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Hunting Season Opener 2020

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Like everything in 2020, our opening weekend was a little different than normal.  Many of our “go-to” spots are still flooded out, but luckily the bounty of the Sandhills still provided.

Opening day we split into two parties, with Fire and I taking one dune ridge and Charles, our buddy Ryan, Ruth and Obi went on the ridge to the south of me.  It’s funny the difference that one valley makes.  Fire and I hiked for five miles and saw absolutely nothing, while Charles and Ryan saw about 14 sharpies and Charles limited out by noon.  Which was good because the high temperature got up to 105 that day, a record for a September day in Nebraska.  Obi was having a great first outing as he got all of the retrieves that day.

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Charles and Obi headed back to the truck

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Obi and Ruth with Charles and a limit of sharptailed grouse opening day

Day two we decided to all three hunt the same ridge with all three dogs.  Charles and Ryan stayed up high and I worked the mid-level hills closer to the valley.  We had planned on crossing the valley once we got to the fence, but they had seen a group of birds get up that I did not, so I met up with them at the top of the ridge and we headed back the way we came.  I saw a group of about ten of them get up and go around a dune, so I hoped that we’d be into birds soon.

It wasn’t too much longer until Fire went on a super-stylish point down in a little bowl.  It was one of those where their body is posed in one direction and their head is cocked to the right as if to say “The birds are right here!”.  With scenting conditions so difficult in the Sandhills, I’ve only had this happen one other time in twenty years of hunting.  So I ran down in front of Fire and sure enough, a group of five got up right in my face.  Due to the direction of the wind, with them taking off right into it, they shot straight up into the air and I shot right underneath of them.  One peeled off and flew back towards Ryan and he took it down.

Ryan is a traveling geology technician, so he hadn’t been out with us hunting in five our six years while he’s been on the road.  It was great to have him on the bird board again.  We continued our push and I sort of meandered toward the lower hills like I normally do.  Up at the top of the ridge the guys got up another small group and Ryan took another bird out of it.  Fire was hanging around with me, so we hiked up to where the guys were to try to help them find the bird since they seemed to be struggling to locate it.  It took us a good five minutes, but Fire put her nose to the ground and went about 40 yards to the south and came back with the runner.

I’ve been battling plantar fasciitis in my right foot for about nine months, since we chased roosters in January outside of South Sioux City.  Where I used to be able to do 8 miles of dune stomping in a day, I’m down to about 5.  The guys used to be up in the 10-11 mile per day range and now they’re at a little over 8.  We’re all between the ages of 45 and 50 now.  Ryan made the dreaded statement that, “Someday we’re not going to be able to do this anymore!”.  I’m hoping that isn’t for another 25 years or so, but I guess we just don’t know.  The oldest grouse hunters that I’ve seen have been in their mid to late 70s, but that was 10+ years ago.  We’re the old hunters of our part of the world now.

With that being said, I bailed out of the last three mile push of the day all three days.  So when the guys went out on day two and Ryan brought back his third bird for the limit, it was a great feeling just to be there.  I don’t have a good idea of how many sharptailed grouse and prairie chickens I’ve taken out of those hills, but I’ve done it.  And it hope to do it again, but it just wasn’t this trip.

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Ryan and Fire with a limit of sharpies

Day three was at least a bit cooler.  At least the outside temperatures.  Let me just say that if you buy the Kindred Creamery Ghost Pepper Colby Jack Cheese, which is the hottest pepper cheese that I’ve ever eaten in my life, wait to eat it until you get home.  Don’t eat it during the hunt or you will regret it.

We went to the spot that we call “Lone Tree”, but the pasture with the lone tree and the grouse flock that we normally hunt had cows in it.  If there’s one thing that we’ve learned over the years is that the grouse don’t hang out with the cows.  So we tried a new dunefield.  And sure enough right when we got into it, a group of about ten got up at about 150 yards and sailed away.  We walked for another hour looking for them, but never saw them again.  The guys hit one more spot and Charles took a single with Ruth on retrieve.  It was the end of the trip and everyone was done posing for photos.

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Charles with some worn out dogs and a single.

Someone made a post on one of the Facebook bird hunting forums that three guys and three dogs had been in the Sandhills for three days and hadn’t seen a thing, so I feel lucky that we didn’t get skunked.  I hope that we get out chukar hunting in Nevada someday because I’d like to see how it compares to the difficulty of hunting sharpies in the Sandhills.  If it wasn’t for my bum foot, which is only impacting me at long distances, I’m really in the best shape cardivascularly that I’ve been in 10 years now that I work as a lifeguard part-time and swim a mile once or twice a week, then walk once or twice a week too.  The orthopedist said that it will take time to resolve, so I just need to be patient and keep training.

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“I’m getting skunked in the Sandhills”

Introduction to Iowa

There is a big swath of public swamp right on the other side of the Missouri River from where we live, so Charles decided to pick up an Iowa license and took Ruth over there a couple of days ago after work.  They managed to stir up a blue-winged teal and a dove.

Hunting Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Teal

Ruth in the back of the truck with an Iowa teal in her mouth

Hunt Test Pupdates

Congratulations to Brent Haefner and Bluestem Madeline the Huntress, NA III can now add a UT III to the end of her name.  They passed the very difficult NAVHDA Utility Test at the Minnesota Chapter Test recently with 174 points.  Brent said that the hardest part of the training was for the duck search, where the dog has to stay out in the pond for ten minutes swimming and searching for a duck.  Maddy is from our 2017 “M” Litter between Chief and Fire.

Brent and Maddy Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Bluestem Madeline the Huntress, NA III UT III and Brent

At the IllIowa Chapter test, Derek Gilsdorf and Bluestem Captain Augustus Mccraer “Gus” got it done in the NAVHDA Natural Ability Test, earning a Prize I 110 points.  Here’s Gus with his recent haul of teal down in Kansas.  He was from our surprise 2019 “P” litter between Zoro and Ruth.

Bluestem Gus Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Gus got the ducks

I love to hear news of our past puppies, but it is tough to stay in touch with 150 people (that’s why I have a blog).  Feel free to share your pup with us at bluestemkennels@gmail.com and I’ll be sure to share it with everyone here.

The Griffon that started it all…

Good old Sue is still out on the prairies of South Dakota doing her retirement thing at almost 17 years old.  She is the great-grandmother of our current female Ruth and the first Wirehaired Pointing Griffon that we ever owned.  It makes me happy to see her spending time with the family; her current mama Debbie is from Texas originally and moved to South Dakota to be a nurse on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation.

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Stan and old Sue

Up next

The hunt tests all have waiting lists these days, so it doesn’t look like we’ll be running Ruth here in a couple of weeks in AKC Senior Hunter like we had planned.  Charles will be back in the Sandhills for duck season in a few weeks and is headed up to North Dakota with our pal Aaron too.  I’m going to stay home with the kids and wait for Nebraska pheasant season to open on Halloween.

Obi went to the vet today to get his PennHIP x-rays.  He weighs 54 lbs and Dr. Arndt of Harvey Oaks Animal Hospital said that his hips look “terrific”.  That is such great news, so it seems like the stars are finally aligning for us to have a quality outside stud after seven years of trying.

We’ll check back in after Charles returns from North Dakota and see if he gets any interesting photographs.  And hopefully some birds and great outdoor experiences too.  Best wishes to everyone out there chasing their bird dogs around the wilds.

 

Obi’s Natural Ability Test

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I am planning a repeat breeding between Bluestem’s Prairie Fire, NA I and Bluestem Otoe Chief, NA II in the winter for spring 2021 puppies.  My reservation list is robust, but if you would like to be on the backup list in case there are more puppies than I have reservations, feel free to email bluestemkennels@gmail.com.

We really could not have asked for a better day at the Heartland Chapter NAVHDA Test on August 8th.  The predicted heat held off until we were finished and not only did we have the best results we could ask for, we had a surprise visitor.  Mack is a four month old puppy from “Chief” Bluestem Otoe Chief, NA II who had some litters with Coppershot Griffons in Iowa this year.  He really looks like a baby Chief!  Here he is on the left pictured with Obi on the right.

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Chief’s puppy Mack, left, and Obi on the right

A person really doesn’t know how well they scored until they get to the reading of the scores at the end of the day.  We started in the field and were about half way through the ten dogs, so there was lots of scent to throw things off.  We got in enough times pointing the birds to make the grade though.

The bird and dog photos are tough to catch, but I did manage to get one.  You can see the chukar flying off in the top right corner of the photo and Obi on point down in the bottom left.

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Obi stays steady as the chukar flies away

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Charles walks in on another intense point from Obi

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Obi on point

I was a bird planter during the field portion.

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The second portion of the test was the track.  It was difficult for me to see what was happening from my vantage point, but Obi must have tracked the bird successfully since he came back to Charles with a rooster in his mouth.

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Charles struggles to control Obi’s excitement as he jumps for joy over his rooster

We finished the day with the water retrieve.  Obi did fantastic on his two bumper swims.

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Obi bringing back the bumper

Last but not least was the evaluation of the attributes.  Everything looked great and he even has perfect teeth.

Senior Judge Chuck Casanova evaluates Obi’s teeth while Judges Bridget Nelson and David Hahn look on.

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Chuck Casanova looks at Obi’s teeth

We couldn’t be more proud.  Next up is Obi’s hip scan and getting some more age and wild bird hunting under his belt.

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Other than working towards the NAVHDA Natural Ability Test, we went out to the Sandhills for a coronacation around the 4th of July.  I got a couple of good shots of the dogs from that.

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Looks like Ruth is going to start making some attempts at AKC Senior Hunter at the end of September.  But of course right now we are looking forward to the beginning of hunting season Labor Day weekend.  We’ll get to chase sharptailed grouse, prairie chicken, dove, snipe and teal out in the Sandhills.

Let’s hope that this weather cools down and that we all have great success in the field in our tests and hunting.  Good luck to everyone out there working their dogs!

Gun Dogs Don’t Quarantine

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Homeschool is finally over and things are starting to open back up in the Omaha area.  The dogs and kids kept us plenty busy during the time that I’ve been away from the blog.  One of my cousins is a vegan cooking blogger (I know, it seems odd) and she was recently writing about how she has stopped apologizing for taking time away from her blog and not posting for a long time.  Writing and blogging takes time and energy, so when stuff is hitting the fan it goes to the back burner.  We are all healthy here and have just been staying home as much as possible.

A couple of brief shoutouts.  My “A” litter turned ten years old at the end of April.  I keep in touch with Whiskey out in Nevada and Winston in Colorado and they are both in good health.  Their mama Sue is sixteen years old and still hanging around a farmyard in rural central South Dakota.  Their sire Sam was killed in an ATV accident at his retirement home in Kentucky several years ago.

Congratulations to Bluestem Winchester “Chester” and owner Sal in New York on his NAVHDA Utility Prize I and being our first pup to qualify for NAVHDA Invitational.  He is from our “C” litter between Sam and Mae.  Mae recently passed at the age of fourteen at my brother’s house in Valentine, Nebraska.

Training

Luckily dog training is a pretty remote practice, so Charles has been able to continue to work with Ruth on whatever her next hunt testing steps may be.  Either AKC Senior Hunter or NAVHDA Utility Test.

He has also been doing obedience training around the house with the dogs.  This is a big help to me since I am still trying to get my youngest boy through online hunter’s safety and the older one through online driver’s education.

I don’t have photos from all of the training that he has been doing, but here are some field shots.  Obi is signed up to do his NAVHDA Natural Ability Test in August and seems ready to go.

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Obi on the run at six months

I feel so blessed that we got out to Wyoming in January to pick up Obi before all of this COVID-19 business got crazy.

Here’s Ruth and Charles working on backing or honoring with a dog dummy.  Backing or honoring is where there is a dog already on point (symbolized by the dummy) and the other dog has to come in and point behind the dog who is already pointing.  Some dogs naturally back but most need to be trained so that they don’t go past the dog who is already pointing and “steal the point”.

When Ruth does the process correctly, Charles launches the pigeon from the trap and shoots the bird, then she is allowed to retrieve it.

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Backing dummy on left, Charles center, Ruth on the right

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Charles shoots the bird

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Ruth brings back the retrieve of the pigeon

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Charles walking in on the bird while Ruth is pointing

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Ruth with another retrieve

Allie

Ruth’s sister Allie came up from Oklahoma in March where her original home wasn’t able to care for her any longer.  We worked with her for a couple of months to evaluate where she was with socialization and training.  We determined that she should be spayed and placed in an active companion home.  Although she has a great nose and point, her retrieve needed full force fetch training and she is too tall to be a breeding female.  I really didn’t want to have someone travel to come and pick her up, even though I know that I could have found a home quickly if I had put it on the internet.  By a stroke of luck, when I went to have her bloodwork done for her spay, I found out that one of my vets was looking for a dog to trail run with her.  So Allie is now home with Dr. Tucker.

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Allie on left and Ruth, right after Allie’s arrival

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From front to back, Allie, Obi, Ruth and Fire

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Two sisters: Allie and Ruth

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Allie after a full spring grooming

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Allie with Dr. Tucker, under the portrait of great-grandfather Sam

Having four dogs living in the house full time was not an ideal situation and is actually outside of the city ordinances of where I live had Obi been over 18 months old.  But luckily it was all resolved before we were in conflict with the law.  I really want to be here for my pups, but I cannot guarantee that I will always be in a position where I have the time or space to take one back.  But I will always help them find a new home if need be.

Other news

Charles got his first turkey.  He will be our fourth of July feast.

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Charles and a nice tom turkey

That is pretty much all of the news for now unless you want to hear about my battle with plantar fasciitis and how I’m having to re-tool all of my hunting footwear and pants.  I don’t think that is blog-worthy just yet, maybe when I get it all figured out and am successful back in the field.

Speaking of the field, countdown to about three months left before season.  I’ve been out of commission for the most part with health issues for two seasons now, so I’m itching to get back after it.

I’ll also sit down another day and write about our breeding plans for next year.  It would help if we had them all finalized too.

But good luck to everyone out there training and getting ready for summer and fall tests.  This plague really put the brakes on so many people’s testing schedules and our National Specialty has been cancelled this year.

Stay safe and healthy.

Fire’s Results

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I had Fire x-rayed a week ago today and there were no puppies.  Although we were disappointed, with the social distancing and travel guidelines in place currently this is the best year for it to happen.  It is easy to second guess myself about timing and wonder what went wrong. I will probably start using progesterone testing in some instances to target ovulation better.  I’ve had big litters on one accidental tie, then to have no puppies with two ties…I guess it just wasn’t meant to be this year.  Especially where I have future owners traveling from high infection areas and one who is even under voluntary quarantine due to being at an exposure site.  Omaha itself is a bit of a hotspot and we have none of our tourist attractions open or restaurants available for dine-in.

So we just keep training and hunting and testing and planning for 2021 litters.

I am also homeschooling my two boys right now and this week I am on my own designing curriculum.  Next week we should have some assistance from the district, but it will still be a lot of me.  I hope to get on the website and fix my old entries so people aren’t confused about puppies, but it will take some time.

Everyone stay safe and healthy.

Waiting for puppies and first birds

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If you would like to be placed on my contact list in the event that I have puppies available from this litter, feel free to email bluestemkennels@gmail.com.  I am confident that they are all currently reserved, but in the event of folk possibly backing out, I like to have a contact list to reach out to for additional interest.

Any day now for Fire going into labor, any hour actually.  I suspect that it is an average sized litter of four to eight puppies.  It doesn’t look like fourteen, but it looks like more than three.  I can feel them and see them, she is starting to get milk in her teats, so once they start making their way into the outside world I will keep my Facebook page up to the moment as much as possible.

Pregnant Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Pregnant Fire

You can see in the photo where she is starting to pull the fur out around her teats.  Some people shave them, but the puppies will take care of it on their own.

If you are on my list, do not panic if we don’t have your number of puppies.  Some folks want a specific gender or will decide at the last minute that the timing isn’t right for them.  Once they are whelped, it will take some time for me to get that all sorted out so just bear with me please.

This will be the seventeenth litter that I have whelped.  Even so, I am still anxious and excited.

First Birds for Obi

Charles has been working with all of the dogs on daily obedience exercises and getting Obi ready for his NAVHDA Natural Ability test.  We are talking about possibly doing it early, with a late spring test or a summer/fall test.  He has caught on to the drag track game.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Puppy Retrieve

“Obi” sixteen week old Wirehaired Pointing Griffon puppy retrieves a quail

While the dog is with a handler out of sight, we pull some feathers out of a dead quail and lay them in a pile, then drag the dead quail and hide it.  Then the handler brings the pup out of hiding to the feather pile and they track and retrieve the bird.

We also took Obi out with some live planted quail and the starter pistol.  This is not his first exposure to loud noises, we’ve been banging pots and pans since we got him and then shooting a kids cap gun while he’s playing after that.  He caught on to the excitement of flying birds very quickly.

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“First Flush” sixteen week old “Obi” Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

On the homefront, we think that we have pretty much conquered housebreaking.  He has chewed up a few things, but that happens with every puppy that we raise.  He sleeps through the night in his crate.  His favorite things to do are play-fight with Ruth and jump on Caleb (we are working on the “stay down”).  He is in good health at 25 lbs. and gets his rabies shot on April 1st, then look out world!  I look forward to taking him on walks in the Old Market (Omaha’s downtown entertainment district) and Charles can take him to NAVHDA training days with other owners and dogs.

That’s all of the dog news for now, but keep an eye on Facebook for when the puppies are being born.  And send up some doggie prayers for a safe and successful whelping.

Belated Valentine’s Day Greetings!

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As a native of Valentine, Nebraska I feel guilty for wishing you a belated Happy Valentine’s Day!  I was room parent for my son’s 5th grade class and I sent out Valentines instead of Christmas cards this year, so it was a busy week.

About two weeks ago my grandmother passed away, so saying goodbye to my last living grandparent has also taken time away from the business of dogs.  This picture was taken after a pheasant hunt in Cherry County, Nebraska near a former town called Simeon in 1940.  My grandmother Hope is second from the left with the big smile, my great-grandmother Gertrude is on the far right.

1940 Pheasant Hunt Simeon

1940 Cherry County Pheasant Hunt

Fire’s Pregnancy

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Bluestem’s Prairie Fire, NA I at four weeks gestation

Right at four weeks there is still not much to see of the pregnancy, but you can just start to tell that they are getting bigger.  Fire is normally pretty thin, but at this point she is fatter than Ruth who naturally carries more weight, so I’m feeling confident that the breeding “took”.  I expect puppies around the 10th of March.

Obi Update

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Wyo Quigley Pedigree_NEW

These are Obi’s dam and sire pedigrees with notes on them as to why I picked this puppy.  When I reference Sam, BB and Mae, those are some of my foundation dogs.  Some places I wrote the breeder’s name or the kennel name if it isn’t in the dog’s name.  It was an accidental litter, so the dam is young.  These are hunting dogs with no titles or health clearances.  I wanted to take a gamble on these pedigrees since I have lots of money on two male puppies whose parents had all of the bling who never panned out.  My first two Griffons were out of the same situation and were fantastic hunters who put out litters of healthy hunting pups.

I’m going to write something here about health clearances that isn’t a popular opinion.  Health clearances only cover that one dog.  The dog’s siblings could be expressing genetic health problems that you’d never know about.  It isn’t testing the dog’s genetic background, it is just testing the health of that one dog.  Additionally, there isn’t a health test to clear a dog for things like muscular tears, bitches who don’t lactate or can’t birth naturally, and bad temperaments.  So much really relies on the quality of the breeder and pedigree.  I know that my dogs are healthy because we hunt the heck out of them and they thrive.  If they had a heart or thyroid issue, it would show itself on its own and I’d stop breeding the dog immediately.  Anyway, that is my soapbox about the cult of health testing.  If the dog is a housepet who breeds, I can see how it would help sell puppies and seem very important.  But I don’t think it is the be all and end all of of evaluating dogs.

Obi is thirteen weeks old, he’s had his second round of shots, weighs about 22 lbs. and is being a typically slow Griff in housebreaking.  We are about 75% there, but we average about one accident per day.  He knows how to fetch, comes to his name, has done well with loud noise conditioning, is a total gentleman in the crate (not one accident ever!), uses his nose, points things he find interesting and is just a fun, spoiled Griff puppy!!

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Obi in the pack pile

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It took about two weeks for Fire to accept Obi

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Obi brought me a leaf

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How Obi enjoys our nightly anime watching with our boys

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Caleb with Obi hiking in the woods behing our house

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Obi learned the command “box up” from the big girls

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The silly old wing on a string is good for a sight point

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A cedar waxwing ran into our living room window and died, so it became a training dummy

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Obi’s first walk at our dog training wildlife management area

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Caleb, Charles and the dogs

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Obi falls behind at the end of the long walk like a normal little pup

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Obi eyeballs a bouncing tennis ball.

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Obi fetching the tennis ball.

I am really excited to watch this pup develop and turn out as a great hunting dog and eventually once he proves himself, stud for our program.

End of hunting season

Charles made it out a couple of more times after wild birds and he saw some, but none came home with him and the dogs.  We did go out on January 20th for another European tower shoot with Ruth.  It was in the single digits, so I’m dressed up in my walking sleeping bag.

Charity Upchurch and Ruth Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Charity in her insulated camo with Ruth

Charles Upchurch European Tower Shoot

Charles bundled up to gun

Ruth Retrieve Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Ruth retrieving a hen pheasant (legal at a preserve) that Charles shot.

It’s time for me to move on to returning emails and making phone calls to my prospective owners.  We are in the last throes of winter and soon spring and puppies will be here.  Hang in there and stay warm everyone!

 

Nebraska’s Late Hunting Season Surprises

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We’ve had a mating with two ties on Thursday and Friday of last week between Bluestem’s Prairie Fire, NA I “Fire” and Bluestem Otoe Chief, NA II “Chief”, so we’ll be expecting the arrival of puppies sometime between March 8 and 13, for homegoings eight weeks later around May 3 through 9.  This is all my calculations at this point and subject to change once the pups are actually whelped.  I currently have ten reservations with deposits, but feel free to e-mail bluestemkennels@gmail.com if you would like to be on our backup contact list in the event that a potential new owner drops out or if we have more puppies that I have reservations.

Nebraska Late Season Hunting Adventures, Part I

On a tip from a good friend we headed north a couple of weeks ago to make an attempt at pheasants and quail, and were pleasantly surprised.  There was 4-5 inches of hardpack snow throughout the fields with butt-deep drifts in places and the cover was pretty thick to begin with, so it was not easy walking.  Our first field we walked for a good half hour, seeing hundreds of pheasant tracks in the snow, but put up nothing.  Then we saw a couple of roosters get up way out of range and the dogs started pointing hens like mad.  There was one point of Ruth’s where she had the hen pinned on one side and I walked towards her nose and the hen almost hit me in the face when it flushed.  We probably got up seven hens in that field, but no roosters in range.

The second spot that we stopped at, a covey of quail got up in the wide open about 15 yards into the push, but I had no shot since they were all around Charles and he was uphill from me.  He took a quail out of the bunch and I’m pretty sure it was Fire on the retrieve.  We worked our way another 75 yards and there was this scrubby ditch full of plum thickets and gnarly burr oaks.  He got on one side, I was on the other and the dogs were really birdy as we pushed down it.  Charles said, “They’re both on point!” in a loud whisper.  Two or three roosters get up, Charles takes down one right by me, I unloaded both barrels on one flying at the edge of range and four more go soaring by me totally within range (of course my gun is empty and I can only watch), while a few more boil out of the shrubs going away from us.  I seriously think that there were nine roosters in that group and it was the biggest bunch that I have ever seen in my life in Nebraska.  Ruth picked up the rooster for Charles and we finished the circle on that field, seeing nothing else.

So at that point we were getting up on 11 AM, I’d already marched over five miles in the snow after not having hunted all season.  I had been so focused on swimming to train for my lifeguard test that I hadn’t been hiking or hunting.  Let me tell you that swimming and hiking/hunting do not use the same muscles at all.  Deciding to pick up hunting again at the end of the season was not optimal and I need to make sure to get after it right away in September if I want to have any success next year.

Charity Upchurch hunting

Charity with her skunked face on

The next spot that we hit was right by a busy road and I didn’t see any really scrubby parts of it, so I was like, “Nah, I’ll sit this one out for the next one.”  Charles worked his way over the hill for about 30 minutes and as he and Ruth were working their way back, I started taking pictures.  It was cold and I had taken my coat off, so I just snapped a few and jumped back into the truck.

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Charles walking in to Ruth on point on two roosters

It wasn’t two minutes later that two shots rang out and I saw the last pheasant go down.  Charles shot a double!  Once I talked to him about what happened I found out the Ruth retrieved the first one, which was hit hard, then dropped it because she wanted to go after the second one which wasn’t hit as hard.  They lost track of the first bird but Ruth was able to retrieve the second one to hand.  I saw that they were struggling to find the first bird since they had lost their place, so I let Fire out and she and I went to where they had taken the first shot and found the bird.  Charles had a limit of roosters and a quail by noon.  It was a long drive home and we had gotten up very early, so we called it a day.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Pheasant and Quail

Charles with a limit of roosters and a quail, along with Ruth and Fire

Although Charles had completed his Nebraska Upland Slam on his trip with his buddies out to the southwest, he didn’t have the photographic evidence to submit it.  So this was the photo that got him to finish the Nebraska Upland Slam for the season.

Charles Upchurch upland slam

Welcome Obi, Part I

Over the weekend we headed out to Wyoming to pick up our new male pup Obi.  In my next post I’ll take apart his pedigree to show you why I picked him for the next candidate for our stud dog.  Today I’ll just show you pictures.

Things you see in Wyoming:

Wyoming sign

The official welcome sign

Wyoming Welcome

The real welcome sign

Wyoming Vedauwoo

Someday I will hike in the Vedauwoo, but this weekend was probably my twentieth drive-by.

Traveling with Obi photos:

Bluestem Kennels Obi in car

On my lap

Bluestem Kennels Obi in crate

In the crate

Charity Upchurch Wirehaired Pointing Griffon bath

Charity giving Obi a bath at the hotel.  Photo by Charles

Wirehaired Pointing Griffons hotel

Ruth welcoming Obi into the pack at the hotel

Charles Upchurch Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Obi rolling down the road on Charles’s lap

Nebraska Late Season Hunting Adventures, Part II

On our way home from picking up Obi in Wyoming, Charles hit one spot for pheasants.  The weather was blowing in on Sunday, so we didn’t have much time.  We passed on the first spot that we drove by since it didn’t look right, but the second one that we pulled up to had all of the things that a pheasant would like in the cold.  A windbreak to the north, harvested corn on one side, baled hay on the other side and plenty of thick and tall grass cover in the sizeable field.  I wish that I had been running a video camera as I watched him walk away, because about 20 yards into his walk a beautiful rooster flushed and he took it down.  He only broke its wing and it was still running but Ruth got in there and snatched it up.

Nebraska Pheasant Hunt

They had a second rooster flush wild on the far side of the field but come back into the thick of the middle since it really had no place to go and it was starting to flurry a bit.  Both of the dogs locked up in a patch of old sunflowers and he was able to bring a second rooster home.

With the weather getting nasty, it was time to take a photo and get back on the road home.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Nebraska Pheasant

A couple of southern Nebraska roosters for Charles and the girls

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon First Pheasant Eight Weeks

Obi got to see his first rooster

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Eight Weeks

Obi and I ran around in the ditch while they were hunting

Welcome Obi, Part II

Bluestem Kennels Obi and Caleb

Caleb is glad to have a new pal

Obi at the vet

Obi meeting everyone at the vet

End of hunting season

The end of January marks the end of hunting season in Nebraska.  I have had a lot of distractions the last couple of years but plan to get back into the field with renewed vigor in September.  I think that Charles might get out a couple of more times and we’re going out to another European tower shoot on Monday, with me handling and Charles shooting.  Practicing shooting at the tower shoots and over the summer with his sporting clays and skeet makes all of the difference for him.  Hunting wild pheasants in Nebraska is tough and you have to be able to hit since there are not gobs of birds.

A few pics from our New Year’s Day walk:

Other random things

I am going to start the process of monetizing the blog and my YouTube videos.  I have the raw footage to make a grooming video, but it is going to take me at least four hours to edit and I need to figure out a compensation structure for my creations.  I want to keep my puppy prices in the affordable range so that real hunting families can adopt them.  But expect to see changes coming to the blog and our YouTube channel in the future.

I’ll make sure to keep you posted about the end of the hunting season and the beginning of our “Q” Litter of puppies.  Yes, that means that this is my 17th litter.  Who would have guessed that ten years later it would turn into this!

Stay warm.

Breeding Season: here with the new year!

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Please feel free to e-mail bluestemkennels@gmail.com if you wish to be on the contact list in the event that Fire has more puppies than I have taken reservations.  I currently have ten reservations for our Spring 2020 litter, but have had litter sizes up to 13-14 puppies in the past, so there may be an opportunity to get a pup from us this spring.

Charles Upchurch and Fire

Charles and Fire in Southwest Nebraska a couple of weeks ago.  Photo by Aaron Wimmer

One of my Christmas presents this year is that Fire’s heat cycle started on Christmas Day, so now it is countdown to ovulation and breeding sometime after the new year.  Luckily, Chief is just a twenty minute drive down the road so I can continue avoiding the reproduction vet and progesterone testing another year and just let my stud and dam tell me when it is time to get this done.  That has puppies being whelped in March and going home in May, just as I had wished for!  Send us some positive breeding vibes, I just got word that a top female in the breed reabsorbed her litter halfway through gestation and is very ill.  This process is not without risks and I feel incredibly lucky that everything has gone smoothly over the last ten years of breeding here.

Kyle and Chief

Kyle and Chief hanging out

A New Home for Ally

My second Griffmas miracle was one of Ruth’s sisters down in Oklahoma easily finding a new home.  I had originally thought to take her back, but there is just too much craziness around here as it is for me to take the time to retrain a dog right now.  Prior to putting it out to the general public, I asked my friends Jimmy and Sandi if they knew anyone who would want her.  They have Zoey, which is from my “E” litter in the way back, which was my last litter with Sam and Sue.  Come to find out, they had been thinking of adding to the dog family.  Ally went home with them yesterday, what a blessing for us all!  I can’t thank Jimmy and Sandi enough for helping me with this.  I want to make sure that my pups are all in happy homes throughout their lives and if anyone ever needs to re-home one of them due to life situation changes, I am here to help with the process.

Ally

Ally headed to her new home.  Photo by Jimmy Clark.

Southwest Nebraska Pheasant and Quail

Charles and Fire had a great trip to Southwest Nebraska with private land access at the beginning of December.  They had plenty of success, but when you send a guy out with his buddies on a hunting trip, the photography is pretty scarce.  The first day that he was out, I got a text at the end of the day saying that he’d had success and of course I asked for a photo.  This is what I got:

Cleaning Birds

Standing around the dumpster cleaning birds

That is never going to make it into Grey’s Sporting Journal, but I guess it is true to life.  At least a few days later he tried to clean the dumpster photo a bit (but still not up to artistic standards):

Birds

A lineup of roosters and quail on the dumpster

Finally someone must have heard my silent internal screams of angst and got a halfway decent action photo.

Charles Upchurch and Fire Action

Charles and Fire looking for birds.  Photo by Aaron Wimmer.

Fun was had by all, he got to eat bierocs (homemade runzas) and sauerkraut pizza (I guess it is good), get some good dog work in and spend time with some downhome rural Nebraskans.

The story about Fire from this trip that I hear over and over again is that there was one instance where she was retrieving a quail and totally locked solid on point on a hen pheasant.  It is always cool to see the instincts kick in like that.

European Tower Shoot

When you see the influenza maps of the US and Nebraska is in red, you had better believe it.  I have gotten sick more times this year than I have in a decade.  Guess we’ll be getting flu shots next year.  I was totally sick at the European Tower Shoot, but I went and handled Ruth anyway.  It was cool to watch her do 15 retrieves in a day.  It was our first time doing one and the way they work is that there are stations in a circle, sort of like a skeet range.  Except the circle is a few acres and is filled in with cedar trees in the middle so that people don’t shoot each other.  The birds are released from a high tower in the middle so that they fly over the trees and you shoot them.  Don’t tell PETA.  There were probably 75 pen raised birds who gave their lives for the sport that day.  It was a noble cause.

Charity Upchurch and Ruth European Shoot

Charity and Ruth in the shooting station

Charles Upchurch European Shoot

Charles in his European-style garb

Black Pheasant and Ruth

Ruth retrieving a black pheasant

Charity Upchurch Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

The traditional ringneck rooster retrieved by Ruth

That photo of Ruth and the ringneck is probably one of my favorite photos that I’ve taken in awhile.  I like the colors of the pheasant and the one eye of the dog.

Change of Seasons

I have some sad news to report.  Charles also took Zoro on the trip to Southwest Nebraska and it did not go well for him.  He collapsed in the field and we had to say goodbye.  We are not sure if it was an environmental poison or congenital defect, but something attacked his liver according to the tests.  It was the hardest on little Caleb, who loved Zoro very much.  We had high hopes for him and he leaves a hole in our breeding program.  Rest in Peace, Zoro.

RIP Stonyridge Zoro

Caleb and Zoro

Yet hope springs eternal and a new breeder has a male pup ready for us in a couple of weeks.  As of today, I want to register him as “Kenobi My Only Hope” and have the call name “Obi”, but we’ll see.  We want Caleb to name him.

The pedigree could not complement our breeding program any better.  He is the great-great grandson of “Mae” AKC/NAVHDA Little Lady Aspen, who is the mother of two senior hunters from our kennel.  The pup is also the grandson of a sibling of our foundation stud Sam’s sire.  He is also related to our foundation bitches Sue and BB.  I’ll post the pedigrees and show everything off in detail once he is in our anxious hands!

This will be our third attempt in the last five years at securing an outside stud dog.  We will have close to $10,000 wrapped up in having a stud of our own when all is said and done.  So when people wonder where the puppy money goes…yeah, it goes fast.  But we are passionate about continuing to improve this breed.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Pup

In the words of Princess Leia, “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope!”

Happy New Year everyone, and new decade depending on who you talk to.  Let’s make it a great one for the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon breed.  In the last few years, we’ve become the second most registered dog in NAVHDA behind the German Shorthaired Pointer.  Make these quality dogs, not just quantity.

 

Busy with Big Game

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Pheasant season here in Nebraska has been off to a slow start for us, with many of our usual haunts still underwater.  Charles has put an antelope and a deer in the freezer and he’s on the road again in search of another trophy mule deer buck in the Sandhills.

I have an idea of a few spots that I want to hit that aren’t underwater over the next few weeks, but I’m primarily focused on two boys in winter sports: one wrestles and the other one just started swim team. So the dogs and I spend an hour at the dog park a few days a week.  Here are some random fun shots of them (if you click on them, you can make them bigger).  It is good to get them out and socialized with other dogs and people.

I’ve had some questions asked by folks on the list for pups next year of when Fire is expected to come into season.  The earliest is around Christmas but it can be as late as Valentine’s Day.  So I’d say pups would be whelped between February and April and go home between April and June.  But those are all just guesses and we’ll have to wait for Mother Nature to tell me what is up.  I will let everyone know as soon as I know, I have yet to miss a breeding in the ten years that I’ve been doing this, so I’m feeling confident in my abilities to get this done.

We had our second female pup get an advanced hunting title recently (Bluestem Blooming Sunflower SH was our first female AKC Senior Hunter pup a few years back).  Bluestem TracHer out of our 2012 “C” Litter between Sam and Mae earned her AKC Senior Hunter over the fall.  Congratulations to Susan and Tom up in North Dakota for all of your hard work over the years to make this happen!

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Bluestem TracHer SH

That’s all for now, hopefully we’ll get you some bird photos before Thanksgiving!

Fall’s Abundance

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We are planning a litter of pups for Spring 2020 between Bluestem Otoe Chief, NA II “Chief” and Bluestem’s Prairie Fire, NA I “Fire”.  The reservation list is currently full, but feel free to email bluestemkennels@gmail.com if you would like to be placed on the contact list for in the event there are additional puppies.

Ruth (Bluestem Peaches En Regalia, NA I) won’t be bred until 2021, but we received her OFA Hip scan and it came back “Good”.

Ruth OFA

Currently the plan for 2021 would repeat my surprise breeding from last year, using Stonyridge Zoro as the stud.  His sire, Stonyridge Otis “Cooper”, is now VC Stonyridge Otis, NA II UT I.  For those of you who don’t speak hunt test alphabet, the “VC” stands for NAVHDA Versatile Champion, meaning that he passed the 2019 NAVHDA Invitational Test, the highest level test in the club.  In order to qualify for that, he recieved a Prize I on his Utility Test, the highest level in the adult hunting test.  The NA II means that he got a Prize II on his Natural Ability test, which needs to be completed by the age of sixteen months.  NAVHDA offers three open tests: the Natural Ability test, the Utility Preparatory Test and the Utility Test.  Each test has three levels of scoring with I being the highest and III being a pass.  The best way to learn about these tests is by attending a NAVHDA Handler’s Clinic near you.

General Dog Health Information Update

A few things that come up in conversation with my fellow dog breeders online that I feel like I should pass along.  This was a bad year for outdoor fungi and algae with dogs.  Blastomycosis (dirt fungi) and blue-green algae ravaged the country and had a big impact on hunting dogs training this year, with many deaths occurring.  Especially with first year pups, keep an eye on vomiting and lethargy and make sure to take it seriously and go to the vet.  The dog can be saved if steps are taken immediately.

Grain-free diets.  Just don’t.  Or if you do, it’s at your own risk.  The FDA has started the research to back up the numerous cases of dialated cardiomyopathy that veterinarians are seeing in otherwise healthy young dogs.

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Three Dog Day: Fire, Ruth (on top) and Zoro

Dead Bird Photos? Yes or No.

Scott Linden of the TV Show Wingshooting USA posed the question on his social media recently of whether or not dead bird photos are necessary or appropriate.  For people who operate hunting dog kennels they are mandatory.  We have to put birds in front of our breeding stock and our clients need to see that it is happening.  Right now, I am just not able to get away to get into the field to take live action hunting photos.  The time that I do get into the field, I want to spend hunting right now.  Once the boys are older, I will have more time for field photography, but for right now we have to settle for the dead bird photos.  So dead bird photos?  YES.

Snipe and Rail Hunt

Charles took Zoro just down southwest of where we live to a spot where we can reliably get into rail and snipe.  The birds are not much larger than your average tweety bird, so it is good pointing practice for the dog to get used to stopping on very little scent.  It is also a good way to work on preventing “hard mouth”, since the bird is very small and the dog has to hold it gently to bring it to hand.

We normally get into sora rail, which have the yellow triangular beak, but this year was the first time that we’ve taken any Virginia Rail.  They have the more reddish hooked beaks.

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Zoro and his snipe, with long beaks on left, and rails on right

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From left: three sora rail, four Virginia Rail, and six snipe

No Dogs Allowed: Sandhills Antelope 2019

Charles spent four days this week hunting antelope out in the Nebraska Sandhills.  He passed on some small bucks and settled on a doe.  We already have antelope horns on the wall, so the trophy pressure was not there.  He got to see lots of wildlife and some dumb grouse hunters (hint: sharptailed grouse and prairie chickens are not in the trees).

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The smaller antelope bucks that he passed on.

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The gun perspective, he likes to belly crawl in close

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His classic gun and big game photo

Sandhills Ducks and Grouse

Yesterday he finally got out with the dogs and chased some birds around.  It sounds like Ruth had an adventure with one of those ducks going down still alive and swimming under a muskrat mound to get away.  But she was able to dive down to grab it.  I wish that I had been there to see it, I always love to watch the dog work a duck retrieve like that. (Somebody didn’t wash the antelope blood out of the truck bed, sorry about that.  Gross.)

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Ruth with two mallard hens and two snipe

Fire and Charles did get into some more grouse and prairie chickens but with Fire being a little out of practice, there were a few slow points with wild flushes and birds flushing on the edge of range.  But a prairie chicken in the bag is better than nothing.

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It sounds like that he is out again this morning, so there may be additional photos to tack on to this post as the day progresses.  He drives back home tomorrow and then we wait for pheasant season to open up here.

My favorite pheasant spot is along the river and is probably going to be flooded out this year, so I’m most likely going to be working my way south and west of here looking for quail and pheasant while the kids are in school.

Happy hunting for those of you out in the fields this fall.  We are truly blessed to have well-managed public lands available to us all around the country.  I hope to see more of them in the future once the boys are grown, but for now I’ll just get out when and where I can and watch everyone else get the rest of it done on social media.

 

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