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Welcome “O” Litter!

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At this time, all 2018 puppies are spoken for.  Please email bluestemkennels@gmail.com to inquire about future litters.
The arrival of the “O” litter…

I knew things were starting Friday night at bedtime, so I put Fire in the whelping area when I went to bed, thinking that she would bark or howl to wake me up to help her whelp.  Nope.  Here is what I woke up to Saturday morning…twelve clean and healthy puppies!  Nine boys and three girls.

Fire O Litter1

Fire and the “O” Litter

I had only taken five deposits since she’d had a smaller litter last year, so I’ve been working through contacts and finding some great homes all across the country for these little ones.

This morning I took them to my vet at Heartland Pet Hospital just down the hill for their tail docking and dew claw removal.  Dr. Kliewer said that everyone looks healthy and vibrant.  All twelve are still going strong after two days, so that is a good sign.  I don’t see any of them at risk for fading away on us.

Fire O Litter2

“O” Litter at the vet

I will keep this blog post updated as I fill the last two male puppy reservation spots for the “O” Litter.

“N” Litter Picks

I have listed the “N” Litter picks by the state where they are going to (or region in the case of MO).
Boys:
Norman – Tennessee
Nicholas – Virginia
Noah – Iowa
Newman – Nebraska
Girls:
Namaste – Northwest Missouri
Nichole – Oklahoma
Nefertiti – Mississippi
Nellie – Texas
Nettie – East Central Missouri
Congratulations everyone!  We are scheduled for our shots and microchips on Wednesday the 4th and we’ll be ready to rock and roll.  Here is the YouTube video that I made of them Saturday morning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fqg-2sIj2JY&t=7s
Thanks to everyone for your vote of confidence in me as a breeder.

Puppies on the way and pupdates!

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Sue’s retirement

Sue out on the prairie

Sue out on the South Dakota prairie

12 year old Trey gave me an update on how 10 year old Sue is doing up in South Dakota.  He says that he is finally licensed and has a shotgun and is ready to shoot some birds over her.  We miss Sue and my youngest boy Caleb (age 4 1/2) asks about her at least once a week.  We want to keep our dog numbers at 4 here at the house, so that we can hunt them regularly and give them personal attention, so retirement and re-homing is a necessary sadness.  But we are so happy to give folks an opportunity to experience the griffon who might not be able to afford or have no desire to raise a puppy.  I can’t wait to see pics of Trey and Sue with some birds in the fall!!

Sue's sweet face

Sue’s sweet face

Pupdates

I really appreciate all of my puppy owners who contribute photographs and stories of their dogs as they grow up.  It is truly the reason why we do this.

Pete, Whiskey, Andi and chukars in NV

Pete, Whiskey, Andi and chukars in NV

Great job to sharpshooter Andi and our oldest boy Whiskey, who will be four years old soon!  He is from our first, or “A” litter in 2010 with Sue and Sam.  Andi and Whiskey really tore it up in the chukar field and we couldn’t be more proud!!  Thanks to Pete, Deborah and Andi for giving him such a great life out in Nevada!!

Sal and 2 year old Chester

Sal and 2 year old Chester

We received a lovely Christmas card with photos of Chester from Sal and family out in New York!  When Chester isn’t out with Steve “Hoss” Anker training or out with the Hudson Valley NAVHDA Chapter, he’s having a good time at home on Long Island.  He is from our 2012 “C” litter from Sam and Mae.  Sal has done a great job working with this dog and he has a bright future ahead!

Chester taking a rest

Chester taking a rest

Chester’s “C” litter sister TracHer is having a good season up in North Dakota.  She has a new brother, a 10-month old German Wirehaired Pointer named Max.  Thanks to Susan and Tom for the lovely Christmas card with photos.  Tom had surgery is on crutches from a knee injury incurred while hunting, so we send prayers for a speedy recovery.

TracHer and Susan in the ND snow

TracHer and Susan in the ND snow

Chester and TracHer’s little sister Zoey, from our “F” litter in 2013 also from Mae and Sam, is having a blast down in Oklahoma with Jimmy and Sandi.  Here’s what Jimmy had to say:

This girl is the best thing that every happened to Sandi and me. Here some updated photos. She is now 10 mos old and weighs 55 lbs. We just bought some land in the badlands of SW Oklahoma and she loves it. Here is some photos of her expeditions so far. She loves hunting antlers and when go into the shop she will go to the gun safe and sit there until I either get a gun out or tell her we aren’t going hunting. 

Jimmy and Zoey

Jimmy and Zoey

Zoey on point

Zoey on point

Zoey water retrieving a stick

Zoey water retrieving a stick

Zoey retrieving an antler

Zoey retrieving an antler

Zoey patiently waiting for the ducks

Zoey patiently waiting for the ducks

Zoey and her mallard haul!

Zoey and her mallard haul!

Thank you so much again to all of my owners for contributing to this and keeping me up to date on how their dogs are doing.  It is really important for us to see their success, it keeps us going during the times that we find the pressures of breeding overwhelming.  Watching the gun dog lifestyle continue in our pups is one of our greatest joys.

I will be sure to keep everyone posted on the upcoming litters.  BB is already heavy and I need to get some pictures of her, along with updated shots of the rest of the dogs.  I’d also like to do video of Tor.  Now that I’ve recovered from travel, the holidays and a major plumbing project, I will do a better job of keeping the blog updated.  Charles and Matt are out right now trying to spook up some pheasants, all of the chaos lately has really cut into their time in the field.  Until then, stay warm and don’t blow away in these winds!

More Field Trial Action and Pupdates

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On Field Trials

Saturday, September 22nd was a big day for AKC field events in the Lincoln, Nebraska area, so the kids and I hit the road to visit friends and family involved.  Our first stop was the Missouri Valley Brittany Club’s AKC Hunt Test at Yankee Hill Wildlife Management Area just southwest of Lincoln, near Denton.  Although Charles and I lived in Lincoln for a couple of years in the 1990’s, I had never been to this WMA.  It is very nice, lots of good cover and space, I can see why the Nebraska Game and Parks selected it as a new spot to plant pheasant for the youth hunting weekend in October.  Yet I digress.

I was headed to the test to visit with my friend Sally Jo Hoagland from North Platte.  Although she is probably closer to my mom’s age than mine, she is one of the top (if not THE top) Weimaraner breeders in Nebraska (Weimshadow Kennel) and one of the only professional dog trainers in Central Nebraska (Four Paws Dog Training).  We had met at the Grand Island Kennel Club Dog Show earlier in the year after first connecting on Facebook, due to our mutual involvement with NAVHDA and AKC.  It was funny that at the hunt test I not only knew Sally Jo, but probably 90% of the people at the test and what was even funnier is that we were not the only family of spectators.

The hunt test environment is very family friendly, there are usually multiple families with elementary age children running about, so we all look out for one another’s kids and there is never any worry about any of the dogs being mean.  The dogs typically sit quietly in their crates or on their stakeout chains and love to have the kids mess with them.

Following lunch at the hunt test and a good visit with friends and fellow local hunt test junkies, we loaded up and headed north to Branched Oak Field Trial Grounds near Raymond.  Although we had been there for hunt tests in the past, this field trial environment was completely different.  The German Shorthaired Pointer Club of Nebraska’s field trial over last weekend was four days long and had 235 entrants, making it one of the largest AKC field trials of the entire year.  Our “camp” was out in the back 40, so when the kids wanted to go to the clubhouse to get some sweets and sodas, we had to wade through the melee.  As most field trials are on horseback, most of the other camps consisted of a camper/horsetrailer/dogtrailer combo, a stakeout chain of 10-25 dogs and at least one horse.  Anytime someone walked down the dirt road in the midst of the gypsy village, all 235 dogs barked and spazzed out on their chains.  This was with the exception of BB of course, who really wanted her people very close to her in this strange setting.  I don’t think that any of us were comfortable and felt pretty alien: a family with small children and one griffon surrounded by herds of barking shorthairs, German Wirehaired Pointers and Vizsla dogs along with their owners who reminded me of the rodeo crowd; not sure if their faces are red from being sunburned or last night’s whiskey, or both.  The only time that I saw any other women is when they came out of their campers to water their dogs or smoke a cigarette.

A string of German Shorthaired Pointers at the AKC Field Trial on Saturday

Maybe I’m only drawing these caricatures because I was nervous and scared that my 3 year old was going to wade into a pack of freaked out hunting machines.  I don’t want to hurt any field trialer’s feelings and I’m sure we’ll be back for more, so I’ll get more comfortable and quit seeing things that make me want to point them out.  But as the hunt testing environment is where my fellow griffoniers find themselves, I wanted to point out the differences before anyone else decided to strike out into the field trial world.  Not that I have any serious ideas of other griffoniers going this route, as a few of them have raised questions about participation.

Our take on it is that Korthals wanted to breed a foot hunting dog that was faster than the bootlicking continental breeds of his time.  We do not believe that hunt testing does enough to test the athleticism and endurance of the animal, as it is a brief exercise that is only looking for the dog to satisfy the training requirements of the test (search, pointing, retrieving, steadiness, honoring etc.).  Even in NSTRA and BHU trials, the field is too small for it to be a valid test of athleticism.  We intend to continue to participate in walking stakes at AKC field trials and other trialers at the event encouraged Charles to look into American Field’s Region 19 events.

In my brief readings on American Field Region 19, these are events that last longer than an hour and are on open terrain and wild birds, which is a lot like what we are doing for hunting anyway, where we walk for at least an hour before stopping for water and usually two hours before we really stand or sit around for any lengthy period of time.  I would suspect that BB would be the first griffon to ever participate in American Field, should we decide to check it out.

BB placed 4th out of 5 in the Amateur Walking Derby stakes last Saturday, beating out a Vizsla her same age, working the terrain more thoroughly and having the one bird find of the run.  Although we are flying in the face of current convention with the breed, we worry more about the prevelance of designer house pets and conformation show-only dogs than about our involvement in walking stakes at field trials.  I really just wish we could channel the spirit of Korthals to ask him himself, but in the meantime we’ll just keep doing our research to support our methods and having fun with our dogs.

BB’s Fourth Place Ribbon.

Pupdates

TracHer is busy as usual in North Dakota, she’s 7 months old now and been out on a few sharptail grouse and Hungarian Partridge hunts.  She’s even retrieved a few of them!  Most recently, she brought a live rabbit into the house through the doggie door while company was over, luckily they were fellow hunters!

TracHer on left (7 month old Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) with Susan and her old buddy Zephyr with Tom and their limit of sharptail grouse!

TracHer and her bunny (7 month old Wirehaired Pointing Griffon)

TracHer retrieving a sharptail grouse (7 month old Wirehaired Pointing Griffon)

Mike out in Colorado has also been working with TracHer’s “twin” sister Frankie on some pheasants.  He’s been working on steadiness on the point and he says she’s doing a great job!  Both TracHer and Frankie are from our 2012 “C” litter with Sam and Mae.

Mowgli is 18 months old and is from our 2011 “B” litter out of Sue and Sam.  Quite the looker!  I saw his brother Duke’s owner at the movie theater when I was taking the kids to see Finding Nemo 3-D, so hopefully I’ll get to see him soon.

Mowgli (18 month old Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) and his neighbor friend the Dachshund chilling on the deck

Coming Soon to Versatile Hunter

Well in less than a week, we’ll be headed back out to the Sandhills for some more hunting.  There are no words for how terrible Eastern Nebraska has been this year thus far.  The swamps are too dry for early teal and snipe, then the prairie chicken grounds have all been mowed for hay.  Damn drought.  We are going to have to start commuting to not only the Sandhills, but the Rainwater Basin of Central Nebraska, the pheasant fields of South Dakota and Southwestern Nebraska as well as the quail fields of Kansas.  I hope that this is a temporary blip in the hunting situation in this part of the state because I don’t see us moving anytime soon.  But we are in fear of this being the beginning of a total collapse in hunting in Southeastern Nebraska.

Shirts!!

Oh and one last thing, be sure to check out the new t-shirt designs on our Shop!!  You can either click the button at the top of the page or go directly to http://www.wirehairedpointinggriffongear.com Buy a shirt to show your griffon pride, 100% made in the USA, from the shirt itself, the artists designs to the embroidery and screenprinting!!

How to Groom a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

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A couple of years ago I wrote a post about grooming the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon and to this day it is one of my most visited.  As I’ve since learned more about the process, I wanted to provide my readers and others scouring the internet for information with my most up-to-date knowledge.

Most of my grooming comes out of necessity, as my property is wooded and contains burr bearing plants.  There are things that those grooming for show do that I don’t, which I’ll talk about at the end of my explanation.  My grooming is very utilitarian and only very infrequently for the show ring, but I will talk about show grooming techniques later on.

It is important to have good supplies.  I’ve acquired my collection of brushes, combs, scissors and other necessities over the years, but would think that starting out with a complete set and knowing how to use them would be helpful for a relatively new griffon owner.

Brushes and combs:  Multi-width metal comb, wide-toothed burr remover, undercoat comb, universal brush, slicker brush.  I also have a dog shampoo brush that I failed to include in my video, but it looks something like this: http://www.petsupplies.com/item/groomaster-rubber-brush-for-dogs/494975/

Shampoo:  For dogs under 6 months of age, I use a multi-purpose puppy shampoo of any brand.  Once they are over 6 months, I use Hartz Flea and Tick Dog Shampoo.  I do not recommend using the flea and tick shampoo within 2 weeks of having the dog’s coat evaluated, because it strips the oils from the coat. If you must wash the dog (like if it gets in the mud or something) within 2 weeks of going to a dog show or NAVHDA test where the dog’s coat is evaluated, use Bio-Groom Wire Coat Shampoo.  I have yet to try it out, but I do have a bottle and know the vast majority of griffon owners swear by it.  Due to my dogs spending so much time in the woods and field, I feel like I need to use the flea and tick shampoo in addition to my monthly flea and tick preventative regimen.

Ear cleaner:  My vet prescribes DermaPet Malacetic Otic solution, but any vet recommended ear cleaner should be purchased in the largest dispenser possible.

Scissors: I have a round-tip pair with a 1″ blade if I need to trim around their eyes (I don’t like hair blocking their vision), then a normal pair of round tipped shears for the body and ears and a pair of thinning shears for flattening out anywhere it is not level for the show ring.

I start out brushing the entire body of the dog with the wide-toothed burr remover, then repeat the process with the undercoat comb, then finish with the universal wire brush.  I just purchased a grooming table over the summer and am really enjoying it, saves me all of the bending over from when I used to brush them on the ground.

If the dog needs a bath, I then bathe them with one of the above listed shampoos, scrubbing them down with the rubber shampoo brush.  I’m in the process of creating a spot in my garage stall (that I’m slowly turning into a dog room) where I will have a dedicated grooming tub that is elevated, but as of right now my dogs are bathing in the kiddie pool in the summer and the human bath tub in the winter.

I then go through the process of cleaning my dog’s ears.  Holding the dog’s head still, fill the entire canal with the ear cleaning solution, put the ear flap down begin massaging the entire ear structure on the dogs skull vigorously for a few minutes.  They will shake out most of the excess.  You can either wipe out any excess and leftover dirt or simply let them drip dry.  Here is a video of me cleaning Sam’s ears: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjgP6KNDfi8

That’s pretty much my basic regimen that keeps them clean and healthy.  If I’m going into the show ring, I will trim them after brushing and before bathing.  Please keep in mind that I’ve only started showing this year, but we did win Reserve Winners Bitch at our first major, so I must not have done too bad of a job.  Here is where I trim: probably the most important is leveling out the head furnishings.  Trim the hair at the bottom of the ears so that it is even, even out the head furnishings a bit, trim around the snout so that it is somewhat uniform and then level out a well combed out beard.  If the hair on top of the ears is not laying flat, use thinning shears to even it out to lay down.  Also make sure that the fur on the back of the head is under control, in order to accentuate the head furnishings.  Here is the photograph that I use for a guide (thank you to Paige Pettis of Pageska’s Griffon Town in Nova Scotia, Canada for use of the photo):

Two very handsome Wirehaired Pointing Griffons ready for the show ring in Quebec, Canada. Photo property of Paige Pettis

I then move on to make sure that the body hair is even.  Make sure that the feather on the back of the front legs is straight, trim any “sticky-outies” on their underside, trim the top of the tail if necessary and level out the feather at the bottom of the tail if you have a longer tailed griff like BB.  Here is the photograph that I use as a guide on the body (Thank you to Kristi Woods Rogney and her handler Amy Rutherford of Whiskeytown Sporting Dogs in California for use of the photo):

A Wirehaired Pointing Griffon ready for the California show circuit. Photo property of Kristi Woods Rogney

There are things that most griffon show groomers do that I do not due to our dogs spending most of their time in the field.  I do not finger strip, use a stripping stone, knife or furminator on my dogs’ coats.  Once you’ve seen a dog hunt cattails for a few hours, you’ll know why.  I do not pluck my dogs’ ears, so I end up cleaning them quite a bit.  My vet recommended not plucking them to make sure that field debris does not end up in the ear canal; I have a friend whose lab has his eardrum punctured by dried grass last year.  I have yet to learn how to clean my dogs’ teeth and right now rely on bones to keep them clean, but it is on my to-do list of things to learn (many folks have this done at their vet).  I do not trim my dogs’ claws because they get naturally worn down in daily exercise.  These are other things that you might want to think about and research elsewhere.

First breeding of year complete!

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To reserve a puppy from one of our spring 2012 litters, please call (402) 682-9802 or e-mail bluestemkennels@cox.net

We are pleased to announce that our first breeding of the year is complete between our 3 year old male, Sam, and our new 5 year old female, Mae.  Sue was anticipated to come into season first, but Mae surprised us.  Mae and Sam bred from January 9-11, therefore pups are expected March 13-15.  Hey game birds, “Beware of the Ides of March!”, new hunting puppies will be here!

Hunting photos of Sam can be found on our “About Us” page (I have yet to load this season’s, but they can be found on the individual blog posts containing the hunting tales on bluestemkennels.com [pre-10/01/2011] and versatilehunter.com [10/01/2011-present]).  His pedigree is a link at the bottom of the “About Us” page.

Mae came into our home on December 3, 2011 from That’s My Point Kennels in Wheatland, ND where she had successfully whelped and nursed 3 previous litters and was known as “Aspen” http://www.tmpkennels.com/ As you can see from the previous owner’s website, she was raised with young children.   At the age of one, she successfully scored a Prize II on her Natural Ability Test from the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA).

Mae's Natural Ability Test Results

Her AKC/NAVHDA pedigrees also spoke of her potential for us.  Her sire, Marquis Georgeous George hails from French import blood and the prestigious Herrenhausen kennel.  Barbara Young of Herrenhausen is an AKC and International Conformation Judge, therefore she knows and breeds good dogs.  The dam, Full of Grace, is out of the famed Fireside blood.  Fireside’s Spontaneous Combustion won 3rd place in the sporting group at Westminster last year and was the first Wirehaired Pointing Griffon ever to place at WKC.

Mae's AKC Pedigree

The hunt testing results and the strong conformation background in the pedigree drew me to “Aspen”.  She was the Butcher family’s companion in the home and field, therefore even though I was nervous about bringing a new member into our pack, I thought that these things put together boded well for “Aspen” being a good match for us and our breeding program.

I made the following YouTube video this morning of all my dogs running in the yard, just as a visual reference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSb7jdZXPz8

Mae has thrived in our home and in the field.  Not even a week after bringing her home, we had her out on planted hen pheasants for training:

(Click on any of the photos to see a larger version)

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Mae working the field on December 9, 2011

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

One of Mae's points 12/09/2011

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Another point on 12/09/2011

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Charles walks into Mae's point

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Mae retrieves on 12/09/2011

After our first training day with planted birds in a controlled environment, we felt comfortable enough to use Mae to assist in guiding at Pheasant Haven right before Christmas.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Sam (front) and Mae (back) with the hunters on 12/22/2011

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Sam, myself and Mae guided a hunt on 12/23/2011 also

The afternoon following the December 23rd preserve hunt, we were on the road for the Sandhills where we busted up some cattails with the whole gang, Mae included, on Christmas Eve:

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Mae on the left, with the rest of the pack, Charles, and the Christmas Eve Sandhills pheasant

Wirehaired Pointing Griffons

Charles and all four dogs on the dunes

We spent a couple of hours on Christmas Day chasing grouse with Mae and the rest of the pack, but didn’t find any.  We’ll be back for them in September!

Our last outing was on January 2nd with some chukar and quail from a game farm that we had never used before and wanted to try out.  It is important for newer dogs to get individual training attention when they are usually braced (in pairs) or ran as a pack.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

One of Mae's points on 01/02/2012

Charles shoots one of the chukars over Mae on 01/02/2012

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Charles walking into one of Mae's points 01/02/2012

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Closeup of Mae's point that Charles was walking into

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Double chukar flush over Mae and Charles 01/02/2012

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Mae had more than one retrieve on 01/02/2012, but this was the only photo that turned out well

Even though we’ve only had Mae a limited time, we are confident in her ability to produce quality puppies for our kennel and contribute to our development of the breed.

I will close with a picture of the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon breed’s founder Edward Korthals.  This was taken in 1891 when he was presented the German Kaiser’s award for breeding.  I use this photograph as guide for the dogs that I will continue working to create.  Mae fits into this perfectly.

Korthals and his prize specimens

To reserve a puppy from one of our spring 2012 litters, please call (402) 682-9802 or e-mail bluestemkennels@cox.net

Reflections on Snipe Hunting

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Sam, Charles, Sue and BB with 4 snipe, a teal and 2 doves

The habitat of the snipe is nothing that I had ever expected.  As we wandered our way down the path through the cattails, I kept my eyes sharp, looking for the zig-zag flight of the long-billed swamp bird.  Yet my vigilance was wasted in those areas of dense swamp cover and we eventually wandered into a 20 acre flat, recently grazed by cattle.

“This is where it gets interesting,” Charles warned.  We split up to cover opposite sides of a small creek that ended in a cattail marsh.  I mistakenly headed once again into dense cover, thinking that the sneaky birds would tuck themselves into the reeds.  I was sinking quickly into the mud and got my rubber boots stuck, just in time for an incoming snipe, who landed in the distant short grass.  I was able to extract myself from the mud and we walked towards where we saw the bird land.  He jumped up way out of range, but it became obvious that we were dealing with a resident population, as they did not want to leave their 20 acres.

We worked over the creek half of the plot, spotting a few more snipe getting up out of range.  Our favorite technique for birds that won’t hold tight is to tire them out, flush, then follow, flush, then follow, until they are too tired to be overly flighty.  There was no luck to be had in that half of the small territory, so we headed towards the area where the flushed birds landed.

In a spot that we had covered, next to the tiny creek in tightly grazed grass an unexpected snipe popped up with its classic, “screeee, thwicka, thwicka, thwicka”.  Aside from its larger size, the call of a fleeing snipe is the one sure way to tell it apart from a killdeer.  The chosen path of the snipe is frightening for the hunter, as it begins by flying very close to the ground, at the same height of the dogs and sometimes right among them.

The bird flew clear of the dogs and Charles made the shot, with Sue on retrieve.  Right after that, a dove flew by me in range and I watched it go, choosing to focus on trying to get my first snipe.  Another shot was fired from my husband’s gun and he took down the dove, with Sue doing another great job on tracking the small bird to deliver to her master.

Our walk continued towards a small pond, where all heck broke loose.  Charles quickly bagged another snipe in the flat next to the pond and while he was busy with Sam’s retrieve, the crazy swamp creatures were zig-zagging all around above my head.  I missed several shots on snipe, while a couple of teal busted out of the pond.  Charles was lucky to be close enough to the pond to take one of the teal, which landed in the water still alive.  The injured teal made its way towards the cattails on the edge of the bank in an attempt to hide from the encroaching dogs, but Sam was able to snatch it out of the water.

Close-up of a snipe, with a blue-winged teal in the background

The pond was completely shaken down, so we decided to head back to the creek area we had already covered.  I was in a hurry to cross the watery thread and thought I spotted a muddy area that was dry and vegetated enough to handle my crossing.  Epic fail!  I was immediately sucked thigh deep into the mud, both legs.  Charles was still trying to give me hand signals as to which direction we were going and began to walk off into the distance, so I had to shout him down to come and hold my gun so that I could attempt to remove myself from the gluey muck.  I wiggled and squiggled, but my cheap rubber calf boots were not budging.  My only choice was to leave the boots in the mud and concede defeat to the snipe swamp, pouting my way sock-footed towards the truck.

Defeated by the swamp

Not wanting to wander too far in my socks or ruin Charles’s hunt, I stood on the edge of the 20 acres as he walked back and forth with the dogs, taking two more snipe and one more dove off in the distance.

My adventure ended in the style of a proverbial snipe hunt, as defined in Wikipedia, “…also known as a fool’s errand, a type of practical joke that involves experienced people making fun of credulous newcomers by giving them an impossible or imaginary task.”  Yet I am intrigued by this interesting hunt and unusual habitat.  I will be purchasing some hip boots before I try this again, but am sure to be back and better prepared.

If you are interested in reading more tales of snipe hunting from around the globe, check out Worth Mathewson’s rare book Reflections on Snipe.

Spring in the Sandhills and other adventures

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We had a surprise visit last night from Kyle and his three month old pup from our recent “B” litter, named Duke.  It was a shock to see how large he is, most likely pushing the 30 pound mark.  I wasn’t able to get a measure on his shoulder, but he is tall enough that BB can run between his legs.  As Duke lives within 15 miles of our house, so we will be seeing the most of him out of any of the pups from our litters.  It will be exciting to watch him develop!

BB, Sue, Duke and Sam having a Griffon party

Duke points BB

BB and Duke had a great time playing together

Memorial Day weekend was spent up in my hometown of Valentine, Nebraska.  The dogs went for a run out on some public land outside of town and enjoyed the exercise in a change of scenery.  Working the dogs in different terrains in the off-season makes for confidence in varied environments during hunting season.

Sam and Sue on a run through the Sandhills

BB and Cordelia also take in a jog

BB swamping in a wet area near a windmill

Our next stop was Merritt Reservoir, a popular local fishing and swimming hole.  The dogs and the kids had a great time playing in the water and sniffing around.

BB points the kids playing in the lake

Sam takes a dip

Sue wades deep in the chilly water

Sam surprises us with a treasure: a brand new minnow bucket full of live minnows

In BB news, we took her to the vet for her 12 week shots and she weighs 17 lbs., a 7 lb. gain from when she arrived.  We’re getting close to being finished up with housebreaking and I’m going to start a daily obedience training regimen.  She has “come” down, but I’m going to work daily on sit, stay, whoa, and heel.  We’ve started cap gun conditioning while she’s playing in the kennel with Sue and will continue to work on “fetch” with the pheasant wing.

BB at 12 weeks

BB picks up the duck dummy while Duke looks on

Bluestem Kennels is now an officially registered kennel with the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association http://www.navhda.org/.  We look forward to training and testing BB with the local Heartland Chapter http://www.heartlandnavhda.com/.

The Highlights of Pheasant Fest 2011

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January 28-30 was a weekend full of upland excitement at the 2011 Pheasant Fest, the national convention of Pheasants Forever.  Here are some of the highlights from our weekend spent there:

  • As seen in the last post “Bluestem Kennels in the Omaha World-Herald”, Cordelia, Sam and I had a great time at the photo shoot.  Cordelia and Sam were on the front page of the Friday, January 28th paper and also featured in an online video and slideshow.
  • We were the only Wirehaired Pointing Griffon entry in the Friday afternoon Bird Dog Parade.  Visiting with local Nebraska Game and Parks personality, Greg Wagner, was a fun part of the day.  He mentioned the possibility of having us on his KFAB radio show to talk dogs at some point in the future.
  • While Charles was out in the foyer working out some day job office issues over the phone during the Friday evening banquet, I got to pick the brain of Chad Love, a photojournalist for Field and Stream magazine.  He works primarily with upland hunting and bird dog assignments, so it was fun to hear how he went from his political science degree to getting published in outdoor magazines.  It was definitely an inspiration for where I want to take my blogging.  Here’s his most recent post on the Field and Stream website: http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/hunting/2011/02/jealousy-between-dogs-can-be-powerful-training-tool
  • Saturday afternoon turned out to be quite interesting for me, as I ended up helping to lead a seminar that I attended.  The 1 PM “Picking your puppy and the First Six Months” seminar was quite full and by 1:15 PM, there was still no presenter.  A fellow breeder/trainer and I got up in front of the audience and freestyled the seminar, sharing the wealth of what we know on the subject.

Charity Upchurch of Bluestem Kennels, right, discusses selecting and training a puppy

Thank you to Pheasants Forever photographer Jim Cooper for the use of the photo.

  • My children spent Saturday afternoon at Rudy’s Youth Village of Pheasant Fest, where we met some inspirational teenagers, the Illinois Pioneer Chapter #069 “Young Guns”.  They raised $6000 for a virtual shooting gallery had it trailered all the way to Omaha for the young people to enjoy.  My son, Conrad, couldn’t get enough of it!

Conrad practices his shooting skills

  • Charles and I had a great time at the Saturday evening banquet visiting with the members of the Auglaize County, Ohio Pheasants Forever chapter and one of their state wildlife biologists.  It was interesting to learn that the pheasant population in Ohio has been decimated to the point where the state game and fish department has a pheasant stocking program.   I didn’t realize until attending Pheasant Fest that promoting stocking pheasants in Nebraska is seen as nearly rebellious to the habitat cause.  The latest Focus on Pheasant report was sent to me by Nebraska Game and Parks following my post “Focus on Pheasant needs to readjust their sights”.  Once I get a chance to read their report, I’ll be revisiting this topic will a full post in the near future.
  • Sunday we met renowned wildlife artist Carl J. Melichar, who was a Federal Duck Stamp finalist and has taken on bird dogs as the focus of his painting.  He does not yet have a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon in his catalog, so we’ll be getting him some photographs in the near future and possibly commission a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon original painting.  Here are some examples of his work:  http://www.artbarbarians.com/gallery2/main.asp?artist=48
  • We closed out our visit to Pheasant Fest on Sunday by attending Pheasants Forever Field Coordinator Pete Berthelsen’s talk on creating quail habitat on his 160 acres near Elba, Nebraska.  It was amazing to see how quickly habitat adjustments can restore bird populations.  In a matter of a few years, he went from one covey of quail to fifteen coveys!

The weekend was a complete success and really fired us up to increase our involvement in Pheasants Forever, habitat restoration and sharing our love of not only the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon breed, but raising, training and hunting versatile dogs.

Bluestem Kennels in the Omaha World-Herald

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On Friday, January 28th, my nine-year-old daughter Cordelia and my three-year-old male, Sam were featured on the front page of both the morning and evening editions of the Omaha World-Herald.  The paper edition will be scanned and uploaded when I get a chance.  The following link is a video that the Omaha World-Herald put together about their featured photos:

http://omaha.com/article/20110127/NEWS01/110129697#a-parade-of-bird-dogs-for-omaha

Here is also a slideshow that they put together of their photos, we are slides 3, 4 and 5:

http://odc.omaha.com/index.php?u_page=5002&p=2310

If for some reason you can’t view the slide show, here are the stills from it.  Sorry that I can’t make them bigger (they are much larger in the slideshow).

We will be continuing our adventures at Pheasant Fest all weekend!

Late Season Pheasant Hunt

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It isn’t very often that we get to enjoy a pheasant hunt in well-established native tallgrass prairie in Southeastern Nebraska.  We’re not the only ones.  In the 1960’s 140,000 hunters bagged about 1.4 million pheasants annually in Nebraska.  These days, the annual count is around 50,000 hunters and 200,000 birds (Hendee, Omaha World-Herald, 01/23/11).  Speaking to other Nebraska hunters this year from across the state, pheasant numbers this year have been up from recent years past, but obviously nowhere near the level of the mid-20th century.

Our hunt last Saturday was in some amazing habitat on private ground east of Lincoln.  It was a cold, windless winter morning, ideal for keeping the roosters held tight in the thick grass.  The air was moist and slightly foggy, perfect scenting conditions for the dogs.

The SE Nebraska combination of windbreaks, crop fields and a smattering of prairie.

Nate, the landowner, begins working the fields

Sam and Charles make their way through the big bluestem

We headed east, away from the farmstead, pushing through some thick cover towards a small cattle feedlot.  As we neared the break between the prairie ground and the feedlot, Nate saw a flock of hens flush to the north.  I saw one rooster fly into a windbreak at least 40 yards out, then Charles and I both saw another rooster spook way out of range.  I’ll admit that we were all probably a little too chatty about what we had already seen and not focused on keeping quiet for any other roosters nearby.

The guys thought they had seen a rooster land to the south in a bit of a marshy area, so we pivoted as we came to the feedlot and began to work our way through some tough swamp weeds.

Busting through some weeds

Walking down a waterway

Sam running on the left, Sue visibly pregnant on the right

As we worked our way back west out of the swampy area and into the grassland, the dogs both started acting birdy: retracing their paths with their noses to the ground, Sam sneaking lower to the ground, Sue holding her head high, circling and searching.  Finally, Sam’s beeper collar starts to make the loud, sharp beep, telling us that he’s on point.  Charles walks right in for a close flush and takes the rooster.

Stay focused! The rooster takes the impact, but unfortunately my auto-focus thought I was taking a picture of that piece of grass

Sam presents the gift

The rooster!

We continued to push southward into the corner of the property, then made our way west, working a treeline on our way.

Checking back in: that’s pregnant Sue on the left with the frosty face

Following the take of the rooster, we worked the field for another hour or so, with no further sightings of pheasant.

Arriving back to the farm

The pose: Nate with Sue, Charles, Sam and the rooster

 

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