The Stay-At-Home Wingshooter

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Charles and the dogs guided a father, son and daughter on Wednesday

The area outlying the Omaha metro may not be blessed with the best wild pheasant numbers, but there are some fine preserves to enjoy the fresh air, sunshine and shooting.  For the past year, Charles and the dogs have been lucky enough to guide hunts for Pheasant Haven Hunting Acres http://www.pheasanthavenlodge.com/ just to the west of Omaha’s Elkhorn neighborhood, in Elk City.

As Steve Smith so eloquently stated in his article “The Semi-Traveling Wingshooter” in the September/October 2011 issue of Pointing Dog Journal:

We owe it to the dog, after all, because he doesn’t care.  He’ll get as much satisfaction out of pointing a preserve pheasant as he will cornering a running Nebraska ringneck; the released bobwhite he nails will stir his soul like a dozen-bird Kansas covey.  That dog doesn’t look down his nose at anything.  He’s just happy to be out there obeying the commands shouted into his ear by his chromosomes.

A father and son team took to the field Thanksgiving morning

Preserve experiences cannot completely replace wild bird hunting for die-hards, but for many urban/suburbanites who want a pleasant morning or afternoon close to home with guaranteed flushes, the preserve experience is perfect.

Pheasant Bonanza http://www.pheasantbonanza.com/ is about an hour and a half north of the metro and was featured in this year’s production of Scott Linden’s Wingshooting USA television show.  The episode has yet to air, but here is the blog post covering his visit: http://scottlindenoutdoors.com/2011/10/19/pheasant-bonanza-yes-it-is/

For those poor souls living outside of the wild pheasant zone, preserve hunting may be the only reasonable chance at a rooster.  The Aberdeen (S.D.) newspaper recently published an article about how out-of-state hunter numbers are way down this year, as the cost of gas and travel is prohibitive to many in the down economy.  There is no shame in wanting quality time in the field close to home with your dogs or someone else’s.

“This is the vital role of the modern shooting preserve: to maintain a tradition of quality shooting wherever that tradition is fading under the onslaught of suburbia, and where the joy of dog and gun may otherwise be lost to tomorrow’s men.” — Winchester’s Conservation Department, Shooting Preserve Management (1967)

To locate a hunting preserve near you, visit Quail Unlimited’s comprehensive directory: http://www.qu.org/main/huntdir/huntdirectory.cfm

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”!

Guiding at Pheasant Haven: February 20, 2011

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A cool, moist day for a hunt.

Everyone wondered if we were in for rain or snow as we set out Sunday afternoon in search of pheasants and chukars.  For the first time, the owner had completely turned over the reins for this hunt and it was just Charles, Sam and I on the property with the hunters.  It was three generations of a family from a rural southeastern Nebraska town by the name of Geneva: a grandfather and great-uncle, the son and the sons-in-law, and most importantly, the grandson.

The flushes all came in singles throughout the property.  We hunted for a couple of hours, took a water break back to the cabin, then set out again for more birds for another hour and a half.  It was getting up towards supper time when we finally parted ways.  The weather cooperated and so did the dog.  The best part of the day was to see the anxiousness and timidness of the young lad melt away, turning into joy and excitement for the sport.  This was confirmed by his dad, as we all left and shook hands, he stated that his son told him, “Dad, this pheasant hunting is fun!”

A chukar partridge flushes between two hunters.

"Nothing like a good clean kill."

Charles and the youngest hunter.

A hunter walks into Sam's point.

Another chukar goes down.

Sam retrieves a chukar.

A rooster pheasant in flight.

A rooster pheasant upon impact.

The youngest hunter requests to carry a pheasant.

A happy young hunter, what it's all about!

Three generations of hunters: grandfather, grandson, son.

The hunters and their quarry along with Charles and Sam.

Guiding at Pheasant Haven January 9th

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The snow began to fall on Sunday morning, but it wasn’t enough to deter the hunters of Pheasant Haven Hunting Acres in Elk City, Nebraska (www.pheasanthavenlodge.com).  Charles and the dogs guided their third hunt on the preserve, with myself on hand as co-handler of the dogs, guide assistant and photographer.

We began the day running both Sam and Sue, which led to some very fast shooting and more retrieves than we could keep up with at times.  There were points where we had to stop to let the dogs catch up on picking up the shot pheasants on the ground.

Charles takes a retrieve from Sue while looking out for Sam working a bird

Sam on retrieve

Sue happily checks back in

We stopped around 11 for a lunch of pheasant breast and mushroom stew, then went back out with Sam for a second sweep of the property.

Walking the fields at Pheasant Haven

Sam brings in a rooster

Sam on point

Hunter walks in on Sam’s point

Sam gives Charles another perfect retrieve

The hunters, 24 pheasant, Sam and Charles

Your reporter in the field, posing with the birds

In 2011 litter news, Sam and Sue completed breeding at Christmas and she is showing obvious signs of pregnancy.  We anticipate whelping towards the end of February.  The puppy application is ready and has been sent out to the 30+ individuals expressing interest, with more calling and e-mailing every day.  I am excited to raise these pups and get them into some excellent hunting homes!


Pheasant Haven hunt, December 19, 2010

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The hunting cabin and pond of Pheasant Haven

Yesterday was the perfect day for a hunt: not too cold or windy, with moist air; perfect scenting conditions for the dogs.  As some of the hunters had brought their dogs, Charles worked Sue with the large group of gentlemen in the morning.

The orange army departs

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Sue with her high-style point

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Sue retrieves a colorful pheasant

The orange army on the move

I wish I had gotten a better photograph on the next shot because it was some incredible dog work.  One of the hunter’s white Spinone Italiano is on point along with Sue, followed by the preserve’s yellow lab coming in for the flush.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Amazing dog teamwork!

I now understand the value of the flushing dog in these situations.  As foot hunters, Charles and I typically do our own flushing by walking up into the dog’s point.  At the preserve, the hunters would rather not walk in to flush and it isn’t safe for the human guide to do the flushing, therefore the flushing dog is needed.  It looks like in the near future we’re going to be shopping for a female AKC Cocker Spaniel to take on that job!

After a successful morning well-spent on the hunt, we took a break for cheeseburgers at the bar in Elk City, then returned to Pheasant Haven for an afternoon hunt with Sam and a grandfather/father/son trio.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Sam with his low-style point

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Another solid point from Sam

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

The father-hunter walks in on Sam's point

I was thrilled to finally take my first hunter/dog/bird photo yesterday.  They are terribly difficult to set up and take.  The pheasant is difficult to see, as it is flying away near the top of the frame and camouflaged by the grass.

My first hunter/dog/bird photo

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Sam on retrieve to Charles

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Grandfather and grandson walk into Sam's point

Charles and Sam with the bird total

In hindsight, I should have organized the large group and their dogs to pose with the bird total, because Sam and Charles certainly can’t take all of the credit!  It is a learning process for both the dogs and the people to take on this guiding business, but it gives us great pride and joy to be able to share our passion for hunting with great dogs!!


Guiding Hunts at Pheasant Haven

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Bird Total from Day Two of guiding at Pheasant Haven

Charles, Sam and Sue were recruited at the end of November by Scott Bruhn of Pheasant Haven hunting preserve (http://www.pheasanthavenlodge.com/) in Elkhorn, Nebraska as guides.  As the dogs were strictly wild bird hunters prior to this experience, I was a little nervous that they would “trap” the cage-raised birds (this is when the dog catches the bird in its mouth following the point).  For this particular two day outing, chukkars were used.  The birds were of a good quality and  did not allow the dogs to get sloppy.  They also ran across a number of “scratch” (previously released) pheasant which made for some added fun and action.  The dogs are used to locking up on unforgiving wild grouse and pheasant, which made for some stylish points on the slower-moving planted birds.  Sam and Sue were run separately  to give the gunners plenty of time to walk up on the point and prepare for the shot.   This event was a lot of fun for the dogs, as it isn’t everyday where a dog get to point 100+ birds.  They also did a terrific job of retrieving for the two days they were on the job, November 30th and December 1st.  Scott runs a nice operation and is talented at releasing birds in way that simulates wild bird hunts.

There was a second guide on the hunt running a Vizla, who is active in the National Shoot to Retrieve Association (http://www.nstra.org/), which is essentially a competitive field trial organization.  Doing a side-by-side comparison of Sam and the NSTRA Vizla, Charles feels that this may be another dog sport organization that we would like to investigate and potentially participate in.

Charles and the dogs will be back guiding at Pheasant Haven tomorrow, with me joining them as blogger/photographer, so I’m looking forward to getting some good shots and stories to post next week.

Puppy Update: Whiskey and Cold Ducks

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Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Pete, Whiskey and some Nevada ducks

Looks like Pete and Whiskey (Alpha Male 2010 litter) had another great hunt!!  According to Pete, “We are wet and cold but Whiskey put the hurt on the ducks today several water retrieves in nasty conditions and even dove after a cripple (I need to shoot better).”