Does Your Bird Dog Know the Difference Between a Hen and a Rooster?

Does Your Bird Dog Know the Difference Between a Hen and a Rooster? 

By Bob St.Pierre

 Flushing Hen

     Whether it’s locating a ruffed grouse under a foot of fresh snow, zeroing in on a rooster in a windstorm or finding a covey of quail that just landed; I’ve witnessed the incredible sense of smell most bird dogs possess.

While most of us have that one buddy who will make the claim: “my dog doesn’t even bother with hens, he’ll only flush roosters;” I haven’t ever taken the boast seriously because I’ve seen that buddy’s dog flush hens as well as roosters every time we’ve been hunting.  To be honest, the hunters making that boast to me in the past have lost credibility in my eyes and so do their dogs.  However, I am self-aware enough to realize that I haven’t seen it all and I surely don’t know it all.  So, I thought I’d ask a couple of the more knowledgeable dog and pheasant folks I know for their opinion to the question:

     Have you ever seen a bird dog that could tell the difference between a hen and a rooster by smell? 

“I could swear some of my Labs have known the difference.  They won’t completely ignore123012 - roostersmima hens, but I’ve been able to watch their intensity level – in their tail, in their speed, in their entire body language – increase when they are on a rooster,” explained Rick Young, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Field Operations and a wildlife biologist.  “I believe dogs smell pheasants through the bird’s breath and although it may be subtle, I think some dogs can detect the difference between roosters and hens under the best conditions.”

“I’ve watched hundreds of dogs and dozens of breeds, and I don’t think bird dogs can detect the difference between a rooster and a hen; at least not during hunting season,” offered Bob West, Purina Dog Foods Director of Breeder Enthusiast & Sporting Groups, as well as a professional dog trainer.  “There might be a time of the year when roosters may smell different, but I don’t think that’s during hunting season.  I’ve just seen too many dogs lock up just as hard on a hen as they do on a rooster to believe differently, but that doesn’t stop me from holding out hope that one day I’ll find that perfect dog that can detect the difference.”

So there you have it.  The jury remains out!  What’s your opinion: Can your bird dog tell the difference between a hen and a rooster?

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.

One comment

  1. My name is Fred Rice, Missouri Bird Hunter. Owned and hunted VC Jacob vd Westwind, all over the midwest including pheasants in KS, SD, and Iowa. My opinion – there is no doubt in my mind Jake new the difference between roosters and hens. At the end of the day, time and time again, all his points were roosters. What are the odds of that? More roosters than hens out there? Don’t think so. I believe he learned over time we were shooting just the roosters and that is what he pointed. Am I a bit touched? Maybe. I know this, I saw it enough, I am not afraid to claim it. I respect Bob West and consider him a good friend, but I guess we can disagree on this one. I am not saying Jake never pointed a hen, but it was rare. He was a great dog, and the best pheasant dog I have ever seen. His greatest strength, was up between his ears. Then his nose. Then his drive.

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