With the NCAA championship basketball game streaming from my laptop in the background, Northwoods Bismuth whelped her litter of eight puppies by Northwoods Grits on Monday, April 3. In less time than the game took, Bismuth easily delivered four males and four females. All are tri-color.
The litter is now almost three weeks old. They have grown from tiny creatures to vigorous, plump, easily distinguishable puppies. They crawl out of the nest to relieve themselves but still spend most of their time either nursing or sleeping in an ever-changing pile.
Bismuth was whelped in 2014—the year Jerry and I chose the elements as our puppy naming theme. It was a very good year! Among others whelped that we still own are Carbon, Nickel and Platinum while two other outstanding dogs, Mercury and Gold, were sold.
On a spectacular, late afternoon workout, Northwoods Blitzen (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2016) found and pointed six grouse and one woodcock. As Bob Wehle might have said, “This is my brag dog!”
Wild bird contacts are essential when developing our puppies. I’m exposing them as much as possible to wild birds so their hunting instincts, natural abilities, style and poise can be fostered. All are key considerations when selecting future breeding dogs.
Showing impressive style and poise for a 13-week-old puppy, Northwoods Hercules (RU-CH Erin’s Prometheus x Northwoods Carly Simon, 2016) points a single bobwhite in native wiregrass.
As soon as the Georgia quail season ends in late February, dog trainers on most plantations focus on working their puppies. Fortunately, I’ve gotten to know several of them and so I spend most mornings in March bracing our young dogs with theirs.
During a morning training run on a beautifully maintained private quail plantation, setter Northwoods Mica (CH Shadow Oak Bo x Nortwoods Carbon, 2016) and pointer Northwoods Blitzen (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2016) share point.
When back in Minnesota, I can’t wait to get our puppies in the woods on grouse and woodcock. Amazingly, the transition is usually easy for them.
In a scene reminiscent of a Bev Doolittle painting, Northwoods Gabbro (CH Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Carbon, 2016) sticks a woodcock.
By the time nesting begins and training season ends, I have a good idea of the abilities of each pup. And yeah, it’s a lot of fun, too!
Northwoods Slate (CH Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Carbon, 2016) stopped in mid-stride, ear flipped back, when he caught scent of a quail.
In a picturesque setting of broom sedge, Northwoods Chalcedony (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2016) points a covey of bobwhite quail.
Northwoods Jeter (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2011), owned by Sam Gary, Jr., was featured in a recent episode of Outdoor Bound TV with Kurt Walbeck.
Jerry and I watched two recent videos where three English setters—all bred and trained by us—are stars. They are equally exciting and humbling to see.
The first footage features Bill Heig, owner with his wife Gail of Bowen Lodge in northern Minnesota. Bill was the subject of an episode of Outdoor Bound TV with Kurt Walbeck, a Midwest-based hunting and fishing show.
This program follows Bill and Sam Gary, Jr., on a hunt at Bill and Gail’s bobwhite quail lease in Texas. Bill and Sam have bought many dogs from us over the years—setters and pointers, males and females—but for this hunt, both chose English setter males. Bill took out Louis (Northwoods Grits x Northwoods Carly Simon, 2014) and Sam wanted his favorite, Jeter (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2011).
The Texas ranch setting is beautiful. The dog work is sometimes extraordinary and other times, especially for the younger Louis, earnest. The shooting by Bill and Sam is expert.
The next footage was shot by Nick Larson, a regional director for the Ruffed Grouse Society. Nick was out in the woods near his home in Duluth, Minn., with his setter male Hartley (Northwoods Grits x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2014).
In a fantastical setting of aspen trees and fluffy snow, Hartley pointed and a grouse flushed. The bird then careened off through the woods. Nick captured the whole thing in slow motion on his cell phone and sent it to A.J. DeRosa of Dangerous Cow Publishing for some expert editing.
Nick writes, “For most people, I think the flushing bird is probably the star of the show. It’s a great flush no doubt, but for me, Hartley is definitely the real star because without him I never would have captured the shot.”
The annual spring woodcock banding event for Minnesota has been announced. Jerry and I know several banders and they are excited to get out in the woods with their dogs and contribute to the resource. Donna Dustin, wildlife biologist for the Minnesota DNR and coordinator of the event, called woodcock banding an “addictive pursuit.”
Due the increased popularity of this worthwhile activity, an additional weekend has been added.
The first weekend, May 12 – 14, is a training weekend for new banders. May 19 – 21 is the second weekend and will be “a banding-only event, where we can gather together for camaraderie and spend as much time as we want in some of the best woodcock cover in the state,” according to Donna.
Both weekends will be headquartered at Pineridge Grouse Camp, near Remer, Minnesota.
On a side note, Amanda and Tom Dosen-Windorski are old pros at woodcock banding in Minnesota and this spring the couple was honored for their devotion and volunteering.
Amanda and Tom have bought several setters from Jerry and me, dogs that they bring into the woods each spring. Duke is their seasoned star but they just added a puppy, Tru, out of Blue Riptide x Northwoods Chablis. http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/volunteering/meet.html
Gary Lester, an all-age handler with numerous championship titles, watches while Miller’s Creative Cause backs.
Even though the bulk of the business of Northwoods Bird Dogs is training and breeding, I really like to guide wild bird hunts. Not only does this get me into the woods but I get to see how our dogs stack up against others.
While here in the Red Hills region of southwest Georgia/north Florida Georgia during the winter, I handle dogs off horseback on wild bobwhite quail hunts. It gives me ample opportunity to compare our dogs to others on the hunts.
The last hunt of this season was held on the prestigious, historic Dixie Plantation, near Monticello, Florida. First farmed as a cotton plantation in the early 1800s, the property eventually was purchased by the Livingston family, magnates in the railroad industry, in the 1920s. They turned it into an 18,000-acre wild quail hunting plantation, definitely one of the premier plantations in the area.
The main house of the Dixie Plantation is landscaped with boxwoods pruned in the shape of horseshoes. The entrance way features a life-sized bronze statue of a Tennessee Walking Horse, the favored horse for quail hunting plantations.
Ownership of the Dixie has since been turned over to Tall Timbers Research and Land Conservancy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fire ecology and wildlife management in the Southeast. The plantation, now 9,100 acres in size, is used primarily for quail research. But Tall Timbers also leases hunting days during the quail season and continues the tradition of hosting the Continental Field Trial Championship, an all-age stake now in its 119th year.
2015 National Champion Miller’s Dialing In has a covey find in a clearing of longleaf pines and live oaks.
Joining our client and his two friends on this final hunt was Gary Lester, professional, all-age field trial competitor. Gary has been wildly successful in field trial placements. Besides numerous championships, he has handled three dogs that won the three-hour National Championship at the Ames Plantation in Tennessee.
How fortunate that two of those champions were with him on this hunt: CH Miller’s Dialing In (2015 winner) and the recently crowned 2017 National Champion Lester’s Sunny Hill Jo. It would be fabulous to hunt with just one of those dogs…but here were two!
In addition to Dialing In and Jo, Gary brought CH Miller’s Creative Cause, another dog he ran in the 2017 National Championship, and three winning, derby-aged dogs.
All pointer males, these dogs are big and muscular—weighing more than 55 pounds—and they are powerful, athletic animals. They moved with strength and class but were also extremely responsive to Gary. Very impressive!
Lester’s Sunny Hill Jo shows his championship style on covey find and a hunter moves in for the flush.
I was both thrilled and humbled to see our dogs braced with some of the best in the nation—so I wanted our best in my string.
On the truck were setters CH Houston’s Blackjack, RU-CH Northwoods Nirvana, Grits, Rolls Royce, Jeter, Carly Simon, Nickel, Carbon and Anhiwake Grace and three pointer females, Vixen, Platinum and Audi. I also had two English cockers, Yoshi and Arrowhead Penny, to retrieve dead birds.
The hunting party readies horses, dogs and equipment for the morning hunt.
The first morning brace was a good one. Gary ran Dialing In (the 2015 National Champion!) and I chose Rolls Royce. Both dogs were on a mission to find quail and, to my delight, they ended their hour equal in bird finds.
The highlight for me, though, was the last brace of the day when I ran Grits, a strong 50-lb. male that always hunts hard and stylishly, and Gary ran one of his winning derbies. The open, rolling terrain allowed us to see them on big, beautiful casts. I was so proud that Grits compared favorably on the ground with Gary’s all-age dog. Even better, Grits out-birded his bracemate and pointed four coveys in the hour, giving the hunting part plenty of action. I think Gary was impressed because he asked me to call him if I get another setter like that…and he’s a pointer guy!
The next morning was foggy and warm. Gary braced CH Lester’s Sunny Hill Jo and CH Miller’s Creative Cause. These two all-age champions put on a show of strength, class and bird finding with five covey finds in a bit more than an hour. Again, very impressive!
At about noon that day when the temperature was 82°, I ran two of our dogs. I braced Royce with female setter Nickel (out of 2X National Champion Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Chardonnay). I was so proud that both dogs ran well, and found and pointed birds.
Both days were great hunts…and it was a special honor to watch Gary and his championship dogs.
During the evening of January 9 and lasting into the early morning of the 10th, Northwoods Chablis whelped five puppies—four males and one female. This litter, by Blue Riptide, is her last.
On both top and bottom, this litter represents the origins and core of our setter breeding program. On the top, Riptide is out of Blue Chief, one of our most prepotent sires, while his dam Blue Blossom through CH Blue Streak goes back to our first setter litter in 1995.
Chablis is out of one of our favorite nicks, Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice. She carries the best of CH Houston’s Belle, CH First Rate, CH Blue Streak and CH Blue Smoke, which again, goes back to our first litter.
Chablis’ puppies are now five weeks old. On a warm, sunny winter day in Georgia, Jerry and I carried them onto the grass and brought along play toys and a bowl of water.
The puppies romped and scampered until they could no more and then curled up for naps.
Five of the eight puppies out of Northwoods Carly Simon by RU-CH Erin’s Promethus are now with their new families. Three males flew to Minnesota, another male flew to Virginia and one female puppy landed in Wisconsin.
That leaves three with Jerry and me. We kept two puppies for ourselves and the male chosen by the owner of Prometheus, John Mathys, will live with us until spring.
The reports so far are very good. Not much is more fun or more heartwarming than pupppies but they do require attention, care and diligence, especially at the beginning.
Ben and Maureen sent photos, too.
Just so you know, we really love this puppy!!! He is a bit of work but tons of fun. We have ice fished 5 days and he seems to like it as much as I do. ~ Maureen & Ben, Minnesota
This little man has taken Richmond by storm. Eeryone loves him, especially us. As you’re well aware, he’s a feisty one. We love that (although not sure my 9-year-old Lab would agree). Thanks so much. ~ Beth & Vance, Virginia
We just wanted to send you a note that we are so in love with our puppy already. He is such a good boy and is so fun to be around! He is learning very quickly and we are so impressed. Our other older dog is thrilled to have a playmate and they have been enjoying each other’s company. ~ Annie & Dan, Minnesota
He is doing great!! Very few accidents in the house!! We go for walks, just short ones. Everybody absolutely loves him where ever we take him!! ~ Teresa & Kevin, Minnesota
Mocha had another great year on the Montana prairie. I guided over her 25 days already and hunted over her another 10 days. ~ Mitch, owner of Mocha (CH Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2014), Montana
Every now and then it’s good to reflect on the past year. It can be tempting to focus on sad times—and especially this year when many dogs died. Beloved dogs May, Franny, Prancer, Chardonnay and Blossom are gone but will remain forever in our hearts.
In the midst of our grief and pain, though, puppies were born and puppies always herald joy and hope and never fail to make us smile.
In addition, during the hunting season Jerry and I received lots of communication from clients. Whether calls or text messages or emails, these reports always made us feel happy.
Some themes were evident in the correspondence this fall.
• Bird dogs get tired after a day in the field and are rewarded with naps on the furniture.
• It doesn’t seem to matter the bird or the state. Dogs found birds.
• Age of the dogs doesn’t seem to matter. All dogs got plenty of action.
• There’s no bigger smile on a handler’s face than after his young dog places in a tough derby stake.
• The hunting tradition continues…sometimes from hunter to son to grandson and other times from hunter to daughter.
So, it’s been a good year. Jerry and I are proud of our dogs and are extremely grateful to their owners. Our best to all in 2017!
Jade is a great pup, and did well for the early season. Now we are waiting for late season grouse and a couple trips to Oklahoma for quail. ~ Frank, owner of Jade (CH Rock Acre Blackhawk x Northwoods Vixen, 2015), Michigan
Dixie is a rock star. Here she is with her best friend Penny hunting with my dad in Montana. ~ Isabel, owner of Dixie (CH Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Carbon, 2016), Texas; her father Sam, owner of Penny (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013), Colorado
Here’s Biscuit with a proud look over her birds. She found a covey of what I think was 6. I got 2…but they were whizzing all around me. No stopping Biskers! ~ Ryan, owner of Biscuit (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis, 2011), Minnesota
Here’s a screen shot of Stella’s GPS. 30 miles for a Saturday. I think that might be a record. She was fine and ready to roll the next morning!!! ~ Laura, owner of Stella (Northwoods Grits x Northwoods Carly Simon, 2015), Illinois
Grandson, 3 woodcock. Son, 3 woodcock. Izzie, 30 woodcock, 8 grouse. Priceless. ~ Jeff, owner of Izzie (CH Westfall’s Black Ice x Northwoods Prancer, 2011), Minnesota
Roy snuggled into Kate at Barry’s house last week. ~ Chris, owner of Roy (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis, 2012), Wisconsin, and Barry, owner of Kate (Northwoods Blue Ox x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2010), Minnesota
Here’s Lacey with our younger son Austin. She is definitely a cuddle dog! She is obviously doing well and we love her! ~ Missy, owner of Lacey (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2016), Pennsylvania
Maddie ends 2016 having placed in each event she was entered in by placing 3rd today. Go Maddie! Now for a few weeks enjoying hunting. ~ Robby, owner of Maddie (CH Rock Acre Blackhawk x Northwoods Vixen, 2015), Maine
Loki had a wonderful day. 6 birds. ~ James, owner of Loki (CH Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Carbon, 2016), Minnesota
Three points, three roosters. Emma rocks. ~ Howard, owner of Emma (Northwoods Grits x Northwoods Carly Simon, 2015), Montana
Coop is doing very well with his training. We are so happy with him. He is a handful, but such a pleasure to own. His natural ability is a testament to you and your breeding of pointers. ~ Tim, owner of Coop (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2016), Massachusetts
Rae on the left, Willow on the right, after a tough day of hunting. Notice the leather chairs, both heads on armrests, hunting boots, setter lamp. Priceless. ~ Gregg, owner of Rae (Sunny Hill Sam x Northwoods Carly Simon, 2016) and Willow (CH Ridge Creek Cody x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2013), Wisconsin
Yesterday Jenny got her turn 3 different times. Lots of bird contact. She was bumping and chasing woodcock all over the woods and then a flash point stop to flush on this grouse. I knocked it down and Jenny was on it. Her prey drive is so high that she never stops hunting. ~ John, owner of Jenny (CH Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Carbon, 2016), Michigan
Here’s Sadie holding point on a chukar. ~ Bob, owner of Sadie (CH Houston’s Blackjack x Northwoods Chablis, 2013), Minnesota
If only all of our dogs’ lives were as long and happy as Blossom’s.
Blue Blossom, call name Tina, was out of our best field trial setter, 4X CH/4X RU-CH Blue Streak, and another grouse champion, Grouse Hollow Gus. She lived with Jerry and me for about six years but for the majority of her life, Tina was the treasured hunting partner of Tim Esse.
Tina was trained as all our other dogs are—on wild bobwhites in Texas, native prairie birds of North Dakota and on ruffed grouse and woodcock in northern Minnesota. She was perhaps best-suited to the latter and gained quite a reputation as a star member of Jerry’s grouse guiding string.
Because Jerry and I are also breeders, our hunting females get bred. With a bit of kismet, we chose Blue Chief for Tina in 2006 and that cross became our first nick.
We repeated Chief x Tina for three consecutive years. Her famous puppies are legion—Cooper and Cammie, Elle and Daisy, Ollie and Peanut, Bee and Banshee —and they are scattered across the country. Tina’s legacy will continue because we continue to breed one of her special sons, Blue Riptide.
Jerry and I retired Tina in 2008 after her last litter. We sold her to Tim, a passionate grouse hunter from the Twin Cities who schedules the rest of his life around the fall season. For one thing, his job enables him to work remotely. For another, he has family living in northern Minnesota and can easily slip back and forth.
Throughout these eight years, we’ve stayed in touch with Tim and were always so happy to see Tina. As late as this fall when Tina was 14 years old, Tim took her hunting 15 times.
We were deeply saddened to receive an email from him in late November. “Tina is in hunting heaven,” he wrote.