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Why Muzzle Loading Shotguns?

posted Jun 4, 2010, 1:58 PM by Peter Lucas   [ updated Aug 20, 2010, 6:25 AM ]

    I am often asked what sparked my interest in muzzle loading shotguns.   In my case, I blame it on my dog: "Dodger."    Several years ago, I became the proud owner of a working Irish "Red" Setter. The Red Setter is the name given to non-AKC registered Irish Setters which have been bred as hunting and field trial dogs. Most upland bird hunters have heard the legend of how the Irish Setter was once a fine and proud hunting dog. The Irish Setter was brought to the United States in the early 1800s. It commanded great respect in the field and was one of the most commonly used dogs among American Sportsmen. However, due to its popularity among show dog breeders in the early 1900s, the AKC registered Irish Setter has been transformed into an ostentatious city dweller, incapable of serious work in the field.   By 1940, the AKC Irish Setter had all but lost its hunting abilities. 

    The modern Red Setter represents an effort by many devoted sportsmen to restore the Irish Setter breed to its long lost status as a first-class hunting dog.  The modern Red Setter is breed for hunting and little emphasis is given to the appearance of the dog.  Red setters tend to be smaller than their bench-bred cousin. While show dogs often reach 70 lbs, the working Red Setter is generally around 45 lbs. The coat is less silky and the feathering is generally shorter. The color is lighter, with the working dog found in chestnut and fawn colors. The Red Setter often has patches of white on his face and chest.  The result is that current "Red Setters" can hold their own against any other bread of pointing dog and looks much more like the Irish Setters which existed prior to 1900.  While red setters are registered through the Field Dog Stud Book, the AKC refuses to recognize Red Setters as part of the Irish Setter Breed.

    The story of the “Red Setter” strikes a familiar chord with many sportsmen at an unconscious level. We spend the majority of life in an urban environment, and in my case, a big city office. Like the modern Irish Setter, I sometimes feel like I have been transformed into an ostentatious city dweller.    Hunting represents a link to a long lost simpler time and place.  Several times a year, we are able to shed the burdens and worries of city life and return to a more rural environment.  We have nothing more in our mind than to work with our dogs and pursue a winged adversary.  For me, the muzzle loading shotgun, like my Red Setter, is the physical embodiment of the quest to return  to a simpler time.