For years grouse hunters have insisted that field-trial grouse dogs are no better at finding birds than many ordinary pointers, setters, German shorthairs or Brittany spaniels which are used strictly as gun dogs in the fall.
"That is ridiculous," says Harry Townshend, a longtime grouse hunter and field-trialer from New Haven, Conn. who judged at this year's Grand National. "That's like trying to equate a saddle horse with a Thoroughbred. A good field-trial grouse dog is actually a hopped-up shooting dog that must do everything better. He must run a harder and more spectacular race, and exhibit more class, style and responsiveness to the handler. He must not be a mechanical dog—he does not simply swing back and forth through whatever cover happens to lie ahead of his handler. The dog moves directly to the likely grouse covers with a minimum of direction from the handler."
Considering the money involved in having a dog professionally trained and trialed until it qualifies for the Grand National, it seems a high price to pay just for the privilege of running a dog in what comes awfully close to being a grouseless grouse trial.