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BB’s Big Adventure (and other news)

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As the blog has been focused on my most recent litter of puppies, I haven’t had time to fill you all in on BB’s big adventure.  For those of you who don’t know, BB is our year old female griffon that we imported from Quebec City, Canada.  Her first breeding isn’t planned until 2014, as we have high hopes for her in competition prior to breeding.

Her first AKC event was at the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of Lincoln’s AKC Hunt Test on March 10th (yes, the same day the puppies were whelped).  Charles and BB left early, but I made sure that Mae was done whelping, cleaned out the whelping box, cleaned up Mae and then the kids and I headed down to Lincoln to watch BB’s first run at the AKC Junior Hunter title.  It was a hot (mid-70’s) and windy day, there were several dogs that came out of the Junior Hunter field with zero bird finds.  Experienced handlers looked on skeptically as Charles and BB entered the field.  The Junior Hunter run is split into two parts, 8 minutes in the “back field”, where there are no birds planted, but they are expected to search, then another 8 minutes in the bird field, where the dog is expected to find and point birds, then the handler flushes the birds and fires a blank pistol on the flush.  It is also done in a “brace” with two dogs and two handlers, so you are having to “outfind” the other dog/handler in the bird field.  I was tickled to death after BB’s 8 minutes in the bird field, she had found and pointed 6 birds!

The AKC Junior Hunter title consists of 4 legs of the same event, so BB finished her second leg with GSPCL the following day, then completed her final two legs on March 31st with the Missouri Valley Brittany Club and on April 1st with the Nebraska Vizsla Club.  All four runs were done at the famous (in the field trial/hunt test world) Branched Oak Lake Field Trial Grounds in Raymond, Nebraska.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Junior Hunter

Charles and BB with the two GSPCL AKC JH Ribbons

On Saturday, April 14th, Charles and BB went out to play a very un-griffon game known as the AKC Walking Field Trial.  They were entered in the Amateur Walking Derby and the Open Derby stakes with the Heart of America German Shorthaired Pointer Club in Hillsdale, KS.  I will let Charles speak to this in his future blog post on Versatile Hunter (versatilehunter.com), but it is more of a running game than a bird finding game.  Yet it was a good time for them both, they had fun and got more experience with AKC competition.

In April, BB and I participated in two AKC Conformation Dog Shows.  I used to be very skeptical of dog shows as some sort of beauty contest for dogs, but as a breeder, the AKC puts pressure on you to get your dogs into the show ring, as the dog show’s purpose is to evaluate the quality of AKC breeding stock.  We attended the Grand Island Kennel Club dog show on Saturday, April 21st, then the Seward County Kennel Club show on Sunday, April 29th.  We took home first place, best of breed and winners ribbons from both shows, but we were the only griffon participating.  The judges did say that she is a quality animal.  It was pretty intimidating getting into the sporting group ring with professional handlers, but we are getting more comfortable in the ring and are looking forward to what looks to be our first “major” show (multiple griffons in attendance) in Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota in June.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon dog show

BB and I practice stacking at the GIKC dog show. Photo by Cordelia Upchurch

Last weekend we ran BB in the Heartland Chapter of NAVHDA (North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association) Natural Ability test, which consists of a 20-minute field search similar to the AKC JH, a seperate bird track, where they are tracking a running pheasant, then a water retrieves of dummies.  BB scored a Prize I on the test, with a perfect score of 112!

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon NAVHDA NA

BB points a quail during the field search of the NAVHDA NA test

BB is now officially known as AKC/NAVHDA Bourg-Royal’s CB Bluestem JH NA   1.  We hope to keep adding to the titles over the next year or so!

In Other News

Our co-owned year old female, Velma (AKC/NAVHDA De Jac’s Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah) also had a perfect score of 112 on the NAVHDA Natural Ability test, with first time handler (and co-owner) Aaron Klusmire.  Congrats Aaron and Velma!!

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon NAVHDA NA

Aaron and Velma return from the bird field

Sue is looking quite pregnant and I’ve started putting the heavy feed to her in preparation for her final weeks of pregnancy.  I suspect we have about 3-4 weeks to go before I’m back on litter duty!

Getting lots of updates on the most recent litter that went home.  I was glad to hear that Belle (Carlita) in Oklahoma is over getting motion sickness and has ridden in the vehicle sickness-free since her trip home.  TracHer (Candida) in North Dakota and Frankie in Colorado are going everywhere, including the water.  Speaking of Frankie (Carmelita), I haven’t posted her homegoing photos yet:

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon 8 weeks

Frankie (Carmelia) and her hunter, Mike, in Colorado

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon 8 weeks

Frankie meets some new friends

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon 8 weeks

Frankie having fun

Then there’s some pictures of TracHer in North Dakota up to her antics:

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon 8 weeks

“Can I have some?”

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon 8 weeks

“Where’s the ducks?”

I also received some updated pictures of a year old female from last year’s “B” litter between Sue and Sam.  This is “Shady Lady”, who lives in Nevada (you may also catch a glimpse of her partner in crime “Smoky” who’s out of Whiskeytown Kennels in California):

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon 1 year old

Shady Lady appears very proud of herself in the yard

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon 1 year old

Up close and personal with Shady Lady

Thank you to all of my owners for the photo contributions!  We’re going to keep busy here with dogs and more puppies, and of course we’ll keep you posted as it all unfolds!

Another busy week

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Charles and I started the week chasing Southeastern Nebraska prairie chicken.  As the population in the area is somewhat sparse, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission limits the number of birds harvested to three the entire season, from September 1 to January 31, and a hunter must obtain special tags to harvest in this area.

We spent five hours of our Saturday walking in a drizzle and didn’t spot a single game bird of any kind.  Our intention was to return to the field on Sunday, either for prairie chicken or the last day of early teal, but we were rained out.

One of our puppies from this year’s litter, Ben, was out in the South Central part of the state and had some great luck on sharptails out there.  Ben is our top prospect for a mate for our 6 month old Canadian import girl, BB.  Great job, Ben, and owner, Nate!

Ben, Nate and Nate's father with the grouse harvest

A visit was also paid to us by another puppy from this year’s litter, Duke.  He is growing big and there are plans in the works to get him out on some birds with our guidance before his November pheasant hunting trip to South Dakota.

The Duke at 6 months

On Monday, Charles guided another successful preserve pheasant, chukar and Hungarian partridge hunt.  The hunting party consisted of two native Nebraska gentlemen along with a father and two sons from Long Island, NY.  We had a wet start after an early morning rain, but by 9 AM the sun had emerged, so that the grass and our soaked clothes were completely dry by the time we wrapped up mid-afternoon.

Hunters walking the thick grass

The father shoots a chukar, while Sam points another bird on the ground

One of the sons shoots a gorgeous rooster pheasant

Sam retrieving a rooster pheasant

Sam does a water retrieve on a pheasant shot over the pond

The hunting party and birds

Family picture with the birds

An interesting aside about a native bird that we encountered on our hunt.  In the wetness of the morning, we flushed a few sora rails in a densely vegetated, low, wet spot.  As they are in season and we had a Nebraska licensed hunter on one of the guns, he harvested one of the sora rails.

The sora rail’s flight is best described as “dumpy”.  They don’t fly very fast or far when they flush and are easily recognized: fatter than most song birds, black body with a yellow, triangular bill and long, greenish legs that hang down when they fly.  Sora rail hunting is most popular in the Northeastern Coastal areas, where they often use small boats to hunt them in seaside marshes.

The hunter didn’t have any desire to take the sora home with him, so we brought the bird home to add some tasty bites to our meal for the evening.

Caleb, age 2 1/2, practices his hunter pose with the sora rail

Reflections on Snipe Hunting

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Sam, Charles, Sue and BB with 4 snipe, a teal and 2 doves

The habitat of the snipe is nothing that I had ever expected.  As we wandered our way down the path through the cattails, I kept my eyes sharp, looking for the zig-zag flight of the long-billed swamp bird.  Yet my vigilance was wasted in those areas of dense swamp cover and we eventually wandered into a 20 acre flat, recently grazed by cattle.

“This is where it gets interesting,” Charles warned.  We split up to cover opposite sides of a small creek that ended in a cattail marsh.  I mistakenly headed once again into dense cover, thinking that the sneaky birds would tuck themselves into the reeds.  I was sinking quickly into the mud and got my rubber boots stuck, just in time for an incoming snipe, who landed in the distant short grass.  I was able to extract myself from the mud and we walked towards where we saw the bird land.  He jumped up way out of range, but it became obvious that we were dealing with a resident population, as they did not want to leave their 20 acres.

We worked over the creek half of the plot, spotting a few more snipe getting up out of range.  Our favorite technique for birds that won’t hold tight is to tire them out, flush, then follow, flush, then follow, until they are too tired to be overly flighty.  There was no luck to be had in that half of the small territory, so we headed towards the area where the flushed birds landed.

In a spot that we had covered, next to the tiny creek in tightly grazed grass an unexpected snipe popped up with its classic, “screeee, thwicka, thwicka, thwicka”.  Aside from its larger size, the call of a fleeing snipe is the one sure way to tell it apart from a killdeer.  The chosen path of the snipe is frightening for the hunter, as it begins by flying very close to the ground, at the same height of the dogs and sometimes right among them.

The bird flew clear of the dogs and Charles made the shot, with Sue on retrieve.  Right after that, a dove flew by me in range and I watched it go, choosing to focus on trying to get my first snipe.  Another shot was fired from my husband’s gun and he took down the dove, with Sue doing another great job on tracking the small bird to deliver to her master.

Our walk continued towards a small pond, where all heck broke loose.  Charles quickly bagged another snipe in the flat next to the pond and while he was busy with Sam’s retrieve, the crazy swamp creatures were zig-zagging all around above my head.  I missed several shots on snipe, while a couple of teal busted out of the pond.  Charles was lucky to be close enough to the pond to take one of the teal, which landed in the water still alive.  The injured teal made its way towards the cattails on the edge of the bank in an attempt to hide from the encroaching dogs, but Sam was able to snatch it out of the water.

Close-up of a snipe, with a blue-winged teal in the background

The pond was completely shaken down, so we decided to head back to the creek area we had already covered.  I was in a hurry to cross the watery thread and thought I spotted a muddy area that was dry and vegetated enough to handle my crossing.  Epic fail!  I was immediately sucked thigh deep into the mud, both legs.  Charles was still trying to give me hand signals as to which direction we were going and began to walk off into the distance, so I had to shout him down to come and hold my gun so that I could attempt to remove myself from the gluey muck.  I wiggled and squiggled, but my cheap rubber calf boots were not budging.  My only choice was to leave the boots in the mud and concede defeat to the snipe swamp, pouting my way sock-footed towards the truck.

Defeated by the swamp

Not wanting to wander too far in my socks or ruin Charles’s hunt, I stood on the edge of the 20 acres as he walked back and forth with the dogs, taking two more snipe and one more dove off in the distance.

My adventure ended in the style of a proverbial snipe hunt, as defined in Wikipedia, “…also known as a fool’s errand, a type of practical joke that involves experienced people making fun of credulous newcomers by giving them an impossible or imaginary task.”  Yet I am intrigued by this interesting hunt and unusual habitat.  I will be purchasing some hip boots before I try this again, but am sure to be back and better prepared.

If you are interested in reading more tales of snipe hunting from around the globe, check out Worth Mathewson’s rare book Reflections on Snipe.

Puppy Update: Whiskey and Cold Ducks

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Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Pete, Whiskey and some Nevada ducks

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

 

Pupdate, Litter 2010: Alpha Male “Whiskey”

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The pups will be six months old on the 30th and our good buddy, Pete, out in Nevada gave us an update on Spring 2010 litter’s alpha male without us even asking.  I will be getting e-mails out to my other owners over the weekend to try and get other pictures and updates, but this is enough to make a dog mama proud!  Thanks, Pete!

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Whiskey’s first water retrieve at 6 months

“A little update on Whiskey.  Chukar opener was on the 9th and was one of the most disappointing in years. I only harvested 9 birds in three days. Whiskey was outstanding. It rained all week and birds were scattered and if it weren’t for the dog I would have come out of that hunt with no Chukar. We retrieved every bird that I shot and a half dozen for one of my hunting partners that didn’t have a dog. All birds that Whiskey  recovered for my hunting partner where done on scent alone. We got into the Quail on Sunday and Whiskey was hunting with two older very accomplished dogs and my 6 month old pup performed like it was his 5th season.

Last weekend was Nevada waterfowl  opener and since the Chukar hunting was so bad I decided to give the Ducks a try. I have had Whiskey in the water several times retrieving dummies but he has never even seen a duck before Saturday. After only hunting for a few minutes Saturday morning I dumped a pair of huge mallards at first Whiskey was not crazy about retrieving something that almost outweighed him but after dragging the first pair of ducks back to me by the wing he was hooked on Duck hunting. Sorry for the lack of pictures, like a big dummy I left my camera at home for the chukar opener and only had my blackberry for duck. I promise better pics in the future. Whiskey is doing great on all of his verbal and e collar commands and is picking up hand signals very fast. We are still working on holding point, he is creeping on birds but for 6 months old I am amazed on how well he is doing. On the home front Whiskey is a terrific companion and one of the funniest personalities I have ever seen in a dog.

Whiskey is making me look like a genius.  Just get these dogs on birds,  teach them commands, and socialize them properly and 90% of the battle is won. There is so much potential with these dogs, I was kinda dreading this hunting season, breaking in a new dog but I can’t wait until Friday when I throw all of my stuff in my truck and get him hunting again (5 weeks in a row now). Pheasant season opens in November.”

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Whiskey’s first duck hunt — he looks like Sam Jr. to me!

Sandhills Duck Opener 2010

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It was a very rainy Saturday morning in the Sandhills, with plenty of hunter activity due to antelope and duck season being open simultaneously.  We started out heading into a normally productive grouse dunefield, but our efforts were thwarted by a large scattered herd of cattle.  Essentially, we spent our first hour and a half of the day pushing cows around some high dunes.  I have been doing lots of urban hiking these days, working on the 7th floor of a high rise, so I was feeling pretty good about keeping up with the crew.

We stopped at a couple of ponds on our way to a creek that we wanted to jump shoot, but didn’t see anything except truck tracks on the road.  With my new level of fitness, I was relegated to pushing the far sides of the ponds.

The rain continued to come down, so that by midday, most of our gear was pretty well soaked through.  We walked this creek for a mile or so, when the dogs went on point.  When we walked in to flush a bird, nothing came up.  It was a skunk and I spotted it first.  I raised my gun and asked Charles if I should shoot it, but he took the liberty.  Of course, we shoot the skunk and 40 yards over, a group of four ducks gets up and flies away.  So we continue our march down the creek and see nothing for a couple of miles but a green heron.  The next single duck to get up was way out of range.

The creek petered out, so we turned back around to head for the truck for a break.  We got a few good points from the dogs on some porcupines.  We’re checking in with our Native American friends to see if there is a viable market for porcupine quills, but the porcupines are safe for now.  The dogs have had some valuable past lessons in the pain of porcupines, so they only pointed them and didn’t mess with them this time.

Luckily, I had brought a change of pants, because I learned from our last rainy adventure in the Sandhills, wet brush-buster pants weigh a ton.  Right as we get back to the truck, I spotted a pair of birds flying over my head and I really couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  I should have just taken the shots, but I had to turn and ask Charles first, “Is that a snipe and a dove?!?”  Sure enough, it was a snipe and a dove, flying together right over my head.  I shot at them and missed.  It felt like a beginning of a joke, “There was a snipe and a dove flying together one day…”

I changed my pants, fed the dogs a funky old fried chicken thigh from the truck and we started back on what was starting to feel like a death march to me.  We trudged a couple of more miles down the creek and saw nothing.  Now, I have some pretty hardcore hunting boots, the kangaroo skin Cabela’s kind, but even they were no match for rain, swamp and a few unwieldy creek crossings (also known as just walking through the creek).

Since we knew the creek was empty, we headed up into the dunes to try to find some grouse.  We had one get up for us, way out of range.  I was starting to feel pretty dizzy at this point and had fallen behind Charles and the dogs considerably.  The winding creek in the valley, the wind in the grass, rosehips on the stem…it was all just becoming a pseudo-psychedelic blur of nature being high on my own endorphines.   I was on my own (Charles knew that I was aware of the location of the truck) and began hearing voices.

I caught up to Charles and the dogs talking to two men on an ATV.  The ATV guys reported that three other guys on individual ATV’s had been through the valley earlier trying to hunt for antelope.  Hence the lack of game.

Back to the truck we marched.  Finally the rain had stopped, after six hours of hard hunting in the rain.  After a few miles of driving along the trail, we split off to try a pond that we knew existed over in some trees a quarter mile or so away.  What we didn’t know was that in between the road and the known pond was another, smaller pond that we drove up on and blew a flock of about 7 ducks out.  There were some curse words flying on that one.

I made one last attempt to jump shoot the pond, but by that time, my feet were raw, I was soaked, my muscles were sore and my hands were going numb when I was holding the gun.  I was done.  I went back to the truck and let Sam and Charles try for that pond.  Still nothing.

Down went the gun and I grabbed my camera.  These shots were taken while I was standing on the road barefoot about 50-75 yards away.

 

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Charles and Sam sneak in for a jump

 

 

Ducks

Too many eyes...the flock of ducks gets up out of range

 

 

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Sam and Charles heading back in

 

 

ATV hunters

Charles has a second visit with the ATV chaps

 

I really want to insert a diatribe here about how guys on ATV’s ruin the good time of the foothunter, but I will save that for another day when it isn’t hunting season.  There are more hunting tales to tell.

Saturday we were skunked.  Literally.  All we shot was that damn skunk.  What really impressed me was that the spirit of the dogs never wore down.  The picture of Sam and Charles returning up above was after 8 hours of rainy hiking with the dogs quartering.  Sam still wears a doggy smile on his face and is full of spirit.  These hunting Wirehaired Pointing Griffons are truly amazing athletes.

We didn’t drive six hours to go home with nothing, so Sunday morning I sent Charles and Sam out on their own.  Sam and Charles stalked a creek through very thick cover, with Sam working the oxbows while Charles walked the straightaways.  The stream was backed up with beaver dams in spots.  The first group of six wood ducks got up and Charles shot a young drake.  Sam didn’t see the duck drop, so Charles gave him the “fetch” command so that he knew to search.  He retreived the duck from the far side of the creek and swam back to Charles to deliver to hand.

They continued to work down the creek, avoiding the herd of deer.  A drake and a hen got up out of range at the end of a narrow clearing.  The stalk continued, working the bank and creek bottom close together.  Another group of five wood ducks flushed from the creek and Charles picked the mature drake out of the flock to harvest.  Once again, the duck landed on the far side of the creek where Sam had to search hard to retrieve.  Sam did require some direction on the retrieve, but he worked hard to find the bird and once again delivered it to the hand.

Due to the dense vegetation and the lay of the land, they yet again came upon another flock of wood ducks by surprise.  Charles shot a hen and again it landed on the far side of the creek, in heavy brush.  The “fetch” command was repeated and Sam really got it at this point.  He didn’t require any location direction, retrieved the duck, and crossed a beaver dam to the hand.

I was very happy to see them return to the house with a full game bag after the comedy of errors we had on Saturday!

 

Wirehaired Pointing Griffons

Sam, Charles and three wood ducks

 

This weekend I will be recovering from yet another hard hunting trip of getting skunked, while Charles and Sam head out for Eastern Nebraska prairie chicken.

Patriots’ Day Teal

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Wirehaired Pointing Griffon and Blue-Winged Teal

Sam, Charles and a pair of blue-winged teal

On this past Saturday, September 11, Sam and Charles went down to the private pond that we frequent in Cass County, Nebraska and bagged a couple of blue-winged teal.  I was occupied entertaining family who were visiting from out-of-town, but Charles was able to slip out for a few hours, only after he put a pot of really awesome turkey chili on the stove.

He really had the Canadian geese who normally hang out at the pond in mind, so the teal were a pleasant surprise.  As the story was told to me, Charles put Sam on heel and sneaked up on the teal at the pond.  Charles missed on his first shot attempt, but he and Sam dropped down in the grass, so the teal circled and landed back on the other side of the pond.  It took them about 20 minutes to sneak their way around the pond and the final approach was made with Charles crawling and Sam next to him (still on heel).  By a strange bit of luck, Charles shot the double of blue-winged teal with one shot and both of the ducks only took pellets to the head (yum…no bits of steel surprise while we’re eating them).

Sam swam out into the pond and tried to retrieve both ducks at once, but figured out that he could only get one at a time.  True to the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon’s versatile talents, they were two successful water retrieves with no additional coaxing of the dog required, he just did it.

Speaking of the amazing talents and abilities of dogs, PBS Nature is currently running a two-part special about the evolution of dogs.  Last night’s episode was about the transition from wolf to proto-dog and the symbiotic relationship between dogs and primitive societies.  Next week, they are going to be talking breed specialization and the world of dog fancy, so I’m excited for that.  There’s additional information on the PBS Nature website if you are interested: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/dogs-that-changed-the-world/introduction/1273/

Only four days until sharptail grouse and prairie chicken opener back in the Sandhills…

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