Posts Tagged ‘Billy Hildebrand’

A Bird Dog Christmas

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

The bird dogs’ stockings have been hung by the chimney with care.

Based upon a completely unscientific poll of my friends, family and co-workers, I’ve come to the conclusion most folks wrap a little something under the Fraser fir for their bird dog.  Truth be told, my wife already has some fancy doggy biscuits and chew toy pheasants stuffed into our two shorthair’s stockings.  Yes, both of our GSPs have stockings hanging from the fireplace mantel.


However, after my recent run of hunting outings involving dog accidents, I’d like to offer a more practical, and potentially life-saving, Christmas idea for you and your bird dog- a sporting dog first aid kit.


Consider, during my last three hunting excursions I’ve been in the company of three separate dog injuries.  First, my buddy Matt Kucharski’s shorthair was poked in the eye with a branch during a ruffed grouse hunt that broke off and left a two inch segment inside the pup’s eye cavity resulting in my first trip to the vet for the week.


The very next day, Billy Hildebrand, host of FAN Outdoors radio, and I were pheasant hunting when his fabulous Brittany sliced a massive gash in her paw on some remnant barbed wire bordering a Minnesota WMA.  The second vet visit.  By the way, vets don’t offer frequent visit punch cards.  I asked.


And five days later, Kucharski’s shorthair attempted to eat a dead porcupine to the dismay of her owner.  A half hour later, we’d removed two dozen quills.  Somehow, I’d miraculously avoided the vet visit hat trick.


Add my recent string of bad bird dog juju to my young shorthair’s own porcupine encounter earlier this year and my older shorthair’s penchant for skunk sprayings, and I’ve come to the conclusion it’s inevitable for any dog owner to go through too many seasons without a bird dog medical emergency.


Contents of the Sporting Dog First Aid Kit offered through Pheasants Forever’s online store

While the sporting dog first aid kit offered in the Pheasants Forever online store rings the cash register with rather a large $85 mark, I’ve found it’s virtually impossible to assemble this kit’s components individually under the sticker price.  In the end, it’s a small investment on a critical piece of gear most of us believe we’ll never need, but wish like heck we had when an accident occurs.

NOTE: Items purchased through the Pheasants Forever online store by the end of Thursday, December 13th will be guaranteed arrival prior to Christmas. 


Will your bird dog find something under your tree on Christmas morning?


The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.

How to Approach a Dog on Point

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

John Edstrom, PF & QF’s Merchandise Supervisor, approaches a Brittany on point

I learned to bird hunt behind a Brittany.  I don’t remember my dad ever teaching me how to “approach” a pointed bird, but it has always felt natural because it’s how I got my start.  What’s interesting and more than a little humorous is watching my various hunting partners the last few years who have only hunted behind flushing breeds react to my German shorthair on point.

In almost every case, I’ve witnessed “human vapor lock” as these friends look at me with twitching eyebrows, tip toe with caution as they approach the dog, then stop behind the dog and look at me again.  Are they waiting for the weasel to go pop?  Honest to goodness, I’ve witnessed pure fear on the face of a fellow hunter.

“When a rooster flushes in front of my Lab it’s all instinct and excitement,” one friend explained last season.  “With your darned pointer, it’s like watching a Friday the 13th movie and you know Jason is around the corner with an axe.”

I’ve also been told by pointing dog purists to never walk up directly behind a pointer, but rather come in from the front or at an angle.  The pointer purist worries about inadvertently causing “creeping” by approaching a dog from behind.  “Creeping” being the unwanted broken point and creep forward of the dog toward the bird.

With this subject in mind, I called Purina’s “top dog” and pro trainer Bob West for his guidance on how best to approach a dog on point.  “There is no clear cut, best way to approach a dog on point.  You have to factor in the dog’s level of ability, the scenting conditions that day and the species of bird you anticipate being pointed to properly make the best approach for the situation,” explained West.  “When hunting pheasants, it’s not uncommon for me to make a big 20 yard circled approach in front of a dog on point in an attempt to prevent a rooster from running.”

Approaching a dog on point from the front.

West went on to explain to me that he does believe young dogs could be caused to creep by approaching them from behind and an angled approach would be advised; however, he didn’t think a seasoned bird dog would be susceptible to the same problem.  He stressed repeatedly in knowing your own dog’s tendencies and making the best decisions with your dog in mind rather than what some “expert” advised.

West did add that “perhaps more important than what angle to approach is the speed at which to make your approach.  It’s critically important, especially with pheasants, to approach a dog on point at a pace as fast as safely possible.  That bird isn’t going to hold all day and the conditions of the scent and scenario are also constantly changing for your dog.”

Lastly, West reminded me that the bird isn’t necessarily where the dog is looking.  “It’s important to be ready the entire time you approach a pointed dog and be alert in all directions.  The bird may be exactly where the dog is looking, but it oftentimes is not.  Where the dog is looking simply is where that dog picked up the scent to lock into a point.  That dog has been trained not to move any closer than the moment the scent reached a level to cause the dog to freeze.  Its eyes should have nothing to do with it.”


Listen to FAN Outdoors this Thursday evening from 7PM to 9PM on

To learn more about the pointing instinct and a variety of dog training questions, tune in to FAN Outdoors radio this Thursday evening at 7:45PM (CDT) as Bob West joins the show for a live interview with me and host “The Captain” Billy HildebrandFAN Outdoors airs live on 100.3 FM in Minnesota and can be streamed live across the globe at

Billy Hildebrand, host of FAN Outdoors radio, and I approach Trammell on point.

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.



Boarding your Bird Dog While on Vacation

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

When you have to take a trip without your bird dog, who takes care of your hunting partner? PHOTO BY WILLOW CREEK KENNELS

Every Saturday morning, I wake up to a 4:30AM alarm clock to voluntarily co-host an outdoors radio talk show called FAN Outdoors on 100.3FM based in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis & Saint Paul.  My weekly appearance on the show provides me a great platform to talk about Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever, conservation, bird hunting and bird dogs.  I also have a great time chatting with the show’s host “The Captain” Billy Hildebrand about fishing and other outdoors related topics.


Over the four years I’ve been on FAN Outdoors, I’ve had the pleasure of participating in live remote broadcasts from the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Ely, Minnesota as well as from a fishing lodge on Devil’s Lake in North Dakota. Later this week, my wife and I will depart for the Minnesota/Canadian border for a six-day fishing trip with Rainy Lake Houseboats on behalf of FAN Outdoors.  Without doubt, this is a “bucket list” trip for anyone and an opportunity I wasn’t going to pass by; however, there was one commitment I had trouble figuring out how to handle before I firmly committed to participating in this Rainy Lake adventure.  The commitment I’m referencing was to my two bird dogs.


Before I accepted the dream getaway, I had to figure out who was going to care for the safety and well-being of my 5-year-old shorthair, Trammell, and my 14-week-old GSP puppy, Izzy.  I’m sure many bird dog owners planning a summer vacation have encountered similar quandaries.  While I could find any number of friends and relatives to care for my low-maintenance older dog, asking someone to welcome my semi-potty trained puppy into their home seemed like a good way to strain a relationship.


Crossing friends and relatives off the list, I started sourcing dog boarding facilities in the Twin Cities.  For a 6X6 space and some play time socialization with other dogs, I could board my dogs for about $45 a day for the first dog and another $22 for the second.  Not ideal.  So my next thought led me to consider the folks I know in the dog training and breeding business, which led me to think about Chad Hines, owner of Willow Creek Kennels of Little Falls, Minnesota.


A quick search of the Willow Creek Kennels website informed me that boarding was a service they provided that also included some gun dog training for roughly a third of the price compared to Twin Cities boarding options.  I followed up my web search with a phone call explaining my training priorities for Trammell & Izzy to Chad and my dogs were booked for a two-week stay.


I drove Trammell & Izzy to Willow Creek Kennels on Saturday morning where I met Chad and some of his staff.  The drop-off was exactly the scenario every bird dog owner hopes for when leaving their pets in the hands of another.  Chad and his staff took the time to evaluate both of my dogs, talk through my expectations and show me the kennel’s entire facilities; including the specific kennels where my dogs would be staying.  He even took some time to run the young pup, Izzy, through the beginning paces of bird introduction.


Izzy retrieved her first pheasant on Saturday . PHOTO BY WILLOW CREEK KENNELS

Another benefit Willow Creek Kennels provides to clients with dogs being boarded are short videos.  Using iPhones, the Willow Creek Kennels staff shoot countless videos of the training process which they upload to YouTube and Facebook for their clients’ viewing pleasure.  Imagine – fishing on the Canadian border and receiving video proof of your beloved bird dog’s safety and training progress.  Pretty awesome!


If you have a fishing getaway of your own, or are planning that family visit to Disney, take the time to check out the boarding facilities of the local bird dog trainers and breeders in your area.  You may be surprised to find a more affordable option for your bird dog’s boarding accompanied by the added benefit of a little training to sharpen the pup’s skills come autumn.


Listen to FAN Outdoors this Thursday evening (7PM to 9PM CDT) and Saturday morning (6AM to 8AM CD) for our live broadcast from Rainy Lake Houseboats.

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.



Hunt, Gather, Cook Pheasant Pasta

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

One of my absolute favorite new books of the last year is Hank Shaw’s Hunt, Gather, Cook.  Shaw skillfully blends his personal narrative with unique recipes in this creative exploration of foraging, hunting, and fishing for nature’s “forgotten feast.”  If you made it to National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic last February, then you hopefully had the chance to catch Hank’s fantastic presentations on the Outdoor Channel Cooking Stage.


It was with Hank’s ethos in mind that I prepared this evening’s meal.  My cluttered countertop included one rooster from a memorable December pheasant hunt in Kansas, a few dozen wild morel mushrooms scored with the assistance of my FAN Outdoors radio partner “The Captain” Billy Hildebrand, and a few stalks of wild asparagus snipped at my secret railroad tracks spot not far from the Pheasants Forever national offices.


Here’s the skinny on my Hunt, Gather, Cook Pheasant Pasta


1 Cubed whole pheasant

4 Cups of fresh morel mushrooms

1 Cup of fresh wild asparagus

2 Cups of angel hair pasta

1/2 Cup of heavy cream

½ Stick of butter

1 tsp flour

Olive Oil

Salt to taste



1)      Sauté the cubed pheasant in olive oil until brown, lightly salt

2)      Sauté the morel mushrooms in ¼ stick of butter till reduced (approximately 5 minutes on medium heat)

3)      Boil the angel hair pasta till tender

4)      Melt ¼ stick of butter over low heat, add flour and whisk until blended, add cream, simmer on low heat.

5)      Boil asparagus al dente, so they are crisp

6)      Combine pheasant, mushrooms and pasta

7)      Pour cream sauce over the top

8)      Add asparagus

9)      Serve

Thanks to my sous chef and wife, Meredith, for helping me out in the night’s finished dish.



The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.



Too Much Pride in My Bird Dog

Monday, November 7th, 2011

My bird dog, Trammell, searching for the scent of a crippled rooster.

Do you suffer from hubris when it comes to your bird dog?  I confess to often displaying symptoms of the affliction.


As you may recall from high school English lit class, Odysseus paid dearly for his own hubris in Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey.   Odysseus’ hubris, or excessive pride, led the gods to punish Odysseus by sending him on a ten year journey following the Trojan War to teach humility. 


Like Odysseus, I’ve been guilty of having excessive pride in my bird dog, Trammell.  My own hubris became apparent to me while reading Grayson Schaffer’s excellent blog post on the Filson website recently.


Below, you’ll find some of my favorites from Mr. Schaffer’s unofficial rules of dog etiquette for people who take their gun dogs seriously.


1. You might have the best dog in the field back home, but that likelihood lessens with each mile driven.


2. Undersell your dog—always. He’s a better shower than you are a teller.


3. Every time you’re about to brag about your dog, stop yourself and compliment another dog’s fine retrieve from the day, instead.


4. Only the underdog can overachieve. The best the over-dog can do is meet expectations.


7. Never give another guy a hard time about his dog. Believe me, he knows.


10. When your dog leans against you, it either means that he’s trying to dominate you or that he has an itch he’d like you to scratch. Your call.


After reading Mr. Schaffer’s rules of dog etiquette, I realized that I’ve boasted with pride about my own bird dog far too often during the early days of this pheasant season.  And after my pup’s failure to retrieve two crippled roosters during my most recent pheasant hunt with my good friend “The Captain” Billy Hildebrand, I’ve been burdened by the guilt of my own hubris. 


Consequently, with the Rooster Road Trip fast approaching, I felt it appropriate to repent for this hubris.  The last thing I want is to spend 10 years on the road with Andrew and Anthony trying to get home.  Never can be too careful, right?


Follow Pheasants Forever’s Rooster Road Trip 2011 at, on Facebook , YouTube, and Twitter (#rrt11). 


The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.

Where will you be on the 2011 Pheasant Opener?

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Opening Day 2010 with (left to right) me, Billy Hildebrand, Erik Hildebrand & Chad Hildebrand. In addition to a limit of roosters, the Hildebrand boys bagged a few ducks early that morning.

Are you ready to go bird hunting?  Personally, I’m ready to hang up the fishing pole and shrink-wrap the boat in exchange for my over/under.  My shorthaired bird dog is wagging her tail in agreement as well. 


Yes, I know it’s only August, but hunting season can’t get here quick enough as far as I’m concerned.  And judging by the comments on PF’s Facebook page, I’m not alone in my enthusiasm for pheasant season’s arrival.


While I’ve already got two ruffed grouse hunts and a sharp-tailed grouse hunt on my September calendar, I am also happy to report that I know where I’ll be spending my first pheasant hunt of 2011.  For the 4th consecutive season, I will be hunting in central Minnesota on Saturday, October 15th with my FAN Outdoors radio partner Billy Hildebrand and a small collection of friends, family and bird dogs. 


Where & when will your 2011 pheasant hunting season begin?



2011 Pheasant Hunting Opening Days

(These dates are tentative, please be sure to check your state’s regulations)

Colorado                                                    Still TBD

Iowa                                                           Saturday, October 29

Kansas                                                       Saturday, November 12

Montana                                                     Saturday, October 8

Minnesota                                                  Saturday, October 15

Nebraska                                                    Sunday, October 30

North Dakota                                             Saturday, October 8

Ohio                                                           Friday, November 4        

South Dakota                                             Saturday, October 15

Wisconsin                                                  Saturday, October 15



The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.

My Five Bird Hunts before The Rapture

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Moments before The Rapture

You may have heard California’s Rapture-predicting preacher has revised his math.  It turns out the world is going to end on October 21st instead of May 21st as originally warned.  What’s that mean to a bird hunting fanatic like me?  With some bird hunting seasons opening up in mid September, I estimate to have about five bird hunting weekends left before the planet explodes. 

Here are the five hunts I’d like to make happen before the coming autumn Rapture.

1) Yooper Grouse Opener: It’s a family tradition to return back home to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to open the ruffed grouse season with Dad & Mom.  If the world is coming to an end, this one is the most important for me to squeeze in one more time.

2) Hells Canyon: While I hope to be headed north, not south, following The Rapture, I have to chase birds in Hells Canyon one time before I die.  While I’ve never been there, I’ve read about and been told stories of magical days in which hunters have shot pheasants, quail, grouse, chukar and Huns all in a single day.

3) Fort Pierre Prairie Grouse: In the last two seasons, I have fallen in love with the Fort Pierre National Grasslands.  Although my pup has had close encounters with rattle snakes and porcupines, I have experienced some of my most memorable days afield in search of prairie chickens and sharp-tailed grouse. 

4) Pheasant Opener: It has become a treasured tradition to open the Minnesota pheasant season at the cabin of FAN Outdoors radio host’s Billy Hildebrand in central Minnesota. 

5) A Walk Alone: I enjoy time spent afield with others; however, given my druthers, my most treasured hunts are alone behind my shorthair.  It seems that if the world is going to end, I’d find peace walking a patch of prairie with my pup Trammell. 


Knowing the world is coming to an end early this fall’s hunting season, what will be your final five hunts? 

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.

What is the Difference between a Birder and a Bird Hunter?

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Bird hunters support wildlife habitat conservation through license sales, excise taxes, and projects funded by conservation groups.

Last Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio, host Billy Hildebrand and I interviewed one of our favorite guests, naturalist Stan Tekiela.  The topic of the morning was bird watching. 

Did you know that according to a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service study published in 2001 that one in five Americans are considered birders, or bird watchers?  That ratio represents 46 million people!  Compare that with the fact there are 2 million pheasant hunters and 1 million quail hunters in the U.S.  Quite the difference!

Stan described a birder as a person that likes to be outside, is passionate about wildlife, is a conservationist and cares about the environment.  As Stan talked about bird watching and the people that consider themselves birders, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities in profiles to Pheasants Forever or Quail Forever members.  The primary differences between the two groups are a birder collects his/her quarry with a list or a camera, while a bird hunter bags the targeted species with a shotgun, and both thinks the other is a little bit crazy.

Stan also brought up the fact that birders have been major beneficiaries of the hunting community’s financial contributions for decades.  It has always been hunters who have contributed to wildlife habitat through license sales, excise taxes, and projects funded by conservation groups like Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever, Ducks Unlimited, and the Ruffed Grouse Society.  Imagine if we could figure out a way to get 46 million birders to make even a fraction of the contribution that hunters do! 

I’ve been thinking about the comparison between bird hunters and birders all week.  As an admitted bird hunting addict and non-birder, I wonder if birders are subconsciously acting out the human instinct to be hunter-gatherers.  Birders complete the entire ritual of a hunt, but ultimately “capture” in a photo album or on a list rather than in the frying pan.  Although I’m certainly biased toward bird hunters, I believe a better understanding of each other would broaden hunters’ view while deepening the birders’ respect of us.  

What do you think is the difference between a bird hunter and a bird watcher?

Podcast the FAN Outdoors interview with Stan Tekiela

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.

When is the Right Time to Add Bird Dog Number Two?

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

At 3 1/2 years of age, Trammell is now entering her prime bird dogging years.

My good friend and FAN Outdoors radio partner, “The Captain” Billy Hildebrand stopped by the Pheasants Forever office this morning.  In tow was his new Brittany pup “Snap.”  Snap joins his eight year-old golden retriever, “Tess,” as the Hildebrand’s newest hunting family member.

I currently have a 3 1/2 year old German shorthaired pointer named “Trammell.”  If you’ve read my blog before, then you know how much I adore my pup.  Last year about this time I started toying with the idea of adding a second bird dog to the mix.  I went so far as to put my name on the first pick of females in a shorthair litter planned for April.  As that litter’s birth neared, I had second thoughts about the timing of adding that second dog to the family and pulled my name off the list.

As I enter the mid-point of this hunting season, I’m thankful I did remove my name from that litter.  While I missed out on the joys of having a puppy this spring, I am benefiting from focusing on Trammell as she enters her prime bird hunting years. 

The more seasoned dog owners I talk with, the more consistent the advice:  “Add dog number two when your first dog turns six or seven.  That way, you’ll always have a dog in its prime.” 

Do you agree with that advice or do you have a different opinion?

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.

A Birdy Opener from the Brush

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Every pheasant hunter can help create more habitat by purchasing a Federal Duck Stamp each year.

If you were listening to FAN Outdoors on Saturday morning at 7:45 AM, then you heard “The Captain” Billy Hildebrand share his hot pheasant hunting tip from three weeks of pre-season scouting: “The birds have been in the brush.” 

The Captain, his two sons, friend Steve and I departed our trucks a little more than an hour after that statement was made on the radio across a five-state listening area.  We were resolved to test the theory. 

Within minutes, The Captain’s scouting recon proved valid as he opened the 2010 season with a single blast from his new Beretta over/under as a rooster tried to escape on the backside of a willow thicket.  A second rooster was added to The Captain’s game vest a matter of minutes later from another patch of short willows.  The Captain’s youngest son, Chad, dropped the group’s third bird over my shorthair’s point beside a small thicket along a cattail slough. 

In total, our group of hunters walked three federally owned Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs) on Saturday’s Minnesota pheasant opener.  With a few misses, a tailgate lunch, and a grassy nap; it took most of the day, but we bagged our 10-bird limit behind some excellent dog power from Steve and Billy’s brace of golden retrievers and my shorthair.  Of our ten roosters, seven originated from brush of some form.  Cattail edges produced the other three birds in our bag. 

Other Observations from the Field

  • There were a lot of hunters in west central Minnesota on Saturday morning.  The state and federally owned public lands were being put to good use. 


  • WPAs again proved their value to pheasants.  Please support the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s acquisition of these lands through the purchase of the Federal Duck Stamp.  Duck Stamp dollars are used to purchase lands that become WPAs, creating nesting habitat for ducks and fantastic habitat for pheasants to boot.


  • The juvenile birds we flushed displayed fuller plumage and seemed to be further along than most openers in my recent memory.  That may indicate this year’s early spring led to an early hatch.  That’s by no means a scientific analysis, just this PR guy’s hunch. 


  • The beans are all out in west central Minnesota and the corn is coming out quick.  If the weather stays dry, next weekend could be a dandy one for a pheasant hunt.


  • We only hunted a few hours on Sunday, but again proved the brush theory consistent on a fourth WPA with three roosters in the bag and four others flushed that should have joined them.  I also bagged a woodcock from the willows on Sunday morning as well. 


The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.