Grouse trials for this spring have been scheduled by the three clubs in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Trial enthusiasts should be especially excited for this year’s competition as all events were cancelled last spring due to too much snow. Let’s hope the weather cooperates this year!
Chippewa Valley Grouse Dog Association
Friday, April 4 through Sunday, April 6
Trial is held in the Eau Claire County Forest outside Stanley, Wisconsin. For further information, please contact Brent Sittlow, 952-221-3455.
Minnesota Grouse Dog Association
Friday, April 11 – Sunday, April 13 (one-hour shooting dog stakes)
Friday, April 18 – Saturday, April 19 (half-hour shooting dog stakes)
Trials are held in the Rum River State Forest outside Mora, Minnesota. For further information, please contact Greg Gress, 612-590-2353.
Moose River Grouse Dog Club
Friday, April 25 – Sunday, April 27
Trial is held in the Douglas County Forest outside Danbury, Wisconsin. For further information, please contact Sig Degitz, 715-374-2289.
For directions to each venue, click Directions to Field Trials.
Perhaps no other breed of bird dog has had more selective breeding based solely on their performance in the field than pointers. Even so, pointers are also excellent hunting companions and house pets.
In addition to our English setters, Jerry and I always have owned pointers. We’ve bred, trained, competed and lived with them for more than 20 years and are now producing our fifth generation.
In the southern part of the country and in particular where bobwhite quail are sought, pointers far outnumber setters and other bird dogs. But in the north, there is much misinformation and bias against them. New clients, friends and others invariably ask two questions: Don’t they run too big? Do they make good pets?
Don’t they run too big?
This bad rap likely comes from field trial competitions where pointers dominate. Even though setter Shadow Oak Bo won the three-hour National Championship in 2013 and 2014, pointers hugely outnumber setters at the high end of horseback shooting dog and all age competition and have since the early 1900s.
But our pointers—whether male or female—hunt the cover at the proper distance. On the prairie, they open up but in the grouse woods or southern piney woods, they hunker down. Most importantly, our dogs handle easily and want to go with the hunter.
Do they make good pets?
Absolutely! Our pointers have two speeds—one for the field and one for the house—and they are smart enough to know the difference. Again, whether male or female, they are wonderful pets. Some traits are intangible, some tangible and others are just plain interesting.
• sweet natured
• even tempered
• independent but never aloof
• very easy to house-break
• rarely bark (except to guard the house)
• natural tendency to retrieve
• love to lay in the sun, even on a hot summer day
• can seemingly “hold it” for hours on cold, blustery days
• short, stiff hair is shed twice per year and can be difficult to remove from furniture and clothing
Beautiful, powerful, graceful, cool.
Besides endearing personalities, our pointers have all shared appearance and performance traits in the field and on point.
Our pointers are beautiful with nicely shaped heads and sharp eyes that don’t miss anything. Most are evenly masked. Some have clean white bodies while others are ticked and have body spots.
Their conformation is beautiful, too, and they move with power, strength, flair, grace and agility. On point, they are breath-taking. Posture is lofty, intense, cool and composed. Jerry and I once found Dancer, ankle-deep in snow, 20 minutes after time at a championship in Gladwin, Michigan. Even though shivering, she stood tall and staunch and had that grouse pinned.
Our line of pointers.
Jerry and I strive to breed dogs that have it all—talent, brains, personality, conformation and looks. Even though our final decisions are joint and mutually agreed on, Jerry deserves credit for masterminding our breeding program. Through travels for training and field trial competition, he has a vast network of friends in the bird dog world and talks to them often. He studies canine genetics, anatomy and personality and his stack of reading materials always includes bird dog magazines. Plus, he has a photographic memory for pedigrees.
The foundation of our pointers is the Elhew line which was conceived by the late Bob Wehle and practiced for more than 50 years. His goal was to breed a dog that not only performed well in the field but also trained easily, had pleasing conformation and the personality to be good companions. Bob usually stayed within his line but continually looked for outcrosses that “nicked” with his dogs to improve what he had.
We also use Bob’s approach. We stay in our line with its strong Elhew background but constantly look for outside pointers that successfully nick with ours.
That is a frightening-looking unit that seems more suitable for a Frankenstein movie than for dog training.
But that’s exactly what it is—a TX electronic training collar made by Sensitronix in 1969. I found it in the kennel office of our Georgia training grounds.
The first electronic training collars, often called shock collars, were developed in the 1950s. They were big, bulky and unreliable and could deliver only one, hot level of shock. Their primary use was to break bad habits such as chasing off-game but they were also used as a last resort to bring in a run-off. The high voltage could just as easily ruin a dog as fix a problem.
The electronic training collars of today are as different from older models as are the earliest mobile phones from current, sleek Apple and android devices. Commonly called “ecollars” now, they are extremely reliable and much smaller in size. Most provide two types of stimulation—continuous and momentary—and some offer vibration or tone options. Most importantly, the level of stimulation is highly adjustable and can be modified to the dog’s sensitivity and training situation. The lowest levels are imperceptible to most dogs.
Unfortunately, a stigma remains about the use of ecollars. Some people still believe they are cruel and prefer to train the “old-fashioned way.” Well, that quaint way incorporated some brutal treatment: jerking a dog around on a very long check cord, dragging a dog behind a horse to bring it back where it knocked birds, using a flushing whip, throwing objects and/or peppering the dog with rat shot or 9-shot from a shotgun.
Used properly, today’s ecollars are, by far, the safest, most humane and most effective training tool available. They provide the ability to correct a dog the second it makes a mistake with the lowest level of stimulation necessary and the impersonal capability to correct a dog when working at a distance. Too, at a higher level, a dog learns it has control of the ecollar through its behavior.
As with any tool, though, an ecollar is only as good as the person wielding it. The dog must understand what is expected and must be properly introduced to ecollar stimulation. And the person still must learn the basics of dog training before using an ecollar.