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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.

Jan BOB

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.

October 7 AM

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.

October 7 PM

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.

Snipe Limit Obi Oct 8

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.

NoDak Day 1 Oct 10

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.

Ruth Oct 19

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.

 

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.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon On Point

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.

Fall’s Abundance

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

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

Ruth OFA

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

General Dog Health Information Update

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

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

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

Dead Bird Photos? Yes or No.

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

Snipe and Rail Hunt

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

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

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

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

No Dogs Allowed: Sandhills Antelope 2019

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

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The smaller antelope bucks that he passed on.

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The gun perspective, he likes to belly crawl in close

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His classic gun and big game photo

Sandhills Ducks and Grouse

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

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Ruth with two mallard hens and two snipe

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

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

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

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

 

Opening Weekend 2019

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For those of you who are on the reservation list for 2020 Spring Puppies from dam Bluestem’s Prairie Fire, NA I “Fire”, we are going to use Bluestem Otoe Chief, NA II “Chief” as the stud.  His information is on the “About Our Dogs” page of the website.  Let me know if you have questions.

If you would like to be on the contact list in the event that we have additional puppies available, please e-mail bluestemkennels@gmail.com.

In other random kennel news, I took Ruth in for her OFA hip x-rays and the vet said everything looked good, so now it is just a matter of getting the certificate back from OFA to see what rating they give her hips.

Sandhills Upland Opener

Our usual luxury accommodations in town are currently occupied by other family members, so we decided to camp at the lake over the weekend.  With all of the moisture this year we were happy that the sandburrs were still pretty moist, but the mosquitos were sure thick.  The boys and I focused on things like swimming, shooting 22 rifle, kayaking, making s’mores (and just making meals in general), and my favorite part — stargazing.

Brenda Allison - Sandhills Stars

The night sky of the Nebraska Sandhills, photo by Brenda Allison

 

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Sunset over the lake, no filter.  By Charity Upchurch

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Not listed on AirBnB!

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Fifteen year-old Conrad has become a good kayaker,

 

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Ten year-old Caleb had fun with the .22.  Both of the boys did, we ran out of ammo.

You can see in the background of the picture of Caleb that some unknown soul added an “amenity” to our shared primitive campsite.  They turned a five gallon bucket into a pit toilet by cutting the bottom off of it, creating “teeth” so that you can stick it in the sand, then screwed a toilet seat to the top!.  So all you needed to do was to dig a hole to put it on top of, then you use your shovel to “flush” with the sand pile.  Thank you creative redneck!!

Oh but you wanted to hear about hunting, right?

So after every upland magazine has published an article about the Nebraska Sandhills, every yahoo in the country is out there trying to chase sharptailed grouse and prairie chickens.  Which I am happy for honestly, there was a span of about five years where it looked like we were the only ones out there.  The non-natives stay pretty close to the highway because unless you know the dunes, it is a scary place.  And even for those of us who know it, it can play tricks on you sometimes.  This year the biggest hazard is water on the roads, so even if you have maps and GPS that say that a road is there, it may be closed or flooded.

Charles took Zoro out the first day and ended up with a dove and a sharpie in the bag.

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Charles and Stonyridge Zoro with a sharptailed grouse and a dove

On Monday he took Ruth out and got a limit of three.

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Bluestem Peaches En Regalia, NA I “Ruth” and Charles with a limit of grouse.

The Sunday grouse went in the pot with some marinated chicken and canned vegetables for supper that night.

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Cutting up grouse for the pot.

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Camp food (the grouse is the dark meat)

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Coleman camp kitchen

The three sharpies that came home with us went right on the griddle with some chimichurri sauce on the plate (I forgot to take pictures).  Give them a good marinade and cook them like a medium rare steak for the best flavor.  When I’m at camp, I cook it as stew meat all the way through just to make sure that I’m avoiding food poisoning, since our sanitiation is as good as we can get it, but not up to normal “hot-water-from-the-tap” standards.

Up Next

I am really sucked into youth football right now, but it will be over in time for pheasant and quail season.  I console myself with the fact that I’ve shot plenty of grouse and prairie chickens, and that youth football is only this year and next.

Charles has his sights set on some early teal duck action here locally.  He is going to skip North Dakota again this year until things improve habitat and bird number-wise up there.  He did draw a Sandhills antelope tag, so he’ll be back out there for that and some more birds and ducks hopefully.

Continued success in the fields for everyone and good luck to all of those who are running in fall hunt tests!

Pheasant 2014: North Dakota and Nebraska

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North Dakota Wrap-Up

As mentioned in the last post, Charles and the dogs were in North Dakota last week from Sunday until Thursday.  Sunday they got a hun, and Monday a duck and two pheasants were in the bag (both of those photographs are in last week’s blog post).  Tuesday they bagged 4 ducks, but they were mixed in with everything else on the stringer in the photograph and it was getting dark, so I opted to spare you another body count photo.  Wednesday, they got a snipe and a rooster.

Snipe and Rooster from Wednesday, October 22nd

Snipe and Rooster from Wednesday, October 22nd

One of Charles’s friends tipped him off to a good spot to hit on his way out of North Dakota, where he got a limit in an hour and a half on Thursday.

North Dakota Rooster Limit

North Dakota Rooster Limit

I apologize for the body count photos, especially to one of my regular readers who scolded me recently about having too many of them on my blog.  We’ll get some more artful action photos with dogs in them and such next year, I opted to stay home since I got in plenty of travel earlier in the year.

Nebraska Opening Weekend

We decided not to wade into the fray of opening morning, but I was bound and determined to get out on Sunday.  Charles decided that he wanted to come along too even though he had a cold and had just spent the whole week hunting.  We went out midday and by the time we were headed back to the truck later in the afternoon it was 86 degrees out.  Way too hot.  He got 2 roosters within the first 5 minutes of our arrival to the field.  I got a shot off on one a bit later, but missed.

The second rooster that Charles shot yesterday still had enough juice to fly 80 yards or so into some thick sunflowers, making Sam and Fire work hard to find the carcass.  Fire was the one who found it and brought it right to Charles.  He wanted to make sure that he got the bird from her in a timely fashion, so I didn’t have a chance to take a picture since I was carrying my shotgun.  Darn.

I took Wednesday morning of this week off from work so that I can get out on my own.  Not that it will necessarily change my shooting luck with rooster pheasants, but I’m going to give it a try.

Yet another dorky hunting selfie from Charles and Charity

Yet another dorky hunting selfie from Charles and Charity

It appears that the top pheasant in the photograph below was released by Nebraska Game and Parks this year, if you notice the nostrils are enlarged from the blinders that were on the bird during its time in the pen.  The bottom bird is either a survivor from last year or a wild hatch.

Notice the size of the pheasant nostrils

Notice the size of the pheasant nostrils

Pupdates

Bob from Minnesota sent me an e-mail and photo of “Ed” from our 2013 “E” Litter from Sam and Sue.

Just wanted to give you a quick update on Ed.  We finally made it out pheasant hunting in MN this past weekend.  I managed to get Ed and my oldest daughter, Faith, out for a bit.  In a year in which MN DNR says the numbers of birds are down, Ed managed to find and point 7 birds in a quick morning walk.  We have done no live bird work since last year and he was flat out amazing!  He is definitely ready for our annual trip to North Dakota next week.  I will get you some pictures upon our return from that trip.  Definitely looking forward to it.

Ed and Faith in MN

Ed and Faith in MN

Curt out in Central Nebraska shot this video a couple of weeks ago of our Fire’s sister “Gracie” doing her first water retrieve at 8 months of age: 

Congratulations to Lindsay and Bluestem’s Big Sky Rendezvous CGC NA I “Midge” in Montana for qualifying for the AKC Owner Handler Series.  Midge and Lindsay were #8 (tie) in conformation show points in the series (click photo to enlarge results).

AKC Owner Handler Series Rankings

AKC Owner Handler Series Rankings

I hope that everyone who celebrates Halloween has a happy and safe one.  I do not dress up my dogs, so don’t even think that you’ll be seeing that next week.  Not gonna happen.  But thanks to all of my owners for the updates and I’ll be sure to keep you posted as to what is going on here.  Happy Haunting and Hunting!

 

North Dakota Hunting and Hunt Test Pupdates

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AWPGA Health and Genetics Database

Fellow Wirehaired Pointing Griffon breeders and owners: please participate in the AWPGA Health and Genetics Database.  You do not have to be an AWPGA member to participate.  We are looking to collect as much pedigree and health information as possible, so that we can go forward with a clearer picture of where the breed is currently and make appropriate breeding decisions. http://www.awpgadb.com/

2014 Hunting Issue of the Griffonnier

I am now co-editor of the Griffonnier with Amy Caswell-O’Clair from New Hampshire.  The first issue that I’ll be working on is appropriately the Hunting Issue 2014.  If you are an AWPGA member and have hunting training tips, hunting tales and photographs, or game bird recipes, please e-mail them to griffonniereditor@cox.net by November 30th.  If you aren’t an AWPGA member, please consider joining us: http://awpga.com/beamember.html.  We will be having our annual gathering in Fall 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa and would love to have you all join us.

Pups Hunting in North Dakota

I’m getting good reports out of North Dakota from both my puppy owners and Charles.  Here’s Susan’s North Dakota hunting party, with our pup TracHer from our 2012 “C” Litter from Sam and Mae.  Susan and TracHer are on the far left of the photo.

Susan and TracHer with friends and family.

Susan and TracHer with friends and family.

Susan said that the numbers were great and that they all would have had their limits if their shots had connected.  I know that feeling!

Ernie is having fun in North Dakota with 7 month old Duncan, from our 2014 “H” Litter from Sam and Mae.

Duncan and Ernie with a pheasant limit

Duncan and Ernie with a pheasant limit

Ernie has also picked up a GoPro camera and got some video of points and retrieves from Duncan.  GoPro seems to have improved the distance perception in the newer models, it seems more true to real sight.  I couldn’t be more pleased with this footage, what great work for a 7 month old pup.  

Hunt Test News

Congratulations to Sal and Chester (TracHer’s littermate) on two AKC Senior Hunter passes at the Long Island (New York) Viszla Club the weekend before last!

Sal and Chester with SH ribbons

Sal and Chester with SH ribbons

Also, congratulations to John and his pup, Cle, who is our Fire’s brother, on his NAVHDA Natural Ability Prize III at 8 months with the MidSouth NAVHDA Chapter in Pelham, Tennessee over the weekend.

More North Dakota

The dogs and Charles rolled into North Dakota mid-day Sunday, giving them some time to hunt in the afternoon and evening.  He took his first ever Hungarian Partridge then.  (Sorry for the low quality phone photos)

Charles's first Hungarian Partridge

Charles’s first Hungarian Partridge

I received another truck and bird photo mid-afternoon today, a drake redhead and two nice roosters.  The story on the duck is that he was working a slough surrounded by a cornfield when a group of ducks got up from the pond.  Charles tucked down, with this one flying in range.  The duck landed in standing corn and little Fire retrieved it.  He took the two roosters an hour or so later within 5 minutes of each other, but saw nothing else the rest of the day.  Still a nice bag.

Drake Canvasback and two roosters

Drake redhead and two roosters

Good luck to everyone else in the field out there!

Duck Opener and Fire’s NAVHDA Natural Ability Test

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Duck Opener

Nebraska High Plains duck opener on October 4th found us in our usual haunts up in the Sandhills.  We didn’t get out into the field until around 9 AM both days; that is the nice thing about jump hunting as opposed to sitting over decoys.  Sitting over decoys requires three things that I don’t like to do: 1) haul excessive amounts of gear 2) get up early 3) hold still.  So even though Charles had brought up all of the decoys and blinds and such to do it, we just didn’t.

We work a network of small ponds, swamps, and beaver dammed creeks trying to keep the dogs on heel as best we can.  It is about a 50% success rate on a jump as far as getting shots off.  Sometimes a dog will spook a flock, other times we come across a pond that we didn’t know was there at full standing profile and scare them off, or take a shot at a single in one pond that sets off a giant flock in the next pond.

We’ve taken up enough of a pattern that the game warden was able to track us down on Sunday just because he wanted to chat and see what we’d gotten into.  Charles took 3 teal and a hen wood duck on Saturday and I took 3 teal.  Sunday was a 6 hour day in the field and I took nothing, Charles got 2 snipe and a mallard hen.  I got a couple of videos, the first of Fire retrieving Charles’s mallard hen, her first wild duck retrieve: .  The second is my first anything of the year, I think that I’ve shot at 15 snipe this year with no luck: 

The photo from Saturday is a bit goofy, I just threw the camera up on the tripod, hit the timer and took the shot.  I obviously did not review the pic for my odd facial expression while talking to the crazy dogs.  Oh well, there it is.

Opening day, Saturday, October 4th.

Opening day, Saturday, October 4th.

BB and Charles with Sunday's quarry.

BB and Charles with Sunday’s quarry.

Fire’s NAVHDA Natural Ability Test

Before I get into the test itself, I want to tell you about my new friend, Bob.  He is 75 years-old and ran his 52nd NAVHDA test on Sunday.  He is a retired truck driver from Pennsylvania who was en route to my beloved Sandhills and has been traveling out there for many years.  Before he takes his buddies hunting in the Sandhills, they are required to read the famous Nebraska author Mari Sandoz’s novel Old Jules.  I am certified as a middle and high school English teacher in Nebraska and have not read Old Jules.  Bob laid quite a bit of grief and shame on me, so I will be going on to Amazon to pick up a copy later today since it is not available on iBooks.

My new friend Bob from Pennsylvania

My new friend Bob from Pennsylvania

Bob travels in style

Bob travels in style

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His cool license plate

My favorite picture of the day was of Blaine Erkenbrack looking on as his daughter, Alexa, tossed the bumper for “Khloe”, a 14 month-old German Shorthaired Pointer. Khloe and the gang earned a Prize I, Score 112 in Natural Ability.

Blaine, Alexa, and Khloe.

Blaine, Alexa, and Khloe.

Eight month-old Bluestem’s Prairie Fire “Fire” now has a NA I at the end of her name, with a maximum score of 112 points.  Thanks to Senior Judge Mike Garriott of Falls City, Nebraska, Gabby Awbray of San Diego, California, and Darin Tolzin from Atlantic, Iowa for coming out to judge.  It was a little chillier than what we’ve been used to lately, but there was no rain, and the breeze was pleasant, not a howling gale.

Fire found a number of quail in the field and pointed them all, but proceeded to rip almost every single one (catching the bird before it flushes, also known as a “trap”).  There were a few that were able to get up and fly.

BB working the thick tallgrass cover

Fire working the thick tallgrass cover

Fire slamming into point.  Two quail successfully flushed from this one.

Fire slamming into point. Two quail successfully flushed from this one.

Charles holds Fire's collar while a quail flushes.

Charles holds Fire’s collar while a quail flushes.

After 2 Natural Ability dogs ran the field, they did their track, so 2 field runs, 2 tracks, alternating.  There were 8 Natural Ability dogs running for the day.  The track was a mowed strip leading into a dense, food plot-sized growth of native tallgrass prairie.  Conrad and Charles have been working with Fire quite a bit on the tracking skill and it paid off.

Fire successfully working the track.

Fire successfully working the track.

Fire inherited her sire’s absolute love of water retrieving and had two great bumper retrieves.

Fire getting excited when seeing the bumpers

Fire getting excited when seeing the bumpers

Fire bringing one back in

Fire bringing one back in

L to R apprentice from NJ, Gabby Awbray, Mike Garriott, Darin Tolzin, and apprentice John Green at the reading of the scores.

L to R: apprentice from NJ (sorry, I didn’t note the name), Gabby Awbray, Mike Garriott, Darin Tolzin, and apprentice John Green at the reading of the scores.

We were very pleased with Fire’s performance and enjoyed the day.  Good luck to John and Cle, Fire’s brother, on his Natural Ability test in Tennessee this weekend.

Velma in North Dakota

Velma’s owner, Aaron, was up on the federal ground in North Dakota the weekend before the PLOTS land opens and got into some pheasants and sharptailed grouse.  Velma is right next to Aaron giving him a kiss, we will be keeping a pup out of her breeding to Ben this spring for our next stud dog.

Aaron, his lab, and Velma WPG in North Dakota on Saturday.

Aaron, his lab, and Velma WPG in North Dakota on Saturday.

Pupdate

Tyson up in Bangor, Maine sent over a nice report on the start of his hunting season, his pup, Moose, is from our 2014 “H” Litter between Sam and Mae:

It has been a crazy busy summer here in Maine with some vacation and lots of training with Moose.  We feel so blessed to have such an incredible dog.  He is fitting in great and does awesome with the kids.  I have attached some pics for you.  Moose spent most of the summer sleeping in the boat, as you can see.  

The most exciting thing to report is that bird season officially opened in Maine on October 1st.  And Moose got his first day in the field this Saturday.  He got the chance to hunt with her good friend Spice who is an 8 year old female GSP that is an amazing Maine gun dog.  She definitely showed him the ropes.  They have spent some time training together this summer.  Some good pics of Moose with some very rare Maine Pheasant.  He also pointed the first grouse of the day at our first stop.  Thanks again for an amazing dog!

Best,Tyson

Moose is looking handsome at 7 months old.

Moose is looking handsome at 7 months old.

Moose spending some time on the Atlantic.

Moose spending some time on the Atlantic.

Moose and the elusive Maine roosters

Moose and the elusive Maine roosters

Thanks, as always, to my owners for the updates!

Well, that is about all of the excitement I can handle for one day.  Charles and the dogs head to North Dakota on Saturday, so it will be interesting to see what they come across.  I’m sure we’ll all be jealous.  Stay warm, until then.

Sharptailed Grouse Hunting Opener and Other News

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Reservations and Breeding Plans

At this point, I have taken 10 reservations with deposits for my Spring 2014 litters and continue to get interest daily.  Even though I am planning three litters (from Mae, BB and Velma), I won’t even start breeding for another three months or so (which puts whelping 5+ months away and homegoing 7+ months away).  I just want everyone to know that I am a bit hesitant about taking additional reservations right now.  If everything goes as planned, I could have 12-20 puppies in 2014, but I just don’t know right now.  Feel free to call (402) 682-9802 or e-mail bluestemkennels@cox.net if you have any questions.

Sharptailed Grouse and Dove Opening Day: September 1, 2013

Charles had a great opening day of grouse in the Nebraska Sandhills on Sunday, September 1st.  We set out into the northern dunefield of our usual opening day spot.  Our “usual opening day spot” consists of two east-west running dunefields with about a mile wide valley in the middle.  I let Charles, Sam and BB head deep into the dunes, while I waited behind at the truck with Mae.  Once they were out of sight, I set off eastward into the rising sun.  I was probably 100-300 yards south of Charles and clearly heard one shot about 15 minutes into our walk.  I had a single bird get up to my left about 5 minutes later, but I missed the shot, which was the only one I had on a grouse all weekend.  Not long after I heard another single shot.  Charles and I met up at the eastern fenceline of the section about 45 minutes after we had started and talked about what we had seen.  He had seen a few large flocks of grouse and had 2 in the bag, so we headed up into the northeastern corner of the section to make sure that we had covered everything, then turned back around to go west towards the truck.  Once again, Charles was to the north of me in the higher dunes and I was working the southern edge.  Sure enough, not 5 minutes after we parted ways, I heard another single shot.  I went over to him and he had his limit of 3.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffons Hunt Sharptailed Grouse

Sam, Charles and BB with their limit of sharptailed grouse on opening day 2013

We worked for another hour walking westward where he had seen the larger groups, but we didn’t see a single grouse.  We then set up our decoys at a windmill and sat for doves for an hour and a half or so, each taking one, but it was too hot to sit the whole day, so we headed back to town to spend time with the family.

Sandhills Dove Hunting 2013

Charles and Charity with the obligatory one dove each to start the season

The following day we set out into another spot that has been an annual producer for us.  I walked for 3 hours and Charles walked for 4 and neither one of us saw a single sharptail, which is very odd.  Some folks say it was last year’s drought not leaving enough cover for nesting, others say they were killed in the massive summer hailstorm that hit the area, but all I know is that they have been in this spot for 15 years and they weren’t there on Labor Day.  We called it a hunt midday on Monday and headed out to the lake with friends and family.

Charles has spent the last two weekends working with BB on the duck search and retrieve for her second shot at the NAVHDA Utility Test in October.  This coming weekend we will be heading down to Missouri to try our hand at the last weekend of their early teal duck season.  Sam is usually our main duck dog, so he will have to hang back back at the truck while BB finally gets her chance to be the waterfowl star.

Pupdates

Got a message and photos from Bob in Minnesota about his pup Ed, from Sue and Sam’s 2013 “E” litter.  Sounds like he is doing great and has some fun adventures in store for this season:

Ed is a big boy and tipping the scales just shy of 60 pounds on his 6 month bday.  He is loving our weekend camping trips to the lake and is a hard charger in his water work.  In fact he gets close to the lake and will rip the leash out of your hands to go in while carrying his bumper.  Last weekend he pointed 2 grouse sitting in the woods near the lake on one of our walks.  Ed is looking real nice on his points but still is breaking so I have some more work to do.  He is retrieving to hand and I am hoping that continues when hunting season begins here in MN.  I have taken a break the past week on training as we have been having triple digit temps up here and it is just too hot.  Ed will be heading out in mid September for official gun introduction and bird and gun association.  Out pheasant season starts on October 12 here in MN and then we are headed out to North Dakota on November 6 for our first North Dakota adventure of the fall.  Thinking trip number 2 will be in December but that will depend on the weather and how he does this fall on our other outings.

Ed6mos

Ed at 6 months chillin’ on the deck

Ed hanging out in the house

Ed hanging out in the house

Ed and his toy pheasant

Ed and his toy pheasant

16 month old Chester from Sam and Mae’s “C” Litter of 2012 lives out in New York and has been practicing hard for the upcoming season with his owner Sal and trainer Hoss.  He’s pictured here at a Hudson Valley NAVHDA Chapter training day.

Chester on point

Chester on point

Another shot of Chester on point

Another shot of Chester on point

Chester retrieving

Chester retrieving

And handsome three year old Whiskey out in Nevada from Sue and Sam’s “A” litter of 2010 has been caught by owner Deborah being very silly these days.

Whiskey thinks that crocs make great chew toys

Whiskey thinks that crocs make great chew toys

Whiskey peeking out from his blanket

Whiskey peeking out from his blanket

As always, thank you to the puppy owners for taking such fabulous photos and sharing them with us!!

I just talked to my eyes on the sky down in Missouri and he said that with this warm weather there aren’t many teal flying, but this coming weekend is the last one of the season, so it is the only shot we’re going to get on this particular season.  Since we’ll have our Missouri license anyway, I see us heading down there for some other waterfowl seasons this year too since it is only an hour and a half away.  So wish us luck and we’ll keep you posted!!

Nebraska and North Dakota Pheasants

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One doesn’t hunt in order to kill, on the contrary, one kills to have hunted.

-Jose Ortega y Gasset

There is a nauseating thread in upland bird hunting writing these days that the hunt really isn’t about the size of the game bag at the end of the day, but is really some sort of quasi-religious experience where we are communing with nature and bonding with our fellow hunters and our dogs, waiting for some sort of epiphany to occur out in the field.  I first saw it start to crop up in the blogosphere, but it has since bled over into magazine and newspaper articles.

It sounds to me like an excuse used by people who aren’t hunting smart and hard or by state game officials when they aren’t properly managing habitat.  The drought this year has led to almost all of the CRP land in southeastern Nebraska to be hayed or grazed, leaving hunters with very few options to chase roosters nearby.  The general agricultural climate of eastern Nebraska as a whole, with grain prices as high as they are, has become an annual limiting factor regardless of the weather conditions for the year.  We can’t ask farmers not to farm, that’s their job, but the Nebraska Game and Parks needs to consider expanding their current pheasant stocking program to all wildlife management areas in the Lincoln-Omaha area.

You didn’t know that NGPC was stocking pheasants?  They claim it is for the youth hunting weekend, but we suspect that it is a pilot stocking program looking to salvage what is left of upland bird hunting culture in the urban part of our state.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: NGPC has no problem managing several fish hatcheries and openly stocking fish.  Heck, I get updates on Facebook when they stock trout and exactly where they do it.  Stock more pheasants in southeastern Nebraska.  How did they get here in the first place, did they fly from China?!? (That’s a rhetorical question of course.  The current rooster-bearing states were stocked many times in order to establish a sustainable population.)

Here’s a shot of a rooster that we planted in April on a friend’s land along the Platte River in Cass County, where we have never seen pheasants at all before, Charles and Sam harvested him last weekend.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, Sam, and the first Nebraska rooster from Saturday

I know that NGPC and Pheasants Forever think that the sole focus needs to be on habitat, but if there aren’t any birds to manage habitat for, then what is the point?!?  We were so excited for our friend, Matt, who took our oldest female griffon Sue out last Friday to some of the WMA’s that had been stocked.  He got his first limit of roosters ever and was completely ecstatic.  Tell him that the size of the game bag doesn’t matter.

Which is why Charles, like many other “dog men”, take the dogs north for wild bird training for a week each year.  All of the kumbayaing over hunting spirituality in the world doesn’t replace sheer grit and determination to give your dogs the most wild bird contact possible each year.  Charles has chosen North Dakota as his annual destination.  One of my fellow griffoniers brought his two dogs out to Montana from the east coast and didn’t realize the huge learning curve that it takes to get a dog educated to the behavior of particular upland game birds, the wily rooster pheasant especially.  They took one rooster over a few days, then he boxed his dogs and brought out the guide’s dogs.  Over the guides dogs they took several roosters and some Hungarian partridge too.  Appreciation of the dew on the grass and the wind on your face doesn’t give the dogs that education.  Getting up before the sun comes up on day 4 of a pheasant hunt, stinking because you haven’t taken a shower the whole time, stiff and sore from the physical exertion and because you’ve been sleeping in the back of your SUV is not fun or religious.  But it is necessary.  Just like killing.

Sam and BB with the birds hanging at the end of day 2 in North Dakota.

I’ve been known to cry over getting skunked on a day.  I’ve felt guilty as hell when my dogs have worked their asses off tracking a rooster, then pin it down with perfect double points, only to have me wreck it on the shot.  The dogs hate it too, you can tell they get upset with me.

 Although ancient hunters recognized the religious and spiritual nature of the hunt, they did so in order to increase the size of their harvest.  In the fall and winter, we all still look up at the constellation Orion at night and hope he blesses our efforts.  But to succeed is to kill.  There is no way around that with hunting.

Charles and the dogs’ bird total from 3 days in North Dakota: 2 ducks, 3 sharptail grouse and 8 roosters. They took a few more before they packed up and left the following day.

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