Tom Beauchamp proudly displays the big red ribbon won by Northwoods Iron Maiden (Northwoods Grits x CH I’m Blue Gert, 2014) for her second place finish in the Grand National Grouse Futurity Puppy Classic.
Spring is a welcome season throughout snow-weary, northern parts of the country. It is true for all whether commuters, merchants or gardeners but perhaps it is even more so for sportsmen and women who own bird dogs and like to get them in the woods to match them against others during the spring field trial season.
Even though Jerry and I don’t compete as much, we anxiously await results of the various venues and are thrilled when others place—especially when the puppies, derbies and older dogs are out of our kennel. Equally exciting, though, is when winners are:
• owners who are new to field trials
• dogs that are older, experienced and much wiser
• dogs out of favorite pointer males
Tom Beauchamp of Fishers, Indiana, had never competed in a field trial but was keen to run his nine-month-old female setter puppy out of multiple grouse champion I’m Blue Gert by Northwoods Grits. As a practice run, Tom drove up to the Michigan Amateur Field Trial Club’s stakes held near Gladwin, Michigan, on April 3. It was well worth the effort for he earned an Honorable Mention.
After the conclusion of the 68th running of the Grand National Grouse Futurity Puppy Classic, judges and winning handlers pose with their puppies. From left: Judge Dick Brenneman, Dave Hughes with Springfield’s Side Kick, Tom Beauchamp with Northwoods Iron Maiden, Dave D’Hulster with Willwoods Squig, Mark Hughes with Springfield’s Dark Knight, judge Eric Locher.
That was merely a preamble, though, for the next weekend Tom headed to Marienville, Pennsylvania, where the 68th running of the Grand National Grouse Futurity Puppy Classic was held in the Allegheny National Forest. Eric Locher and top-notch veteran Dick Brenneman judged 28 puppies from which four placements were awarded.
How sensational for Tom and his puppy. He said, “What the hell. I just let her roll.”
2nd Grand National Grouse Futurity Puppy Classic
Northwoods Iron Maiden
(Northwoods Grits x CH I’m Blue Gert, 2014)
Owned and handled by Tom Beauchamp
Randy Ott is proud of Northwoods Creek (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2013) and his first place in the Open Derby at a Minnesota Grouse Dog Association spring trial. The rotating silver cup is filled with engraved names of past greats in the grouse woods.
The Minnesota Grouse Dog Association held the first of two weekend field trials beginning April 10. The stakes are always run in the Rum River State Forest near Mora. Several placements are especially noteworthy.
1st Open Derby
(Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2013)
Owned and handled by Randy Ott
1st Open Shooting Dog
Merimac’s Adda Girl
(CH Long Gone Nixon x Grouse River Princess, 2006. She’s 9!!)
Owned and handled by Ben McKean
1st Amateur Shooting Dog & 2nd Open Shooting Dog
Goodgoing Hannah Montana
(Dashaway x Goodgoing Elhew Moxie, 2007. She’s 8!!)
Co-owned and handled by Brett Edstrom
2nd Amateur Shooting Dog
Satin From Silk
(I’m Houston’s Image x Blue Silk, 2006. She’s 9, too!!)
Owned and handled by Greg Gress
3rd Open Puppy
(CH Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2014)
Owned and handled by Matt Forgit
Matt Forgit and his son happily pose with Miles (CH Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2014) after his third place finish in the Open Puppy at a Minnesota Grouse Dog Association spring trial.
Meanwhile, beginning April 11, the Minnesota Bird Hunters Association held their spring trial at Four Brooks Field Trials Grounds north of Milaca. Chuck Brandes entered his young female in two stakes and came away with two ribbons.
1st Open Gun Dog & 3rd Open Derby
Ridge Creek Pied Piper
(CH Ridge Creek Cody x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2013)
Owned and handled by Chuck Brandes
Puppy buyers often become fixated on their order of pick in a litter. Betsy and I know—first hand—that the last pick can be the best.
The first grouse champion we owned was bought sight unseen from Maine. Not only was our puppy the last pick but the breeder changed his mind during the process.
We were excited about that that litter—a repeat breeding of a top-notch female grouse dog, 5X CH Vanidestine’s Rail Lady, to a spectacular male, 2X CH/RU-CH Northern Dancer, trained and handled by fellow Minnesotan Jim Tande. Eddie Vanidestine first told us we were getting an orange-and-white female. We said, “Fine.” When he later called to tell us it would be a liver one, we again said, “Fine.”
Most of that litter went to grouse trialers and we never saw or heard anything about an orange-and-white female. But that liver puppy grew into our extraordinary 2X CH Dance Smartly and became the foundation of our pointer line, now four generations down.
It’s hard to believe how close we came to not having what would become our best setter ever. When we bred Blue Silk to Paul Hauge’s Houston in 2004, our first pick was based on looks—a gorgeous, tri-color male with a solid head. After two other males were chosen, one was left. He had a big, blocky head, a patch on one side of his head and a small spot over the other eye. We named our first choice Kobe and the leftover pup, Shaq.
The all-female litter out of Northwoods Prancer by CH Westfall’s Black Ice in 2011 left us with an evenly marked, black and white one with a spot at the base of her tail. Jeff Hintz, good friend, neighbor and training helper, took her. Jeff will tell you in a heartbeat that he will take last pick any day if it turns out to be as good as his precocious, smart, talented young champion, JTH Izzie.
In a previous post, How To Pick a Puppy, I wrote that the essential concepts are to: first, choose the right breeder and, second, choose the right litter. The pick order is the least important. It is impossible to definitely know what a puppy will become when it is eight weeks old.
Others agree. John Wick, breeder of hundreds of coonhounds, writes, “It is absolutely impossible at 8, 10, 12 weeks of age to pick out the best pup or pups, no matter who you are or what you know.”
Lucy (on left) is a young setter that recently swallowed a large quantity of TomCat rodent poison but is now recovering. Her kennel-mate in the background is four-year-old Beasley.
Jerry and I recently heard from Mike, a friend and client from Minnesota. Mike has bought two setters from us— Beasley in 2011 and last year, Lucy.
“Tuesday afternoon I was driving home, talking to my wife Cynthia who was at home. All of sudden Cynthia was telling Lucy to drop something. When she reached, Lucy swallowed the rest of the mouse poison.
“Within 10 minutes I was home and had the vet on the phone. Per the vet’s instructions I gave her hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting. Within 5 minutes Lucy did and there was a lot of poison in her.”
Inducing vomiting in a dog is an extremely valuable medical skill and, fortunately, it’s relatively easy to do.
1. Have these two supplies on hand:
• 3% hydrogen peroxide
• syringe (without needle) or turkey baster
2. Fill the syringe or baster with straight hydrogen peroxide at the dosage of 1 teaspoon per 10 lbs. of dog weight. (One teaspoon equals 5 cc or 5 ml.)
3. Squirt into the back of the dog’s mouth.
4. Wait 15 minutes. If the dog hasn’t vomited, the dosage can be repeated once.
Due to quick thinking and action by Mike and Cynthia, Lucy is recovering. Last week, they took her back to their vet for a re-check.
“She is good! We will be giving vitamin K for the next 30 days to help her blood clot. They do want us to keep her quiet for a month. That will be a challenge!!”
At two weeks of age, the eight puppies out of Northwoods Grits x Northwoods Carly Simon have more than doubled their weight since birth. They’ve grown from an average of .8 lbs. to an average of 1.8 lbs.
It’s been busy and exciting around our Georgia kennel lately. Within a timeframe of about 10 days, our three pregnant dams delivered a total of 24 puppies.
Jerry and I can usually predict when a dam is close to whelping. Her temperature will drop to around 98 degrees and she won’t eat.
So on Sunday evening, March 15, we knew Northwoods Carly Simon was close. Within about two hours, she had whelped eight puppies—five females and three males. All are tri-color. This litter is by Northwoods Grits.
Six days later, on Saturday, March 21, Northwoods Vixen didn’t eat her evening meal and her temperature was falling. We stayed up with her and within a couple of hours, her first puppy was born. By the time she was finished about eight hours later, she had delivered five females and four males. One male is liver and white; the rest are black and white. This litter is a frozen-semen breeding by CH Rock Acre Blackhawk.
Within hours of whelping, Northwoods Vixen had her nine puppies by CH Rock Acre Blackhawk clean and white.
Northwoods Chablis was next. On the evening of Monday, March 23, she didn’t eat and her temperature had dropped. Again we watched and finally, just after midnight, she began. After three hours, she had whelped seven puppies—three females and four males. This is Chablis’ fourth litter by Northwoods Blue Ox.
Northwoods Chablis protectively curls round her seven puppies–cleaning some and letting others nurse.
Even though 24 puppies sounds like a lot of puppies, right now there isn’t much work for Jerry and me. Jerry is doing the “super puppy” exercises with them. Otherwise the dams do it all.
Inherited talent and ample exposure to opportunity are crucial elements to a pointing dog’s bird-finding skills. (Northwoods Nickel, CH Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2014)
“That dog’ll hunt!” exclaimed Bobby, dog trainer on a large Georgia quail plantation, while we were out working puppies last week.
Bobby was referring to the bird-finding ability of his young pointer—a dog that was focused exclusively on finding quail. Bobby has been training bird dogs for more than 20 years and knows what’s essential.
“They’ll all point,” he said, “but give me the one that finds the most.”
Bobby is right. You can’t teach a dog to find birds. You can teach it to heel, come and whoa but if it doesn’t have the inherited talent to search for and to find birds, all you have is a well-trained dog. Those instincts, however, will never be maximized without opportunity—and plenty of it. Even then, some dogs given equal opportunity will be better at finding birds. No one really knows what produces that proficiency. Is it above-average scenting capability, intelligence, ability to focus? Or a combination? Or something else?
The degree of difficulty to finding birds depends on the birds. Non-wild birds such as put-out quail or game farm pheasants are generally easy to find. They usually have little idea of where they are or where to go and so, unknowingly, they become exposed.
Working puppies in groups is a fun, productive way to provide bird-finding opportunities because the puppies learn from each other. (Three females out of CH Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2014)
Wild birds are the most difficult to find. They know every square foot of their own territory—from exactly where they are to exactly where they’re going. They move a lot during the day—to find food, loaf, dust and avoid predators—and most of that movement is done by walking. Their scent is left on the ground by their feet, droppings and feathers and on plants by brushing against them.
Finding wild birds is easiest when the bird is stationary and the dog hunts by that exact spot. Most of the time, though, the dog smells leftover scent. It learns to follow that little wisp of scent until it becomes progressively stronger, ultimately leading to the location of the bird.
Another experienced plantation dog trainer, Phillip, would agree. A man wanted to sell him a young dog, pointing out conformation, markings and other physical qualities and boasting about all the champions in its pedigree. Phillip wasn’t impressed. Instead, he looked the man straight in the eye and asked, “Yeah, but can it find a bird?”
Desire is another inherited trait that will lead to ample bird finding. (Northwoods Nickel, CH Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2014)
Pro trainer Luke Eisenhart reaches in to take his derby winner Awsum In Motion out of the area after a find.
On a foggy morning in early March, I drove northwest out of our place to Erin’s Covey Pointe plantation near Sale City, Georgia. I was fortunate to have an opportunity to ride along with professional all-age handler Luke Eisenhart during a morning workout.
Luke is a phenomenon. After his first year of competing on the all-age field trial circuit, he was named the 2011-2012 Purina Top All-Age Handler of the Year. He won the next year, too, 2012-2013. In this year’s standings not only does Luke have a substantial lead over second place but he handles two of the top three dogs for the Purina Top Dog Award, Erin’s Wild Justice and Erin’s Kentucky Gambler.
To keep his string in top condition both physically and mentally, Luke combines roading and field work of 30 – 45 minutes on birds. During these workouts, he doesn’t let the dogs range like they do in a trial; rather he keeps them close and concentrates on handling, finding and pointing birds. He runs dogs in pairs and wants each dog to point several coveys and back the bracemate.
Luke Eisenhart walks back to CH True Confidence after the flush and shot on a nice covey find.
On that day, Luke worked pointer champions Erin’s Dog Soldier, Erin’s Wild Justice, Erin’s Full Throttle and True Confidence, along with setters Houston’s Blackjack and derby winner Awsum In Motion.
Like all good handlers I’ve observed, Luke is smooth, confident and soft spoken around his dogs. It can be forgotten that he is working some of the most powerful, driven dogs found anywhere because he makes handling them look easy. Luke is good because he’s passionate about what he does, works hard on a consistent basis, knows what to do and—and just as importantly—knows what not to do. His timing and execution are precise and he knows each dog thoroughly.
Also exciting for me to see was the dogs themselves. Up close, I saw their physical conformation and disposition and, out in the field, I observed their gait, style and performance.
In the truck on the way back to our place, it became crystal clear to me why Luke and his dogs do so much winning.
Northwoods Vixen, age 3
(CH Westfall’s Black Ice x Northwoods Prancer)
photo by Chris Mathan, The Sportsman’s Cabinet
Chris Mathan feels fortunate to be living for at least part of this winter near Thomasville, Georgia, in the southwestern corner of the state and far from the cold and clouds of her native Maine. Not only is the climate more hospitable here but this the heart of bobwhite quail plantation country…and home to hundreds of bird dogs.
Chris runs The Sportsman’s Cabinet where she plies her extraordinary design skills to build websites and other marketing materials. She also has amassed one of the country’s best portfolios of outdoor photographs, focusing on dogs, upland bird hunting and field trials. In partnership with Mazie Davis, Chris founded Strideaway, an online publication dedicated to field trials.
For more than 10 years, Chris has worked with Jerry and me for all our marketing needs. She designed our website and shot all the photographs. In addition, Chris designed and photographed the website for my other business, Dazzle Gardens.
I felt fortunate to chat with Robin Gates and to see CH Shadow Oak Bo up close after the morning’s braces at the 2015 Continental All-Age Championship.
Betsy and I were excited to watch two-time National Champion Shadow Oak Bo compete at the 2015 Continental All-Age Championship held at the Dixie Plantation in northern Florida. Though I had watched him before, I couldn’t miss an opportunity for another look.
Bo is handled by professional Robin Gates and co-owned by Butch Housten and John Dorminy.
Bo, who had just turned nine years of age, hunted the course hard and far, yet handled easily as he hunted from one birdy location to another. He had four finds on coveys, one where the birds were unseen by the judges and two that required relocations.
I was very impressed with Bo’s relocations. Both times, he was on point to the front. After thorough flushing attempts, Robin released the dog and Bo was masterful. He moved positively yet cautiously, exuding confidence that he knew his job. After 40 – 75 yard relocations, Bo pinned the coveys. Robin moved in quickly to flush and the birds were right where Bo indicated. Again, in both instances, the quail flushed from a wide area, indicating they were a feeding, moving group—not the kind that are easy to keep on the ground.
Bo finished his hour well, perhaps not as strong as Robin would have liked and not good enough for a placement but clearly showed us why he’s had such a long, successful career. Interestingly, Bo was being treated for a good-sized abscess on the side of his rib cage due possibly caused by a migrating grass awn.
After the morning’s running, Betsy and I walked to the kennel area. Robin handed Bo a treat as he opened the kennel door. We chatted with Robin who then offered to let us see Bo.
Physically, Bo is a specimen—strong and solid. He is a gentle dog with deep, sensitive eyes that convey intelligence and calmness.
If there is one word to describe Bo’s personality, it is calmness. He was calm on the dog wagon; calm prior to his brace when being outfitted with the Garmin; calm after his brace; and calm while we petted him and chatted with Robin. Most importantly, Bo was calm—yet also composed and intense—on point.
We were happy with everything we observed about Bo. It’s easy to see why he’s so outstanding in field trials. We wish him the best.
“Dam Row” is the first three runs on the south side where Vixen, Chablis and Carly live.
So far, so good.
Dams of three of our five planned litters for 2015 came into season in January. Within two weeks, Northwoods Carly Simon and Northwoods Chablis had been bred and Northwoods Vixen had been surgically inseminated.
Jerry and I can confirm that all three are definitely pregnant. But when we added whelp dates to our Google calendar, we realized we might be a little sleep deprived later in March.
March 17: Northwoods Carly Simon by Northwoods Grits
March 23: Northwoods Chablis by Northwoods Blue Ox
Mach 24: Northwoods Vixen by Rock Acre Blackhawk
Carly, Chablis and Vixen are very healthy and, until March, Jerry will continue a light exercise routine so they stay in good shape.
On this crisp, sunny morning, setters Carly and Chablis enjoy their new chew toys while Vixen, the pointer in the background, prefers the warmth of her house.
The dog handler (in orange vest) flushes as two hunters move into position over a classic point by one of the best in our string, Northwoods Carly Simon (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2011) during a guided hunt on a private quail plantation.
The adage “Time flies when you’re having fun” could not be truer for our winter in Georgia. Between training puppies and young dogs, conditioning older dogs, guiding foot, jeep and horseback hunts, riding braces at field trials, caring for 28 dogs and two horses and the day-to-day work of running a business, Betsy and I are definitely busy and are definitely having fun.
Due in large part to Matt Moehle who was hired last spring as the property manager, the grounds of the farm we lease are dramatically improved. Matt has burned, mowed, chopped and fed and, as a result, there are twice as many wild coveys. The habitat is excellent for put-out covey survival, too. It is truly exciting to see such progress in just one season.
The English cocker Yoshi has been fun to train for flushing and retrieving. He is all puppy—happy, playful and earnest.
As Betsy wrote in “Training puppies on Georgia bobwhite quail” on January 16, we’ve been working a nice group of puppies. Three litters (two sired by Northwoods Grits to Houston’s Belle’s Choice and I’m Blue ; one by Blue Riptide x Carly Simon) are typical of our dogs—they hunt hard, point and back on their own by six months of age. Mercury, a handsome, strapping male by Parmigiano x Rum Rickey is developing more slowly but shows exciting potential. Our out-crossed puppies by Shadow Oak Bo and Chardonnay have a ton of point, naturally back and move with beautiful, easy gaits.
Also with us is a talented group of derbies (one-and-one-half-year-olds). Three pointers out of Elhew G Force x Vixen, NW Smooch, Audi and Jaguar, and the setter Rolls Royce (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice) are progressing extremely well. Most are steady to wing and shotgun and solid on backs, too. I’ve used them during guided hunts where there is lots of commotion—multiple people flushing and shooting, others watching, horses, mule wagons, jeeps and other dogs. Such experiences do much to make a bullet-proof dog.
During a training session on our farm, NW Smooch (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013) points with poise, style and intensity.
It’s been a fun experience to train Yoshi, an English cocker spaniel. Yoshi is a personable, energetic puppy and loves to flush and retrieve quail. I used him on a guided hunt and he did an admirable job.
Again this year I’ve been fortunate to be part of a client’s hunts on private plantations. These hunts are the real deal—all on wild quail—with hunters and dog handlers on horseback and a mule-drawn dog wagon. I’ve handled our client’s dogs and our dogs in braces with plantation dogs and it gives me an ideal comparison. I’m proud to report that all do very well and are only bested by a veteran pointer. Another testament to our dogs’ talent is that many handlers express interest in buying a puppy—even a setter puppy!
Ahniwake Grace (Northwoods Blue Ox x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2010) is used exclusively on private quail plantation hunts where she typically out-birds her bracemates.
Our star performers include:
• Jeter and Carly Simon (Shaquille x Choice)
• Ahniwake Grace (Blue Ox x Choice)
• Grits and Axel (Blue Ox x Chablis)
• Merrimac’s Blu Monday (Blue Ox x Houston’s Belle)
Another fun aspect of our winter has been hosting several clients from around the country. Betsy and I give them a tour of our place and, in the evening, invite them to some of our favorite restaurants in Thomasville.
Along the driveway leading to the heart of the Dixie Plantation in Greenville, Florida, a sign reminds everyone to be cautious during the running of the Continental All-Age Championship.
Finally, we rode (me on horseback and Betsy on the dog wagon) several half-days at the prestigious Continental Championship held on the Dixie Plantation.