“M” Litter 3 weeks

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At this time, all puppies are spoken for.  Email me at bluestemkennels@gmail.com if you are interested in being placed on the back up list should someone decide that they are not able to take a pup.

The puppies are up and on the move and their eyes and ears are open!  It is time to start supplementing their nursing with puppy food and I’ve already started weaning them from extra heat in the garage.  The daytime high temperatures are going to consistently be above 60 degrees going forward and it is time for them for more fresh air and sunshine.  I have been leaving the garage door open when it warms up enough, but it just doesn’t get enough breeze and sun to leave them in there any longer than needed.

Here is this week’s video: https://youtu.be/oIgXUXSG7-8


Fire wondering what I am doing

Individual photos and litter names:

2 males

Malcolm, male


Malcolm, male


Malcolm, male

Macduff, male


Macduff, male


Macduff, male

5 females

Madeline, female


Madeline, female


Madeline, female

Madame Defarge, female


Madame Defarge, female


Madame Defarge, female

Margaret, female


Margaret, female


Margaret, female

Mildred, female


Mildred, female


Mildred, female

Medea, female


Medea, female


Medea, female

Thanks everyone for checking in, talk at you in a week!


M Litter 2 Weeks Old!

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All of the puppies are spoken for at this time, please email bluestemkennels@gmail.com if you wish to be placed on the backup contact list should anyone back out.

The puppies are getting bigger, their eyes are starting to open and they are beginning to scoot about the box more and more.  They have moved out of my laundry room into my garage kennel, where they and mom all have more space.  The garage kennel is a 5 foot by 10 foot kennel with a 5 foot by 5 foot wooden whelping box with cedar chips.  The area is heated by both a space heater and a heat lamp.  Fire (mom) also has enough space to take a break from the puppies if she needs to, in addition to being let into the yard every few hours.


Chowing down


Fire and pups

With the puppies’ eyes all open next week, we’ll be ready for litter names and individual photos for the puppies!

Here is this week’s video: https://youtu.be/AqntlmaHFaA

“M” Litter 1 week old

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As promised, here are the updated photos and a YouTube video of the puppies!  Not much going on at one week old. https://youtu.be/lr5WDnCvg5E


Welcome “M” Litter!

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At this time all of the puppies are spoken for, but feel free to email bluestemkennels@gmail.com to be put on the backup list.

This litter was planned for next year, but I was down with a knee injury late November through early December, so the kids and husband were taking care of the dogs.  Fire was in heat and someone wasn’t paying attention.

9 puppies were born on Wednesday, January 25th and I lost a couple the first day (which is typical) so now I have 7 fat healthy puppies.  Two males and five females.

I am working throughout the day on getting updated pictures and a video (sorry new owners, I know I was supposed to do it yesterday but I got busy), but here is the pic of right after they were born with mama and at the vet before getting tails and claws done.


Fire and the newborn puppies


1 day old at the vet

You will be shocked to see how much they have grown in a week!  Back to work, so I can get you some updates!

Winter Update 2017

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The short story is that I (Charity) have been rehabbing a knee injury, we have two kids in winter activities, I currently have no kitchen and am managing a remodel, and Charles has been busy at work.  So the hunting has been limited lately.  Charles and the dogs did get out for a local rooster on December 4.


Charles and his rooster


Everyone have a safe and prosperous New Year.  Time to start planning gardens and dog training drills for when this weather breaks.

Hunter’s Moon: Nebraska and North Dakota

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Hunter’s Moon over North Dakota on October 15

The time has passed so quickly recently and I have neglected the blog so much.  Following our travels, the specialty issue of the Griffonnier was due and we began a full teardown of our kitchen (in addition to normal mom and substitute teacher duties).  But enough with the excuses.

Nebraska Sandhills duck, October 8-9

When covering Montana in my previous, I mentioned that they had some really swanky gate latches and I promised to show you a Nebraska Sandhills stick and wire latch.  Here is a prime example.


Sandhills stick and wire gate latch

Charles had a great opening day of duck in the Nebraska Sandhills, all the way back on October 9th now.  Here was his duck total at noon:


A green-winged teal, two blue-winged teal and a hen mallard

One of the highlights of the morning was on our very first jump, Charles shot one of the teal and Chief got in his first wild duck water retrieve.  This is something that I worked on extensively over the summer and felt quite a bit of pride in the fact that even though I didn’t shoot the duck, I had done the work to get the dog in the water and retrieve the duck.

The low point of the day was when we snuck up behind a flock of about 15 blue-winged teal at a beaver-dammed creek: Charles was on the far side of the creek about 25 feet away from the flock and I was literally about 10-15 feet behind them when they got up from the water.  I could see the detail of their wing feathers.  Both of us blasted directly at them and not a single duck came down.  We have never had anything like that happen before, it seemed to almost defy the laws of physics that every single pellet from four of our shots at that close range missed.  I am not sure what we did to make the goddess of the hunt angry, but she sure showed it there.

I believe Charles may have added a snipe or two to his end-of-day total, but I do not remember exactly now so far out.  I need to start carrying a notebook when I know that when I get home that I’ll be too busy to blog for awhile.


Charles and Chief in the Sandhills


Charles and the dogs at the end of Saturday

I told my 15 year-old daughter Cordelia on Sunday morning that, “Something is going to die today”.  I was desperate to get on the board.  Charles and I worked this network of ponds and swamps, we were probably 100 yards apart at times.  I heard him shoot.  He had all of the dogs with him and I strolled up on a little patch of swamp, where a dumpy little sora rail got up and flew.  I let loose with both barrels and saw it drop.  But it was in the swamp and I had no dogs.  So I start yelling to Charles and the dogs, not realizing that they were on the other side of an impenetrable swamp.  Charles made the gutsy move to try and walk across the swamp, ending up butt deep in goo and cussing the universe.  I was able to get my best sora dog, BB, from him (mid-fit) and sent her out on a blind retrieve for it.  It took her a couple of loops through that patch, but she found it in short order.  I figured that I had walked 40 miles so far in the season for that darned sora.


Charity, BB and the prized sora rail

I don’t actually recall the exact chain of events that unfolded to bring Charles to this total, but it looks like he ended up with 2 teal and another hen mallard on the day.  If memory serves, the two hen mallards are the most mallards that he’s ever taken on the opening weekend trip.


North Dakota: October 15-19

I am just going to do a high-level overview of our North Dakota trip, as it is difficult to do a daily blow-by-blow since I didn’t write anything down.  It is easy for me to recall my highlights of the trip, so I apologize to my hunting buddies, Charles and Lou, for getting a bit of storytime neglect here.  But they do get lots of photos.

The first spot of the first day produced for us all.  I took the first bird of the trip, a Hail Mary shot on a blue-winged teal.  It sailed for a ways in the tough winds, over a hill and into the water of a little pond.  I thought that we would never find it.  Luckily, Charles’s keen eyes spotted it floating behind some tall cattails in the pond.  The wind blew it back into shore and Charles was able to shoot a swatter round to get Chief to do a duck search.  What great NAVHDA Utility Test training.  He did find my duck and brought it in.  So exciting!

We had neglected this one tuft of cattails after working this whole waterfowl production area, so we swept back around with the dogs and checked it out.  We are all standing around chatting as Lou’s dog, Midge (Bluestem’s Big Sky Rendezvous CGC, NA I from Sam and Mae’s “F” Litter 2013) was working it and got up a rooster.  At that point we realized that the pond in the middle was dried up and began working it seriously.  Lou got a rooster shortly thereafter and Charles was soon to follow.

I feel the need to back up here to introduce Lou.  He and Charles hunted deer together as teenagers in the Catskills of New York.  After a stint as a wildland firefighter in Alaska, then as a scientist in New York Dept. of Environmental Quality, he made his way to Montana.  He is currently a hydrologist for the Montana DEQ, along with still fighting fire for their DNR, and co-owner of Vigilante Griffons with his wife, Lindsay http://www.vigilantegriffons.com/.  I never thought that I’d hunt with someone who is an equal shot to Charles, but he is.  He and Charles are also fabulous camp cooks, so I was pretty spoiled with my only camp task being to occasionally sweep the cabin floor.  Almost positive that we’ll see him again in the hunting fields, as we all had a great time.

Either way, we ended our first day with me with the one teal, Charles with a limit of three rooster pheasants and Lou with two.


Lou, Charles and I with the dogs and the first day’s birds

The second day was a really long day, I know that Charles ended up with a limit within the last hour of the day and Lou got two.  Still nothing but hens were getting up in front of me.

Tuesday the 18th presented us the opportunity to hunt with my co-breeder Aaron, and our co-bred pup Chewie (Bluestem’s Chewbacca, aged 5 months).  For a little pup, it sure kept up for a long morning hunt!  They boys all took birds out of the morning field and we got a cool pic with lots of griffons.

4 griffon owners, 7 griffons, one hunt in North Dakota. Lou Volpe of Vigilante Griffons with 5 year old Midge (Bluestem Big Sky Rendevous CGC, NA I), and 11 year old Murf. Aaron Klusmire, my co-breeder, with 5 month old Chewie (Bluestem Chewbacca) rolling on the ground. Me with 6 year old Velma (De Jac’s Zip A Dee Doo Dah, NA I) and 1.5 year old Chief (Bluestem Otoe Chief, NA II). My husband Charles Upchurch with 5 1/2 year old BB (Bourg-Royal CB Bluestem JH, NA I UT III) and 2 year old Fire (Bluestem Prairie Fire, NA I).img_0631

The total on Tuesday was Charles with two, Lou with one and I was still skunked.


Tuesday morning’s North Dakota rainbow

Wednesday morning was cold and I bundled up tight.  We went to the spot that we call the “honey hole”.  I had a rooster fly close over my left shoulder, but I was too stoved up to get a good shot.  I ended up blocking one side of the cattails while Lou, Charles and the dogs worked towards me.  I marked where two roosters landed, then waiting for the guys to get with me.  Lou and his pack worked the east side of this clump of cattails and bushes, while Charles and I worked the west.  I turned to Charles and said, “They’re right here”.  No sooner did I turn back around, but a rooster got up about 5 yards in front of me.  I let it get up and moving, focused on leading the head of the bird, and dropped it with one shot to the head.  It was super exciting and Fire got right in on the retrieve, but had a hard time pulling it out of the tangle of dead branches.

I came out of that spot with one and Lou had two.  I was tired, so I sat next to a pond for the last spot of the trip.  Both Lou and Charles limited out in a short while and we headed back to camp to prepare to head for home.


Me and my rooster of the trip


Lou and his last day’s limit


Charles and his final day’s limit

We came home to Halloween and deer season, where Charles yet again took a nice muley buck a couple of weekends ago.  We are deep in the throes of this kitchen remodel and don’t really have any firm plans upcoming to get out.  I’m sure we’ll chase some Nebraska roosters and quail here someday soon, but you’ll just have to check back to see.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!  So much to be thankful for in this land of bounty, especially to the First Nations peoples who welcomed the Europeans so kindly in the beginning, much to the misfortune of their future.  God Bless America.

Playing Catch-Up: Pupdates, Montana and Birds (or lack thereof)

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It has been a whirlwind around here, breaking down from the Montana trip that we returned from a week and a half ago and amping up for big duck opener for the high plains region of Nebraska this weekend.

Just some general notes, if you are looking for a puppy, I am not going to be breeding again until Spring 2018, when I have two litters planned.  Please e-mail bluestemkennels@gmail.com with questions on that.  Also, I’m a couple of weeks behind on answering e-mails so be patient with me please.

I was meaning to post this on another entry, but happened to think about it today since I’d noticed that folks had been hitting up the site quite a bit over the last few days.  Did you miss me?  Aw, that’s sweet.  Thanks.  I wanted to show you the stats from 2015, as far as the reach of this blog.

There was an old bookstore in Brownville, Nebraska by the name of the Antiquarium.  It was an early 20th century high school gym filled floor to ceiling with books.  Thousands and thousands and thousands of books not being read and many of them long forgotten.

I’m currently reading a book by the name of South Dakota Pheasant…and Iowa too! that I picked up at the Al’s Oasis gift shop in Chamberlain, South Dakota (which has a fabulous regional bookstore, we bought five books while we were there).  It’s by an Oglala Lakota ex-Marine and hunter by the name of Ed “Eagleman” McGaa.  It totally reads like this blog.  Maybe I’ve been around a few too many Lakota storytellers.  He is still alive and has an active Facebook profile, maybe I should friend him.

Here I am, silly old me, just plugging away on my computer in my house and able to send my brand of nonsense all over the interwebs.  So here’s the stats by country for 2015:


When I got my bachelor’s degree in English from Creighton University, I had an inkling that I might want to be a writer.  This was really not what I had in mind, but it is really nice not to have to sell out to advertisers and editors and write whatever I want.

But you didn’t come here to read my metacognitions. Okay, story time.

Switching to left hand shooting at 41 was a fail.  There is just too much muscle memory involved with shooting.  Yeah, my aim is going to suck.  But I just can’t rebuild my upper body strength enough to shoot a 12 gauge left handed.  I’ve not only carried a shotgun right handed for almost 20 years, but prior to that was a right-handed volleyball hitter, basketball post, and shot put thrower.  So that takes me all the way back to being ten years old as a right handed athlete.  I will just need to make sure to focus on every shot, making sure that I’m leading the bird and pulling through.  And lots of prayers and good luck.


My left shoulder a few days after trying to shoot left handed


Just a few big ones.  I really need to go back through my e-mail and Facebook page comments to pull some of the general day-to-day puppy photos out, but there are a couple of big items of note for this post.

Sal and Bluestem Winchester SH, NA I UT II

Chester earned his NAVHDA Utility Prize II in September, which is exciting for us to have our first NAVHDA Utility Prized puppy.  Chester is from our “C” Litter 2012 between Sam and Mae.  He is also Mr. August for the 2017 Gun Dog Magazine calendar, thanks to the photography of Jerry Improvenzo of Field Dog Imagery.  Great work to owner Sal and everyone who has helped to train and make Chester a big star!


Bluestem Winchester SH, NA I UT II: Mr. August 2017

Susan with Bluestem TracHer, NA III

Not my pup, but with her older griff Zephyr, my good friend Susan in North Dakota is the cover girl for their PLOTS public access map for 2016!


It always makes me happy to see a real huntress represented in print, not the camo bikini chics that look like they just came out of a Snap-On Tool calendar.  Susan is a great hunter and also struggles with being right-handed with left eye dominance (but doesn’t seem to struggle with it as much as I do!).

She and the griff girls have been having a good sharp-tailed grouse season so far.  Here are some shots of them from a few weeks ago. TracHer is Chester’s sister and littermate from the “C” litter 2012 of Sam and Mae.


TracHer, Susan and Zephyr


TracHer with a Sharpie in her mouth

Montana Sage Grouse Hunting

It is so tough to go into an area that you’ve never hunted before for a species that you’ve never hunted before.  It takes a lot of homework.  There is so much public land between the Block Management program and the Bureau of Land Management in Montana, it takes some serious map skills to triangulate exactly where you want to be.


Charles consulting the maps


Three crates is about as many as you can fit in a motel/hotel room (BB, Fire and Chief)

I had called the BLM Wildlife Biologist and he had given me some tips on where to go.  There was some federal land that I had picked out that we never made it to, we stuck with the Block Management and the BLM.

The first day that we went out, the wind was blowing 20 mph constantly, with 35 mph gusts.  Charles and I signed into this piece of Block Management ground, got the individual maps for the piece and made a game plan.  He was going to take BB and Fire and I had Chief.  So Charles and his team were on their way into the field, far enough away that they didn’t notice the game warden pull up to visit with me.  I don’t mind imperial entanglements, as long as they send me the cute ones.  He was cute, he checked my papers and we visited a bit.  But it was time to try and find some birds.

Chief and I walked south along the road that Charles had just taken.  There was a fence just to the west, on my right.

Let me tell you about fences in Montana.  These are not central plains barbed wire fences that are tight with 4 in. wooden posts every 6-8 ft.  They are janky barbed wire fences on steel posts.  You can’t climb them except at the wooden corner braces (where it is like a letter H with wooden posts) or you have to open a gate.

Okay, so we’re next to this fence, not 10 minutes after talking to the game warden.  My hat is like hanging off of my ponytail and blowing all over my head.  Chief goes on point.  Pointing at the other side of the fence.  Crap.  I guess I could have tried to “whoa” him or collar him, but I didn’t even know if he was pointing a fresh bird.  The next corner brace is about 30 yards down the fence, so there’s no way that I’m getting across in time.  He creeps under the fence and these two gray quail-looking birds get up, within the outer reaches of my shotgun range, but I was too busy trying to figure out what the heck they were to shoot.  Some sort of local tweety bird? Chief just has a spaz attack after sitting in a box for two days.  By the time the second two got up way out of range, I realized that they were Hungarian Partridge.  My first covey of Hungarian Partridge.  He blows through two more and I’m screaming my head off.


The huns were on the top of the flat hill to the far left of the picture

I call him back in and we continue our march.  Nothing in the prairie hills, so I find a gate and cross over the fence on to some sage covered BLM ground.  I try high, I try low, I try the side of the hill,  I try the creek bottom.  Nothing but a jackrabbit.

Charles texts me a hour and a half or so into it that he’s not seeing anything.  So we decide to swing back to the truck.  I take Chief to a pond that has some feather piles next to it, like someone had cleaned a couple of grouse or a coyote or two had a meal.  But still nothing.  In our texting I had told Charles about the huns, so he re-covered that ground and had one get up, but it was out of range.

Once moving in the truck we decided to stop into this little oasis, that consisted of a gas station and a taxidermy shop.  Ended up eating lunch with an old time bird hunter out of Mississippi and his son who had moved up to Montana.  They had been hunting sharp-tailed grouse and had gotten into some, but had not seen any sage grouse or Hungarian Partridge.  We had no desires on sharp-tailed grouse since we have our own place for those in Nebraska.  We wanted the sage grouse.

We picked up some more maps at the oasis and had a talk about grouse with one another.  The area we were in had a mixture of ag ground and sagebrush fields.  Well, if sage grouse are like prairie chickens, they go for the big open expanses of non-ag ground?  So we drove around some more and found the biggest, sagiest piece of ground we could find with no ag nearby.


Sagebrush flat

It was a big valley, sort of like we’re used to in the Sandhills, with terrain on each side and a big flat in the middle.  We once again decided to split up, Charles going northwest with the girls, and Chief and I would go southeast.  At first I skirted along the base of the hills, then walked midway up, then again high up.  About a half-mile into my hill adventures, I got up two freaking huge buck mule deer.  They were like twin brothers bounding off together, probably 10 points each and 250 pounds.  Wow.  Luckily I had Chief called in and he didn’t notice them.  I worked my way a couple of miles down and could see a gate or a corner brace across the flat, so I could cross the fence to the hills to the north.

There is one thing that I like about the fences in Montana.  The BLM land has great gate latches.  I will have to take some pictures of the gate latches in the Nebraska Sandhills, which are some sort of combination of wire and sticks usually.  These are posh by comparison (but I like the fences here that are strong enough for me to climb wherever I want).


Posh BLM gate latch

Here is a shot as we’re crossing the sagebrush flat.  Chief had found a puddle to drink out of.


Looking towards the west, with the first (south) set of hills on the left and the second (north) on the right

So we work the other side of this fence, heading back west towards the truck.  I walk in all different types of sagebrush, tall sagebrush, watery sagebrush, green sagebrush, gnarly sagebrush.  Nothing, nothing, nothing.  A jackrabbit gets up right when we are almost to the truck.  Although Chief didn’t notice the jackrabbit at the first spot of the day, he noticed this one because it sat there and looked at us until we were about 10 feet away, then took off.  They are such crazy critters.  Prairie mammals are so funny because most of them will go a little ways when spooked, then stop and look at you to see if you are worth the water and energy to take full off.  I personally think that they are just so bored and lonely on the prairie that they can’t help themselves.

I get back to the truck and wait for Charles.  This spot has no cell phone service, so I just wait.  Eventually, I see what I first thought was a black plastic bag on the horizon as I looked out of the windshield.  But it got closer.  Then I could see that it had other smaller plastic bags blowing around it.  So I started opening the truck doors so that if it were Charles, he could see that I was at the truck.  He talked about having the same kind of experience, where he could see something orange way out in the distance and worried that it was me coming to look for him.  But it was like a five gallon bucket or something.  The big expanses of nothing really mess with your perceptions.  We both made it back to the truck after each walking 10 miles a piece.  20 miles and no birds.

The next day, we get up late and decided to go talk to some folks.  The BLM told us to go talk to the Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.  So we turned up there.  Charles went inside to talk to them to get some intel (after we actually shoot a sage grouse one day, maybe we’ll share that intel).  We ran into the same biologists at the gas station on our way out of town and I thanked them for the information, telling them that we had walked 10 miles without seeing anything.

“I did the same thing yesterday, and I’m supposed to know where they are,” he said.  He had the Jase Robertson look going on.

“Oh, so it isn’t just us.”

Then Charles and I headed about an hour from where we were based out of, down by this lake.  This time we just dropped all three dogs and walked together.  Tons of waterfowl on the lake.  Still no sage grouse.  As we were hiking along, I marked this white spot off in the distance, like that is where I’m going to walk to.  I thought it was one of those fly dip bags that they hang up for cattle.

I get to it, and it is a huge buck antelope.  Standing 20 yards in front of me.  Charles and the dogs are not much farther away from it and the buck takes off.  And Chief and BB take off after it.  Charles hit the whistle and I blew the horn.  Chief came back right away.  Charles went to the top of the hill and watched BB chase the thing a half mile before she turned back around.  Dumb ass dog.  Just had pups and trying to chase down the fastest land mammal in North America.

So we turn back for the truck.  The windmill that we stopped at made us long for home.


Dempster of Beatrice Nebraska USA

So we got back into the truck and looked at maps and drove around and looked at maps and drove around and looked at maps and drove around.  Then went back to town for supper.  Almost 5 miles of walking that day, still no sage grouse.

That night, I finally revealed the town where we were located to our Facebook friends.  “I officially have not found the next bird hunter’s paradise, so I might as well tell you where we are.” A guy from the Heartland NAVHDA Chapter was like, “Why didn’t you say so!?!”  He gave us directions to a spot to try the next morning before we left for the AWPGA National Specialty over in Helena.

We had high apple pie hopes.

Can you guess what happened that morning?


Driving in for our final attempt to locate the sage grouse house


As close as we got to the sage grouse: their poop

We found the roost where they had bedded down the night before and 4 or 5 piles of poop, but we walked for 7 miles around the place and found nothing.  For a total of around 22 miles per person in three days.  32 total miles covered (since we hunted separately for 10 miles the first day).  And who knows how many miles for the dogs, through sagebrush and over rocks and cacti.  A great warmup for North Dakota.


Our last Montana watering hole

On our way out of town, we had lunch at a burger joint.  We met a native Frenchman currently living in North Carolina dressed in hunting garb who was also in search of the sage grouse.  He had taken shots at them, but fell.  His gun barrel was clogged with mud the second time he tried to shoot at them and it bulged his gun barrel (he had other guns with him for later).  Thank God it didn’t clog all the way and blow up on him.

But they are there!  Someone saw the sage grouse!

He told us where they were.  He said to go there tomorrow and hunt them.  But for us there was no tomorrow, as it was time to go.

The only other group of bird hunters that we saw, other than the ones previously mentioned, were from Kentucky.  We ran into them getting coffee at McDonalds one morning.  Old Brittany guys hunting sharp-tailed grouse.  Aside from the son of the Mississippi man, Charles and I were the only bird hunters in the region visiting at the time who were under 60.

There are Hungarian Partridge and mountain grouse around Helena, but it drizzled and rained the whole time we were there.  I will have to tell you about Specialty another day, as I’m running out of time.

Next time that we hunt the sage grouse we will spend more days in the field and do more research beforehand.  We will be back.

Redemption in Snipe

Over the weekend, Charles and Fire went to our old snipe swamp and brought home four snipe.  Only 4 miles walked.  It was good to see some birds in the bag.


Fire, Charles and 4 snipe

Up Next

We have a big few of weeks ahead of us, with two days of duck hunting in the Sandhills, then a week following 5-6 days of pheasant and duck hunting in North Dakota. Nebraska pheasant opener a week after that.  Then the dogs and I get to take some time off from the field while Charles gets his deer for the year.

Montana was a nice place to visit, but there’s a reason that we say, “There’s no place like Nebraska.”  It’s good to be home. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RudxjzBMwg

Words from our new Husker football coach, Mike Riley, in his beginning of last year. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSgmSeiIBLk

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