Wild Apple Kennel and Guide Service

Wild Apple Kennel and Guide Service
The 2007 Grand National Grouse Champion, Winner 2008 Northern New England Woodcock Championship, Winner 2010 Lake States Grouse Championship, Runner-up 2011 Northeast Grouse and Woodcock Championship, Winner 2011 International Amateur Woodcock Championship, Winner 2012 Southern New England Woodcock Championship

Wild Apple Kennel Training Blog

This blog will try to present a running account of the training and field trialing season for the pointers of Wild Apple Kennel. NOW ACCEPTING BOOKINGS FOR THE 2015 GROUSE AND WOODCOCK SEASON WITH WILD APPLE KENNEL GUIDE SERVICE! PHONE NUMBERS 603-449-3419 OR CELL 603-381-8763.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The NSTRA Letter: An Editorial

(The following appeared in the Fall 2003 Issue of Field Trial Magazine. NSTRA continues to thrive while THE FIELD has struggled without their support.)

At some point this summer, Wes Barr, president of the National Shoot-to-Retrieve Association received a letter from Bernie Matthys, editor of The American Field. In the letter, Mr. Matthys outlined a meeting he had attended with an insurance executive from the company that insures the AFTCA. He went on to express his concern about the position of extended liability that The Field might find itself in if there was ever an accident at a NSTRA event.

Matthys cites the new rule that the AFTCA passed which allows only solid barreled blank guns to be used at any event they sanction and by extension to any open event running as an American Field-sanctioned event. Although some take exception to the fact that they will either have to figure out a way to make their shotguns conform to the solid barrel rule or give them up for a “starter” pistol, there is a certain amount of logic behind a rule that will prevent someone from inadvertently putting a live round in a shotgun and discharging it in such a manner that it could injure a judge or someone in the gallery. In fact, just that scenario played out at an AFTCA event during last season with a load of shot passing very close to the head of a judge and several in the gallery.

Matthys also says that guns are “anathema in our society, connected in the minds of most with urban violence.” He goes on to imply that it is only a matter of time before the animal rights activists find out about NSTRA killing birds and that will only make matters worse. Matthys’s final paragraph says, “In light of the serious potential liability issue that has surfaced and the NSTRA requirement of shooting game and retrieving as an integral part of “point-earning” for placement, it is felt that recognition of National Shoot-to- Retrieve Associations by the AMERICAN FIELD (Field Dog Stud Book) should cease.”

To many, the end of the relationship between The Field and NSTRA came out of the blue. Although startled by its suddenness, Wes Barr said he had known for a long time that Matthys did not support the shoot and retrieve part of the Association. On a number of occasions, Matthys had counseled that NSTRA should conform to the standards of the American Field-sanctioned trials. Obviously, this was never seriously considered by the NSTRA leadership nor do they intend to consider it at this time.

Barr is confident that their 3200 member organization that sponsors 1,200 weekend trials, holds 30 regional elimination trials, and five National Championship events each year will survive without the sponsorship of The Field. NSTRA has an umbrella insurance policy that covers their use of live ammunition at all of the events they sanction and a number of clubs buy additional insurance to protect officers and trial officials. And the organization has already been contacted by a number of other registries to see if they are looking for a new sanctioning body. So it would seem that Mr. Matthys’s insurance concern might be a bit of a red herring, and that his concerns over bird dogs being involved in the shooting and retrieving of planted birds may in fact be the overriding concern.

At one point, NSTRA was spending over $50,000 a year on advertising in The Field, but they have always been treated like a misguided stepchild that no one really wanted around. Bird dogs and field trials, at least I always thought, have some inherent connection to bird hunting. The fact that NSTRA tried to incorporate more of the hunting aspects into their end of the sport attracted many participants who would not and will not ever run in an American Field style trial. We will never have the number of participants that follow other esoteric sports and we need to work together to ensure the future for all bird dog fanciers. Instead, we are faced with the situation where our primary sanctioning body has told 3,200 participants to go play in someone else’s yard. It makes me wonder what is going to happen with the National Bird Hunters Association and the American Bird Hunters Association. Are they going to be given an ultimatum to stop shooting and retrieving birds as an integral part of their evaluation of a dog’s performance or be cast out like NSTRA? As a long time subscriber to The American Field, I am extremely concerned that NSTRA has been cast out. I am also extremely concerned about who will be next and what this signals for the sport as a whole.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Nature vs nurture

Here's the thing, over the last 25 years I have had a lot of bird dogs come and go. Some I've bought, some I've been given, and some I've bred. Most of them have spent at least part of their lives with me as house dogs as well as being hunted and field trialed. They have all had ample opportunity to get worked on wild birds here and in Texas. Over the years Iv'e won a pile of ribbons and killed an even bigger pile of birds. In the debate over nature vs nurture I'm starting to come down on the side of nature. All of the dogs over the years have had equal opportunity to develop but only a scant few have been truly remarkable. Stokely's Diablo Buddy was probably the first one and might have gone on to do great things had he not died of bone cancer before turning three. By that time he had already won numerous puppy and derby placements as well as the Burnham Grouse Classic before it became the New England Open Grouse Championship. Another dog who was definitely the result of nurture, as he rarely if ever paid much attention to me, was 2X r/u champion Stokely's Mikey D. Mikey was named runner up twice in Rhode Island when the trial was run on Labor Day. The first time he dug out two birds on a course that usually had none. The second time there he ended up leaving the birdless course he was on and reaching over to the beginning of the next course to find a bird. And now there's Wild Apple Jack, he's had the same opportunities in training as all the others and has turned out to be one of those dogs you hope to have once in your life. We're running him now on snow covered ground on grouse that have little or no cover, have been hunted a lot, and see us on an almost daily basis. The other dogs we're working bump them, stop-to-flush on them, or don't get a chance because the birds flush wild. But everyday we run him, Jack finds and handles grouse -- some times singles, sometimes bunches of them. Jack is the progeny of Wynot Ace X Elhew Liebotschaner. A breeding that was repeated four times with a total of 31 puppies. Although there have been numerous good bird dogs, Jack and Autumn Moon have been the only two to rise to the top of the cover dog world. They were both invited to the Grouse and Woodcock Invitational for the fourth time this year. We all think that if we get dogs from good sound breeding we can mold them into something great -- that's the nurture side of things. My point here is that we roll the genetic dice over and over again when we're breeding bird dogs and like most games of chance we win the lottery very rarely. Winning the breeding lottery is the nature part of it and after 25 years of bird dogs and field trials I've come to believe that is the much more important side of the equation.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Grouse, Grouse, and More Grouse

The mild winter is being kind to the grouse of Northern New Hampshire. This time of year we usually are just running dogs on a dead end road to start getting them in shape. This year there is so little snow that we are running them in the same place we usually use, but were finding birds. Yesterday, in our first brace Trash and Trip ran and Trash had a stop to flush on a grouse and Tony and I walked one up. On the second brace Ker B and LJ went birdless but ran well over the same ground. On the brace, still in the same spot, we ran Jack and Frankie. Jack had a limb find where I saw one bird get up before I got to him. Then I saw him, took a couple more steps, and a second bird got up, then a third. I collared him and called for Tony to come see the cover the birds were in. While I was waiting for him a fourth bird got up. Frankie came in and he locked up and we flushed a fifth bird out of tree. Then as we were walking down the road to get back to the trucks another bird flew out of the woods and landed in the gravel on the edge of the road about 50 yards in front of us, saw Tony, and flew right back into the woods. That made 8 grouse. When Katie got home we took Jack and LJ for a short walk on leashes just before sunset. When we got back to the yard, we turned the dogs lose. LJ ran up to the house and then made a b-line to the edge of the yard where the deer often come out. I was a little concerned so I followed him. When I got around the house we was locked up at the edge of the woods. His father came in and backed. LJ took a couple of steps and stopped when I whoa'd him. As I went to him a grouse thundered up and deeper into the woods for a total of Nine grouse in the afternoon. Earlier in the day I had been driving to town and a grouse flew across the road in front of the truck. That made 10 grouse for the day -- there have been years here when we could hunt all day and not see 10 grouse.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Skijoring Equipment

Getting ready to go!
This is the first time since the winter of 97-98 that I have not gone to Texas and with Jack running in early trials (Possibly March and definitely the first week in April) I have been working on getting him and LJ in shape. We haven't had much snow this winter but what snow we've have had has melted and frozen a number of times making it so conditions are often very crusty which can really cause problems with pads. On days when it warms and the snow turns to soft corn snow we've been letting the dogs run. When it stays cold and the snow remains hard during the day we've been skijoring. So I thought those of you who live in the snowbelt might find some more details about skijoring of interest.
First off a good skijoring belt is crucial. Mine is heavily padded and about five inches wide. It has a strap coming off both hips that you hook the tug line to. It really distributes the force of the pulling dogs and makes it easy to maintain balance. The main tug line is also important and for skijoring there are two important features a quick release close enough to you so that you can detach from the dogs instantly if needed. Only had to use it once when I had two dogs go after a grouse that blew out of a snow roost right in front of them they followed it into a softwood stand. They didn't get very far before the tug lines hung them up. the other needed feature is a stout section of bungee cord that absorbs the shocks from the dogs pulling and not pulling as you go up and down hill. Although you can go with one dog at a time, I like to do two as I'm 200+ pounds and I also think they get a little competitive when they're running side by side. One other piece of equipment that keeps the dogs on track is a short line between the dogs so they pretty much have to go in the same direction.

Harnesses: Although I have used the traditional roading harness for skijoring I think that sled dog harnesses work better. They are open at the shoulder and allow for more freedom of motion. The red harness that LJ is wearing in the pictures is a traditional sled dog harness. Jack's is what the harness maker referred to as a "split chest harness" this harness makes allowance for the more pronounced sternum of the pointing dogs as compared to sled dogs. Most of the sites that sell harnesses have diagrams showing you how to measure your dog for a harness.

The blue harness that Jack has on came from Nook Sack Racing in Oxford, ME. and is a split chest harness. Tony and I drove over with Jack and Deuce and had Kathy a Nook Sack measure them. I had the harnesses in the mail before the end of the week. I have also bought skijoring gear from Kondo Outdoors in Ely, MN. I have the harnesses and lines to hitch four dogs together but would want more snow and a well groomed snow machine trail to run four. Yoo don't want to have too many tight corners if you are going to be running full speed with four bird dogs.
Jack and LJ at a full run pulling me on skis as we head out for a training run.