"What kind of dogs are these, Gary?" I asked as I pulled a tooth for aging from the upper jaw of a bear one of his guests had taken. Gerhard Gehrmann, or Gary, runs a hunting business just north of the town of Kenora, in northwestern Ontario. Most of his guests come from Europe to hunt black bear. I had come to know Gary through my job as a biologist with the Provincial Government.
"They are wachtels!" he exclaimed in a tone evincing both pride and authority.
"Wachtels?" I queried. "Is that a breed?"
"Actually, they are wachtelhundes, but you can call them wachtels. They are German hunting dogs," he explained.
I am no dog expert, so I didn't find it too strange that I had never heard of a wachtel or wachtelhunde (pronounced walk tell h un day). But I didn't want to let my ignorance show, so I let the conversation end. I was, though, determined to find out more about these wachtels.
Finding out more about the wachtelhunde was no easy task. No one, not even the town vets, had ever seen or heard anything about them, except of course what they picked up from Gerhard and from examining his little pack of wachtels. For months, I checked out book stores in every town I visited. I always came up empty-handed.
In the interim, I got to know Gerhard better and was elated when he invited me out to his place for an opening day duck hunt. Finally, I thought, I would get to see the wachtels in action.
From what Gerhard had told me, the dogs were versatile. Obviously, this revelation led me to believe they were one of the European dog breeds. It pleased me to think I was getting close to the truth.
According to Gerhard, the wachtels are excellent trackers and good retrievers. They are also quite fearless, a trait he admired and felt was necessary, given his need to have dogs that could track down and hold at bay a wounded black bear. While tracking a wounded black bear was an absolute necessity, the tasks most often performed by Gerhard's wachtels were finding and retrieving grouse, snowshoe hare and downed ducks.
I arrived at the hunting lodge the night before the opening of the annual duck shoot and had a chance to sit down and talk with Gerhard and his group of Austrian hunters. My hunting companion for the next morning was to be Fritz. Fritz was in his thirties and, unlike the rest of the hunters, could speak English well enough for us to converse. Like most, Fritz had come to hunt bears as well as ducks. None of the guests had brought dogs, but, according to Fritz, they were all quite familiar with wachtels. Fritz assured me they were quite common in Germany and, to a lesser extent, in Austria as well.
The next morning we hiked in the darkness to a small lake where Gerhard had two canoes stashed.
For more information or to find a Wachtelhund to|
purchase, visit wachtelhund.com or contact: