Secrets of the Bird-Dog Wizard

Written by: by T. Edward Nickens

Scott Miller distinguished himself during his field-trial career with dogs known
for both their steadiness and supreme style.
Photo by Andrew Hyslop/Garden&Gun

Editor’s note: Garden&Gun magazine has posted a wonderful story about legendary dog trainer Scott Miller. Written by T. Edward Nickens and accompanied by Andrew Hyslop’s gorgeous photos, the story is well worth your time if you love sporting dogs.

We’d given up on the point, despite Tieka’s staunch figure in the broomsedge, at a field corner near the cut sorghum, unwavering in her commitment. Scott Miller swept the brush twice with battered and dusty snake boots. We could have seen a june bug hiding in there. “Nothing,” he muttered, then walked two more steps in front of the dog before a tiny winter-brown sparrow leaped from its deep burrow in the bunchgrass.

“That must have been it,” Miller figured, nearly talking to himself. He tapped Tieka to release the dog, and the Brittany took a halting, you-sure-about-this half step when a single bobwhite quail launched from the brush, clawing for blue. My back was half turned, my shotgun dangling loose in my hand. My hunting partner, Fred Childs, Tieka’s owner, was caught flat-footed, as well. The dog did her job. We were beaten by the bird, fair and square.

“There’s our lesson for today,” Miller said, a grin pushing up the corners of a thick mustache. “Believe the dog. She’s the one with the nose.”

Believe the dog. That’s near the top of the list of any dog trainer’s mantras, but it comes with an unspoken subtext: Believe the dog that you’ve trained and worked to be believable. And when it comes to training bird dogs, there may be no one better in the South than Miller, an unassuming and universally heralded dog man who now runs the kennels at South Carolina’s Brays Island.

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