they cast from side-to-side.
There are some other points worth mentioning. One that is often overlooked is the dog’s safety. In the big woods of northern Minnesota or Wisconsin, a dog that isn’t visible the majority of the time, is in danger of crossing paths with an even bigger dog, the gray wolf. I can still see the image of a timberwolf sneaking in as my two setters were locked up on point. The wolf was focused on the dogs until I fired a shot in the air. Other dangers I have encountered such as snakes and snares are increased risk factors when the dog is over the hill, out of sight. Snake-breaking dogs is a good practice, but that doesn’t mean they still can’t get bit as they run past a coiled-up rattler. Snares (and conibear traps) are deadly tools. They can kill a dog in the time it takes you to walk 100 yards. A dog on the Montana prairie, locked up on a distant covey of Huns is a beautiful sight. But, I want that dog within earshot and at a distance that I can help protect a part of my family. What that distance is still varies. If forced to put numbers on paper, I would go with 50-150 yards in the grouse woods, 100-400 yards in the open country. Just one man’s opinion. 125 yards is another’s.