Louis Vuitton (Northwoods Grits x Northwoods Carly Simon, 2015)
Nothing beats native sharp-tailed grouse for preparing a bird dog for the ruffed grouse season.
When the grouse woods are still lush with summer vegetation, sharptails provide a good training alternative. Our local population lives in native grasslands that are dotted with scrubby oaks and willows. The area is intensely managed with fire.
From a dog’s level, the terrain is similar to the woods. From my perspective, I get a good view of the action. These birds can be jumpy while at other times they’ll sit as tight as any woodcock. Sharptails are great for any age dog—whether to start young dogs or to polish older dogs.
Early mornings are often foggy and everything is drenched with dew. By mid morning, the sun can be hot enough to end the day’s training.
Here are some photos from my training runs this year. Enjoy!
Blitzen (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2016)
Rolls Royce (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2013)
Carbon (Blue Riptide x Northwoods Carly Simon, 2014)
Carly Simon (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2011)
Nickel (CH Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2014) honors Louis Vuitton (Northwoods Grits x Northwoods Carly Simon, 2015).
Northwoods Rhea (Northwoods Grits x Northwoods Nickel, 2017) loves her clicker training sessions with Jerry in the kennel office.
Summer in Minnesota is a great season…perhaps only bested by autumn, the obvious bird hunter favorite.
While most of our fellow Minnesotans are heading to their lake cabins or hauling a trailer somewhere, this summer for Jerry and me has meant puppies—lots of puppies—and groups of talented dogs in for training.
Three litters that whelped within a six-week time frame produced 24 puppies. While dams did the bulk of the work, it meant plenty of chores for us but also hours of enjoyment.
Northwoods Nickel, on left, and Northwoods Carbon reared their litters in neighboring runs.
Eight puppies were whelped on April 3 out of Northwoods Bismuth by Northwoods Grits. Grits was also the sire of our second litter, this one out of Northwoods Nickel, whelped on May 1. Last with her litter of eight was feisty Northwoods Carbon by Northwoods Nirvana on May 12.
The only male puppy of Northwoods Carbon’s litter of eight by Northwoods Nirvana litter has the perfect home with Brandon Eales.
Jerry and I kept six puppies from this group but the rest are very happily living in their new homes (at least according to enthusiastic emails and text messages!). Puppies were picked up by families who drove from Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota while other puppies flew to Helena, Seattle and Philadelphia.
Dogs bring the neatest people together and we always like to meet new clients. But, too, Jerry and I were especially delighted to see Dick and Melanie Taylor and Mike McCrary again who bought second setters from us this summer.
Staunchness training for Northwoods Blitzen (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2016). Photo by Jeff Hintz.
Out in the field, summer means gun dog training using pigeons in releasers, backing dummies and dogs dragging check cords. Jeff Hintz, our friend and neighbor, has helped Jerry for many years. They are an impressive team, easily communicating with hand signals, head nods and grins.
Loki (CH Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Carbon, 2016) is owned by James Anderson. Photo by Jeff Hintz.
Nick (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2016) is owned by Larry Young.
Gunner (RU-CH Erin’s Prometheus x Northwoods Carly Simon, 2016) is owned by Kevin Zubich.
Does it get any prettier than this? Merimac’s Blu Monday (Northwoods Blue Ox x CH Houston’s Belle, 2010) points a covey of bobwhite quail during the last brace of an afternoon hunt.
The experience a dog gains during a winter in Georgia with Betsy and me is hard to duplicate anywhere. For at least four months, excellent weather conditions and plentiful bobwhite quail combine for outstanding training opportunities. These winters are especially beneficial for puppies and young dogs because they get consistent exposure over a long period of time when they are maturing both physically and mentally.
Head high and practically on her tip toes, veteran Northwoods Vixen (CH Westfall’s Black Ice x Northwoods Prancer, 2010) locates a covey on a guided hunt.
Betsy and I brought our own puppies from 2015 litters, setters Fendi, Gucci and Prada and pointer Chanel. All have developed well. They find and point birds and, at least most of the time, back, too.
Maddie, on left, and Chanel point scattered birds of a covey along a mowed strip. They are female littermates out of CH Rock Acre Blackhawk x Northwoods Vixen, 2015.
Derbies from 2015 are proving they have what it takes. Bismuth, Nickel, Platinum and Mercury (recently sold) are finishing well on their game.
Some dogs make it look easy. Northwoods Parmigiano (Northwoods Blue Ox x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2010) confidently points a covey.
We brought our older dogs as well as several owned by clients and all are veterans to these piney woods. We work them on our grounds and use them on guided hunts. Merimac’s Blu Monday, owned by Ben McKean, is easily a “10” on quail whether on wild or liberated quail hunts. Grits, Chablis, Royce, Sean, Oscar and Vixen round out my guiding string.
What style in motion! Charlie (Blue Riptide x Northwoods Carly Simon, 2014) shows off his long, smooth stride. Photo by Ben McKean.
We have other extremely talented client dogs with us. Pointer Maddie (CH Rock Acre Blackhawk x Northwoods Vixen, 2015) is here from Maine and setter Remmie made the trip from Minnesota. Charlie (Blue Riptide x Northwoods Carly Simon, 2014) is here from Ohio and we also have Grace, Hannah and Jack from Montana. Roxy (Northwoods Grits x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2014) is back for her second winter of training. Sure beats her home state of Illinois!
In good broom sedge cover, Jerry flushes for Roxy (Northwoods Grits x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2014). Even though not yet two years of age, Roxy runs a mature race, accurately pins birds and is steady to wing and shot.
I miss our own Carly and Carbon on my guiding string but they are busy with puppies. Each whelped litters of nine in late January/early February.
A puppy’s first point is always exciting! Six-month-old Remmie locates a quail in thick cover of a mowed strip.
A pair of eight-year-old bird dogs, setter Houston’s Blackjack (CH Can’t Go Wrong x CH Houston’s Belle, 2008) and Chris Mathan’s pointer Pal’s Kitty Hawk (Pal’s Maverick x Wynot Kristy, 2008), share point.
In thick cover on the barrens of northwest Wisconsin, Platinum (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Prancer, 2014) finds a covey of sharptails.
A lot (and I mean A LOT) of hours are spent training dogs on wild birds during August. Locally, woodcock and sharp-tailed grouse are plentiful while travel to the prairies of the Dakotas give dogs opportunities on both sharptails and pheasants from horseback.
On a misty morning in North Dakota, three pretty females find and point pheasants. On left, Frank LaNasa’s Claire (CH True Confidence x CH Lil Miss Sunshine, 2014), Paul Hauge’s Mocha (CH Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2014) and Tony Follen’s Lucy (CH Westfall’s Black Ice x Northwoods Prancer, 2011).
Training on wild birds takes tremendous effort but there is just no substitute. As friend and training pal Jeff Hintz says, “The difference between planted birds and wild birds is like playing checkers versus chess.”
The woodcock have been plentiful in the pasture edges and Smooch (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013) accurately locates a single.
Since it is so much work, we accept a limited number of clients’ dogs to train on wild birds. Setters Grits, Royce and Mocha have made every trip to North Dakota. On local sharptails, I’m fine-tuning the abilities of two-year-old pointer littermates Nutmeg, Smooch and Jaguar.
The beautiful fields of North Dakota are vast and can be a challenge for young dogs. But one-year-old Carbon (Blue Riptide x Northwoods Carly Simon, 2014), on right, shares point with the veteran Grits (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis, 2011) on a covey of sharptails.
For our own veterans, I sharpen up their staunchness and let them have fun in the woods while conditioning, too. And it’s one of the key ways Betsy and I evaluate young dogs for potential future breeding. Prospects from our 2014 litters—Carbon, Bismuth, Mercury, Nickel and Platinum—are gaining invaluable experience on wild birds.
From a long distance out, littermates Nutmeg, on left, and Jaguar (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013) point a covey of sharp-tailed grouse.
Veteran Northwoods Vixen (CH Westfall’s Black Ice x Northwoods Prancer, 2011) makes it look easy.
Much of Minnesota’s woods are thick and hot now during high summer but whenever I have an opportunity to work dogs on wild birds, I say, “Let’s go!”
Northwoods Carbon (Blue Riptide x Northwoods Carly Simon, 2014) found a woodcock on the edge of a grazed cattle pasture.
Just to the south of our kennel are great woodcock covers. Young and old aspen mix with alders and field edges and there is plenty of damp ground. I’ve worked one or two dogs almost every morning. This summer is especially fun as woodcock are abundant and we’ve even encountered a brood or two of pheasants.
Northwoods Jaguar (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013) pointed a woodcock in older aspen with an understory of ferns.
It’s interesting to watch the dogs naturally shorten up in thick vegetation. Our dogs usually range 100 – 150 yards in mid-October but, now in July, they’ve hunted 20 – 40 yards from me.
One-year-old Northwoods Bismuth (Blue Riptide x Northwoods Carly Simon, 2014) pointed the first woodcock she smelled and let me flush it!
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.
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.
Finn (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis, 2014) is 14 weeks old tomorrow and is doing great! He is an exceptionally smart and confident puppy. (Rhonda says sometimes too smart for his britches.) He loves going for car and truck rides and we’ve been taking him along just about everywhere we go. He’s been a lap dog from the first day home.
Jerry and I think puppies and dogs that we breed and sell are among the luckiest anywhere. Not only are they owned by perhaps the most avid bird hunters in the country, but for times when they can’t be in the woods and fields, they are treasured, close companions. The dogs spend those months in vehicles, boats, trout streams and warm homes and on soft beds and laps.
Wanted to send you a picture of Northwoods Creek (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2013). We are extremely happy with him and wanted to thank you again for the opportunity to own such a talented young dog.
~ Randy & Vallana
Just to let you know that Sadie (Houston’s Blackjack x Northwoods Chablis, 2013) is making the transition from your kennel to house remarkably well. She catches on to things quickly, walks on a leash well, sleeps on the bed and is slowly getting us trained! Here Martha is explaining the nature and complexities of pontooning!
Today Beemer (Houston’s Blackjack x Northwoods Chablis, 2013) is one year old. We feel he has adjusted well since we brought him home. He and Tony (CH Can’t Go Wrong x CH Houston’s Belle, 2008) get along very well and he enjoys running in the back yard, watching the birds fly by or stop by the bird feeders. Thank you for another handsome and wonderful dog.
Roy is becoming quite the trout dog… Loves to be on the river and explore the bottoms when not watching for fish.
May is a month when Jerry and Dan focus on gun dog training. Dogs are taught steadiness on point, i.e., dogs are trained to stay on point until the handler flushes the bird, to stop-to-flush and to back another dog on point. This training is done in a controlled area with extensive use of pigeons to ensure the dog gets a sound understanding of what is expected. Occasionally, dogs were worked along a woodland edge where bobwhite quail were released from a johnny house.
No trees had leafed out in early May but by the end of training, aspens and alders and dogwoods bore chartreuse foliage and even dandelions bloomed in the pasture.
Smooch, pointer female (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013).
Willow, setter female (CH Ridge Creek Cody x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2013).
Aspen, 18-month-old male Brittany.
Ginger, pointer female (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013).
Dixie, setter female (CH Houston’s Blackjack x Northwoods Highclass Kate, 2013).
Jade, four-year-old female German shorthaired pointer.
Millie, setter female (CH Houston’s Blackjack x Northwoods Chablis, 2013).
Royce, setter male (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2013).
Axel (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis, 2012) spent two months with us in Georgia and was trained on bobwhite quail. He effortlessly made the transition to grouse and woodcock in April and, in fact, he placed in both derby stakes.
For a bird dog aficiando who likes to get in the woods and perhaps to compete in field trials, April should be a banner month. It’s the first chance in months to work dogs. It’s good to see grouse that made it through a tough winter and to find migrating woodcock return And it’s always fun to see friends at field trials.
But this April was frustrating. Our region of east central Minnesota received 30 inches of snow in two big storms and temperatures rarely warmed to average. Flexibility was necessary vis-a-vis training periods and field trial dates but, in the end, everything was accomplished. We had a full kennel and hauled the dog trailer to run in two trials held by the Minnesota Grouse Dog Association.
The bird of the month, American Woodcock (Scolopax minor), blends in perfectly with the duff on the forest floor.
As soon as the snow melted on south-facing banks, woodcock moved in by the dozens. Jerry had some stellar work on those birds—one afternoon he counted 92 flushes! Snow cover remained thick in the woods but eventually young aspen cuttings held good numbers of grouse and woodcock. Too, Jerry relocated sturdy bobwhites from a pigeon coop into two johnny houses and those quail were perfect for training young dogs.
From Ken Balfanz, owner of Tia (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis, 2011): The woodcock are migrating through our area right now. My dad and I took Tia up to his five-acre lot north of town this afternoon. In 10 minutes we must have had a dozen birds fly out. Ryan (our youngest) and I took her out just now to the park behind the house and moved three pheasants, one woodcock, and a bunny. Now she’s sleeping for the rest of the night. Big day for her!
Young Northwoods Troy McClure (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2013) is backed by Gigi in an aspen cutting.
Ryman setter littermates Gigi, on left, and Buck found oodles of woodcock this spring.
Northwoods Rum Rickey (Blue Shaquille x Snyder’s Liz, 2012) shows good poise and intensity on point.
Conditions were extremely wet but Benson, undeterred, pointed a woodcock on an edge.
Tri-color setter Tripp (Houston x Northwoods Blue Babe, 2009) in a snow-covered aspen cutting is reminiscent of a Bev Doolittle painting.
Seasoned Northwoods Chablis (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2009) backs young Basil (Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013) on a nice find.
Southwest Georgia during winter is a tremendous place to develop young bird dogs. The conditions to work dogs and find birds are virtually ideal for more than four months. This not only gives ample opportunity on birds but also allows young dogs to mature while getting consistent exposure and training.
This was the second winter Betsy and I lived at Arrowhead Farms near Dixie, Georgia. The perfect location is 20 miles east of Thomasville, Georgia, the heart of bobwhite quail plantation country. We had a talented group of dogs with us—both puppies and seasoned veterans. In addition to watching the progress of young dogs, it’s also fun to see older dogs get better and better.
We enjoyed many of the same experiences as last year but new opportunities opened up for us. Here are the highlights.
Invitations to quail hunts on several quail plantations. One client leased hunts on various plantations and it was educational to see how they were managed for habitat and how the hunts were run. I especially enjoyed watching their dogs work and observing their hunting and dog-handling style. Many times, I braced our dogs with plantation dogs and was extremely pleased. Our dogs—whether young or experienced—compared very favorably and impressed local trainers and handlers. In fact, one plantation ordered two setter puppies from us.
Roger King, dog trainer at Pine Fair, flushes for his pointer during a training session.
Become acquainted with professional dog trainers from various plantations. I joined the local club and regularly trained with several of them on their quail plantations. They were a nice group of people. It was quite a privilege.
Exclusive access to the 1,900-acre Miami Plantation. The property ownership is now in transition but, for the second season, I trained on good populations of quail. On an average morning, I flushed eight to 12 wild coveys in three hours.
Lots of birds. This was an incredible year for bobwhites in southwest Georgia. On most plantations it was common to flush 18 – 25 wild coveys during a three-hour hunt. At the Annual Plantation Owner’s Trial, held this year on Ted Turner’s Nonami Plantation, more than 100 wild coveys were flushed in a single day.
Give my legs a break! All hunts and training sessions at plantations and most of my training at the Miami or Arrowhead Farms were done from horseback. While the pace is slightly faster than I usually walk, it’s a tremendous advantage. I can easily see what the dog is doing and I’m able to focus on the dog without worrying about where I’m walking. Arrowhead Farms owns many horses but I mainly rode a very nice, 13-year-old Tennessee walking horse named Willow. He was a pleasure to ride and I think he enjoyed it, too!