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, June 9, 2012

More On Range

The Big Thudd stirred things up over on the Upland Journal message board by starting a thread based on the post I made a couple of days ago about range (see below).  I basically said that range should not be a primary issue when picking a puppy.  In reality I was being a little disingenuous.  The hunter that uses his pointing dog as a glorified flushing dog and wants it to always be in range of his 12 gauge autoloader really doesn’t want one of my puppies nor does he really want most FDSB bred English setters and pointers.  He should get a lab, a springer, an English cocker, a Boykin, or . . . you see where I’m going with this.  Those are all good bird dogs that can be taught to quarter for the gun and retrieve what you manage to knock down.  In the pointing dogs there are also a number of breeds that will basically stay within sight 90% of the time and those breeds have their aficionados and defenders and rightly so.  My assumption in that earlier post was that people calling me about possibly getting a pointer puppy out of my breeding are looking for something a little different.  My earlier point was that most of the puppies that come out of my breeding and that of many others who breed field trial cover dogs provide the potential owner with the chance to have a dog with great natural ability, style, class, intelligence, and desire to find birds.   We can’t win field trials with dogs that run off and I have yet to see some one get a ribbon with a dog they didn’t have at the end of the stake.

So field trial cover dogs handle if they are going to win.  The also have to be willing to stand their birds while we go through the sometimes difficult task of finding them at the edge of bell range standing in heavy cover.  To make my point here’s an excerpt from the write up Deb Kennedy did for The Field after Jack’s winning performance at the Amateur Woodcock Championship last fall:

“Once released Jack exploded forward over a rise and then, nothing.  The bell stopped before 50 and the search began.  Both judges, Craig, his scout Mike Flewelling, and this reporter fanned out into the woods looking for the dog everyone knew was there somewhere, but where? Craig walked fast and kept up a quiet patter, “I’m coming Jack, I’m coming.”  Finally there was a ghostly whisper of a bell next to a beaver pond where the alders grew thick as grass.  Craig waded into the stand to find the bird he knew was there.  The hour had run out.  After several minutes Mike Flewelling joined the group starting at the far end of the grove and found Jack standing.  Craig ran to his dog, the woodcock flushed, the shot was fired, thus capping a championship performance by man and beast.”

So, to get back to my point about range, if the dog is going to stay put for almost 15 minutes while you find him and the bird is still going to be there the only thing you have to worry about is being able to hear the bell in the woods.  And when you are hunting and training you should be taking advantage of modern technology.  I never cut a dog loose in a training session or during a hunt without a bell, an e-collar, and a GPS unit.  When the dog goes out of bell range I can look at the GPS and see its still running,  I can call on the dog to come closer, if it doesn’t I can make a correction.  If it goes in the wrong direction I can call on it and make a correction if it doesn’t respond.  As far as I’m concerned the only time you’re not training a dog is when you are running it in a field trial (and there are exceptions to that rule as well).  The rest of the time the dog comes first and the birds come second in importance.  So, yes you can shorten up a big running dog to adjust it to the cover and I do especially when they’re young and I’m trying to build the staunchness that they will need later on to win.  But there so much more that makes a dog a “bird dog” you really need to figure out what you want.  If you want puppies that will run with a bracemate and find birds to the point that you empty a couple of blank guns in the middle of a mild June day (see Early Season Bird Report below) and repeat that day in and day out through the summer and into the fall, then give Tony or I call the next time we have a litter of puppies.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Preseason Bird Report

When you were a little kid, did you ever sneak up into the attic and check out the Christmas presents before Santa was scheduled to arrive?  Well for Tony and I Christmas usually comes in late June or early July when we go back in the woods to start training dogs.  The present we can hardly wait to open each year is the new wild bird crop here in Northern New Hampshire.  Well, today we sneaked up into the attic to take a peak.  The first place we went was down in Red Barn without dogs to check on the spots we had rototilled as feed plots for the woodcock.  We've had about 2.5 inches of rain since Saturday and the ground was quite moist where it had been tilled.  Much to our relief a number of spots showed signs of woodcock probing for worms.  There was one spot where a whole family must have been feeding as there were seven or eight splashes of woodcock droppings.  It was very encouraging and we plan to run Jack down through this cover next week.  In another section of the cover I walked up a brood of grouse.  Two chicks flushed into the bushes and could barely fly.  The hen flushed a little further on and flew across the path and then dropped down in the cover and made a heck of a racket as we moved on without trying to flush any more chicks but I'm sure they were there as the hen flushed quite a ways from the two chicks that flew.

Woodcock splash is pretty easy to recognize and there was
a bunch of it in this one tilled patch.
After our dog-less walk through the Red Barn we decided to air out some of the dogs.  Tony brought Frankie and Little Thuddy and I loaded up LJ and Trip then we headed up the road to the Dam cover.  This is a spot where the dogs can stretch out  and also find a few birds.  On our way in Trip stopped at the base of a small poplar covered hill and then moved on. Thuddy came in and went up the hill ahead of her and we heard at least three grouse flush.  One thing we discovered today was that there are some broods around that are just starting to fly and some others that must have been really early as they were about quail size and already starting to sprout some tail feathers.  After we left the dam we headed to another nearby cover that had a number of nesting woodcock in it early this spring.  Fortunately and unfortunately they had just finished doing some brontosaurus work in the alders so we decided to try another spot.

I really can't give you the name of the next cover(s) and as you read on you'll hopefully understand.  We turned LJ and Frankie loose and in the trail right by the trucks we found borings in the mud.  As we went down the trail we first moved a brood of grouse that were flying pretty good and I was able to count eight chicks before Frankie put the hen to flight and she went out low and slow drawing him away from her chicks.  Tony yelled whoa and gave him a little tap with the Tri-tronics and he stopped in the path.  Lj went in the cover ahead of him and I walked up a young woodcock as I went to LJ on point.  I brought LJ back out to the path on the lead and Tony still had Frankie styled up.  I snapped a picture of Frankie while Tony reminded LJ that he had to back.

Frankie standing in the path where the hen grouse had dumped into the cover.
LJ gets a little "Professional attention while backing  Frankie.

From there on it got kind of wild.  The dogs just kept finding grouse and woodcock.  We even cut the time in the cover short.  However, when we got back to the trucks we let the dogs cross the road into another piece of cover that we really had never been in and we were soon finding more grouse and more woodcock.  Most of the woodcock were in family groups and got up in bunches.  We also moved some single adult grouse (most likely males) and a couple more broods.  Both Tony and I were out of blanks before we ran out of birds.  The confirmed count of birds actually seen in the air or on the ground was 18 woodcock and 21 grouse.  So, now we'll leave the rest of the presents for when we "officially" start training in about three weeks.

Something else to thing about when picking puppies

The Fallacy of the Hour Dog: An Editorial

(This editorial appeared in the Summer 2007 issue of Field Trial Magazine and since that time a small group in Pennsylvania has turned the Armstrong Grouse Classic into a two hour endurance stake which is a good idea that has received very little support.)

Last winter in Texas we put down a brace of derbies.  Both were females that run to the front, crack their tails, and have speed to spare.  However, they have some conformational differences that were noticeable on the line and, as the workout went on, became pointed.  Dog one is the epitome of style — fine boned, long legs, short coupled, high straight tail.  Dog two is nicely put together as well, but has a little more bone mass, a little shorter leg, and has a bigger chest. 
      On this day, they broke away and raced off.  After this initial exuberance, they came back in and began to hunt to the front.  The differences in their gaits became obvious as we watched and talked about them.  Dog one popped with each stride as her long front legs pulled her forward and her hind end came up.  She looked happy and light on her feet as she bounded across the prairie.  Dog two flowed effortlessly with her back staying almost level as she powered herself over the countryside pushing and pulling evenly with both ends.
      For the first 30 minutes, both dogs maintained their pace and it was exciting to watch them.  But then the differences in their conformation began to take their toll.  Dog one began to slow and shorten at about the 45 minute mark.  Dog two continued on effortlessly.  At about 50 minutes we reached a windmill with its tank full of cool, clear water.  Both dogs jumped in the tank.  Dog two drank sparingly and was the first one out.  Dog one wallowed in the water and had to be called out as we made the turn to head back toward the truck. Dog one picked up for a few moments but was soon running at a slow lope at relatively close range.  Dog two continued where she had left off, stretching out to the front going to all the right spots as her mind and body remained sharp.  At an hour and 15 minutes, dog one was barely trotting and would continue that way until we got back to the truck.  Dog two finished going away at the same fast, effortless pace she had maintained for almost two hours.  Both dogs had had about the same amount of work during the winter, ate the same food, and were even in adjoining kennels, so their difference in endurance cannot be explained by extraneous factors.
On the Texas prairie the relationship between gate and endurance becomes
Dog one will ultimately be able to compete at the championship level.  Any pro worth his or her training fees could build her up some, stop and water her a couple of times, and if necessary hide her for 5 or 10 minutes at the end of the hour.  And most likely, considering what a lot of judges look for today, her style on the ground and point could put her in the money.  Dog two might have a harder time earning the check because she flows with deceptive ease rather than having that merry hop and pop of her kennelmate and unfortunately far too few trials require a dog to show it has endurance beyond an hour.
      And there’s the rub.  With so few endurance stakes anymore, most field trialers only care about a dog that will go an hour.  With an hour as the bar, many seem to be breeding dogs that, like dog one above, look good doing it but can’t last beyond the hour and many can’t make that without help.  There used to be more endurance stakes.  The Grand National Grouse Championship is a prime example.  When it was first run in November 1943, the 22 setters and 4 pointers all ran an hour in the first series.  Then four dogs were called back for a mandatory two hour second series before Cavier (pointer male) was named the first Grand National Grouse Champion.
      This practice continued through the 1957 running at Marienville, Pennsylvania when the judges were unable to come up with a suitable champion with bird work even after two of the four dogs in the two hour second series were called back to run a third time.  The following year, the second series was reduced to an hour and discontinued completely in 1959.  Since then no grouse dog has ever been asked to run for more than an hour, and, with the exception of the Invitational and a rare callback, never more than once to win a title.
      On the horseback circuits, there are still a handful of stakes where dogs are required to go more than an hour.  Most notable among them is the National Championship at Ames Plantation where the braces are three hours long.  But even that is deceptive as only 4 of the 41 dogs entered finished the three hours this past year.  Most dogs are picked up prior to the two hour mark.  Now, it is obvious from the report that the handlers knew their dogs weren’t making a bid when they threw in the towel.  At the same time, the conventional wisdom is that going three hours is so grueling that you have to “save” your dog if it’s not making a bid.
      There are many reasons for the lack of endurance trials.  The time involved in running them is probably paramount.  It takes two weeks to run the 41 dogs in the National Championship.  The Georgia Championship this year drew 136 dogs and some must have wondered why they couldn’t have a shorter qualifying series to whittle down the pack.  Also, the added time it takes to condition dogs for an endurance stake is a deterrent for many pros.  There is no easy solution, but we should approach the idea of the hour dog with a great deal of trepidation before we breed down to the point where an hour dog is hard to find.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


Recently I've received a couple of phone calls and emails inquiring about puppies and the most important question for the people contacting me is how big will your puppies run?  They seem to have a predetermined number in mind.  One person said their current dog runs 50 to 80 yards and he was looking for something in the 100 to 150 range.  Another seemed to want a dog that he would be able to see about half the time.  Another said he didn't want a field trial range dog.  I think this is the wrong question to ask because for most dogs the answer to how big will the dog run is — as big as you let him.  If you take them out as puppies and let them go where ever they want to and as far as they want to you're going to end up with a dog that is at best out of control and at worst a run off.  Range is a controllable factor in a dog especially with the sophistication of e-collars and GPS.  You want a dog that stays within a certain range you start when they're little puppies programming them to that range.  It may take some work and at times it may be frustrating but you can pattern most dogs to run to the front and stay in gun dog range.

Although that is relatively straight forward, I rarely do it with one of my own dogs.  What I want is a dog that stays to the front and goes to likely cover then finds birds.  If the cover is right in front of me I expect the dog to hunt it before it goes.  If there's no good cover close by than I expect the dog to run forward until he finds it, even if that's 200 or 300 yards away.  One of my summer training covers runs along a canal so the dogs are always near water.  The problem is the best spot for a dog to find a bird is about 600 yards from the break away.  Wild Apple Jack has run there so many times over the years he usually hits the afterburners at the truck and then goes straight to the bird spot. Even without the GPS I would be able to find him in this cover because we both know where the birds are.  He's not a run off — it's just that he's smart enough to remember where the birds are and goes to them.

Instead of asking about range when your looking for a puppy I think the most important questions should be about intelligence and biddability.  Then you should ask about how personable the dogs in a line are.  Dogs that like and crave people are going to want to please you more than dogs that don't seem to care.  The other questions I think important are how much natural ability did they come out of the womb with?  Did they point (at least briefly) the first bird they smelled or did they run over a couple hundred before they pointed one?  Once they found a couple of birds in the thick cover did they dig in on their own and find more birds?  Do they naturally seem to run a quartering pattern?  You can't fix a dog's nose or its brain but you can always adjust it's range.


June 1st, the woodcock was still singing in the front yard and Katie noticed he'd started feeding in the garden.  She hopes he'll eat some slugs as well as helping himself to the abundant earthworms in her organic soil that is rich in compost.

The weather was perfect for the woodcock hatch in our area.  We had an exceptionally warm and dry month of May.  Now that June is here and the grouse should be hatching in numbers, there is reason for concern.  In the last 24 hours the temperature ranged from the upper 40s to the mid-50s with 1.75" of rain and it is not supposed to really dry out and warm up for a few more days.  The birds that hatched out last weekend, like the brood we were able to photograph just after they hatched, should be OK as they have had time to add some feathering and size but a chick that hatched yesterday may be in trouble.  If the hen loses it's entire brood early it will re-nest however if a chick or two survives the cold and rain then the hen will raise them and not re-nest.  We won't know about brood sizes for about a month when we start going back into the grouse brooding covers to work dogs.