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.
What can one say when a beloved dog has died? Sometimes, bereft and numb, there is nothing at all to say. At other times, words tumble out as memories of a long, happy life together are recalled.
For what strikes me most is, simply, that May and I shared our lives in so many ways. We spent every day together. My career allowed me to work at home and home is where May always lived. She was never a kennel dog.
May and I had much in common. We both loved the water and swimming. Both of us loved our ritual of daily walks and we loved to eat. And we both loved our work as part of Northwoods Bird Dogs.
May loved the grouse woods of northern Minnesota and occasionally out-birded our bird dogs.
May was a black Labrador retriever Jerry and I bought from Dennis and Janice Anderson, owners of BritishLabradors in Houlton, Wisconsin. We had been on their reservation list for a couple years, waiting for a female out of their premier sire, Conneywarren Jason. Jason had a classic blocky head, bright brown eyes, thick glossy coat and the temperament Anderson’s dogs are known for.
It was worth the wait. On that summer afternoon when we picked up our eight-week-old-puppy, it was love at first sight for me.
May was athletic and always seemed to be in shape no matter the season. She was a strong runner with a long, smooth stride and could outpace—at least for a short distance—all our pointers and setters.
She was easily trained and in no time had the basic obedience commands down. She was an excellent retriever, too, although in a very ladylike manner. May never charged into the water, splashing anything within reach. Rather she gently waded in and then swam calmly to the dummy.
May loved chew toys and the bigger the better. She snuffled in the pot where I stored the dog toys and proudly came up with one or even two rawhides or Nylabones. Her teeth were always shiny white.
May got along with all dogs—whether our dogs or dogs in for training and no matter the age, ability or sex. She lived in the house with many of our best including setters Blue Streak, Blue Silk and Blue Shaquille and pointers Dasher, Prancer and Vixen.
May traveled everywhere with Jerry and me. Whether it was vacations in southern Arizona or guiding responsibilities in northern Minnesota, May was with us. When we moved south during the winter months first to Oklahoma and Tennessee and now in Georgia, May always made the cut.
The best brace of the day is always the last one. On a Georgia quail plantation, Jerry and I ran May with a favorite pointer Basil (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013).
Because of our business, May spent her field time with bird dogs. Jerry and I braced her with all ages and abilities. A very proud day for me occurred during one of those training runs on a good trail in northern Minnesota. May out-birded 2X CH/4X RU-CH Houston’s Belle.
On a “gang run,” May leads puppies Roy, Snickers and Axel (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis, 2012) into a pond.
May also had an important responsibility in “gang runs” of puppies when she and I headed into the pasture with a group of puppies for a training walk. The puppies followed May like she was the Pied Piper. When I sang to turn May, all puppies turned. When May stopped at ponds to drink and swim, all puppies stopped, too. The puppies easily learned running to the font, handling to voice commands, dealing with heat and thirst and navigating terrain of woods and fields.
May had an extraordinary debut as a retriever on a duck hunt in 2014. Jerry took photos and wrote about it for a blog post on January 8, 2014.
May died on January 12. She suffered one seizure in October and then a series of them just before Christmas due, most likely, to a brain tumor. Our vet put prescribed Phenobarbital and we had some rough days carrying her in and out. She had slowly regained her former strength and personality as her body adjusted to the drug. But early on that Tuesday she had several small seizures in a row that more medications couldn’t help. Even though she could recognize her name and me, she wasn’t there and clearly it was time to let her go.
I know May had a long, happy life but I miss her every single second. I just can’t shake the feeling that I should see her first thing every morning and last thing at night. And the world’s just not right without her.
A typical scene after a day in the grouse woods at New Wood, a hunting camp in northern Wisconsin: Chris Bye and his setter Piper.
When the Ruffed Grouse Society and the American Woodcock Society cast their Grouse Camp Tours 2015, better stars than Mark Fouts and Chris Bye couldn’t have been chosen.
Mark and Chris are not only passionate bird hunters but both are intelligent, thoughtful and well-spoken. (In fact, they are so entertaining and loquacious that Jerry and I could listen to their stories for hours.)
A joint venture of the sister RGS and AWS organizations, Grouse Camp Tours 2015 is a series of videos the staffs undertook to “celebrate habitat, membership and the grouse/woodcock hunting experience,” according to the website. (http://www.ruffedgrousesociety.org/) Crews traveled to various venues last October and captured the action and conversations on video.
Jerry and I are especially proud of the featured dogs. Mark and Chris are not only friends but clients of ours and have bought many dogs from us over the years. Currently, Mark owns three pointers and Chris owns two setters with another puppy reserved.
Recently extended versions of each video were released. Mark and Chris are featured in Day 3 and Day 4, respectively. For winter-weary hunters, the scenes in the woods with dogs pointing and birds flushing might be a much-needed balm.
Mark Fouts and his three pointer females: Prancer, Jordy and Timber.
Grouse Camp Tour Redux – Day 3
The focus of this video is the new hunter mentor program under the guidance of Mark.
Mark Fouts, RGS Director of Member Relations & Outreach
Tucker & Wyatt Johnson and their father Greg Johnson
Nick Larson, RGS Regional Director (Minnesota & Washington)
Matt Sorberg, RGS Editor & Director of Communication
Prancer (Dashaway x Fallset Fate, 2008)
Timber (CH Westfall’s Black Ice x Northwoods Prancer, 2011)
Jordy (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Prancer, 2014)
Grouse Camp Tour Redux – Day 4
Chris Bye and his father Chuck own a cabin in the middle of prime grouse country in northern Wisconsin. Over the years, the property’s primary purpose morphed into a grouse camp beloved by a steadfast group of friends and their English setters. Among other insights, Chris explains the extraordinary camaraderie between hunting friends and their dogs.
Nick Larson, RGS Regional Director (Minnesota & Washington)
Roy (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis, 2012)
Piper (Blue Riptide x Blue Ghost, 2010)
Hartley (Northwoods Grits x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2014)
Elmer (Northwoods Grits x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2014)
Kally (CH Can’t Go Wrong x Cold Creek Pearl, 2011)
Northwoods Blue Ox (CH Peace Dale Duke x Blue Silk, 2007) has always been a soft-mouthed, natural retriever.
Grouse populations might be up or might be down but no matter where we are in the cycle and since there are only so many autumns in a life time, October finds me in the woods. And 2015 will go down as another good year.
What a beautiful sight……and the Holland & Holland is nice, too.
In early October, I load up our string of veteran grouse dogs and young dogs and head to Bowen Lodge, northwest of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, on Lake Winnibigoshish. I’ve been guiding for Bill and Gail Heig for almost 20 years and spend most of the month with them. Even on a day off from guiding grouse hunters, I still walk tote roads and slosh through bogs while training our young dogs.
Jim DePolo is justifiably proud when he finds his four-year-old Morris (CH Houston’s Blackjack x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2011) on point.
Bill and I were disappointed in the grouse numbers. We expected an uptick based on good spring drumming counts but reproduction did not follow. We flushed about the same number of grouse per hour as in 2014—which continues as the lowest number since the peak in 2010. We had better dog work on the birds we found and shot more than last year.
Northwoods Carly Simon (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2011) receives well-deserved pets from Ben Johnson and his son Seth after a warm morning in the woods.
As in 2014, we had another big year for woodcock flushes. Fortunately, woodcock keeps guiding clients happy during a slow day for grouse.
Some dogs–like Northwoods Vixen (CH Westfall’s Black Ice x Northwoods Prancer, 2011)–have a natural affinity to find ruffed grouse. This gnarly, nasty cover screams grouse.
As for the dogs, it was a good year, too. Four-year-old Northwoods Vixen put it all together this fall. She pointed and handled grouse as proficiently and stylishly as any. No matter time of day when—or hunting spot where—I ran veterans Ox and Carly, both were, as usual, simply outstanding. Young sisters Carbon and Bismuth and pointer Platinum advanced and by the end of the season, all handled grouse like mature dogs. While not as far along, one-year-old Nickel and Mercury still found lots of birds and pointed many.
It’s hard to beat an afternoon like this in autumn–two happy hunters Ken Taylor (on left) and Jim DePolo, their handsome setters Tyler (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2011) and Morris (CH Houston’s Blackjack x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2011) and evidence of some good shooting.
My time at Bowen Lodge is special. The dogs and the birds are instrumental but it’s the clients, too. Most have been with us for those 20 years and now are friends. In fact, I can’t wait to see them all again in 2016.
Houston’s Blackjack (5-9-20) is with us in Georgia for the winter and available for public stud.
Jack is handsome—an evenly masked, tri color—and has a leggy, strong build. He weighs 55 lbs. He has an exceptional gait, endurance and heat tolerance. He is a proven bird-finder and is ultra composed on point. His hips are OFA Excellent.
With limited opportunity, Jack’s progeny have won in the grouse woods and on the prairies. Betsy and I bred several litters by Jack and he’s produced outstanding grouse dogs that naturally back.
Jack’s wins include:
Winner/2012 National Amateur Prairie Chicken Shooting Dog Championship
Runner Up/2013 Region 19 Amateur Shooting Dog Championship
2nd Place/2013 US Chicken Championship (reverted to all age)
Please click here for Jack’s pedigree. Please Contact Us for stud arrangements.
Afield/American Writers on Bird Dogs edited by Robert DeMott and Dave Smith is a book Jerry discovered in E. Shaver, a charming book store in Savannah, Georgia. Complete with small, crowded rooms, comfy chairs, resident cats and a tea room, one could easily spend hours browsing in this independently opened shop.
Three of my favorite writers—Jim Harrison, Guy de la Valdene and Tom McGuane—are included in this anthology but so, too, are Tom Brokaw and William G. Tapply.
Jim Harrison on his favorite setter female Tess:
“Though utterly docile and sweet in the cabin or house, these are big running setters suitable for the southwest and Montana, though they shorten up in the denser cover of northern Michigan. When cynics say that our dogs are ‘too far out,’ we’ve learned to give a pat answer, ‘That must be where the birds are.’”
Tom McGuane on rising early and heading out with the Pointer Sisters, Abby and Daisy:
“There have been several hard frosts and the morning is young. Those rattlesnakes not yet denned will be too sluggish to matter. The cattle have been gathered from the hills and now it all belongs to us. The hawks are up to the same thing we are; and it is possible to feel the competition of the Northern Harriers as they course low to the ground in the very fields we hunt. The light from the East and the bright serration of new snow on the mountain ranges surrounding us seem to bind a vast country together.”
Guy de la Valdene on why he loves dogs:
“I love the everyday quirks in a dog’s character, its habits, its independence, the insouciance of its sprawling slumber, and the accepting drop of a dog’s ears at the approach of a trusted hand.”
What the Dog Knows by Cat Warren was given to us by Ken Johnson, an avid hunter who bought a Blue Ox x Chablis puppy from us in 2012. Lucy, as he calls her, has been back a couple times for training and we’re always happy to see both Ken and Lucy.
Ken bought the book in an airport shop on one of his many layovers. He is a founding partner of Covey Sales & Marketing, a company that represents many premium outdoor-oriented manufacturers.
The book is on Jerry’s bedside table and he has really enjoyed it. Not only is Warren a good writer but her insights are amazing.
Nick Larson proudly holds a woodcock that his one-year-old Hartley properly pointed and handled.
Small world, lots of connections between grouse hunters and Northwoods Bird Dogs. It’s great to be a part of the crew.
~ Nick Larson
Nick Larson and his wife Lacey MacLean of Duluth, Minnesota, were one of the first to reserve a puppy from our setter litters in 2014. They chose a male out of stellar producer Houston’s Belle’s Choice by Northwoods Grits.
Nick and Lacey named their puppy Hartley.
Nick’s day job is Minnesota & Washington Regional Director for the Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) and this fall, he’s been busy.
In early October, Nick was in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, working at the RGS National Hunt. One of his responsibilities was to act as a guide to teams of competitors.
The two groups we guided last Thursday and Friday claimed 1st and 3rd place in the hunt, with Hartley being a one-dog show. I put us in some good cover, but Hartley did everything else. I really had no idea what to expect with my young dog taking on all that responsibility, but he simply shined. All four guys we hunted with were so impressed with him and we received lots of compliments.
~ Nick Larson
Jamie Byers is a long-time client of ours through guiding grouse hunters out of Bill and Gail Heig’s Bowen Lodge in northern Minnesota. Like Nick, Jamie also was among the first to reserve a setter puppy in 2014 and got the only female out of Grits x Choice. Jamie and his wife Sophie named their puppy Roxy.
Jamie is also a strong supporter of RGS and regularly is part of a team at the National Hunt. He brought Roxy to Grand Rapids this year.
I also met Jamie Byers up there and Hartley got to meet his sister, which was pretty cool.
~ Nick Larson
One-year-old handsome male littermates, Hartley, on left, and Elmer after an October grouse hunt. Hartley is owned and handled by Nick Larson and Elmer is owned by Luke Olson, handled here by Luke’s brother-in-law Chris Bye.
Later in October, Nick and Hartley were in Wisconsin. Nick posted this piece on his Northwoods’R blog, a joint venture with Garrett Mikrut.
One of the most fun stops for me this October was visiting a hunting camp in Wisconsin during the week-long 2015 Ruffed Grouse Society Grouse Camp Tour…What made it even more special for me was that almost everyone in the camp owned at least one English setter out of Northwoods Bird Dogs, one of which was Hartley’s brother.
For the most part, Hartley and his brother acted like brothers do, just as you’d expect! However when we put them down in some cover to run in a brace there was no doubt about what these dogs were born and bred to do.
This littermate of Hartley is owned by Luke Olson and his wife Kjellun (sister of Chris Bye, pictured above), frequent visitors to the grouse camp Nick describes. They also were on the list for a setter puppy out of Grits x Choice and chose a male they named Elmer.
Note: See my post “New Wood: a special grouse camp” dated November 5 for more on the hunting camp Nick visited.
Mocha exhibits the intensity, poise and style of her sire and dam–CH Shadow Oak Bo and Northwoods Chardonnay.
Here is a dog story with a very happy ending.
Mike Kowalski of Helena, Montana, first contacted us last spring. He was in the market for a well-started young dog and, since he was a professional guide, that dog had to be ready to go this fall.
Jerry and Mike stayed in touch all summer. In late August, Mike arranged to travel to Minnesota to see a group of dogs Jerry had picked for him. Mike chose Mocha (Houston’s Cappuccino), a 13-month-old, tri-color female out of CH Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Chardonnay, a litter we co-bred with Paul Hauge in 2014.
The high plains of Montana are breathtakingly beautiful. And it’s easy to see why it’s called Big Sky Country.
Mike, or Mitch as he is known to most of his clients, operates Skinny Water Anglers, a fly fishing guiding business based out of Helena. In the fall he guides for Pro Outfitters, an Orvis-endorsed wing shooting lodge, also based in Helena.
Mocha faces into the wind and sun and patiently waits while Mike adjusts her collar.
Jerry and I have received several reports from Mike.
Mocha has had an amazing first year in Montana– one of the best bird years that most people can remember. I guided over her 16 days & have hunted her another 8-10 so far.
Mocha is getting lots of work & doing a great job. I have been guiding over her every chance I get.
This is the best bird year I have ever seen in Montana–a great year for Mocha to be here. She is running big & well with all the other dogs & getting her share of points.
We couldn’t be happier. Thanks so much.
We agree. We couldn’t be happier.
The hunter aims at a sharp-tailed grouse pointed by Mocha.
Mocha (in the middle) is definitely part of the Kowalski family of kids and dogs. The pointer on the left is owned by Perk Perkins, CEO of The Orvis Company.
Tradition reigns at New Wood, a grouse camp in Wisconsin. After a bonfire is built in late afternoon, hunters and bird dogs gather around to share their day. Setter female Piper (Blue Ghost x Blue Riptide, 2010), co-owned by Chris Bye and Roberta Scherf, naps on Chris.
“Grouse camp” sure has a nice ring, doesn’t it? One imagines cabins nestled in woods, friends, good meals, bonfires and bird dogs. In north central Wisconsin, a very special grouse camp has evolved over the decades—a place called New Wood.
Jerry and I have known of New Woods for many years. The hunters are clients who have become friends as most have bought English setter puppies and dogs from us.
New Wood was featured recently by the Ruffed Grouse Society and the Journal Sentinel, a newspaper in Milwaukee.
As part of their Grouse Camp Tour 2015, RGS filmed at New Wood. Co-owner Chris Bye is featured in the segment Why Camp and Bird Dogs?
In “A great day for hunting in ‘grouse camp,’” Paul A. Smith, Outdoors Editor of the Journal Sentinel, nicely depicts New Wood and captures the bond between hunter and bird dogs.
Northwoods Blackhawk Sage (on left)
CH Rock Acre Blackhawk x Northwoods Vixen, 2015
1st Pacific Northwest Open Derby, Oregon
Owner: Bill Owen, California
Fall is the ultimate season for bird dog owners whether they choose to hunt in the woods or on the prairies or to compete against the best other owners bring to the line.
Three young dogs bred by Northwoods Bird Dogs won impressively at recent field trials. A seven-month-old pointer male won a derby and a pointer female—as the youngest dog entered—was named champion of the stake. And a two-year-old setter female placed in both open and amateur stakes at a national venue.
Congratulations to these talented dogs and their proud owners!!
Ridge Creek Pied Piper
CH Ridge Creek Cody x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2013
1st AKC English Setter Nationals, Nebraska, amateur stake
3rd AKC English Setter Nationals, Nebraska, open stake
Owner: Chuck Brandes, Minnesota
Tian Elhew Verbena
CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013
1st American Pointer Club National Amateur Championship, Ohio
Owner: Angela Schillereff, Sauvie Island Kennels, Oregon