Mid-season hunting update

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I think I’ll start off on telling you all what is happening with this blog.  It is blowing up on me a bit.  Right now I’m getting between 60-100 individual viewers everyday, each reading between 5-10 items.  If you search anything online about Wirehaired Pointing Griffons and hunting, we are the top kennel name that pops up.  I’m getting phone calls and e-mails every day about puppies, which is great!  But if you have to leave a voice mail, get me on the phone and I sound stressed and frazzled, or send me an e-mail and it takes me a week to respond, please try to understand.  We are not a big farm with lots of kennel hands or anything.  We are just a busy family that loves hunting with our dogs, which takes us on the road this time of year quite a bit too.  I respond to everyone.

If I had to wager, I would bet that my females are getting ready to cycle in December.  They are both showing about the same amounts of changes and Sam’s interest is high in both of them.  Mae might be a little ahead of BB.  So, I’m thinking that they’ll have puppies in February that go home in April.  But it is Mother Nature after all, so we’ll just wait and see.

My birthday was on November 9th, so we went and chased some birds.  Charles got 2 pheasant and a quail.  I missed the shots that I had.  But it was fun to get out on a beautiful fall day anyway.

Birthday girl Charity, your loyal narrator

Birthday girl Charity, your loyal narrator

BB, Sam and Charles with my birthday presents

BB, Sam and Charles with my birthday presents

Last weekend, we took time away from bird hunting for Charles to go after his annual mule deer in the Nebraska Sandhills.  I was able to stay back in town and visit my family.  He took this bad boy opening morning.  It is a tie with his muley from 1999 for personal best deer antler rack.

Charles's mule deer buck and rifle out on the prairie

Charles’s mule deer buck and rifle out on the prairie

Up close with Charles and his deer

Up close with Charles and his deer

I’ve been all amped up about trying to shoot a goose.  There is a pond along the Platte River that I have access to and I went out to it for a couple of hours the day before yesterday.  Saw lots of geese on an adjacent pond that is property of the gravel mine, so I’m hoping that if I get in some morning in the dark and set up, I might be able to get them flying into the mining pond.  But we’ll see, it is a work in progress.

Charles will take the weekend off from pheasants due to it being the last weekend of rifle deer season.  We don’t want one of the dogs to get shot on accident.

I am also getting ready to go to Quebec the weekend between Christmas and New Years Eve (God willing!).  The puppies are three weeks old now and have their eyes open.  I’m not sure which one of these three is mine, but I plan on calling up there tonight and I’ll find out.  Renee and Gilbert have very busy jobs on top of having way more dogs than I do, so I completely understand.

Cristal and Fortis puppies at 3 weeks old.

Cristal and Fortis puppies at 3 weeks old.

I am so thankful for all of my owners who take such great pictures and write such nice e-mails to keep us up to date our our pups.  8 month old “Ed” is out of Sue and Sam’s 2013 “E” Litter.  Here is what owner, Bob, had to say about their trip to North Dakota:

We had a great hunt in North Dakota this year.  We had 5 hunters and got our limits 2 of the 3 days we hunted.  It rained all day on our second day so the hunting was pretty short.  Ed figured out the game and has picked up the art of pointing just like I hoped he would.  He also has shown his desire to retrieve with no hesitation.  Very successful first North Dakota hunt for Ed!  It is awesome what a good dog can do.  And at only 8 months old is unbelievable!


Bob and Ed had a great time in ND!

Ed's stack of ND pheasants

Ed’s stack of ND pheasants

And as always, year and a half old TracHer, from Sam and Mae’s “C” Litter is having a great time living in North Dakota!  Susan and Tom are so generous to share their photos with us.  On this day, Susan got the first bird of the day, but missed for the rest of the day (I know that feeling!!), but Tom got his limit.

Here comes TracHer with a pheasant!

Here comes TracHer with a pheasant!

TracHer retrieving another pheasant

TracHer retrieving another pheasant

TracHer is excited about the bird that she brought to Tom

TracHer is excited about the bird that she brought to Tom

Everyone have a Happy Thanksgiving.  We all have so much to be thankful for!  Hopefully we’ll get out to chase some pheasants around then.  Take care.

North Dakota Trip, AWPGA Nationals, Nebraska Pheasants and other news…


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:


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!

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


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.

Unexpected Fun

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Southeastern Nebraska Pheasants

BB, Sam and I had a great morning!

Sometimes your best times in the field are completely unplanned.  Last Saturday was a striking example of that semi-accurate truism.

The events that led up to one of my most pleasant Nebraska bird hunting surprises were set in motion earlier in the week when a fellow abuser of boot-leather (aka a Southeastern Nebraska pheasant hunter) approached me about joining him on a piece a private ground he had access to.  Never being one to pass up access, but being of a careful nature when it comes to such unexpected good fortune, I asked a few questions.  Specifically, how many other hunters would be joining us and are there any quail in the area?  When he replied “None” and “We always see a covey or two”, I committed.

We met at my place well before sunrise the following Saturday, loaded up the dogs and made our way south into what is considered the worst pheasant country in NE.  While this is considered the worst for large colorful roosters, it is decent quail country, if you can find coveys that have not been over-shot.

As the sun rose and legal shooting time came and went, we came upon a piece of CRP-MAP ground that looked as prime as any Dakota field.  Despite having all the appearances of prime potential, fields such as this have disappointed in the past, but we decided to work this particular one anyway.

We exited the vehicle in a hushed manner.  Any rooster in these parts knows that slamming car doors, big talking and sound of dogs means trouble.  Within 5 minutes I saw Sam get birdy and start working his way to the waterway in-front of us.  Liking the look of things, we picked up the pace and moved towards the dog who was already locking up.  As we approached, a rooster flushed in my direction, crossing my line of fire at less than 30 yards.  What?!  That never happens in these parts.  One expects to walk at least 3 hours and have flushes at a minimum of 60 yards this time of year.  My partner’s discharging gun snapped me back into focus and I quickly ended this bird’s plan of escape with a round of 6’s.

The next bird was rousted in a very similar fashion as we approached the next waterway.   This time Sam worked the bird, which made the mistake of heading my way.  BB was also birdy and ended this bird’s escape plans.  Again I was surprised to see a rooster emerge from the giant ragweed and fly in my direction.  He too was dropped within 30 yards and BB moved in to make the retrieve.  Seeing this made me very happy.  Relative to her size, lugging an adult rooster was an accomplishment.

We moved on and put up a few hens off points, which is fun and good practice for the dogs.  As we made our way along the perimeter of the field, Sam became quite interested in yet another waterway and the rest of us happily followed his lead.  We were all frankly giddy with 2 birds in the bag in 30 minutes.  My partner Matt and I straddled the waterway and followed it downhill.  As we got to a point where it flattened out, both dogs became intense and went to work on a thick clump of sunflower.  Jackpot, another rooster made the mistake flying into my line of fire, albeit behind me.  My partner and I both hesitated a moment as we turned for the shot, as any shot that requires spinning around requires attention paid to one’s companions.  The rooster was now directly in-front of me and the bead of my SKB.  Seconds later he was in Sam’s mouth, making his way over to my game bag.

Matt and I stood there very surprised that we had taken 3 roosters out of a public field, in Southeastern Nebraska after 40 minutes in the field.  The dogs made it happen, but the Hunting Gods obviously smiled on us.

We went on to bust a decent covey of quail, which broke a 2 year dry spell for me.  What a morning!

Nebraska Quail
The lone quail of the day

Later that day we moved on to the private ground and saw precious little.  The long breaking rooster toyed with us, but that was it.  I guess those unexpected successes in the field truly are the best.

Eastern Nebraska Prairie Chicken 2010

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Southeastern Nebraska’s prairie chicken population has recovered to the point of having a limited season.  Hunters who apply for the tags are limited to three prairie chicken for the whole season, Sept. 18-Jan. 31.  Charles, Sam and Sue ventured down last weekend and were able to scare up a few flocks.

What surprised me was to hear his report of the habitat that they occupy.  I assumed that the prairie chicken would be the same as pheasants, favoring heavy bunches of tallgrass.  They actually are more commonly found in the shorter, more sparse brome grass.  Similar to the chicken and grouse in the Sandhills, they are most commonly found on the sides of hills.

Here are Sam, Charles, and Sue, with a couple of prairie chicken roosters, while Caleb looks on.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffons

Some great Wirehaired Pointing Griffons!