Handler Luke Eisenhart prepares Houston’s Blackjack for his brace. Tracking collars are permitted but the transmitter is held by the judges until after time.
Before the sun had cleared the tall pines early on a crisp Florida morning, CH Shadow Oak Bo was loaded into the dog wagon for his brace, second in the day’s running in the 2015 Continental Open All-Age Championship. He sat in the box, big brown eyes calmly observing all the commotion as the seventh day of the prestigious field trial got underway.
This was familiar territory for Bo. In 2011, he won this trial and in 2012 he was named runner-up champion. Bo also won back-to-back National Championships in 2013 and 2014.
While waiting in the dog box, CH Shadow Oak Bo serenely surveys the scene during a the morning’s running of the Continental All-Age Championship.
At 10:05 a.m., Robin Gates, Bo’s trainer and handler, placed the dog back in dog wagon but not before Bo had three bobwhite covey finds—two on masterful relocations. Gates commented, “He did a good job.”
The Continental Field Trial
The Continental Field Trial Club was formed in 1895 in Chicago so this year marked the 120th. In addition to the all-age competition, an open derby was also held. The prestigious trial drew the best amateur and professional trainers/handlers in the country and not merely for bragging rights. The purses were substantial—$15,000 for the all-age champion and $6,000 for the derby winner.
The list of pros was impressive and included, besides Robin Gates and others, Hall-of-Famer Garland Priddy, 2012 top all-age handler Luke Eisenhart and Richie Robertson. Sean Derrig and Gary Lester, top amateurs, had dogs entered. Even Ferrel Miller, owner, trainer and handler of the famous Miller dogs, came to watch.
The entrance sign to the Dixie Plantation on Livingston Road, decorated with drawings of bobwhite quail, pretty much says it all: owned and managed by Tall Timbers and home of the Continental Field Trial.
The Dixie Plantation
The history of the Dixie Plantation is similar to other bobwhite quail plantations in the Red Hills Region, an area rich in natural resources in southwestern Georgia/northwestern Florida. Wealthy businessmen and their families rode the train from their northern homes as far south as possible…and the tracks ended in Thomasville, Georgia.
Gerald Livingston was the son and heir of Cranston Livingston II, an investor in the Northern Pacific Railway. Livingston and his wife Eleanor lived in New York City where he ran the stock brokerage firm of Livinston & Co. In 1910, Livingston first traveled to the area on a hunting trip and later, in 1926, the couple purchased the first piece of property (7,500 acres) and named it the Dixie Plantation.
The lush cover on the Dixie Plantation can be thick with brambles, broom sedge, wire grass and other plants. The overhead canopy is live oaks draped with Spanish moss and longleaf or loblolly pines.
During the 1930s, Livingston bought additional property and the plantation increased to more than 18,000 acres and straddled the Florida/Georgia line.
The gallery is often large and can get spread out, especially when a dog is on point. Often a handler not in the brace will ride along and road his dogs.
The Continental and the Dixie
The tie between the Continental Field Trial Club and the Dixie Plantation goes back 78 years. Livingston had always been an avid sportsman, hunting with his pointers off horseback. When he was president of the Continental, he first hosted the trial at the Dixie in 1937.
After Livingston died in 1950, his heirs continued running the plantation and continued to host the Continental. In 2013, plantation ownership passed to Tall Timbers Research & Land Conservancy but Livingston’s legacy is still honored. Randy Floyd is President/Treasurer of the club and has run the trial for 18 years. He also works for Tall Timbers at the Dixie Plantation.
Water tanks are placed at strategic locations on the courses. They are of multiple use—horses drink, trial dogs are dunked before their brace and roading dogs plop in to drink and cool off.
The vast piney woods of the Dixie is a true challenge. To win, a dog needs to cover acres of lush, thick cover, show consistently and point multiple coveys of wild quail, all while the handler rides about 75 yards ahead of the judges and sings to his dog. Even the scout’s job is limited to riding to each side, ensuring that the dog isn’t passed by while on point.
The all-age circuit is dominated by pointer males and the Continental was no different. Of the 88 dogs entered, here’s the breakdown.
• pointer males: 66
• pointer females: 12
• setter males: 9
• setter females: 1
Of the many extraordinary champion dogs, Jerry and I were especially excited to see three. Paul Hauge, our partner in numerous dog ventures, Jerry and I bred Northwoods Chardonnay (owned by Paul) to frozen semen of Shadow Oak Bo. Chardonnay whelped eight and we have four puppies with us for the winter.
Scout Tommy Davis leads Houston’s Blackjack to the breakaway for his brace in the middle of a dry, sunny afternoon.
CH Houston’s Blackjack (CH Can’t Go Wrong x CH Houston’s Belle, 2008), again bred by Paul, Jerry and me, is now owned by Paul and campaigned on the all-age circuit by Luke Eisenhart. Jack ran in the middle brace on a dry, calm afternoon. At 35 minutes, he had the first find but was picked up because he moved about six inches on the flush. “The birds were right under him,” Luke remarked.
True Confidence, owned by Frank LaNasa and handled by Luke Eisenhart, is held by Luke’s scout, Tommy Davis, just prior to the breakaway.
CH True Confidence (call name Bob) is owned by good friend and partner in our North Dakota camp, Frank LaNasa. Bob is a multiple champion in prairie trials and this winter Frank placed Bob with Luke. On a brisk morning, Bob ran a strong forward race, had a nice limb find and an unproductive in a known covey location.
The Continental usually has a thrilling finish. The main running consists of one-hour braces which are really just qualifying heats. At the discretion of the judges, dogs are called back for one-hour and 50-minute finals. The extremely competent judges this year, Harold Ray and Doug Vaughn, named 12 dogs for the finals. As much as we rooted for “our” dogs—Bo, Jack and Bob—none was in the call back.
By the end of Saturday’s running, Luke’s pointer Erin’s Wild Justice, owned by Allen Linder, was named champion and Miller’s Dialing In, owned and handled by Gary Lester, was runner-up.
Congratulations to Luke, Allen, Gary and their champion dogs!
Not much is more serene than a dam and her puppies. Northwoods Carly Simon earns this rest after whelping eight puppies by Blue Riptide in June 2014.
There must have been something in the air around the holidays here in southwest Georgia. Within days of each other, Northwoods Carly Simon, Chablis and Vixen all came into season.
In other words, Jerry and I have been busy. With the setters, we were pretty sure natural breeding would work fine but Vixen’s was more complicated. When using frozen semen as we were with now-deceased CH Rock Acre Blackhawk, multiple progesterone tests are necessary so the surgery to implant is conducted at the opportune time. The surgery itself is rather minor—about a 20-minute procedure with a small incision in the abdomen and then placement of the now-thawed semen directly into each horn of the uterus via a fine needle.
This pointer litter includes white and either black, liver or orange puppies.
If all goes well, the whelp dates should be about:
• Carly: March 17
• Chablis: March 23
• Vixen: March 24
In April 2013, Northwoods Vixen naps after whelping nine puppies–two males and seven females–by CH Elhew G Force.
Setter litter at two weeks of age sleeps and snuggles in the heating whelping nest.
Jerry and I divided the puppies into two groups—younger and older—and they rotate days in the big puppy exercise pen. This day the young ones got their turn. Handsome male Mercury (Northwoods Parmigiano x Northwoods Rum Rickey) is surrounded by four litter sisters (CH Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Chardonnay), from left, Nickel, Mocha, Gold and Holly.
The word for this training season in Georgia is “puppies.”
Jerry and I have 11 puppies with us. Five are owned by clients Joe Byers, Paul Hauge and Dave and Rochel Moore; we own the rest. Mercury is the lone male but he’s definitely big enough (43 lbs. at five months) to hold his own.
Against a background of mature and sapling longleaf pines, Jerry and I watched as, separately, littermate sisters Nickel, on left, and Holly (CH Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Chardonnay) worked and then shared point on a single wild quail.
Here’s the roster:
• P.T. (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Prancer)
• Roxy (Northwoods Grits x Houston’s Belle’s Choice)
• Bonny and Biz (Blue Riptide x Northwoods Carly Simon)
• Bette and Sky (Northwoods Grits x CH I’m Blue Gert)
• Gold, Holly, Mocha and Nickel (CH Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Chardonnay)
• Mercury (Northwoods Parmigiano x Northwoods Rum Rickey)
We divided the puppies into two, age-based groups and alternate the exercise and training routines. Every morning, Jerry loads a group into the truck for a short ride to the big exercise pen. At the end of the day, that group also gets an extensive walk.
Littermate sisters look like miniature versions of their parents, Northwoods Grits and CH I’m Blue Gert. On left, Bette (mini Gert) and Sky (mini Grits) share and hold point on a single bobwhite.
In the beginning, the puppies simply learned about everything in the field: how to hunt, where the birds were and how to use their nose. They learned to handle to voice and whistle commands. Later the puppies learn to back and a blank pistol is introduced. Further maturity gains them individual time and/or work with a bracemate in the field with Jerry.
Intermixed with time in the field and exercise pen is yard work. Jerry walks the puppies on a lead, does barrel work and teaches HERE, WHOA and KENNEL.
Roxy (Northwoods Grits x Houston’s Belle’s Choice) is a talented, spirited puppy. She inherited the best of each parent—drive from Grits (thus the Garmin collar) and a swift, graceful gait from Choice.
Perhaps most importantly (and rather than a winter in the frozen north with little stimulation), our puppies get ample exercise, lots of socialization and a steady, busy routine. And Jerry and I love having them with us. No matter how frenetic or discouraging a work day might have been, a puppy walk in the afternoon heals all. It’s rewarding to see each puppy mature in size and strength and to watch the light bulbs in their brains switch on. Too, from our breeder’s perspective, this is a great opportunity to evaluate our 2014 litters.
So maybe in addition to the word “puppies,” I would add that this winter has been a “blast.”
This is puppy training! Bonny (Blue Riptide x Northwoods Carly Simon) nicely works bobwhite scent while Mercury (Northwoods Parmigiano x Northwoods Rum Rickey), even though he’s seven weeks younger, hasn’t yet figured out much.
Dragging a check cord and wearing an ecollar, seven-month-old P.T. (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Prancer) is now in staunchness training. Jerry flushed several birds out of a Johnny house and P.T. found, pointed and held them.
Littermate sisters Gold, on left, and Mocha (CH Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Chardonnay) find and share point on a wild covey of bobwhites.
Six-month-old Frisco (Blue Riptide x Northwoods Carly Simon, 2014) points with poise and intensity on a snowy afternoon. After the shot, she retrieves the gaudy ringneck. Photos taken December 2014 by Jodi Buchholz in North Dakota.
Photo by Robert Scheer, staff photographer of the Indianapolis Star.
The story idea began when Indianapolis Star reporter John Russell learned of the extraordinary efforts undertaken by Dr. Nimu Surtani and his wife Laura to determine the cause of death of Sesame, their golden doodle. Sesame was an otherwise healthy dog that died quickly and suddenly for no obvious reason.
The couple’s research led them to Trifexis, a flea and tick medication developed by Elanco, the animal drug division of Eli Lilly and Co., which is headquartered in Indianapolis.
The idea turned into a lengthy three-part series written by Russell and edited by Steve Berta, The Star’s Senior Content Coach. The pieces were published on December 13, 18 and 21. In the opening paragraphs, Russell states:
“Yet, in the first examination by a major news organization of one of the fastest-growing segments of the pharmaceutical industry, The Star found an industry far different from the human drug market, one with higher risk of unforeseen side effects, a legal arena that offers little protection to pet owners and marketing tactics that have been eliminated from the human drug market.
“The Star examined public records, studies and drug reaction data, and conducted interviews with company officials, pet owners, scientists, lawyers, epidemiologists, regulators and veterinarians. They told the story of an industry that is looking for ways to shore up declining revenues from human drugs, repurposing molecules that had an array of original uses for people and crops, and pushing government officials to speed up the approval process.”
Jerry and I don’t necessarily agree or disagree with Russell’s series but we thought it interesting and thought-provoking enough to post. Most importantly, we are not denigrating veterinarians. We have wonderful relationships with several vets. They are integral parts of our business and provide invaluable service and guidance. And one of my brothers, Jake, just retired from a decades-long career as a vet.
Today, The Indianapolis Star published an opinion piece written by the president and president-elect of the Indiana Veterinary Medical Association.
That’s the best feature of investigative journalism. It opens doors, raises awareness and starts discussions.
“Last year, the third-biggest initial public offering on Wall Street was a pet medicine company, Zoetis, a spinoff from drug giant Pfizer. This year, Lilly said it would pay $5 billion to acquire Novartis’ animal medicine, which would make Lilly the animal health industry’s second-largest player.
“Some drugs aren’t even approved for animal use but are commonly prescribed to animals. Their safety record isn’t even tracked by the government, meaning it’s impossible for consumers to make informed decisions.
“In stark contrast to the world of human medicine, veterinarians, researchers and industry are free to work closely together, with little to no transparency about drug company freebies and speaking fees paid to veterinarians.
“The FDA says it lacks the regulatory authority to mandate the recall of animal or human drugs. All it can do is issue a warning and work with manufacturers to launch a voluntary recall.”
Photo by Robert Scheer, staff photographer of the Indianapolis Star.
“The AVMA, the nation’s largest association of veterinarians, with 85,000 members, accepts hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from drugmakers for its massive conventions.
“That’s not to say that those who are doing the prescribing — the nation’s veterinarians — don’t have animals’ best interest at heart, or are especially susceptible to industry money.
“But The Star’s investigation reveals a greater potential for abuse because the pet medicine industry is allowed to target veterinarians with marketing practices banned from the realm of human medicine.
“In recent decades, pharmaceutical companies have been investing billions of dollars in pet medicines for the promise they hold to launch new drugs quickly and profitably. And they treat veterinarians not just as medical professionals, but as an important distribution channel to be wooed every step of the way.
“But veterinarians also serve another important role: as the primary distribution arm of the medicines they prescribe. Most human drugs are purchased at pharmacies, but the nation’s 90,000 veterinarians sell most of the nation’s pet medicines. And they make money on every prescription they dispense.
“In fact, drug sales provide as much as 30 percent of a typical veterinary clinic’s revenues, according to Veterinary Practice News, a trade journal. And veterinary consultants speak openly about the need to more than double the price of drugs to turn a healthy profit.”
Photo by Robert Scheer, staff photographer of the Indianapolis Star.
“In many ways, the economics of the pet medicine industry are knotted in a single question: What’s a dog’s love worth? It’s a question that’s fraught with consequences for the drug industry and pet owners alike.
“If you consider your dog or cat to be a member of the family — not just a pet or a piece of property — then you are more likely to take better care of it. You will visit the vet more often. You probably will buy more medicine.
“According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, if you view your dog as a family member, you will spend about $438 a year on care. Those who consider a dog property — as laws in most states do — spend about $190.
“The problem, some attorneys, economists and animal rights groups say, is that stopping pet owners from collecting meaningful damages breaks down an important part of the free-market system.
“When pet owners can’t hold companies responsible in court, manufacturers have little to fear in launching potentially harmful products.
“”If the liability is limited,” said John P. Young, vice president of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association, “why would they put all that money into testing and research?”
“Drugmakers would be especially vulnerable to lawsuits, “because these manufacturers are perceived to have deep pockets, particularly when compared to local veterinarians.””
Applying the Paretto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, to grouse hunting: 20% of hunters bag 80% of the birds.
In some recent reading, I came across a reference to the Pareto Principle.
Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist who, in 1906, discovered an unequal distribution of land ownership in his country: 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the population.
Later discoveries and studies concurred with Pareto’s simple yet crucial finding and suggested this distribution can be applied to many things. It also gained new names:
• 80/20 rule
• principle of factor sparsity
• law of the vital few and trivial many
So what does this have to do with bird dogs? I see several applications—from breeding and competition to hunting.
Not only are 20% of the breeding dogs producing 80% of the outstanding puppies, but I think it applies to dog breeders. In other words, about 20% of the breeders are turning out 80% of the high quality dogs.
How about dogs competing in field trials? Theoretically, every dog entered has a chance to win but usually only a few are truly likely to win. Too, in any given season, a vital few will win a large share of the competitions.
In A Passion for Grouse, John Kubisiak, Wisconsin wildlife researcher, conducted intensive grouse studies on the Sandhill Wildlife Area. His concluded that “about 20 percent of the hunters bagged all the grouse.” That’s probably true. While many hunt grouse, few are successful.
The California Chukar Championship and companion derby stake are held in a valley against the beautiful backdrop of the Alabama Hills.
The differences in field trial venues across the U.S. are amazing. Jerry and I are very familiar with grouse trial grounds, whether aspen cuttings of the Lake States, Pennsylvania’s more open, mature forests or thick cover of the northern New England. Too, we’ve seen trials held on wide open prairies and historic plantations in the South.
But the location of the California Chukar Championsip and Derby in Lone Pine is vastly different.
Lone Pine, California, is in Owens Valley with the Sierra Nevada mountain range to the west and the Alabama Hills to the east. It’s considered high desert (average annual precipitation less than six inches) with an elevation of 3,727 feet.
It’s so stunning that movie producers have used various locations in the area for decades. Actors from movies long ago include John Wayne, Bing Crosby, Humphrey Bogart, Spencer Tracy and Barbara Stanwyck while more current actors are Jeff Bridges, Russell Crowe and Robert Downey, Jr.
Bill Owen moves in to flush for Northwoods Charles in the California Chukar Derby held near Lone Pine, California, in mid November.
That we know about the trial is due to Bill Owen, a Californian and amateur competitor on the all-age circuit, who bought a puppy from us out of Northwoods Chardonnay by CH Ridge Creek Cody in 2012. His brother Steve (from Montana) had bought a puppy from us in 2011 out of Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis and, also in 2012, a CH Houston’s Blackjack x Northwoods Chablis male.
The championship and companion derby, hosted by the Setter Springs Field Trial Club, were held in mid November. Following are the placements.
California Chukar Championship (27 dogs)
• Champion: Utah’s Red Rock Express (pointer male), owned by Herb Anderson, handled by Rich Robertson
• Runner-Up: Highground Jax Jabba (setter male), owned by Chuck and Kara Kunde, handled by Lori Steinshauer
California Chukar Derby (16 dogs)
• 1st Place: Scent Seeker (pointer male), owned and handled by Ed Dixon
• 2nd Place: Tekoa Mountain Bulldog (setter male), owned and handled by Bill Owen
• 3rd Place: Northwoods Charles (setter male), owned and handled by Bill Owen
This isn’t the first time Bill has campaigned Charlie, nor is it the first time the dog has placed. Charlie won the derby held in conjunction with the Cascade All-Age Championship and placed third in the Larry Brech Memorial Open Derby Classic. Bill commented: “He’s coming along really well. Took him chukar hunting after the trial. Had 9 finds in 90 minutes!!!!”
Smooch is a 21-month-old female pointer out of CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen. Through extensive exposure to wild birds including grouse, woodcock, bobwhite quail and sharp-tailed grouse, she has accomplished much so far. Smooch is steady to wing and shotgun, backs and shows natural ability to retrieve. In addition, she has a friendly, playful disposition.