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Full on pheasant season

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I will be 40 on Sunday.  Not sure how to feel about that.  Hopefully I get at least 40 more years and I get to hunt for most of them.  We plan on going out to dinner Saturday night and probably chase some birds either Saturday or Sunday.  The other day we’ll spend with the kids and my mom.  I’ve told everyone no gifts since I’m spoiled enough as it is.

Brian over at Ultimate Upland wrote a post this week about slowing down as a hunter as we age http://www.ultimateuplandnews.com/upland-with-friends/.  Charles and I have been discussing the same thing this year.  I can remember being in our 20s and how we would hunt all day, then party for most of the night back home in Valentine for several consecutive days.  Over the years, the beers have become fewer and evening hours have grown shorter progressively.  I’ve actually given up drinking altogether as of two months ago (I’m making it official here on the blog since I’m going to stick with it this time).  I hope that is enough oversharing for everyone this week.

AWPGA

Mr T meme

Mr. T says so http://awpga.com/index.php.  Since you get to read my blog free from advertising, with the exception of the junk WordPress puts at the bottom, I am going to start plugging AWPGA membership.  Especially those of you who own griffs and do NAVHDA testing.  Now that I’m working on the Griffonnier and Charles and I are starting to help with the field committee, I see that probably less than 10% of those prizing are AWPGA members.  We are going to change that.  Plus, we are looking to get more AWPGA sponsored field events across the country.  I am very excited to be helping out the elders who have been doing this for a long time and using my blog as a way to help get the word out.

AWPGA Database: I have not yet added my litters to the database, but will have done so by the next time I post to the blog.  That will allow any of my puppy owners to add health and title information.  Griff owners can add information at http://awpgadb.com.  This is not only for AWPGA members, but any griff owners.

Pheasant Season Update

I was out of commission last weekend with a cold, but Charles and his friend, Matt, made it out into the field with Fire and BB.  Charles got a rooster and the world’s smallest quail and Matt got two roosters.

Charles with Fire, Matt with BB

Charles with Fire, Matt with BB

Pupdates

Sounds like last weekend was beautiful up in North Dakota and there were plenty of birds to be had.  Ernie, Duncan and a large party of fellow hunters and dogs found a mess of roosters!  Duncan is from our 2014 “H” Litter between Sam and Mae and is 7 1/2 months old.

Duncan and a big pile of ND roosters

Duncan and a big pile of ND roosters

Of course, TracHer, Susan, and Tom are out chasing roosters again.  They were joined by Jim Borg, participant in the 2014 NAVHDA Invitational and owner of VC Agate Hill’s Akeeta (who had to sit out of the hunt due to injury).

Susan said, “The weather has been unbelievably gorgeous for this time of year and we are so glad we can take advantage of it. TracHer really is coming into her own…she’s showing great drive, points, retrieves—I couldn’t ask for more from her, and it took until this season for her to come into her own.  We hunted with Jim Borg today with his 12 year old Griff Max.”

TracHer on point.  She is from our 2012 "C" litter between Sam and Mae.

TracHer on point. She is from our 2012 “C” litter between Sam and Mae.

Jim with TracHer and Max on point

Jim with TracHer and Max on point

Close up of TracHer and Max on point.

Close up of TracHer and Max on point.

TracHer, Tom holding Max the GWP pup, Susan, Max the griff, Jim, and Zepher.

TracHer, Tom holding Max the GWP pup, Susan, Max the griff, Jim, and Zepher.

An aside for those of you who are not familiar with the NAVHDA hunt testing system.  The Invitational is held every year for those dogs who earn a Prize I in the Utility Test.  From the NAVHDA website:

Field work consists of a search, pointing, steadiness, backing and retrieving with the dogs being run in braces.  Water work consists of a blind retrieve, double-marked retrieve and honoring a retrieve.  Cooperation, obedience, desire and nose are judged throughout the entire test.  Dogs successfully completing the Invitational Test with a passing score will receive the title of “Versatile Champion,” further recognized by placing VC before their names.

Susan does such a great job keeping me in photos!  I hope to make it up to a Central Dakota Chapter NAVHDA Test one of these years so that I get to meet all of these great griff hunters who are members up there.

Danny down in Texas has Fern from our 2013 “F” litter from Sam and Mae.  He said:

We work on upland, waterfowl, fur and tracking. This morning I shot a doe and she tracked it about 100 yards. I was so proud of her, even though it appeared to be super easy for her. We start duck season next weekend, so with a deer in the freezer we can concentrate on what she/I love the most.

We moved this summer to a house on ~6 acres. It’s fully fenced and she is a hunting machine. She spends so much time hunting at full throttle that I was remiss in her training for a couple of months.  We have stepped up our effort and she is getting back to her old obedient self.

Fern's blood track

Fern’s blood track

That is so cool, we have never used our griffs for blood tracking big game, but it is one of their historical purposes and it is great to see one of our owners out there doing it!

Rob lives just across town here in Omaha and has Maggie, who is from our 2012 “E” litter between Sam and Sue.  He said:

Maggie is doing fantastic. She hunted last year at 9 months and our hunting friends were shocked she was that young, because of how well she did. Since then we have been training all the time, in the hope that she will be better at hunting than I am at training!! And it’s going well. This is us working on retrieving, and hopefully I will get some great photos, or maybe video, after we spend next week in Winner, SD chasing those roosters.

Maggie and a rooster

Maggie and a rooster

Wow, owners, thanks for all of the great updates!  The day is getting away from me and I need to fix supper.  I have some big projects due for grad school coming up, so I don’t know if I’ll be back in one week or two.  But God willing, I’ll be back.  Talk at you then.

Pheasant 2014: North Dakota and Nebraska

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North Dakota Wrap-Up

As mentioned in the last post, Charles and the dogs were in North Dakota last week from Sunday until Thursday.  Sunday they got a hun, and Monday a duck and two pheasants were in the bag (both of those photographs are in last week’s blog post).  Tuesday they bagged 4 ducks, but they were mixed in with everything else on the stringer in the photograph and it was getting dark, so I opted to spare you another body count photo.  Wednesday, they got a snipe and a rooster.

Snipe and Rooster from Wednesday, October 22nd

Snipe and Rooster from Wednesday, October 22nd

One of Charles’s friends tipped him off to a good spot to hit on his way out of North Dakota, where he got a limit in an hour and a half on Thursday.

North Dakota Rooster Limit

North Dakota Rooster Limit

I apologize for the body count photos, especially to one of my regular readers who scolded me recently about having too many of them on my blog.  We’ll get some more artful action photos with dogs in them and such next year, I opted to stay home since I got in plenty of travel earlier in the year.

Nebraska Opening Weekend

We decided not to wade into the fray of opening morning, but I was bound and determined to get out on Sunday.  Charles decided that he wanted to come along too even though he had a cold and had just spent the whole week hunting.  We went out midday and by the time we were headed back to the truck later in the afternoon it was 86 degrees out.  Way too hot.  He got 2 roosters within the first 5 minutes of our arrival to the field.  I got a shot off on one a bit later, but missed.

The second rooster that Charles shot yesterday still had enough juice to fly 80 yards or so into some thick sunflowers, making Sam and Fire work hard to find the carcass.  Fire was the one who found it and brought it right to Charles.  He wanted to make sure that he got the bird from her in a timely fashion, so I didn’t have a chance to take a picture since I was carrying my shotgun.  Darn.

I took Wednesday morning of this week off from work so that I can get out on my own.  Not that it will necessarily change my shooting luck with rooster pheasants, but I’m going to give it a try.

Yet another dorky hunting selfie from Charles and Charity

Yet another dorky hunting selfie from Charles and Charity

It appears that the top pheasant in the photograph below was released by Nebraska Game and Parks this year, if you notice the nostrils are enlarged from the blinders that were on the bird during its time in the pen.  The bottom bird is either a survivor from last year or a wild hatch.

Notice the size of the pheasant nostrils

Notice the size of the pheasant nostrils

Pupdates

Bob from Minnesota sent me an e-mail and photo of “Ed” from our 2013 “E” Litter from Sam and Sue.

Just wanted to give you a quick update on Ed.  We finally made it out pheasant hunting in MN this past weekend.  I managed to get Ed and my oldest daughter, Faith, out for a bit.  In a year in which MN DNR says the numbers of birds are down, Ed managed to find and point 7 birds in a quick morning walk.  We have done no live bird work since last year and he was flat out amazing!  He is definitely ready for our annual trip to North Dakota next week.  I will get you some pictures upon our return from that trip.  Definitely looking forward to it.

Ed and Faith in MN

Ed and Faith in MN

Curt out in Central Nebraska shot this video a couple of weeks ago of our Fire’s sister “Gracie” doing her first water retrieve at 8 months of age: 

Congratulations to Lindsay and Bluestem’s Big Sky Rendezvous CGC NA I “Midge” in Montana for qualifying for the AKC Owner Handler Series.  Midge and Lindsay were #8 (tie) in conformation show points in the series (click photo to enlarge results).

AKC Owner Handler Series Rankings

AKC Owner Handler Series Rankings

I hope that everyone who celebrates Halloween has a happy and safe one.  I do not dress up my dogs, so don’t even think that you’ll be seeing that next week.  Not gonna happen.  But thanks to all of my owners for the updates and I’ll be sure to keep you posted as to what is going on here.  Happy Haunting and Hunting!

 

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!

Missouri Early Teal

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

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

BB on left and Sam with the opossum

BB on left and Sam with the opossum

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

Fog in the bog

Fog in the bog

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

Luke, Frank, Charles and I with our teal

Luke, Frank, Charles and I with our teal

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

Charles out walking the swamp for sora rails

Charles out walking the swamp for sora rails

Close-up of the sora rail harvest

Close-up of the sora rail harvest

Charles, BB and I with the harvest

Charles, BB and I with the harvest

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

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

Pupdate

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

TracHer working out in front of her trainer

TracHer working out in front of her trainer

TracHer holding steady after the flush

TracHer holding steady after the flush

Bringing back the big retrieve.

Bringing back the big retrieve.

Doing great on her water work too!

Doing great on her water work too!

Thank you Susan for sharing the terrific photos!!

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

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.

Nebraska and North Dakota Pheasants

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

-Jose Ortega y Gasset

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Use Enough Gun and Watch Where You Aim That Thing

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Robert Ruark knew what he was talking about when wrote the seminal piece on big-game hunting in Africa, Use Enough Gun.  Sure, you can kill tough game with light rounds, but if you want to consistently be successful in difficult situations, you need to use enough gun in order to get the job done.

While late season birdhunting in pheasant country isn’t the same as stalking the plains of Tanzania, it is a demanding business.  Roosters are well educated and aren’t going to wait around to see if quartering dogs and approaching humans are out for stroll, they are going to run and break long.  These birds are up early and rarely relax on the roost 30 minutes after sunrise unless the weather is foul.  And by foul, I mean bone chilling cold with snow piled around them .  I know this, but for some reason I thought I would be clever on my January 16th outing and carry a 20 gauge.  The allure of carrying a gun that is light, some decent shooting during the season on my part and the fact that we were heading into country where we were more likely to see quail than pheasant convinced me that I could get by without my trusty SKB 12 gauge.  That decision might have also been influenced by 2 days of heavy labor digging out a terrace for a new dog kennel .  Sore shoulders can certainly sing a siren song.

Whatever my motivations might have been, the decision was made and I headed out early with 2 griffs and a great birdhunting partner. As we approached the area we were going to push first, a covey of quail scurried across the ditch. I patted myself on the back for having the foresight to save my sore arms the trouble of carrying the 12 gauge.

We started in a CRP field bordering a cut corn field.  Definitely a promising spot for birds.  The dogs went to work, but it was obvious early on that they were on a pheasant.  They moved quickly and pushed hard through a patch of sunflower that had to be 10 feet tall.  No covey on the planet moves like a rooster looking to see what is happening on the other side of the county.  My partner and I kept pace and as we approached the end of the field a big gaudy ditch chicken broke out past the 40 yard mark.  It is amazing how such a big bird can blast out of heavy cover and move when he has a reason.  Needless to say, this crossing shot was not to be had.  By the time I gathered myself for the shot, he was moving at top speed and 50 yards away.  Undergunned for that one.  With that defeat under our belts, Matt and I headed to the next field.

The next field was considerable larger and we worked the edges where the CRP met the corn.  While the dogs covered ground and indicated that birds had been there, nothing was seen.  As we came to the end of the field we made the determination that this place was vacated.  This was public land and there was every reason to believe that we were too late.  Well, you know what they say about assumptions.  With no birds and no birdy dogs, I decided to add to the soil’s moisture profile.  About the time I was ready to commence relief, my partner’s shotgun barked and a lone quail sailed onto the bordering private ground.  Quickly I collected myself and walked over to him.  “Did you see any others?” I asked.

“Nope,” he responded.  We stood there a few minutes scratching our heads.  I call the dogs over but they didn’t really hit on anything.  Now the wind was against us and it was a dry morning, so I’ll give them a pass.  But as I stepped into the brush and resumed my efforts at irrigation, that lone quail’s covey mates boiled up around me just when I was really getting going.  Guess I need to be more careful where I aim that thing.

With the shotgun broken over my shoulder and the fact that I was a bit exposed, my chance at a shot was handicapped to say the least.  Missed again and this time my red face had less to do with my shooting than it did with my particular position for the shot.   We moved on to the next field.   These birds had been traumatized enough.

The following spot we hit was less promising, but there was a brushy creek weaving through corn, so it couldn’t be passed up.  As we shuffled along, I noticed a little finger of cover weaving up an old waterway in the middle of the corn. Matt and I changed course and the dogs closed in on it.  Immediately Sam locked up on the one spot of brush in this patch.  BB came up behind him and locked up as well.  Matt and I closed in quickly.  As if out of a hunting show, we walked in on the point and a nice covey broke.  This time everything worked out and I made a nice shot on a bobwhite.  The covey headed for thick cover and we followed.  We put up a few more, but they were in thick enough stuff that neither of us a shot.

Quail and Wirehaired Pointing Griffons

My lone quail, with Sam and BB

The day progressed and after a late lunch, we hit one last field where we had a score to settle with a particularly wily rooster.  This 80 acre piece was all CRP, with brush along the borders.  We worked the entire piece and had some nice dog work on a hen.   As we approached the last clump of plum brush, the dogs put up another hen.   After Matt and I watched her sail away, we took about 4 more steps….now you know what happened next.  Our wily adversary broke cover at 50 yards flying faster than any bird should naturally move.  Undergunned again.  I might have had a chance with a fast moving 1 ¼ ounce load of 4’s out of an improved modified choke, but my fateful decision at the beginning of this trip sealed my fate.

What did I learn from this trip?  Always trust the advice Robert Ruark when it comes to hunting tough game and don’t take a leak in the spot where a lone quail flushes.

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