Dan Stadin often commutes from his home across the road on a four wheeler. He loves bird dogs and always owns a couple, including Slash (Houston’s Blackjack x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2011), on left, and Tasha (Blue Shaquille x Snyder’s Liz, 2012).
Betsy and I feel fortunate to have met some truly great people in the course of our business. Clients, many of them repeat, come to mind, as well as vendors and business partners. In particular, though, three men who work with us in various capacities and at different times throughout the year deserve special mention. We are grateful for their assistance, friendship and support.
Dan Stadin assists us all year long and, quite frankly, our business wouldn’t be the same without him. Dan is a man of many talents. He helps us breed, whelp, socialize and start puppies and condition older dogs. He helps takes care of the kennel, pigeons and quail. Dan says, “I have a full time commitment to a part time job!”
Jeff Hintz carefully watches a young dog in for training. He knows exactly the right time to fire the pistol and release the bird.
Jeff Hintz is a neighbor who splits his time between Minnesota and Arizona. He owns three pointers and is a serious bird hunter in both states. Jeff primarily helps with summer training sessions where he plants, flushes and shoots pigeons (Jeff is a very good shot!), as well as working backing dummies and bird releasers. He’s also an “idea man” and keen observer of dogs.
Mike Powers works with our young dogs in the grouse woods of northern Minnesota. He has Pesto (Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013) out for a run.
Mike Powers, a.k.a. Minnesota Mike, lives in New Jersey but spends each autumn at Bowen Lodge on Lake Winnibigoshish. He knows dogs, grouse and woodcock and also is a crack wing shot and walking encyclopedia on high-end shotguns. He does various jobs around the resort and guides a few hunts. While I’m guiding with older dogs, Mike works our young dogs in the woods.
Our sincere thanks to Dan, Jeff and Mike!
Guy de la Valdène has led a colorful life. He was born in a “small castle built in 1642” in Normandy, France, but has since spent a good share of his life in the U.S. He’s both an eloquent writer and a passionate bird hunter. He hangs around with cool hunting, fishing, eating and drinking pals, including notable writers Jim Harrison and Tom McGuane and Russell Chatham, the artist. Chatham’s beautiful landscape paintings grace the covers of his books and two include ink drawings of birds, dogs and hunters.
Both Betsy and I have read and highly recommend the following books by Guy de la Valdène.
The Fragrance of Grass, 2011
This book is about de la Valdène’s pursuit of and great appreciation for Huns, otherwise known as Gray or Hungarian Partridge. He begins with his first introduction to them in France and takes the reader on a journey through some of the best Hun hunting areas in North America.
Between the four pads of a dog’s foot, the fragrance of grass.
~ Jim Harrison
For a Handfull of Feathers, 1995
Since 1990, de la Valdène has lived on an 800-acre farm near Tallahassee, Florida. The book is a chronicle of his relationship to all things wild that live on the farm and, in particular, bobwhite quail. It’s also an insightful look into the life of these little birds, the effort required to maintain their habitat and the tradition that surrounds the pursuit of them.
A breeze ruffling a handful of feathers carries enough weight to enslave a dog to a bird in a covenant of uneasy immobility.
~ Guy de la Valdène
Making Game: An Essay on Woodcock, 1985
In his research, de la Valdène followed the woodcock migration across the country and met fascinating people along the way. Among them was Sally Downer, daughter of Bill Wicksall. Years before woodcock hunting became popular, Wicksall, along with his brother Jack, hunted woodcock and bred English setters that pointed them. This book is a great read that includes much wine drinking and delicious woodcock meals.
The piney woods of southwestern Georgia are gorgeous…especially in early morning.
A big contingent of Northwoods Bird Dogs will hit the road soon for the long drive to the southwest corner of Georgia. Jerry and I will bring a select number of client-owned dogs and, with the exception of two, all of our own dogs.
We’re excited to get back to our southern training grounds just outside Thomasville, Georgia. The location is ideal in so many regards. Not only is it smack dab in the middle of bobwhite quail plantation country but there are many field trials held in Georgia and nearby Florida and Alabama. Thomasville is a charming small town. The weather is ideal. The piney woods are beautiful. And the Gulf Coast is a short 80-mile drive.
Back in Minnesota, the kennel will be in the very capable hands of Dan Stadin, the guy who works with us throughout the year. He’ll be busy with Northwoods Chardonnay, who is scheduled to whelp her litter by Blue Chief (frozen semen) in late December. Since Northwoods Chablis is due to be bred to Northwoods Blue Ox early winter 2013, he needs to be in Minnesota.
Jerry and I will make a quick trip back to Minnesota in mid January to pick up a fresh group of client-owned dogs.
Ears flying, Northwoods Vixen (CH Westfall’s Black Ice x Northwoods Prancer, 2011) shows plenty of speed. Photo by Chris Mathan.
A dog that covers a great deal more country sure speeds the process of finding these (ruffed grouse) birds, whatever the density.
~ Gordon Gullion
Basically, I agree with Gullion. But I would add that a dog’s range isn’t nearly as important as its speed. To cover more ground in a given period of time, a dog needs to be fast.
And there’s one more piece. Speed just carries the dog to likely areas. It’s the nose that finds birds. A dog must have a nose capable of scenting birds before they’re passed or flushed.
In other words: I think a bird dog should run at 10 mph but have a 15-mph nose.
As the 10-mph dog with the 15-mph nose detects game, it shifts gears from a fast, searching speed to a slower, intense pace. Its body becomes rigid as it checks and follows scent. Its pointing posture is usually well balanced and composed and often one foot is raised in the classic style.
Another type of dog hunts at 15 mph but has 10-mph nose. I call this a “whack” pointer. The dog never seems to slow down and make game; instead it slams into point from a full-speed run. Often, it ends up in a twisted or crouched posture. Unfortunately, and just as likely, this dog will miss the bird or bump it.
How fast should a bird dog hunt? My answer: fast enough. The dog should hunt fast enough to cover as much ground as possible but not so fast as to outrun its nose.
Zada (Ridge Creek Cody x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2013) with chukar in Montana.
No matter whether the grouse numbers were up or down; no matter whether the early days were more summer-ish than autumnal; no matter what state one hunted in or for what bird, it seems that our friends and clients and their dogs spent more time in the woods and fields than at the workplace during October.
Tony, owner of Lucy (Westfall’s Black Ice x Northwoods Prancer, 2011) with grouse in Minnesota.
Jerry and I have received dozens of photos and enthusiastic phone calls, texts and emails. Dogs of all ages—many just puppies, some one- to two-year olds and others with years of experience—have been on the ground and hailing from as far east as Pennsylvania, across the upper Midwest, through the Dakotas and into Montana and Idaho.
Mac (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2013) and a friend with pheasants in Minnesota.
Nothing…nothing…give us more satisfaction than knowing that dogs we’ve bred and/or trained are now fulfilling their potential with their owners in the woods and fields. Thanks to all who shared.
“And BTW Jerry, I have taken your advice. I keep my mouth shut while in the woods with her. As you well know, that’s the best thing I could have ever done.”
“Just got back from a few days in the grouse woods with Tia (Sweet Tea). The boys are in 8th and 10th grades this year. I still believe it was a good move to buy her from you when we did, even if the grouse count is headed down. The boys are in their formative years and they’ll remember a good dog such as Tia in good years and bad. We couldn’t be happier. She’s such a sweetheart. We all love her!”
Scout (Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013) with grouse in Michigan.
“The most fun I’ve had has been watching her drive, focus and intensity grow with every grouse and woodcock touch.”
Joe, owner of Buddy (Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013) with pheasants in South Dakota.
“Never took a shot all day last. Last 45 minutes, took Buddy out just trying to see if I can get him to move with me and respond to the collar Shot 4 birds over him. He looked at me with “Hey, I was born for this.” I was shooting a 72-year-old LC Smith 20-ga. I rescued.”
Kids, a Labrador and Tana (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis, 2012) on a picnic lunch break in Minnesota.
“My kids accompanied me and we had a “picnic” in the middle of the hunt. The picture…epitomizes my feelings of why October is the most perfect month of the year for anything outdoors.”
Piper (Ridge Creek Cody x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2013) with a woodcock in Minnesota.
“Piper pointed at least 12 woodcock and 2 grouse over 90 minutes. I limited on woodcock. This dog loves to hunt already and absolutely will not quit. Only 34 pounds but nothing slows her down.”
Bart, owner of Snicker (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis, 2012) with woodcock in Minnesota.
“Snicker was wonderful today…it was a thrilling point and this time I didn’t miss!”
Scout (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2013) on woodcock in Minnesota.
“First solo actually able to be killed for him! See if you can spot the woodcock in front of his nose! He’s been pointing, backing and hunting hard! Awesome dogs you’re producing!”
Ian, owner of horses and Cold Creek Pearl (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle, 2007) with sharp-tailed grouse in North Dakota.
Wayne, owner of Northwoods Magic (Dashaway x Goodgoing Moxie, 2006) with a double on woodcock with his Purdey in Minnesota.
Northwoods Fuzzy Navel (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2012) on grouse in Michigan.
Rainy (Magic’s Rocky Belleboa x Banshee, 2009) with grouse in Minnesota.
Midas (Houston’s Blackjack x Northwoods Chablis, 2013) on point in Montana.
Northwoods White Russian (Blue Shaquille x Snyder’s Liz, 2012) with grouse in Minnesota.
Chet (Can’t Go Wrong x Cold Creek Pearl, 2011) on a covey of Huns in North Dakota.
Ken, owner of Northwoods Aerosmith (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2011) on a grouse hunt in Minnesota.
Drew, owner of Stoeger (Ridge Creek Cody x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2013) with a pheasant in Minnesota.
Stormy with grouse in Minnesota.
Bob, owner of three generations of grouse dogs: Choice (Gusty Blue x Houston’s Belle, 2005), Grits (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis, 2011) and Chablis (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2009). Is there a better way to end a day of hunting?
Maybe I’ll be fast as you
Maybe I’ll break hearts too
~ Dwight Yoakam, Fast As You
Even though Dwight Yoakam probably had something else on his mind when he wrote those lyrics, they seem apropos to bird dogs at a horseback field trial championship.
So it’s fitting that this song by Yoakam, who’s usually outfitted in a big hat, very tight jeans and high-heeled cowboy boots, is the background music to Dennis Lutynkski‘s video of the Region 19 Amateur Shooting Dog Championship. Chris Mathan posted a short piece on her Strideaway website that includes a link to the youtube video.
It is a very well-edited, fun, foot-stomping video and Jerry and I were thrilled to see footage of two dogs we bred.
Northwoods Nirvana (Pete) is featured throughout the opening sequences. He is a big, fast, powerful tri-color setter that flies over the ground. Truly, at one point, he is airborne as he gracefully leaps over a scrubby oak. Co-owned by Frank and Jean LaNasa, Pete is handled by Frank and scouted by Jean. Pete is a 2011 dog out of CH Houston’s Blackjack (owned by Frank and Leroy Peterson) x Northwoods Chardonnay.
Towards the end of the video, CH JTH Izzie, a black and white pointer female works like a missile through the cover. She is owned and handled by Jeff Hintz and is out of CH Westfall’s Black Ice x Northwoods Prancer. Amazingly, like Pete, she is only a two-year-old dog.
Even though Pete and Izzie didn’t place, congratulations to Frank and Jean because Blackjack (CH Can’t Go Wrong x CH Houston’s Belle) was named runner-up champion.
Maybe I’ll break hearts
And be as fast as you, ahh
~ Dwight Yoacam
(Google Image photo of Dwight Yoakam.)
Northwoods Prancer retrieves a grouse so gently that its pretty wing feathers remain untouched.
The early part of the grouse and woodcock season with its bluebird days and beautiful woods could have been an ad for Minnesota tourism but sure made hunting difficult. The temperatures were warm, the conditions were bone-dry and since no hard freeze had occurred, the cover was green and thick. Mid October brought a welcome weather change and, within days, most of the leaves had fallen in central and northern Minnesota.
It takes a tough, determined dog to hunt in the north woods in early season. Susie’s hard work pays off after a push through tall ferns and grasses.
Throughout the season I’ve found a good number of local woodcock and have just begun seeing flight birds. Ruffed grouse are a different story, though. I’ve only flushed two broods. Otherwise, dogs’ points indicate young birds—when grouse are walking on the ground in front of the dog—or mature, savvy birds. I’ve had dogs follow those running grouse up to 300 yards before they flush.
This isn’t surprising to me. The year 2010 was the last peak of the grouse cycle so we’re now in the third year of decline. In my experience, the next two years will be tough, too.
In years with low grouse numbers, an experienced dog truly shines. Blue Shaquille followed a running grouse for 300 yards before finally pinning it.
In years with plentiful birds, even a mediocre dog can look fairly good but in low grouse years, an experienced, talented dog makes a big difference. When birds are few and lots of cover separates them, the extraordinary grouse dog “takes you to the birds.” It will be exciting to see which dogs rise to the occasion.
Dave Moore and CH I’m Blue Gert.
Gert is a cool dog. She has a snow-white body, just lightly ticked, and her 40-lb., strongly muscled conformation seems perfect for a grouse dog. The deep orange on her handsome, blocky head nicely sets off a dark nose and eyes.
Gert is owned by Rochel and Dave Moore, who live on a nice spread outside Big Lake, Minnesota. Ever since their marriage in 2002, they have owned bird dogs—setters and pointers both. They train, condition and work their dogs together and share chares, too. Even though Rochel and Dave are hunters, they especially train for field trial competition. They enjoy putting their dogs up against the best in the country. “I like to watch my dog but especially I like to watch my dog win,” Rochel said.
The last pick.
Gert was whelped in 2006 out of Paul Hauge’s talented I’m Houston’s Image (Houston x I’m Jet Setter) and our own Blue Silk (CH First Rate x CH Blue Streak). Even though Dave and Rochel were on the list early, they didn’t care which puppy they got. “I’ll take the last one,” Dave said.
I’m Blue Gert is a cool name. Each word has special meaning. I’m is in honor of her sire’s impressive pedigree which goes back to Paul’s favorite setter, Houston. Gert’s dam’s side is formidable, too, for both of Blue Silk’s parents were multiple champions. Gert is short for Gertrude, the daughter of friends of Moore’s. Dave said, “Gertrude was rock-star good-looking and if we’d had a daughter, I’d want her to look like that.”
Most dogs have several nick-names—some are endearing, others playful. Gert earned her name of Dirty Gert many years ago. “By about 40 minutes into training sessions, Gert usually ends up dirty,” Dave said, whether by rolling in something dark and stinky or by pushing hard through heavy cover.
Gert as a house dog.
Even though Gert lives in Moore’s kennel with pals Slew and Elle and her son Zack, whenever she gets in the house, she makes a beeline for the master bedroom. According to Dave, “She lies down on our bed and won’t get up.”
Gert in the field.
Rochel deserves credit for Gert’s debut as a field trial competitor. She handled Gert to a placement in a puppy stake at a 2007 spring trial held by the Minnesota Grouse Dog Association. That was the only time Rochel handled a dog in a trial, preferring instead to scout, but it was exactly the start Gert needed.
While Gert has been worked to bring out her best, sometimes it’s the things that can’t be trained that become paramount; other characteristics can catch the hearts and minds of judges. What sets Gert apart? “Gert has zero quit. She’s always searching for a bird. There’s just no quit,” Dave said.
After the 2013 North Country Walking Shooting Dog Championship, Rochel Moore poses RU-CH I’m Blue Gert (on right) and Dave Moore holds the plaque. Scott Chaffee poses the champion on the left.
Gert’s championship placements.
2013 RU-CH North Country Walking Shooting Dog Championship
2013 Minnesota/Wisconsin Pro Plan Cover Dog of the Year
2012 CH Region 19 Amateur Walking Shooting Dog Championship
2012 RU-CH Minnesota Grouse Championship
2009 CH Region 19 Amateur Walking Shooting Dog Championship
Gert is a producer, too.
The 2013 runner-up champion of the National Amateur Grouse Championship is Woods R Callen Sam, a male owned by Bill Frahm. Sam is out of Gert’s only litter by Tom Jones, Scott Anderson’s dog out of his CH A Rolling Stone.
Congratulations to Rochel and Dave on your success with such a cool dog, I’m Blue Gert!
To provide the ideal ruffed grouse shooting opportunity, a pointing dog should engage the grouse so the bird doesn’t move. Bumping grouse occurs when a dog gets too close and causes the bird to flush. It’s one of the most common training problems I hear about from clients and friends.
The ruffed grouse is the wariest of the species hunted by bird dogs, the wisest and hardest to handle.
~ Henry P. Davis, Training Your Own Bird Dog, 1948
One reason is simply the difficulty of the quarry. An occasional bump is part of grouse hunting but if your dog bumps more than it points, something else might be going on.
Listed below are common causes and tips for improvement and correction.
→ Cover and weather conditions.
In the early part of the season especially, the cover can be thick and conditions can be warm and dry. Both make scenting extremely difficult for less-experienced dogs and challenging for veteran grouse dogs.
Tip: The hunter can’t do anything about this one. Wait until conditions improve.
→ Lack of experience.
Rare is the dog that will be exhibit a natural ability to point grouse with just a few contacts. Most bird dogs need repeated exposure over several seasons.
Tip: This is easy. Hunt more.
→ Lack of training.
The dog doesn’t know it’s supposed to stop and point.
Tip: The dog needs to be trained to stop on WHOA.
→ Seeing grouse on the ground.
Dogs invariably see grouse on the ground and sometimes the temptation is just too much.
Tip: Reinforce WHOA and steadiness training with a visible bird on the ground.
→ Over-exposure to planted birds.
A dog can get quite close to a planted bird before it stops to point. Grouse are just the opposite and will flush if a dog gets too close.
Tip: Stay away from the game farm for awhile and provide more exposure to grouse.
The dog lacks the ability to find and point grouse due to a bad nose, inadequate pointing instincts or physical limitations.
Tip: Thoroughly check out the breeders and breeding of your next puppy. Make sure the sire and dam—and previous generations—are proven grouse dogs.
→ S—t happens.
Even an experienced grouse dog with a bold, confident attitude will sometimes bump a grouse.
Tip: Exercise patience and move on.
Usually a photo from Jeff includes CH Izzie (CH Westfall’s Black Ice x Northwoods Prancer, 2011) and a trophy or two. But this autumn scene is pretty nice, too.
“Great pup at home and in the field. Thanks again.”
Tom, owner of Zada (CH Ridge Creek Cody x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2013)
“Cammie is keeping in shape chasing sticks in Lake Michigan. Only three days until the grouse season opener here.”
Dick, owner of Cammie (Blue Chief x Blue Blossom, 2008)
“Snicker on point . . . I missed this woodcock . . . still pretty green in there.”
Bart, owner of Snickers (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis, 2012)
“I returned Monday evening from North Dakota where I was hunting with Barry and Jill. As you know, besides a bit of rain the weather was perfect. Barry and I filled up Saturday and Sunday by 9:30.”
Chris, owner of Roy (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis, 2012)
“Seems kind of disrespectful to Labs if you ask me.”
Brad, owner of Riley (the Labrador) and Tana (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis, 2012)
“Just had Gus out this morning. Only needed one minor correction and he was great on the remaining birds.”
David, owner of Gus (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2011)