Warm summer days in Minnesota sure make for fine puppy-rearing weather. And now that Northwoods Vixen’s litter by CH Elhew G Force are four weeks old, they take full advantage of the long June days. With their basketful of soft toys, the 11 puppies love to play.
If not playing, they’re eating or sleeping.
In some ways, our pointer puppies are different from our English setter puppies. Pointers use their paws to, well, paw at each other, paw at me and sometimes just paw at the air. They are extremely coordinated at such a young age, easily scampering up and down their brick steps by the dog door. One female even leaps down from the top brick.
Too, judging by many wrinkles of fur, their bodies and skin seem to grow at different rates…..and they definitely have a lot of growing to do.
Vixen is a wonderful dam—gentle, tolerant, caring, and perhaps best of all, even-tempered and calm.
Left to right, Rod Lein with his dog, Joe Byers with Roxy (Northwoods Grits x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2014), Dave Moore with Bette (Northwoods Grits x CH I’m Blue Gert, 2014).
The goal of the breeding program at Northwoods Bird Dogs is to produce grouse dogs that have it all—personality, conformation and hunting ability. Of prime importance to Betsy and me is that our puppies and started and trained dogs go to buyers who will give them ample hunting opportunities.
But, too, since we come from a field trial background, it is both gratifying and valuable to know when given a chance, many of our dogs have the fire, style, focus and tenacity to compete and place in field trials.
On behalf of very proud owners, we want to recognize puppies, derbies and shooting dogs that have placed in grouse, walking and horseback field trials held by clubs around the country.
In 2014 we bred Northwoods Grits (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis, 2011), an outstanding grouse dog owned by Bob Senkler, to two proven females.
Center, Ellie (Northwoods Grits x CH I’m Blue Gert, 2014) owned by Tom Beauchamp and handled by Rich Hollister.
CH I’m Blue Gert, owned by Dave and Rochel Moore of Minnesota, to Grits produced three females and all became winners. Ellie, owned by Tom Beauchamp of Indiana, placed second in the 2015 Grand National Grouse Puppy Classic. She followed that with several derby placements on grouse and woodcock in Michigan.
Dave and Rochel own the other two females, Skye and Bette, and both dogs placed in grouse trials. Skye won the Moose River Grouse Dog Club (MRGDC) derby last fall while this spring Bette won a derby stake held by the Minnesota Grouse Dog Association (MGDA).
On left, Dave Moore and Jim Tande with Skye (Northwoods Grits x CH I’m Blue Gert, 2014) and, on right, Jeff Hintz with Cooper (CH Rock Acre Blackhawk x Northwoods Vixen, 2015).
Grits’ other 2014 breeding was to Houston’s Belle’s Choice. The lone female of the litter went to Joe Byers of Illinois. Not only did Roxy place second in a 2016 MGDA derby stake (beaten by her half-sister Bette) but she received her certification for use in woodcock banding at less than two years of age.
Northwoods Vixen’s 2015 litter was produced using frozen semen of multiple champion and Hall of Fame pointer Rock Acre Blackhawk. Impressive attributes of Vixen puppies is their innate intelligence and a willingness to please. Whether the offspring are hunted on grouse, woodcock, bobwhite and other quail, pheasants or chukar and no matter what state, all adapted to birds, terrain and handler.
Robby Graham (on left) with Maddie (CH Rock Acre Blackhawk x Northwoods Vixen, 2015).
Three earned placements in derby stakes while still puppies. In Maine, Robby Graham’s Maddie placed in two derby stakes and Arizonan Jeff Hintz’s Cooper placed in a grouse trial derby stake last fall. Bill Owen of California handled his male puppy Sage to several derby placements and first place in a puppy classic.
On left, Bill Owen and Sage (CH Rock Acre Blackhawk x Northwoods Vixen, 2015).
Betsy and I were so pleased with a 2013 litter of Vixen by CH Elhew G Force that we bred her dam, Northwoods Prancer, to him in 2015. Mark Fouts of Wisconsin got a female he hunted extensively on grouse and woodcock. Jordy’s experience showed this spring when on a nasty, rainy, sloppy, 38-degree day, she placed in the MRGDC derby stake.
On right, Mark Fouts with Jordy (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Prancer, 2015).
Finally, Ian MacTavish of Minnesota won all three placements in a stake at Minnesota’s St. Croix Valley Brittany Club’s trial this spring. Ian had the foresight to buy two females from a litter we co-bred with Paul Hauge out of our Blue Shaquille to his multiple champion Houston’s Belle. One Ian named Pearl became not only a consistent winner in AKC field trials but also quite a producer.
Ian MacTavish with left to right: Kevin (CH Shadow Oak Bo x Cold Creek Pearl), Pearl (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle), Maggie (CH Can’t Go Wrong x Cold Creek Pearl).
Placing first in the stake was Pearl’s son out of CH Shadow Oak Bo; second was Pearl; and third place went to a CH Can’t Go Wrong x Pearl daughter.
In the final days of her pregnancy, Jerry and I knew that Vixen was very big but had no idea what we all were in store for.
Beginning at about noon on Saturday, May 21, and finally finishing up about 12 hours later, Vixen whelped 11 puppies. Even thought the count was high and the time was long, Vixen never seemed to struggle or tire.
The breakdown is eight males—four black & white, two liver & white, two orange & white—and three females—one of each color. Nature has a way, perhaps, of evening the score. Vixen’s first two litters were heavily weighted in favor of females—14—to only six males.
This is Vixen’s second litter by CH Elhew G Force. Jerry and I kept four of our own from that litter to raise and train—and kept in touch with or trained the other five. We knew we had an exceptional cross and decided to repeat it.
We are happy and fortunate to report that Vixen and all her puppies are healthy and vigorous.
Ben is primarily a grouse and woodcock hunter so he and Franny spent their memorable days in aspen cuts and alder thickets.
“Franny taught me more about dogs than I care to admit. She was a thinker. She was different. This is what made her special.”
~ Ben McKean
It’s always heartbreaking when a treasured dog dies. But especially awful is when a bird dog dies terribly in the prime of her life.
On what started out as another beautiful Saturday morning in Georgia, I left the house early and headed to the kennel to do my morning chores. Immediately, I noticed Franny, a normally lively five-year-old setter female, in an odd hunched position in her run. Her body was bloated, too, and fearing a twisted stomach, Betsy and I rushed her to our vet. Despite an heroic, two-hour emergency surgery, Franny died.
Franny was owned by Ben and Maureen McKean, long-time clients and friends, of Minnesota. Franny was whelped in March 2010, the last litter from Paul Hauge’s multiple grouse champion Houston’s Belle by Northwoods Blue Ox. Franny was a big, powerful female like her blue-ribbon dam; she inherited the grit and endurance of Ox.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember when a robust bird dog was a cuddly puppy…but not Maureen.
Ben and Maureen entrusted Franny to us for her training and Franny, in turn, excelled. She achieved the highest level of training for a pointing dog—steady to wing, shot and fall. Franny also spent every winter with us, gaining invaluable experience with hours on bobwhite quail. She became the star on our Georgia quail guiding string. The weather didn’t deter and it didn’t matter whether we hunted from foot, jeep or horseback or if we were out one or three hours, Franny loved to hunt and always found birds. And when she pointed, the birds were precisely where she indicated.
The shadows were long when I found Franny on point—strong, staunch and stylish on a large covey of quail—at the end of what was to be her last hunt.
Ben hunted Franny extensively on grouse and woodcock and her last fall had been her best.
“Last year, Franny and I had better numbers together than any of my other dogs. She handled at a more manageable range in the thick cover and provided better opportunities than the others. I know she had her strongest talent in the south on quail. I am glad that she was able to put grins on the faces people that she was able to hunt with, including mine. She was an entertainer, a true bird dog and a great friend. She will be missed.”
~ Ben McKean
Betsy and I agree. Franny was a special dog and we were very proud of her. And yes, she put a smile on my face, too, every time I hunted her.
Our puppy, Remi (short for Remington), is doing great. She integrated into our home so quickly that it feels like she has always been here. She is awesome with our kids and is quickly becoming their best friend. We could not be happier with her. ~ Dave and Julie, Minnesota
Our first two English setter litters of this year are settling into their new homes and lives.
The 18 puppies—nine out of CH Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Carbon and nine more out of Northwoods Carly Simon by Sunny Hill Sam—were whelped in Georgia where they had a great start. Jerry and I spent countless hours playing with them on green grass, taking them for walks in the piney woods and introducing them to ponds, crates, stake out chains and travel.
Dixie is amazing!! I took her to Montana with my parents this past weekend and she loved it! Plus she’s super cuddly! ~ Isabel, Colorado
About half the puppies went to families in Minnesota but puppy buyers also hailed from Colorado, Montana, Tennessee, Alabama, New Jersey, Michigan and Wisconsin.
Willow and Rainier are turning out to be the absolute best buds. They play so well together, sleep together, etc. We all love them both soooo much, Spence & Kate have both been coming home weekends now from college just to see them. ~ Gregg and Sherrie, Wisconsin
We pulled in last night at 10. Jenny slept most of the way. She loves to chase blowing leaves and play with the many acorns that are on the drive. She does like to be held and has fallen asleep while I am typing this. Thanks so much. ~ John and Jeri, Michigan
Between morning braces of a quail hunt on Pineaven Plantation, Jerry explains the intricacies of Garmin collars with a group of hunters. A matched pair of mules is hitched to the wooden dog wagon where a Labrador waits up front and bird dogs rest in the boxes.
Bobwhite quail. Longleaf pines. Mule-drawn wagons. Bird dogs, retrieving dogs, handlers, horses and hunters. All are integral components of the one-hundred-year-old tradition of wild bird hunting on the plantations in the Red Hills region of southwest Georgia and northern Florida.
Pinehaven Plantation, located near Monticello, Florida, is the setting for the video. It is a privately owned, 5,500-acre plantation where I have been fortunate enough to work on occasion. Because no actual guiding is necessary (rather we follow courses of the mown checkerboard ground), my responsibilities are as dog handler for our client.
Jerry with Penny (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013), on the left, and dog trainer Bobby Ryan with his pointer prepare to start the afternoon brace on Pinehaven Plantation.
Hall and Hall, a real estate company headquartered in Montana but with offices scattered throughout the West, produced this video. hallhall.com
The nine puppies out of Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Carbon are six weeks old. They are eating dry dog food three times per day now and Carbon is only with them to nurse once or twice per day. They are at one of their cutest stages! A highlight of our day is when we bring them out onto the lawn to play until they all fall asleep in a pile.
Meanwhile in the next run, the nine puppies out of Sunny Hill Sam x Northwoods Carly Simon are four weeks old. They are much changed since the last post! They walk all over their kennel run…..and in and out of the house. We started feeding them softened dog food (which they smell as soon as we walk into the run and scamper to the dish) and drink water out of a bowl. Carly is still with them all day and night.
Does it get any prettier than this? Merimac’s Blu Monday (Northwoods Blue Ox x CH Houston’s Belle, 2010) points a covey of bobwhite quail during the last brace of an afternoon hunt.
The experience a dog gains during a winter in Georgia with Betsy and me is hard to duplicate anywhere. For at least four months, excellent weather conditions and plentiful bobwhite quail combine for outstanding training opportunities. These winters are especially beneficial for puppies and young dogs because they get consistent exposure over a long period of time when they are maturing both physically and mentally.
Head high and practically on her tip toes, veteran Northwoods Vixen (CH Westfall’s Black Ice x Northwoods Prancer, 2010) locates a covey on a guided hunt.
Betsy and I brought our own puppies from 2015 litters, setters Fendi, Gucci and Prada and pointer Chanel. All have developed well. They find and point birds and, at least most of the time, back, too.
Maddie, on left, and Chanel point scattered birds of a covey along a mowed strip. They are female littermates out of CH Rock Acre Blackhawk x Northwoods Vixen, 2015.
Derbies from 2015 are proving they have what it takes. Bismuth, Nickel, Platinum and Mercury (recently sold) are finishing well on their game.
Some dogs make it look easy. Northwoods Parmigiano (Northwoods Blue Ox x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2010) confidently points a covey.
We brought our older dogs as well as several owned by clients and all are veterans to these piney woods. We work them on our grounds and use them on guided hunts. Merimac’s Blu Monday, owned by Ben McKean, is easily a “10” on quail whether on wild or liberated quail hunts. Grits, Chablis, Royce, Sean, Oscar and Vixen round out my guiding string.
What style in motion! Charlie (Blue Riptide x Northwoods Carly Simon, 2014) shows off his long, smooth stride. Photo by Ben McKean.
We have other extremely talented client dogs with us. Pointer Maddie (CH Rock Acre Blackhawk x Northwoods Vixen, 2015) is here from Maine and setter Remmie made the trip from Minnesota. Charlie (Blue Riptide x Northwoods Carly Simon, 2014) is here from Ohio and we also have Grace, Hannah and Jack from Montana. Roxy (Northwoods Grits x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2014) is back for her second winter of training. Sure beats her home state of Illinois!
In good broom sedge cover, Jerry flushes for Roxy (Northwoods Grits x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2014). Even though not yet two years of age, Roxy runs a mature race, accurately pins birds and is steady to wing and shot.
I miss our own Carly and Carbon on my guiding string but they are busy with puppies. Each whelped litters of nine in late January/early February.
A puppy’s first point is always exciting! Six-month-old Remmie locates a quail in thick cover of a mowed strip.
A pair of eight-year-old bird dogs, setter Houston’s Blackjack (CH Can’t Go Wrong x CH Houston’s Belle, 2008) and Chris Mathan’s pointer Pal’s Kitty Hawk (Pal’s Maverick x Wynot Kristy, 2008), share point.
Tom Windorski of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, is one of our favorite clients. He’s an upbeat guy with a big heart, ready smile and a twinkle in his eye. He has a very nice family—wife Amanda and daughters Emily and Samantha—and usually an English setter or two. According to Tom, their newest dog might be one of their best. Duke is out of the 2013 breeding (and last) of our successful nick, Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice.
Tom is a passionate hunter of ruffed grouse, woodcock and prairie birds but he also gives back to the sport through, among other ways, woodcock banding. Tom and his bird dogs have spent many springs out in the woods. As he wrote, “It’s a good time and great way to get the dogs, and owners, out in the cover to knock off the winter rust!”
Tom passed along an email from Donna Dustin, Volunteer Woodcock Banding Coordinator, with information for both new and returning banders.
“Hello Woodcock Banders!
“What better way to spend a snowy, windy Sunday than to dream about spring in the woods! I’m looking forward to our Banding Program this year and I hope that many of you will be a part of it.
“We will be having another Woodcock Banders’ Training Session at Pineridge Grouse Camp in Remer (Minnesota) on May 13-15, 2016. The format will be similar to past years, with a few new things planned, including banding some captive birds so that everyone will be guaranteed the chance to handle birds and apply bands, even if they aren’t actual woodcock.
“Please contact Jerry Havel (218-301-6083 or ) to make arrangements for attending this fun and educational weekend. Experienced banders are encouraged to attend along with new folks. If you are a new bander we will train you and certify your dog as steady to wing and ready for banding.
“Even if you aren’t sure whether you or your dog are ready, it is still worthwhile for both of you to come to this training. You will get the opportunity to search for and band birds with experienced banding teams. This experience is required before you can be issued a permit, and it will be very helpful to you as you finish your own dog’s training. It is also a great opportunity to get training advice and help from some very skilled dog trainers.”
Northwoods Carbon’s nine puppies by CH Shadow Oak Bo almost fill their heated nest at two weeks of age.
Somewhat like lambing season in the English countryside, two of our dams whelped litters during dank hours on bitter nights. Jerry and I were bundled up in boots, hats and plenty of down to assist as necessary.
Northwoods Carbon was first. She whelped six females and three males on January 26. The sire of this litter is CH Shadow Oak Bo.
Nine puppies out of Sunnyhill Sam x Northwoods Carly Simon nestle together under the reddish glow of a heat lamp on their first day.
Not to be outdone, Northwoods Carly Simon whelped her nine puppies—two females and seven males—on February 8. Sunnyhill Sam sired this litter.
Amazing how quickly the litters grow and mature. All of Carbon’s puppies now have opened their eyes.
Spotlight on Blue Shaquille
(Houston x Blue Silk, 2004)
Described by Jerry as “the best grouse dog I’ve ever had,” Shaq has it all. Not only is he a physical specimen with a blocky head and powerful build but he has the nose, bird-finding ability, gait, style, endurance and is beautiful whether on point or backing.
With the exception of his half brother Northwoods Blue Ox (both share Blue Silk as dam), every setter at Northwoods Bird Dogs has Shaq in his pedigree—whether as sire, grandsire or great-grandsire.
Shaq is retired from hunting and breeding and now spends his days at the kennel greeting visitors, trotting around to check on things and napping in the kennel office or, on warm days, outside by the puppy pens.
After feeding time in the evening, Shaq races up the driveway to spend the night in the house with Jerry and Betsy.