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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.

A big mixed bag: October in the Sandhills

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A cold north wind welcomed us to hunting sharptail grouse on the Thursday before duck opener, easily blowing 30, if not 40 mph and the air temperature never peaked the 40 degree mark on the day.  It was a pretty brutal start considering that when we left Eastern Nebraska the evening before, it was 70 degrees.  I hadn’t even packed my kids jackets, let alone my winter upland gear, so I had to tough it out in my hunting shirt/t-shirt combo.  Luckily a person warms up quickly stomping around the dunes and running after birds.

I’ll admit that I was whining and not wanting to get out of the truck at first.  I whined my way out of the usual first spot and asked if we could scout for ducks instead.  As we were creeping around a pond looking to see if any ducks had arrived, we noticed some sharptails running down the road.  We thought we had ourselves an easy pick, so we backed up around a dune and unloaded our gear.  Of course we wouldn’t need the dogs, the birds were just 15 feet away, right?

I think we chased them for a good 30 minutes and got up 3 or 4 times before they were flushing close enough to get a shot, even though they were flying into the monstrous wind.  Ryan and I got off a few Hail Mary cracks on the edge of range before Charles put the first one in the bag.  I captured his retrieve in the first half of this video (the second half is from me on Saturday, but we’ll get to that part later).  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4XgYQOzM8c

As we had been walking for a good hour and had left everything unlocked, I made a bee-line back to the truck while the guys chased the rest of that group, with Charles taking one more.  Once we got back, secured our things and brought out some dogs, we took a brief hike into some nearby dunes with Charles taking his third bird in no time.  Ryan and I had no hard feelings that we didn’t take any on the day and were ready to head back to town to get out of the wind and cold.

Sue, Mae and BB are excited that dad shot some grouse.

Friday’s weather was less windy and warmer, we decided that we wanted to split up, so we headed to a spot that I had navigated on my own before and it had cell phone coverage so that I could communicate with the guys.  We set out to make it a “short grouse hunt”, as we had an early Saturday planned for ducks.  About 45 minutes in I busted up two way out of range, chased one down and bumped it up out of range once and within range again, but blew the shot.  The bird went way north, over a fence and near a giant dune covered with sumac that I had been curious about.  So breaking the rule of staying in the fence, I crossed it to chase the bird.  I bumped it a couple of more times way out of range.  I was coming up on the 2 hour mark in the field and thought I had better turn around and head back towards the truck.  When I got in view of the spot where I thought the truck should be, I couldn’t see it, but knew I was on the western fenceline with the gate where it was parked, so I followed the fenceline south, knowing that the guys were probably in that direction anyway based on the gunshots I had heard earlier.  Just as I started to panic that I was lost and in despair because I had gone three hours and not shot a bird, I spotted my other dogs off in the distance, so I headed in their direction.  I heard the sound of the guys’ voices and a grouse soared about 15 yards in front of me in a perfectly steady left to right flight, just like station 2 at the skeet range.  I missed the first shot, but nailed it hard on the second one and Sue delivered my quarry.

When I met up with the guys, they had also just harvested their birds, Charles had 2 and Ryan had 2.  So much for the short grouse hunt, three hours later.

Ryan, Charles, Charity, some sharptails and Wirehaired Pointing Griffons

Ryan, Charles, Charity, some sharptails and Wirehaired Pointing Griffons

We set out early Saturday morning, as we wanted to attempt to sit over decoys for a bit.  For me, sitting over decoys is a like a bad day at church, boring and painful.  We got our decoys set up on a pond that we thought would be good and hid in the cottonwoods.  There were a couple that swam over and a couple that flew over, but nothing in range that was on the wing.  We gave it an hour and a half, then packed it in to go jump hunt.

The first spot we hit was a network of small potholes that we had looked at a number of times, but had never taken the time to get out and work.  I worked one side with the guys on the other, with Sam on heel to do any retrieving.  They got into a nice big flock of teal, Ryan got one green-winged and Charles two blue-winged.  I took a shot as some flew by on a return trip, but they were out of range.  Charles came into a small group of grouse up on the hill next to the ponds and harvested one of those.  It was a productive new spot!

We loaded up and headed into familiar territory, but while we were on our way there, passing through the area that we had hunted grouse on Thursday, there was a dead sharptail in the sandy rut of the road.  Charles got out and picked it up and it had been shot.  I had put a pellet in one of those birds in my Hail Mary shooting on Thursday and it just so happened to decide to die in the road that we drove down two days later.  What are the odds?

We began working along a creek that we’ve spent a lot of time hunting in the past with lots of success.  I got into some teal, but missed.  Charles got into some mallards and was able to get hens on two separate jumps.  I shot a grouse, while we were trying to sneak up on a flock of teal and captured it on video (the second half).  The video doesn’t show the 25 teal that bust out of the pond, but that’s what happened when I said “sorry”, plus you can tell that Charles was mad.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4XgYQOzM8c

After I scared up that flock of teal, we had one more opportunity at a flock in  a pond surrounded by small willows, but Sam decided to be naughty and break away from heel, scaring them away.  So no ducks on duck opener for me.  Then Charles started in on the snipe, here’s the video of the first one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7r_TYujq8TA

At that point, we had been out in the field for 8 hours and I was ready to sit in the truck.  The boys set out to work another branch of the creek for a couple of more hours.  Charles harvested 3 more snipe and a rail.  Saturday was an epic day for Charles, giving him a new personal record one-day bag to beat: 3 blue-winged teal, 2 hen mallards, 1 grouse, 4 snipe and a Virginia rail.  All of the birds on the day were retrieved by Sam, with the exception of the grouse that I got myself.

Despite the drought, the grouse population has held up in good numbers and they are reporting a record-setting year for ducks further north.  I doubt we will make it back out to the Sandhills before the migration is over, but I’m hoping we can get out to the Rainwater Basin of Nebraska for some more duck action.

Charity, Charles, Ryan and Sam (the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) with Saturday’s birds

Next weekend, Charles, Sam and BB will head to North Dakota for the first pheasants of the year and some more ducks.  They will be in ND from Saturday through Wednesday and I plan on training Charles on running my equipment, so hopefully we can get some good pictures and video (but it is very possible that we’ll just get phone and pocket camera pics).  Also next weekend duck and goose opens in the eastern part of the state, so I might have to strike out on my own on Saturday to try for a Canadian goose.

Hope everyone else out there is having a great season!

No Deal on Early Teal

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On the opening Saturday of early teal season, Charles and Charity hustled the kids to the babysitter as soon as she would take them and headed to a friend’s pond to make their first attempt at sitting over decoys for the little ducks.  Sporting their hip boots and limited camouflage, they hauled their “dove buckets” (the camo-covered insulated 5 gallon buckets with the butt pad on the lid) over into a patch of sunflowers.

Charles and Sam sit in the sunflowers waiting for teal

The pond sits on the south shore of the Platte River, just a couple of miles west of the confluence with the mighty Missouri.  Their spot was on the southern end of the pond, with a little peninsula jutting northward out into the water, where Charles set up about five decoys on the point.  They sat on the western side of the peninsula, with their backs to the rising sun and another 5-10 decoys out in front of them.

They watched the big ducks and geese move along the Platte as the air grew warmer.  Canadian geese flew overhead.  Shots rang out along the river to the west of them, but they didn’t see any teal flush away from the sound of the reports.  A couple of mature bald eagles flew from the river and an immature perched in the tree above their heads, eyeing the decoys for awhile before moving on.  Charles worked his teal call every now and again, while his trusty retriever Sam laid next to the bucket, as still as he could be but nervous with excitement and attentive to his master’s every move.

The doves teased them, moving around in nearby trees and shrubs, but they sat patiently for the ducks.  A flock of turkeys came out of the woods on the north side of the pond to pick grit off of the beach, while a pair of wood ducks sat lazily in the pond nearby.  Herons and cormorants took their time moving from shore to shore, picking at little fish.

Then, like the Air Force Thunderbirds working an air show, a flock of 15 blue-winged teal flew fast and high over their heads.  “There they are,” whispered Charles, “don’t look at them!”  But it was too late, as Charity’s face and glasses were already pointed at the sky, watching the teal zoom out of range.  Charles worked the teal call a little as they watched the flock disappear into the distance, paying no mind to their feeble attempts at fooling them to land.  And as fast as it had begun, it had ended.  That was the action for the day, without a shot being fired.

They tried changing spots, moving into a tall patch of ragweed that made them both sneeze their heads off, but nothing made the little ducks appear again.

Charles has been back nearly every weekend day since, with no luck.  He was able to bring home a handful of doves and get Sam to tree a couple of coons, but no little ducks.  Recently, he’s been spending some time scouting the southern bank of the Platte river for an easy access point to get on to the sandbars, but it is a bit challenging since the southern side of the river typically has the main channel.  Pack up the canoe with layout blinds and head into the river to set up on some well established sandbars?

Sam’s double coon treeing

With snipe to be chased and big duck season coming on in a few weeks, time is running out on solving the early teal problem this fall, but you can bet it is something that they’ll think about and study for the next year and try some new tactics in 2013.