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Our 2021 NAVHDA Utility Tests

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We are planning a litter between Obi and Ruth for Spring 2022. I will post a breeding announcement with all of their pedigrees, health clearances, genetic and hunt test results once I get the official results of the Utility Test. My goal is to have it done by my birthday November 9th. If you have contacted us about this litter, watch for an email in your inbox about the interview and deposit process at the beginning of November. I will take 10 reservations/deposits and we usually have 8-13 puppies. God willing. Our email is bluestemkennels@gmail.com if you are interested.

Our goal was to pass these NAVHDA Utility Tests and we did just that. Obi and Ruth ran on Saturday, October 23rd at the Carolinas Chapter fall test. It was pretty cool to have four of the six dogs doing Utility Tests be Griffs. Karen Krautz ran her two: Comet and Chigger, punching her ticket to Invitational 2022 with a UT I for Chigger. We were really close with Obi, but he was playing with the birds on his retrieves in the field and danced around during remaining-by-blind when he was supposed to be holding still. Ruth is a phenomenal wild bird hunting dog, but wasn’t obedience trained from day one like Obi, so she’s a mediocre test dog. She did all of the skills, but sort of begrudgingly and half-hearted since she doesn’t like testing. Obi seems to just love it and really had a good time. It’s amazing to see the difference that the early training makes, the old field trialer “just let them be a puppy for a year” just doesn’t cut it with Griffons when you need to put serious pressure on them when they are older.

I am going to post the photos divided by dog so that it doesn’t get confusing. The test went in the following order, with all of the dogs dogs running going through that segment before moving on to the next: 30 minutes of bird field, 10 minutes of duck search, heeling down the bank, steady-by-blind/remaining-by-blind, duck retrieve, duck drag. I am going to just sort of explain the test and how the dog did on that part of the test as I go, in a very unorganized and unplanned way. I also have the score cards here and I’ll just blurt out the scores as they apply.

Before I get too far, I want to thank Charles for training and testing the dogs for this during our move. Even though it sometimes felt like he was avoiding unpacking boxes to go and train dogs, it is an important part of having them and it needed to be done. Chapter gunners were just phenomenal on our two runs. I even caught a photo of a bird getting totally smoked (I’ll need to circle the bird so you can see it). Thank you Jerri Stanley for judging for her seventh weekend in a row. Thank you to Senior Judge Ric Kildow for telling me to be quiet about 100 times because my voice is so loud. And thank you to judge Leon Hairie for coming back to the Carolinas after also judging Caleb’s junior handling on Natural Ability, it was fun having a familiar face.

Bluestem Peaches En Regalia Ruth”

I kept telling Charles to prepare for Ruth to be mediocre. She is not a test dog, but she loves to go ham on the wild bird hunt. In the field, her first point she was super-steady, but from there she broke on the shot several times. She is a great bird finder and retriever, so those weren’t the problems. Her field scores were: Search – 4, Pointing – 4, Steadiness Total – 2, Retrieve of shot bird – 3, Nose – 4, Stamina – 4.

Ruth on point with Charles
Ruth on point with gunnar
Ruth on retrieve
Ruth bringing the bird back to Charles
Charles taking the retrieve from Ruth
Ruth working the field
Ruth in the water tub cooling off
The chukar were acting wild that day!

I am really digging the diversity of the Sandhills Game Lands over by Marston, North Carolina. Not only did it have the cool sandy-soiled pine barren field for birds (that is burned frequently to keep the oak saplings from taking over), but they have an amazing set of beaver ponds for duck work. The duck search pond access was definitely “no cars allowed” and you had to have a full size 4×4 pickup to cross the creek to get there.

4×4 Creek Crossing
Nasty mess of swamp for the duck search pond

Ruth’s duck search was pretty crummy, but enough to get the job done. She didn’t get out too far and there was too much running on the bank. But she didn’t run and hide under the truck or sit under Charles’s feet. She did some stuff in the pond for 10 minutes. The score: Search for Duck – 2.

Ruth on the duck search

She did really good on the heeling down the bank to steady-by-blind. The score: Walking at Heel – 4. As you can see, we switched to a second, more open pond in order to do the steady-by-blind and duck retrieve.

Ruth walking at heel

This photo is not in focus on the dog, because the grass throws the camera off, but this is a good illustration of how things went on steady-by-blind. This is the part where the dog is supposed to be sitting in the blind. Obviously, she is not, she is looking at Charles shooting a shotgun off in the distance. I think that this is one of the tougher skills for us to work on, because we are don’t do waterfowl hunting with blinds, we are just training to pass this part of the test. Also, there are multiple gunners: the handler is shooting and so is a chapter gunner. I haven’t quite memorized the shot sequence, but the judge will point at who is supposed to be shooting after the dog is placed in the blind. It goes back and forth between the chapter gunner and the handler. At the very end the handler comes down to the blind and repositions the dog just outside of the blind, shoots again, then a duck is thrown from the other side of the pond. Ruth’s scores: Remaining by blind – 3, Steadiness by Blind – 1, Retrieve of duck – 3.

Ruth by the blind (sort of) with Judge Jerri Stanley looking on
Ruth swimming for the duck
Ruth retrieving the duck

The last skill is the retrieve-by-drag. Basically a dead duck is dragged through the grass and the dog has to locate it and retrieve it to the handler. It is pretty easy, except that it is at the end of a very long day with lots of obedience, pressure and work. There was one dog who did Prize I perfect work all day, then ran off and started quartering the woods upon release instead of doing the duck drag. They are dogs, they do stupid stuff like that. But it is part of the test, to see if they come apart mentally. Ruth’s score: retrieve-by-drag – 3.

Ruth bringing her retrieve-by-drag duck back to the truck

Ruth’s final score in the NAVHDA Carolinas Chapter fall test Utility Test was Prize III, 159 Points. Some of the overall scores that weren’t included in my writing thus far were: Cooperation – 3, Obedience – 2, Desire to Work – 3. Ruth is now Bluestem Peaches En Regalia NA I, UPT II, UT III.

Wyo Plainsman Kenobi “Obi”

Aside from their pedigrees, the main difference between Ruth and Obi is the way that they were raised. Ruth was brought up that first year with minimal obedience work and just allowed to be sort of a wild bird hunting fool. Obi has been raised with obedience work and the foundations laid for this testing process the entire time. We are extremely happy with the way Obi has turned out, as we had attempted to develop two other outside studs that did not work out for us due to health issues. They cost us years in time and thousands of dollars. Yet it is all part of trying to re-establish a breed that was on the verge of extinction forty years ago and has a limited gene pool. Many folks ask where Obi came from, assuming that it was from a known breeder in our clubs. But luckily I know pedigrees really well and that gives me opportunities to utilize lesser known or infrequent breeders who don’t participate in the clubs. We feel lucky to have gotten a great dog out of Laramie, Wyoming who is a great-grandson of our Mae and also a close relation to our Sam. We look forward to seeing his progengy in the upcoming months.

Obi did outstanding in the field portion of the test with the exception of his retrieves, he was playing around with the birds a little on his way back. He was rock-solid steady to wing, shot and fall, until he was tapped on the head and released to retrieve the bird. His field scores were: Search – 4, Pointing – 4, Steadiness Total – 4, Nose – 4, Stamina – 4, Retrieve of Shot Bird – 2. The cover was super thick, so I didn’t get pictures of every point or retrieve, I am just posting the photos that I have in the order that they were taken.

Obi on point
Obi pointing on the left with Charles searching for the bird on the right
Obi bringing in a retrieve
Charles walking in on another point from Obi
Obi on point with a gunner searching for the bird
Obi pointing and Charles trying to kick up a bird
Another photogenic retrieve for Obi
Obi handing the bird to Charles
A nice side profile of Obi on point
Obi having fun running the field
Chukar hiding out

Obi on retrieve to Charles
Charles walking in to yet another Obi point
Charles trying to kick up a bird for Obi while the chapter gunner and judge Ric Kildow look on
Charles phantom gunning while the chapter gunner smacks a chukar in the butt (if you zoom in you can really see the detail)
Obi bringing back yet another chukar
Tub time for Obi after a good run

That was my first time out in the field with Obi, so I had no idea on how well trained he was. I was pretty blown away with his performance when we moved the duck search pond. They let a flightless duck go on one end of the pond, then fire a shot at the other end of the pond and away they go. He went to the far side and searched the bank, then swam around the whole far side of the pond…he worked hard the entire 10 minutes. He knocked that one out too, here is his score: Search for Duck – 4.

Obi looked for the duck for 10 minutes

Walking at heel to steady-by-blind looked good too: Walking at Heel – 4.

Obi walking at heel to the blind

At this point, I really couldn’t look I was so nervous. I knew that we were so close to a Prize I and this was the make or break moment since we struggle with training for the blind since we don’t really use it in real life. I have to look at the score card to see where the flub is, so he stayed in the blind for the shots, but when he was relocated next to the blind for the final shot and duck throw, he broke to retrieve the duck before he was released by command to do so. Scores: Steadiness by blind – 4, Remaining by blind – 3, Retrieve of duck – 4.

Obi super at-the-ready for the duck retrieve
Obi bringing back the duck

Last but not least again, we did the duck retrieve by drag. Score: Duck retrieve by drag – 4.

Obi bringing back his drag duck

Other overall scores for Obi: Desire to Work – 4, Cooperation – 4, Obedience – 4, for a total of 199 points and a Prize II. I think there is a way to get 199 points and a Prize I, but I think that the weighting of the “retrieve of shot bird” points knocked him down to a Prize II. So Obi is now Wyo Plainsman Kenobi NA I, UPT III, UT II.

I know that post has gone on a bit with lots of photos and scores and explanation of Utility Test skills, but this is the first time that we’ve tested at this level and I actually fully understood what was happening and was able to capture all of the pieces in photos. Maybe this will help someone else work up the courage to train for the NAVHDA Utility Test. It is a great bonding experience with your dog, if nothing else.

Bluestem: Transplanted

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Bluestem is the state grass of Nebraska. Little bluestem to the west, sand bluestem in the Sandhills and big bluestem in the east is a dominate grass species across the state. Charles was originally a range science major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln when he moved out here from New York in 1991 and was part of the international plant identification team for the university before he became an economics major.

He started on at Ameritrade in 1997 and recently relinquished his position there (of our own doing) after the business was sold to Charles Schwab. We will be moving to York County, South Carolina over the summer to advance his career (the southern suburbs of Charlotte, North Carolina). This is actually the homeland of the Upchurches, as Charles’s parents were raised in Hamlet, North Carolina not an hour from there. We still have many relatives in the area and have visited there our entire relationship.

We have retired Fire, she is currently recovering from her spay and will go home with one of Charles’s old hunting buddies who is retired between Minnesota and Arizona.

I would like to devote this post to the retired mothers of our kennel. Sue, Mae, Velma, BB and Fire. We would not exist without their bodily sacrifices and motherly love. I have yet to rush a female to the vet to do a c-section or have to bottle feed puppies because a mother would not nurse. All of these mamas have whelped naturally and nursed their puppies. They will always be loved and remembered as contributors to our kennel and the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon breed.

So here’s to the mothers of Bluestem Kennels:

Sue, the griff who started it all for us, who is still alive at 17
Mae, great-grandmother of Obi, who recently passed at age 15
Velma out of De Jac Pine, who is still living with our friend Aaron
BB from Bourg-Royal Kennel in Quebec who is currently living in Kansas at 10
Fire and the most recent Q Litter, who will retire this year at 7

1st Griffon-Only AKC Field Trial To Be Held

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Come and be a part of history! The first Griffon-only AKC Field Trial will be held March 20-21 at Moraine View State Recreation Area near LeRoy, Illinois, sponsored by the American Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Association. All stakes are walking only, no dogs will be handled on horseback (although the judges generally are). Entry cutoff is March 17th at 6 PM Central. Your dog needs to be registered with the AKC to participate, but you do NOT need to be a member of the AWPGA.
There will be six stakes: Amateur Puppy, Open Puppy, Amateur Derby, Open Derby, Amateur Gun Dog and Open Gun Dog. Puppy stakes are up to 15 months old and are mainly judged on desire and running style. Derby stakes are up to 24 months old and are judged on desire, running and point style. Gun Dog stakes are for finished dogs who are judged on desire, running style range, steadiness, backing/honoring, point intensity and retrieving. Amateur is only available to non-professional handlers, whereas Open is available to professional handlers.
This Griffon-only AKC walking field trial has been a huge event for the field committee (thank you especially to Tom and Kristen Mathis) to organize and we are excited to participate!
Yes, it is a competition. You are braced with another dog/handler pair and you are competing against them head-to-head on field performance. Then your performance is evaluated based on the entire entry of dogs and handlers for placement. Full rules can be found by Googling for the PDF document “AKC Field Trial Rules and Standard Procedure for Pointing Breeds”.
Our dogs have been running in AKC German Shorthaired Pointer Club walking field trials for nine years, about the same time that we’ve been members of the AWPGA. It has been a fun experience and we’ve brought home some ribbons on derby dogs.
We hope to have an excellent turnout for this event and look forward to some great sportsmanlike competition and camaraderie!
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Our most recent success at an AKC Field Trial was with Charles handling Wyo Plainsman Kenobi, NA I “Obi” to a 4th place finish in the Amateur Walking Derby at the Heart of America German Shorthaired Pointer Club’s trial just last weekend.

2021 Obi FT ribbon

Charles and Obi with their 4th place Amateur Walking Derby ribbon

2021 Obi FT

Charles and Ruth at the line. Photo courtesy of HOAGSPC

October 2020 Hunting Recap

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For those of you looking for puppies, we are planning one litter in the Spring of 2021 between Chief and Fire.  I consider the reservation list full, but we may get a surpise with more puppies than reservations.  Feel free to shoot me an email at bluestemkennels@gmail.com if you wish to be on the backup contact list.

In Memoriam

The Wirehaired Pointing Griffon world recently lost two special breeders, Jan Resler of Potowotomi Kennel in Wisconsin and Philippe Roca of Des Vignes Rouges Kennel in Kentucky.

Jan was a strong woman with an intense passion for the breed.  She bred, trained, showed and hunted Griffs and excelled at all of it.  She and her dog Amstel won Best of Breed at the 2013 National Specialty and I captured this shot of her celebrating by drinking some wine from the trophy!  I thought that photo really represented her fun-loving spirit.  We shared many good times all over the country at Griffon events.  She is missed by many.

Jan BOB

Jan Resler celebrating Best of Breed

Philippe was our American breed ambassador to France and cannot be replaced.  When I was editor of the breed club magazine, he called me at least twice a month to talk about Griffons.  We worked intensely on a few of his articles together that really captured some important breed history from Europe.  I am so glad that I had the opportunity to help clarify his vast knowledge of the breed.  A native of France, he felt most at home on his sheep farm in Kentucky.  He told me many tales of how he incorporated dog training into everyday farm life.  I promise that I will learn French when my kids graduate, Philippe.

A side note to this photo by Barbara Young, is that the dog in the photo is Owen des Dunes du Captelat, our foundation female Sue’s grandfather and also in our new male Obi’s pedigree.

Philippe and Owen

Philippe Roca and Owen by Barbara Young

October Hunting Sandhills and North Dakota

October was a whirlwind of activity with Charles on the road hunting and I’m back in the classroom substitute teaching middle school.  Not two weeks before the district asked me to come back, I told another substitute that I’d probably never go back into education!  But here I am and it’s keeping me active.  But it does keep me distracted from hunting and blogging.  Luckily, Charles can’t seem to stay out of the field so the dogs get plenty of action.

The COVID is even impacting hunting, one of Charles’s hunting buddies ended up in quarantine due to his daughter testing positive and missed out on the trip to North Dakota, so it just seems to be more and more pervasive.

Before Charles made it up to North Dakota, he stopped by the Nebraska Sandhills for a few days of hunting.  The entire trip was warm, but the dogs held up throughout.  In the beginning, he only had one or two at a time out of the box to keep their competitive energy in check.  This photo is from the first morning on October 7, with our friend Ryan joining him on sharptailed grouse.

October 7 AM

Obi and Ruth with Charles and Ryan’s sharptails

Later on that afternoon, they took Ruth out again for some duck jump shooting.  The toughest thing about jump shooting ducks is keeping the dog on “heel” so that they aren’t running and swimming ahead and busting up ducks out of range.  It was good to see our usual creek produce yet again.

October 7 PM

Ruth and some jump hunted Sandhills ducks

The second day of Sandhills hunting, Obi was the star with Charles’s first limit of snipe in his hunting career.  This is impressive to me since I have shot at probably 100 snipe in my hunting life thus far and I’ve never hit a single one of them.  Snipe hunting really tunes in the dog’s pointing and retrieving skills because they are such a small bird to scent to both point and locate to retrieve.

Snipe Limit Obi Oct 8

Obi with Charles’s first snipe limit on October 8

The day of October 9th was spent driving from Nebraska to North Dakota and getting set up in the house with the other guys.  I don’t know their names and they never make an appearance in any of the photos, so I apologize that they sort of get left out of the whole story.  They are a part of the harvesting though, so not all of the North Dakota birds were taken by Charles, but the dogs did get to do all of the pointing and retrieving which is what is important to me.

NoDak Day 1 Oct 10

Ruth, Obi and Fire with the mixed bag from October 10th in North Dakota

NoDak Landscape

North Dakota landscape photo by Charles Upchurch

By the time Sunday, October 11th rolled around, the dogs were worn down enough to have all three running at once.  All of the crops were harvested in that area of NoDak, so it made for some fun cattail hunting.  It is hard work for the dogs busting through dried cattails, but at least you know where the birds are hiding out.

NoDak mixed bag Oct 11

The October 11th game bag

You can also tell that Charles is starting to get a little tired because he isn’t posing the dogs for photos for a couple of days!  He said that the dogs would be tired and sore at night, but when the tailgate dropped the next morning that they were ready to go to work again.

NoDak mixed back Oct 12

October 12th NoDak game bag with dogs boxed

Photo short a rooster Oct 13

Fire, Obi and Ruth with the final day’s mixed bag in North Dakota, October 13

It wasn’t the best year he’s ever had in North Dakota, but it wasn’t like the last time that he and I went up there in 2017 either.  2017 we hardly got into anything and some days we got skunked.  At least this year there was game in the bag every day.  I really appreciate the other gents who were there to help put birds in my dogs’ mouths.

Back Home

The weekend after Charles and the dogs returned from their big trip, he and Ruth hit a local swamp and got two teal and a snipe.

Ruth Oct 19

Ruth with two teal and a snipe in southeast Nebraska

Most exciting of all is Caleb’s first roosters at the Nebraska Youth Pheasant Hunting opener the weekend before Halloween!  Charles said that there were gobs of roosters flushing everywhere and Caleb was just blasting and they were falling down.  There are miracles in hunting, I’ve seen it.  And Obi just really loves Caleb, so this photos is just perfect.  They also had one taken by Nebraska Game and Parks, so keep an eye out in Nebraskaland and you might see him.

Caleb Youth Hunt Obi

Eleven year old Caleb with his first two pheasants.  Obi on retrieve and kiss.

In Closing

Write about one trip and get ready for Charles to go on another soon.  Deer hunting is just around the corner and he is taking the dogs to hit some fields on the way.

We got Obi’s Penn HIP results back and the doctor said that they are the best sporting dog hips that he’s ever seen.  Greyhounds have the best hips all-breed and the vet said that is where Obi’s are.  Just off of the charts.  I am working with a new scanner and will get those ready for my next post.  But great news.

The weather is finally cooling off and I’m thinking about getting out for some roosters and quail myself after rifle deer season ends.  It also sounds like I’m getting roped in to handling Obi with Caleb at a European tower shoot at the end of November.

We’ll see what all of this brings.  After Thanksgiving we are having our kitchen and main level bathroom floor torn up to replace the dying pergo with porcelain tile, so that will be an event.  At the same time we’ll be tearing down a gazebo in the backyard that will be replaced with a dog kennel set-up.

Oh speaking of dog kennels, one last thing.  My worst nightmare happened to someone else. Desbattures Benelli Bro, NA II UT II was stolen from his kennel at the Wild West Lodge in Grenville, South Dakota.  Owned by Coppershot Griffons Cliff Koele but used as a guide dog by the John Andersen of the lodge.  Bred by Dominic Brisson and Claudette Blackburn of Quebec, Canada.  He is very special breeding stock for Griffons in the Great Plains of the US and he needs to come back!  Reward offered, please contact Wild West Lodge or Cliff Koele on Facebook with any leads.  Look at other people’s trucks while hunting, like if they have a mess of mutts and this guy.  Or if you use any guides in the Dakotas.  He could be anywhere at this point.

Desbattures Benelli Bro

STOLEN: Desbattures Benelli Bro

 

 

Hunting Season Opener 2020

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Like everything in 2020, our opening weekend was a little different than normal.  Many of our “go-to” spots are still flooded out, but luckily the bounty of the Sandhills still provided.

Opening day we split into two parties, with Fire and I taking one dune ridge and Charles, our buddy Ryan, Ruth and Obi went on the ridge to the south of me.  It’s funny the difference that one valley makes.  Fire and I hiked for five miles and saw absolutely nothing, while Charles and Ryan saw about 14 sharpies and Charles limited out by noon.  Which was good because the high temperature got up to 105 that day, a record for a September day in Nebraska.  Obi was having a great first outing as he got all of the retrieves that day.

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Charles and Obi headed back to the truck

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Obi and Ruth with Charles and a limit of sharptailed grouse opening day

Day two we decided to all three hunt the same ridge with all three dogs.  Charles and Ryan stayed up high and I worked the mid-level hills closer to the valley.  We had planned on crossing the valley once we got to the fence, but they had seen a group of birds get up that I did not, so I met up with them at the top of the ridge and we headed back the way we came.  I saw a group of about ten of them get up and go around a dune, so I hoped that we’d be into birds soon.

It wasn’t too much longer until Fire went on a super-stylish point down in a little bowl.  It was one of those where their body is posed in one direction and their head is cocked to the right as if to say “The birds are right here!”.  With scenting conditions so difficult in the Sandhills, I’ve only had this happen one other time in twenty years of hunting.  So I ran down in front of Fire and sure enough, a group of five got up right in my face.  Due to the direction of the wind, with them taking off right into it, they shot straight up into the air and I shot right underneath of them.  One peeled off and flew back towards Ryan and he took it down.

Ryan is a traveling geology technician, so he hadn’t been out with us hunting in five our six years while he’s been on the road.  It was great to have him on the bird board again.  We continued our push and I sort of meandered toward the lower hills like I normally do.  Up at the top of the ridge the guys got up another small group and Ryan took another bird out of it.  Fire was hanging around with me, so we hiked up to where the guys were to try to help them find the bird since they seemed to be struggling to locate it.  It took us a good five minutes, but Fire put her nose to the ground and went about 40 yards to the south and came back with the runner.

I’ve been battling plantar fasciitis in my right foot for about nine months, since we chased roosters in January outside of South Sioux City.  Where I used to be able to do 8 miles of dune stomping in a day, I’m down to about 5.  The guys used to be up in the 10-11 mile per day range and now they’re at a little over 8.  We’re all between the ages of 45 and 50 now.  Ryan made the dreaded statement that, “Someday we’re not going to be able to do this anymore!”.  I’m hoping that isn’t for another 25 years or so, but I guess we just don’t know.  The oldest grouse hunters that I’ve seen have been in their mid to late 70s, but that was 10+ years ago.  We’re the old hunters of our part of the world now.

With that being said, I bailed out of the last three mile push of the day all three days.  So when the guys went out on day two and Ryan brought back his third bird for the limit, it was a great feeling just to be there.  I don’t have a good idea of how many sharptailed grouse and prairie chickens I’ve taken out of those hills, but I’ve done it.  And it hope to do it again, but it just wasn’t this trip.

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Ryan and Fire with a limit of sharpies

Day three was at least a bit cooler.  At least the outside temperatures.  Let me just say that if you buy the Kindred Creamery Ghost Pepper Colby Jack Cheese, which is the hottest pepper cheese that I’ve ever eaten in my life, wait to eat it until you get home.  Don’t eat it during the hunt or you will regret it.

We went to the spot that we call “Lone Tree”, but the pasture with the lone tree and the grouse flock that we normally hunt had cows in it.  If there’s one thing that we’ve learned over the years is that the grouse don’t hang out with the cows.  So we tried a new dunefield.  And sure enough right when we got into it, a group of about ten got up at about 150 yards and sailed away.  We walked for another hour looking for them, but never saw them again.  The guys hit one more spot and Charles took a single with Ruth on retrieve.  It was the end of the trip and everyone was done posing for photos.

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Charles with some worn out dogs and a single.

Someone made a post on one of the Facebook bird hunting forums that three guys and three dogs had been in the Sandhills for three days and hadn’t seen a thing, so I feel lucky that we didn’t get skunked.  I hope that we get out chukar hunting in Nevada someday because I’d like to see how it compares to the difficulty of hunting sharpies in the Sandhills.  If it wasn’t for my bum foot, which is only impacting me at long distances, I’m really in the best shape cardivascularly that I’ve been in 10 years now that I work as a lifeguard part-time and swim a mile once or twice a week, then walk once or twice a week too.  The orthopedist said that it will take time to resolve, so I just need to be patient and keep training.

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“I’m getting skunked in the Sandhills”

Introduction to Iowa

There is a big swath of public swamp right on the other side of the Missouri River from where we live, so Charles decided to pick up an Iowa license and took Ruth over there a couple of days ago after work.  They managed to stir up a blue-winged teal and a dove.

Hunting Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Teal

Ruth in the back of the truck with an Iowa teal in her mouth

Hunt Test Pupdates

Congratulations to Brent Haefner and Bluestem Madeline the Huntress, NA III can now add a UT III to the end of her name.  They passed the very difficult NAVHDA Utility Test at the Minnesota Chapter Test recently with 174 points.  Brent said that the hardest part of the training was for the duck search, where the dog has to stay out in the pond for ten minutes swimming and searching for a duck.  Maddy is from our 2017 “M” Litter between Chief and Fire.

Brent and Maddy Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Bluestem Madeline the Huntress, NA III UT III and Brent

At the IllIowa Chapter test, Derek Gilsdorf and Bluestem Captain Augustus Mccraer “Gus” got it done in the NAVHDA Natural Ability Test, earning a Prize I 110 points.  Here’s Gus with his recent haul of teal down in Kansas.  He was from our surprise 2019 “P” litter between Zoro and Ruth.

Bluestem Gus Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Gus got the ducks

I love to hear news of our past puppies, but it is tough to stay in touch with 150 people (that’s why I have a blog).  Feel free to share your pup with us at bluestemkennels@gmail.com and I’ll be sure to share it with everyone here.

The Griffon that started it all…

Good old Sue is still out on the prairies of South Dakota doing her retirement thing at almost 17 years old.  She is the great-grandmother of our current female Ruth and the first Wirehaired Pointing Griffon that we ever owned.  It makes me happy to see her spending time with the family; her current mama Debbie is from Texas originally and moved to South Dakota to be a nurse on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation.

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Stan and old Sue

Up next

The hunt tests all have waiting lists these days, so it doesn’t look like we’ll be running Ruth here in a couple of weeks in AKC Senior Hunter like we had planned.  Charles will be back in the Sandhills for duck season in a few weeks and is headed up to North Dakota with our pal Aaron too.  I’m going to stay home with the kids and wait for Nebraska pheasant season to open on Halloween.

Obi went to the vet today to get his PennHIP x-rays.  He weighs 54 lbs and Dr. Arndt of Harvey Oaks Animal Hospital said that his hips look “terrific”.  That is such great news, so it seems like the stars are finally aligning for us to have a quality outside stud after seven years of trying.

We’ll check back in after Charles returns from North Dakota and see if he gets any interesting photographs.  And hopefully some birds and great outdoor experiences too.  Best wishes to everyone out there chasing their bird dogs around the wilds.

 

Obi’s Natural Ability Test

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I am planning a repeat breeding between Bluestem’s Prairie Fire, NA I and Bluestem Otoe Chief, NA II in the winter for spring 2021 puppies.  My reservation list is robust, but if you would like to be on the backup list in case there are more puppies than I have reservations, feel free to email bluestemkennels@gmail.com.

We really could not have asked for a better day at the Heartland Chapter NAVHDA Test on August 8th.  The predicted heat held off until we were finished and not only did we have the best results we could ask for, we had a surprise visitor.  Mack is a four month old puppy from “Chief” Bluestem Otoe Chief, NA II who had some litters with Coppershot Griffons in Iowa this year.  He really looks like a baby Chief!  Here he is on the left pictured with Obi on the right.

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Chief’s puppy Mack, left, and Obi on the right

A person really doesn’t know how well they scored until they get to the reading of the scores at the end of the day.  We started in the field and were about half way through the ten dogs, so there was lots of scent to throw things off.  We got in enough times pointing the birds to make the grade though.

The bird and dog photos are tough to catch, but I did manage to get one.  You can see the chukar flying off in the top right corner of the photo and Obi on point down in the bottom left.

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Obi stays steady as the chukar flies away

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Charles walks in on another intense point from Obi

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Obi on point

I was a bird planter during the field portion.

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The second portion of the test was the track.  It was difficult for me to see what was happening from my vantage point, but Obi must have tracked the bird successfully since he came back to Charles with a rooster in his mouth.

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Charles struggles to control Obi’s excitement as he jumps for joy over his rooster

We finished the day with the water retrieve.  Obi did fantastic on his two bumper swims.

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Obi bringing back the bumper

Last but not least was the evaluation of the attributes.  Everything looked great and he even has perfect teeth.

Senior Judge Chuck Casanova evaluates Obi’s teeth while Judges Bridget Nelson and David Hahn look on.

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Chuck Casanova looks at Obi’s teeth

We couldn’t be more proud.  Next up is Obi’s hip scan and getting some more age and wild bird hunting under his belt.

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Other than working towards the NAVHDA Natural Ability Test, we went out to the Sandhills for a coronacation around the 4th of July.  I got a couple of good shots of the dogs from that.

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Looks like Ruth is going to start making some attempts at AKC Senior Hunter at the end of September.  But of course right now we are looking forward to the beginning of hunting season Labor Day weekend.  We’ll get to chase sharptailed grouse, prairie chicken, dove, snipe and teal out in the Sandhills.

Let’s hope that this weather cools down and that we all have great success in the field in our tests and hunting.  Good luck to everyone out there working their dogs!

Waiting for puppies and first birds

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If you would like to be placed on my contact list in the event that I have puppies available from this litter, feel free to email bluestemkennels@gmail.com.  I am confident that they are all currently reserved, but in the event of folk possibly backing out, I like to have a contact list to reach out to for additional interest.

Any day now for Fire going into labor, any hour actually.  I suspect that it is an average sized litter of four to eight puppies.  It doesn’t look like fourteen, but it looks like more than three.  I can feel them and see them, she is starting to get milk in her teats, so once they start making their way into the outside world I will keep my Facebook page up to the moment as much as possible.

Pregnant Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Pregnant Fire

You can see in the photo where she is starting to pull the fur out around her teats.  Some people shave them, but the puppies will take care of it on their own.

If you are on my list, do not panic if we don’t have your number of puppies.  Some folks want a specific gender or will decide at the last minute that the timing isn’t right for them.  Once they are whelped, it will take some time for me to get that all sorted out so just bear with me please.

This will be the seventeenth litter that I have whelped.  Even so, I am still anxious and excited.

First Birds for Obi

Charles has been working with all of the dogs on daily obedience exercises and getting Obi ready for his NAVHDA Natural Ability test.  We are talking about possibly doing it early, with a late spring test or a summer/fall test.  He has caught on to the drag track game.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Puppy Retrieve

“Obi” sixteen week old Wirehaired Pointing Griffon puppy retrieves a quail

While the dog is with a handler out of sight, we pull some feathers out of a dead quail and lay them in a pile, then drag the dead quail and hide it.  Then the handler brings the pup out of hiding to the feather pile and they track and retrieve the bird.

We also took Obi out with some live planted quail and the starter pistol.  This is not his first exposure to loud noises, we’ve been banging pots and pans since we got him and then shooting a kids cap gun while he’s playing after that.  He caught on to the excitement of flying birds very quickly.

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“First Flush” sixteen week old “Obi” Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

On the homefront, we think that we have pretty much conquered housebreaking.  He has chewed up a few things, but that happens with every puppy that we raise.  He sleeps through the night in his crate.  His favorite things to do are play-fight with Ruth and jump on Caleb (we are working on the “stay down”).  He is in good health at 25 lbs. and gets his rabies shot on April 1st, then look out world!  I look forward to taking him on walks in the Old Market (Omaha’s downtown entertainment district) and Charles can take him to NAVHDA training days with other owners and dogs.

That’s all of the dog news for now, but keep an eye on Facebook for when the puppies are being born.  And send up some doggie prayers for a safe and successful whelping.

Opening Weekend 2019

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For those of you who are on the reservation list for 2020 Spring Puppies from dam Bluestem’s Prairie Fire, NA I “Fire”, we are going to use Bluestem Otoe Chief, NA II “Chief” as the stud.  His information is on the “About Our Dogs” page of the website.  Let me know if you have questions.

If you would like to be on the contact list in the event that we have additional puppies available, please e-mail bluestemkennels@gmail.com.

In other random kennel news, I took Ruth in for her OFA hip x-rays and the vet said everything looked good, so now it is just a matter of getting the certificate back from OFA to see what rating they give her hips.

Sandhills Upland Opener

Our usual luxury accommodations in town are currently occupied by other family members, so we decided to camp at the lake over the weekend.  With all of the moisture this year we were happy that the sandburrs were still pretty moist, but the mosquitos were sure thick.  The boys and I focused on things like swimming, shooting 22 rifle, kayaking, making s’mores (and just making meals in general), and my favorite part — stargazing.

Brenda Allison - Sandhills Stars

The night sky of the Nebraska Sandhills, photo by Brenda Allison

 

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Sunset over the lake, no filter.  By Charity Upchurch

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Not listed on AirBnB!

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Fifteen year-old Conrad has become a good kayaker,

 

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Ten year-old Caleb had fun with the .22.  Both of the boys did, we ran out of ammo.

You can see in the background of the picture of Caleb that some unknown soul added an “amenity” to our shared primitive campsite.  They turned a five gallon bucket into a pit toilet by cutting the bottom off of it, creating “teeth” so that you can stick it in the sand, then screwed a toilet seat to the top!.  So all you needed to do was to dig a hole to put it on top of, then you use your shovel to “flush” with the sand pile.  Thank you creative redneck!!

Oh but you wanted to hear about hunting, right?

So after every upland magazine has published an article about the Nebraska Sandhills, every yahoo in the country is out there trying to chase sharptailed grouse and prairie chickens.  Which I am happy for honestly, there was a span of about five years where it looked like we were the only ones out there.  The non-natives stay pretty close to the highway because unless you know the dunes, it is a scary place.  And even for those of us who know it, it can play tricks on you sometimes.  This year the biggest hazard is water on the roads, so even if you have maps and GPS that say that a road is there, it may be closed or flooded.

Charles took Zoro out the first day and ended up with a dove and a sharpie in the bag.

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Charles and Stonyridge Zoro with a sharptailed grouse and a dove

On Monday he took Ruth out and got a limit of three.

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Bluestem Peaches En Regalia, NA I “Ruth” and Charles with a limit of grouse.

The Sunday grouse went in the pot with some marinated chicken and canned vegetables for supper that night.

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Cutting up grouse for the pot.

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Camp food (the grouse is the dark meat)

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Coleman camp kitchen

The three sharpies that came home with us went right on the griddle with some chimichurri sauce on the plate (I forgot to take pictures).  Give them a good marinade and cook them like a medium rare steak for the best flavor.  When I’m at camp, I cook it as stew meat all the way through just to make sure that I’m avoiding food poisoning, since our sanitiation is as good as we can get it, but not up to normal “hot-water-from-the-tap” standards.

Up Next

I am really sucked into youth football right now, but it will be over in time for pheasant and quail season.  I console myself with the fact that I’ve shot plenty of grouse and prairie chickens, and that youth football is only this year and next.

Charles has his sights set on some early teal duck action here locally.  He is going to skip North Dakota again this year until things improve habitat and bird number-wise up there.  He did draw a Sandhills antelope tag, so he’ll be back out there for that and some more birds and ducks hopefully.

Continued success in the fields for everyone and good luck to all of those who are running in fall hunt tests!

So much to be thankful for…

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I really should not be blogging, but I know how much y’all have been missing me.  Well, not so much me these days as these fab updates from our owners.  But that comes later.  First of all, I wanted to say that I had no idea how much work it takes to run an AKC breed parent club.  Boards, committees, and lots of blood, sweat, and tears from dedicated volunteers.  I am really stressing about my first issue at the helm of the Griffonnier, but it looks like it is coming together well.  “How do I get this Griffonnier,” you say?  You have to join the AWPGA: http://awpga.com/

Another awesome must-have magazine is Versatile Hunting Dog from NAVHDA.  I’m excited/embarrassed to be in the November 2014 issue.  Guess how you get Versatile Hunting Dog: you have to join NAVHDA.http://www.navhda.org/.  I went ahead and scanned a copy of the article so that the non-members can check it out.

VHD Article

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Thanks again to New Englander Jason Wade for coming all the way out to Nebraska/Iowa to put it on, and to Tracey Nelson for being a great hostess.  Also thanks to the people who let me ask about their recent Handler’s Clinic experiences: Susan Davy, Dan Dorfschmidt, and Matt Heard.

I was also recently published in Tufts University Seabird Ecological Assessment Network’s publication Field Guide to Beached Birds of the Southeastern United States.  The field guide will be used to help citizen scientists to identify bird carcasses.  They needed a photo of a female canvasback carcass and found it here on the blog.  Here is the link to the guide, my photo is on the bottom left hand corner of page 72: https://app.box.com/s/k01qk2eic0ojc0h0tjv7.  I’m always happy to donate my work in the name of science and conservation.

Birthday Hunt

Hunt

I bagged my first official shot-it-all-by-myself Nebraska rooster on my 40th birthday.  That’s about the best present I could get.  I’ve been attributed to some Nebraska roosters in the past, but it was always up for debate since others had also put pellets in it.  But not this time.

I love chocolate cake, but I love birthday roosters more.

I love chocolate cake, but I love birthday roosters more.

So that was the high point of the hunt.  The low point of the hunt was at the end where we had to cross this shallow creek into a fallow field that was all plowed up and uneven.  I tripped on a giant dried up dirt clod and didn’t even catch myself.  It was a full-on face plant into the dirt.  I may not be known for my gracefulness, but I have become an expert in totally wiping out safely while holding a firearm.

Oh yeah, and Charles got a rooster too.  But you expected that.

That is my poor photography skills with the glare, not evidence of any supernatural forces.

That is my poor photography skill with the glare, not evidence of any supernatural forces.

Pupdates

Bob and Ed, who hail from Minnesota (and from our “E” Litter 2013 between Sam and Sue), had a great hunt up in North Dakota this year:

What a fantastic trip to North Dakota for Ed again this year!  5 guys hunting and we brought home our limits even with the tough wind we had.  Ed’s performance was fantastic and I could not ask for anything else from him.  He is a solid pointer and retrieves to hand with no hesitation.  He proved his worth when he found a bird we knocked down which ran into a cattail slough.  I am once again very happy for having found you while researching the breed. I can’t wait for our trip in 2015! Bob

Ed, Bob, and the birds in ND.

Ed, Bob, and the birds in ND.

Trucks, dogs, and birds is where it's at!

Trucks, dogs, and birds is where it’s at!

Jealous!  In more news from North Dakota, Susan and TracHer (2012 “C” Litter between Sam and Mae)  took out some roosters in the western part of the state:

A good friend got permission from an old high school classmate who farms in western ND, but north of I-94 (where the famed pheasant hunting area is) yesterday.  I experienced an all time first in my hunting life.  I shot a double, and was the first in our party of 3 to get birds.  I end up in that category of, I GOT ONE! only to be told by the guy hunting to either side of me, that no, they got it.  I’m a little slower to shoot so do better when I can get away from the others enough to get a bird on my own time, and it happened in spades yesterday!!   TracHer did great again…in the pics she is bring my bird back to me, with our friend Don Winden in the pic as well.  There were, indeed, a huge number of pheasants out amongst the oil drilling rigs and wells…The birds seem to have adjusted alright for now.

TracHer on retrieve with Don looking on.

TracHer on retrieve with Don looking on.

Closeup of TracHer and the pheasant.

Closeup of TracHer and the pheasant.

TracHer and the cows

TracHer and the cows

I love how she manages to shoot with a gun and a camera!  I need to work on that.  Staying in the North Dakota theme, Ernie put together this cool video with footage from his GoPro and some tunes, “Country Boy” by Aaron Lewis and “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynard.

Here’s a photo of Ernie and Duncan (from our “H” Litter 2014 of Sam and Mae)

Duncan, Ernie and a North Dakota pheasant limit.

Duncan, Ernie and a North Dakota pheasant limit.

A bit closer to home, it looks like Rob and Maggie of Omaha (from our 2013 “E” Litter between Sam and Sue) had a great trip to South Dakota:

Maggie did fantastic for the start of her second season. She works perfectly in my opinion. She stays close, her drive is fantastic, she is very methodical and thorough yet not too slow and her nose is awesome. She points solid and does a great job at retrieving, especially the sneaky ones that are hard to find. When I turn her loose I almost never even have to direct her. Just when I think that she might be nearing a range that I would consider being too far out she puts her head up to check where I am at and readjusts to stay in the working distance that I prefer. Sometimes it’s like she can read my mind. I’m sure I am biased but I just can’t say enough about how well I think she hunts. I love this dog! Take care. Rob

Rob, Maggie, and roosters.

Rob, Maggie, and roosters.

Taking it way down south, I got an update from Charbel in Mexico with Freyja from our 2014 litter of Sam and BB.

I’ve been off the grid lately with lots of work but finally manage to find some time for R&R. Sorry I couldn’t send you pictures sooner but here are a couple. This is Freyja´s first hunting trip in the beginning of November, we went Dove hunting, it wasn’t a good weekend because of the climate but we manage to get a few doves and the dogs had a lot of fun.

I have her leashed to me or to a long check leash since she still need to learn that there is no point in chasing flying birds, she will run all the way trying to follow a bird that fly’s by specially falcons when they are kiting the area and she tends to draw out thorns like a magnet, specially one I hate don’t know how its called but its a round seed fool of thorns that acts like Velcro. Took me more than an hour to remove all the thons from her, the bright side is that the thorn never actually gets it the skin but it does tangle in the hair.  But I would let Freyja run free after every hunting morning.

The second morning while we were lunching in the field she dash into a corn field, after a few minutes suddenly a entire covey of quail flush out and 2 seconds after that Freyja came out of the field with that smiley doggy face she makes. We were all shocked since no one was expecting that. It was amazing!!!

This weekend we are going to be flying to Mexicali Pheasant hunting I´ll send you pictures after we come back.

 Best Wishes, Charbel

Freyja ready to go.

Freyja ready to go.

Charbel and Freyja taking a break from dove hunting for a selfie.

Charbel and Freyja taking a break from dove hunting for a selfie.

Four labs and a griff cooling off.

Four labs and a griff cooling off.

Freyja coming back in.

Freyja coming back in.

Wow, thank you owners!  You force me to come back and blog even when I don’t think that I want to.  Then when I’m done, I see how much fun you have with your pups and it makes everything worth it.

The week of Thanksgiving is upon us, isn’t it?  So that means that we go hunting, right?  I hope so.  I’ve been stuck at home the last couple of weekend with deer season.  Charles didn’t see one big enough to shoot out in the Sandhills last weekend and went out yesterday for a doe along the Platte River and didn’t see anything.

We really should be thankful to God every day.  As my grandfather says, “You’ve got a roof over your head and food on the table”.  We take important things for granted, like clean water.  1 billion people on Earth don’t have access to clean water, and we’re lucky enough to be able to fuss over hunting dogs.

I am thankful for you, my readers, for hearing what I have to say and enjoying what my kind puppy owners are nice enough to share with me.

Field Trial Placement and on to Maine

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AKC Field Trial

Today we ran Bluestem’s Prairie Fire “Fire” in her first formal dog event.  She participated in the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of Nebraska’s Fall Field Trial in the Amateur Walking Puppy and Amateur Walking Derby stakes at the Branched Oak Field Trial Grounds near Raymond, Nebraska.  These grounds are famous and I noticed a new sign hanging in the lodge as I was getting breakfast this morning.  It is notes made this spring by Delmar Smith.

Comments from Delmar Smith about Branched Oak Field Trial Grounds, April 2014

Comments from Delmar Smith about Branched Oak Field Trial Grounds, April 2014

We met Delmar in Kansas City at Pheasant Fest a few years back and he is definitely a sage of the sport.

Sunrise over Branched Oak Field Trial Grounds

Sunrise over Branched Oak Field Trial Grounds

Horse barn and clubhouse of Branched Oak Field Trial Grounds

Horse barn and clubhouse of Branched Oak Field Trial Grounds

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A standard setup at Branched Oak

It was entirely English Pointers and German Shorthaired Pointers, but we had fun and Fire had a great experience.  Of course she was shown up with range in the field because of her young age (6 1/2 months) and the close-working nature of the breed, but due to the fact that there were only 4 dogs entered in the Amateur Walking Derby, we did walk away with a ribbon.  Although it was a “gimme” (which none of BB’s field trial placements were), it was still cool to represent griffons and be the only 6 month old griff ever to have placed in an AKC Field Trial.

Walking to the line

Walking to the line

At the line

At the line

Starting in the field

Starting in the field

Escapee

Escapee

Running Fire

Running Fire

Charles and Fire with their 4th place ribbon in the Amateur Walking Derby

Charles and Fire with their 4th place ribbon in the Amateur Walking Derby

We also had visitors from Matt and Carter, who live around Lincoln and will be getting a Sam/BB pup next year.

Matt and Carter saying hi to Fire.

Matt and Carter saying hi to Fire.

Fire and Carter

Fire and Carter

I really hate to cut this short, as there’s more to say, but I am still not packed for the AWPGA National Specialty Dog Show, Hunt Tests and Annual Meeting this week in Maine, and I have a 6 AM flight to catch in the morning.  I’m taking all of my equipment with me, so maybe there will be a blog post part 2 if I get the time this week, but I will probably be busy seeing all of my long lost dog friends.  If I don’t get to it, I’ll catch up with y’all next weekend.

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