Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Breeding for the perfect bird dog...a different way to get there.

bird dogs and bird hunting
2XNSTRA CH FlyBoy Ace's Delta Captain (Cap)
Since Ace passed away, his puppy, Cap, has been my main dog.  In the field or on the trial grounds, Cap has stepped up and is outstanding in both venues.  As close as last February, when I took the dogs to Oklahoma for the closer, Cap was a star.  At five years old, Cap spent most of his life in the shadow of his dad, Ace.  When birds needed finding, when conditions were tough and adverse, Ace was the main guy.  Whoever got to run alongside him needed to know how to back and have the manners Ace demanded.  Cap was second fiddle.  Now, at the top of the list, he's showing the mettle that his dad passed down.  His mom was a daughter to Nolan's Last Bullet, so the genetics are there.  It's good to see him fulfill that potential.  In Oklahoma, we arrived at the end of the season.  It was perfect hunting weather, cold and damp. The parking areas were beat down and bird feathers were scattered around- I just knew the wild birds had been shot up.  I put Cap and Shack (another Ace puppy, 2 yo) out and jumped the fence, loading my gun.  Before I even had my mind straight, Cap's Alpha pager went off, followed closely by Shack's. 200 yds away, Cap had a covey nailed with Shack backing from a respectful distance! It was a small covey, 10-12 birds, and they didn't hang around long, but we managed to put one in the bag and move on.  Over the next hour, Cap pointed 3 coveys and Shack 1.  We never moved more than 300 yards from the truck. I was very impressed with the little guy! The numbers don't reflect his drive and intelligence, all subjective stuff a dog man can sense more that see.  Shack was coming along, as well, and that thrilled me, too.  

bird dogs and bird hunting
Cap 2nd Place 2015 GA Region Championships


Several friends in the field trial world and hunting world, as well, contacted me to breed Cap to their females.  I figured his genetics were well worth passing on, in fact, my next breeding here at home will be to Ruby (NSTRA CH FlyBoy Ace's Ruby Deux), a direct daughter of Nolan's Last Bullet and 2016 GA Region Champion.  From that litter, I will keep two pups for my my follow-on bird and hunting dogs.   When we arrange a breeding, it's the old fashioned way.  Wait 10 days from when the female first started bleeding and couple them 3 times over the next 5 days (or variations on that theme).  This last month, a friend wanted to breed Cap while we were at a field trail in N. GA.  We were pressed for time and a little concerned about finishing in time.  The owner of the property is a vet and his brother, also a vet, said we should "Fresh AI" them.  New to me, it's a procedure whereby the semen is collected on the spot and then inserted into the female- all within 5-10 minutes!  Easy , fast and with no drama!  After 2 of those sessions over the 3 days of the trail, I feel very comfortable that the results will be positive.  Turns out, after talking to several people in the know, this procedure is becoming very popular- and I can see why!   Of course, there are cautions, and initially I would want a vet to do the procedure. But, the process is not difficult and I know a few pros that do their own Fresh Artificial Insemination.  I was impressed with the entire procedure and I think it's the way of the future for breeding these bird dogs! 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Having some fun in the off season! NSTRA.

bird dogs bird hunting
Randy and Ruby
I first ran a +NSTRA (National Shoot to Retrieve Field Trial Assoc.)  field trial in 1993 (perhaps 1992 or 1994, but '93 is my best guess.).  My member number is 8381 and we are way past the 4-digit numbers, now.  I remember where that first trial was, too.  In N. Georgia at a man's farm by the name of Chuck Parkerson.  Chuck, and the fledgling Georgia Region, wanted new members and advertised in the Georgia Market Bulletin. They said you could have fun with your bird dog, more action per acre, and extend the hunting season.  The yuppie, with the Brittany his wife bought out of the Atlanta paper for his birthday, showed up to see what it was all about.  It rained and was cold and dogs ran off, trucks got stuck......but, it was a great time!  I had a blast and never looked back!  I was hooked on the field trial game.  (

Back then, I walked fast and grumbled because I couldn't get a decent workout in during the day. I was known to change into running shorts and take off for an hour run between braces. Now, I grumble when I run more than 4 braces in one day, because my legs cramp and I'm sore all night!  
bird dogs bird hunting
Handmade "Jeff Welker Original" First Place Trophy

Back then, I worried my dogs wouldn't back. Now, I worry because they back too much. 

Back then, I thought a bird dog was a bird dog and it was all about the training. Now, I know genetics are paramount, but it's still a lot about the training.  

Back then, a trophy was incredibly important. Now, how my dog performs is incredibly important, way more than any trophy.  

bird dogs bird hunting
Rotating Trophy
The Trial

Fast forward to today:  We (Ruby) managed to win the 2016 Georgia Region NSTRA Championships.  Over the years, we managed to place Second twice, Third twice, Fifth once and Sixth once.  I made a comment at the end that I felt like I was always the Bridesmaid and never the Bride!  Well, all that ended last weekend.  My dog, Ruby (NSTRA CH Flyboy's Ruby Deux), won the Region Championship!  I qualified three dogs for the championship trial, Cap (my go-to male Brittany), Shack (my young, up-and-comer male Brit) and Ruby (my female Brit, who just had a litter 28 Dec!).  I almost didn't enter her, since her puppies had only been gone a month and I wasn't sure she would be fit enough for 6+ runs in three days.  Apparently, I was wrong. Not only did she have the fitness (we did work hard on that), but she had a tremendous desire!  She missed one hunting trip with her puppies and a few field trials.  Do you think she didn't know where I was and what I was doing without her?  I'm lucky she didn't bite me when I got back and brought three tired and skinny bird dogs home. 
nstra, bird dogs bird hunting
Randy/Ruby, Jared Roberts/Dice,Terry Taylor (Linda Lowe)/Belle, Brennan Greene/Toothpick

From the first run Friday, until the last retrieve on Sunday, she ran a hard and thoughtful race.  I swear I saw her return to an area (at least twice, I saw this) and work it until she found and pointed a bird that was buried up in tall fescue! She's always been a thinker- and that will slow down a dog.  Many times, the hard charging, run to the front dog will find more birds, while the thoughtful, methodical dog will be left behind in the race.  This weekend, Ruby managed to use her head and her speed to her advantage.  In addition, when I needed her to listen to me, she did.  We were truly a team. 
field trial bird dogs bird hunting
Region President Gene Pritchett, me and my wonderful wife, BJ.
So, now, the lady is retired.  She has nothing to prove to anyone.  She has her NSTRA Championship and her Region Championship and it's time for her to retire and make room for our follow-on male ball-of-fire, Shack.  She will be my quiet, no drama, steady hunting dog and she will make my next puppy for the string.  I never need to wonder when I drop the tailgate in Montana, Arizona, New Mexico, North Dakota, or anywhere, what dog I have when she jumps to the ground.  I have my steady, reliable champion.  My girl. 
bird dogs and bird hunting
Ruby (Photo by Nancy Whitehead)

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A different slant on the election. Who is looking out for the birdhunter?

I'm not a political creature.  I pay attention, I vote for who I think would do the best job (in this case, leading the country.), and I demand a certain sense of character/decorum/attitude from that person.  Long "coffee house" discussions bore me, and I've noticed they are usually more about the speaker than about the issue.  Speaking of issues, The big ones, Defense, Security, the Common Good, etc are obviously most important. After all that, how about the really minor stuff? Who's looking out for us?

For example, the Public Land issue out West has been a brief flare now and then in the news.  What would Hillary or Bernie or Donald or Ted or Marco do with them?  Would they turn them over to the states?  Would they continue to keep the Federal ownership and accessible to all of us?  I think the answers might surprise a few people. 

This is a BLM map of a piece of NM. Each square is a square mile (640 AC.). Currently, all of it, except the white squares, belongs to you- almost all of it huntable without permission.   This is an example of what's available to the hunting sportsman right now. Will the states do a better job of protecting it and still allow access?  

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Some Photos of Oklahoma Hunting by Christine Harrison

Blues sauntering by.
Running into Robert Wagnon and Christine Harrison proved to be fortuitous.  Little did I know, when I invited them to hunt with me the next day, that Christine is a professional photographer! My first clue was the very expensive camera with huge lens attached dangling from her neck, but slung out of the way so that her shotgun would not bang it.  Robert told me she likes to take pictures almost as much as shooting quail! These are some of the pictures she took during our day strolling the Oklahoma prairie.  

Checking a large roost.

Watering Cap

Robert and Me

Where'd they go?

Me and Cap

We had a great day chasing covey after covey through the sand dunes and Christine captured a lot of it on film.  She really knows her way around a camera, and she and Robert were delightful companions in the field.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Late Season Bobs

Shack and Me

A few weeks after returning from New Mexico, I was ready to head somewhere with the dogs.  They were at the top of their game, totally fit and ready to load up.  Over dinner after a movie, I casually mentioned to the BandC that quail season was still open in parts of the west.  In moment of weakness, she allowed as how she'd be OK with my absence for a few days. 'Nuff said!  I was out the door at 0400 the next morning headed to Oklahoma!

Shack on a covey.

Why Oklahoma?  I missed the opener, due to the heat and really not wanting to drive 12 hours from North Dakota (hunting pheasant) just to go shoulder to shoulder with every other birdhunter from the South.  It was hot that weekend, so I turned West and went back to Montana for some Sharptails and Huns.  Now, here I am in the last few weeks of a banner year, hunting public land and easily finding large coveys.  Yes, they've been flushed numerous times and they are a bit "wild",  but my boys really did well with them and put me in shooting range a lot over the next 5 days.

Pearl on her own covey.

I hunted public land.   Oklahoma has several large 10,000+ acre Wildlife Management Areas around the state that are managed for birds (quail, dove, etc.).  Of course, they get a lot of pressure throughout the year, especially in a year like this one, with a bumper crop of quail. One of my past favorites was Cooper WMA, near Woodward, OK.  Rolling sand hills, with mesquite and plenty of ragweed and sunflowers and water tanks, give Cooper a perfect habitat for Bobwhites.  Fort Supply WMA (across the street from Cooper) is another great spot.  There are many listed in the "Where to Hunt" section of the state website.  Each has a listing for  a resident biologist or manager and they are most helpful with your questions.  ("Where are the most coveys?" questions might not get answered. Really? Do some scouting.)  For example, at Packsaddle WMA, the resident manager advised me to "get a mile away from a road or parking area since 99% of hunters make a mile loop".  I thought about it, and he's right.  I do the same thing.  Black Kettle WMA is located in the Black Kettle Grasslands and it's spread around in separate tracts.  But, maps are available and the tracts are large and easy to find, well marked.  Caution!!!!  Some (not all) of the WMA's close for hunting at 4:30 PM. You need to check (closely) the regs for each area to see which ones.  The rumor I heard was that a prominent bird hunter from the Idaho area suggested this rule to protect the Bobs when they start coveying up for the night.  Whether that's true (I think it is), or not, don't be on the receiving end of a $200 fine. 


I started out at Black Kettle WMA and had some initial success.  We hit a few spots and found a few coveys.  Lots of hunters were in the area. There were four groups with dog trailers at my motel, some had been there more than a week.  I had some trouble locating areas that were not "claimed", by the time I found a nice one.  (Interestingly, I saw plates from Kansas, South Carolina, and Oklahoma.) So, I packed up and moved to another WMA further North.  Few hunters, sandy, hilly terrain and a great population of Bobwhites met me the next day.  The first afternoon, in 2 hours, I found 4 coveys and never got farther than 400 yards from the truck! The dogs, fresh from working the running SOB's in New Mexico, were loving life on these tight-holding Bobs.  I'm still smiling!

Cap with Pearl backing. (She's hard to see.)

The good thing about very late season hunting is the corporate information available on bird numbers, habitat and locations.  Of course, the bad thing is the fact that the birds have been shot into for the last 3-4 months.  This year, that didn't touch the numbers.  The numbers of hunters, of course, was way down, as well. And, to me, that is a great thing.  To have thousands of acres to roam and hear nothing but quail whistling and the wind in the trees and grass, that is a special day- a day to drive a thousand miles to experience!

End of a great hunt. 

Heading home. 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Chasing the Blues

Cap holding a covey.

After the hunt in December was such a success, I knew another trip to New Mexico was in the cards.  This time, however, Ruby was with her litter and it would be only Cap, Shack and Pearl.  With only the three, I would need to be very careful about who ran when and also ensure their food and  nutrition was top-notch (as I do every time).  First, I needed to drop off one of my pups, to his owner in Nebraska, from training here in Georgia.  You know, on the map, it doesn't look like much, but that was a long drive.  The dog got delivered and the Brits and I found ourselves in Southeast NM, once again.  
Bob, me, Terry

I met up with Bob, Robert and Terry, all seasoned Blues hunters, and we hit the caliche roads looking for coveys.  After hunting the area for 10 years, I pretty well knew where to go and I was very comfortable searching for new areas. 
Great Habitat
I was most interested in getting my two pups, Shack and Pearl (M/F Brits- 2.5 yo) time on these birds, as they are known to be very difficult for a dog.  It takes a solid, intelligent dog to handle these running devils consistently.   I wanted my pups to get a lot of time on against them.  It's  a great year for that. 
Shack (B/M)

Not once did we put dogs on the ground that we not rewarded with at least one covey, usually many more!  There is nothing that trains a new bird dog faster than wild birds. 
Shack with a nice retrieve!

A good afternoon for Shack.
The terrain is hilly, sandy and full of mesquite and sand burrs.  We kept the dogs in boots all the time.  Especially with so few dogs for a week + hunting, I couldn't take the risk at having one of them come up lame due to foot problems.  In addition, I always pay very close attention to their nutrition and sleeping arrangements.  So, my experiment using motorcycle inner tubes (see previous post) worked very well.  I encountered no difficulties with the dog's feet.  They are easy to put on and take off and I used the same four boots on all the dogs they entire time.  During that trip I lost two boots to tears- both due to my removing the tape from the boots. There were no losses due to the terrain.  I had no  foot problems due to trapped sand, etc.  In short, I can heartily endorse the use of the inner tubes for protection against sand burrs, etc., in the Southwest. (

Hunting the Dunes!
Siesta Time!
Another item I'm very involved in is the nutrition of my athlete dogs!  I not only feed them a quality kibble (for me it is Royal Canin Adult Medium.  I'm not going to get involved in the dog food debate, there are many good ones out there!), but, when we are on the road competing or hunting, I also supplement their kibble with glycogen supplements, etc.  Back in the day, one or the other of my dogs would "go off their feed" after a week or so and I would be scrambling trying to get them to eat.  That's what led me to dog food research and Royal Canin, etc.  Now, after a hard exertion, I give them a supplemental product called Glycocharge.    I most heartily endorse this product and I've seen the effects over time.  Of course, all my observations have been subjective and not scientific, but, in my opinion, this stuff works.  On another note:  Another product was recommended to me, which I used on this trip and during a 3 day field trial, is Elements Nutrition.  They have products for recovery (similar to glycocharge), hydration, joint care, and an energy supplement.  I used all of them this trip, especially the joint care, recovery and energy supplement.  I believe them to be beneficial and will use them extensively for the next few months' field trials.  I believe they are very much worth a look, if you are considering a supplement for your dog(s).
Heading out.
The outfit.
In all, this was a great last trip of the year.  The weather was perfect, not too hot or cold, and the birds were plentiful.  I'm back home now, playing with my 3.5 week old puppies and imagining their futures as I smell the puppy breath.
Cap and his haul- 6 covey points.
Me, last day.
Last light.
Driving out view.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Cap and Ruby pups! SOLD! Thank you!

Email me to get the Pedigrees.
(Use the link to the right.)

2 Females and 4 Males

Cap on Chukar Idaho- 2 years old.
Ruby and Cap. MT 2014
This is a breeding I was really looking forward to.  Cap is a 2-time NSTRA Champion, Runner Up Georgia Region 2015 Champion and 2014 NSTRA UKC Endurance Trial 4th Runner Up and he's an awesome bird dog on every species of upland game I hunt.  Ruby is a 1-time NSTRA Champion, 5th in 2015 Georgia Region Championships, a direct daughter of Nolan's Last Bullet, and a great wild bird dog, as well. This litter was whelped on 28 Dec.  So far, they've had their tails docked, dew claws removed and will get their puppy shots at the appropriate time.  The females are sold.  4 males are available.  770-584-5085.  Males are $500. Email:  
Cap in NM. Dec 2015

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Random pictures of December in AZ and NM

Male and Female Mearn's Quail.  S. AZ

One mornings bounty.

Wally and Stormy

Me with a Scaled (Blue) Quail - SE NM

Perfect Blue Quail habitat

More Perfect Blue Quail Habitat