Minnesota 2014: spring training on grouse and woodcock

Axel (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis, 2012) spent two months with us in Georgia and was trained on bobwhite quail. He effortlessly made the transition to grouse and woodcock in April and, in fact, he placed in both derby stakes.

Axel (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis, 2012) spent two months with us in Georgia and was trained on bobwhite quail. He effortlessly made the transition to grouse and woodcock in April and, in fact, he placed in both derby stakes.

For a bird dog aficiando who likes to get in the woods and perhaps to compete in field trials, April should be a banner month. It’s the first chance in months to work dogs. It’s good to see grouse that made it through a tough winter and to find migrating woodcock return And it’s always fun to see friends at field trials.

But this April was frustrating. Our region of east central Minnesota received 30 inches of snow in two big storms and temperatures rarely warmed to average. Flexibility was necessary vis-a-vis training periods and field trial dates but, in the end, everything was accomplished. We had a full kennel and hauled the dog trailer to run in two trials held by the Minnesota Grouse Dog Association.

The bird of the month, American Woodcock (Scolopax minor), blends in perfectly with the duff on the forest floor.

The bird of the month, American Woodcock (Scolopax minor), blends in perfectly with the duff on the forest floor.

As soon as the snow melted on south-facing banks, woodcock moved in by the dozens. Jerry had some stellar work on those birds—one afternoon he counted 92 flushes! Snow cover remained thick in the woods but eventually young aspen cuttings held good numbers of grouse and woodcock. Too, Jerry relocated sturdy bobwhites from a pigeon coop into two johnny houses and those quail were perfect for training young dogs.

From Ken Balfanz, owner of Tia (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis, 2011):  The woodcock are migrating through our area right now. My dad and I took Tia up to his five-acre lot north of town this afternoon. In 10 minutes we must have had a dozen birds fly out. Ryan (our youngest) and I took her out just now to the park behind the house and moved three pheasants, one woodcock, and a bunny. Now she’s sleeping for the rest of the night. Big day for her!

From Ken Balfanz, owner of Tia (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis, 2011): The woodcock are migrating through our area right now. My dad and I took Tia up to his five-acre lot north of town this afternoon. In 10 minutes we must have had a dozen birds fly out. Ryan (our youngest) and I took her out just now to the park behind the house and moved three pheasants, one woodcock, and a bunny. Now she’s sleeping for the rest of the night. Big day for her!

Young Northwoods Troy McClure (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2013) is backed by Gigi in an aspen cutting.

Young Northwoods Troy McClure (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2013) is backed by Gigi in an aspen cutting.

Ryman setter littermates Gigi, on left, and Buck found oodles of woodcock this spring.

Ryman setter littermates Gigi, on left, and Buck found oodles of woodcock this spring.

Northwoods Rum Rickey (Blue Shaquille x Snyder’s Liz, 2012) shows good poise and intensity on point.

Northwoods Rum Rickey (Blue Shaquille x Snyder’s Liz, 2012) shows good poise and intensity on point.

Conditions were extremely wet but Benson, undeterred, pointed a woodcock on an edge.

Conditions were extremely wet but Benson, undeterred, pointed a woodcock on an edge.

Tri-color setter Tripp (Houston x Northwoods Blue Babe, 2009) in a snow-covered aspen cutting is reminiscent of a Bev Doolittle painting.

Tri-color setter Tripp (Houston x Northwoods Blue Babe, 2009) in a snow-covered aspen cutting is reminiscent of a Bev Doolittle painting.

Seasoned Northwoods Chablis (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2009) backs young Basil (Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013) on a nice find.

Seasoned Northwoods Chablis (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2009) backs young Basil (Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013) on a nice find.

Neither snow nor rain…will stay a field trial…

Dan Stadin is very proud of Northwoods Shelby (CH Houston's Blackjack x Northwoods Highclass Kate, 2013) and her third place in the Open Puppy.

Dan Stadin is very proud of Northwoods Shelby (CH Houston’s Blackjack x Northwoods Highclass Kate, 2013) and her third place in the Open Puppy.

Field trialers are a hearty group. In perhaps the most awful conditions Jerry and I can remember, a large crowd of bird dog owners, handlers, family members and friends showed up last weekend for the second Minnesota Grouse Dog Association (MGDA) spring field trial.

Saturday was by far the better draw as rain fell most of the day on Sunday—and at times, it just poured. The wind blew strong and gusty and temperatures never climbed out of the 30s. Warm layers, rubber boots and good rain gear were indispensable.

But crazy as this seems, we all agreed that there was no place we’d rather be than in the woods, watching dogs work and hanging around with friends.

The kennel run of Northwoods Sadie (CH Houston's Blackjack x Northwoods Chablis, 2013) is suitably decorated after her first place win in the Open Puppy.

The kennel run of Northwoods Sadie (CH Houston’s Blackjack x Northwoods Chablis, 2013) is suitably decorated after her first place win in the Open Puppy.

Many thanks to the MGDA crew who puts on these trials—Scott Anderson, Greg Gress, Dave Moore and Brett Edstrom. Thanks also to the judges who didn’t have the luxury of sitting in warm trucks between braces and instead slogged through miles of muddy courses.

Finally, congratulations to all the winners!

Open Shooting Dog
1st  Seattle Slew, owned and handled by Dave Moore
2nd  Kobe, owned and handled by Bill Frahm
3rd  Dot, owned and handled by Rod Lein

Open Derby
1st  NW Smooch, owned by Ben McKean, handled by Jerry
2nd  Axel, owned by Ryan Flair, handled by Jerry
3rd  Snyder’s Dusty, owned by Steve Snyder, handled by Jerry

Open Puppy
1st  Northwoods Mercedes, owned by NBD, handled by Jerry
2nd  Northwoods Lexus, owned by Wayne Grayson, handled by Jerry
3rd  Northwoods Shelby, owned and handled by Dan Stadin

Ben McKean has good timing as he just recently became the new owner of NW Smooch (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013). As a puppy, Smooch placed first in the Open Derby.

Ben McKean has good timing as he just recently became the new owner of NW Smooch (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013). As a puppy, Smooch placed first in the Open Derby.

Georgia 2014: wrap up

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Southwest Georgia during winter is a tremendous place to develop young bird dogs. The conditions to work dogs and find birds are virtually ideal for more than four months. This not only gives ample opportunity on birds but also allows young dogs to mature while getting consistent exposure and training.

This was the second winter Betsy and I lived at Arrowhead Farms near Dixie, Georgia. The perfect location is 20 miles east of Thomasville, Georgia, the heart of bobwhite quail plantation country. We had a talented group of dogs with us—both puppies and seasoned veterans. In addition to watching the progress of young dogs, it’s also fun to see older dogs get better and better.

We enjoyed many of the same experiences as last year but new opportunities opened up for us. Here are the highlights.

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Invitations to quail hunts on several quail plantations.  One client leased hunts on various plantations and it was educational to see how they were managed for habitat and how the hunts were run. I especially enjoyed watching their dogs work and observing their hunting and dog-handling style. Many times, I braced our dogs with plantation dogs and was extremely pleased. Our dogs—whether young or experienced—compared very favorably and impressed local trainers and handlers. In fact, one plantation ordered two setter puppies from us.

Roger King, dog trainer at Pine Fair, flushes for his pointer during a training session.

Roger King, dog trainer at Pine Fair, flushes for his pointer during a training session.

Become acquainted with professional dog trainers from various plantations. I joined the local club and regularly trained with several of them on their quail plantations. They were a nice group of people. It was quite a privilege.

Exclusive access to the 1,900-acre Miami Plantation. The property ownership is now in transition but, for the second season, I trained on good populations of quail. On an average morning, I flushed eight to 12 wild coveys in three hours.

Lots of birds. This was an incredible year for bobwhites in southwest Georgia. On most plantations it was common to flush 18 – 25 wild coveys during a three-hour hunt. At the Annual Plantation Owner’s Trial, held this year on Ted Turner’s Nonami Plantation, more than 100 wild coveys were flushed in a single day.

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Give my legs a break!  All hunts and training sessions at plantations and most of my training at the Miami or Arrowhead Farms were done from horseback. While the pace is slightly faster than I usually walk, it’s a tremendous advantage. I can easily see what the dog is doing and I’m able to focus on the dog without worrying about where I’m walking. Arrowhead Farms owns many horses but I mainly rode a very nice, 13-year-old Tennessee walking horse named Willow. He was a pleasure to ride and I think he enjoyed it, too!

Finally, a spring field trial!

Minnesota Grouse Dog Association Open Puppy Winners (from left):  Northwoods Troy McClure posed Ben McKean, Lake Effect Tilly and owner Tim Kaufmann, Northwoods Rolls Royce posed by Jerry.

Minnesota Grouse Dog Association Open Puppy winners (from left): Northwoods Troy McClure posed by Ben McKean, Lake Effect Tilly and owner Tim Kaufmann, Northwoods Rolls Royce posed by Jerry.

For the first time since 2012, the Minnesota Grouse Dog Association (MGDA) held a spring field trial last weekend. Due to still unbelievably wet courses and iffy conditions, the trial was shortened from three days to two.

And the weather still wouldn’t cooperate. Saturday and Sunday weren’t the best of days to be in the woods running bird dogs—temperatures hung in the 30s and 40s and the wind howled—but plucky field trial competitors entered dogs, slogged through muddy courses and had a good time.

Jerry uncovered two amazing statistics. More than half the dogs that competed (19 of 35 dogs—54%) trace back to our Blue Silk either through her sons, Blue Shaquille and Northwoods Blue Ox (Oscar), or daughters CH I’m Blue Gert, CH Satin From Silk (Peggy) and Northwoods Blue Babe (Mikki).

Multiple grouse champion Houston’s Belle, owned by Paul Hauge, also left an incredible mark on setters in our region. Through her daughters, Houston’s Belle’s Choice (Jill) and Snyder’s Liz, 37% of dogs entered are out of Belle.

Open Shooting Dog
1st     Lucy, owned and handled by Rod Lein
2nd     Northwoods Parmigiano (Sean), owned by Paul Hauge, handled by Jerry
3rd     Lola, owned and handled by Scott Anderson

Open Derby
1st     Luna, owned and handled by Brett Edstrom
2nd     Northwoods Rob Roy, owned by Chris Bye & Roberta Scherf, handled by Chris
3rd     Axel, owned by Ryan Flair, handled by Jerry

Open Puppy
1st     Northwoods Rolls Royce, handled by Jerry
2nd     Lake Effect Tilly, owned and handled by Tim Kaufmann
3rd     Northwoods Troy McClure, owned by Dale Robinson, handled by Jerry

Our sincere thanks to MGDA officials Gregg Gress, Dave Moore, Rochel Moore, Scott Anderson and Brett Edstrom for putting on the trial. It takes hours of planning, coordination and lots of plain hard work and we’re grateful for their efforts.

Congratulations to the winners!

New Garmin ecollars offered

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Since Garmin Ltd., purchased Tri-Tronics in 2011, the Tri-Tronics products have been slowly disappearing.

The most recent re-introduction was of the Garmin PRO Series Remote Trainers. Basically, these ecollars are versions of the Tri- Tronics products I’ve been using and recommending for many years. Based on some not-so-good redesigns of previous models, I was concerned that the Pro line would be drastically changed. But the fundamental designs are very close to the originals and several features were improved and added. More good news:  the prices are substantially reduced.

Complete information on the PRO Series as well as other dog tracking and training equipment is available on the Garmin website:  https://buy.garmin.com/en-US/US/on-the-trail/dog-tracking-training/cOnTheTrail-cDogTrackingTraining-p1.html

Gun Dog Supply reviews the PRO Series on their website: http://gundogsupply.com/review-new-garmin-tri-tronics-pro-550-70-trashbreaker.html

Northwoods Bird Dogs is an authorized reseller of Garmin products and we offer the best prices and free shipping. I can help you decide what gear is best and show you how to use it. Please contact us for more information.

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