Posts Tagged ‘GSP’
Friday, March 15th, 2013
Rich Wentworth’s 3-year-old German shorthaired pointer, “Dixie,” has had to overcome many issues in her brief hunting career, including an underdeveloped kidney and emergency surgeries. But overcome she has. “She’s become a well-trained, outrageously birdy GSP,” Wentworth says, “I hunt with her religiously here in Colorado and she is the best bird dog I have ever owned.” Wentworth says he and “Dixie” hunt upland game and waterfowl almost every weekend of the season.
Have your own bird dog photo you’d like to share? Email it to Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, December 13th, 2012
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.
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?
Wednesday, July 18th, 2012
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.”
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.”
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 Hildebrand. FAN Outdoors airs live on 100.3 FM in Minnesota and can be streamed live across the globe at www.KFAN.com.
Tuesday, June 19th, 2012
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.
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.
Thursday, June 14th, 2012
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 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.”
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.
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.”
Tuesday, June 5th, 2012
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).
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?
Friday, March 9th, 2012
I recently joined Pheasants Forever co-worker Rehan Nana on a visit to Berg Brothers Setters. Rehan, with his heart set on finding a pup from a red setter litter, and the Berg Brothers having a famous reputation for their hunting lines of both English and red setters, made for a natural match. To Rehan’s credit, he wanted to complete the due diligence of examining the expected litter’s dam and sire in hunting action. With a day of bird dog talk on deck, I eagerly accepted the invitation to tag along for the observation.
To my great pleasure, I learned an absolute ton about bird dog training and breeding during the afternoon’s proceedings. However, one observation left me babbling for days after the visit.
As I observed the sire, “Slim,” elegantly work the field in search of a planted quail, I realized the dog held its nose in the air the entire time. This was in stark contrast to my own German shorthaired pointer’s nose to the ground, then to the wind, then back to the ground, method of searching for bird scent. While I’ve hunted with a myriad of bird dogs over the years, including a wide variety of setters, I typically am focused on my own shorthair’s progress in the field. Consequently, watching Slim with complete and sole focus, I was startled by the difference in scenting style.
“Nose to the ground appears in bird dogs with hound in the breed, like your shorthair,” explained Ben Berg. “The nose in the air is what makes a setter so special. That scent cone is more dispersed in the air than it is on the ground, so an excellent wind-scenting bird dog should have a bigger scent cone than a dog that scents the ground alone.”
This jewel of wisdom opened my eyes and my understanding to why so many ruffed grouse hunting traditionalists favor setters. A dog with a wider scent cone would logically bump far less ruffed grouse, a naturally skittish bird. Conversely, a bird dog that uses the ground scent to track roosters prone to running, as well as tough-to-kill winged roosters would have obvious advantages.
As I listened, the female red setter, “Belle,” scented the ground where Slim had earlier pointed a quail. “Most of us bird hunters love to chase all the birds of the uplands,” Scott Berg explained, “so the magic in finding an exceptional bird dog is completing the due diligence like Rehan to find the selectively bred litter that’s going to produce your best chances for the magic.”
Scott offered this list of five key questions for puppy buyers hoping to find that magical bird dog:
1) How many females does the breeder evaluate to find a female suitable for breeding? Producing the best of any breed is by definition a numbers game. The more highly selective the process, the better the result. In other words, evaluating five females for every one that is kept of breeding is better than two.
2) How was the stud dog chosen? Stud dogs should be chosen on an even more selective basis given breeders have access via stud fees to a variety of top dogs. The essence of this question is “how wide was the search to find the ideal stud?”
3) Are the parents trained to an advanced level? (steady to wing & shot / stop to flush / honoring) While hunters may not require their dogs to be trained to advanced level, breeders should train all potential breeding candidates to this level. The process and end result provides better insight in terms of whether the prospect is suitable for breeding in terms of natural ability, trainability and intelligence.
4) Do they hunt and/or train on a variety of wild birds? Observing the dog in a variety of different types of cover, handling several species of wild birds is a great process for evaluating breeding candidates.
5) Can the breeder provide references of hunters with needs/preferences the same as the prospective buyer? For starters it’s a good indication if the breeder understands the buyer’s preferences. Ask for 10 names without contact information. Pick three names at random and ask the breeder to provide contact information. Any breeder can come up with three satisfied buyers. This helps to provide a more random sample.
In my opinion, this list is a gold mine of litter selection advice. As I reflect on my observation of the difference in Slim’s scenting versus my shorthair’s scenting, it seems ludicrous that I hadn’t noticed such a stark difference before. However, I don’t think I’m that out of the ordinary. I believe most of us categorize bird dogs by the way they react when they encounter bird scent rather than categorizing them by the way they search for bird scent. My shorthair being more similar to a setter by reacting in a point when scent is encountered; however, in the search for that scent my shorthair is more akin to a Labrador with its nose more often focused on the ground trail.
So my question is this: Did you already know that certain breeds focus on the scent in the air, while other bird dog breeds focus their attention to scent on the ground? What breed of bird dog do you have and where is its nose primarily focused?
Thursday, August 18th, 2011
I read a CBS news story this morning reporting on a scientific research study performed in Germany determining dogs (2 German shepherds, 1 Lab, and 1 Australian shepherd) have the ability to sniff out lung cancer in people. According to the study, these cancer sniffing dogs diagnosed lung cancer with 71 percent accuracy simply by sniffing the breath of 500 participants.
It seems dogs have the ability to identify abnormalities in the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) of the exhaled breaths of people with cancer and other diseases that create changes in a person’s respired VOCs. The report indicated dogs have also been effectively used to identify other forms of cancer, as well as diabetes. From therapy dogs to seeing-eye dogs to cancer detectors, dogs continue to earn the title of “man’s best friend.”
As a bird hunter, I’ve witnessed the unbelievable power of a bird dog’s nose in spite of wind, snow or exertion. I’ve always wondered what a pheasant, quail or grouse smells like to my pup and the different sizes of scent cones each bird leaves behind. I’ve also marveled at the connection between a bird dog’s nose and their tail; there must be a nerve in bird dogs directly linking the nose to the tail’s wag!
So my question for you today relates back to your bird dog’s sniffer. Has your pup ever displayed extraordinary nose-abilities?
Wednesday, July 20th, 2011
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?
Tuesday, June 21st, 2011
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.
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.
What about you, does your favorite breed of bird dog match up as your Doggelganger?