Posts Tagged ‘German Shorthair’

Can’t Discount the Old Guys

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Harley

This is probably one of those you-had-to-be-there stories, but I’ll give it a try.

Background: Harley was a 14-year-old German shorthair in good physical shape. Mentally, however, was a few biscuits short of a full box for a year or two. Never a rocket scientist, Harley spent his senior years in his “happy place.” The daily schedules that keep our other dogs riveted to the food bin or back door no longer mattered. Two minutes after Harley’d been out, he’d think it was time to go out. At dinner hour, he needed a personal escort to his food bowl. Sometimes he just showed up in a room, circle it a couple of times in his slightly shaky, half-hitch gait, then disappear upstairs again for another nap. Other times, when addressed, he’d simply stare, as if the words were in a foreign tongue not meant for him. He never seemed unhappy, though.

The story: After dinner one warm June night, I let Harley out the back door for his usual short stroll around the back yard. Knowing he wouldn’t be aware of me in the big field in front of the house, I walked a track with a dead duck for my husband Terry to practice the Utility Test “Retrieve by Drag” with his German wirehair Tank. It was a good 85-100 yard drag with a big bend through tall grass before crossing a thick brush line. After placing the duck inside a patch of dogwoods, I circled back to the house to get Terry and Tank. We turned around and headed down the driveway towards the spot in the front field where I’d left feathers marking the start of the track. Terry had Tank heeling properly, with me following solemn as a judge, everything in a serious demeanor as it would be on test day the next week.

But there was Harley!  Trotting right towards us up the driveway with that big old mallard – tracked and fetched 100 yards out – now held proudly in his mouth. His white legs pumped up and down, pistons in even tempo. His head was high, boney spine and tail up, course steady. I’d like to say his eyes were full of glee or maybe even focused on mine in a message of determination, but, to be truthful, they were as vaguely crazed as always.

Pump, pump, Harley came straight at us. As he reached me, clearly with no intention of stopping, I grabbed the duck and he skittered away as if I had one of those handshake buzzers and was about to zing him. He then zigged and zagged to the garage without a second glimpse back at the duck, giving no indication whether he’d tracked me doing the drag or somehow simply stumbled across the duck in a newly expanded route.

Nonetheless, for that first minute or two down the driveway, Harley once again looked like a determined, noble bird dog bringing game to hand, confident in action, steadfast in delivery. For a moment. Then he was back to being a resident of Planet Zorwack, living out his days in an otherworldly state of bliss.

Nancy Anisfield, an outdoor photographer/writer, sporting dog enthusiast and bird hunter, serves on Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s National Board of Directors. She resides in Hinesburg, Vermont.

It’s Porcupine Season

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Photo courtesy Dave Kuritzky

Riley after an encounter of the porcupine kind. Photo courtesy Dave Kuritzky

Ahh…springtime. The time of year when a dog owner’s thoughts turn to porcupines and skunks. I basically have nothing against either creature, but when my dogs are involved, it gets personal.My first porcupine-hunting dog encounter was many years ago on a warm August evening. I took my German shorthair, Harley, for a run in the woods down to a small duck pond. He flew by the pond to explore the ditch beyond, and when I called him to me just moments later, it looked like he had something white in his mouth, a rabbit maybe. It seemed odd.

As Harley ran towards me in the dimming light, I realized what now looked like a Santa Claus beard was actually more than a hundred quills covering three quarters of his face. I didn’t even consider pulling them myself. I leashed him and rushed home to grab the phone and find out what vet was on call that night. Thinking back, even though I now have had some experience pulling quills, I probably wouldn’t have tried it myself. With so many in his muzzle and in his throat, better for him to be mildly sedated and not have to feel the pain for the hour plus that it took to remove them all.

My next notable porcupine encounter was the opening day of ruffed grouse season. Rimfire had been doing an odd point and sprint dance down a wooded hill towards a broad cornfield, not his customary grouse tracking style. Eventually, I saw him locked solid between two rows of still standing corn. Odd place for a grouse, but it was possible an early woodcock was resting there as I had once or twice found woodcock in the corn.

On closer look, I saw the humped brown bristly back of a porcupine. I leashed Rimfire, then dragged him back to the trees explaining that we were after birds and that while I appreciated his varmint tracking skills, porcupine stew was not on my menu.

Two years and several unremarkable encounters later, I was at our cabin with my two shorthairs, one a puppy barely four months old. After unloading the truck and settling in, my eyes caught sight of something big, lumpy and dark trundling across the grass between the cabin and the river. First thought: a beaver – and I am always nervous about beaver and dog confrontations. Then the beaver climbed a tree, thus, not a beaver. It was a huge porcupine.

Until it moved on, we were held hostage. Versatile dogs love to hunt fur or feathers, and the laws of nature predicted a snout full of quills for my 15-week-old puppy. A few stripped tree tops told me the porcupine had been hanging around the cabin for a while. There’s no closed season on porcupines in Maine, so I opted to take it out of the equation.

Some gun dog owners are lucky and haven’t had to deal with quills. Others, like Dave Kuritzky, who owns Riley in the photo here, has had to remove face and mouthfuls of quills over and over. Even with aversion training, Riley still loves to go after those porkies.  I guess some days a 20 lb. rodent with a back full of toothpicks is just too irresistible to a hunting dog.

Nancy Anisfield, an outdoor photographer/writer, sporting dog enthusiast and bird hunter, serves on Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s National Board of Directors. She resides in Hinesburg, Vermont.

Happy Birthday Bird Dog

Monday, March 11th, 2013

"Izzy" has made great leaps as a bird dog and member of our family in her first year.

“Izzy” has made great leaps as a bird dog and member of our family in her first year.

Today marks the first birthday for my youngest bird dog, Izzy.  During the standard “what’s for dinner” chat with my wife this afternoon, Meredith informed me she’d be late arriving home this evening.  The delay – she had to stop at the “fancy” pet store on her way home to purchase Izzy a special birthday present.  Truth be told, I hadn’t realized it was the pup’s birthday . . . or that we’d be celebrating said occasion.

After an initial scoff gurgled out of my clenched cheeks, I warmed to the idea of rewarding the newest member of our family with a minor indulgence.  After all, this youngster has already played a sizeable role in answering our daily “what’s for dinner” question with pointed pheasants, grouse, quail and woodcock.

While I’m admittedly guilty of anthropomorphizing my bird dogs . . . and I’m guilty of posing this same question at Christmas . . . do you celebrate your bird dog’s birthday?

 

The author's wife, Meredith, presents Izzy with her first birthday cupcake while the couple's older GSP, Trammell, looks on.

The author’s wife, Meredith, presents Izzy with her first birthday cupcake while the couple’s older GSP, Trammell, looks on.

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

The Best Compliment for a Bird Hunter: I Want a Bird Dog like Yours

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Me with my pride and joy, Trammell, a German shorthaired pointer

Me with my pride and joy, Trammell, a German shorthaired pointer

Last autumn, on a bird hunting trip with Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s online editor, we stopped by my brother’s house in Rhinelander, Wisconsin.  Anthony’s little nugget of a bird dog, “Sprig,” was in tow.

 

Sprig, an English cocker spaniel, made fast friends with my niece, nephew, and brother.  So much so that my sister-in-law, Julie, said that Sprig might be just the ticket for helping push my brother over the ledge to adding a bird dog to their busy family.  We ventured further on the trip to Escanaba, Michigan where both my parents also offered to “take Sprig off Anthony’s hands.”

 

While “nice shot,” is always an appreciated sentiment on a pheasant hunt, I don’t think there is any greater compliment for a bird hunter than a fellow hunter remarking “I want a bird dog like yours.”  For all the trials of potty training and the tribulations of obedience afield, bird dogs provide the greatest rewards when others appreciate the fruits of your labor.

 

Although my immediate family seems fixated on Anthony’s Sprig, I’ve been honored to have many hunting partners comment on their desire to have a shorthair like my “Trammell” pup.  A few have even gone so far as to connect with Trammell’s breeder and seek out her bloodlines through Top Gun Kennels.  That’s a fact I’m flattered by . . . although Top Gun’s breeding has more to do with Trammell’s prowess than any training I accomplished.

 

At its foundation, following the bloodlines of a bird dog you enjoy hunting behind is a great formula for finding a bird dog pup that you’ll cherish for a decade and more.  Have you ever pursued the pup or breeding of a hunting partner’s stellar bird dog?

 

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.

 

The Marriage Proposal Puppy

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Steve Ries, owner of Top Gun Kennels

Steve Ries, owner of Top Gun Kennels, may have stumbled upon a new business model for his German shorthaired pointer kennel business: incorporating marriage proposals with puppy pickups.  For at least one customer, that was the business arrangement last Saturday.

 

When Brandon Berg of West Concord, Minnesota visited Top Gun Kennels in Iowa this spring and put a deposit down on a GSP puppy, he told Ries the puppy was part of a surprise for his girlfriend.  Yes, only part of the surprise.  You see, Brandon was also in the process of designing a one-of-a-kind engagement band for Shay Jurgensen of Kasson, Minnesota.

 

Shay meets her new German shorthair puppy

“Shay loves German shorthairs and I wanted to make the perfect proposal very special and unique to her,” explained Berg.  “After I told Steve my idea, he was all-in and excited to give me advice on how to best pull my plan off.”

 

So with Brandon’s plan in place, the couple road-tripped from southern Minnesota to Iowa last Saturday to “look at” Top Gun Kennel puppies.  Shay had no idea what lay in store for her.

 

“Steve handed me the pup I had picked out earlier this spring.  Around the pup’s neck was the collar I had given him with the engagement ring I designed attached,” explained Berg.  “When I handed Shay the puppy, I dropped to one knee.  With puppy in her arms and Shay’s eyes fixed on the ring, the tears began to roll pretty quickly down her face.”

Brandon proposes

The happy couple named the new pup, “Remington,” and plans to hunt pheasants, ducks and geese over him this autumn.  Most bird dog owners will tell you that there is one dog that stands out as their “dog of a lifetime.”  I’m confident Remington will be exactly that dog for Shay and Brandon.  No word yet on Remington’s role in the wedding ceremony, but I’m placing the smart money on the position of ring-bearer.

Shay said "yes"

Tune in to FAN Outdoors radio this Saturday morning at 7:30AM CDT to hear Steve Ries tell the story in his own words.

 

NOTE: In a twist of serendipity, Remington happens to be from the exact same litter as my new shorthair pup, “Izzy.”

 

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

Puppies Mimic Older Bird Dogs

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Yzerman (Izzy) mimics Trammell's every move, while the older pup ignores her shadow

As I embarked on the adventure of adding a second bird dog to my family, an age-old question hung in my mind: “Do puppies learn from older dogs or are they simply clay in the hands of a human trainer?”

 

For years, I’d heard opinions on both sides of this argument, but having never owned more than one dog at a time, I found it hard to pick a side to believe in this debate.  However, after just a few days of owning two bird dogs, I have formed a very strong opinion that puppies ABSOLUTELY mimic older dog’s mannerisms, actions and behaviors.  There is zero doubt in my mind that my 5-year old shorthair is constantly “training” my 12-week old GSP puppy.

 

I’ve watched Tram (the 5-year old) pick up a stick during a walk.  Moments later, Izzy (the 12-week old)  was carrying a stick of her own.  When running a field together, Izzy measures the distance Tram works away from me and stays at a similar distance.  Every cue Tram drops, Izzy mimics.

 

Recognizing my sample size in formulating this opinion was extremely small, I asked renowned dog trainer and Purina pro-staffer Rick Smith for his opinion in the debate during a FAN Outdoors radio interview.  You can Podcast the interview by following this link; listen for my question on the topic at the 19:12 mark of Hour 1 of the program originally airing on May 26th.

 

Without hesitation Smith confirmed my quick-formed opinion that young dogs learn a lot more from older dogs than from people. “I like having a young dog with an older dog,” added Smith.

 

The caveat Smith made special point of noting, however, was to keep in mind that young dogs are going to learn good AND bad habits from your older dog.  That hit home with me as well.  Izzy is now a dinner table beggar thanks to Trammell’s habits (obviously my fault to begin with), and Izzy also enjoys sleeping on the couch as opposed to the floor (guilty as charged).

 

Try and catch me!

This entire sequence of observations has me even more eager than normal for bird hunting season to see how much Izzy mimics Tram’s hunting expertise.  Izzy has already honored Tram’s point of a mallard pair, so I’m hopeful that’s a sign of things to come . . . yes, I realize there won’t be much need for either of my duck pointers.  Laugh it up!

 

So, for all those multi-dog owners out there, how much have your younger pups learned from your older bird dogs?  Any special advice you’d offer me in this two-dog process?

 

Catching some morning rays together.

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

 

 

 

Naming my Second Bird Dog, Part 1 of 2

Monday, May 14th, 2012

Pictured here is Hope, my new pup's dam. Photo courtesy of Top Gun Kennels

Bird dog names are a big deal to me.  Admittedly, they’re probably too big of a deal.  However, as I’ve written about in previous posts about dog names, a bird dog’s name says a lot about the owner as well as what you hope the bird dog will become. In naming a bird dog, there are two qualities I hold as important guidelines: creativity and personalization.

 

Creativity

Although you may not realize it at first blush, a creatively named dog is an advantage in the field.  I’ve often been in hunting groups with multiple dogs named the exact same way.  Not only are the owner’s commands confusing for the dogs, they’re confusing for the other hunters too.  Under this guideline, I personally throw out the nation’s most popular dog names as well as a few names commonly popular to other bird hunters.  The names “Drake” and “Hunter” fall in this second category, as does any name referencing your favorite brand of shotgun.

 

If you’re struggling to find a creative name, consider a different language to fit the breed of dog you’re getting.  There are lots of fun ways to connect a dog’s German, French, Spanish, English or Irish heritage through their name.

 

Personalization

For me, a bird dog’s name should tell a story about the owner.  Read some of the comments at the bottom of my Please Don’t Name Your Bird Dog That post and you’ll find fantastic examples of dog names in honor of people’s heroes, favorite book characters and idolized musicians, as well as fun stories of the circumstances surrounding the dog’s personality.

 

Admittedly odd for some to understand, I named my now five-year old female shorthair “Trammell,” in honor of a male Detroit Tigers baseball player, Alan Trammell, who retired two decades ago.  However, naming my pup “Trammell” immediately personalized that pup to me.  Her name has also always served as a conversation starter about my love of baseball and my roots as a grouse hunter from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

 

Pictured here is Fletcher, my new pup's sire. Photo courtesy of Top Gun Kennels

Later this month, my wife and I will be adding our second bird dog to the family.  The new pup comes from the same Top Gun Kennel bloodlines as Trammell.  In the sequel to this post, I’ll finally spill the beans on our new pup’s name.  Got any guesses?

 

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

Are you like your Bird Dog?

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Tram & I pause for a photo on a sunny pheasant hunt without a cattail in sight

We’ve probably all heard the sayings about owners and their dogs looking alike, but what about shared mannerisms?  I’ll venture our bird dogs mimic their hunting masters in a variety of ways.  Here’s a sample of the similarities and adaptions I believe my shorthair, Trammell, and I share.

 

  • Methodically Short and Deliberately Dainty.  I am not the tallest guy in the room, any room, even an 8th grade classroom.  At 5’ 7”, my short legs work harder than most to cover the fields and forests.  Thankfully, my shorthair works slower and more methodical than other pointers I’ve observed.  Amongst my Pheasants Forever co-workers, Trammell is referred to as a “dainty” hunter.  To some guys, those may be fighting words, but I’m pretty sure Tram and I bag more roosters than those China Shop Bulls.  We may not vacuum up big expanses of ground, but I’m relatively certain we don’t run over too many hunkered birds either. 

 

  • Hunting Marathoners.  While Tram and I may not beat many tag teams to their daily limit, our deliberate pace does allow us to hunt from the day’s sunrise to the day’s closing bell.

 

  • Cattail Skirters.  Unless one of us gets “birdy,” we’re both content to work the outside edge of the cattail sloughs and keep our feet dry. 

 

  • Rain, Rain, Go Away.  Speaking of dry feet, Tram and I both avoid being outside on rainy days.  It’s funny to watch Tram go outside for a potty break in the rain, she tip toes into the yard as if she’s literally melting and zooms back inside the minute her “business” is complete.  Likewise, I’ve been quoted as saying “this isn’t fun for me anymore,” during a rainy hunt.

 

  • No Water Wings.  While I love to eat ducks, I’d rather spend my time and energy walking in pursuit of any bird without webbed feet.  Tram has a similar aversion to spending her hunting hours stuck in the mud over plastic fake birds when the real thing is to be had one step in front of the other.

 

  • Favorite Color is Orange.  Hunter orange and Detroit Tigers orange compose our wardrobe’s two seasons.

 

  • Birdy Buddies.  Probably most important of all is our shared affinity for upland birds; including, pheasants, quail, grouse, woodcock, sharpies, and prairie chickens.

 

 

What about you?  What traits do you and your bird dog share?

 

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

 

Reading your Dog’s Getting Birdy “Tells”

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

I typically have a shotgun in hand rather than a camera when Tram makes one of her birdy "tells." Consequently, here's an action photo of Trammell in search of a birdy scent.

Successful poker players often talk about identifying opposing player’s “tells” in route to victory.  Some card players can’t look others in the eye when they’ve got a good hand, or they start tapping their fingers on the table when they’re bluffing.  Baseball pitchers are known to have similar “tells.”  I can remember one pitcher from high school who would only grunt when delivering a curve ball.  Fastball = no grunt.  Curve = grunt.  I hit pretty well off that guy.

I believe a parallel can be drawn between successful hunter and dog teams.  Without the ability to talk, the hunter is left to interpret the pup’s body language in the field to determine what that dog’s nose is communicating to the rest of its body.  Most of us refer to this interchange of scent to body language as a dog getting “birdy.” 

While there are common traits consistent across bird dogs, I believe each birdy dog’s tells are as unique as batting stances in the Hall of Fame.  In my opinion, the basic birdy dog indicators are a pup’s tail, ears, eyes and pace.  The key to being a successful hunter over your bird dog is honing in on how your dog’s tail, ears, eyes and pace behave when your pup’s hot after a bird. 

My shorthair has a couple of surefire tells.  The biggest indicator for me is the pace at which her tail wags left to right.  The faster it goes, the surer she is to be on a bird’s trail.  Contrastingly, as soon as she believes she’s located it, her tail and the rest of her body goes “rock solid” into a point and her ears are pricked at attention.  In essence, the more statuesque she is, the more certain she has the bird pinned in the cover somewhere in front of her nose.  As long as I’m not behind her, she’ll also make eye contact with me; making sure I see her and know she’s got one located.  While I don’t know if pro dog trainers would encourage or discourage this eye contact, I absolutely get a rush out of the interchange.  To me, it galvanizes the passing of the baton from her job to mine as the shooter. 

While Trammell’s tail and eye contact tells aren’t unique to her, she does have another tell that I’ve yet to witness in anyone else’s bird dog.  When Tram is hot on the trail of a running rooster, but she simply can’t locate it after an extended chase, she’ll let out a whine.  When I hear that whine, I pick up the pace as fast as I safely can with shotgun in hand, because based on past experience that whine tells me she’s on the scent of a wily old rooster that is going to flush before he ever lets her get close on a point.

When it comes to pace as a tell, my buddy Matt Kucharski’s Lab, Lucy, provides my best example.  There is no doubt a dog’s chasing speed picks up as it zeros in on a rooster.  Matt’s Lucy is no exception.  As the scent grows in intensity, so does Lucy’s horse power, until Lucy finally zeros in on a rooster pinned under grass.  At that point, Lucy stops, looks up to locate Matt, and then immediately pounces on the clump of grass concealing the bird. 

What is your dog’s surefire “tell” when on a bird?

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

Do you Look Like your Bird Dog?

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

According to Doggelganger, I look more like a beagle than my German shorthaired pointer

Last week, fellow PF co-worker Rehan Nana sent me the link to a website called Doggelganger.  Are you familiar with the term “doppelganger?”  In short, the word’s definition is “a look-alike.”  Consequently, the dog version of the definition would be a dog that looks like its human counterpart. 

The creative folks behind the Doggelganger website instruct you to upload a photo of yourself, which is then scanned for your unique features, followed by a run through their database of homeless dogs available for adoption “matching up” to your physical appearance.  The website is promoted as “Human to Canine Software Pairing.”  Complete with fun graphics and a voiceover fitting “Final Fantasy,” Doggelganger is an entertaining two-minute brain break.

Circa 2003

There was a time when folks thought I looked like Mike Myers’ doppelganger, but I’ve never been mistaken for my German shorthaired pointer.  Perhaps that’s because Doggelganger says I look more like a beagle.  While I’ve heard of beagles being used to hunt pheasants before, I don’t think I’m going to be making a switch any time soon.

My doppelganger?

What about you, does your favorite breed of bird dog match up as your Doggelganger

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