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Puppy Homegoing

I received a picture of Hez in his new home in Bangor, Maine with Tyson and family.  He also has a big golden retriever friend named Ferg and they are all getting along splendidly!

Hez (now Moose) and family in Maine

Hez (now Moose) and family in Maine

Shipping a puppy by air cargo

Someone asked me recently about how I ship puppies by air cargo.  Well, I get an interstate health certificate from the veterinarian (needs to be dated within 10 days of travel).  Then I buy the intermediate level crate, which is 22 inches tall, 28 inches long, and 22 inches wide.  I take all of the plastic hardware off of the outside of the crate and replace with metal nuts and bolts, then fill the crate about 1/3 full of shredded newspaper.  Each side of the crate has “Live Animal” signs taped on to it, with a leash, a small bag of dog food, and the shipping/care instructions taped to the top.  I attach food and water dishes to the inside of the crate, then simply place the pup in the crate with his collar on.  I always have the pup take the first available flight out of Omaha Eppley so they are more mellow.  I am about a 15 minute drive from the airport, so I feed and water the pup, give it a walk to go potty, and away we go.  I use Delta Pet First/Air Cargo.   I check the dog in at the air cargo office (which is over with the FedEx and UPS buildings), they pull the pup out of the crate and inspect the crate for any contraband, put the pup back in and ny-tie the door closed.  All of the holding areas in both the airports and the planes are climate controlled so that the pup never experiences extreme temperatures.  I wish I could put a little camera in the crate and see what the pup sees when he is being shipped, it must be exciting.  But I think that the cargo folks are really nice to the pups because they’ve never come out of their crates traumatized.  I’ve shipped 15-20 puppies this way and have never had a problem at all.  Some breeders do not ship air cargo from reading a story or two on the internet, but it is like anything you read from questionable sources.

Grooming of the young griffon

I also had a question about what type of grooming to do on a young griffon puppy.  Aside from giving it a bath once a month with puppy shampoo and cleaning its ears with Malascetic Otic solution, very little.  I don’t recommend aggressive brushing like I do with adults, as I accidentally overbrushed a young puppy once while its puppy coat was coming out and the adult coat still hadn’t come in.  I had an almost bald griffon in October.  Charles was not happy.  So don’t do that:)

Fire’s training

Fire is coming along nicely at 15 weeks old; Charles has been planting birds for her once a week to point and flush.  He has switched from using the kiddie cap gun to the .22 starter pistol with blanks and she couldn’t care less about the noise.  He’s talking about incorporating the remote bird launchers as to avoid any accidental “traps” (when the live bird gets caught by the dog).  Then once he feels comfortable there, probably mid-July, will try the first live-fire exercise with a shotgun.  I will try to get out to catch some video of this process.

First NAVHDA Test Pupdate of the Season

Congratulations to owner/handler Lou Volpe and Bluestem’s Big Sky Rendezvous “Midge” on a NAVHDA Natural Ability Prize I with a perfect score of 112 at the Montana Sharptail Chapter test over the weekend!  Midge is from our 2013 “F” Litter from Sam and Mae.  Great job everyone!!!

“A” Litter Pupdate

Back at the end of April, my very first litter from Sam and Sue turned 4 years old.  Here are some recent owner photos from the litter that changed my life for good!

Maggie is a good kid pillow

Maggie is a good kid pillow

Maggie keeps her coat trimmed for the Alabama heat

Maggie keeps her coat trimmed for the Alabama heat

 

Maggie giving a look

Maggie showing off her beautiful eyes

Whiskey is a handsome dude

Whiskey is a handsome dude

Whiskey (front) and friends beating the Nevada heat

Whiskey (front) and friends beating the Nevada heat

Whiskey bringing Dad (Pete) his croc

Whiskey bringing Dad (Pete) his croc

I also saw a cool video on Whiskey’s mom’s Facebook page of him hunting chukars with his girl, Andi.  

More training

Susan and Tom have been working with TracHer on preparing for her NAVHDA Utility Test and sent me some pictures of her retrieving a giant Muscovy duck.  The first picture is of her retrieving it after a 60 yard dryland track from a drag and the second is a water retrieve.  TracHer is from our 2012 “C” Litter of Sam and Mae.

TracHer and the duck in the field

TracHer and the duck in the field

TracHer's water retrieve

TracHer’s water retrieve

I have one last bit of media to share with you and that is a YouTube that I made from a couple of video clips that new owners of this year’s litters sent to me.  You can see the pups style and personality already starting to shine through!

Many thanks to all of my generous owners who take the time to update me with photos and videos so that I have something to share with you!  It is greatly appreciated and keep it coming!  Hope that everyone is enjoying the beginning of summer and I’ll check back in soon.

Puppies on the way and pupdates!

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Sue’s retirement

Sue out on the prairie

Sue out on the South Dakota prairie

12 year old Trey gave me an update on how 10 year old Sue is doing up in South Dakota.  He says that he is finally licensed and has a shotgun and is ready to shoot some birds over her.  We miss Sue and my youngest boy Caleb (age 4 1/2) asks about her at least once a week.  We want to keep our dog numbers at 4 here at the house, so that we can hunt them regularly and give them personal attention, so retirement and re-homing is a necessary sadness.  But we are so happy to give folks an opportunity to experience the griffon who might not be able to afford or have no desire to raise a puppy.  I can’t wait to see pics of Trey and Sue with some birds in the fall!!

Sue's sweet face

Sue’s sweet face

Pupdates

I really appreciate all of my puppy owners who contribute photographs and stories of their dogs as they grow up.  It is truly the reason why we do this.

Pete, Whiskey, Andi and chukars in NV

Pete, Whiskey, Andi and chukars in NV

Great job to sharpshooter Andi and our oldest boy Whiskey, who will be four years old soon!  He is from our first, or “A” litter in 2010 with Sue and Sam.  Andi and Whiskey really tore it up in the chukar field and we couldn’t be more proud!!  Thanks to Pete, Deborah and Andi for giving him such a great life out in Nevada!!

Sal and 2 year old Chester

Sal and 2 year old Chester

We received a lovely Christmas card with photos of Chester from Sal and family out in New York!  When Chester isn’t out with Steve “Hoss” Anker training or out with the Hudson Valley NAVHDA Chapter, he’s having a good time at home on Long Island.  He is from our 2012 “C” litter from Sam and Mae.  Sal has done a great job working with this dog and he has a bright future ahead!

Chester taking a rest

Chester taking a rest

Chester’s “C” litter sister TracHer is having a good season up in North Dakota.  She has a new brother, a 10-month old German Wirehaired Pointer named Max.  Thanks to Susan and Tom for the lovely Christmas card with photos.  Tom had surgery is on crutches from a knee injury incurred while hunting, so we send prayers for a speedy recovery.

TracHer and Susan in the ND snow

TracHer and Susan in the ND snow

Chester and TracHer’s little sister Zoey, from our “F” litter in 2013 also from Mae and Sam, is having a blast down in Oklahoma with Jimmy and Sandi.  Here’s what Jimmy had to say:

This girl is the best thing that every happened to Sandi and me. Here some updated photos. She is now 10 mos old and weighs 55 lbs. We just bought some land in the badlands of SW Oklahoma and she loves it. Here is some photos of her expeditions so far. She loves hunting antlers and when go into the shop she will go to the gun safe and sit there until I either get a gun out or tell her we aren’t going hunting. 

Jimmy and Zoey

Jimmy and Zoey

Zoey on point

Zoey on point

Zoey water retrieving a stick

Zoey water retrieving a stick

Zoey retrieving an antler

Zoey retrieving an antler

Zoey patiently waiting for the ducks

Zoey patiently waiting for the ducks

Zoey and her mallard haul!

Zoey and her mallard haul!

Thank you so much again to all of my owners for contributing to this and keeping me up to date on how their dogs are doing.  It is really important for us to see their success, it keeps us going during the times that we find the pressures of breeding overwhelming.  Watching the gun dog lifestyle continue in our pups is one of our greatest joys.

I will be sure to keep everyone posted on the upcoming litters.  BB is already heavy and I need to get some pictures of her, along with updated shots of the rest of the dogs.  I’d also like to do video of Tor.  Now that I’ve recovered from travel, the holidays and a major plumbing project, I will do a better job of keeping the blog updated.  Charles and Matt are out right now trying to spook up some pheasants, all of the chaos lately has really cut into their time in the field.  Until then, stay warm and don’t blow away in these winds!

Duck Hunting the Atlas Blizzard, BB’s NAVHDA UT and more news…

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I think that I am finally caught up on my kennel e-mails and phone calls, but if you’ve tried to get in touch with me and somehow fell through the cracks, please reach out to me again at bluestemkennels@cox.net or (402) 682-9802.  Charles has been on the road during the week for his corporate job 3 weeks in a row now, then we’ve been traveling on the weekends for hunting, testing and training.  I’m currently taking care of the 3 dogs and 3 kids, working as a substitute teacher in middle school and high school English, writing for Lion Country Supply and finishing my master’s degree in secondary education.  So sometimes the wheels just come off the bus and not everything gets done as it should.  I did manage to get my introductory blog post on to the Lion Country Supply site: http://blog.lcsupply.com/2013/09/postcards-from-the-great-plains-first-post/  It is different than writing for here, where I just sort of talk to you like I would if you were sitting here at my kitchen table with me.

But what did get done as it should was our duck hunt in the Nebraska Sandhills on opening day.  It was extremely cold and windy, as we caught the southeastern corner of what is being called the Atlas Blizzard that devestated the cattle industry in southwestern South Dakota (I’ve been following on another blog: Just a Ranch Wife http://www.justaranchwife.com/).  It definitely pushed the ducks south and right to us that day.  We both got our limits by midday and it’s a good thing because I had cotton pants on that just got completely soaked by the flying snow and I was locking up with some pre-hypothermia symptoms.  Our favorite method is jump hunting, so we were taking the action to the ducks.  I managed to catch a duck double that I shot on GoPro video and I posted it on our YouTube channel:

And the final shot on the day.  Let me tell you a bit about these end of the day shots.  I have my camera on a tripod and use the 10 second timer to take these.  I don’t look into the mirror before we take them.  I line everyone else up, hit the timer, then run into the picture.  I will never look like one of those cool, sexy huntresses in one of these pictures.  Like this one, I look like I have a damn chef’s hat on.

Charity and Charles with BB on 2013 opener of duck season

Charity and Charles with BB on 2013 opener of duck season

The following day was completely blue sky and right when we get ready to hunt, I realize that my license must have fallen out of my pocket the day before.  No hunting license, duck stamp or HIP number anywhere.  So I just carried the camera instead (after a good cry, of course).

Charles and BB started Sunday with a wood dock drake

Charles and BB started Sunday with a wood dock drake

Charles and BB leave the wooded pond

Charles and BB leave the wooded pond

The head of a wood duck drake is one of the most beautiful gifts of nature

The head of a wood duck drake is one of the most beautiful gifts of nature

Charles and BB back in the open looking for snipe

Charles and BB back in the open looking for snipe

I call this one "Anticipation".  This is Sam having to let BB go as lead duck dog for the first time.

I call this one “Anticipation”. This is Sam having to let BB go as lead duck dog for the first time.

Charles and BB creep into a wet spot

Charles and BB creep into a wet spot

Snipe way up in the air

Snipe way up in the air

Charles and BB also got a snipe on Sunday

Charles and BB also got a snipe on Sunday

A week later, BB received her NAVHDA Utility Prize III at the Heartland Chapter Fall Test in Thurman, Iowa.  Although I had planned on attending and helping out with the test, my kids all caught colds and we just really needed to stay home and recouperate.  We had considered pulling out of the test the weekend prior just because of having too much going on, but we had already paid our fee, so off Charles went.  BB had a “no-pass” in Sioux Falls in August due to not doing the duck retrieve, so we have been focused on water work in both our training and hunting.  She did what needed to get done with the duck search, steady by blind, and duck retrieve.  She aced the track, as always.  She was the last dog to run in the field and she was false pointing piles of feathers and breaking on the flush, which she hasn’t done in awhile.  But we’ve been so focused on getting over the water hump that she hasn’t been on upland birds since hunting sharp-tailed grouse at the beginning of September.  But we’ll take it!  So BB is now officially Bourg-Royal’s CB Bluestem JH, NA I, UT III.

Our co-owned female, Velma (De Jac’s Zip A Dee Doo Dah NA I) who is the same age as BB, is now dual registered with the AKC and NAVHDA, which was the final step in preparing to hopefully breed her within the next few months, in addition to the females who live with us.  I paid her a visit a month or so ago in order to take pictures that the AKC needed for registration.

Velma at 2.5 years

Velma at 2.5 years

I had originally capped my reservations at 10 but there were more folks really wanting to get on the list, so it looks like I’m at 13 now after 3 verbal commitments yesterday and in the process of finalizing with deposit.  As we are trying for 3 litters, I have high hopes that we will have enough puppies!

Speaking of puppies, we have our fingers crossed that Sam’s stud successor will be born around Halloween!  He is coming from the same kennel that we acquired BB, Bourg-Royal Kennel in St. Lambert-de-Lauzon, Quebec, Canada.  Should he be born and it isn’t a litter of all girls, he will be parented by two French imports: sire GCH Fortis des Sonnailles du Haut Davy FD NA I and dam Crystal D’O des Roches de Vouise.

Fortis on point.  Photo by Amy Caswell

Fortis on point. Photo by Amy Caswell

Crystal on point and posed.  Photos by Claudette Blackburn

Crystal on point and posed. Photos by Claudette Blackburn

We are so very excited and hope that all goes well for human mom, Renee, mama Crystal and the babies!

Last but not least it is time for some pupdates.  We got word from Kyle in Illinois within the last couple of weeks that Gomer got his NAVHDA Natural Ability Prize I with a perfect score of 112 points.  I don’t have the name of the chapter, but will keep my eyes out for it in Versatile Hunting Dog magazine.  He is from 2012 “D” Litter from Sam and Sue.

TracHer from 2012 “C” Litter from Sam and Mae took a limit of sharp-tailed grouse with owner, Susan, a week ago.  TracHer and Susan live up in North Dakota.  Susan said, “It is so rare that I hunt alone with just one dog, and very nice to go my own pace.  TracHer did great.  Ranged a bit, but would come back in.  It is also rare that I get my limit!!   TracHer found and retrieved to hand all 3 birds. “

Susan and TracHer with a limit of sharp-tailed grouse.

Susan and TracHer with a limit of sharp-tailed grouse.

TracHer’s sister (but not littermate), Midge, is from Sam and Mae’s 2013 “F” Litter and is really looking nice!  I hear that she’s had some pheasants shot over her in Montana within the last couple of days.

Midge at 7 months old

Midge at 7 months old

Hearing lots of good reports from other owners as the season kicks off and I can’t wait to see the hunting pics!!  Kyle from across town here said that he got Gomer’s brother Duke out on ducks, “I had the chance to get Duke out duck hunting a couple times this weekend. He did awesome. I didn’t get any pictures, but we got into the teal and wood ducks. ”  Duke is also taking after his mama Sue, Kyle said, “I saw a while ago that you posted a picture of Sue with socks and toys in her mouth. That must be where Duke gets it from. We can’t keep socks in one place at our house, he finds every dirty pair and carries them around. Haha.”  That really made me smile!

Oh this blog post has taken me way too long to write.  Thank you owners for keeping me up-to-date with the pups!!  What’s next for us? Saturday, Charles, BB and Sam leave for the big North Dakota trip.  Charles will be focused mainly on guiding his old friend Ozzie from New York.  A week from Friday, I leave for AWPGA National Specialty.  If we can just make it through October, we’ll try to have a less insane November.  But hunting season is only so long.  And you only get so many hunting seasons in your life.  So stay tuned for more craziness.

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!!

Sharptailed Grouse Hunting Opener and Other News

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Reservations and Breeding Plans

At this point, I have taken 10 reservations with deposits for my Spring 2014 litters and continue to get interest daily.  Even though I am planning three litters (from Mae, BB and Velma), I won’t even start breeding for another three months or so (which puts whelping 5+ months away and homegoing 7+ months away).  I just want everyone to know that I am a bit hesitant about taking additional reservations right now.  If everything goes as planned, I could have 12-20 puppies in 2014, but I just don’t know right now.  Feel free to call (402) 682-9802 or e-mail bluestemkennels@cox.net if you have any questions.

Sharptailed Grouse and Dove Opening Day: September 1, 2013

Charles had a great opening day of grouse in the Nebraska Sandhills on Sunday, September 1st.  We set out into the northern dunefield of our usual opening day spot.  Our “usual opening day spot” consists of two east-west running dunefields with about a mile wide valley in the middle.  I let Charles, Sam and BB head deep into the dunes, while I waited behind at the truck with Mae.  Once they were out of sight, I set off eastward into the rising sun.  I was probably 100-300 yards south of Charles and clearly heard one shot about 15 minutes into our walk.  I had a single bird get up to my left about 5 minutes later, but I missed the shot, which was the only one I had on a grouse all weekend.  Not long after I heard another single shot.  Charles and I met up at the eastern fenceline of the section about 45 minutes after we had started and talked about what we had seen.  He had seen a few large flocks of grouse and had 2 in the bag, so we headed up into the northeastern corner of the section to make sure that we had covered everything, then turned back around to go west towards the truck.  Once again, Charles was to the north of me in the higher dunes and I was working the southern edge.  Sure enough, not 5 minutes after we parted ways, I heard another single shot.  I went over to him and he had his limit of 3.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffons Hunt Sharptailed Grouse

Sam, Charles and BB with their limit of sharptailed grouse on opening day 2013

We worked for another hour walking westward where he had seen the larger groups, but we didn’t see a single grouse.  We then set up our decoys at a windmill and sat for doves for an hour and a half or so, each taking one, but it was too hot to sit the whole day, so we headed back to town to spend time with the family.

Sandhills Dove Hunting 2013

Charles and Charity with the obligatory one dove each to start the season

The following day we set out into another spot that has been an annual producer for us.  I walked for 3 hours and Charles walked for 4 and neither one of us saw a single sharptail, which is very odd.  Some folks say it was last year’s drought not leaving enough cover for nesting, others say they were killed in the massive summer hailstorm that hit the area, but all I know is that they have been in this spot for 15 years and they weren’t there on Labor Day.  We called it a hunt midday on Monday and headed out to the lake with friends and family.

Charles has spent the last two weekends working with BB on the duck search and retrieve for her second shot at the NAVHDA Utility Test in October.  This coming weekend we will be heading down to Missouri to try our hand at the last weekend of their early teal duck season.  Sam is usually our main duck dog, so he will have to hang back back at the truck while BB finally gets her chance to be the waterfowl star.

Pupdates

Got a message and photos from Bob in Minnesota about his pup Ed, from Sue and Sam’s 2013 “E” litter.  Sounds like he is doing great and has some fun adventures in store for this season:

Ed is a big boy and tipping the scales just shy of 60 pounds on his 6 month bday.  He is loving our weekend camping trips to the lake and is a hard charger in his water work.  In fact he gets close to the lake and will rip the leash out of your hands to go in while carrying his bumper.  Last weekend he pointed 2 grouse sitting in the woods near the lake on one of our walks.  Ed is looking real nice on his points but still is breaking so I have some more work to do.  He is retrieving to hand and I am hoping that continues when hunting season begins here in MN.  I have taken a break the past week on training as we have been having triple digit temps up here and it is just too hot.  Ed will be heading out in mid September for official gun introduction and bird and gun association.  Out pheasant season starts on October 12 here in MN and then we are headed out to North Dakota on November 6 for our first North Dakota adventure of the fall.  Thinking trip number 2 will be in December but that will depend on the weather and how he does this fall on our other outings.

Ed6mos

Ed at 6 months chillin’ on the deck

Ed hanging out in the house

Ed hanging out in the house

Ed and his toy pheasant

Ed and his toy pheasant

16 month old Chester from Sam and Mae’s “C” Litter of 2012 lives out in New York and has been practicing hard for the upcoming season with his owner Sal and trainer Hoss.  He’s pictured here at a Hudson Valley NAVHDA Chapter training day.

Chester on point

Chester on point

Another shot of Chester on point

Another shot of Chester on point

Chester retrieving

Chester retrieving

And handsome three year old Whiskey out in Nevada from Sue and Sam’s “A” litter of 2010 has been caught by owner Deborah being very silly these days.

Whiskey thinks that crocs make great chew toys

Whiskey thinks that crocs make great chew toys

Whiskey peeking out from his blanket

Whiskey peeking out from his blanket

As always, thank you to the puppy owners for taking such fabulous photos and sharing them with us!!

I just talked to my eyes on the sky down in Missouri and he said that with this warm weather there aren’t many teal flying, but this coming weekend is the last one of the season, so it is the only shot we’re going to get on this particular season.  Since we’ll have our Missouri license anyway, I see us heading down there for some other waterfowl seasons this year too since it is only an hour and a half away.  So wish us luck and we’ll keep you posted!!

Our First NAVHDA Utility Test

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

They come from far and wide...

They came from far and wide…

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

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Charles walking in on one of Sam’s points

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

A bird in the air, Sam breaking on the shot

A bird in the air, Sam breaking on the flush

Sam on retrieve

Sam on retrieve

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

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

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

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

BB retrieves to hand

BB retrieves to hand

Another bird in the air with BB standing steady

Another bird in the air with BB standing steady

BB on retrieve

BB on retrieve

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

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

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

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

Sam going hard on the duck search

Sam going hard on the duck search

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

BB out on the duck search

BB out on the duck search

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

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

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

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

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

Sam brings in the duck

Sam brings in the duck

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

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

Sam comes back from his track with the duck

Sam comes back from his track with the duck

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

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

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

Aux Lake Crew

Aux Lake Crew

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

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

Some Notes on Sue and Sioux Falls

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By popular demand, I need to update you all on how Sue is doing!  She is very heavy, but is still living outside for a little while longer.  She and BB were sharing a kennel while Mae was on a strict diet after her puppies left, in order to get her teats to retract, but I recently moved BB in with Mae by the request of Sue (plus Mae is doing fine on getting back into shape).  BB is still very puppy and likes to play, so Sue was getting tired of that business.  She is still taking walks twice a day, but is moving much slower than everyone else and eats and drinks double her normal rations.  We have houseguests over the Memorial Day weekend, but after they are gone I will be moving Sue into the house for monitoring.  I suspect that she will whelp the first or second week of June.

Pregnant Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

A very big Sue in the yard this morning

Last weekend was the South Dakota Pointing Dog Club’s AKC Hunt Test in Sioux Falls, SD.  The organizers are actually the Midwest Tri-State NAVHDA Chapter, who takes on that name to put on AKC Hunt Tests.  As there were a number of other griffons entered by fellow breeders that we had only visited with online and over the phone, we decided to go ahead and enter BB and Sam into the Senior Hunter Test even though we were unsure if the dogs were prepared.

We also entered the AKC Water Test, which is a requirement for the Senior Hunter title for the Spinone Italiano and German Wirehaired Pointer, but not the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon (even though it should be).  As I had all three children there, I did not anticipate being able to see anything worth taking pictures of, but as it was a hike to the pond, the organizers had me assist in handling the two dogs while our fellow testers kept an eye on the kids back at camp.  I wish I’d had my video camera, because Sam and BB both did fantastic.  It is a basic water retrieve, where the handler stands 6 feet from the bank, holding the collar of the dog.  A thrower pitches a dead duck into the water and a blank shot is fired by a gunner.  Once the duck hits the water, you release the dog and they swim to retrieve.  It does not have to be retrieved to hand, but can be dropped within two  steps of the handler.

AKC Water Test Ribbons

Sam and BB’s AKC Water Test Ribbons

As avid hunters, one would think that Senior Hunter would be easy for us, but hunt testing and hunting are not the same thing.  Similar to Junior Hunter, you are running in a brace with an unfamiliar dog, but unlike Junior Hunter that is only testing search and point, Senior Hunter has to be 100% steady to wing and shot (no creeping allowed at all, not a single step) and also back the other dog’s point.  At the Junior Hunter level, the handler is firing a blank pistol at the flush, whereas at Senior Hunter there are gunners firing live ammunition and the dogs should retrieve.  At the Senior Hunter level, you are allowed to use the “whoa” command for steadiness (which won’t be allowed at the Master Hunter level, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there).

As soon as you “fail” a step in the process, the dog and handler are pulled from the test.  The first day, BB couldn’t help herself and busted a covey of quail.  Both days, Sam creeped a couple of steps on his points.  The second day, BB almost made it through the test, but of all things, she didn’t find a bird!  This is the same dog that found 6 birds in 8 minutes during her first Junior Hunter run.  Even though we didn’t take home any SH ribbons on the weekend, it was good for us to see what is required to pass the test and what we need to work on.

As Charles is the trainer for the big dogs (I’m puppy trainer and kennel tech [sanitation, exercise and nutrition]), he’ll be working on making the dogs absolutely staunch on “whoa”, regardless of the situation.  We work on “whoa” in the yard, but they are kennelmates and they aren’t working birds.  We should take advantage of some training days with the Heartland NAVHDA Chapter or the local AKC German Wirehaired Pointer Club of Nebraska so that we can attempt to replicate the testing environment with dogs from outside of our kennel.  As he can use “whoa” in Senior Hunter, we are going to take advantage of that and work them towards the automatic response without command that is expected at the Master Hunter level.

We’re still bouncing around some training ideas and absorbing the suggestions we got from other handlers and the judges.  Charles got up the next morning and flew out on business (non-dog, the one that pays the bills), so we haven’t had much of a chance to talk it through.  We’ll keep you posted as to what direction we go with our training and how it is working.  I think the absolute soonest we could get back into the SH field is at the August test in Sioux Falls, but we might decide to wait until Spring of 2013.

Our favorite part of the hunt testing environment is that it is fun and family friendly.  It gives us something to do with our dogs in the off-hunting season other than having puppies and keeping up with exercise.  I can see that this is a hobby that we will enjoy for a good portion of the rest of our lives.  We are hooked!

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