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The Small Munsterlander Club of America
Mixing fun with policy-making to improve the breed

The Small Munsterlander, though a pointer first and foremost, is a "versatile" gun dog of German origins bred to track and retrieve game as well as furred animals.

Summer can be downtime for many gun dog owners and breed club members. But for the Small Munsterlander Club of America, summertime, outside of the hunting season, is the busiest time of the year.

Summer is when the Small Munsterlander breed club members get together for a national meeting. Sixty some Small Munsterlander owners will gather for three days to work on club policies, to learn about and train dogs and to have a just-for-fun hunting contest.

"In the seven years of the Munsterlander Club's existence, we have had six of these get-togethers in some centrally located, upper-Midwestern state," reports Tom McDonald, the club's past president from Lincoln, Nebraska.

"The annual national meeting of the Small Munsterlander Club of America has been a particularly good thing for the dogs," McDonald says. "In the last several years, club members and their Munsterlanders have attended from all across the country. The usual format is to have a day of business meetings where we develop club policies on breeding and testing practices and any other related subjects. The rest of the time is devoted to learning activities such as lectures in canine breeding, genetics and health care, as well as testing for canine good behavior and training for hunting.

The Small Munsterlander Club of America has grown from 20 members in 1998 to more than 60 today with an annual meeting held each year in Nebraska, South Dakota, Wisconsin or some other upper-Midwest state.

"One of the features of our annual meeting is that all the members gather in person to have face-to-face discussions about such subjects as breeding policies, canine health issues and testing programs. For example, we have discussed the prospects of including the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association's 'utility test' to go along with the 'natural ability' test we already now use in qualifying our dogs for our club's breeding program. Likewise, there have been some useful debates on how to sanction any breeders who have dogs with serious genetic defects," McDonald adds.

"As with any breed club, our Munsterlander organization has its share of divisive political issues, occasional conflicting personalities and real differences of opinion," notes Kris Hill, one-time club president from Nebraska. "But all our members are united by a desire to improve the breed and to enjoy our dogs as hunters and companions. Doing this is a lot easier in an actual meeting than trying to do something long distance by email or telephone."

A Hunt For Chukars
"One highlight of the annual meeting is a just-for-fun hunting contest where we use our dogs to find, point and retrieve pen-raised and released quail, pheasants or chukar partridge. Though there is an element of competition in the contest, most participants are doing this for the joy of hunting with their dogs," says McDonald.

In the chukar hunt, two judges follow a hunter and his dog through a 10-acre field of prairie grass where pen-raised chukars have been released. The dog owner has the option of having a designated gunner (as in this case) so the dog can receive more handling attention.

"The Munsterlander hunting contest was actually a combination of fun hunting mixed in with some informal dog training," says John Luttrell, head dog trainer and operations manager at Oak Tree Hunting Lodge and Training Facility in Clark, South Dakota, the location of the most recent three-day Small Munsterlander convention.

"Because our hunting preserve season runs from September 1 to March 31, we couldn't release pheasants for the Munsterlander event. So we used chukar partridge, which in South Dakota are not legally considered native game birds," Luttrell explains.

"Using what are now pretty much standard upland game bird hunting competition guidelines, we put these pen-raised chukars into marked-off 10-acre plots of native prairie grass," Luttrell says. "There each hunter and dog team were given 30 minutes to locate, point, flush, shoot and retrieve a maximum of three partridge with qualified judges scoring the teams."

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