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Hunting with the Bracco Italiano
in Colorado/USA


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Hunting with the Bracco Italiano in Colorado/USA
by Steve Horn

One more day remained of February, but the sunrise gave promise that winter’s hold on the high plains of Colorado was starting to loosen its grip. A caravan of vehicles plunged bumper deep into the icy waters of Kiowa Creek and fishtailed up the muddy embankment of the cottonwood lined valley. There was much anticipation.
Four Bracchi moved in a frenzied zig-zag, a kaleidoscope of orange, white, chestnut, amber and roan quartering ahead of five hunters and seven or eight onlookers.
If there was confusion, it was only in the minds of humans. The dogs were singular in purpose.

Rick Watson, Erich Bower, Dick Propernick, Matt Rivera
Titel: Bella (owner: Paul Mcdaniel) and Luigi (owner: Dick Propernick)

Lucky, owner Steve Horn a.o.

There had been no pre-hunt rituals of canine specific behaviors; no sniffing, no marking, no mounting. The dogs were focused. Whistles blew and the Bracchi advanced, heads down, nostrils flared.
The tight grid pattern our guide from Kiowa Creek Sporting Club had us follow left little chance that any pheasant or chucker would go undetected.
“Dog on point,” someone yelled above the polite conversation inherent with a dozen people gathered with a common interest. People and dogs froze as the Bracco’s owner moved in for the flush. It was textbook, the opening scene from a training video. Shutters and safeties clicked, birds flushed and hearts pounded as guns were mounted. Praise was given to both hunter and dog when successful, but not a word was offered when the bird escaped unscathed; gentlemen indeed.

Above and below: Luigi

Bella and owner Paul Mcdaniel


The retrieves, however, were a little less disciplined with dogs unsure of whose master had downed the bird. Fetch and let the humans sort it out seemed to be the rule.
Luigi, an intact male, who belonged to the hunt’s organizer, Dick Propernick, displayed athleticism that was impressive. Large and muscled, the dog worked like a steam engine. He never stopped. Rock solid points and a look of determination that commanded everyone’s respect characterized his line backer approach. One U-shaped point where Luigi turned back to direct attention to the bird behind him, brought smiles to everyone’s face. A contorted frozen statue, it was a pose that reminded us of why we hunted behind such dogs.
Some dogs melt your heart. This was the case with Mirabella owned by Paul McDaniel. Her Cover Girl face forced a double take and begged the question, “What’s a girl like you doing in place like this?” But, Belle was more than just a pretty face, so much more. She held her own all morning, tirelessly working the heavy cover, always with an eye on Paul. Solid points and proud retrieves separated by efficient casts at just the right distance seemed antithetical, as if she were a petite pageant finalist whose talent presentation was the hammer throw.

Bella and Luigi



Classic three-legged points with a tail carriage seen in few Bracchi were attention getters for Cora who did her owners, Erich and Sally Bower, proud. Most amazing was the realization that Cora was still a pup in her first year. She was often a shiny blur of joints and sinew as she raced in adolescent hound fashion from scent to scent, pointing each just in case. Her Bracco stub of a tail, which stood perpendicular with each stylish point, portends a bright future. Cora’s energy and enthusiasm for the hunt were infectious to hunters and hounds alike. Her smiling eyes with a mouthful of bird made everyone’s day.
Lucello, a.k.a. Lucky, represented the Lombardy type of Bracco with his chestnut and white coloration, a novelty among the Piedmont orange and white dogs in attendance. Having never hunted with other dogs, Lucky remained remarkably unfazed by their presence and by the end of the hunt was honoring other dog’s points demonstrating the trainability of the breed. A highlight among some solid points and retrieves was his response to the “Go Easy,” command after he had pointed a pheasant that ran. His stealthy tippytoe led the author to the sneaky bird. A point, a flush and a spectacular miss followed.

Lucky with owner Steve Horn


The hunt with local Bracco Italiano Club of America members and their dogs was a wonderful opportunity to meet people, see the breed do what it does best and enjoy a pleasant day afield. But, one of the true highlights of the day was the presence of Roman Dougherty, a young man of 13 who was interested in learning to hunt. Rick Watson sponsored Roman and mentored him for much of the day. President Propernick placed a blaze orange BICA cap on the lad’s head and welcomed him to the group. Roman was a breath of fresh air to a sport where the average age is now in the mid-fifties. Polite and mannered, the teen eagerly took in the experience. He even rolled up his sleeves and helped clean the birds, all the while asking questions about things most of us had long forgotten or taken for granted. It is amazing how a naïve perspective can cause one to reflect on why we do the things we do. After a relaxed lunch at the club house, Roman followed us to the sporting clays course where Dick allowed him to use a 20 gauge. Having never fired a shotgun before, Roman lacked all the psychological hang-ups that often plague experienced shooters. He broke clays left and right in a display that left the adults both astonished and hopeful for the next generation of sportsmen. Introducing Roman to upland hunting was one of the highlights of the day.
Many thanks to Dick Propernick for the time and energy he devoted to organizing the hunt. His commitment to the breed and BICA are appreciated.

Bella with owner Paul Mcdaniel

All photos: Danny Barton
Text (c) Steve Horn 2010

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