Atkin tends to stop traffic in Arlington, Virginia just outside of Washington DC. whenever Howard walks him. To say he is gorgeous is an understatement. Atkin has a way of making everything look effortless. With his beautiful feathering and light on his feet style he is beautiful to watch. But don't let that fool you, he is a lot more than just a beautiful setter. Atkin is all business when it comes to hunting and has a drive to match the best of any grouse dog.
Atkin is name after Henry Atkin who came from a family of London Gunmakers. Atkin's father worked for James Purdey in 1848 and then Henry also worked for James Purdey as his father’s apprentice. Henry began building guns under his own name in 1875. In 1877 Henry opened his first premises in Haymarket, London using the name ‘Henry Atkin’ (from Purdey’s). Atkin was known for only building the best guns, Henry Atkin also inherited the use of the “Beesley” self-opening action from Purdey. It is fitting that this dog should be named after a fine gun maker that made beautiful guns. Both guns and dog are equally beautiful.
I have known Howard for quite a few years when one day the phone rang and it was Howard. I figured it was a call to talk about a hunt, but instead Howard was looking for a young dog. I listened to what Howard wanted and ... my mind was racing. Now I am not going to give Howards age away but let’s just say that this call really caught me off guard. I knew it had to be a calm and very biddable dog. A dog that was the epitome of the "Fireside/Gentleman’s Grouse Dog" A dog that would behave in the house and when they entertained guest. A dog that would be easy for someone that is older to handle but would work with the owner and not be stubborn. The list could go on and on about what was needed in this dog.
Whenever I receive a call about an individual wanting a dog the more I know about the person and their lives and where they live and even how they hunt... it helps me develop the right dog for them. I prefer to have owners that want to have the dog developed at the pace that the dog is developing instead of asking how soon can I shoot the gun over the dog. A dog should never be on on a time schedule for developement but needs to deveop at their own pace. The owner needs to be a person that is concerned about the dogs welfare and really wants to do right by the dog. Howard could not be a better owner for Atkin. With Howard's care and love of the dog, Atkin has become his constant companion and will seek Howard out wherever he is in the house. Atkin is never too far away from his friend Howard.
Atkin training has taken place here in Wisconsin for grouse and woodcock hunting and while here he lived with me and travel with me as I would go to camp or train dogs etc. We worked on a lot of different aspects of Atkin's training from housebreaking, to manners to compliance with commands. In the woods Atkin has a beautiful gate, a drive to find birds and a willingness to work with the hunter. Atkin will also retrieve but is not found of woodcock. I believe that is where Atkin draws the line. This past year I was able to take Atkin on some guided hunts to further his education in the grouse woods. Each hunt is helping him develop his skills on grouse and woodcock while learning to work for the hunter in the woods.
This past year was a lot of fun to see Atkin go from a young dog to putting it all together and understanding what he is doing in the woods and why he is there. In other words the light bulb came on. The grouse were running a lot this year and it took a season dog to really work them where I was hunting. Annie would go on point and then Atkin would back. You could tell Atkin was not picking up the scent by the way he held his stance. Annie has been a guide dog for at least 5 years so she knows how to pick up on a little bit of scent. I released Annie and after a bit she relocated and locked up on point again. Atkin backed again but now with a staunchness that relayed the message that he was in the game... he now had scent. I released Annie and Atkin again they worked the cover back and forth at a comfortable pace. Annie eventually found the scent again and locked up with Atkin right beside her. Both dogs held point as Howard and PT (Peyton Taylor) worked around to get into position. This particular grouse won...he had made it to the swamp.
Akin learned so much from working this one bird. What was really nice was to see all the foundation work come together on that one bird. Everything we had been working toward happened then. He learned to work less scent and not a lot of scent. He also learned to be patient working a grouse. So many times young dogs are not patient working a bird. They tend to push too much and not be cautious with an end result being the bird flushes before anyone can get into position. He also learned to release slow and continue working the cover just as before. Many dogs release off of scent too fast thus bumping the bird and over running their nose. This happens especially when grouse are running and heading for cover.
As the afternoon wore on I watched Atkin back Annie but I noticed he had scent every time. No more was there the backing and looking like he was just standing there. He was backing and leaning into the point. Rigid, with an intense stare toward the direction the scent was coming from... almost as if he could will the bird to show itself.
Every now and then I will receive an email from Howard with pictures or the latest story about the adventure that he and Atkin have had on a hunt and all that transpired. It is always nice to hear back from owners about their dog and how happy they are with their setter.
Atkin is not a finished grouse dog but is well on his way to becoming one (he turned 2 years old 1/1/2016). In the end Atkin is the dog that Howard has always wanted. A beautiful setter that is a companion both in the home and the woods. However, ultimately the hunting dog that brings excitement as he effortlessly covers the ground searching for scent. All the while working at a comfortable range that Howard can enjoy. Thus letting Howard watch the hunt unfold in front of him. Seeing Atkin glide through the woods, slam a point and giving Howard the opportunity to get into position for the shot... this is what grouse hunting is all about. The two of them are a team in the woods and enjoying life to its fullest.