“Roy (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis, 2012) is doing extremely well…He has been hunting every weekend of the season. Although the grouse are down compared to last year, we are still seeing our share…I have noticed the experienced dogs (Piper, Rosie, Sage and Kally) are finding significantly more birds than the younger dogs. As the grouse population declines, the good/experienced grouse dogs really separate themselves from the others.”
By November, the grouse woods have changed. Leaves have fallen from deciduous aspens and maples. And besides the occasional green of conifers, colors have faded to soft shades of tan, brown and gray.
“Willow (Ridge Creek Cody x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2013) continues to shine and excel every time we get out. She is still the sweetest around the house, but turn her loose in the woods and she transforms into a very focused, bird finding and hunting machine….Has been just a wonderful fall so far despite limited grouse…I think 18 days in the field so far.”
Izzie (Westfall’s Black Ice x Northwoods Prancer, 2011).
Many clients took to the fields in November. Some hunted pheasant in Minnesota and the Dakotas; others had their setters on Montana sharp-tailed grouse.
“Just got back from a quick 2-day hunt in SD. Stoeger (Ridge Creek Cody x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2013) did great, even with the chilly weather. Rock solid points and tireless enthusiasm.”
Kiki (English setter female).
Simon, on left, and Biscuit (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis, 2011).
Buddy (Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013).
Nemo (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis, 2011), on left, and Midas (Houston’s Blackjack x Northwoods Chablis, 2013).
Zada (Ridge Creek Cody x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2013).
Jerry and I had a small group of puppies in for our November Quail training program. With the exception of Josie, a German short-haired pointer, all were puppies we bred this year. Jerry was able to work them every day—even after a three-inch snowfall.
Shelby (Houston’s Blackjack x Northwoods Highclass Kate, 2013).
Dixie (Houston’s Blackjack x Northwoods Highclass Kate, 2013).
Mac (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2013), on left, and Beemer (Houston’s Blackjack x Northwoods Chablis, 2013).
Mercy (Houston’s Blackjack x Northwoods Chablis, 2013).
Scout (Houston’s Blackjack x Northwoods Highclass Kate, 2013).
Josie (German short-haired pointer).
Basil (Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013).
Dan Stadin often commutes from his home across the road on a four wheeler. He loves bird dogs and always owns a couple, including Slash (Houston’s Blackjack x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2011), on left, and Tasha (Blue Shaquille x Snyder’s Liz, 2012).
Betsy and I feel fortunate to have met some truly great people in the course of our business. Clients, many of them repeat, come to mind, as well as vendors and business partners. In particular, though, three men who work with us in various capacities and at different times throughout the year deserve special mention. We are grateful for their assistance, friendship and support.
Dan Stadin assists us all year long and, quite frankly, our business wouldn’t be the same without him. Dan is a man of many talents. He helps us breed, whelp, socialize and start puppies and condition older dogs. He helps takes care of the kennel, pigeons and quail. Dan says, “I have a full time commitment to a part time job!”
Jeff Hintz carefully watches a young dog in for training. He knows exactly the right time to fire the pistol and release the bird.
Jeff Hintz is a neighbor who splits his time between Minnesota and Arizona. He owns three pointers and is a serious bird hunter in both states. Jeff primarily helps with summer training sessions where he plants, flushes and shoots pigeons (Jeff is a very good shot!), as well as working backing dummies and bird releasers. He’s also an “idea man” and keen observer of dogs.
Mike Powers works with our young dogs in the grouse woods of northern Minnesota. He has Pesto (Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013) out for a run.
Mike Powers, a.k.a. Minnesota Mike, lives in New Jersey but spends each autumn at Bowen Lodge on Lake Winnibigoshish. He knows dogs, grouse and woodcock and also is a crack wing shot and walking encyclopedia on high-end shotguns. He does various jobs around the resort and guides a few hunts. While I’m guiding with older dogs, Mike works our young dogs in the woods.
Our sincere thanks to Dan, Jeff and Mike!
Guy de la Valdène has led a colorful life. He was born in a “small castle built in 1642” in Normandy, France, but has since spent a good share of his life in the U.S. He’s both an eloquent writer and a passionate bird hunter. He hangs around with cool hunting, fishing, eating and drinking pals, including notable writers Jim Harrison and Tom McGuane and Russell Chatham, the artist. Chatham’s beautiful landscape paintings grace the covers of his books and two include ink drawings of birds, dogs and hunters.
Both Betsy and I have read and highly recommend the following books by Guy de la Valdène.
The Fragrance of Grass, 2011
This book is about de la Valdène’s pursuit of and great appreciation for Huns, otherwise known as Gray or Hungarian Partridge. He begins with his first introduction to them in France and takes the reader on a journey through some of the best Hun hunting areas in North America.
Between the four pads of a dog’s foot, the fragrance of grass.
~ Jim Harrison
For a Handfull of Feathers, 1995
Since 1990, de la Valdène has lived on an 800-acre farm near Tallahassee, Florida. The book is a chronicle of his relationship to all things wild that live on the farm and, in particular, bobwhite quail. It’s also an insightful look into the life of these little birds, the effort required to maintain their habitat and the tradition that surrounds the pursuit of them.
A breeze ruffling a handful of feathers carries enough weight to enslave a dog to a bird in a covenant of uneasy immobility.
~ Guy de la Valdène
Making Game: An Essay on Woodcock, 1985
In his research, de la Valdène followed the woodcock migration across the country and met fascinating people along the way. Among them was Sally Downer, daughter of Bill Wicksall. Years before woodcock hunting became popular, Wicksall, along with his brother Jack, hunted woodcock and bred English setters that pointed them. This book is a great read that includes much wine drinking and delicious woodcock meals.
The piney woods of southwestern Georgia are gorgeous…especially in early morning.
A big contingent of Northwoods Bird Dogs will hit the road soon for the long drive to the southwest corner of Georgia. Jerry and I will bring a select number of client-owned dogs and, with the exception of two, all of our own dogs.
We’re excited to get back to our southern training grounds just outside Thomasville, Georgia. The location is ideal in so many regards. Not only is it smack dab in the middle of bobwhite quail plantation country but there are many field trials held in Georgia and nearby Florida and Alabama. Thomasville is a charming small town. The weather is ideal. The piney woods are beautiful. And the Gulf Coast is a short 80-mile drive.
Back in Minnesota, the kennel will be in the very capable hands of Dan Stadin, the guy who works with us throughout the year. He’ll be busy with Northwoods Chardonnay, who is scheduled to whelp her litter by Blue Chief (frozen semen) in late December. Since Northwoods Chablis is due to be bred to Northwoods Blue Ox early winter 2013, he needs to be in Minnesota.
Jerry and I will make a quick trip back to Minnesota in mid January to pick up a fresh group of client-owned dogs.
Ears flying, Northwoods Vixen (CH Westfall’s Black Ice x Northwoods Prancer, 2011) shows plenty of speed. Photo by Chris Mathan.
A dog that covers a great deal more country sure speeds the process of finding these (ruffed grouse) birds, whatever the density.
~ Gordon Gullion
Basically, I agree with Gullion. But I would add that a dog’s range isn’t nearly as important as its speed. To cover more ground in a given period of time, a dog needs to be fast.
And there’s one more piece. Speed just carries the dog to likely areas. It’s the nose that finds birds. A dog must have a nose capable of scenting birds before they’re passed or flushed.
In other words: I think a bird dog should run at 10 mph but have a 15-mph nose.
As the 10-mph dog with the 15-mph nose detects game, it shifts gears from a fast, searching speed to a slower, intense pace. Its body becomes rigid as it checks and follows scent. Its pointing posture is usually well balanced and composed and often one foot is raised in the classic style.
Another type of dog hunts at 15 mph but has 10-mph nose. I call this a “whack” pointer. The dog never seems to slow down and make game; instead it slams into point from a full-speed run. Often, it ends up in a twisted or crouched posture. Unfortunately, and just as likely, this dog will miss the bird or bump it.
How fast should a bird dog hunt? My answer: fast enough. The dog should hunt fast enough to cover as much ground as possible but not so fast as to outrun its nose.