Before LeGrande suffered a heart attack in 1965 his red setters had won more than 500 placements in trials. His forced retirement from the field did not impede development of the breed, because he had given puppies away free to members of the National Red Setter Field Trial Club all across the country.
Through the years, the AKC was willing to register red setters listed as Irish setters in the Field Dog Stud Book, but in 1975 the AKC announced it would no longer do so. The AKC did not explain why, but it was because AKC show-type setters were getting skunked in their own field trials by the reds. Owners who have both red and Irish setters know full well which is the better hunting dog.
Randy Kubacz of Central Islip, N.Y., who belongs to both the National Red Setter Field Trial Club and the Irish Setter Club of America and whose reds were registered with the AKC before the ban, says, "If you're going with any Irish setter in the field, you're better off with one of the reds. The show Irish setter that will win on the bench is too big. He lopes in the field because his conformations are wrong." To which his wife Anne Marie, who handled their Ramblin' Red Banshee to second place at Rend Lake, adds, "Show dogs are more prone to be easily excited. You have to be careful if you breed to show dogs because of temperament. At six months, show Irish setters are running around like lunatics, but the red setters are calm. Why, it takes me more time to train a bench dog than a field dog."
Although the red setter is far behind his show Irish cousin in numbers—the Field Dog Stud Book registers 2,500 a year while the AKC registers more than 40,000 Irish setters annually—the breed doubtless will become more popular as its hunting abilities become more widely known. Puppies are inexpensive, $100 to $150 on average, and there usually are ads of dogs for sale in The Flushing Whip, the National Red Setter Field Trial Club monthly, which is edited by Bob Sprouse in Graytown, Ohio.
Red setters can be trained to work in close, and some foot hunters prefer them for grouse because, they say, the reds won't spook a bird the way a white dog might. But to field-trialers, the pleasure of owning a red setter lies in the challenge. Thixton Miller, chief of the Division of Wildlife Resources in the Illinois Department of Conservation, ran two of his dogs at Rend Lake, and he says, "Anyone can go out and buy a pointer and win. But you take a red setter and you go out and beat those rascals—as I have—and it's fun."