Scott Berry and his wife Lynn bought two-year-old Northwoods Brie (Northwoods Blue Ox x Houston’s Belle’s Choice female) last year. Scott is an avid bird hunter and grouse guide for Ides Guides in Park Falls, Wisconsin, where Brie is used on guided hunts. Too, judging by the photos they’ve emailed, Brie has become a pampered family pet.
Scott recently sent a link to a television news story that appeared on WQOW out of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Brie is on point over a woodcock in the opening scene.
The piece is well done and very interesting. It features Gary Zimmer, Coordinating Biologist of the Ruffed Grouse Society, and Terry Ides, who along with his wife JoAnne, are participants in a grouse and woodcock habitat improvement project. The multi-year plan is part of Wisconsin Coverts Projects.
There is also cool information about woodcock and beautiful footage of a grouse in flight.
Here is the link to the video: Time to Regenerate
Chablis (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice) finds a covey in tall broomsedge bluestem (Andropogon virginicus).
Jerry and I have been in the Thomasville area of southwestern Georgia since January 5 and now are fully in the groove. We’ve even started eating grits, pimento cheese and mayhaw jelly.
Since there were few reported wild coveys on the 600-acre farm where the kennel and house are located, Jerry reserved 175 quail and planned to put out coveys. He explored the grounds to find 12 spots with good cover.
Tripp (Houston x Northwoods Blue Babe) has a beautiful find in the middle of a large strip.
In the afternoon of the day he picked up the quail, we placed 12 birds and spread a bucket of milo at each location. He put the balance of 31 birds in the Johnny house.
After giving the quail a bit of time to settle in, Jerry started working dogs on them. He has also driven the quick six miles to the Miami Plantation, a 2,000-acre plantation managed specifically for wild birds that is part of our farm.
The dogs have pointed quail in different locations and in various types of habitat—including mown and harrowed strips, edges near deciduous shrubs and small trees, in knocked down (un-identified) cane-y plants and near clumps of broomsedge bluestem (Andropogon virginicus).
Even though the habitat can be diverse, one genus of plants provides a unifying look and feel to the landscape. Stately pine trees, either longleaf (Pinus palustris) or loblolly (Pinus taeda), tower high overhead.
Franny (Northwoods Blue Ox x CH Houston’s Belle) points a quail covey at the edge of a harrowed strip.
In the shadow of a tall pine, Liz (CH Magic’s Rocky Belleboa x CH Houston’s Belle) nails a covey.
Choice (Gusty Blue x CH Houston’s Belle) has a nice find on a covey that was buried in dense cover at the edge of field.
Setter puppy Manhattan (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chardonnay) and Labrador May (rather unusual but not unprecedented for May) score a divided find while stylish setter puppy Rickey (Blue Shaquille x Snyder’s Liz) backs.
A covey of bobwhite quail flush under the pines of a southern Georgia plantation.
For almost as long as I’ve been training bird dogs, I’ve used bobwhite quail. I’ve planted single quail, flushed quail from various recall pens and put out free coveys. I’ve followed their tracks in the snow; watched as a separated covey re-grouped; and observed roosting and feeding areas. Whether in Minnesota, Texas, Oklahoma, Illinois, Tennessee or Georgia, I’ve watched hundreds of encounters between bobwhites and dogs.
In addition, I’ve been on countless hunting trips for quail throughout the Midwest. All this experience and observation has taught me a lot about their preferences and habits.
On our home training grounds, I buy enough bobwhites in July to fill four Johnny houses and use them until the snow stops me from training. These quail grow into extremely strong flyers that know their terrain as well as a wild bird. They even become comfortable enough to remain outside the recall pens and are healthy enough to survive on their own during winter conditions.
In August 2012, a covey disappeared from a recall pen and Dan and I couldn’t use that Johnny house during fall training. In mid December we heard that a covey of 11 had been flushed not far from the pen. This covey had been on its own for four months! When I checked it out—and by then it had snowed five inches—the covey flushed wild from a hillside with tall oak trees. The area was covered with quail tracks, snow had been scratched away and acorn pieces were scattered everywhere. Those birds had discovered a great food supply and had thrived.
Sometimes, though, they just disappear and I don’t know why.
Here are more observations about bobwhite quail.
• Late in October 2011, Dan and I put out a covey in a likely location—a south-facing slope with lots of good cover options—and then spread feed around the area several times each week. In spite of several snow falls and sub-zero temperatures, we saw this covey into early March 2012.
• Dogs often find ruffed grouse in the vicinity of the recall houses. This might be coincidental but it does seem quail and grouse are in close proximity. In fact, I’ve seen evidence that grouse feed on the scratch grain we spread for the put-out coveys.
• Like most adult game birds, the worst predators for bobwhites are hawks and owls. Often when it’s difficult to flush them from the Johnny house, a hawk is the reason. One will swoop in after some birds have been encouraged to leave. Cooper’s hawks are especially deadly. Countless times in Tennessee I saw a Cooper’s leaving a covey location when I approached to spread feed. They even chased quail when flushed from a covey in front of a dog’s point.
• Last year, I hauled two dozen quail from our Tennessee training grounds back to Minnesota, thinking I could use them for some spring training. Even though Dan and I flushed a few, they didn’t recall back to their Johnny house. My guess is that they had started to pair up and preferred to stay out with their chosen mates. One male in particular started showing up around our house in early May. Betsy and I saw him only occasionally but heard his distinctive whistle almost daily. Later in June, our neighbor Jeff spotted a female quail with several chicks just east of our kennel. This brood turned into a small covey that was flushed occasionally in the same vicinity until late fall.
Jerry and I are heartbroken to pass along the news that 5XCH/7X RU-CH Westfall’s Black Ice died in December. Even though Ice was healthy when I saw him in June, he had recurring cancerous growths that finally overtook him.
Ice was always impressive in the field and racked up championship win after championship win. But we liked Ice perhaps even more because of his temperament. His beautiful brown eyes were intelligent and displayed a calmness and good disposition. Ice was handsome, too. He was black-and-white with an evenly marked head. He was lightly ticked and had no body spots.
Ice was owned by Bill and Ryan Westfall of Liberty, Missouri. Jerry and I got to know Ice when we trained on their farm in Tennessee.
Ice is a multiple shooting dog champion with a pedigree to back it up. He is out of the very successful nick of Rock Acre Blackhawk x Elhew Katie Lee whose progeny included many field trial winners and even more outstanding wild bird dogs.
Even though Ice himself was bred sparingly during his lifetime, he had the pre-potency of his sire and produced an impressive list of field trial winners. His numbers are 34-24-213.
When we bred him to Northwoods Prancer in 2011, the entire litter of eight females was outstanding grouse dogs—natural, keen, easy to train, loved to retrieve and even liked the water. Plus, most importantly, all were well-adjusted with happy personalities.
Thankfully, we can carry on with some of Ice’s talented daughters, including our own Northwoods Vixen.
Jerry and I are happy to be in southwest Georgia, near the town of Thomasville and quail plantations galore. The kennels and house are very nice and we’re all settling in. The landscape is beautiful with tall loblolly and longleaf pines dominating a rather open understory.
Gus, Lucy, Grits, Jill and May in central Kentucky.
The trip down was smooth and uneventful…..and therefore just about perfect. We had made arrangements for daytime dog stops and evening motel stops. Even though much of the Midwest and virtually all of Illinois are flat, we appreciated easy driving conditions in those areas, especially in comparison to southeastern Tennessee. Outlying ranges of the Appalachians run through the area which makes for winding roads and quite of few grade changes.
The incredibly high volume of trucks—huge tractor/trailer rigs—on the interstates continually amazes us. It is clearly evident that our nation’s commerce depends on semis.
Jerry did an excellent job of pairings in the truck dog box and trailer and, luckily enough, we had fairly even numbers of males and females. Two females got to ride alone—Prancer (in season) and Silk (deserves the honor due to her age).
Here’s a mini rundown of the trailer-mates:
• Franny and Manny—perfect together
• Carly and Tyler—littermates/identical twins from our rock-band-naming theme
• Liz and Oscar—old pros
• Trixie & Teeny—win Cutest & Smallest Award
• Lucy and Gus—win Most Exuberant Award
• Sally & Tripp—win Sweetest Award
• Jill & Grits—win Best of Trip Award due to overall excellent behavior
Jeff Hintz and CH JTH Izzie
Maybe Izzie is as sharp as Snoopy and can read. One look into her beautiful, brown eyes does reveal her intelligence and good sensibility.
Izzie has been featured in three recent blog posts and perhaps has glanced over Jeff’s shoulder when he powers up his Ipad. She is definitely our poster child for “How to pick a puppy.”
November 28, 2012: How to pick a puppy
“Since at eight weeks of age it’s impossible to definitively know what the puppy will become, any puppy should be ideal—no matter the picking order, no matter whether it’s the first pick or last.”
About two years ago, Jeff was in the market for a puppy and, in exchange for his work with us, we made a deal. He could have the last pick of our Ice x Prancer litter.
November 21, 2012: Winning wild bird field trial championships
“Even though Izzie is just a derby, I feel compelled to include her because she has all the makings to be a champion.”
Izzie was whelped on April 17, 2011 (she is only 20 months old!) and was very successful last fall. In four derby stakes, she won two and twice placed second.
October 8, 2012: Jeff and Izzie: An inseparable pair
“Izzie is a sweetheart in the house and a tiger in the field. She was quite precocious and last year Jeff successfully hunted her on grouse, woodcock and the quail of southern Arizona.”
Too, Izzie has the genes of a champion. Her sire is Westfall’s Black Ice, a five-time champion and seven-time runner-up champion. Out of Northwoods Prancer on the bottom side, her great grandparents were both multiple grouse champions, Brooks Elhew Ranger and Dance Smartly. Rather unusual for a dam, both parents of Dance Smartly were also multiple champions, Northern Dancer and Vanidestine’s Rail Lady (a six-time champion!).
But, truly, Jeff deserves all the credit. What any dog becomes depends on how it is raised, developed, handled and trained. Since she was a four-month-old puppy, Izzie has been hunted and worked at least three days a week.
In early January, on the Empire Ranch of Sonoita, Arizona, Izzie was named champion at the Region 12 Amateur Walking Shooting Dog Championship. She ran a strong, forward race and went on point where no dog had gone. At the shot, she stood tall and firm. Amazingly just days before, Izzie had placed third in the horseback derby stake.
Congratulations, Jeff and Izzie! You deserve that big blue ribbon.
The purpose of a pointing dog is to hunt, find birds and point them until the shooter arrives. Unlike flushing dogs, they are supposed to hunt outside of shotgun range and find birds the hunter would not have found otherwise
…And range, although it is partly governed by training, is basically in the blood. Anything you do to alter it requires continued effort.
~ George Bird Evans, Troubles With Bird Dogs
The distance a dog hunts, or makes casts, from its handler is referred to as its range. Range is a genetic quality that can be selectively bred just as square heads, long legs and desire for birds. Consequently, a dog is born with a tendency to hunt at a certain range. If two wide-ranging dogs are bred, odds are the offspring will also be wide ranging. The same can be said for close- and medium-ranging dogs. This inherited range can be modified through training, but trying to make drastic changes can have a negative impact on a dog’s hunting ability.
Range is somewhat difficult to describe because dogs don’t consistently hunt at a specific distance from the handler. While a dog hunts, it is either going away or checking in with the handler. A dog that will willingly make contact, either visually or by sound, at frequent intervals during the hunt is said to be handling. This checking, to a large extent, determines the dog’s range.
In open country, the dog might see the handler from several hundred yards away but in tight cover that distance might be less than 20 yards. Making contact confirms the whereabouts of the dog and that it is hunting in the right direction. Our grouse dogs may make casts of 100 – 200 yards through the woods—depending on the density of the cover—but at the end of each cast, they hunt their way forward and make eye contact as they cross in front. As an alternative, they might stop and listen for our whereabouts before continuing to hunt.
Good hunting dogs are divided into three classes: wide, medium and close ranging. It is not practical to try to make a close-ranging dog out of either of the two other classes. You positively cannot make a wide ranging dog out of a close-in hunting dog. The wide and medium range dogs should be trained so that they will hunt close in under restraint. After the restraint is lifted, they will revert to their natural range.
~ Er Shelley, Bird Dog Training Today and Tomorrow, 1921
A common thought is that a wide-ranging dog finds more birds because it covers more territory. Actually, though, two dogs hunting at the same speed can only hunt the same amount of ground. The difference lies in what ground was hunted. This is where coverage of ground comes into play.
A wide-ranging dog may cover more linear distance, but it doesn’t cover that ground as thoroughly as a closer-ranging dog. Depending on the nature of the terrain being hunted, this could make a difference in which type of dog finds the most birds.
At Northwoods Bird Dogs, we favor a well-conformed, athletic dog with a strong desire to find birds; and one that has the ability to adapt its range using intelligence as opposed to one with circumscribed range because it is physically inferior or lacks desire. Our type of dog will naturally adjust its range and speed depending on the terrain being hunted and the pace of the handler. This dog will hunt wider in prairie, desert or field edges, but shorten up its range in thick or wooded areas. Along with increasing their range, they will also increase their speed when hunted in open areas.
Some dogs have the ability to adapt their range to different types of country and handle themselves properly no matter what type of terrain they are asked to work. But this quality is unusual and valuable, indeed, when a dog possesses it in a marked degree.
~ Henry P. Davis, Training Your Own Bird Dog, 1948
For a dog to have such an adjustable range, it must not only be intelligent but must have a strong desire to work with and please its handler. The latter quality falls under the broad category of “trainability” and is one of the most important traits in a dog. A trainable dog will allow its range, and other habits, to be more easily modified and without the side effects of one that is less trainable.
Top photo of Northwoods Vixen taken by Chris Mathan, The Sportsman’s Cabinet.