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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!

Waiting and Anticipating

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Plenty to look forward to here at Bluestem Kennels this spring!  Mae has grown quite large and is now living in the house full time.

Pregnant Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Female

How Mae spends a good part of her time these days

As large as she is, I expect a big litter, but we will know more when we take her in for x-rays the week of March 5th.  I’m projecting her whelping date sometime around March 15th, so we are all getting excited for puppies!

Her pregnancy wasn’t an excuse for her to not participate in the family/pack hike yesterday.

Pregnant Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Female Running

Big Mama Mae on the move

Beautiful Day in Nebraska

Sunday was a gorgeous day to get everyone out

Now that bird hunting season is over, we’ll be out hiking more.  Things at the preserve that we’ve guided at in the past have dried up this year, as there is a late season pen-raised pheasant shortage in the area.

We are still waiting for Sue to come into season, it really should be any time now, as we’re right at 6 months from her last cycle and she cycles twice a year.  Yet Mother Nature has control and I don’t, so I’ll just try to be patient.  It is better for me to have a gap in between the two litters anyway, so that they aren’t of the age when I’m trying to work with them on different skills (between 5 1/2 and 8 weeks) at the same time.

We are also anxious for our dog painting to come home to us in the fall.  Minnesota artist Carl Melichar of Countryside Art Gallery painted an oil on linen of Sam holding a rooster pheasant.  The painting was unveiled last weekend in Kansas City at Pheasant Fest, the National Pheasants Forever Convention and Carl will have it on tour with him over the spring, summer and early fall.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Painting

The big announcement

Carl Melichar Countryside Art Gallery

Charles and Carl chat at his booth at Pheasant Fest, the painting is on the easel to the left

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon with rooster painting

The painting of Sam holding a rooster

I’ll be sure to keep everyone posted on our progress with puppy season, thanks for your support and send some good vibes our way for a problem-free whelping.

Nebraska Pheasant Opening Weekend 2011

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Opening Day, Saturday, October 29th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 30th

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

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

Conrad is fired up about pheasant hunting!

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

Tales of the Rooster: North Dakota 2011

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Saturday, October 15th

We arrived at our cabin in North Dakota around 2 PM on Saturday and artist Carl Melichar of Countryside Art Gallery in Mayer, Minnesota was there to greet us.  Carl has taken an interest in painting all of the hunting dog breeds possible and he has yet to paint a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon.  After settling into camp, we all loaded up into the truck to head for the field.  We started off in a light drizzle into a swampy creek area that was full of hens, but not a rooster to be found, so we switched into a hilly area.

Charles and the dogs working a hill

About half way through the set of hills, our male Sam gave us the body language that there was a pheasant nearby, on a run up and over the hill.  As we crested the hill, we closed in on a clump of bushes.  With three dogs and three people, the rooster had no choice but to fly.  Charles put a few pellets in it and the rooster flew back to the other side the hill.  We once again closed in on him, he flew and I hit him hard at about 10 yards.  Although I’ve been hunting grouse and ducks for over a decade, this was my first rooster.

Charity and her first rooster

Sunday, October 16th

A good roost field was scouted with brome grass cover, bordered by sunflowers and corn.  Out we went right at sunrise, along with Carl and his video camera.  I stuck to the edge of the field along the farmer access path, while Charles waded through the prime roosting area.  The dogs were very birdy and gave Charles some great points that he was able to get close enough before the rooster felt the pressure to fly.  He had a couple in the bag within 15 minutes, with retrieves courtesy of Sam (he’s a bit of a hog, but the other dogs got some in later in the trip).  We moved up out of the flat and on to the top of a set of hills, where we got into some hens and another rooster getting into Charles’s sights.  I was busy reaching for my camera when another couple roosters got up that I missed.  We continued working the set of hills for another hour, seeing plenty of hens, but it was time to get Carl back on the road to Minnesota.  We were within 50 yards of the truck when our six-month old BB locked up on point.  I was too busy watching the big dogs and walked right by without noticing.  Charles walked into her solid point and he screamed, “Rooster!!”.  I once again biffed the shot, but it was awesome to see that six-month old BB was totally in the game and not afraid to point a bird on her own.

Charles helping Carl get some shots of Sam

Charles and his Sunday pheasant limit

We got Carl back to the cabin and on the road home to Minnesota, then set out on a few hours of scouting.  There was a recently harvested cornfield, with a small pasture to the side and a few tiny ponds in the middle of it, so Charles thought these would be great places to get me on to a few more roosters.  As we were walking towards the ponds, we bumped one out of the edge of the pasture that was a little out of my range.  The first two ponds held nothing except a fast snipe which there was no chance for a shot at.  We skirted what we thought was just a swampy area, but boy were we surprised when the whole bird game changed.  It was actually a large pond complex filled with hundreds of gadwall ducks that we inadvertently jumped (or bumped!).  We called the dogs in to sit by us with the hope that some of the ducks would circle back around.  Sure enough, we got our chances and Charles bagged two, with me double-barreling one.  Sam and Sue worked up the retrieves while the remaining ducks in flight landed farther down the pond complex which was inaccessible on foot from where we were.  We considered loading up in the truck and heading to where we could get access, but Sue was acting like she wasn’t feeling well (we’d caught her with a dead snake in her mouth earlier, so it was hard to tell what she’d eaten), so decided to call it a day.

Charity's Sunday afternoon gadwall duck

Charles's gadwall duck double for Sunday afternoon

Monday, October 17th

The roosters had their alarms set early Monday morning following the non-resident opener and were already leaving the roost when we hit the road.

"Run for your lives!"

With the road roosters as a sign, we should have called off our AM roost jump, but went for it anyway.  We worked the flat and hills for a good hour and a half, seeing nothing.  It was a great field that should have held something in the morning, but we had seen a truck there in the evening and those hunters must have busted it up as the birds were trying to roost, so the birds went elsewhere.

Charles settled on a large set of windbreaks with cut wheat in between the trees and surrounded by cornfields for our afternoon of hunting the loafing grounds.  He decided to run Sam solo, as the treeline was a thick, tight area and too much dog power could work against us.  It was a slow process, one of us on the west side of the treeline and the other on the east, with the dog working the east side, as the breeze was out of the west.  I didn’t have a good shot at the first rooster that flushed on my side, as he went up and over the trees.  We switched sides for the second treeline and I saw a rooster flush out of the cut wheat and back into our treeline.  Sam first pointed the bird in the trees, then I squeezed into the brush to make a racket and push him out to Charles.  Crunching. Wingbeats.  Thwack!  45 minutes into our march, Charles had the first rooster of the day.  We worked another couple of treelines, seeing nothing.  I was in my heavy winter gear, as the morning had started cold, but it was noon now and the temperature had gone up probably 30 degrees.  “This gear feels like it weighs about 500 pounds,” I told Charles.

“Just one more treeline to go,” he said.

But when we reached the north end of this treeline, he noticed a little creek and some bushy clumps that looked promising.  The dog pointed into the first bush clump and up went the roosters.  I hit one but not hard enough, so he hit the ground and took off on a run toward the cornfield 75 yards away.  Luckily, Sam isn’t afraid to grab a live one, and he chased him down and retrieved him live for me.  Sam then set out for the one that Charles hit.  The weight of the gear on my shoulders had become too much, they were pretty stoved up and I couldn’t reach around my back to stuff the rooster in my game bag.  “This gear is killing me!” I screamed.

Charles was not happy with my volume, as he knew there were other roosters nearby sitting tight and there were plenty that flushed and relocated.  So we stopped, much to his chagrin, reduced my gear load and continued.  We didn’t take 10 steps when another rooster jumped out of the same set of bushes that Charles nailed, rounding out his limit.

We walked down the hill away from the bushes into an oxbowed creek.  I decided to cut across the oxbow instead of following Sam like I should have, letting a rooster bust for the cornfield out of range.  We headed up into another bush clump, where I walked into a perfect point from Sam.

This is where I have to pause the story and rant about my gun.  I really shouldn’t, it is a beautiful Browning Citori Lightning over/under 12-gauge that we won at this year’s Pheasants Forever Heartland Chapter #491 banquet (the stock is too long for Charles, so it’s mine now and he shoots the SKB).  The one feature that I am struggling to adjust to is that the O/U switch is a left/right push to the same button as the safety.  Well, if I bump the O/U switch and it isn’t fully locked into one position or the other, the safety won’t release.

So, I pull on this rooster that is in easy range and I fumble because my safety won’t release.  I completely lost my cool and believe I ruined my pheasant mojo for the rest of the trip because of it.  We worked the last treeline, but I was so out of the game that I missed another 2 or 3 roosters.  I didn’t even feel like taking pictures (a sign of when I’m really not with it) until after we went to town for lunch and I cooled down at camp.

Sam and Charles back at camp with his Monday rooster limit

Charity and Sam with her last rooster of the trip

We had considered hanging around the cabin the rest of the afternoon, but after all of my frustration, I didn’t want to allow myself to get into a funk.  We decided to return to the duck pond that we had discovered the previous day, this time from the opposite side.  At first we tried to be sneaky about it and creep as close as we could to the pond, but the land next to the pond was complete swamp and not conducive to standing around or sneaking.  We opted for the bum rush to see if we could get some to circle back around.  Once again, hundreds of ducks busted up and I blammoed until my vest was empty, but didn’t hit anything.  Charles managed to hit a female canvasback duck, a first for us.

Charles and his canvasback duck with Sam, Sue and BB

Closeup of the female canvasback duck

Tuesday, October 18th

Tuesday morning we skipped the roost jump, opting for sleeping in.  I then made the mistake of taking a prescription strength, horsepill sized ibuprofen with my coffee in hopes of relieving the stiffness in my neck, shoulders and back.  Charles had picked a little pond in the middle of a harvested cornfield, thinking that it held loafing promise.  We had driven in on a minimum maintenance road a quarter of a mile from the main road, took about 10 steps out of the truck, when Sam and BB locked up on a small clump of swamp grass on the border between the cut corn and the pond.  Charles walked in on it, flushed a rooster and took it down within 2 minutes of leaving the vehicle.  For some reason the shock of the discharge of his firearm sent me into a spell, which I knew right away was an overdose of ibuprofen.  My heart and head pounded, I was almost too dizzy to walk and my stomach was a knot.  I tried hard to stick with it, seeing that BB and Sam again were locked up on the cattails next to the pond.  Two flushes, two shots, splash, splash.  I was so out of it, I thought that he had shot a duck and a rooster, but it was a double on roosters.  I wished that I had my camcorder in my hands instead of my gun.  Sam rounded up the water retrieves, he did pretty fast work on these, as he’s finally realizing that it is easier to slow down and use his nose in the water, instead of quickly swimming and running the banks.  “Time for lunch,” I said, not wanting to clue Charles into the fact that I was hating life at the moment.

“No, there are more birds here,” he pushes on.  So, I stumble 20 yards down the pond into some swamp grass.  I see the birds running, I see the dogs pointing, a rooster flushes right in my face and there was just no way I could focus.  Finally, I tell Charles what is going on, so he takes my gun and we walk (I stumble) the 50 yards back to the truck.  I got enough food and fluids in me to counteract the effects, then just curled up in the truck the rest of the day while Charles jumped ducks with no luck.

Charles's personal record limit in 10 minutes on Tuesday

Wednesday, October 19th

I was back in business Wednesday morning and we were sure to be at it up and early for a roost jump.  It was a large brome field with low, rolling terrain, surrounded by standing corn and cut wheat.  Charles took his first bird within 15 minutes of getting out, which was a good sign for what the field held.  A lone sharptail jumped in front of me within range, but I hesitated in identifying it in time to get a good shot off.  The dogs locked up on point that Charles and I squeezed in on.  The rooster flushed about 10 yards away, where it could have been either person’s shot.  The rooster charged me, flew right at my face and I missed.  He flew between us and I swung at him on the other side of us and I missed again.  As the rooster was making his exit from range, Charles pulled up on him and got it (Damn!).  We continued toward the corn and saw a flock of sharptails fly into the other end of the field, probably 200 yards away.  It was nice to see, but not what we were after, since we chase those frequently in Nebraska.

We turned back towards the truck and walked until we were almost there when all three dogs lock up on point.  Charles wrapped up his limit that day in about 45 minutes.

Sam, Sue and BB with Charles and his Wednesday limit

As planned, we headed to town for lunch to meet fellow griffoniers (that’s what Wirehaired Pointing Griffon people are called) Tom and Susan.  They opted to leave their griffs, Mr. Favor and Zephyr, at home to let our three dogs work.  We returned to the hills where I took my first rooster of the trip, and walked to where we spooked birds the first time.  All three dogs were closing in on a tall grass and weed patch in the dip of the hills.  I walked into the middle of three solid points, kicking the ground as I went.  I saw what I thought was a scrubby bunch of short grass that they were all locking down on and I nearly kicked it.  “Porcupine!!  No, Sam, no BB, no Sue, get off of it!!”  The big dogs have played porky’s game before, so they didn’t bother with it much more.  Six-month old BB lingered over it momentarily, looking inquisitive, but seemed to know not to dive in (especially since mom was having a cow).

Just over the hill was the magic bush, where Charles peppered the rooster in the butt on day 1.  I made the mistake of wading in, when I should have scooted around the brush.  The rooster flushed, but I was too mired down in twigs to get a good shot off.  So we marched toward where we saw him land, on the last high hill before the truck.  I was walking about 10 yards down the slope from the crest, when I saw Sam lock on a perfect point.  I knew it was that rooster again.  He alighted towards the standing corn across the road below and seemed to just float away.  I’m shooting too low, not leading them with the gun, birdwatching instead of putting my head on the gun and shooting.  Another disappointment for the dogs, they seemed to look at me like, how could you miss that?

We had given that area a pretty good shakedown and it was time to put Susan and Tom on to some birds, so we went to a creek bottom down a steep minimum maintenance road.  Tom had two birds and Susan had one within a matter of 20 minutes.  The most exciting part was that BB found and started to retrieve Tom’s second rooster, but Sue thought she’d be a bully and finish bringing it in.

Sue brings in the rooster. Photo by Susan Davy

Susan and Tom with Sam, Sue and BB

Charity, Charles and the dogs. Photo by Susan Davy

Charles had reached his pheasant possession limit that day, so in order to have one last hunt in the morning and be in good standing, we had to cook some pheasant that night.

Possession Limit Pheasant Camp Chili

3 pheasants, deskinned, deboned and cut into 1 inch cubes

2 packets of white chili seasoning

1 bottle of water

1 can of northern white beans

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Heat cast iron skillet over camping stove or fire.  Pour vegetable oil into skillet and add pheasant.  Cook the pheasant over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently until browned.  Add seasoning and water.  Simmer over low heat for another 5 minutes, add beans.  Allow to simmer on low, stirring frequently until the beans are hot.  Serve with corn chips.

Wednesday evening bird total prior to plucking and packaging

Thursday, October 20th

For the last morning out before the road home, we opted to return to the field where we had hunted with Carl on Sunday morning.  As we pulled in to park the truck, we could see 15 roosters and hens scurry across the farmer access path into the freshly harvested sunflowers.  I opted to walk 10 yards into the harvested sunflowers while Charles walked the farmer access path, with a fence surrounded by thick grass between us.  Once we let the dogs out, young BB went berserk because of the number of birds.  While Sam and Sue held pretty close and pointed up a rooster for Charles in the grass, BB burst ahead and busted up 5-10 roosters and and twice as many hens way out of range.  On her way back to Charles, she popped one up my way, but I’d long since lost my pheasant mojo.  We cut up into the grassy flat and low hills where Charles had harvested birds on our first excursion into the field.  True to form, he took another one and I missed another gimme shot.  It was getting close to the time we wanted to pack up, so we headed back to the farmer path.  Over at the homeplace on the far side of the sunflower field, the hired men were firing up the tractors to finish up the harvest and we had high hopes that we’d at least see one more rooster for Charles.  “Where are the dogs?” he asked me.

“Right there,” I pointed into the grass along the fence, on the other side next to the harvested sunflowers, “and they’re all on point.”

Charles hopped the short fence, walked into their points and got his limit for the day, just in time to go home.  I didn’t even take a picture, I was ready to pack up and go home on several levels.

Adventure isn’t always fun or easy, frequently it challenges you to improve your skills.  I will be spending plenty of time at the gym and the skeet range between now and next season.  I will not be defeated by the rooster.

“Yeah, they’ve come to snuff the rooster.  You know he ain’t gonna die.” -Alice in Chains

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”!

The Highlights of Pheasant Fest 2011

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January 28-30 was a weekend full of upland excitement at the 2011 Pheasant Fest, the national convention of Pheasants Forever.  Here are some of the highlights from our weekend spent there:

  • As seen in the last post “Bluestem Kennels in the Omaha World-Herald”, Cordelia, Sam and I had a great time at the photo shoot.  Cordelia and Sam were on the front page of the Friday, January 28th paper and also featured in an online video and slideshow.
  • We were the only Wirehaired Pointing Griffon entry in the Friday afternoon Bird Dog Parade.  Visiting with local Nebraska Game and Parks personality, Greg Wagner, was a fun part of the day.  He mentioned the possibility of having us on his KFAB radio show to talk dogs at some point in the future.
  • While Charles was out in the foyer working out some day job office issues over the phone during the Friday evening banquet, I got to pick the brain of Chad Love, a photojournalist for Field and Stream magazine.  He works primarily with upland hunting and bird dog assignments, so it was fun to hear how he went from his political science degree to getting published in outdoor magazines.  It was definitely an inspiration for where I want to take my blogging.  Here’s his most recent post on the Field and Stream website: http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/hunting/2011/02/jealousy-between-dogs-can-be-powerful-training-tool
  • Saturday afternoon turned out to be quite interesting for me, as I ended up helping to lead a seminar that I attended.  The 1 PM “Picking your puppy and the First Six Months” seminar was quite full and by 1:15 PM, there was still no presenter.  A fellow breeder/trainer and I got up in front of the audience and freestyled the seminar, sharing the wealth of what we know on the subject.

Charity Upchurch of Bluestem Kennels, right, discusses selecting and training a puppy

Thank you to Pheasants Forever photographer Jim Cooper for the use of the photo.

  • My children spent Saturday afternoon at Rudy’s Youth Village of Pheasant Fest, where we met some inspirational teenagers, the Illinois Pioneer Chapter #069 “Young Guns”.  They raised $6000 for a virtual shooting gallery had it trailered all the way to Omaha for the young people to enjoy.  My son, Conrad, couldn’t get enough of it!

Conrad practices his shooting skills

  • Charles and I had a great time at the Saturday evening banquet visiting with the members of the Auglaize County, Ohio Pheasants Forever chapter and one of their state wildlife biologists.  It was interesting to learn that the pheasant population in Ohio has been decimated to the point where the state game and fish department has a pheasant stocking program.   I didn’t realize until attending Pheasant Fest that promoting stocking pheasants in Nebraska is seen as nearly rebellious to the habitat cause.  The latest Focus on Pheasant report was sent to me by Nebraska Game and Parks following my post “Focus on Pheasant needs to readjust their sights”.  Once I get a chance to read their report, I’ll be revisiting this topic will a full post in the near future.
  • Sunday we met renowned wildlife artist Carl J. Melichar, who was a Federal Duck Stamp finalist and has taken on bird dogs as the focus of his painting.  He does not yet have a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon in his catalog, so we’ll be getting him some photographs in the near future and possibly commission a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon original painting.  Here are some examples of his work:  http://www.artbarbarians.com/gallery2/main.asp?artist=48
  • We closed out our visit to Pheasant Fest on Sunday by attending Pheasants Forever Field Coordinator Pete Berthelsen’s talk on creating quail habitat on his 160 acres near Elba, Nebraska.  It was amazing to see how quickly habitat adjustments can restore bird populations.  In a matter of a few years, he went from one covey of quail to fifteen coveys!

The weekend was a complete success and really fired us up to increase our involvement in Pheasants Forever, habitat restoration and sharing our love of not only the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon breed, but raising, training and hunting versatile dogs.

Bluestem Kennels in the Omaha World-Herald

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On Friday, January 28th, my nine-year-old daughter Cordelia and my three-year-old male, Sam were featured on the front page of both the morning and evening editions of the Omaha World-Herald.  The paper edition will be scanned and uploaded when I get a chance.  The following link is a video that the Omaha World-Herald put together about their featured photos:

http://omaha.com/article/20110127/NEWS01/110129697#a-parade-of-bird-dogs-for-omaha

Here is also a slideshow that they put together of their photos, we are slides 3, 4 and 5:

http://odc.omaha.com/index.php?u_page=5002&p=2310

If for some reason you can’t view the slide show, here are the stills from it.  Sorry that I can’t make them bigger (they are much larger in the slideshow).

We will be continuing our adventures at Pheasant Fest all weekend!

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