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2021 Puppies on the way

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We have a litter due to be whelped the first week of February between Bluestem’s Prairie Fire, NA I and Bluestem Otoe Chief, NA II.  I currently have ten reservations with deposit and a backup contact list in the event that anyone decides not to take a pup this year.  Should you wish to be included on this contact list, please email bluestemkennels@gmail.com.  Our pups are placed in hunting homes only and need to be picked up at our residence at eight weeks of age, air cargo is no longer available.

I took Fire down to Hillcrest Animal Clinic in rural Lincoln, Nebraska a couple of weeks ago to have an ultrasound to confirm pregnancy.  They saw 12-15 embryos in there!  Whether they all turn into viable puppies is a mystery, it is not unusual to have a couple of stillborns or one or two that are born alive who fail to thrive in the first week or so.  But it was fun to find out two weeks earlier than usual that she was indeed pregnant and it is something that I plan on continuing in the future.

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Fire getting her ultrasound

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View of the pups

There is no mistaking now that Fire is pregnant!

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Fire eating at six weeks along

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Fire flopped out with a full belly

Late Season Hunting

Charles has been staying busy in the field while I’m trying to finish healing a torn up right foot from a year ago.  My goal for 2021 is to swim 100 miles (I’m on mile 5), so I’m hoping that by grouse season in September I’ll be ready to rock and roll again.  I don’t walk with a limp and really only start to have pain when I get up in the 10,000 step range, but that is a normal day in the bird field.  My oldest son is at the end of his high school career and the beginning of his life in the work force, so I stay plenty busy keeping him and his younger brother (who starts middle school in the fall) on track.  I figure that as long as I stay in shape that I have the rest of my life to bird hunt, but only have a few more years with kids in the house.

The neighbor Sam and Charles headed over to close out Iowa’s hunting season with some success.  Compared to southeastern Nebraska, which hasn’t had a decent pheasant population since the nineties, it is a paradise!  I’m going to have to think about getting an Iowa license in the future.  We think that it is just the difference in terrain and agricultural practices.  Southeast Nebraska is flat enough that you can farm it fenceline to fenceline with no scrubby borders like pheasants need.  Iowa has more hills and draws, so you either have terraces that have the lip on the end that you can’t hit with a tractor, or just naturally occuring draws and creeks with the thick cover.

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Obi our Griff and the neighbor’s DD Elsa with an Iowa quarry

Last Friday, Charles and friends braved the blizzard in Eastern Nebraska to head out to the southcentral part of the state to see if there were any birds left from the last time.  There were plenty of cars in the ditch and going off into the ditch between Omaha and York, but things were clear sailing by the time that they got past there.

It was a long Saturday hunt walking nine miles for the people and far more for the dogs, but with plenty of success.  Obi is getting lots of good practice running down and retrieving poorly hit birds that are still alive.  No offense against the shooters, it is just that the pheasant is a tough bird and can take some pellets.  The dogs really have to work some thick tumbleweed cover and it is very dry out that way (a town almost burned down from a prairie fire last week and had to be evacuated at 4:30 AM).  I am really proud of their hard work on these wild birds in wild country.

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Obi, Ruth and the southcentral Nebraska birds

This old bird caught Charles’s eye and I thought that it looked like Gonzo from The Muppet Show.

The neighbor is trying to get his DD certified in fur, so we’ve been trying to live trap a raccoon, but ended up with an oppossum instead.  He was happy to play dead while Obi fetched him (the oppossum was not injured and lived to see another day).

Obi Possum

Obi and his oppossum

So I’m now on puppy watch and we’ll see if Charles takes these last couple of weekends of Nebraska bird season off (ha) or not.

It is easiest for me to keep my Facebook page up-to-date, so keep an eye on that for when the puppies start to arrive!  I’m expecting them sometime between January 30th and February 5th, but the Good Lord and Mother Nature will let me know when it is time.  Keep us in your good thoughts for a safe delivery.

The End of 2020!

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Breeding Announcement

My reservation list for this litter is currently full, but if you wish to be on the backup contact list in the event of someone dropping out or us having more puppies than reservations, please e-mail bluestemkennels@gmail.com.

We had four ties between AKC/NAVHDA Bluestem Otoe Chief, NA II and Bluestem’s Prairie Fire, NA I between Wednesday, December 2nd and Saturday, December 5th.  When Fire and I went back to see Chief on Sunday, December 6th neither he or Fire showed any interest in continuing, so we assume that step one was completed.  I am hoping that she retained the pregnancy, but after last year (two ties and zero puppies) I am not taking any chances.  Fire and Chief had two litters previous to last year, so we know that it is possible, but for whatever reason the pregnancy didn’t come to fruition last year.  So Fire and I are heading down to rural Lincoln on Monday to Hillcrest Veterinary Clinic to have an ultrasound to confirm pregnancy.  I am pretty old fashioned, so this is my first time having a female ultrasounded to confirm pregnancy at 30 days.  I am excited to see how the process works and hope that we get the results that we are anxiously anticipating!  If things are going as planned, puppies will be whelped at the beginning of February and go home at the beginning of April.

God Must Need Griffonniers

2020 was the worst year for losing breeders of the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon.  I just got the news yesterday that Rob Garity of Pennsylvania, founder of Flatbrook Sporting Dogs (now operated by Dick Byrne) passed.  I had never met him, but really feel the urgency of continuing with our work when we’re losing so many good people.

Chuck Speiss was half of ChuKar Kennels in Michigan along with his wife, Karen.  They never missed a national specialty, here he is pictured in 2014 in Maine.  He handled in the field and Karen in the show ring.  He was very generous with the AWPGA (American Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Association) in that every year he made a metal Griff yard art sculpture.  We’ll miss him.

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Chuck Speiss, far right, chatting with the Terrys

We also lost the best groomer in the breed, Claudette Blackburn, who was half of Elevage Des Battures in Quebec, Canada.  She handled in the ring and Dominic Brisson handled in the field.  I’m sure that Dominic will miss her expertise in his kennel and we’ll all miss her knowledge and passion for the breed.  Her male Bayou made the cover of NAVHDA’s Versatile Hunting Dog magazine for his influence on Wirehaired Pointing Griffons.  I was lucky enough to meet her and learn from her at the grooming seminar at the 2014 Maine Specialty.  See you at the big Griff party in the great beyond, Claudette.

Claudette Blackburn

Claudette Blackburn showing Ron Granai how to groom the head

Life Goes On

I promised to post pictures of Chief since he moved in with Kyle in November 2018.  He is the father of Ruth and so we didn’t want to have any father-daughter accident litters.  (I am still flabberghasted at the handful of “oops” litters I’ve had from one tie and then no puppies from two intentional ties last year.  But I guess it was my turn of having bad luck breeding after ten years of nothing but good.)

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Fire, BB and Chief, North Dakota 2015

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BB, Chief, and Fire, again North Dakota 2015

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Chief in Downtown Omaha, Summer 2016

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Chief, BB and Fire hanging at the lake, Summer 2016

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Chief and Fire, North Dakota 2017

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Chief going home with Kyle, November 2018

Chief is also immortalized in my entryway over my leash hanger in a painting by my cousin Sierra Furtwangler, check out her Etsy shop https://www.etsy.com/shop/UnFckedFabricOmetry

Chief Entryway

Psychedelic Chief Retrieves a Pheasant by Sierra Furtwangler

End of 2020 Hunting Update

Charles keeps busy in the field while I mainly stay home finishing up unpacking from our move (yes, it was two years ago but we are still unpacking) and overseeing the tile project in the kitchen, bathroom and bar (about 400 square feet overall).  We started the tile project the day after Thanksgiving and we have to be done by the beginning of February in the event that we have puppies!

He headed up the Sandhills at the beginning of November for deer season, stopping for a brief hunt with Obi, Fire and Ruth in Northeast Nebraska.  He only hunted one small area but got into both quail and pheasant successfully!

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Northeast Nebraska mixed bag in November

He also got a nice muley buck in the Sandhills on opening day on public land.  It was the busiest he had seen the area in years with Nebraska being one of the few states without massive COVID restrictions.  License plates were spotted from all over the nation and trucks were everywhere, so the pressure was on to drop something as soon as possible because there might not be anything left in the area on day two.

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Charles’s 2020 Nebraska Sandhills Mule Deer

The weekend after Thanksgiving Charles took our youngest son Caleb and our youngest dog Obi on a European tower shoot.  It was a great opportunity for Obi to get into lots of retrieves and Caleb to get some more dog handling experience.  The pheasants that were shot on this trip by Charles and his friends were turned into fried pheasant fingers for our New Year’s Eve celebration.

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Eleven-and-a-half year old Caleb and one year-old Obi

Then at the beginning of December while I was getting Fire bred, Charles met up with a gang in south central Nebraska to chase some pheasants and quail on some private land.  He said that it was very thick cover with lots of birds hiding out in little draws and creekbeds.  Obi let a lot of the older dogs do a lot of the work, but he kept up, worked cover and had some good moments.  Ruth was a workhorse.

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The bird gang with Ruth and Obi

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Bird haul from the last day in south central Nebraska with Obi and Ruth

He’s also been getting out with the dogs and our neighbor who has private access in Iowa.  Iowa is visible from our house, so it is not that far away to get into some good spots.  Sam has a nice little Deutsch Drahthaar, a breed that the genetics of the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon contributed to.

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Charles with Ruth (in the dark), Sam with Elsa the Deutsch Drahthaar

Home Life

Griffons don’t just get it done in the field, when properly exercised they are relaxed in the home and fun company.

The dogs and Charity Upchurch

Charity with Fire, Ruth and Obi

Obi Ruth and Fire

Obi, Ruth and Fire

Fire and Ruth

Fire and Ruth

Pupdates

I have a couple of hunting pupdates.  Here’s Bluestem TracHer SH, NA III having fun up in North Dakota with Susan and a rooster retrieve.  She’s from our 2012 “C” Litter between Sam and Mae:

Bluestem TracHer 2020

Bluestem TracHer SH, NA III

Here’s Han from our surprise K litter between BB and Chief in 2016.  Picking up a pintail duck water retrieve in Missouri for Mark.

Han K Litter

Bluestem Han

We love to hear from our puppy owners, keep sharing the photos!

From our family to yours, best wishes for a 2021 filled with adventures and good health.  We hope that you all had a quiet and healthy holiday season full of good cheer.  We’ll keep you posted to new developments in the coming weeks.  Praying for puppies!

October 2020 Hunting Recap

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For those of you looking for puppies, we are planning one litter in the Spring of 2021 between Chief and Fire.  I consider the reservation list full, but we may get a surpise with more puppies than reservations.  Feel free to shoot me an email at bluestemkennels@gmail.com if you wish to be on the backup contact list.

In Memoriam

The Wirehaired Pointing Griffon world recently lost two special breeders, Jan Resler of Potowotomi Kennel in Wisconsin and Philippe Roca of Des Vignes Rouges Kennel in Kentucky.

Jan was a strong woman with an intense passion for the breed.  She bred, trained, showed and hunted Griffs and excelled at all of it.  She and her dog Amstel won Best of Breed at the 2013 National Specialty and I captured this shot of her celebrating by drinking some wine from the trophy!  I thought that photo really represented her fun-loving spirit.  We shared many good times all over the country at Griffon events.  She is missed by many.

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Jan Resler celebrating Best of Breed

Philippe was our American breed ambassador to France and cannot be replaced.  When I was editor of the breed club magazine, he called me at least twice a month to talk about Griffons.  We worked intensely on a few of his articles together that really captured some important breed history from Europe.  I am so glad that I had the opportunity to help clarify his vast knowledge of the breed.  A native of France, he felt most at home on his sheep farm in Kentucky.  He told me many tales of how he incorporated dog training into everyday farm life.  I promise that I will learn French when my kids graduate, Philippe.

A side note to this photo by Barbara Young, is that the dog in the photo is Owen des Dunes du Captelat, our foundation female Sue’s grandfather and also in our new male Obi’s pedigree.

Philippe and Owen

Philippe Roca and Owen by Barbara Young

October Hunting Sandhills and North Dakota

October was a whirlwind of activity with Charles on the road hunting and I’m back in the classroom substitute teaching middle school.  Not two weeks before the district asked me to come back, I told another substitute that I’d probably never go back into education!  But here I am and it’s keeping me active.  But it does keep me distracted from hunting and blogging.  Luckily, Charles can’t seem to stay out of the field so the dogs get plenty of action.

The COVID is even impacting hunting, one of Charles’s hunting buddies ended up in quarantine due to his daughter testing positive and missed out on the trip to North Dakota, so it just seems to be more and more pervasive.

Before Charles made it up to North Dakota, he stopped by the Nebraska Sandhills for a few days of hunting.  The entire trip was warm, but the dogs held up throughout.  In the beginning, he only had one or two at a time out of the box to keep their competitive energy in check.  This photo is from the first morning on October 7, with our friend Ryan joining him on sharptailed grouse.

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Obi and Ruth with Charles and Ryan’s sharptails

Later on that afternoon, they took Ruth out again for some duck jump shooting.  The toughest thing about jump shooting ducks is keeping the dog on “heel” so that they aren’t running and swimming ahead and busting up ducks out of range.  It was good to see our usual creek produce yet again.

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Ruth and some jump hunted Sandhills ducks

The second day of Sandhills hunting, Obi was the star with Charles’s first limit of snipe in his hunting career.  This is impressive to me since I have shot at probably 100 snipe in my hunting life thus far and I’ve never hit a single one of them.  Snipe hunting really tunes in the dog’s pointing and retrieving skills because they are such a small bird to scent to both point and locate to retrieve.

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Obi with Charles’s first snipe limit on October 8

The day of October 9th was spent driving from Nebraska to North Dakota and getting set up in the house with the other guys.  I don’t know their names and they never make an appearance in any of the photos, so I apologize that they sort of get left out of the whole story.  They are a part of the harvesting though, so not all of the North Dakota birds were taken by Charles, but the dogs did get to do all of the pointing and retrieving which is what is important to me.

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Ruth, Obi and Fire with the mixed bag from October 10th in North Dakota

NoDak Landscape

North Dakota landscape photo by Charles Upchurch

By the time Sunday, October 11th rolled around, the dogs were worn down enough to have all three running at once.  All of the crops were harvested in that area of NoDak, so it made for some fun cattail hunting.  It is hard work for the dogs busting through dried cattails, but at least you know where the birds are hiding out.

NoDak mixed bag Oct 11

The October 11th game bag

You can also tell that Charles is starting to get a little tired because he isn’t posing the dogs for photos for a couple of days!  He said that the dogs would be tired and sore at night, but when the tailgate dropped the next morning that they were ready to go to work again.

NoDak mixed back Oct 12

October 12th NoDak game bag with dogs boxed

Photo short a rooster Oct 13

Fire, Obi and Ruth with the final day’s mixed bag in North Dakota, October 13

It wasn’t the best year he’s ever had in North Dakota, but it wasn’t like the last time that he and I went up there in 2017 either.  2017 we hardly got into anything and some days we got skunked.  At least this year there was game in the bag every day.  I really appreciate the other gents who were there to help put birds in my dogs’ mouths.

Back Home

The weekend after Charles and the dogs returned from their big trip, he and Ruth hit a local swamp and got two teal and a snipe.

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Ruth with two teal and a snipe in southeast Nebraska

Most exciting of all is Caleb’s first roosters at the Nebraska Youth Pheasant Hunting opener the weekend before Halloween!  Charles said that there were gobs of roosters flushing everywhere and Caleb was just blasting and they were falling down.  There are miracles in hunting, I’ve seen it.  And Obi just really loves Caleb, so this photos is just perfect.  They also had one taken by Nebraska Game and Parks, so keep an eye out in Nebraskaland and you might see him.

Caleb Youth Hunt Obi

Eleven year old Caleb with his first two pheasants.  Obi on retrieve and kiss.

In Closing

Write about one trip and get ready for Charles to go on another soon.  Deer hunting is just around the corner and he is taking the dogs to hit some fields on the way.

We got Obi’s Penn HIP results back and the doctor said that they are the best sporting dog hips that he’s ever seen.  Greyhounds have the best hips all-breed and the vet said that is where Obi’s are.  Just off of the charts.  I am working with a new scanner and will get those ready for my next post.  But great news.

The weather is finally cooling off and I’m thinking about getting out for some roosters and quail myself after rifle deer season ends.  It also sounds like I’m getting roped in to handling Obi with Caleb at a European tower shoot at the end of November.

We’ll see what all of this brings.  After Thanksgiving we are having our kitchen and main level bathroom floor torn up to replace the dying pergo with porcelain tile, so that will be an event.  At the same time we’ll be tearing down a gazebo in the backyard that will be replaced with a dog kennel set-up.

Oh speaking of dog kennels, one last thing.  My worst nightmare happened to someone else. Desbattures Benelli Bro, NA II UT II was stolen from his kennel at the Wild West Lodge in Grenville, South Dakota.  Owned by Coppershot Griffons Cliff Koele but used as a guide dog by the John Andersen of the lodge.  Bred by Dominic Brisson and Claudette Blackburn of Quebec, Canada.  He is very special breeding stock for Griffons in the Great Plains of the US and he needs to come back!  Reward offered, please contact Wild West Lodge or Cliff Koele on Facebook with any leads.  Look at other people’s trucks while hunting, like if they have a mess of mutts and this guy.  Or if you use any guides in the Dakotas.  He could be anywhere at this point.

Desbattures Benelli Bro

STOLEN: Desbattures Benelli Bro

 

 

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.

First Flush - Hunting Wirehaired Pointing Griffon (2)

“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

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Four Weeks Pregnant

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.

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