MN/WI Pro Plan Cover Dog Derby of the Year: Northwoods Chardonnay

Northwoods Chardonnay edged out her litter sister, Northwoods Chablis, by two points to win the 2011 award. Another littermate, Northwoods Lager, was in the top four. That these dogs were so competitive is no accident. Grandmothers on top and bottom—Blue Silk and CH Houston’s Belle—won this award previously.

Chardonnay has had four field trial placements in as many starts. As a puppy in 2009 she placed second in the very competitive O-Kan puppy stake held in Oklahoma. (Lager placed first.) Later that spring she placed second in the MGDA derby. This spring she placed third in the MGDA Open Derby (beaten by littermates Lager and Chablis) and won first place in the Moose River Grouse Dog Club Open Derby. She pointed grouse in both of this spring’s wins.

Chardonnay is out of a litter bred by Paul Hauge in 2009. The sire is Blue Shaquille and the dam is our current producing female, Houston’s Belle’s Choice. We started four from this litter and each is a strong grouse dog.

Chardonnay did a fine job in our grouse guiding string last fall, especially for a 1½ year old. She has the classic Houston-line trademarks:  easy, attractive gait; lofty style on point; outstanding ability to find and point grouse.

Northwoods Bird Dogs have won or been in close contention for this award several times before.  

2003:  CH Houston’s Belle, owner Paul Hauge, won

2001:  Blue Silk, owner Paul Hauge, won

1998:  Spun Gold, second in points

1997:  CH Blue Streak, second in points

1995:  That’s Afact Jack, second in points

In addition, dogs sired by our studs have won the award.   

2009:  Goodgoing Hannah Montana, owner Brett Edstrom/Good Going Kennel, was sired by Dashaway

1999:  Milk Run Jessie, owner Brian Miller, was sired by CH Blue Smoke

This accolade was started in 1994 and has subsequently been awarded 17 times. It has been won by pointers on 10 occasions. It is sponsored by Pro Plan who generously purchased the rotating trophy and supplies dog food to each year’s winner.   

Grouse Champion Houston’s Belle (2001 – 2011)

Belle’s runner-up win at the 2007 Minnesota Grouse Dog Championship

CH Houston’s Belle was whelped in April 2001 by Paul Hauge of Centuria, Wisconsin. Paul used frozen semen from Houston, his favorite gundog, on a line-bred Tekoa Mountain Sunrise female he owned, Forest Ridge Jewel. Of that litter, only Belle had an opportunity in field trials. Belle epitomized the qualities of the Houston dogs—smooth, easy gait, lofty style on point, strong bird-finding ability and natural backing.

I first saw Belle at Paul’s farm when she was a one-year-old.  We were working some of his young dogs and as he took Belle out, he smiled and said, “You’ll like this one.” He was right.

That summer I took Belle to our prairie camp in North Dakota.  She looked beautiful running in the pastures and alfalfa fields and found more than her share of birds. Out there, I learned of Belle’s uncanny ability to know which direction I was headed and to always show to the front. She took in a lot of ground on the prairie but always wanted to hunt for me.

She adapted easily to the grouse woods and even though she had more speed and range than was really necessary, she used it to her advantage.

Belle spent the winter of 2002-2003 with trainer Roger Buddin of Big Country Kennel in Texas. With Roger’s skill and patience, she learned to handle bobwhites and also matured considerably. That spring, she placed in every derby stake and won the 2003 MN/WI Cover Dog Derby of the Year Award.

On her final derby placement, I accepted the purse and officially became a professional handler.


Belle as a field trial champion


A young Belle in North Dakota (Chris Mathan photo)

Belle came of age in the fall of 2005 and for the ensuing three years, was among the top point-earning grouse trial dogs in the country. She placed first in back-to-back Wisconsin Cover Dog and Minnesota Grouse Dog Championships. The following spring, she won runner-up in the Grand National Grouse and Woodcock Invitational Championship and won the MN/WI Cover Shooting Dog of the Year Award. In 2006, she was runner-up in both the Minnesota Grouse Dog and the Lake States Grouse Dog Championships. Her final win was in the fall of 2007 when, again, she was runner-up at the Minnesota Grouse Dog Championship.  

No other dog has placed in the Minnesota Grouse Dog Championship three times. She finished her career with two championships and four runner-up championships.


Belle:  Highlights and lowlights

•    Veteran Minnesota grouse trialers still mention Belle’s win of an open derby stake.  She had a blistering, mature race and a scouted, stone-cold-broke grouse find on a part of the course that hasn’t seen a grouse since.  

•    I only lost Belle once at a field trial. During a raging thunderstorm and downpour at the Lake State Grouse Championship, she became lost.  We found her 20 minutes later, running the road and looking for me.

•    Belle won the Namekagon Sharptail Classic run from horseback in 2005 and placed in it for the following three years.

•    I ran her two times in the National Open Prairie Chicken Shooting Dog Championship held near Buena Vista, Wisconsin.  After her performances in 2005, one of the judges, Hall-of-Fame-handler Freddie Epp, rode up to me and drawled, “Your dog ran an ideal shooting dog race and, with a bird, she could have been a champion.”

•    In 2007, Belle was invited to the Grand National Grouse and Woodcock Invitational Championship due to her runner-up placement in the trial the previous year.  She began her first brace with a beautiful woodcock find and, true to her style, was tearing up the course in search of birds. A bit later, we found her on point, to the front and right of the course and in full view of judges, marshalls and gallery. She looked magnificent—strong, confident and lofty. As a judge and I walked in to flush, the grouse blew out low over Belle’s head and, to my disbelief and chagrin, she broke. Like a puppy, she chased that bird through the gallery and right past wide-eyed, speechless Paul. It was heart wrenching at the time, but today, it brings a smile and a tear.


Belle as a dam

Belle and her 2008 litter

Belle was bred five times and all to different sires as Paul and I planned the best matches. Most of her puppies were sold to bird hunters, where they have done extremely well, but several are campaigned and with much success.



2005:  Gusty Blue

Paul kept a tri-color female, Houston’s Belle’s Choice, that I trained and competed with until about four years-of-age. Choice placed fourth in the Grand National Puppy Classic and was named first reserve dog in the Grand National Grouse Futurity, both held in Marienville, Pennsylvania.  Choice won a good-sized shooting dog stake as a derby and had several grouse trial placements before being sold to another client for his hunting string.

2007:  Blue Shaquille

 Two of these puppies were trialed and both garnered placements in horseback AKC and grouse trials.

2008:  CH Can’t Go Wrong

This breeding produced two outstanding field trial dogs. Ridge Creek Cody placed in the Quail Futurity and was the recipient of the 2010 Bill Conlin Setter Shooting Dog Derby. Houston’s Blackjack placed in horseback derby stakes and all-age competition.  Two other litter brothers competed and won placements in grouse and walking field trials.

2009:  CH Magic’s Rocky Belleboa

Four puppies went on to be field trial winners—three in grouse trials and one in horseback stakes.  

2010:  Northwoods Blue Ox

Her final litter produced only three puppies.  While these are still quite young, Houston’s Miss Liddy, placed in a puppy stake and another, Merimac’s Blu Monday, shows great promise.

While her passing leaves a void that will never be filled, we have many of her progeny in our kennel, as does Paul. Her daughter, Houston’s Belle’s Choice, is an outstanding producer herself. Three of Choice’s progeny dominated the grouse trial derby stakes this past spring and one of them, Northwoods Chardonnay, won the 2011 MN/WI Cover Dog Derby of the Year Award. Every breeding female we have in the kennel traces back to Belle and we are especially excited about our breeding of Chardonnay to Houston’s Blackjack.  This litter will have three crosses to Houston and two are through Belle.



Limit of grouse for client courtesy of Belle!

Hall-of-Fame handler and co-developer of the famous Smith setters Harold Ray judged the 2006 Grand National Grouse Championship in Marienville where Belle and 73 others competed.  When interviewed after the trial he named Belle as one of the select dogs he would love to have in his horseback shooting dog string. He said, “These dogs could go anywhere I run…The good ones will do good anywhere they run.”

Harold Ray was right. Belle won on the prairies of the Midwest and in the grouse woods of the Lake States and over the hills of Pennsylvania. She pointed grouse after grouse after grouse for our guiding clients.  And better than all of that, she continued a legacy that will be enjoyed for many, many years.

Thank you, Paul, for giving me the opportunity to work with Belle.

Thank you, Belle.  May the wind always be in your face and the birds plentiful.

CH Houston’s Belle

Photo by Chris Mathan

Jerry and I are very sad to report that Paul Hauge had to make a heart-wrenching decision about Belle last week. She was diagnosed with painful and fast-spreading bone cancer in her rear legs. Paul laid her to rest on Thursday, April 28. She was 10 years old.

Belle was a 2x CH/4x RU-CH, all on grouse and woodcock and in championship venues in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. In addition, she was Minnesota/Wisconsin Derby of the Year in 2003 and Minnesota/Wisconsin Shooting Dog of the Year in 2005.

2007     RU-CH Minnesota Grouse Championship

2006     RU-CH Minnesota Grouse Championship

             RU-CH Lakes State Grouse Championship

             RU-CH Grand National Grouse & Woodcock Invitational   

2005     CH Minnesota Grouse Championship

             CH Wisconsin Cover Dog Championship

Belle was bred and owned by Paul but Jerry and I first got her as a one-year-old to begin her training and development. Fortunately, Jerry and Paul had a mutual commitment to her success because, essentially, we shared her. Paul let us have her with us almost as much as she lived with him.  

Belle leaves a huge hole in our kennel…..but also what a legacy. As we look up and down our runs, Belle’s blood is everywhere. And we’re grateful for that.

We share Paul’s sorrow and loss…..but we will never forget her…..CH Houston’s Belle.

Northwoods Birds Dogs    53370 Duxbury Road, Sandstone, Minnesota 55072
Jerry: 651-492-7312     |      Betsy: 651-769-3159     |           |      Directions
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