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 16, 2012

Grouse Trial Primer

There was quite a bit of posting on a couple of message boards after a few of the recent blog entries here that showed there is a lot of misunderstanding about exactly what cover dog trials are and what goes on at one.  So, I thought it might be interesting to try and describe what is going on in cover dog trials, what it takes for a dog to win, how the training for a cover dog differs from a hunting dog, and what to consider when trying to breed dogs to compete at the highest levels in the woods.  My thought is to approach this in a series of posts looking at cover dog trials from the different perspectives of a judge, a handler, a trainer and a breeder.  So, here’s the first one.

From the Judges Perspective

I’ll start with a little bit about my credentials as a judge.  First let me say that I turn down far more opportunities to judge than I accept.  That said, I have judged cover dog trials and championships in Wisconsin, a couple of times in Michigan (including the National Amateur Grouse and the Lakes States Grouse Championship), in Maine, in New Brunswick, and here in New Hampshire.  In addition I have reported a number of grouse and woodcock championships as well as been the stake manager and marshal for a number of others.  Over the years, I have literally walked thousands of braces in the woods.  I have seen numerous great performances usually agree with the outcome although on occasion other judges have left me scratching my head. 

The first thing you need to know about judging cover dog trials is that it is completely subjective and numerous judges have personal quirks that are quite well known and that experienced handlers are aware of and will try to adjust to.  Some have certain aspects of a performance that they particularly key in on.  For instance, one well known judge will reportedly not even consider a dog that doesn’t run with a high cracking tail.  Another would not use a dog that pointed a rabbit or other off game.  Some like a dog that is closer and others will only use a dog that is right on the edge of a train wreck for the hour.  Those of us who regularly run in the woods may grouse (pun intended) about the inconsistency of judging but in the end accept it as part of the game.  In fact, there really is no objective way to judge a cover dog trial that takes in the entirety of a championship performance.

So, if you are thinking about entering a dog in a cover dog championship on one of the rare occasions when I say yes, here’s what I’m looking for.  I want a dog that leaves the line like a shot and runs fast and hard for the whole hour.  If there’s cover in front of the dog I expect it to get hunted before the dog goes on.  If there isn’t, I expect the dog to go forward until it finds some.  The dog should be willing to go to the extremes of bell range to find birds but come back when called to do so.  The dog should be to the front most of the time with the only real exceptions being when the course has turned away from it and the handler didn’t have the sense to round the dog up before the course changed direction.  (Except in extreme cases, I try not to penalize a good dog for an inept or inexperienced handler.)  If the dog is out of bell range on occasion, it’s not really a big concern to me.  If the dog has an exceptionally long absence, that is another story.  Some judges have a hard and fast rule about non-productive points.  I don’t like them but try to examine them in the overall performance of the dog.  If a dog has two nonproductives and only one find in an hour, it was wrong 66% of the time when it pointed – I’m not impressed.  However, if the trial is at a venue where the grouse have been especially elusive and are known to be running out before the handlers are even getting to the dogs, you look at nonproductives differently.  I am also looking for a dog that is conformationally correct and finishes the hour as it began.  I like what one of my early mentors in the sport called “a running dog.”  that meant at the time, and still does to me, that the dog runs big and hard for the whole hour, but does so with intelligence.  As I walk (or ride) the courses I think about where I think the dog should or should have gone.  The smart dogs usually hit all the right spots and will ultimately have the needed bird work to win.

I expect a dog to have its birds accurately pointed with intensity and lofty style.  If you have to flush far, far from the dog I would have been more impressed if you had sent the dog on to relocate.  The final thing I think about is would a want a pup from the dog.  Part of the point of all this is to breed better dogs whether the have long hair or short, doesn’t matter nor does long tails or short tails.  If you bring a dog to the line and it comes close to my ideal and is the best dog in the stake it will win.  If it the best dog in the stake but does not put down what I consider a championship performance than you can expect the stake to be reverted to a shooting dog stake.  I’ve come close to do that a couple of times but have always been saved by a dog getting it done late in the stake.

Check back for the next installment tomorrow or Monday.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

There's more to Life than Bird Dogs and Field Trials

At 3:42 today Ellis Natalie was in Lexington, KY -- she's the first Wild Apple Grandchild -- I'll post a picture when I get one and then get back to pontificating about dogs.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Work Day

Just so you don't think all Tony and I do is run around counting unbelievable numbers of birds, I wanted you to know that today was a work day where we took my tractor and Tony's weedwacker (we actually do let him operate power tools) and spent the morning working down in our Red Barn cover.  I got as much mowing done as I could in section 1 & 2 before a hydraulic leak on the power steering arm had me headed out of the cover and back to the trailer.  Tony did manage to flush a family of woodcock that were roosted up for the day in a stand of planted red pines.  I'm always a little startled when we find birds in this section as it is not what anyone would consider typical woodcock cover.  It would not surprise me if this family group were in the pines throughout the summer.  It has happened in years past.  I'm headed out later this week to see the new grand daughter that's expected to arrive in the next couple of days in Kentucky.  It will be fun to have another little girl around to spoil rotten -- it didn't seemed to affect her mother adversely.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Red Barn Preseason Report

Today seemed to be a good day to take a couple of broke shooting dogs down through Red Barn to see what was around for wild birds.  This is our training cover that is about 2 minutes away from Tony's house and has been featured in previous blog posts.  On the truck today were Wild Apple Jack and Stokely's Kir-B.  Unfortunately I couldn't get started until later in the morning and it was already 70+ degrees when we broke away at 10:30 this morning.

Tony and I get Jack and Kir-B ready to go.
The adult dogs often take a couple of really big casts when we first break away in this cover. You have to understand that they have literally run this cover hundreds of times in their lives.  They know it well and know we'll find them when they point birds.  However, today Jack and Kir-B were more in hunt mode and Jack went on point about 165 yards from the breakaway.  When we got to him he was standing high and tight.

Jack pointing shortly after the breakaway.

Tony and I both tried to flush and it took us a while to finally get a hen woodcock in the air.  She just fluttered and set down about 10 yards away.  And then she did something that I hadn't heard before.  She tried to attract us towards her by peenting in a very distressed tone.  We really didn't look for her chicks but we are pretty sure they were there.  While we were looking Kir-B came in and stopped.

Kir-B pointing the area where the hen woodcock had just left.
Before we left section 1, Kir-B had a stop to flush on a woodcock and Tony flushed to see if he could put up some young birds without success.  Katie, Marie, and I went on into section two and just as I turned into one of our trails that leaves the edge of the field and goes into the cover a brood of grouse flushed wild I saw 4 or 5 chicks before the hen flushed into an alder bush and clucked at us to distract us away from her chicks.  We did not try to get any more birds in the air.  After we crossed the bridge into section 3, Jack stopped on the right and a hen grouse fluttered out and landed 25 feet in front of him.  I did not try to flush the chicks but I'm sure they were there somewhere.

At about the same time, Kir-B had a grouse on the left side.  As we moved up through section three Jack seemed to be working birds but then went on with out pointing.  Katie and Marie were behind us and flushed three grouse chicks as they came along the trail where Jack had been unable to pin the birds.  When the quite large chicks flushed the hen hid in the cover and "whined like a dog" according to Katie and Marie.  I have heard that whining before and thought it would make an excellent call for predator hunting.  Further on in Section 3 Jack pointed and Kir-B back.  I flushed quite a bit before I looked down and spied a young woodcock on the ground.  Katie had the camera so I backed off until she caught up.  With camera in hand I moved in for the picture.  After I snapped a couple of shots, Tony stepped in to look and the entire family flushed out of the area.

This young woodcock was depending on its camouflage to protect him.
Despite the fact that this is a young chick it already has most of its adult
plumage.  It was about 75% of the size of an adult bird
It finally flew when the rest of his family departed the area.

As we made the turn at the end of section three both dogs were showing signs that they really weren't ready for a hot summer day.  The trip back to the truck did not produce anymore birds.  In actually saw or heard 6 woodcock and 11 grouse and were pretty sure that some of the adult grouse and woodcock we flushed had chicks all though we did not flush them.  If we get a chance we will take an early morning run later in the week.  The young birds need a couple more weeks before we turn the puppies loose in the cover.  This is a pretty good showing considering the time of day and temperature.  Also, as the summer progresses more and more woodcock filter down into this cover.  There are also birds that are feeding in some of our tilled strips that we didn't find today.  Things are looking good for the five puppies -- Little Thuddy, LJ, Frankie, Trash, and Abbie -- and the adults dogs that we also need to work this summer.  We already know that a few of our other training covers have their share of birds as well.  Things will start to get serious in a few weeks.