North Dakota: Day 2


Well, folks I’m going to make this one short and sweet, just like my phone conversation with Charles tonight.  The kids were fighting, the sink was overflowing with dirty dishes and I was trying to cook supper.   I’ll give you the pictures for now and wait to take dictation of the stories when Charles returns.

I know that he got a limit of pheasant today and he met a cool German fellow (like actually from the country of Germany, not just Kraut-American like me) and his German Shorthair Pointer.  There is a whole story about meeting this chap, but we’ll have to wait for it until he gets home.  So, enjoy the pictures for now and we’ll get the scoop later.  (I need to complain to the photographer, we need some pics of the dogs)

Pheasant, duck and grouse

The game bag thus far

A German Shorthair Pointer with a real German:)

North Dakota: Day 1

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When I talked to Charles on the phone at 5 PM and he told me about his success in the field, I told him to take the picture before the sun went down.  Somewhere in North Dakota, hanging from a tree in the dark are two gadwall ducks and a sharptail grouse.

A little too late for a good shot...

He called while I was cooking supper and he knew not to call back and interrupt the premiere of “Sherlock” on Masterpiece Mystery, so I don’t have the details of the hunt.  The full text of his e-mail about the birds was as follows:

“Not bad for a short afternoon hunt.  1 sharptail and 2 gadwalls.  A double on the ducks.  Skeet pays off again.”

If you are not familiar with gadwalls, here’s the page on the Ducks Unlimited website describing them: http://www.ducks.org/news/1069/duckofthemonthgadwal.html

We’ll see what they come across tomorrow!

Eastern Nebraska Prairie Chicken 2010

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Southeastern Nebraska’s prairie chicken population has recovered to the point of having a limited season.  Hunters who apply for the tags are limited to three prairie chicken for the whole season, Sept. 18-Jan. 31.  Charles, Sam and Sue ventured down last weekend and were able to scare up a few flocks.

What surprised me was to hear his report of the habitat that they occupy.  I assumed that the prairie chicken would be the same as pheasants, favoring heavy bunches of tallgrass.  They actually are more commonly found in the shorter, more sparse brome grass.  Similar to the chicken and grouse in the Sandhills, they are most commonly found on the sides of hills.

Here are Sam, Charles, and Sue, with a couple of prairie chicken roosters, while Caleb looks on.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffons

Some great Wirehaired Pointing Griffons!

Sandhills Duck Opener 2010

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It was a very rainy Saturday morning in the Sandhills, with plenty of hunter activity due to antelope and duck season being open simultaneously.  We started out heading into a normally productive grouse dunefield, but our efforts were thwarted by a large scattered herd of cattle.  Essentially, we spent our first hour and a half of the day pushing cows around some high dunes.  I have been doing lots of urban hiking these days, working on the 7th floor of a high rise, so I was feeling pretty good about keeping up with the crew.

We stopped at a couple of ponds on our way to a creek that we wanted to jump shoot, but didn’t see anything except truck tracks on the road.  With my new level of fitness, I was relegated to pushing the far sides of the ponds.

The rain continued to come down, so that by midday, most of our gear was pretty well soaked through.  We walked this creek for a mile or so, when the dogs went on point.  When we walked in to flush a bird, nothing came up.  It was a skunk and I spotted it first.  I raised my gun and asked Charles if I should shoot it, but he took the liberty.  Of course, we shoot the skunk and 40 yards over, a group of four ducks gets up and flies away.  So we continue our march down the creek and see nothing for a couple of miles but a green heron.  The next single duck to get up was way out of range.

The creek petered out, so we turned back around to head for the truck for a break.  We got a few good points from the dogs on some porcupines.  We’re checking in with our Native American friends to see if there is a viable market for porcupine quills, but the porcupines are safe for now.  The dogs have had some valuable past lessons in the pain of porcupines, so they only pointed them and didn’t mess with them this time.

Luckily, I had brought a change of pants, because I learned from our last rainy adventure in the Sandhills, wet brush-buster pants weigh a ton.  Right as we get back to the truck, I spotted a pair of birds flying over my head and I really couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  I should have just taken the shots, but I had to turn and ask Charles first, “Is that a snipe and a dove?!?”  Sure enough, it was a snipe and a dove, flying together right over my head.  I shot at them and missed.  It felt like a beginning of a joke, “There was a snipe and a dove flying together one day…”

I changed my pants, fed the dogs a funky old fried chicken thigh from the truck and we started back on what was starting to feel like a death march to me.  We trudged a couple of more miles down the creek and saw nothing.  Now, I have some pretty hardcore hunting boots, the kangaroo skin Cabela’s kind, but even they were no match for rain, swamp and a few unwieldy creek crossings (also known as just walking through the creek).

Since we knew the creek was empty, we headed up into the dunes to try to find some grouse.  We had one get up for us, way out of range.  I was starting to feel pretty dizzy at this point and had fallen behind Charles and the dogs considerably.  The winding creek in the valley, the wind in the grass, rosehips on the stem…it was all just becoming a pseudo-psychedelic blur of nature being high on my own endorphines.   I was on my own (Charles knew that I was aware of the location of the truck) and began hearing voices.

I caught up to Charles and the dogs talking to two men on an ATV.  The ATV guys reported that three other guys on individual ATV’s had been through the valley earlier trying to hunt for antelope.  Hence the lack of game.

Back to the truck we marched.  Finally the rain had stopped, after six hours of hard hunting in the rain.  After a few miles of driving along the trail, we split off to try a pond that we knew existed over in some trees a quarter mile or so away.  What we didn’t know was that in between the road and the known pond was another, smaller pond that we drove up on and blew a flock of about 7 ducks out.  There were some curse words flying on that one.

I made one last attempt to jump shoot the pond, but by that time, my feet were raw, I was soaked, my muscles were sore and my hands were going numb when I was holding the gun.  I was done.  I went back to the truck and let Sam and Charles try for that pond.  Still nothing.

Down went the gun and I grabbed my camera.  These shots were taken while I was standing on the road barefoot about 50-75 yards away.


Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Charles and Sam sneak in for a jump




Too many eyes...the flock of ducks gets up out of range



Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Sam and Charles heading back in



ATV hunters

Charles has a second visit with the ATV chaps


I really want to insert a diatribe here about how guys on ATV’s ruin the good time of the foothunter, but I will save that for another day when it isn’t hunting season.  There are more hunting tales to tell.

Saturday we were skunked.  Literally.  All we shot was that damn skunk.  What really impressed me was that the spirit of the dogs never wore down.  The picture of Sam and Charles returning up above was after 8 hours of rainy hiking with the dogs quartering.  Sam still wears a doggy smile on his face and is full of spirit.  These hunting Wirehaired Pointing Griffons are truly amazing athletes.

We didn’t drive six hours to go home with nothing, so Sunday morning I sent Charles and Sam out on their own.  Sam and Charles stalked a creek through very thick cover, with Sam working the oxbows while Charles walked the straightaways.  The stream was backed up with beaver dams in spots.  The first group of six wood ducks got up and Charles shot a young drake.  Sam didn’t see the duck drop, so Charles gave him the “fetch” command so that he knew to search.  He retreived the duck from the far side of the creek and swam back to Charles to deliver to hand.

They continued to work down the creek, avoiding the herd of deer.  A drake and a hen got up out of range at the end of a narrow clearing.  The stalk continued, working the bank and creek bottom close together.  Another group of five wood ducks flushed from the creek and Charles picked the mature drake out of the flock to harvest.  Once again, the duck landed on the far side of the creek where Sam had to search hard to retrieve.  Sam did require some direction on the retrieve, but he worked hard to find the bird and once again delivered it to the hand.

Due to the dense vegetation and the lay of the land, they yet again came upon another flock of wood ducks by surprise.  Charles shot a hen and again it landed on the far side of the creek, in heavy brush.  The “fetch” command was repeated and Sam really got it at this point.  He didn’t require any location direction, retrieved the duck, and crossed a beaver dam to the hand.

I was very happy to see them return to the house with a full game bag after the comedy of errors we had on Saturday!


Wirehaired Pointing Griffons

Sam, Charles and three wood ducks


This weekend I will be recovering from yet another hard hunting trip of getting skunked, while Charles and Sam head out for Eastern Nebraska prairie chicken.

Snipe 2010 and More Youth Hunt Pics

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Charles took Sam out last Sunday for a snipe hunt in Saunders County, Nebraska.  Yes, snipe do exist, and a “snipe hunt” isn’t a joke!  They are a swamp bird that sort of looks like a small woodcock.  I’ve never shot one myself, but I have seen them flush out of the marshes.  They fly in a strange zig-zag pattern.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Sam, Charles and Caleb with three snipe

I received some additional photos from the Heartland Chapter #491 Pheasants Forever Youth Hunt that took place a few weeks ago.  Thanks to chapter member Ron Funk for getting these shots.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Sue on point

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Sue retrieving a pheasant

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Charles, the unidentified youth (again) and Sue filling the game bag

The dogs are getting this weekend off due to doe only deer season.  Charles didn’t have any luck yesterday morning and decided to take our 6 year old son, Conrad, with him today.

Deer hunt

Conrad’s first deer hunt

We’ll see if they have any luck with the afternoon deer hunt.  The dogs will be back in action next weekend hunting ducks in the Sandhills.

Thank God for “The Good Life”!

Pheasants Forever Youth Hunt: Heartland #491 2010 and Pheasant Pot Pie

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Charles and Sue had a grand time guiding at Pheasants Forever Heartland Chapter’s Youth Hunt on Saturday, September 25th at Pheasant Bonanza in Tekamah, Nebraska http://www.pheasantbonanza.com/.  I wasn’t there to witness, but Charles said that Sue did a great job pointing and retrieving the birds.  She’s got the point part down on the bird box.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Sue pointing the box of pheasants

The best tale I heard was where a pheasant went down on the far side of a barbed wire fence and Sue had no problem going through the fence to retrieve and back through with the bird in her mouth without dropping it.  There will be more pictures of the youth hunt forthcoming from other members.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Unidentified youth, Sue and Charles at the 2010 Pheasants Forever Heartland Chapter Youth Hunt

Since I knew that Charles would be bringing home EVEN MORE pheasants to put in the freezer, he pulled a couple out before he left that morning for me to do something with.  So I made my most easy, “half-homemade” pheasant pot pie.

  • Place two whole plucked and gutted pheasants in a large stock pot.  Fill with water and boil for a couple of hours or so.  Defrost two frozen roll-out pie crusts
  • Shred/debone pheasant meat, preheat oven to 375
  • Sautee about 5 sliced mushrooms, mix with pheasant meat in a bowl
  • Add about 3 cups of frozen mixed vegetables
  • Add 1 can of cream of chicken soup, mix
  • Warm the whole mixture up in a sauce pan on the stove, but don’t cook it too much
  • Grease a round casserole dish and place one of the frozen pie crusts in the bottom
  • Dump the grub in and put the other pie crust on top, cutting slits
  • Place foil on the crimped edges of the pie and bake for an hour and a half or so

Pheasant Pot Pie


Sandhills Grouse Opener 2010

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Charles and I were back in the Nebraska Sandhills for sharptailed grouse and prairie chicken opener on Saturday, September 18th.  We arrived to our first special spot about 10:30 AM to a windy, chilly and misty morning.   Due to the wind, the grouse were absent in the valleys and were only present in the high choppy dunes.  Our first flush was only three grouse who popped up out of range, which told us the area had probably been worked over.  Sure enough, we spotted the tracks of our most hated nemesis, the ATV, shortly thereafter.  Yet we were undeterred and continued to work this high dunefield.

Charles and the dogs made it up and over the top of the ridge before I had a chance to witness the first grouse of the season being taken.  According to Charles, both dogs locked on point, he flushed and shot the bird.  Sam quickly retrieved.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffons

Charles, Sam and the first grouse of the year

We continued working this dunefield for another couple of hours, but were only getting one or two birds up at 50-100 yard ranges before the dogs could even get a lock on them.  Blasted ATV’s.  So we moved deeper into our zone where the truck tracks ended and we knew we had the place to ourselves.

The second dunefield we worked on was much more productive.  We busted up a coyote.  Charles has been reading up on the European version of the versatile hunting dog, where they hunt foxes with these dogs, so he wanted to see what would happen if he sicked Sam on the coyote.  Luckily, we were at the peak of a high dune so we could watch Sam chase the thing for about a mile into the valley.  Charles headed down into the valley with Sue to make sure Sam didn’t get himself lost.  As I was hollering and waving my blaze orange hat to get Sam off of the coyote, I heard the music of “blllrrr, bbblllrr, bbbllrr” as a flock of 10-15 grouse flushed about 30 yards behind me.

Once we were all back together, we headed towards where I thought I saw the flock land.  I was walking alone and had a great shot at a 15 yard flush of a singleton, but my lack of practice came shining through and I totally missed it.  We worked our way back towards the truck and came into another flock of 10-15 birds at 20 yards.  Charles shot a double and once again I croaked.  Each dog had a bird in their mouth…I probably should have had my camera instead of my gun!

Wirehaired Pointing Griffons

Charles rounds out his limit of grouse for the day with Sam and Sue on retrieve

We were headed back to town by 3 PM, just in time for Charles to cook up some sweet and sour grouse over rice for supper!

I definitely have my grouse hunting homework cut out for me before next year: get into shape and get to the trap and skeet range!


Patriots’ Day Teal

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Wirehaired Pointing Griffon and Blue-Winged Teal

Sam, Charles and a pair of blue-winged teal

On this past Saturday, September 11, Sam and Charles went down to the private pond that we frequent in Cass County, Nebraska and bagged a couple of blue-winged teal.  I was occupied entertaining family who were visiting from out-of-town, but Charles was able to slip out for a few hours, only after he put a pot of really awesome turkey chili on the stove.

He really had the Canadian geese who normally hang out at the pond in mind, so the teal were a pleasant surprise.  As the story was told to me, Charles put Sam on heel and sneaked up on the teal at the pond.  Charles missed on his first shot attempt, but he and Sam dropped down in the grass, so the teal circled and landed back on the other side of the pond.  It took them about 20 minutes to sneak their way around the pond and the final approach was made with Charles crawling and Sam next to him (still on heel).  By a strange bit of luck, Charles shot the double of blue-winged teal with one shot and both of the ducks only took pellets to the head (yum…no bits of steel surprise while we’re eating them).

Sam swam out into the pond and tried to retrieve both ducks at once, but figured out that he could only get one at a time.  True to the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon’s versatile talents, they were two successful water retrieves with no additional coaxing of the dog required, he just did it.

Speaking of the amazing talents and abilities of dogs, PBS Nature is currently running a two-part special about the evolution of dogs.  Last night’s episode was about the transition from wolf to proto-dog and the symbiotic relationship between dogs and primitive societies.  Next week, they are going to be talking breed specialization and the world of dog fancy, so I’m excited for that.  There’s additional information on the PBS Nature website if you are interested: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/dogs-that-changed-the-world/introduction/1273/

Only four days until sharptail grouse and prairie chicken opener back in the Sandhills…

One more trip to the pond

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We had to celebrate our return home with a trip to the pond, possibly our last swimming trip for the year.  I think these pictures do a good job of showing what devoted family members our dogs are.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffons

Sue and Sam watch attentively as dad winds up to throw Conrad in the water (by request)

Wirehaired Pointing Griffons

Wirehaired Pointing Griffons


Wirehaired Pointing Griffons

Caleb and the dogs muck about

Wirehaired Pointing Griffons

Dad, dogs and kids

Wirehaired Pointing Griffons

Sam is neck and neck with Dad, while Sue trails not far behind

Nebraska is more of a river state than a lake state and this time of year our lakes and ponds do something we call “turn over”.  My hydrologist friends tell me that it isn’t actually that the water “turns over”, but the warm conditions and runoff create blooms of algae and bacteria.  I knew I should have called a “no go” to our trip when I saw the water, but I couldn’t resist the warmth of the sunshine and coolness of the water.

I exchanged e-mails with Greg Wagner of Nebraska Game and Parks and we won’t know if we get an early teal season for Labor Day weekend until August 31st.  We are ready!


Pup in the pasture

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The clouds and rain finally dispursed yesterday evening, so we headed down to the local dog training wildlife management area to give Sue, Sam and the last pup (Alpha Female) a big run.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon puppies

Sue, Alpha Female and Sam

Half of the WMA had been grazed by a herd of cattle, which made the area easier to negotiate.  The other half would have been difficult for the pup and my kids to wade through, since the grass was waist to shoulder high, typical for the tallgrass prairie ecosystem.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Puppies

Getting a good run in

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon puppies

Full speed ahead!

Fun was had by all!

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon puppies

Charles, Alpha Female, Sam, and Sue on the cow trail

The old farmer saying about corn was “knee high by the Fourth of July”.  This year, it is more like “head high”!

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Sue and big corn

Alpha Female flies to Atlanta on Thursday, with her final home destination of Alabama.  It will be time for us to focus on polishing up our training on Sam and Sue, while getting some pedigree research done (Pedigree Profiles are coming to the blog starting July 11th).

We are looking forward to the Heartland NAVHDA Chapter’s Training Days on July 10th and September 11th, with our eyes on the big prize of sharptail grouse and prairie chicken opener in my Nebraska Sandhills on September 18th.

We will miss the little pups, but are pumped up for a great hunting season and Sam’s NAVHDA Utility Preparatory Test.

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