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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!

 

Beginning of Hunting Season 2014

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I think that I overdid the adventures this summer and it rattled my hunting cage.  I carried a gun the days that we hunted up in the Sandhills the weekend before last, but the few cracks that I took at doves felt way off.  I will either opt to carry a camera this season, otherwise I will have to go back and re-read my favorite shotgunning book, Breaking Clays by Chris Batha, and get over to the skeet range before the big ducks start flying.

Nebraska Sandhills Sharptailed Grouse

We devoted Friday, September 5th to chasing grouse with our old buddy, Ryan.  After 4 hours in the field, we didn’t see a single bird.

Charity, Charles, and Ryan take a selfie in the grouse field.

Charity, Charles, and Ryan take a selfie in the grouse field.

What we did end up getting were two dogs with faces full of porcupine quills.

Charles pulls quills out of Sam as Ryan restrains BB.

Charles pulls quills out of Sam as Ryan restrains BB.

Another shot of the quill pulling

Another shot of the quill pulling

Conservation Officer Frank Miller of the Valentine office of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission stopped Charles and I on our way into the field Saturday morning and verified that grouse numbers are way down from normal, but just slightly better than last year.  Hopefully once the weather turns and they bunch up, we will see them on future trips this fall.

Charles talks to Conservation Officer Frank Miller

Charles talks to Conservation Officer Frank Miller

 Early Teal

After checking a few ponds with no ducks, we were able to put the sneak on a mixed flock and jumped them up.  There were too many mallards in the mix as they rose from the pond and the group of teal was circling around them really fast, so I didn’t even dare take a shot.  Charles was able to drop one teal out of the group.  The last day for early teal in the low plains region is this Sunday, high plains is already closed.

Our 10 year-old son, Conrad, came with us on the trip and learned a great deal about getting around out in the Sandhills.

How to open a western gate

How to open a western gate

Conrad celebrates dad's teal and 2 doves

Conrad celebrates dad’s teal and 2 doves

Dove

Dove numbers are strong statewide, with Charles harvesting limits at the confluence of the Platte and Missouri Rivers in the east, as well as during our trip to the Sandhills.  We’ve been making these bacon-wrapped dove poppers with them and they are quite delicious! http://www.texasmonthly.com/story/bacon-wrapped-dove

Bacon-wrapped dove poppers

Bacon-wrapped dove poppers

Charles and a Sandhills dove limit

Charles and a Sandhills dove limit

Other friends around the state are also getting their kids out on the doves!

My friends Ashley and Matt's son Gavin and his first dove harvest in the Sandhills.

My friend Ashley’s son Gavin and his first dove harvest in the Sandhills.

Carter and Cadence loved watching their dad Matt shoot doves near Lincoln.

Carter and Cadence loved watching their dad Matt shoot doves near Lincoln.

Snipe and Sora

Last weekend I followed Charles, BB and Fire around the swamp chasing after teal, snipe, and sora.  There was quite a bit of fast action and good success.

BB retrieves a sora

BB retrieves a sora

Fire, BB, and Charles

Fire, BB, and Charles

Snipe in flight

Snipe in flight

BB brings a snipe to hand on a mud flat.

BB brings a snipe to hand on a mud flat.

Charles and Fire inspecting a snipe.

Charles and Fire inspecting the snipe.

Charles and the dogs circling the pond.

Charles and the dogs circling the pond.

BB and Fire with Charles and 2 teal, 4 sora, and 4 snipe.

BB and Fire with Charles and 2 teal, 4 sora, and 4 snipe.

Overall a decent start to the 2014 hunting season so far.

Pupdate

George over in Wyoming had a great opener on Blue Grouse with Harry from our 2014 “H” Litter of Sam and Mae,  “Attached you’ll find two pictures of yesterday’s blue grouse with Harry. This was her first exposure to wild birds, and she pointed and retrieved them all. One was still somewhat lively for the retrieve and I’m glad she had the experience with a grouse instead of a rooster pheasant!  Happy hunting!”

Harry and Blue Grouse

Harry and Blue Grouse

As always, thank you to my puppy owners for sending such great updates and photos!

Until next time, good luck out in the hunting fields!

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.

North Dakota Trip, AWPGA Nationals, Nebraska Pheasants and other news…

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When you go three weeks without blogging, stuff piles up, so I apologize if this seems a bit like a random barrage.  What most people come to my website for is to find out about new litters, so I suppose I will start there.  Mae is starting to have changes and Sam wants to be in the kennel with her, so by the looks of things we will have a breeding between them within the next month.  So, let’s project that they breed at the beginning of December; that would have puppies being whelped at the beginning of February and going home at the beginning of April.  This is all just my somewhat educated guesstimation and by no means guaranteed.  Mae is 6, so I suspect that she will have a litter around the same size as last year, which was 4.  BB (who lives with us) and Velma (who lives with a friend) are set to have their first litters this year.  They should come into season anytime between now and April.  I will not breed after late March because any pups after that would interfere with being able to take a summer vacation before school starts for the kids and hunting season starts for us.  Right now I have 12 reservations with deposit and other folks trying to decide.  I could have anywhere from 12-30 pups if all goes as I plan, but it isn’t up to me.  Feel free to call (402) 682-9802 or e-mail bluestemkennels@cox.net if you would like to discuss things further (I know I still have a couple of callbacks and e-mails, so bear with me another day or so to let me get those returned).

October 19-24 Charles, BB and Sam met up with Lou, Murph and Midge in North Dakota for a pheasant/duck hunt combo.  Also along was deer camp friend, Ozzie, and Lou’s father, Lew (AKA Lou Senior or Old Lou).  They saw some stuff.  They shot at some stuff.  They stayed in a cabin and cooked on a Coleman stove.  I’ll spare you the second-hand details and get down to the bird totals and photos.

Saturday, October 19, 2013: Charles and Young Lou got 3 sharp-tailed grouse.

Sam brings in the sharpie retrive with BB on backup.  Photo courtesy of Oscar Hollenbeck

Sam brings in the sharpie retrieve with BB on backup. Photo courtesy of Oscar Hollenbeck

Sam bringing the sharpie into Charles.  Photo courtesy of Oscar Hollenbeck

Sam bringing the sharpie into Charles. Photo courtesy of Oscar Hollenbeck

Young Lou, Murf, Sam, BB, Midge, Old Lou, Charles and the sharpie

Young Lou, Murf, Sam, BB, Midge, Old Lou, Charles and the sharpie.  Photo courtesy of Oscar Hollenbeck

The day's stringer of sharpies back at camp.  Photo by Charles

The day’s stringer of sharpies back at camp. Photo by Charles

Sunday, October 20, 2013 – skunked

Monday, October 21, 2013: Charles got 2 roosters

Charles and the first pheasant of the trip.  Photo courtesy of Oscar Hollenbeck

Charles and the first pheasant of the trip. Photo courtesy of Oscar Hollenbeck

Tuesday, October 22, 2013: Charles got a rooster pheasant and a mallard hen late in the day.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013: Charles got one rooster

Thursday, October 24, 2013: Young Lou got two roosters (no photo available)

Random pic of Lou cooking since there is no pheasant pic.  It snowed Saturday night, so this must be Sunday morning.

Random pic of Lou cooking since there is no pheasant pic. It snowed Saturday night, so this must be Sunday morning.

The trip was more about the memories and the time spent together than the bird totals anyway.  I hope that the guys enjoyed themselves even without game bags overflowing.

The griffon masters

The griffon masters

As Charles was driving home from North Dakota, Cordelia and I were on the road to the American Wirehaired Pointing Griffon National Specialty in Greeley, Colorado.  We missed the fun hunt, specialty show and annual meeting, but managed to see the supported entry show on Saturday and go to the banquet.  We also had an awesome sojourn into Boulder to shop and eat on Pearl St. and do some hiking in Boulder Canyon and at the Flatirons.

Cordelia and Charity in Colorado for AWPGA Nationals

Cordelia and Charity in Colorado for AWPGA Nationals

It was great to catch up with some griffoniers and talk dog nerd talk freely.   AWPGA National Specialty 2014 is on for Kennebunk and Union, Maine from August 25-31.  In addition to the events held this year in Colorado, they’ve got the Korthals Cup back on and there will be AKC and NAVHDA hunt testing opportunities available (in place of the fun hunt), and an interesting grooming and handling seminar.  I hope to make it out, but it is cutting it awfully close to the opening of dove and grouse Sept. 1.  I encourage any and all griffon enthusiasts to join the AWPGA and attend a specialty, so much fun!  Here are Susan Edginton’s photos of this year’s specialty dog show, if you want to check those out:

http://sedgintonphotos.photoreflect.com/store/ThumbPage.aspx?e=9111641&g=1ZZR001G02

Last weekend also had plenty of excitement!  Charles and Matt went out on Saturday in search of rooster pheasants and actually found some!  Nebraska Game and Parks planted 4000 pheasants this year on public land across Eastern Nebraska (finally).  If you’ve read my blog during pheasant season over the past few years, you know how much I like to whine about the decline of pheasants in our part of the state and how much NGPC needed to stock.  Well they have heard the desperate pleas of the hunters and “did us a solid” (as my kids would say).  The Pheasants Forever Rooster Road Trip party took 17 pheasant out of Northeastern Nebraska in one day off of public land.  We are very excited for this pheasant season in Eastern Nebraska, now that we know that we actually have a chance.  Both Matt and Charles took their limits and Charles got a quail too.  In total he said that they saw 20 pheasants and 50 quail.

Mid-day bag in Southeastern Nebraska

Mid-day bag in Southeastern Nebraska

End of day bag.  One of Matt's roosters somehow got away.

End of day bag. One of Matt’s roosters somehow got away.

By the time they pulled into the driveway, it was dark and the kids and I were in the middle of dinner, so no great photography went down.  Sorry.

On the same day we found out that our new male was born!!  He will be coming from Bourg-Royal Kennel in St. Lambert-de-Lauzon, Quebec, Canada, the same kennel as BB.  Different parents, both French imports.  We are very excited to bring him home around the first of the year!

Cristal and the 4 puppies: 1 male and 3 females

Cristal and the 4 puppies: 1 male and 3 females

Announcement in the last Griffonnier with the parents' credentials

Announcement in the last Griffonnier with the parents’ credentials

And the blog post wouldn’t be complete without some pupdates.  Here’s Midge (who went on the North Dakota trip), from Sam and Mae’s 2013 “F” litter with a big haul of pheasants from Montana.  Charles said she is a hard charging little dog with a great coat and lots of prey drive.

Midge and Montana Pheasants

Midge and Montana Pheasants

Midge’s older sister TracHer from Sam and Mae’s 2012 “C” litter has been having a great season up in North Dakota and is showing off all her skills.  According to Susan, “Gorgeous day today….we limited out 50 miles from home. TracHer retrieved 4 of the six birds, one in water with cattails.”

18 month old TracHer on retrieve of a North Dakota rooster

18 month old TracHer on retrieve of a North Dakota rooster

TracHer on left with Tom, Susan with Zepher (griff unrelated to my dogs) and their friends, the week prior to the close-up photo

TracHer on left with Tom, Susan with Zepher (griff unrelated to my dogs) and their friends, the week prior to the close-up photo

And one of my first dog babies, Whiskey from Sam and Sue’s “A” litter 2010, took his girl Andi out on her first duck hunt out in Nevada.  They did so awesome and I love how much Whiskey is Sam Jr!

Andi, Whiskey and some ducks

Andi, Whiskey and some ducks

Well, that pretty much wraps it up for right now.  Charles and I are heading out on Saturday in hopes of some pheasants and ducks.  We are still debating about where, but it will be pretty close to home.  I’ll keep you posted.  Until then, stay warm, winter is coming!

On Breeding, Hunting and Pupdates

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Update on 2013 Litters

We are excited to announce that we have one litter bred and a second breeding soon to come!  I noticed Sue’s proestrous (bleeding) on our short hunt in the Sandhills on the Sunday before Christmas.  Breeding took place between December 27th and New Year’s Eve, so we’re looking at a March 1stish whelping and May 1stish homegoing for Sam and Sue’s 2013 litter.  Mae’s proestrous was noted on Saturday and she is not yet ready to breed, but it will be any day now (if I had to guess it would be within the next 2-7 days).  So, that’s approximately a March 15thish whelping and a May 15thish homegoing.  It will be a very busy spring here with two litters on the ground at once, but we can’t wait!

We finally had a good dose of snow right before school let out for Christmas break, but when I went to photograph the dogs and kids in the fresh snow, my camera’s battery went dead.  I was able to get some good shots of everyone on Sunday, finally.

Four dog romp: Sue on top right, Sam bottom left, BB's head and Mae's hindquarters.  Wirehaired Pointing Griffons.

Four dog romp: Sue on top right, Sam bottom left, BB’s head and Mae’s hindquarters. Wirehaired Pointing Griffons.

Mae, Sue and Sam with Conrad and Caleb on the sled hill.  Wirehaired Pointing Griffons.

Mae, Sue and Sam with Conrad and Caleb on the sled hill. Wirehaired Pointing Griffons.

Mae on the lookout for squirrels or coons with Sam following closing behind, hunting up...ummm...something else:)  Wirehaired Pointing Griffons

Mae on the lookout for squirrels or coons with Sam following closing behind, hunting up…ummm…something else:) Wirehaired Pointing Griffons

Sam's girlfriends having a serious conversation.  Mae on left, Sue on right, Wirehaired Pointing Griffons.

Sam’s girlfriends having a serious conversation. Mae on left, Sue on right, Wirehaired Pointing Griffons.

Sue on the sniff.  Wirehaired Pointing Griffon.

Sue on the sniff and already looking paunchy 2 weeks pregnant. Wirehaired Pointing Griffon.

Mae having a big run down the hill.  Wirehaired Pointing Griffon.

Mae having a big run down the hill. Wirehaired Pointing Griffon.

BB also had a good run.  Wirehaired Pointing Griffon.

BB also had a good run. Wirehaired Pointing Griffon.

Big daddy Sam looking quite serious.  Wirehaired Pointing Griffon.

Big daddy Sam looking quite serious. Wirehaired Pointing Griffon.

A Pleasant Hunting Surprise

After some fruitless tries at hunting pheasant in Southeastern Nebraska and Northeastern Kansas, Charles and Matt hit a few quail spots last weekend with some success.  I’ll eventually get a full hunting blog post out on it, but I wanted to share these photos.

Sam on point, Matt walking in, BB honoring

Sam on point, Matt walking in, BB honoring

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon retrieving rabbit

Sam retrieving a cottontail rabbit. Photo by Charles.

Two rabbits and three quail for Charles, Sam and BB

Two rabbits and three quail for Charles, Sam and BB

A blast from our hunting past

A Sunday Lincoln Journal-Star article took us into the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s photo archives and back to our days before Wirehaired Pointing Griffons.  This photo was featured in the June 2003 issue of NebraskaLand magazine.  AKC Brittany Sir Sheaf Stout “Sheaf” (1996-2010) was our first child and family hunting dog.  Here he is pictured in the winter of 2002 during the Heartland Chapter #491 Pheasant Forever’s Youth Mentor hunt held at Hunter’s Creek (now Grandpa’s Acres) near Syracuse, Nebraska. Pictured with Sheaf are Dustin Charval (youth) and Charles Upchurch (mentor).  (The full Lincoln Journal-Star article: http://journalstar.com/sports/local/outdoors/birds-and-snow-a-great-winter-mix/article_f1384d3d-1691-5a84-b3ef-d49a867d1f6e.html)

Image

Before we had griffons…photo courtesy of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Pupdates

Rob and Abby have been having some great woodcock an ruffed grouse trips up in Wisconsin.  This photo was taken back in October at the age of 5 months.  Abby is now 7 months old (from our 2012 “D” litter from Sue and Sam) and lives with Rob and his family in eastern Illinois.  Here’s Rob’s report first-hand:

The folks I went grouse hunting with finally sent some pictures. Here is Abby with the birds she helped harvest.  She pointed one of the woodcock and flushed one of the grouse.  She retrieved both to my general location.  Her registered name is Bluestem’s Quail Hammering Abby.

Rob and Abby (from Bluestem Kennels "D" litter from Sam and Sue, 5 month old Wirehaired Pointing Griffon female) after a successful October day of hunting ruffed grouse in Wisconsin.

Rob and Abby (from Bluestem Kennels “D” litter from Sam and Sue, 5 mo old female Wirehaired Pointing Griffon female) after a successful October day of hunting ruffed grouse and woodcock in Wisconsin.

Abby (7 mo old female Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) on left, hanging out with Ruby the GSP and fellow griff, Ace.

Abby (7 mo old female Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) on left, hanging out with Ruby the GSP and fellow griff, Ace.

Abby’s brother, Gomer, lives in Central Illinois with Kyle and Jenna.  He will be heading to Tom Dokken’s Oak Ridge Kennels (http://www.dokkensoakridgekennels.com/) for training soon and appears to be enjoying a great life!

Gomer (7 mo old male Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) and Jenna are ready for a snack.

Gomer (7 mo old male Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) and Jenna are ready for a snack.

Gomer (7 mo old male Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) is ready for a bath.

Gomer (7 mo old male Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) is ready for a bath.

Gomer (7 mo old male Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) fetching up a shed deer antler.

Gomer (7 mo old male Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) fetching up a shed deer antler.

Gomer (7 mo old male Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) on point in the snow.

Gomer (7 mo old male Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) on point in the snow.

We received a Christmas card from Rick’s family who lives just a few miles east of us and 10 month old Dottie (from our 2012 “C” litter from Sam and Mae) was featured, sporting some holiday cheer.

Dottie (10 mo old female Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) had a Merry Griffmas!

Dottie (10 mo old female Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) had a Merry Griffmas!

Dottie’s sister in North Dakota, TracHer, has been having a great pheasant season with Susan and Tom!  Here she is lugging around a big North Dakota rooster, good girl!!!

TracHer (10 mo old female Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) retrieves a big boy from North Dakota!

TracHer (10 mo old female Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) retrieves a big boy from North Dakota!

Another shot of TracHer (10 mo old Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) and the North Dakota rooster.

Another shot of TracHer (10 mo old Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) and the North Dakota rooster.

There's nothing like the North Dakota prairie.  TracHer (10 month old female Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) in her element.

There’s nothing like the North Dakota prairie. TracHer (10 month old female Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) in her element.

A huge thanks (as always) to everyone who contributed photos to the blog.  We’ll be sure to keep you posted on the breeding of the second litter and any end-of-hunting season adventures.  Until then, stay warm and enjoy the extra moments of daylight we’ve been getting in the great outdoors!

Nebraska and North Dakota Pheasants

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

-Jose Ortega y Gasset

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nebraska Pheasant Opening Weekend 2011

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Opening Day, Saturday, October 29th

We were a little surprised to see a fellow pheasant hunter with a truck bed full of dog boxes joining us at the Bellevue Quik Trip to collect the morning coffee, as the forecast was foreboding for opening day.  Hunting tradition in Nebraska doesn’t yield to any man’s dissent and even in the Omaha suburbs folks were up early to head out into the yonder fields.

Prior to our southbound journey, we first had to pick up our old friend, Marvin Brinkman.  The annual opening hunt is always hosted by Marvin and his parents, Wilmer and Maude, on the family farm near Sterling, Nebraska.  Due to the high price of corn and soybeans this year, the Brinkmans hold some of the last CRP in Johnson County.  The Conservation Reserve Program provides the farmers a pittance in exchange for maintaining prairie in comparison to the going rate for corn and soybeans.  Luckily, the elder Brinkmans are past tractor-driving age and are also conservation-minded people.  In years past, large parties of pheasant hunters have traversed their fields with high hopes of bagging limits, and several were successful back in the 1990’s, but this year we simply hold the hope of seeing birds.

On our southbound journey in the dark, we entertained ourselves with tales from Charles and Marvin’s deer harvesting era, when they would obtain every tag they could and bag numerous deer a year.  Our garage was a game cleaning station and the chest freezer frequently overflowed with venison.  Yet I digress and should save the stories of yesteryear for summertime when there is no hunting to report.

Brian Koch of Ultimate Upland http://www.ultimateupland.com/ met us in Syracuse to experience and photograph the hunt.  Brian has been on the road since September, camping and hunting in North Dakota, Montana, South Dakota and now Nebraska.

We arrived to our first field prior to shooting hours, so we visited in the truck for awhile, then geared up with the hopes of pheasant or quail.  The 40 or so acres of native prairie were surrounded by standing corn to the north, east and west, with a small waterway on the south bordered by trees and shrubs.  Our path began on the southwest corner of the property, pushing east.  The guys took to the field, while I weaved in and out of the thicket next to the waterway.  About 15 minutes into our push, I heard slight and distant wingbeats, with the flush of three small bobwhite quail catching my eye from the field.  Marvin and Charles elected not to shoot, hoping to allow the covey to grow in the future.  Our hike continued and my 7-year old female griffon, Sue, joined me in the brush, acting birdy.  Charles was hitting the whistle since he couldn’t see us, but Sue locked on a solid point, nose to the ground, not moving an inch, as if to say, “it’s right there, mom!!”  Sure enough, I kicked my foot right in front of her nose and a single tiny quail alighted and weaved its agile flight back into the branches, evading my shots.

It doesn’t take very long for three primed up hunting dogs and four people to cover the field and cross the road to hit the 15 acres on the other side.  Even though no further bird activity was detected, it was a beautiful morning now that the sun was fully awake and I couldn’t help but singing the state song in my head as I watched the golden leaves drift to the ground in the breeze and the seedheads of the big bluestem sparkle like delicate Swarovski crystal ornaments in the morning light (my favorite version of the Nebraska state song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6ADhHMLgZk)

Charity, Charles and Marvin strategize the next move. Photo courtesy of Ultimate Upland

Next stop was the “sure thing”, 80-100 acres of prime habitat, dissected by a waterway and surrounded by standing corn.  We pushed the first three quarters of the field, seeing nothing and becoming nervous that even the “sure thing” was going to be a bust.  We ambled back towards the truck, southbound down a mowed swath bordered by trees to the west and some rocky, forb-covered dirt mounds to the east, walking together and chatting excessively as if we had given up.  The dogs never quit hunting and they all locked up on a thick spot, which the hunters ran to surround.  A rooster flushed with both Charles and I taking shots.

BB looks on as Charles and Charity take shots. Photo courtesy of Ultimate Upland

Convinced that I had shot the bird, Sam brought me the retrieve and the debate ensued as to who shot the bird.  Following the official review, I was granted the bird.

Charity and Charles take time for the official review. Photo courtesy of Ultimate Upland

The hunt took a serious tone now that the game was on, especially where Charles felt that his bird was stolen from him.  We followed the curvature of the treeline towards the gravel road, when Sue got birdy in the thick and a rooster spooked by surprised.  Brian had noticed that we might be getting into a shot, so he turned on the BlastCam and captured the moment of Charles taking down our second rooster of the day: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=2458542390300

Sam brings in the retrieve as Marvin looks on. Photo courtesy of Ultimate Upland

After this bird was collected, we swept the corner of the field and decided to post Marvin up on the edge of the road at the end of the waterway, a spot where the guys had always put up birds.  Charles, the dogs and I pushed the waterway into the thick of trees and weeds right by the road, but nothing popped out.  It was getting up on lunch time, so we drove towards Sterling and quickly hit a waterway on some land that the Brinkmans rent out for farming, but nothing was to be found.

Scott’s Place, the watering hole of Sterling, was filled with the town’s usual suspects to view the Husker football game against Michigan State.  Everyone was abuzz with Big Red on the board, greeting Marvin as one of their own and wanting to know how our hunt was going, “We’re on the board, too!” I exclaimed.  We settled in for some iced tea and the special of the day, ending up taking a three hour lunch talking dream bird hunts, pheasant management practices in Nebraska and enjoying the raucousness of the football game.

Our final destination of the day was the “home place”, 120 acres of CRP in the middle of cornfields, with a fish pond in the middle.  We had almost completed an hour long push of the property when the dogs got really birdy on our return trip to the truck.  We had a rooster running, straight towards the corn, where despite our juking and jiving, he got away.  The dogs put up a hen in the corn and we assumed that it was the bird we had been chasing.  No longer than 15 feet from the truck, guns broken open, the dogs bust the rooster out of the standing corn to our chagrin, with nobody prepared to shoot.

It was time to pay our hosts, Wilmer and Maude, a visit and present them with a gift of authentic German ring bologna that we purchased for them in North Dakota.  One must always go bearing gifts when given the special opportunity to hunt private land with permission.

Nobody came into this trip expecting a limit.  The excitement of the hunt was seeing that there are still wild birds in southeastern Nebraska.

Landowner Marvin Brinkman, Charity, Charles and Brian Koch of Ultimate Upland

Sunday, October 30th

We awoke Sunday morning, grabbed the morning Omaha World-Herald from the yard, and drank our coffee with no intention of a hunt entering our minds.  That was until we turned to the Sports section and read David Hendee’s account of opening weekend.  He had traveled out to Broken Bow’s Pressey Wildlife Management Area, which was stocked with pheasants by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for the previous weekend’s youth hunt.  The article took the tone that NGPC and Pheasants Forever were disappointed with the hunter turnout at the stocked WMA’s.

Game on.  Charles quickly got his hunting clothes on, while I dressed our 7-year old son to follow Charles on a hunt at Twin Oaks Wildlife Management Area southeast of Tecumsah, which was also stocked for the youth hunt.  My little guy would never have made it through a full day, wild bird pheasant hunt in Nebraska.  The stocking of the wildlife management areas allowed Charles to go out and bag a couple of birds in a couple of hours; he hit the field at noon and was coming home by 2 PM.  “There were more birds to be had,” he said, “and the dogs would have found them, but I wanted to keep it fun for Conrad.  Making it not fun would have defeated the purpose.”

Conrad is fired up about pheasant hunting!

Attention Nebraska pheasant hunters: there are still scratch birds to be had from the stockings for the youth hunt weekend.  Please patronize Twin Oaks WMA southeast of Tecumsah, Branched Oak WMA northwest of Lincoln, Pressey WMA southwest of Broken Bow, Sherman WMA northeast of Loup City and Oak Valley WMA southwest of Norfolk on your hunts this weekend.  Thank the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and Pheasants Forever upon your success in order to continue this opportunity for hunters in our state!

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