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Rymans Are Wild Bird Specialists

Ryman-Types are Wild Bird Hunting English Setters

Rymans stand apart from other types of English setters because they were developed as, and have always been, wild bird specialists. George Ryman proved and evaluated his dogs while actually hunting wild birds. The type has been kept alive until today by breeders who did the same thing. If the Ryman-type is going to survive into the future this needs to remain the focus of breeding. Proven on wild birds genetics will result in better bird dogs. G. Ryman knew that, and serious hunters know it today as well.

Wild birds are born on the defense. From day one they either quickly learn how to evade predators or they die. They know every square foot of their territory and have to make the right move at the right time or face the consequences. They may move around a lot; for food, dusting, loafing, safety yet they must conserve their energy for when it’s really needed. They leave a little scent everywhere they travel. They make themselves hard to find, hard to pin, hard to kill.

Photo by Paul Brooks

This is in contrast to pen raised birds. Released birds have not benefited from “only the fittest survive” genetics and they don’t know where, how, or when to go, so they most often crouch down in one spot. Easy pickings, which do not require the level of skill and talent wild birds demand from the dog. Pen birds fail to test or prove the abilities and intelligence needed for a wild bird dog.

Wild bird dogs are both born and made. An intelligent pup will quickly learn to hunt and search in logical cover, how to use wind and the difference between old scent and fresh. Intelligence about birds is demonstrated as the dog learns to freeze upon first scent but then apply their learned skills of how and when to relocate to handle and pin a bird who is running for its life. The dog hunts hard and fast, yet not recklessly as that can result in a wild flush. This is the dog that we at want to hunt with, don’t you?

Lynn Dee


  1. Avatar photo
    October Setters

    I’d like to add another thought on this subject.

    There is a very important and often overlooked difference between wild and planted birds. Wild birds live in the cover where you hunt them. They walk around, forage, roost, loaf, etc. in predictable places. Dogs can and do figure out where to look for them based on where they find the scent left behind by such birds, even if they’ve never actually found the bird.

    Aside from being unwary planted birds can be anywhere in the cover with no rhyme or reason (wherever someone decided to release them) and typically are there for only a short time before being shot or caught by predators. Dogs can’t learn where to look for them where they live because they live in a pen. They haven’t moved around the cover leaving scent behind where they spent their time.

    If this seems unimportant consider that we’ve seen a number of dogs figure out where to look for birds before ever actually finding one. They learn to check the places where they regularly smell old scent and eventually find birds in those locations. At first it seemed like they knew where to look instinctively but that’s not the case. The first time I saw this I can remember asking Lisa, “how can he know where to look for Chukars when he’s never even seen one?” Now I know how he knew….


  2. Walt Lesser

    Still one additional thought on our setters locating birds in the Appalachian grouse and woodcock covers. I feel certain these setters actually recognize by sight, types of cover where they have previously found birds. They learn quickly where to spend their time, and where not to do so. For this reason, there is no call for us, as handlers, to encourage our setters to quarter in the grouse woods. Systematic quartering is a waste of a grouse dog’s time and energy. Take these same setters to an open, park-like stand of timber, and we witness the dog looking for a place to hunt – with no grouse cover in sight.

    A classic recent years’ example occurred when Jennie located and pointed a woodcock in a small area of blackberry and rose in an otherwise pure hawthorn stand. In each of two successive years’, Jennie flash pointed, and moved on past this exact piece of cover without there even being sign of a woodcock’s presence!

  3. Avatar photo
    October Setters

    I absolutely agree that our setters identify likely cover visually. My first setter, Cliff’s Conifer Swale, was a very good grouse dog and I remember very well the day I decided to try to figure out why she was better at locating and pointing grouse than other dogs I’d hunted over. That afternoon I watched her running up a logging trail in a Wisconsin grouse cover. There was a patch of dogwood under the aspen canopy that looked birdy to me. As I watched I saw her look at the cover on both sides of the road, lock onto the patch of birdy looking dogwoods, then veer off the road and approach the dogwoods from downwind, slowing to check for scent when she got close. It was a real eye opener for me when I realized she was recognizing birdy cover the same way I did.


  4. Robert Pelkey

    Great article and responses, the only question I have, is how do you guys when training your dogs, do an intro to guns and birds? Is this something you do in the woods, or do you get some quail for training?

    • Avatar photo
      Firelight Setters

      That’s a good question, Robert. I think another member is planning to write about training approaches. But my quick response here is that I personally wait until pup gets on birds – wild birds. Birds + natural environment + natural arousal (from scent&flush)=positive connection for gun shot and birds.

      • Scott Gillis

        I believe and follow what Lynn Dee said about the birds and the gun. They are so focused on the bird that they do not hear the gun . Of course you dont want to muzzle blast a young dog and also make sure the bird is flying away. I believe that is the best way to introduce the gun.

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