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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!

Our First NAVHDA Utility Test

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On Saturday, August 17th was our first North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA) Utility Test in Sioux Falls, South Dakota with the Midwest Tri-State NAVHDA Chapter.  In the running were Sweetgrass Plainsman Samson “Sam” age 5 and Bourg-Royals CB Bluestem “BB” age 2 with my husband Charles handling both dogs.  The Midwest Tri-State NAVHDA Chapter is one of the best in the country and folks come from all over to participate in their events.

They come from far and wide...

They came from far and wide…

The Natural Ability dogs were first in the field on the day, with Sam as the first Utility Dog who ran.  His very first point was not on one of the planted chukars, but was a wild rooster pheasant!  The gunner said that he was twitching to fire, but it isn’t that time of year just yet!  Sam did fairly well on his first three finds, but it just started to get out of control.  The field was packed with birds and he was finding them every 45 seconds in some places.  He just came apart.  Sam has been hunting wild birds his whole life but has only received steadiness training in the past year, so he just couldn’t handle the overwhelming number of birds.  His pointing and retrieving never fail, but his habit of breaking on the shot came out in full force.  He probably had 10 total finds, but only held on maybe 3 or 4 of them.  Afterwards, Apprentice Judge Leo Boman told us that we need to go ahead and make a correction with the dog in the field, not letting him mess up over and over without trying to right it.  This is different than AKC, where the dog is supposed to work without correction and commands or face an order from the judge to “pick up your dog” (meaning you failed).  So that was a great tip for future handling.

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Charles walking in on one of Sam’s points

Although it shows Charles carrying a shotgun, it is not loaded and only the two chapter gunners do all of the shooting for the test.

A bird in the air, Sam breaking on the shot

A bird in the air, Sam breaking on the flush

Sam on retrieve

Sam on retrieve

Charles was pretty disgusted as he walked out of the field with Sam, but I knew that was where the dog would make mistakes and his time to shine would come later on in the day.  We had to shake it off quickly because we were running 2 out of the 3 utility dogs that day, so it was a short break until it was BB’s turn.

BB has become an outstanding field dog and proved in this test that she is ready to move on to Master Hunter runs in AKC (American Kennel Club) Hunt Tests.  She had 4 or 5 finds and every single one was textbook steadiness.  There was even a point where Charles chose to run after a bird to try to flush it and BB just stood there stone still.

BB stands steady with a bird in the air (see it up between the trees?)

BB stands steady with a bird in the air (see it up between the trees?)

BB retrieves to hand

BB retrieves to hand

Another bird in the air with BB standing steady

Another bird in the air with BB standing steady

BB on retrieve

BB on retrieve

Moment of Impact: BB stands by as a bird gets hit in front of the smaller cottonwood

Moment of Impact: BB stands by as a bird gets hit in front of the smaller cottonwood

We walked out of the bird field with BB feeling as if we’d taken our first steps toward a Utility Prize I.  We were very hopeful.  It was time for a delicious lunch of chili and cornbread.  You can’t beat the food at NAVHDA tests!

The next order of business was the duck search for the utility dogs.  Sam was up first and we had no worries about his performance.  Swam the full 10 minutes and searched the pond thoroughly.  He did not find the duck, but that isn’t the point of the exercise.

Sam going hard on the duck search

Sam going hard on the duck search

BB’s weak spot is the water.  With Sam always dominating the retrieves while we are duck hunting, she just hasn’t had a chance to get fired up about it.  She did an okay search, then came and sat down by Charles at around the 7 minute mark.

BB out on the duck search

BB out on the duck search

Afterwards we talked to Dan Griffith, who is a full time trainer of German Wirehaired Pointers and a very experienced Utility Tester.  We were wondering if Charles should have re-cast her out into the pond.  Dan told us that if you re-cast without judge’s instructions, it is automatically a one point deduction.  If the judge wants you to re-cast, they will tell you.  Do not re-cast on your own.  Another great handling tip for the future.

The Natural Ability dogs did their duck retrieve first (which BB had no problem with at her test, NA Prize I with a perfect score of 112).  The setup for the Utility dogs was that they walk on leash on heel through a set of posts to the blind.  The dog is released from the leash and “whoaed” behind the blind.  Shots are fired and the dog has to stay steady behind the blind.  The dog is then moved just outside of the blind so that he can mark where the throw of the duck lands.  More shots are fired and the duck is thrown.

Sam marks the throw.  You can see the heeling posts in the foreground.

Sam marks the throw. You can see the heeling posts in the foreground.

We were in no way prepared for the 50 yard duck retrieve that they set up for the Utility Dogs.  The throw was way outside of shotgun range and it is only because of Sam’s absolute love of swimming and water that he was able to pull it off.  We had not trained for that distance at all.

Sam brings in the duck

Sam brings in the duck

At that point, we knew that it would take a miracle for BB to get that duck.  She did great in the blind and I saw her mark the throw, but she got distracted by the decoys next to the shore and would only go about 20 yards out to search (within shotgun range).  We tried to cast her farther, but to no avail.  BB did not get the duck and received No Prize as a result.

The final event was the track.  Flight feathers are pulled from a pheasant or duck and left in a pile at the start.  The pheasant or duck is either allowed to run and hide on its own, or if a carcass is used, it is dragged to a particular spot.  Sam never follows a track from point A to point B.  He knows that the bird is there, he just wants to go to points C. D, and E, then pee on them, then find the bird.  So he did the track…sort of:)

Sam comes back from his track with the duck

Sam comes back from his track with the duck

BB does an amazing job of tracking and always goes from point A to point B flawlessly.  But as she didn’t get the duck, it was all for naught.  So we ended the day with Sam earning a Utility Test Prize III.  It was our first test and I was just happy to bring home a prize, especially on Sam who has just been a wild bird hunting dog for so long.  BB was perfect in everything but the water.  We will hunt her alone on wild ducks down in Missouri for early teal season in a few weeks and then Nebraska High Plains duck season a few weeks after that.

It was a great time in Sioux Falls and we learned so much from folks.  It was great seeing Cliff Koele of Coppershot Griffons, home of several NAVHDA Versatile Champions, who recently announced his retirement from testing and breeding.  He will now focus on fishing and mentoring other breeders/trainers.  We had so much fun with all of our fellow handlers, the volunteers and the judges.  We learned and laughed.  It’s just dogs after all.

Congratulations to our fellow griffoniers who also participated in the weekend from Aux Lake Kennel!  From left to right: Keith Feldhaus and Deke UT I, Scott Moore and Josie as observers, Rick Jones and Jessie NA II and the godfather himself: Larry Woodward and Holly UT I.  Thank you Kim Jones for allowing me to use your photo.  We had a chance to spend time with the Joneses since Jessie ran on Saturday, but only saw everyone else briefly as we were ships passing in the night.  Their UT dogs ran on Sunday.

Aux Lake Crew

Aux Lake Crew

Wow and a big thank you to the Midwest Tri-State NAVHDA Chapter for a great test.  We will be back.

I have so much more to write about, but am just out of time for today.  I will be sure to post again later this week before hunting season starts on Saturday!!  I have some pupdates that I need to clear out of my queue before I get way behind!  Talk at you later this week.

Summer comes to a close…

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It has been a very busy summer of work, family, travel and dog training here.  Sorry that I have not had a chance to keep you all updated, with the kids all at home with me, it makes it challenging to find the time and quiet space to do it all.  I suppose it would make the most sense to me to work backwards chronologically with the news.

On Friday we will be traveling up to Sioux Falls, SD to run Sam and BB in the NAVDHA Utility Test at the Fall Test of the Midwest Tri-State NAVHDA Chapter on Saturday.  They have been doing well in practice and I’m hoping that they both prize.  Some folks grumble about whether they get prize I, II or III, but it is one day in the life of a dog.  If the dog is having a bad day, there is something in the environment that they don’t like, the conditions are not what we are used to, etc., etc., the dog might not get the prize we want.  In the recent issue of Versatile Hunting Dog, NAVHDA’s magazine, two of my most respected dog training mentors ran dogs in UT and NA and didn’t prize at all.  These are folks who have been doing this way longer than we have, or most folks I know have, for that matter.  We don’t reach some sort of state of dog perfection and never have a bad day or a bad score.  So any and all NAVHDA prizes are celebrated here!

The last couple of weeks we have been on the road on summer vacation.  The dogs stayed over with our friends at Pheasant Bonanza in Tekamah, Nebraska (http://pheasantbonanza.com/) while we were gone.  They have a full training and boarding set-up there, we elected to board only.  It is nice to take your dog specifically to a place for gun dogs that is clean and well-maintained.  The dogs came back healthy and happy. (Not a paid endorsement)

BB’s OFA hip certificate came in the mail while we were on vacation, so she will be ready to be bred sometime around the new year.  We are still working out who we are going to use as a stud, so we will be sure to keep you posted.

BB OFA

While we were traveling, I spent the day in the Lion Country Supply office.  Right now, I am in the process of updating their catalog of over 2300 dog training supplies.  It was cool to meet the people and see the facility.  My favorite part of the office was the gun dog humor found on the restroom doors.  Instead of Women and Men it was Setters and Pointers, ha!

Setters and Pointers on the restroom doors at LCS

Setters and Pointers on the restroom doors at LCS

The kids dropping me off at the office.

The kids dropping me off at the office.

Before we left for vacation we were training every chance we had!  Every weekend was spent on trips to the pond and field.  Even when we were sitting around the backyard, we were practicing blind dummy retrieves and “whoa”.

Sitting in the yard: Mae, BB and Sam

Sitting in the yard: Mae, BB and Sam

BB brings in the goose Dokken Dead Fowl dummy from a blind retrieve

BB brings in the goose Dokken Dead Fowl dummy from a blind retrieve

Sam's goose blind retrieve

Sam’s goose blind retrieve

I suppose I should explain a blind dummy retrieve.  That is where the dogs have to stay in the yard on “whoa” and one of us goes way back into the woods and hides the dummy without them seeing where we placed it.  One of the dogs is then released to go fetch the dummy.  The dummies are not scented and the dog is only finding them by sight, which is fairly difficult for them.

We had a cool new dog box shipped out to us from Michigan.  It is a hound style box and the dogs have lots more room and are able to stick their heads out of the side of the box.  It will make the long distance trips much more comfortable for the dogs and we are glad to have finally retired the “slave ship”.  It was a nice enough dog box, but it just didn’t have enough room for multi-day roadtrips.

BB and Mae getting ready to depart on the maiden voyage of the dog box

BB and Mae getting ready to depart on the maiden voyage of the dog box

Sam and Mae at the pond in the new box

Sam and Mae at the pond in the new box

Well that pretty much sums things up for the time being, I will be sure to update you all next week as to the outcome up in Sioux Falls, keep your fingers crossed for a good Saturday for us!  I am still running behind on returning voice mails and e-mails, so I apologize to those of you who have reached out to me and I haven’t gotten back to you.  I have dedicated time set aside this week to get caught up before we head north on Friday.  Talk at you next week!

Oh and hunting season starts in two weeks!  Woot!

The last pup home and lots of pupdates!

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Over Memorial Day weekend, Reagan returned home to Colorado at 12 weeks old with Pam and Josh!  Josh is so excited to have a hunting dog of his own and will make a great trainer!

Josh, Reagan and Pam

Josh, Reagan and Pam

We had considered running Sam and BB down in Lincoln in AKC testing that weekend, but it was just too much to try to do that and a homegoing at the same time.  We’re signed up for UT in Sioux Falls in August with the Midwest Tri-State NAVHDA Chapter and I’m pretty sure we’ll just focus on training between now and then.  And of course, just having fun!  Took all the dogs to the pond this week for the first time since last year, but needed to get some grooming time in too!

Sue ready to be groomed while Mae swims with the kids.  Sam and BB off running.

Sue ready to be groomed while Mae swims with the kids. Sam and BB off running.

There were plenty of pupdates over the last few weeks!  We heard from 3 year old Gauge out in Wyoming, who is from our “A” litter (Sue/Sam) and is the brother to Whiskey in Nevada who we hear from.  He is doing great in the field and home according to Sean and Amber.  Here’s what Amber shared with me, “We absolutely love him and have fallen in love with the Griff breed for his loving side as well as his commitment to our family. He is an extraordinary dog in the field and works beyond our expectations. We could not be any happier with him, and wanted to share that with you.”  We are so glad to hear from you, thanks Amber, Sean and family!!

3 year old Gauge pointing a pheasant

3 year old Gauge pointing a pheasant

3 year old Gauge in the water

3 year old Gauge in the water

Let’s go backwards by order of age here.  Next up is Chester from our 2012 “C” (Sam/Mae) litter.  I pulled his trainer’s photos off of versatiledogs.com.  Chester is trained by Steve “Hoss” Anker in New York.  Here is what “Hoss” had to say, what a hoot:

 Don’t hold it against me…butt….recently through the A-TEAM kennels, in training, training for NAVHDEEEEEE stuff, we have uncovered an unknown SPECIES of caninus familiarus known as the GRIFF-A-GATOR.A Woolie, droopey eyed, shaggy, hound-like, pointing animal, water oriented, replete with enough hair to clog up a 12 inch drain pipe.Shown here in intense A-TEAM training………INTENSE….

Chester in the water

Chester in the water

Mannnnn….look at those choppers, looks like a hairy bear trap on legs.

FETCH…OUT……Good Boy!

Chester working on fetch

Chester working on fetch

Is that the GRIFF-A-GATOR or is that the LOCH NESS MONSTER?  Not sure…WHAT SAY YOU….You hairy woolie hairball pointing dog types..?

Chester swimming

Chester swimming

Chester got a Prize II with 106 points recently on his NAVHDA Natural Ability test with the Hudson Valley Chapter, but owner Sal and Hoss are bound and determined for Prize I, so they’ll be back at it again soon.  Good luck guys!!

Our “D” litter from 2012 (Sue/Sam) recently had their 1 year old birthday and I got a cute “then and now” card from Rick and family.  Rick said, “Thanks again for introducing her into our lives. She’s a wonderful member of our family, and a great asset in the field. I’m looking forward to this fall, and her first full grown season of eastern Nebraska upland hunting.”  Thank you so much, Rick, Dawn and family for being great owners!!

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Happy 1st Birthday "D" Litter and Dottie!!

Happy 1st Birthday “D” Litter and Dottie!!

Dottie’s sister Abby recently scored a Prize I Natural Ability with 112 points at the Missouri Uplands Chapter of NAVHDA Spring Test.  Keep up the good work over in Illinois, Rob and Abby!!

Jimmy down in Oklahoma did some great video work with 3.5 month old Zoey from this year’s “E” Litter (Sue/Sam) both on water and land, that I put together in a YouTube video:

He also sent over a nice shot of her fetching up a stick out of the water.  What great work, Jimmy, thank you!!  You are doing awesome training!!

Zoey brings in her stick

Zoey brings in her stick

And what hunting dog doesn’t love off-roading?!?

Zoey in the dune buggy

Zoey in the dune buggy

Zoey’s sister GiGi is also having a great life in Maryland.  Marilyn said, “GiGi is progressing. I think a little slowly because my husband babies her. She walked a mile with him on the leash today. As a teacher I know kids don’t learn until they are ready. So it must be for puppies! We love her!”

Ben and GiGi taking a nap together

Ben and GiGi taking a nap together

GiGi on a walk

GiGi on a walk

And Midge in Montana from this year’s “F” litter (Sam/Mae) at 12 weeks old is having fun exploring the headwaters of the Missouri River.  Thanks Louie and Lindsay!!

Midge in the Mighty Mo.

Midge in the Mighty Mo.

Midge watching the kids

Midge watching the kids

Midge’s sister, Fern, is also doing well.  Danny down in Texas said:

Fern is doing great.  She’s a machine.  Never stops or slows down.  Potty training is going pretty well, but she still has some days that it just doesn’t click.  We love her.  She is very very sweet and lovable.  She wants to be by me all the time, until we get outside.  I think my other dog tolerates her.  Fern attacks her and wants to play all the time.  Basically, my old dog will let Fern growl and bite her neck and hold on until she’s had enough, then she just tosses her to the ground and tries to walk off.  But, Fern will never give up!  I’m waiting for Fern to take cues on when to stop.

One can’t help but feel good after going through all of those beautiful pics of pups and hearing all of the stories.  I can’t even begin to express how grateful I am to all of my owners for sharing their lives with us.  Sometimes I get overwhelmed with it all and wonder why the heck I put myself through all of this craziness.  But this is why.  This must continue.  I can take a few months out of my life each year to get to play Santa Claus and spread some joy.  Thanks for the happiness in return.

I’ll be sure to get out training with Charles and Matt over the summer to get some updated photos and talk about that process.  Now that Mae and Sue have dried up their milk thoroughly, it is time for all of us to get in shape for hunting season (me included)!  Thanks for coming along on our journey and I’ll talk at you soon.


			

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!

Planning for the upcoming season

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Youth Hunt 2000, with Charles and I in the back on the right

Heartland Chapter #491 Pheasants Forever meets tonight, Thursday, August 18th at 7 PM at El Bee’s on Hwy 50, near the Sapp Brothers Coffee Pot/Water Tower.  Youth Hunt Planning Meeting, new members welcome!

Sue has been in heat the past week and it has been a real pain keeping Sam away from her.  We do not want fall puppies because it conflicts with hunting season.  I hadn’t been letting them exercise together, until Sam wore me down with his endless whining about not getting to hang out with his lady.  So a few days ago I started letting them run together again, but just practicing manual birth control, which consists of lots of yelling and running after him to prevent him from mounting.

I have also been busy doing battle with the burr plants on my property because I’m tired of brushing out BB every night to bring her in.  I think that I about have them defeated and should finish the clean up this weekend.  I am normally anti-herbicide, but these plants have me ticked off.  I don’t think that I can convince Charles to spray though.  Hopefully the good old weed and seed will do the trick.

We have our first guiding gig of the year lined up for September 19th out at Pheasant Haven and are looking forward to it.  If you would like for us to guide for you at any of the Omaha/Lincoln area preserves, feel free to give us a call at (402) 682-9802 or shoot us an e-mail at bluestemkennels@cox.net.  Charles does the majority of the dog handling in the field and I assist with gear.  It’s very enjoyable to share our love of dogs and hunting with other people.

At this point we are planning on staying in Nebraska to hunt through mid-October, then head up to North Dakota for a week.  Which reminds me, I need to order my hunting license and get my Eastern Nebraska Prairie Chicken tags.  Also on my hunting related agenda for the day is I need to order some training birds for this weekend so that we can work with BB on planted birds and the gun before we hit the real deal.

Charles and I have decided that we are not going to do AKC or NAVHDA hunt tests at this point.  I know it looks cool to have a title behind your dogs name, but we just don’t have the time for it in addition to hunting and guiding.  Not taking away from the folks who do hunt tests, it is good for them, but it just isn’t our deal right now.

Two more weeks to go…I think this is probably one of the most exciting times of year to be in Nebraska.  The football people are excited, the hunting people are excited…we’re just all excited to be a part of “The Good Life”!

Spring in the Sandhills and other adventures

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

BB, Sue, Duke and Sam having a Griffon party

Duke points BB

BB and Duke had a great time playing together

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

Sam and Sue on a run through the Sandhills

BB and Cordelia also take in a jog

BB swamping in a wet area near a windmill

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

BB points the kids playing in the lake

Sam takes a dip

Sue wades deep in the chilly water

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

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

BB at 12 weeks

BB picks up the duck dummy while Duke looks on

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

Pointer Potpourri

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Sue making friends at the Bark for a Cure Cancer Walk

On Saturday morning, Sue and I hosted a booth at the Bellevue, Nebraska Bark for a Cure Cancer Walk.  It was nice to meet and visit with other local dog enthusiasts.  Sue did a great job meeting and greeting.  The Great Plains Pointer Rescue http://www.greatpointers.org/ also had a booth and they occasionally come across local Wirehaired Pointing Griffons in need of assistance.  In the future, I will be posting any available griff rescues from them and work to spread the word in Griffondom.

Deborah and Pete out in Nevada sent some great pictures of Whiskey getting ready for his NAVHDA natural ability test.  Whiskey is from last year’s “A” litter and recently turned one year old.  He has a new baby “brother”, a lab puppy by the name of “Ruger”.  I’m sure they’re having fun getting to know each other.

Handsome one-year old Whiskey!

Whiskey swimming

"I got it, Dad!"

"Woo hoo!!!!"

Many thanks to Pete and Deborah for the photos and the update on how Whiskey is progressing!

While we’re talking progress, BB is doing fabulous at 11 weeks.  I took her out for her first hour-long hike late last week and she kept up with the big dogs.  No whining, fussing or laying down at all.  She’s getting pretty leggy too!

BB at 11 weeks old

Charles is taking some time away from work coming up and the kids are out of school for the summer starting on Wednesday, so I’m sure we’ll cook up some good dog adventures.  Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend!

Book Review: Gun Dog by Richard A. Wolters

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“From his prehistoric beginnings man has possessed two things: woman and dog.”

The humorous (if slightly misogynistic and outdated) first sentence of Wolters’ iconic training manual gives you a hint as to what lies in store in its concise 148 pages.  It is a starting point.  It is basic.

For Wolters, a hunting pup’s training life begins at 7 weeks.  Based on my experience with a litter of pups this year, I would agree.  I actually began working on crate conditioning and other basic commands at 5 1/2 weeks.

These are not advanced techniques.  Wolters takes you through the beginnings of the basic commands of sit, stay, come, and whoa.  There are other techniques provided to assist in bringing out the dog’s natural pointing and retrieving instincts.  The book has as many instructional photographs as words taking you through the process.

He then covers the second phase of training: quartering a field, the use of hand signals, fetch on command, introduction of the gun, water retrieve and honoring another dog’s point.

If you plan on training your own dog and need a place to begin, this is it.  I would estimate that his process takes you through the first 6-12 months of yard/close field work.  The time frame depends on how much time you put into it: the more time spent, the shorter the process.

Random aside: Turning to the advice of your local chapter of the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association chapter is something that I also recommend.  This is a resource that we did not take advantage of in the past, but plan to utilize to the fullest extent with any new dogs in the future.  Here is the list of chapters and contacts: http://www.navhda.us/chapterinfo.aspx)

Wolters was not a professional dog trainer.  He was educated as a chemist but had a passion for hunting dogs that shows in his writing.  His goal was to produce a text enabling the amateur with limited time to effectively work with his or her dog, and I believe that Gun Dog succeeds in achieving that goal.

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Gun+Dog+by+Richard+Wolters&x=0&y=0

NAVHDA: A whole new bird game

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To use an analogy, NAVHDA is to hunting what rodeo is to ranch work.  Both rodeo and NAVDHA training/testing take a practical skill set and turn it into a technically judged event.  As Chuck Johnson says in his book Training the Versatile Hunting Dog, “You can successfully train your dog and end up with a brag dog without participating in one of these (NAVHDA or VHDF) tests” (p 124).  A few members and trainers at the Heartland NAVHDA Chapter’s training day even said that NAVHDA testing takes away skill from the field and vice versa (the field takes away skill from the testing).

Sam is starting the NAVHDA process at the age of two.  I think this works to our advantage and disadvantage.  The advantage is that he has solidified his natural field skills hopefully to a point where any training we do on the table or in the yard won’t have an adverse impact on his natural ability.

Yet this also proved to be a disadvantage on our first run at the NAVDHA training.  Sam had never been trained using pigeons or bird traps (or bird flingers, whatever you want to call them).  Once he found a trapped pigeon, he wasn’t even sure if he was supposed to be pointing it.  The decision was made to take the pigeons out of the traps and replant them.  The pigeons were replanted, but when Sam approached them, they didn’t move.  The only birds in the hunting field that don’t move are either dead or wounded, so naturally (in his mind) he grabbed it.

Further adjustments were made to the training scenario, because at that point we all realized that Sam was confused.  A pigeon was flushed by kicking the grass, then a shot was fired, just to attempt to impress in his mind that we are actually trying to “hunt” these things.  We then broke it down further, to where one of the trainers played with a pigeon about 5 feet in front of Sam, while Charles was giving the “whoa” command, to show that he is not allowed to grab the bird.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Sam watching the pigeon while on "whoa"

Another challenge in the training field was the number of dogs that had passed through and scent marked.  Sam thought that he had to “mark” as much as possible.  This isn’t something that we’ve ever had to worry about, even at our dog training wildlife management area.  Yet as it is a display of dominance, we need to correct him for “marking” at inappropriate times.

Even though there is a part of us that is wondering if this is something that is truly necessary, we really want to push ourselves in this direction.  The Heartland NAVHDA Chapter is full of breeders and trainers who have multiple decades of experience under their belts.  As an example, we worked with the folks out of Rufnit Kennels (http://www.rufnitkennels.com/) who are probably the #1 breeders and trainers of the Bracque du Bourbonnais in the country.  They have 20 dogs who live with them in the house!

Bracque du Bourbonnais

Sheri Stueck of Rufnit Kennels and "T"

So even though Sam has hunted up and retrieved 75+ wild birds in his first two seasons, we have set up a new challenge in trying to get him ready for testing.  Due to the special situations that are presented in NAVHDA training/testing (even having a large group of people walking behind him was confusing for Sam), we will need to start from the beginning in many ways.  We’re already looking forward to the September 11th training session, where as an experiment I plan on taking Sue out in addition to Charles running Sam.  We truly appreciate the opportunity to learn new things about versatile hunting dog training.

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