“If you can keep him alive, you can have him”. Courtney Funderburk absorbed these words as she cradled the two day old English Setter in her hands and vowed to nurse him to health. Bailey, as Courtney and her Dad named him, required round the clock care for two months, including bottle feeding every three hours and a rotating “potty schedule” that few could understand or appreciate. As a result of this deep love and incredible care, Bailey gained weight and strength, and became intimately connected to his caregiver. As he grew into a healthy, energetic pup, the quality of his breeding and love of the hunt poured out of him, and it was obvious that he wanted to work the field. Training, direction and loving discipline molded him into more than a trusted companion; Bailey became a gun dog and hunting partner for life, one that lasted 14 years, and provided countless memories in the field and home that will never be forgotten.
So begins the story of this year’s SignatureMT Hunting Bird Dog Photo Contest winner and her love of English Setters. Presented with an H&K 20 gauge shotgun at the age of 15 by her Father and exposed early on to the love of all things outdoors, the gift of Bailey was the final cornerstone set for a life spent in the field with working dogs.
Towards the twilight of Bailey’s hunting career, Courtney acquired littermates Vixie and Rio, English Setters of course. Now two and a half years old, Vixie and Rio, have become trusted hunters and companions that go everywhere she does. According to Courtney, the best part of having hunting dogs is that they are just as active as she is, passionately love to hunt and “are chill in the house”.
While talking about dogs in general, she stated “Getting a breed that is built for hunting requires the owner to use the dog for the purpose for which it is bred. Not doing so will cause the dog to become frustrated and drive the owner crazy”. Courtney backs this up with time spent hunting over Vixie and Rio at least twice a week, covering a minimum of 5 miles each trip on a mix of private and public land, for a variety of species. Although providing quality food and equipment for Vixie and Rio and traveling to different locations each week is not cheap, neither is her relationship with her dogs or the birds she hunts.
Starting long ago with a weakling, two day old pup, the love of English Setters and doing with them the hunting work for which they were bred has been a part of Courtney’s DNA. Her passion is infectious, enthusiastic and leaps off the page in her photos, making her the 2015 SignatureMT Hunting Bird Dog Photo Contest Winner.