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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!

Hunting Season Ends, Puppy Season Begins

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Puppy Season Begins

Sam and Mae mated from January 12-15, so that puts us with another litter around March 15th.  So Sue will whelp around March 1st and Mae will whelp around March 15th.  It will be a busy spring around here!  Sorry to be out of touch as of late, but we are also working on a big development for our family and kennel that we aren’t prepared to announce just yet, but hope to have the news finalized by mid-February.

For those who are looking for a puppy, I do want to be up front that I currently have 14 reservations for the two litters.  I could very well have two large litters and have no problem producing more puppies than that, but there are no guarantees.  We are planning four litters for next spring/summer breeding season, so anyone not getting a pup this year could hold their reservation over to a pup next year.

Sue and Mae are definitely looking pregnant and I will be sure to get belly pictures of them next weekend.

Hunting Season Ends

Charles and Matt have figured out the new game in these parts and had some end-of season success with Sam and BB.  Last weekend Charles got a couple of wild quail, but no pictures, so we had to resort to the picture in the house after dark.  Conveniently, Sam retrieved one and BB the other.

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Charles and the dogs took two male bobwhites the weekend on Jan 19th.

Yesterday they returned to the field for the final push for the year, as wild upland season in Nebraska ends on January 31st.  Charles took one hen quail, with Matt filling the game bag for the day with 2 male bobwhites and the elusive Nebraska rooster pheasant.

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Matt, BB and Sam in the parting shot of 2012-2013

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Can you see the griffs? Matt, Sam and BB take on some quail.

Pupdates

It’s been awhile since we’ve heard from Nate and pup Ben, from Sam and Sue’s “B” litter of 2011 from near Palmyra, Nebraska.  Here’s what Nate had to say:

It has been a while since I had given you an update on Ben.  He is doing fine and we really enjoy having him.  He is an excellent family dog and we are starting keeping him in the house more and more so we can spend more time with him.  He does well hunting (I need to work on his retrieving) but our hunting has been very tough this year.  I couldn’t find any birds in my grouse spot this year and pheasants and quail have been very few and far both at my place and in central Nebraska.  Finally had a good half of day of hunting yesterday in central NE that would have been better if I would have shot better but that is the way it goes.  I am going to try to do some things this spring after season to make up for that like participating in hunt tests, buying some birds, and maybe even go to a preserve (which I never thought I would say).   I have attached some pictures of Ben pointing some birds this evening.

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Ben two years old from our “B” litter

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Ben pointing, from behind

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Ben checking out the snow

Of course TracHer up in North Dakota continues to have adventures with her griffon pals Mr. Favor and Zephyr and people, Susan and Tom.  TracHer is also practicing wearing her cross country skiing harness, to join everyone on their next trail adventure.

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 We hope that everyone has had a good beginning of the New Year.  We are looking forward to more griffon adventures ourselves.  Charles is planning on putting on what we’re calling the “Old Bitches Hunt”, where he plants some farm raised quail for the two pregnant females and me to hunt up, since I’ve missed the last part of the season while Matt and Charles figured out the new game for this area.  We’ll take it slow and easy, but we think it is good for the pregnant females to hunt to send the hunting endorphines to the pups.
I’ll get some pictures up of Mae and Sue next weekend, but until then, stay griffy!

Mid-season Slowdown, Pupdates and Happy Holidays!!

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After the big hunting trip to North Dakota for Sam, BB and Charles, filling the game bag has taken a pause.  It isn’t that we haven’t tried!  Charles went out for deer the first two weekend in November on our friend’s land on the Platte River and saw deer but didn’t have any good shots.  Our freezer is full of birds anyway, so I think he was really just getting out of the house.  The latter part of November and the first part of December he’s gone out for ducks, pheasants and quail, with very few sightings and no shots.  There were two weekends where he drove 3 hours one way (in different directions), even going down into the Flint Hills of Kansas, but still no luck.  We are hoping that when the snow finally comes (we’re at a historical record for days without snow), that we might be able to come across a few roosters, but are really looking forward to our planned grouse hunt on the Sunday before Christmas up in my Nebraska Sandhills home.  For the most part we’ve given up on Eastern Nebraska this year and are going to turn our attention to getting Sam and BB trained up to take a shot at some legs of the AKC Senior Hunter test over the course of 2013.

Looks like we’re getting closer to breeding with Sue and I suspect that Mae won’t be too far behind.  I won’t have an exact calendar of events until pro-estrous (bleeding) actually starts, but there are definitely changes going on and I just have to keep watching.

Yet despite our slow time here lately, things appear to be going well in other parts of the country with our puppy owners!  Aaron of Ohio and “Pepper” from Sam and Sue’s 2012 “D” litter (age 6 months now) posted an update on our Facebook page saying:

Pepper, aka Derry, from the D litter is doing very well. We worked her on quail in a call back pen all late summer and early fall until the quail “went native”. On Monday we decided to shoot over her for the first time after a fair bit of work with a starter pistol. She pointed and retrieved two chukars with no concern for the gun fire. She trailed a wounded bird to a groundhog hole where it escaped. She is also doing great in the house.

It’s so exciting to keep up with all of the pups and how they are doing, knowing how much joy a good dog brings to the home and field.  Randy and “Roxy”, from Sam and Sue’s 2011 “B” litter, out of Utah are having an outstanding year.  Randy wrote:

Man, has the light ever came on with Roxy.  She did all that could ever be wanted while hunting Iowa, North Dakota, and Utah this year.  Best all around dog I have ever had in the 50 years of hunting.  I will attach a few pictures.  Thanks you guys for making my hunting career come together.

Click on any of the photos to enlarge:

Randy, Roxy (18 month old Wirehaired Pointing Griffon female) and company after a great day in the field

Randy, Roxy (18 month old Wirehaired Pointing Griffon female) and company after a great day in the field

Randy and Roxy (18 month old Wirehaired Pointing Griffon female) had a great time in North Dakota!

Randy and Roxy (18 month old Wirehaired Pointing Griffon female) had a great time in North Dakota!

Another great day for Roxy (18 month old Wirehaired Pointing Griffon female)!

Another great day for Roxy (18 month old Wirehaired Pointing Griffon female)!

I really love the last photo of Randy and Roxy because aside from being absolutely gorgeous, it’s a great shot showing that she looks exactly like Sue’s head on Sam’s body.  Of course, having a hunter say that you’ve given him the best hunting dog that he’s had in 50 years of hunting makes a person feel like a million bucks!!  But that is our goal!!

Cliff down in Oklahoma and his pup “Belle” out of Sam and Mae’s 2012 “C” litter, which is 9 months old now, are having a great time thus far in Kansas and Oklahoma:

Wanted to give you a quick update on Belle.  We’ve been out every week since the season opened in OK & KS.  I had to work the weekend of Nov 10th & 11th, but that was just as well  because it was so warm and windy.  Belle & I hunted the following Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning in KS.  Saw very few pheasants (no quail) and bagged the only one I shot at.  That was Belle’s first pheasant.  Attached is a picture of us with #1.
 
The following weekend in KS we got 2 more pheasants.  The Saturday after Thanksgiving we hunted Kansas once again and got into a covey of quail and bagged 2 birds.  Belle as having rock solid points and also found a bird that had been hit and flown a considerable distance to which we only knew a general location.  With the quail, Belle made the connection that she was to bring them back to me, so she now brings the birds back to me in addition to fetching the paper daily.  So far the hunting reports across the state of Kansas are what I have experienced.  The bird population has been severely impacted.
  
Yesterday was opening day for pheasants in OK.  When I got up it was 59 degrees and windy.  The high got up to 76.  I should have had my OK limit (3 roosters), but missed the easiest shot of the day Crying face.  We saw a good number of birds, but with the weather most flushed far ahead.
 
Overall, I am very pleased with Belle’s performance.  Responds to commands, hunts close, has a great nose, does not flush birds wildly, and has learned to hold point and to find and retrieve downed birds.  I just need to keep giving her the opportunity to hunt so that we can refine her skills.  I have attached additional pictures.

Cliff and Belle (9 month old female Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) with her first pheasant

Cliff and Belle (9 month old female Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) with her first pheasant

Belle (9 month old female Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) and the Oklahoma opener game bag

Belle (9 month old female Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) and the Oklahoma opener game bag

Awesome success, Cliff and Belle, so happy for you!!  It gives us hope that there is still upland bird hunting to be had out there since honestly, we’ve been in a bit of a funk about how things have been going lately.  I have pictures from the 1990’s of Charles and our Brittany “Sheaf” going out every weekend and getting a limit of pheasant here in Eastern Nebraska.  It really hurts my heart that those days are probably gone and we’re going to be stuck with three options: 1) extended bird hunting safaris to the Nebraska Sandhills, North Dakota and other states with sustainable bird populations 2) joining a hunt club 3) buying and planting our own birds on the local dog training wildlife management area or on a friend’s land.

Okay, back to something happy for the holidays!!  Joel and Jenn from Kearney, Nebraska shared this picture of Roxy’s brother, Mowgli, from Sam and Sue’s 2011 “B” litter.  He looks like he enjoyed the snow that they had out there!  What a face!

Mowgli (18 month old male Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) chillin' in the snow

Mowgli (18 month old male Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) chillin’ in the snow

Keeping in the holiday spirit, Sal and family in New York were kind enough to mail us a Christmas card with a cute photo of Belle’s brother, Chester, also from Sam and Mae’s 2012 “C” litter (9 months old):

Merry Christmas from Chester (9 month old male Wirehaired Pointing Griffon)

Merry Christmas from Chester (9 month old male Wirehaired Pointing Griffon)

Many thanks to all of my puppy owners for making this blog fun to put together and read!  You really go out of your way to take the time to send us great photos and write-ups and it is appreciated more than I can ever express.  We put a lot of time and love into our puppies, so it is a big warm fuzzy to see that loving spirit carried on in their lives in their forever homes.

Wishing all hunters and lovers of griffons, our puppy owners, friends and family the Merriest of Christmases, from Bluestem Kennels and the Upchurch family!

"Not a creature was stirring..." Clockwise from top left: BB, Mae, Sam and Sue.

“Not a creature was stirring…” Clockwise from top left: BB, Mae, Sam and Sue.

First breeding of year complete!

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

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

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

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

Mae's Natural Ability Test Results

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

Mae's AKC Pedigree

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

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

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

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

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Mae working the field on December 9, 2011

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

One of Mae's points 12/09/2011

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Another point on 12/09/2011

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Charles walks into Mae's point

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Mae retrieves on 12/09/2011

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

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

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

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

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

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

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

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

Wirehaired Pointing Griffons

Charles and all four dogs on the dunes

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

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

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

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

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

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

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

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Closeup of Mae's point that Charles was walking into

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

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

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

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

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

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

Korthals and his prize specimens

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

Another busy week

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Charles and I started the week chasing Southeastern Nebraska prairie chicken.  As the population in the area is somewhat sparse, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission limits the number of birds harvested to three the entire season, from September 1 to January 31, and a hunter must obtain special tags to harvest in this area.

We spent five hours of our Saturday walking in a drizzle and didn’t spot a single game bird of any kind.  Our intention was to return to the field on Sunday, either for prairie chicken or the last day of early teal, but we were rained out.

One of our puppies from this year’s litter, Ben, was out in the South Central part of the state and had some great luck on sharptails out there.  Ben is our top prospect for a mate for our 6 month old Canadian import girl, BB.  Great job, Ben, and owner, Nate!

Ben, Nate and Nate's father with the grouse harvest

A visit was also paid to us by another puppy from this year’s litter, Duke.  He is growing big and there are plans in the works to get him out on some birds with our guidance before his November pheasant hunting trip to South Dakota.

The Duke at 6 months

On Monday, Charles guided another successful preserve pheasant, chukar and Hungarian partridge hunt.  The hunting party consisted of two native Nebraska gentlemen along with a father and two sons from Long Island, NY.  We had a wet start after an early morning rain, but by 9 AM the sun had emerged, so that the grass and our soaked clothes were completely dry by the time we wrapped up mid-afternoon.

Hunters walking the thick grass

The father shoots a chukar, while Sam points another bird on the ground

One of the sons shoots a gorgeous rooster pheasant

Sam retrieving a rooster pheasant

Sam does a water retrieve on a pheasant shot over the pond

The hunting party and birds

Family picture with the birds

An interesting aside about a native bird that we encountered on our hunt.  In the wetness of the morning, we flushed a few sora rails in a densely vegetated, low, wet spot.  As they are in season and we had a Nebraska licensed hunter on one of the guns, he harvested one of the sora rails.

The sora rail’s flight is best described as “dumpy”.  They don’t fly very fast or far when they flush and are easily recognized: fatter than most song birds, black body with a yellow, triangular bill and long, greenish legs that hang down when they fly.  Sora rail hunting is most popular in the Northeastern Coastal areas, where they often use small boats to hunt them in seaside marshes.

The hunter didn’t have any desire to take the sora home with him, so we brought the bird home to add some tasty bites to our meal for the evening.

Caleb, age 2 1/2, practices his hunter pose with the sora rail

Late Season Pheasant Hunt

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

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

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

Nate, the landowner, begins working the fields

Sam and Charles make their way through the big bluestem

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

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

Busting through some weeds

Walking down a waterway

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

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

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

Sam presents the gift

The rooster!

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

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

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

Arriving back to the farm

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

 

Nebraska Pheasant Opener

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Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Sue retrieved the lone pheasant of the morning

The morning of Saturday, October 30th was spent by Charles and the dogs on the Brinkman farm in Johnson County, Nebraska.  Mid-morning, Sam pointed this rooster, it flushed and Charles shot it.  The bird came down between the two dogs and began to run.  Fortunately, Sue was there to cut his run very short, about 5 yards.  She made a good retrieve  in thick cover.

All but two of the birds sighted that morning were hens, with nine pheasants seen in total.  I thought that sounded like a good number, but Charles considered it down from previous years.  They also got into a couple of coveys of quail, both pointed but none bagged.  Last winter was a rough one for quail.  Charles and the landowner’s son were both concerned about working the quail over and hope to let the quail population recover adequately before they focus on hunting them.

All in all the hunt was considered a success.  Every bird that was put up was worked by the dogs and flushed in range.  An accomplishment when hunting wild pheasant.

Thank you to our friend, Marvin Brinkman, for hosting the hunt and providing the picture!

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