George Bird Evans and his Old Hemlock setters

George Bird Evans was the most famous gundog writer West Virginia ever produced. He raised a strain of close-working English setter at his eighteenth century home in Preston County.

The home was named “Old Hemlock,” and his setter strain started with a dog bred George Ryman. The Ryman strain was heavy in Laverack blood, so the dogs look more like what an international audience would think an English setter would look like. They also point with their tails horizon and not erect (“showing off the license plate,” as my Grandpa called it).

This film is colorized from the 1950s, and you can see how good the grouse hunting was in parts of the Alleghenies, including some amazing footage of Canaan Valley, the Blackwater River, and Dolly Sods– “the Canadian Zone” of West Virginia.

These dogs are beautiful but still quite useful. The strain exists today, but it is maintained with more scrutiny and quality control than any gun dog breed that isn’t a German HPR.

The commentary on these dogs and the birds is quite good. I particularly like the discussion of a gray phase ruffed grouse being taken– the only one ever shot in these mountains. Virtually every ruffed grouse in West Virginia is a red phase. The red phase is the minority color for the species, but it isn’t here. Red ruffed grouse are an Appalachian specialty.

I enjoyed this footage of the grouse days long passed, especially those “Canaan days.”

 

 

 

Natural History

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