Tennessee 2012: training report

Betsy and I are winding down our second session of training in Tennessee. We’re organizing everything, packing up,  cleaning up and are headed home tomorrow. Even with the weather that is more summer-like, it has been great because we didn’t miss a day of training. The birds were plentiful and, most importantly, the dogs we’ve had here have learned so much and made such good progress, always so gratifying.

Here are some photographs.

Birdee (CH Westfalls Black Ice x Northwoods Prancer).

Two-year-old littermates Bleu and Kate (Northwoods Blue Ox x Houston’s Belle’s Chocie).

Gus (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice).

Jaz and Trudy (CH Ridge Creek Cody x CH Satin From Silk).

Lucy (CH Westfalls Black Ice x Northwoods Prancer) and Jaz.

Liddy (Northwoods Blue Ox x CH Houston’s Belle).

Slash and Pete (Houston’s Blackjack x Northwoods Chardonnay).

Piper (Blue Riptide x Blue Ghost).

Rosie (Blue Riptide x Blue Ghost).

Timber (CH Westfalls Black Ice x Northwoods Prancer).

Trixie (CH Ridge Creek Cody x CH Satin From Silk).


Training with bobwhite quail

Much of what a bird dog needs to know is learned from the birds themselves. Among those lessons is the key concept that the dog can’t catch the bird. The dog needs to understand that once it smells a bird, it should stop, point and stay on point. It will learn that moving closer will cause the bird to flush and once flushed, the bird is gone and the fun is over.

Female bobwhite quail on training grounds in western Tennessee.


Wild birds are the ultimate teacher of this lesson. But it’s not always possible or feasible to completely develop a dog on them. The next best option is to use liberated birds in situations where the birds act as close to wild as possible.

We’ve tried chukar partridge and Hungarian partridge but bobwhite quail have proved to be the best.

After some trial and error, I now have two reliable methods of working with quail. Both worked at our home kennel and at winter training sites in Oklahoma and Tennessee.

First, though, it’s important to find the right habitat. The cover needs to be thin enough so the birds can easily fly from it, but also near enough to areas with heavy cover where they can fly to and escape.

My preferred method is to establish a strong, well-seasoned covey using a Johnny house. I basically “train” these quail by flushing them from the house many, many times. They fly into the surrounding area and become familiar with the cover.  The more these birds are used, the better they get. After they’re adjusted to the habitat, it’s not uncommon to have the covey disappear for a day or more before coming back to the house and, when they do that, you have some great training birds.

The second option is to release a covey in a likely area surrounded by a good mix of cover. I then feed them three times per week to keep them coming back. There are two big disadvantages:  the whole covey can be lost and these birds aren’t as reliable as Johnny house quail. But this method is invaluable for advanced training and teaching a dog that birds are not always easy to find.

We put great effort into having quality released birds for training; it’s expensive and time consuming. Ultimately, it’s worth it because the better the birds, the better the bird dog.

Martha Greenlee’s article on Steady With Style provides excellent advice on using training birds.

Tennessee 2012: roll call


Trudy (CH Ridge Creek Cody x CH Satin From Silk)

It’s a toss-up. Which aspect of our business gives Jerry and me more satisfaction—whelping puppies or having those puppies come back for training?

When we see such a cool group of dogs as we have here with us in Tennessee during this second training session, it’s hard not to choose the latter. (But where would we be without the puppies at all? See what I mean?)

With the exception of Jaz, all dogs were either bred by us or the sire and/or dam were out of our dogs.


Patch (Dashaway x Fallset Fate)

Here’s the roll call.


Shooting Dogs

•    Patch:  Dashaway x Fallset Fate (whelped March 2008)

•    Guster:  Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice (whelped January 2009)


•    Piper and Rosie:  litter sitters from Blue Riptide x Blue Ghost (whelped May 2010)

•    Franny and Liddy:  litter sisters from Northwoods Blue Ox x CH Houston’s Belle (whelped February 2010)

•    Bleu, Brie, Grace, Kate and Sean:  littermates from Northwoods Blue Ox x Houston’s Belle’s Choice (whelped April 2010)


Liddy (Northwoods Blue Ox x CH Houston’s Belle)



•    Birdee, Lucy, Timber and Vixen:  litter sisters from CH Westfall’s Black Ice x Northwoods Prancer (whelped April 2011)

•    Trixie and Trudy:  litter sisters from CH Ridge Creek Cody x CH Satin From Silk (whelped March 2011)

•    Pete and Slash:  litter brothers from Houston’s Blackjack x Northwoods Chardonnay (whelped June 2011)

•    Jaz:  bred by Goodgoing Kennels (whelped April 2011)

Minnesota & Wisconsin spring grouse trial schedule

Spring 2004 Open Shooting Dog winners:  Bob Saari with CH Bobby Blue, Jim Tande with Heartwood and Don Dack with his pointer.


Spring is in the air and there’s no better time to be in the woods watching bird dogs compete with like-minded enthusiasts. The local trials in Minnesota and Wisconsin are some of few in the nation that are still run on wild birds. Ours are run on ruffed grouse and woodcock.


Each hosting club works hard to maintain multiple courses through native habitat and to provide different venues that challenge dogs in unique ways. Stakes are offered for three different-aged dogs—Puppy, Derby and Shooting Dog.


Trial information and contact persons are listed below. You can also contact us for any general information. Our news page provides directions to the three field trial grounds.

We encourage you to come. See what it’s all about or enter your dog and find out first hand!

Chippewa Valley Grouse Dog Association:   March 30 – April 1

Location:  Eau Claire County Forest, near Augusta, WI

Stakes:  Amateur Shooting Dog, Open Shooting Dog, Open Derby and Open Restricted Shooting Dog

Contact:  Roger King, 715-845-6833

Minnesota Grouse Dog Association:  April 6-7

Location:  Rum River State Forest, near Mora, MN

Stakes:  Open Shooting, Open Derby, Open Puppy, Amateur Shooting Dog

Contact:  Brett Edstrom, 507-993-6413

Website:  www.mngda.blogspot.com

Minnesota Grouse Dog Association:  April 13 – 15

Location:  Rum River State Forest, near Mora, MN

Stakes:  Open Shooting, Open Derby, Open Puppy, Amateur Shooting Dog

Contact:  Ben McKean, 612-325-2988

Website:  www.mngda.blogspot.com

Moose River Grouse Dog Club:  April 21 – 22 (tentative)

Location:  Douglas County Forest, near Moose Junction, WI

Stakes:  Open Shooting Dog, others to be announced

Contact:  Sig Degitz, 715-374-2289


Tennessee 2012: shaving day report


Franny (Northwoods Blue Ox x CH Houston’s Belle)

On this bright, sunny March afternoon, Jerry and I took some time to shave the second round of English setters we have here with us for training. Previously we worked on Grits and Pete and littermates Grace, Sean and Brie. Today we tackled two puppies, Trudy and Slash, and two older dogs, Guster and Liddy.

This is probably our last shaving episode for two reasons–some setter owners prefer the look of longer coats and we have a good number of pointers.

Puppies are generally the hardest to do because they’re unsure about what’s happening. Noisy clippers are scary at first. By the end of the session, though, they seem unconcerned about the clippers and are much more focused on getting lots of pets and attention.

Older dogs are easy to shave. They know the routine and relish our ministrations.

All dogs get a big biscuit as a reward for undergoing the ordeal.

Birdee (CH Westfall’s Black Ice x Northwoods Prancer)

While Jerry and I were busy at our task, other dogs spent the time lounging in their kennel or taking a turn on the chain.

Piper (Blue Riptide x Blue Ghost)
In front: Trixie (CH Ridge Creek Cody x Satin From Silk). In back: Grits (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis), Slash, Pete (both from Houston’s Blackjack x Northwoods Chardonnay), Jaz, Chuck, Grace (Northwoods Blue Ox x Houston’s Belle’s Choice).



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