In a beautiful piece of cover with tall pines, a small field and border of broomsedge bluestem, Lewis, left, and Buddy walk in for the flush of a big covey.
Although Jerry is perhaps most well known for his grouse guiding skills, he has several years of experience on bobwhite quail hunts in Texas. This year, though, is his first guiding in Georgia.
Just after Valentine’s Day, four guys from Atlanta, Buddy, Jack, Lewis and Oscar, loaded up their dogs and drove the easy four hours to our place here in southwest Georgia. They couldn’t have been a nicer group—real southern gentlemen—with soft drawls and easy smiles. Jerry enjoyed his hours in the field with them and we all had a good time at the end of the day with cocktails in front of a warm fire.
Most quail plantations that are serious about guided hunts have special vehicles. Ours has a Jeep chassis outfitted with dog boxes, gun racks and plenty of seats.
With shotguns in position, Lewis, left, and Jack move quickly up a furrowed row to the dog on point.
One beautiful morning, Grits (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis) locates a covey along a picturesque two-track while Lewis, shotgun ready, is set for the flush.
Oscar, left, and Lewis display nice shooting form when the covey rises.
Many quail plantations own an English cocker spaniel or two to retrieve downed birds. One afternoon, our cocker Penny had a stellar performance. She searched tenaciously for 14 minutes (Jerry timed it) until she found the winged quail. Upon the command, “Bring it to the truck,” off she ran and jumped onto the front seat of the Jeep.
During a good day in the field hunting wild bobwhite quail, Oscar finds it easy to smile.
While a judge watches, Shawn Kinkelaar shoots over Ridge Creek Cody just seconds after the covey flushed.
Besides the opportunity to train on a quail plantation, a compelling reason to live in southwest Georgia for a winter is its proximity to lots of cool dogs and field trials. The most prestigious horseback shooting dog trial, The National Open Shooting Dog Championship, began February 4 on the historic and beautifully groomed Sedgefields Plantation, just outside Union Springs, Alabama. Fortunately for me, Jim and Kathy Tande invited me to ride a morning with them.
You know you’re in bird dog country when a life-sized, bronze statue of a pointer (sculpted by Bob Wehle) that’s mounted on an 8-foot-tall column graces the middle of a main intersection of town; and when that town, Union Springs, claims to be the “Bird Dog Field Trial Capital of the World.”
Jim and Kathy Tande graciously offered me one of their horses so I could ride a morning brace of the National Open Shooting Dog Championship.
Betsy and I have known Jim and Kathy for a long time—going back to our years as competitors on the grouse trial circuit. Jim and Kathy still have a place in northern Minnesota but now winter near Arlington, Georgia, where Jim trains, competes in horseback field trials and is a sought-after judge.
This trial, now celebrating its 53rd anniversary, is unique in that dogs must quality by placing in specific trials and each brace is 90 minutes. Most of the handlers are professionals but a few amateurs compete, enticed perhaps, by the $10,000 purse. The birds here are bobwhite quail—all wild coveys—and are plentiful due to excellent management at Sedgefields.
Shawn Kinkelaar has an impressive string of championship dogs including Covey Rise Offlee Amazin, Skydancer Dancing Bell, Miller’s Atomic Rain and Ridge Creek Cody, the setter in the front.
This year 47 pointers and five setters competed. In a strange bit of kismet, Paul Hauge, Betsy and I bred two of the setters. CH Ridge Creek Cody (owned by Larry Brutger and handled by Shawn Kinkelaar) and Land Cruiser Scout (owned by Mike Cooke and handled by Jeanette Tracy) were littermates out of CH Can’t Go Wrong and CH Houston’s Belle in 2008.
Defying even more odds, Cody and Scout were in the same brace! Both dogs hunted hard, looked good running and scored a back. They each tallied four covey finds and stood staunch as their handlers fired blank .410 shotguns. Neither dog placed on this day…but I was very proud of them both.
Sedgefields Plantation built a very nice clubhouse that’s used for The National Open Shooting Dog Championship.
Blue Silk at 12 years of age. Photo by Chris Mathan.
If you had glimpsed Silk a month or so ago as she eagerly ran up the driveway from the kennel to the house, you would never have guessed she was 14 years old. Upon closer inspection, it still might not have occurred to you for little of her jet black fur had faded to gray. Only if you had looked into her eyes would you have noticed her years. They were full of wisdom, but also faded and opaque with age.
Jerry and I thought this might be a tough winter for Silk so we brought her along on our training trip to Georgia. Wouldn’t the warmth feel good on her old bones? And wouldn’t she love lounging on soft green grass?
Silk adapted well to our routine here and seemed healthy. So we weren’t at all prepared for her sudden illness and end.
One morning last week when we went to the kennel, Silk appeared dazed and disoriented—perhaps, we guessed, like she had just had a seizure of some kind. She recovered and seemed fine all day—even napped in the warm sunshine—until early evening when she had another. She recovered again but by the next morning, she had worsened with numerous, severe seizures. Jerry and I bathed her, wrapped her in a soft blanket and brought her to the vet.
Even though simple blood work and a physical exam ruled out many diseases, our experienced vet explained the most likely cause of Silk’s condition was a tumor of some kind that was growing quickly and pressing on her brain. It was clear that Silk’s long, happy, productive life was at an end. Jerry and I tearfully made the heart-breaking but humane decision for her.
Blue Silk and her sons, Northwoods Blue Ox, left, and Blue Shaquille.
Silk: the extraordinary dog.
Throughout her life, Jerry and I co-owned Silk with Paul Hauge. Even though she lived at our kennel, Paul was always proud of her. Silk was out of our 4XCH/4XRU-CH Blue Streak and CH First Rate, a multiple champion in horseback field trials. From both she inherited uncommon stamina and a tenacious application but had her own sweet disposition and even temperament. Similar to her uncle, CH Blue Smoke, Silk had a very accurate nose which allowed her to pin birds with precision. She placed in several field trials, one time even besting her famous dam. In 2001, Silk won the Minnesota/Wisconsin Derby of the Year. For several years, she was a first-string member of our grouse-guiding team.
At just a few weeks of age, a female puppy from the CH Peace Dale Duke x Blue Silk litter already shows the sweet temperament of her dam.
Silk: the dam.
Jerry and I bred Silk just three times. Her first litter was by Paul’s great dog, Houston, using frozen semen. We next chose a talented son of Houston, I’m Houston’s Image, and for her last litter, we went to the East Coast for CH Peace Dale Duke.
As evidenced by this list, Silk was an exceptional producer of both grouse dogs and field trial champions.
2004/Houston x Blue Silk
• Blue Shaquille, one of our best grouse dogs ever
• Sweet Dakota Blue, owned by Doug Wenell
• Kobe, owned by Sam Gary, Sr.
2006/I’m Houston’s Image x Blue Silk
• 2XCH/RU-CH I’m Blue Gert, owned by Dave and Rochel Moore
• CH Satin From Silk, owned by Greg and Diane Gress
• Beloved Blue Ghost, owned by Randy and Mo O’Brien
• Casey, owned by Jim DePolo
• Blue Spirit & Boomer
2007/CH Peace Dale Duke x Blue Silk
• Northwoods Blue Ox, our Oscar
• Northwoods Blue Babe, formerly owned by Paul Hauge
• Blue Peace Belle, owned by Steve Snyder
• Zeke The Streak
Silk: the pack leader.
Silk was our eldest dog and definitely the leader of the pack. No matter which dog was in the house with us—the Labrador May, strong Shaq, macho Oscar, Vixen the whippersnapper or even puppies in for rehab like Carly and Roy—Silk ruled. They shrank away from the water bucket if Silk wanted to drink. And with one significant look, all dogs would scatter so she could claim the big dog bed all to herself.
On Christmas morning 2012, Silk and May begin working on their huge chew toys from Santa.
Blue Silk is gone but she will never be forgotten. Of the 19 English setters we have with us here for training, all but three are out of Silk. Her sweet disposition, spirit and talent live on through all her famous sons and daughters and their offspring, here and elsewhere.
One early morning on the Miami Plantation, Grits (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis) had a nice covey find in the midst of lush, native wiregrass (Aristida stricta).
The weather here in southwest Georgia has been lovely and the bobwhite quail plentiful. Due to the warm temperatures, Jerry starts early in the morning, breaks in the middle of the day and then works until dark. All the strong storms have swung to our north so no days have been washed out.
Jerry has identified more than 30 wild covey locations on the Miami Plantation and, here on Arrowhead Farms, several of the put-out coveys and all the Johnny house birds are thriving.
Jerry and I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity to live and work in southwest Georgia. The training opportunities have been outstanding and the quail coveys couldn’t be more thrilling when they flush wild and strong. Best of all, the dogs are healthy and making excellent progress in the field.
Displaying the style of her famous parents, Trixie (CH Ridge Creek Cody x CH Satin From Silk) nails a covey behind a young longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) in its “grass” stage.
Even after the shot and even though panting, big, strong Gus (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice) stands tall and tight.
Oh, to be a puppy! Littermates out of Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chardonnay, Martini (left) and Manhattan, cool off in a horse tank during an afternoon training session.
Carly (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice) finally nails a single bobwhite in a harrowed strip after the covey had run the entire length.
Even though Tyler (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice) gets credit for this find on a big covey, Franny (Northwoods Blue Ox x CH Houston’s Belle) came in and backed on her own.
Oscar (CH Peace Dale Duke x Blue Silk) was moving so fast when he winded a quail covey that his ear stayed flapped back.
This broken stick was embedded deep in the back of the mouth and into neck tissue of Northwoods Grits when he just a puppy. Our vet expertly removed the stick and Grits recovered perfectly.
The grouse woods are a tough place for a bird dog to work. Big, rotting logs and downed tree limbs are scattered everywhere. Young aspen cuttings and stands of hazel are tight and can be almost impenetrable and swamp edges can be thick with alders. Dogs must be nimble and be able to react quickly for they are constantly jumping over, ducking under and pushing through some sort of obstacle. Other hunting cover types such as field edges, wide open deserts and mowed pine plantations seem tame in comparison.
Grouse dogs have to make their own way in the woods and in addition to being physically demanding, it’s often hazardous.
Our dogs have run into plenty—from mere scrapes and bangs to some very serious situations—but (knock on wood), Betsy and I have yet to lose a dog. Listed below, in alphabetical order, are the hazards we’ve encountered and what we do. Our advice is based on years of experience and guidance from our veterinarians, so much so that we’re now able to handle many of the problems ourselves. When in doubt, though, please go to a vet and go quickly. Often, time is of the essence.
All manner of seeds–some even quite long–can enter a dog’s eye and cause problems.
Seeds and other debris often get in the corners of the eyes and sometimes under the eyelids. One of the worst culprits is a long, black seed that can get under the third eyelid and cause serious abrasion.
What we do: After each session, we rinse the eyes with sterile eye wash. A dampened Q-tip can be carefully run along the inside bottom of the eye to remove stubborn debris. If a dog develops matter in its eyes or reddened lower lids, we apply Terramycin (non-steroidal, antibiotic ophthalmic ointment) twice a day for 3-5 days.
If a dog paws at its eye or keeps the eye partially closed, something more serious is usually going on. Get the dog to the vet as soon as possible.
Warning: Never apply steroidal eye ointment on a dog’s eye without consulting a vet.
Eyes: fur worn off underneath
Certain, hard-driving dogs that would rather go through things than around are prone to wearing off the fur under their eyes. A secondary problem occurs when the area bloodies and scabs over.
What we do: Vaseline applied carefully (avoid the eyes) works fairly well for protection but usually the problem recurs especially if early in the season. Pace the dog’s time in the woods.
Occasionally, debris, seeds or sticks can actually scratch the cornea.
What we do: Some are small enough to heal themselves with assistance from Terramycin (non-steroidal, antibiotic ophthalmic ointment) applied twice a day for 3-5 days. But if the dog paws at its eye or keeps the eye partially closed, get the dog to a vet as soon as possible.
Warning: Never apply steroidal eye ointment on a dog’s eye without consulting a vet.
The damage to the right eye of Northwoods Rob Roy was caused by an infection that entered through a small scratch. The spot should slowly shrink so it’s barely noticeable.
Eyes: weird bacterial infection
Last fall, our six-month-old setter puppy Northwoods Rob Roy received what everyone thought was a simple scratch on his eye while hunting in north central Wisconsin. But some sort of bacteria entered the eye via the scratch and, within 24 hours, the situation grew very serious. An infection developed that basically ate away the eyeball until his eye was in danger of bursting. With hourly applications of antibiotic drops and miraculous assistance from Chris Bye and Dan Stadin, we kept Roy quiet until our vet performed a complicated corneal graft surgery. The surgery was successful but Roy is still on eye drops and will always have a small, grayish spot on his cornea.
Lesson learned: Be extremely vigilant of seemingly minor injuries.
Randy got an mouthful of porcupine quills.
Betsy and I have been fortunate to have few problems with porcupines but I’ve seen bad ones. Sometimes a dog (usually males…pointer males are the worst) will actually hunt for porcupines. A lot depends on the dog’s temperament and its first encounter. If the result is just a few quills, it usually doesn’t develop into an issue. But if the dog gets a mouthful because it’s trying to kill the porcupine, the problem can be life-long.
What we do: For just a few quills and a cooperative dog, remove the quills with a Leatherman tool or hemostat. Be careful to get them all and don’t break any. Quills left in the dog can migrate around the body and exit through the neck, jaw and eyes. If in doubt, get the dog to a vet to check for remaining quills. For a bad encounter, get the dog to a vet.
Scrapes: belly and inner thighs
Grasses, ferns and thorns can scrape the belly and inner thigh area and sometimes cause a secondary problem of small pustules. This is more common on certain breeds (pointers) and under certain conditions (early season or open fields and meadows).
What we do: Apply Bacitracin (first aid antibiotic ointment) and rest the dog.
Scrapes: knuckles and forelegs
Gear on the neck—whether ecollars, tracking collars, beepers, bells or Garmins— can hang too low, be too big or be too much. It can also be a matter of mechanics, i.e., a dog that runs with a low head and/or raises its front legs.
What we do: Make adjustments to the neck gear. Try switching from a bell to a beeper, place the bell on top of the neck and/or have the gear ride higher on the neck. Or use less gear.
Grasses, ferns and thorns can abrade fur and/or scrape legs. Foreleg (where the legs meet the chest) abrasion is caused by running through tall grass. Again, both are more common on certain breeds (pointers) and under certain conditions (early season or open fields and meadows).
What we do: Apply Bacitacin (first aid antibiotic ointment) and rest the dog.
The wrists are the part of the leg above and behind the pad. Abrasions and scrapes to this area are caused by woody stubs, thick brush, etc.
What we do: Apply Bacitracin (first aid antibiotic ointment) or EMT gel and rest the dog.
Some grass seeds can be ingested through the mouth as the dog pants or enter the body through the skin. The most dangerous seeds have small barbs that allow them to penetrate farther as muscles and skin contract. These seeds can become encapsulated near the skin surface and cause localized swelling, or worse, can migrate into the body cavity.
What we do: Be vigilant about masses near surface, especially at the end of the rib cage. All of our dogs that developed such a mass required a trip to the vet.
Sticks and other foreign stuff
Betsy and I have had several dogs get a puncture-type wound in the pad, foot and ankle area from sticks and stiff weeds. Dogs can also drive stuff into other body parts, such as mouth, nose, neck, throat and chest. While these are rarely life threatening, I’ve had two very close calls.
One of my first setters, Patch, got a stick in his neck. When I pulled the stick out, blood immediately gushed out. So I stuck my finger over the hole and hurried to a vet.
More recently, Northwoods Grits somehow got a five-inch stick embedded deep in his mouth and into his neck. I couldn’t see anything at first but when I checked later in the evening, he was definitely not feeling well. Wayne, a physician/friend/guiding client, felt what turned out to be the end of stick. We rushed him to the vet. Amazingly, no surgery was required; the vet simply sedated Grits and pulled the stick out.
What we do: All but the most obvious of these injuries will require a trip to the vet.
One ingenious method to protect a broken tail is an empty plastic syringe case.
Broken tails are an uncommon occurrence. The break usually occurs about ¼ to 1/3 from the tip and results in a slightly bend at the break. The fracture can be felt by very gently palpating the bent area.
What we do: While some breaks heal on their own with no long-term problems, we advise a trip to the vet. Our vets have successfully set severe breaks. One ingenuously covered the broken area with an empty syringe case. The difficult part is keeping the tail relatively quiet for 4 – 6 weeks.
Tails: fur worn off, bloody
Some breeds (pointers) and some dogs (very active tail…carried just so) are prone to wearing the fur off the tip of the tail. Eventually the skin becomes thin and the tail bleeds.
What we do: This is a tough one. Apply EMT gel for protection before heading into the woods. To help heal the area after hunting, apply more EMT gel. We’ve tried several methods of taping—all with limited success because tails move so much. Dave Hughes, pro grouse dog trainer, developed a method that worked fairly well for later in the season and/or if the tail was in bad shape. From the tip to just above the base, wrap loosely with masking tape. Then wind electrical tape in a candy-cane design over the masking tape. Be very careful when taping so there’s not too much weight or the tape isn’t too tight.
An entire post could be devoted to this subject as it is complicated and generally in flux as new discoveries are made. Here is the pertinent information…currently.
Lyme disease (caused by bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato), ehrlichisos (caused by bacteria in the genera Erlichia), anaplasmosis (caused by bacteria in the genera Anaplasma ; very confusing taxonomy between Erlichia and Anaplasma with continual changes by the scientific community), babesiosis (caused by protozoa Babesia microti) and other tick borne diseases yet to be identified are a major problem in certain parts of the country.
One fall, several dogs in our kennel become symptomatic but nothing could be identified (even by Marshfield Labs!). Common signs of the diseases are lameness in one or more legs caused by joint pain or muscle pain, high fever (often over 104), intermittent elevated fever, loss of appetite and, depending on the specific disease, nausea and vomiting.
What we do: We administer the antibiotic doxycycline for 30 days. Within a day or two, the symptoms disappear. If a dog is under nine months of age, consult a vet about the correct antibiotic to use since doxycycline can cause problems with teeth in puppies.
Torn dew claws
Betsy and I think this is an extremely uncommon and overrated problem. In fact, for many reasons, we don’t remove dew claws on tiny puppies anymore. We’ve had less than a handful of these injuries and none was serious.
What we do: Clip off any remaining part of the nail and disinfect daily Bacitracin (first aid antibiotic ointment). Rest the dog for a day or two.
Northwoods Luna (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chardonnay) Age: 6 months Lives: Twin Cities
From her owner: “Luna absolutely loves the snow and exploring her new territory!! Her transition to our home has been very smooth and we adore her. We can’t tell you how lucky we are to have her.”
More than anything else about our business, what gives Jerry and me the most pleasure and the most gratification is good news from clients. We love seeing our dogs with their new families and in all their new situations—whether running joyfully through the snow, posing after a successful hunt, showing puppy pointing posture or just lounging in a warm house.
Some of our owners are excellent photographers as well. Enjoy!
Northwoods Santana (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis) Age: 7 months Lives: Twin Cities and cabin “up north”
From her owner: “Here’s a sight point on one of the 100s of gray squirrels we have this year. I snapped the picture most because of how beautiful she has become. Everyone loves her mask but I think her feathering is pretty cool looking.”
Roxie (CH Terhaar’s Rocko x CH A Rolling Stone) Age: 8 Lives: Pennsylvania
From her owner: “Roxie is resting and licking her wounds from a tough season. She has slimmed down and I’m now increasing her food a little for the winter.”
Rosie (Blue Riptide x Blue Ghost) Age: 2½ Lives: Illinois
From her owner’s friend: “On a Montana hunting trip, Rosie is looking across the field thinking, ‘Why am I in your lap when there are birds over there?'”
Female (Blue Shaquille x Snyder’s Liz) Age: 6 months Lives: New York and cabin in New Hampshire
From her owner: “She is developing nicely and within the last month has really matured and figured out what is expected. She handling quail great, listens well, handles to the front naturally and with little care, and backs some of the time. She is nice and calm in the house.”
Bess (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chardonnay) Age: 6 months Lives: Ohio
From her owner: “Bess is doing fine. She is learning quick and made her first trip to the woods last week.”
Lucy (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis) Age: 7 months Lives: Twin Cities
From her owner: “She had some beautiful solo points on single quail from some coveys we were following up after the initial flush, and she had one beautiful solo point on a large covey she found on her own.”