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NAVHDA Handler’s Clinic, our first Best of Breed, and other news…

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The Countdown Begins

It was only in the 50s when the sun was coming up this morning and it set Sam a-howling, which seemed appropriate to me because my first thought when I woke up was, “only two months left and it will be hunting season again”.  Although I’m very excited, I’m also a bit nervous since we’ve retired all of our older females at this point and I’ll be hunting with Sam.  It will be my first time hunting by myself with a male dog, and Sam and I have our moments where he thinks there is room for debate as to who is the dominate player in our relationship.  But I’m sure we’ll get it sorted out and have a grand time as we always do.

Opening weekend 2011: Charity, Ryan Tompkins, Chas, then Sue, Sam, and BB.

Opening weekend 2011: Charity, Ryan Tompkins, Charles, then Sue, Sam, and BB.

Best of Breed

I am just beside myself at the success of Bluestem Big Sky Rendezvous NA I “Midge” in both the field and the show ring.  She is from our 2013 “F” litter from Sam and Mae.  Only a couple of weeks after her Prize I NAVHDA Natural Ability test with a score of 112, she took Best of Breed on June 20th at the Electric City Kennel Club Dog Show in Great Falls, Montana.  The competition in Montana is tough and I am just thrilled.  Infinite thanks to owners/handlers Lou and Lindsay Volpe.

Midge has a stretch after her BOB win at Montana Expo Park

Midge has a stretch after her BOB win at Montana Expo Park

NAVHDA Handler’s Clinic

The first and most important thing I have to say about NAVHDA Handler’s Clinics is: GO.  I wish that we had gone 10 years ago, as it would have saved us numerous hours of time in both research and training.  We were lucky to have 3 judges with us over the weekend: our own Tracey Nelson and Chuck Casanova, and our instructor, Jason Wade from the Sebasticook and Yankee Chapters in Maine.  The first day was devoted to going over the Aims, Programs and Test booklet that covers the elements of the Natural Ability, Utility Preparatory, Utility, and Invitational Tests.  We then scored two dogs at the Natural Ability level.  The second day we scored a UPT and a UT dog, then finalized any remaining questions.  It was a great combination of direct instruction, guided practice, then finished with independent practice.  Kudos to Tracey and her family at Skyline Sportsmen’s Club in Thurman, Iowa for being gracious hosts to the Heartland Chapter yet again.

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Pupdates

Speaking of the NAVHDA Chapters in Maine, Tyson out in Bangor sent me a pic of Moose doing some work at a recent training day.  Moose is from our 2014 “H” litter from Sam and Mae and is 12 weeks old in the picture.

Moose retrieving a chukar

Moose retrieving a chukar

Kaylee down in Missouri shared this cute pic recently of my pup Fire’s sister, Willow, working on the water retrieve.  Willow is from our 2014 “G” litter of Sam and BB.  I love the confident look in her eyes, like, “I’ve got this!”

Willow is proud of her duck dummy

Willow is proud of her duck dummy

I just love all of the pics that Susan and Tom up in North Dakota get of TracHer and the pretty flowers.  Here is Susan and TracHer, who is from our 2011 “C” litter from Sam and Mae.  Don’t be fooled by her show dog looks, she’s tearing up the sloughs, ponds, and prairies up there.

Susan and TracHer in the summer flowers

Susan and TracHer in the summer flowers

As always, many thanks to all of my owners for sharing photos with me and giving great homes to our pups.

Mae’s Retirement  

We spent the solstice/wedding anniversary weekend up in the Nebraska Sandhills, enjoying time in the outdoors with family and friends.

Caleb, Fire, Charles, BB, Cordelia, Conrad, Mae, and Sam at our special swimming spot

Caleb, Fire, Charles, BB, Cordelia, Conrad, Mae, and Sam at our special swimming spot

Mae has been officially retired to Valentine, Nebraska to live with my brother, Ron, and his 1 1/2 year old Siberian Husky, Whisper.  The initial introduction of the two dogs was a bit dicey, but they settled in with each other quickly and are good friends.

Mae and Whisper chilling in my brother's yard

Mae and Whisper chilling in my brother’s yard

Burr season is here

As I was writing this, I received a panicked phone call from a griff owner asking about how to deal with burr mats in the coat.  If we run the dogs in burrs, I try to brush them the same or the next day to prevent matting.  Should I forget to do this and a mat develops, I try to brush it out with a wide toothed comb or burr puller.  I make sure to grab the fur close to the skin before I start yanking on it with the comb.  There are spray-on liquid detanglers that you can buy at the pet store to help with this.  If it will not come out and the dog is crying and/or trying to grab your hand with its mouth, it is okay to cut the mat out with scissors if you have to.

I had better move on with my day, even though it seems like there is always more to write, but the littlest one is asking for me to fix him a hot breakfast.  So everyone have a safe and Happy 4th of July!  Keep the dogs inside or kenneled a safe distance from fireworks so they don’t try to eat them like my little cocker spaniel did when I was a child:)

Spring Training

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It is supposed to get into the mid-90s today, so it is a perfect day to get dog baths and grooming out of the way.  Mae will be heading up to her retirement home with my mom and brother in Valentine, Nebraska this weekend, so I want to get her all spiffy.  Speaking of retired dogs, I’ve gotten some pics and video of 10 year old Sue who is retired up in South Dakota and she looks to be enjoying a relaxing family life up there.  I am so thankful to the folks who are choosing to take our retired dogs, as an acre and a small house that is already full of kids just isn’t enough to keep an active breeding and hunting program going without transitioning the elders.

Fire and Charles out working over on Saturday

Fire and Charles out working on Saturday

Right now we are mainly working on getting Fire ready to hunt with us this fall.  Opening day of sharptailed grouse season is only 2 1/2 months away!  She comes when called, searches out in front, retrieves, has a good point, and isn’t afraid of the starter pistol sound.  The housebreaking accidents are getting to be more infrequent.  I seriously think that griffons are one of the slowest breeds to housebreak and am finding that it usually happens between 16-20 weeks.

I went out with Charles on Saturday when he worked with Fire on some planted quail.  Obviously this video is edited for time as we walked for probably 30 minutes or more.  I apologize that it is impossible to see the dog point because of the thick cover, but you know when the dog is pointing when Charles gets his starter pistol ready to go.  Keep in mind that the pup was first started on pointing/flushing birds without a gun, then with a kids cap gun, now a .22 starter pistol with acorn crimps.  We are getting close to working with a shotgun.

Ernie up in North Dakota sent me a video about a week and a half ago of Duncan, who was 10 weeks at the time, pointing a pigeon.  I love the timing on this since I had a gentleman ask me a week or so ago if I guarantee my dogs pointing abilities.  I don’t guarantee it in writing because I can’t guarantee someone training a dog incorrectly and messing it up, but the natural ability and instinct is all there and I see it starting at 5-6 weeks old here in the yard.  I think that the only way that a griffon wouldn’t naturally have pointing instinct would be through poor breeding practices, but I’ve heard of plenty of housepet and show dog griffs who have the instinct without formal training.  They are pointing dogs, they all are supposed to point naturally.  I’ve never had anyone tell me that one of my puppies doesn’t point.

Thanks again to Ernie for sending that video over!

 

Training and Testing

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Puppy Homegoing

I received a picture of Hez in his new home in Bangor, Maine with Tyson and family.  He also has a big golden retriever friend named Ferg and they are all getting along splendidly!

Hez (now Moose) and family in Maine

Hez (now Moose) and family in Maine

Shipping a puppy by air cargo

Someone asked me recently about how I ship puppies by air cargo.  Well, I get an interstate health certificate from the veterinarian (needs to be dated within 10 days of travel).  Then I buy the intermediate level crate, which is 22 inches tall, 28 inches long, and 22 inches wide.  I take all of the plastic hardware off of the outside of the crate and replace with metal nuts and bolts, then fill the crate about 1/3 full of shredded newspaper.  Each side of the crate has “Live Animal” signs taped on to it, with a leash, a small bag of dog food, and the shipping/care instructions taped to the top.  I attach food and water dishes to the inside of the crate, then simply place the pup in the crate with his collar on.  I always have the pup take the first available flight out of Omaha Eppley so they are more mellow.  I am about a 15 minute drive from the airport, so I feed and water the pup, give it a walk to go potty, and away we go.  I use Delta Pet First/Air Cargo.   I check the dog in at the air cargo office (which is over with the FedEx and UPS buildings), they pull the pup out of the crate and inspect the crate for any contraband, put the pup back in and ny-tie the door closed.  All of the holding areas in both the airports and the planes are climate controlled so that the pup never experiences extreme temperatures.  I wish I could put a little camera in the crate and see what the pup sees when he is being shipped, it must be exciting.  But I think that the cargo folks are really nice to the pups because they’ve never come out of their crates traumatized.  I’ve shipped 15-20 puppies this way and have never had a problem at all.  Some breeders do not ship air cargo from reading a story or two on the internet, but it is like anything you read from questionable sources.

Grooming of the young griffon

I also had a question about what type of grooming to do on a young griffon puppy.  Aside from giving it a bath once a month with puppy shampoo and cleaning its ears with Malascetic Otic solution, very little.  I don’t recommend aggressive brushing like I do with adults, as I accidentally overbrushed a young puppy once while its puppy coat was coming out and the adult coat still hadn’t come in.  I had an almost bald griffon in October.  Charles was not happy.  So don’t do that:)

Fire’s training

Fire is coming along nicely at 15 weeks old; Charles has been planting birds for her once a week to point and flush.  He has switched from using the kiddie cap gun to the .22 starter pistol with blanks and she couldn’t care less about the noise.  He’s talking about incorporating the remote bird launchers as to avoid any accidental “traps” (when the live bird gets caught by the dog).  Then once he feels comfortable there, probably mid-July, will try the first live-fire exercise with a shotgun.  I will try to get out to catch some video of this process.

First NAVHDA Test Pupdate of the Season

Congratulations to owner/handler Lou Volpe and Bluestem’s Big Sky Rendezvous “Midge” on a NAVHDA Natural Ability Prize I with a perfect score of 112 at the Montana Sharptail Chapter test over the weekend!  Midge is from our 2013 “F” Litter from Sam and Mae.  Great job everyone!!!

“A” Litter Pupdate

Back at the end of April, my very first litter from Sam and Sue turned 4 years old.  Here are some recent owner photos from the litter that changed my life for good!

Maggie is a good kid pillow

Maggie is a good kid pillow

Maggie keeps her coat trimmed for the Alabama heat

Maggie keeps her coat trimmed for the Alabama heat

 

Maggie giving a look

Maggie showing off her beautiful eyes

Whiskey is a handsome dude

Whiskey is a handsome dude

Whiskey (front) and friends beating the Nevada heat

Whiskey (front) and friends beating the Nevada heat

Whiskey bringing Dad (Pete) his croc

Whiskey bringing Dad (Pete) his croc

I also saw a cool video on Whiskey’s mom’s Facebook page of him hunting chukars with his girl, Andi.  

More training

Susan and Tom have been working with TracHer on preparing for her NAVHDA Utility Test and sent me some pictures of her retrieving a giant Muscovy duck.  The first picture is of her retrieving it after a 60 yard dryland track from a drag and the second is a water retrieve.  TracHer is from our 2012 “C” Litter of Sam and Mae.

TracHer and the duck in the field

TracHer and the duck in the field

TracHer's water retrieve

TracHer’s water retrieve

I have one last bit of media to share with you and that is a YouTube that I made from a couple of video clips that new owners of this year’s litters sent to me.  You can see the pups style and personality already starting to shine through!

Many thanks to all of my generous owners who take the time to update me with photos and videos so that I have something to share with you!  It is greatly appreciated and keep it coming!  Hope that everyone is enjoying the beginning of summer and I’ll check back in soon.

H Litter Homegoing

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I am officially puppy-free for the rest of the summer (aside from Fire, of course)!  Everyone went home on their 8-week birthday on Tuesday, except one who went home on Sunday.

Herbert went across town with Bill and family.

Herbert went across town with Bill and family.

Harriet's went to South Dakota with Matt and family.

Harriet’s went to South Dakota with Matt and family.

Hope went to Wyoming with George and his wife.

Hope went to Wyoming with George and his wife. (Photo courtesy of George)

Harold went to North Dakota with Ernie and family.

Harold went to North Dakota with Ernie and family.

Hez is not pictured because he took a plane all the way to Maine!  He arrived safely without even messing in his crate.  Maybe one of these days Tyson will have a chance to send us a photo.

Mae did well with her spay and is ready for retirement.  We took Sam, BB, and Fire out on Memorial Day for Fire’s first swim.

Fire swimming with the kids.

Fire swimming with the kids.

Sam found himself a big stick.

Sam found himself a big stick.

BB and Fire having a run on the shore.

BB and Fire having a run on the shore.

I hope that everyone enjoyed their extra day off!  Spring NAVHDA tests are upon us, so I’ll be looking forward to any pupdates on that front and any others!  Fire is due for her last round of shots this week, so then we’ll be ready to start going to training days.  I also need to think about getting her trained up to go into the show ring at least once.  Maybe we can learn to enjoy it because BB, Mae and I really did not.  But if at first you don’t succeed, try again, right?

Playing with Fire and “H” Litter 6.5 weeks

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The puppy that we kept out of the “G” litter, “Fire” from Sam and BB is doing well.  She is 3 months old right now and weighs about 17 pounds.  We took her out with 3 of our captive quail on Friday, unfortunately 2 of them got away from us before she could get on to them, but we did have one good point and flush.  My video camera was out of battery, so I only took a couple of stills from the day.

Three month old Fire getting used to working out in front.

Three-month old Fire getting used to working out in front.

Fire pointing the planted quail.

Fire pointing the planted quail.

Fire is doing okay on housebreaking, we still have an accident every few days.  Instead of putting her in the ex-pen in the front yard for bathroom breaks, we’re working her on the puppy-gauge checkcord which is good practice for when we start to train with the adult-sized checkcord.  Probably the biggest difficulty we’ve had with her the past week is with her stomach.  She is obsessed with my hair ties and has stolen from the night stand and eaten about 5 of them.  They’ve either passed back up or through, but I don’t want her getting a blockage from them, so they are hanging high from here on out.  Also, she must have gotten into some wormy deer or rabbit poop out back, as we had to fight off a bad case of roundworm.  Luckily, two days of dosing her with the over-the-counter liquid puppy de-wormer seemed to do the trick.  So hopefully the stomach concerns are over for now.

The big dogs are all fine, just ready for their spring grooming.  And of course my last litter of puppies for 2014, they start going home a week from tomorrow.  They are all just wonderful pups and their owners should be very excited;  they’re pretty feisty and are ready for some more individual time.  In addition to our own de-sensitizing with the cap gun, one of our neighbors has been getting a new roof, so there has been plenty of popping going on.  We had a 100 degree day on Wednesday, so I was outside with the dogs most of the day keeping them cool in the pool.  They love to pick up random objects and carry them around.  Plus they are super friendly!  I have one of my frozen dead quail thawing out and we’ll play with that this week, then Friday is their vet appointment for microchips and shots.  Here are their individual pictures:

 

Girl: Hope

Girl: Hope

Girl: Harriet

Girl: Harriet

Boy: Hez

Boy: Hez

Boy: Harold

Boy: Harold

Boy: Herbert

Boy: Herbert

This week’s YouTube is pretty funny, as it features my five-year old son, Caleb, absconding into the woods with two of the puppies and me trying to get them all to come back.  You can see how active they are now.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rnFdgULxIU&feature=youtu.be

Charles and our ten-year old son, Conrad, went out on Saturday to give a hand at the Heartland Chapter NAVHDA Spring test.  They got to meet one of the Switchgrass griffons out of Oklahoma and were pleased with the dog’s performance.  Plus it was just good for them both to get out with the dog people.

We weathered last night’s storm just fine, it was really no more than an average thunderstorm here, but I know that there are folks west of us who lost homes, barns, and animals, so our prayers go out to them and we’re thankful to all be safe here.  I hope that both dog and human mothers had a blessed Mother’s Day yesterday.  I’ll be sure to catch up with you again this weekend before the pups start going home.

Mid-season hunting update

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I think I’ll start off on telling you all what is happening with this blog.  It is blowing up on me a bit.  Right now I’m getting between 60-100 individual viewers everyday, each reading between 5-10 items.  If you search anything online about Wirehaired Pointing Griffons and hunting, we are the top kennel name that pops up.  I’m getting phone calls and e-mails every day about puppies, which is great!  But if you have to leave a voice mail, get me on the phone and I sound stressed and frazzled, or send me an e-mail and it takes me a week to respond, please try to understand.  We are not a big farm with lots of kennel hands or anything.  We are just a busy family that loves hunting with our dogs, which takes us on the road this time of year quite a bit too.  I respond to everyone.

If I had to wager, I would bet that my females are getting ready to cycle in December.  They are both showing about the same amounts of changes and Sam’s interest is high in both of them.  Mae might be a little ahead of BB.  So, I’m thinking that they’ll have puppies in February that go home in April.  But it is Mother Nature after all, so we’ll just wait and see.

My birthday was on November 9th, so we went and chased some birds.  Charles got 2 pheasant and a quail.  I missed the shots that I had.  But it was fun to get out on a beautiful fall day anyway.

Birthday girl Charity, your loyal narrator

Birthday girl Charity, your loyal narrator

BB, Sam and Charles with my birthday presents

BB, Sam and Charles with my birthday presents

Last weekend, we took time away from bird hunting for Charles to go after his annual mule deer in the Nebraska Sandhills.  I was able to stay back in town and visit my family.  He took this bad boy opening morning.  It is a tie with his muley from 1999 for personal best deer antler rack.

Charles's mule deer buck and rifle out on the prairie

Charles’s mule deer buck and rifle out on the prairie

Up close with Charles and his deer

Up close with Charles and his deer

I’ve been all amped up about trying to shoot a goose.  There is a pond along the Platte River that I have access to and I went out to it for a couple of hours the day before yesterday.  Saw lots of geese on an adjacent pond that is property of the gravel mine, so I’m hoping that if I get in some morning in the dark and set up, I might be able to get them flying into the mining pond.  But we’ll see, it is a work in progress.

Charles will take the weekend off from pheasants due to it being the last weekend of rifle deer season.  We don’t want one of the dogs to get shot on accident.

I am also getting ready to go to Quebec the weekend between Christmas and New Years Eve (God willing!).  The puppies are three weeks old now and have their eyes open.  I’m not sure which one of these three is mine, but I plan on calling up there tonight and I’ll find out.  Renee and Gilbert have very busy jobs on top of having way more dogs than I do, so I completely understand.

Cristal and Fortis puppies at 3 weeks old.

Cristal and Fortis puppies at 3 weeks old.

I am so thankful for all of my owners who take such great pictures and write such nice e-mails to keep us up to date our our pups.  8 month old “Ed” is out of Sue and Sam’s 2013 “E” Litter.  Here is what owner, Bob, had to say about their trip to North Dakota:

We had a great hunt in North Dakota this year.  We had 5 hunters and got our limits 2 of the 3 days we hunted.  It rained all day on our second day so the hunting was pretty short.  Ed figured out the game and has picked up the art of pointing just like I hoped he would.  He also has shown his desire to retrieve with no hesitation.  Very successful first North Dakota hunt for Ed!  It is awesome what a good dog can do.  And at only 8 months old is unbelievable!

EdND

Bob and Ed had a great time in ND!

Ed's stack of ND pheasants

Ed’s stack of ND pheasants

And as always, year and a half old TracHer, from Sam and Mae’s “C” Litter is having a great time living in North Dakota!  Susan and Tom are so generous to share their photos with us.  On this day, Susan got the first bird of the day, but missed for the rest of the day (I know that feeling!!), but Tom got his limit.

Here comes TracHer with a pheasant!

Here comes TracHer with a pheasant!

TracHer retrieving another pheasant

TracHer retrieving another pheasant

TracHer is excited about the bird that she brought to Tom

TracHer is excited about the bird that she brought to Tom

Everyone have a Happy Thanksgiving.  We all have so much to be thankful for!  Hopefully we’ll get out to chase some pheasants around then.  Take care.

Missouri Early Teal

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After work on Friday, Charles and I headed down to our friend Bill’s spot in Northwest Missouri to try our first shot at early teal.  Although the reports were not good and the weather hadn’t really cooled down enough to move the big flocks, we figured it was worth a shot even as a scouting run for snow goose later in the season.  All of the land surrounding Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge is privately held, so you either have to know someone who owns land, connect with a guide who leases land or belong to a duck club in order to hunt this area near Mound City, MO.  We pulled into town around 7:30 and met up with Bill, who gave us some background information about the area.  The most interesting thing for me was learning about the duck club culture, which is very similar to how a golf country club operates: a large (like $50k) startup membership fee, then a couple grand a year for dues.  Many famous coaches and athletes are a part of the clubs that show up mostly for the bigger duck season and snow goose.  Early teal is a slower season for the area, as there are just not that many folks coming in for a one-species hunt.

The cabin we rented was about 7 miles southwest of Mound City and only a couple of hundred yards from the 10 acre marsh and pond that we would be hunting.  As we pulled into the driveway on Friday night, an opossum crossed in front of our vehicle.  We knew it wouldn’t be long for the dogs to find it, but hoped that it would move on quickly so we wouldn’t have to deal with a dead critter.  So much for that, because it wasn’t 15 minutes later that Sam showed up with it dead in his mouth.  One less nest raider prowling in the night and good fur hunting practice for them.

BB on left and Sam with the opossum

BB on left and Sam with the opossum

Saturday morning, Bill, his son Cole, his friend Frank and Frank’s 14 year-old son Luke came out to the cabin and we all trudged out through the dense fog to the pond prior to shooting hours.  Although we were 20 minutes before shooting hours started, we might have had a better chance had we gotten there earlier, as a flock circled our head a couple of times as we walked in.  Bill went out into the decoys to turn on the mojos about 10 minutes prior to shooting time and a flock of 15 landed right behind him, then swam in front of him, getting spooked up when he returned to shore.  Luke and Frank sat to the left of me at the top of the pit blind and Charles sat to the right, with Sam and BB on a lead.  Bill and Cole sat behind us without guns.  A pair of the teal came back and landed on Luke’s side, so right when shooting hours opened, his dad had him flush the ducks off of the water and took his shots.  One of ducks clearly landed in front of us in the pond, the other appeared to fly off.

Fog in the bog

Fog in the bog

A flock of about 15 came in not long after and Bill called on us to shoot as they were about 4 feet from landing on the water.  This was my first time on a pit blind hunt over decoys, so I was glad that he told us when to shoot because I didn’t know whether to let them land, then flush them up or shoot them on the way down.  I squarely hit one of the ducks and fired a second shot into the flock.  Luke and Frank also took shots, but Charles really didn’t have any clear shots at that point, so he abstained from firing.  BB and Sam brought back the 2 ducks that we could see clearly in the water in front of us.  We continued to sit, but as the sun rose and the distant shooting at the clubs to the north held steady for awhile, but then began to fade around 9 AM.  We let the dogs loose to see if they could find anymore ducks and BB pointed one dead in the millet, then retrieved it.  So that brought Frank and Luke’s total to 3 and I had 1.  About 9:30 AM Luke and Frank decided to head back to Kansas City, while Charles and I were ready to try our hand at hunting the sora rails that we saw flitting around the swamp.

Luke, Frank, Charles and I with our teal

Luke, Frank, Charles and I with our teal

Charles and I weren’t quite sure how to approach the swamp and the sora rails at first.  We walked around the edge of the swamp on the levee hoping that BB would wade out into the swamp looking for them.  But she had never hunted sora before.  We did get lucky and Charles shot one of the edge of the swamp, but BB really wasn’t quite sure what she was looking for, so I waded out into the swamp to guide her.  At that point, we just decided to wade around the mid-calf deep water between the millet strips and see what would happen.  About 2 hours later, BB had become the sora master, both pointing and retrieving the tiny birds, about the size of a skinny robin.  BB also found an additional teal that had been taken in the flock salvo in the morning, so since I was the only one who had shot at the teal out of the two of us, it went on my tag.  Charles bagged 6 sora rails and I shot my first ever that afternoon.  I think the first bird of a particular kind is always super exciting, so I had my first teal from the early season and my first sora in the same morning.  We really had a blast on the sora hunt, as we had never waded through a swamp to hunt before.

Charles out walking the swamp for sora rails

Charles out walking the swamp for sora rails

Close-up of the sora rail harvest

Close-up of the sora rail harvest

Charles, BB and I with the harvest

Charles, BB and I with the harvest

Bill was really disappointed that we didn’t have the teal numbers to take limits both days.  I think that is sort of the standard in that part of the world when it comes to waterfowl.  He told the story of the record 1100 snow goose harvest by one hunting party in the conservation season (when there are no limits).  That seems a bit wanton to us.  We’ve been hunting long enough in various places to know that you don’t always know what you’re going to get, if anything.  That’s why it is called hunting and not just killing.  So we sat again Saturday night and saw one flock fly high over our heads, and again on Sunday morning, when we saw nothing.  There wasn’t even much shooting coming out of the duck clubs Sunday morning, as the night had been warm and the morning was sunny.  The ducks were sitting over on the refuge and had no reason to move.

We are excited to have made a connection down in Northwest Missouri and we look forward to returning for big ducks and snow geese!

Pupdate

TracHer had a great time at summer hunting dog camp in Wisconsin!  She is around a year and a half old and is from Sam and Mae’s “C” litter 2012,  TracHer is back home in North Dakota now and getting ready for hunting season!

TracHer working out in front of her trainer

TracHer working out in front of her trainer

TracHer holding steady after the flush

TracHer holding steady after the flush

Bringing back the big retrieve.

Bringing back the big retrieve.

Doing great on her water work too!

Doing great on her water work too!

Thank you Susan for sharing the terrific photos!!

We have opening of Nebraska High Plains ducks the weekend after next, then a couple of weeks later Charles will be guiding some old friends from New York on ducks and pheasants up in North Dakota.  BB’s breeders, Renee Fortier and Gilbert Tremblay, are coming all the way from Quebec to Lincoln for German Wirehaired Pointer nationals next week, so I will head down and visit them on Thursday.  Somewhere in between high plains duck and the North Dakota trip is BB’s second shot at the UT test.  At the end of October, the same day Charles returns from North Dakota, I leave for AWPGA nationals in Colorado.  So we’ve got lots of dog excitement coming up and I’ll sure to keep you posted.  Best of luck in the field to all of my fellow hunters out there!!

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!!

Pupdates and Hunting Season in 2 days!

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I’m supposed to be packing for the annual trip to the Sandhills for the September 1st dove and grouse opener since we’re leaving tonight, but I just had to get these pictures out before I got too distracted by hunting season!

This is Zoey, she is 6 months old and is out of Sue and Sam’s last litter that was born early this year.  Jimmy has been doing great work with her down in Oklahoma and is shown here perfecting her water retrieve.  Rumor has it that she’s going off to waterfowl school, but she’s definitely got the basics down!

Zoey water retrieve at 8 months

Zoey water retrieve at 6 months

Another shot of Zoey retrieving a dummy

Another shot of Zoey retrieving a dummy

Zoey also looks cute just laying around the house…

Zoey chilling on the kitchen tiles

Zoey chilling on the kitchen tiles

Zoey's sweet face!!

Zoey’s sweet face!!

Thank you so much to Jimmy and Sandi for all of those great pictures!!

I swiped this picture off of Facebook, but I didn’t think that Deborah would mind.  Whiskey is from Sue and Sam’s “A” Litter from 2010, so he is 3 years old now and lives out in Nevada.  Here he is with his little Lab buddy Ruger who is holding him down and giving him a tongue bath.  Too funny!!

Whiskey getting a bath from Ruger

Whiskey getting a bath from Ruger

Thanks Deborah for capturing such a hilarious moment!

Hunting Blog

For the last couple of years I’ve been posting our hunting stories on to versatilehunter.com, separate from this here kennel blog.  I have to talk to Charles this weekend and see if we want to continue on that URL or if we want to consolidate our presence here on the kennel blog.  I also used to be active on Twitter under @VersatileHunter, but just really hit a wall with trying to keep everything updated.  Then to complicate things, I’m also going to start hunting blogging for Lion Country Supply.  So I’ll probably be writing my first draft either here or on versatilehunter.com ( there is also a button to up at the top that says “Hunting Blog”), then write a final draft for LCS.  Plus I’d like to start really honing my writing to where I’m submitting articles to magazines.  So please bear with me as I decide where I’m steering this whole writing ship.  I’ll let you know sometime next week where things are at so that you can keep up to date with my blathering.

So wish us luck up in the Sandhills, I will be wearing my GoPro, so hopefully I’ll actually hit something to show you on YouTube:)

AKC Walking Field Trials and other updates

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Waiting for puppies

Sue is very pregnant and about 3 weeks away from whelping and Mae is definitely showing and about 5 weeks away from whelping.  I really need to get into gear and get the whelping boxes and areas ready!  Right now I have 13 reservations with deposits.  I would be willing to take additional reservations, but at this point have no idea how many puppies I will have.  Anyone who makes a reservation and does not get a pup out of these litters can either have their deposit refunded or have it carry over to next year’s breeding season (I have 2 reservations for next year currently).  Contact us at (402) 682-9802 or bluestemkennels@cox.net with any questions.

AKC Walking Field Trials

Charles and BB participated in the first AKC Walking Field Trial in the area for the year, down in Osborn, Missouri (just east of St. Joseph) over the weekend, put on by the Heart of America German Shorthaired Pointer Club.  This was a much more relaxed atmosphere than the 250 dog trial that we went to near Lincoln last year, it really felt a lot like a hunt test, except that we were the only ones there with kids.

Unknown judge and handler in the Gun Dog stakes

Unknown judge and handler in the Gun Dog stakes

Charles and BB, center, head out for the Amateur Walking Derby run

Charles and BB, center, head out for the Amateur Walking Derby run

There were four dogs entered in each of the stakes that they were entered into: Amateur Walking Derby and Open Walking Derby.  There was a male and female Vizsla pair that was braced together, then BB and a male German Shorthaired Pointer were braced together.  In both stakes, the Vizslas took first and second, BB took third and the GSP fourth.

Charles and BB at the trial grounds with their third place ribbon from Saturday

Charles and BB at the trial grounds with their third place ribbon from Saturday

The weekend's ribbons: third place in both the Amateur Walking Derby and the Open Walking Derby

The weekend’s ribbons: third place in both the Amateur Walking Derby and the Open Walking Derby

I would really like to see more diversity of versatile breeds in the AKC Walking Field Trials.  Charles told me that one couple who traveled from Colorado to St. Louis for a WFT two weeks ago had a Spinone Italiano that was entered.  I would love to see griffs, Weimaraners, Spinones and the other versatile breeds recognized both by the AKC and NAVHDA participate in the AKC Walking Field Trials, not just GSPs, GWPs, Vizslas and Brittanys.  The way that BB is winning over her bracemate is NOT by running like a bat out of hell and ranging far and wide.  That’s not to say that she’s “pottering” as is the technical term for what we normally call “bootlicking”.  She is just diligent in finding every single bird in the field.

On Saturday, the bird planters double planted the field, hoping to get the two Amateur Walking Derby braces covered with one trip.  Well, the GSP had one find and BB had FIVE.  She “cleared the field”, as they call it, and had to plant more birds for the next brace.  They didn’t make the same mistake the next day, but there were still plenty of birds, as the GSP once again had one find and BB had three.  Some of the positive things that the judges said to Charles is that BB is very smart, meaning that she knows how to analyze the terrain for bird cover, understands how to work the wind and the bird scent cone.  Of course, the judges would like to see her range farther, but there really is a place for these closer working dogs in the walking field trials.  It really should be about finds and not about running haphazardly and missing birds.  Like I say, I want to see more diversity of versatile breeds out there so we can show the judges how we do our thing.

The next field event in the area is the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of Lincoln’s Hunt Test and Walking Field Trial on March 9-10.  E-mail Tresha Moorberg at lincolngspc@gmail.com if you are interested in receiving premiums.  As BB turns two at the beginning of March, she will age out of the Derby Stakes and now need to qualify for the Gun Dog Stakes.  The AKC Field Trial Gun Dog Stakes require the same skills as the AKC Master Hunter test.  So in the Derby Stakes, you are basically at Junior Hunter level skills, now we need to move up to MH skills.  Our biggest challenge is stone steadiness on point and on honor.  As my dogs are allowed to relocate without commands in the hunting field, they have a tendency to creep when the birds start moving.  We are going to see if we can get Sam and BB ready for Senior Hunter test runs and Gun Dog Stakes walking field trials in time for the March test, but if not, it is something we will be working on all off-season.

Pupdate

Rick sent a great write-up with some photos of Sam and Sue’s 2012 “D” litter pup, Dottie, who is now 8 months old:

I wanted to give you an update on our pup, Dottie, and a recap of our winter hunting season here in Eastern Nebraska.  The drought really took it’s toll on the habitat this year.  We spent a lot of time trying out new CRP fields.  Dottie has really developed nicely over the season. She did a good job with obedience and acclimating to the fields on her first outing in the fall.  She covered a lot of ground, but the experiences were all brand new.  We kept taking her out about every weekend, and by the last hunt in January, she was really doing great hunting out the birds.  We didn’t encounter many pheasants for her to hone her pointing skills on, but it was a great year for quail, and she really did a great job working them out.  Below are a few pictures from the season.
 
Here is a picture from our December 16th outing.  Dottie sees something of interest here.  We saw a few hens this trip, but the field must get hunted a lot because they spooked and flushed out pretty early.
Dottie checking something out.

Dottie checking something out.

December 28th. Rick and Dottie with the first “all Dottie” quail.  She pointed the covey and located the dead bird!  We’re still working on retrieving.

Rick and Dottie got a quail!

Rick and Dottie got a quail!

We went out again on a January 13th Hunt.  This time Joey, my 9 year old son, was able to see Dottie in action.  Once again, all we brought home was a single quail. (good thing we’re not counting on my hunting skills to feed the family all winter!)  Joey sure liked seeing his dog in action.  I think we’ve created a new hunter in the family.  He’s asked to go every week since then.

Joey is fired up about bird hunting with some help from Dottie!!

Joey is fired up about bird hunting with some help from Dottie!!

Dottie and I were very fortunate the last weekend of pheasant/quail season to be invited out to my friend’s land to hunt with him and his griff, “Bear”.  We had a lot of fun and got into a covey of quail that kept us busy for an hour or so.  The dogs did great pointing out the covey after it broke, but we weren’t much of a shot.  We bagged one out of the ordeal. (I can’t come home with just ONE quail AGAIN! 🙂 ).  Luckily, the last field we hit yielded us some roosters to end the season.  We bagged two to end the year.  

Dottie and Bear found some roosters!

Dottie and Bear found some roosters!

All in all, I’d have to say that reflecting back on the season, we had a pretty good first year with Dottie.  Unfortunately, a lot of the CRP land we used to hunt is either out the program this year, or mowed down due to the drought, so it was a tough year to find good habitat for the birds.  We’re really happy with Dottie.  She is just excellent with the kids, and has a great demeanor.

 I’m interested in working with her more this spring.  I’m going to try and watch for any field trials that might be close to Omaha.  I know you guys do this quite a bit, so any help or pointers would be great.

 Thanks Again!

Rick & Dawn and Family

We are seeing if Rick and Dottie want to take a shot at Junior Hunter at the GSPC of Lincoln event in March, looks like she is ready to me with all the wild bird hunting, but I’ll let Rick and Charles talk through that one.

I had hoped to get the pregnant females out on some birds, but we might run out of time.  This weekend we’re finishing preparations on the whelping areas, the weekend after that we’ve got our first Heartland NAVHDA Chapter meeting of the year, then the weekend after that I’ll be hovering over Sue waiting for the puppies to come.  But we might be able to scrounge up some quail and do it this weekend, who knows.  Thanks to Rick for the great write-up and photos, they are always appreciated and enjoyed!  I’ll keep you all posted as to the latest.

Good luck tomorrow to the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon gang out in NYC for the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, I have plans to join you some year (just as a spectator!).  Also, those of you going to Pheasant Fest in Minneapolis this weekend have a good time, hope some AKC griffs make it into the Bird Dog Parade!

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