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, August 4, 2012

They're Back!

Yesterday (Friday) morning was the first indication that things might be changing as we moved a couple of grouse in Red Barn for the first time in a while.  Today we were out in one of our bigger grouse covers where we had failed to find grouse recently and moved ten grouse and 17 or 18 woodcock in three braces.  Dave Hawke from Ohio is staying with Tony for  a week to work dogs and in attempt to beat the August heat we met at 5:00 this morning and got the first brace down by 5:30.  I had to increase the backlighting on my Astro to be able to read it as it was still a little dim in the woods.

Dave ran his puppy Daisy with LJ and she had a couple of bird contacts.  The first bird we heard go was a grouse right of the breakaway and it might have still been up in a tree.  LJ then pointed a a couple of woodcock and a grouse.  We had another grouse flush wild during the brace.  The humidity was high and the air was dead calm.  All the little seeps and water courses in the cover were dry.  Daisy started to lose interest after about an hour but she found a couple of woodcock late and got fired back up.  LJs grouse came just before we got back to the truck and on the opposite of the road from where we were running.

The second brace was Bee and Dave's dog Ginger that is a littermate to Frankie.  Dave was having some technical problems with his collar and Ginger got to show us that she was not afraid to stretch out in the heavy cover.  We moved one brood of grouse that had about five birds in it.  Bee pointed initially and then got a second bird from the brood and Ginger came in and pointed another one.  It's great having all the woodcock we have up here, but there's no substitute for grouse.  The dogs can't crowd them and it's always exciting to hear one or more of them thunder out.  And this time of year the cover is so thick that hear them is about all you can expect.  The grouse hunting here really doesn't get good until the leaves start to fall in mid to late October.  That's not to say we don't shoot some grouse early in the season, it's just that you get to see a lot more of them later.

The third brace was Trip and Little Thuddy, Trip had a stop to flush on a grouse as did the Thudster.  By the third brace it was already getting warm, even though it was still before 8:00 when we broke away.  I turned my ankle on Thursday and cut the third brace short as Tony and Dave climbed the hill with Thuddy.  He pointed a bunch of woodcock (5 or 6) and finished his hour strongly despite the heat and humidity.

After breakfast we went to the bird field to kill a couple of birds for Abby in an attempt to give her a little more confidence and fire her up.  She seemed to like picking up the dead birds and went after the second one with enthusiasm when she saw it fall.  She may just be a dog that needs a lot of birds shot for her before she's clicking an all bird dog cylinders.  We also put out a couple of birds for Trash and she looked good on them.  Dave just brought a dozen or so birds primarily for Abby.   We won't work any of the other dogs on them as they seem to be finding and handling wild birds well.

Someone asked me the other day how much I work my dogs.  For the adult dogs every other day or 3 times a week is enough to keep them in shape and sharp.  I've been keeping LJ on the same basic schedule but want to push him a little harder to get a better sense of his mental and physical toughness.  He ran Tuesday for a regular workout and then got a short 30 - 40 minutes in Red Barn on Thursday.  Friday we ran LJ and Frankie for a good hour and half in Red Barn starting in Section 1 and going all the way to the end of section 3 and back.  So this morning Jack was a little gimpy so I took LJ again and ran him for a tough 90 minutes or so.  Physically he didn't let down at all and he was still hunting hard at the end of the brace pointing a grouse right before we got to the truck which showed he was still focused on the task at hand.  Although there is only one grouse trial (Armstrong-Umbel Classic) that runs more than an hour, I think it is really important that we train our dogs to do more than that.  In Texas when we hunt from horseback it's not unusual to have a brace of dogs down for as long as two hours and hunting here in the fall we have many covers that require much more than an hour to hunt them fully.  Some breeders and grouse trialers are accepting the hour as the limit of their dogs endurance and often come to campaign and breed dogs that are hard pressed to meet that criteria if its a little hotter than expected or the course is especially dry.  I've seen braces where the handler, the scout, and a helper in the gallery have all carried water and the dog needed all of it. Those are not the dogs we should be rewarding with championship titles and we should definitely not be promoting them in our breeding programs.  The majority of puppies I raise go to hunters who don't have a whole string of dogs.  They need dogs that have the endurance to hunt for longer periods and often for multiple days in a row when they get a chance to take some time off to bird hunt.  Hopefully by expecting more from my dogs than an easy hour once in a while I'm breeding dogs that are not only competitive but will also be able to adapt to the needs of the hunter with just a dog or two.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

F.ound O.n the R.oad D.ead

One of the 16 woodcock we moved this morning.
Usually at this time of year the early morning temperature is in the low 50s and sometimes down into the 40s, but this morning when I went outside there was thick fog, no air movement, and the temperature when I left the yard at 5:15 was 64.  The owners of a piece of land we have to traverse to get down into Red Barn have changed the lock on their gate and so far have not given us the new combination.  So instead of a 15 minute ride in from the gate we now have to take a two track through the woods that takes us well over half an hour and the road is really rough, to the point where I won't attempt it with my truck.  Tony's truck is a lot older and its best days are long behind it, so he drove.  The ride in was bumpy but uneventful.

Once we got in there we did section 4 first with Trip and Bee and moved 10 woodcock and a brood of grouse that had at least four in it which seemed like a good start for the morning.  Fortunately the sky stayed overcast and the day didn't warm up too fast, but it also stayed very calm.  In sections 1 and 2 Jack could only come up with 2 woodcock while his bracemate Bertha pulled an O-for.  The last brace was a little better in section 3 with LJ and Little Thuddy finding 2 woodcock a piece for a total of  16 woodcock and 4 grouse in just under three hours.  Not our best morning but good enough to get the dogs run with some bird work.  

Now for the bad part, did I mention that Tony's truck has seen better days?  And that it's a FORD(Found On the Road Dead)! While today it decided to test our mechanical aptitude.  After we had turned off the main gravel road onto the two track, Tony stopped to shift into low range to negotiate the roughest, rockiest stretch of the road.  When he let out the clutch the engine raced and the truck rolled slowly down the hill.  he tried reverse with no luck.  He tried shifting the transfer case again and again and again with no luck.  We didn't have a cell phone, we were behind a locked gate, we were miles from Tony's with six dogs in the truck and the sun starting to burn through.  Oh, and bye the way, did I mention that we were thoroughly soaked from the wet foliage we had to navigate while going to dogs on point.  I hoped it was the linkage and that I would at least be able to get the truck in gear so I crawled under and took a look.  I could see the linkage arm hanging down but couldn't see where it was supposed to attach because the road was higher in the center and blocked me from getting where I needed to be.  So, we got the jack out and lifted the truck a few inches so I could see the side of the transfer case.  With me holding the linkage arm on Tony shifted the transfer case into gear.  We lowered the truck and it worked.  But we were in two wheel drive looking at a few miles of rough track ahead.  We decided to turn around and go out a less punishing although somewhat devious way that I am unwilling to put into print.  Once we got out we took Tony's truck to the shop where they reattached the linkage while Tony bought breakfast even though it was my turn.  So I got to be the hero and got out of buying breakfast -- I love it when a story has a happy ending.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

More Trouble in Paradise

A cow moose that we saw coming back from our first two covers.
I can't tell you how many times a year Tony and I drive by this small pond surrounded by bog, and almost every time Tony says "I always expect to see a moose standing there."  Well, today as we were coming out from our first two training runs of the morning we were going by and there was the moose.  Now, every time we go by I'm sure I'll hear about the one time there was actually a moose there.

Today we had trouble of a different type.  In the first brace of the morning with Frankie and LJ, we decided to go up the hill instead of down in this one area where we usually find grouse.  Last time out there we found a bunch of woodcock but no grouse yet.  So if the grouse mountain wasn't going to come to us, we decided to go to it or at least climb part of it.  We were soon finding woodcock in numbers but still no grouse.  Then it happened.  Frankie started ranging out and was soon standing 250 yards away.  Before Tony could get to him he had moved on and was soon over 300 yards away.  Stopping and going he soon disappeared over a shoulder of the mountainside at 540 yards.  When we got up higher my Garmin picked him up at 650+ yards.  By this time Tony and I had gotten separated and I switched to the map view and could see that Frankie was headed for another of the woods roads that crisscross the industrial forest where we train.  I decided to take LJ and head back for the truck.  We had two more woodcock finds along the way for a total of twelve woodcock moved.  I hopped into the truck and drove around to the other road and using the Garmin pulled up within 150 yards of Frankie and Tony who had finally caught up with him after he realized that he had his e-collar set on #1 and momentary was easily ignored by Frankie as he followed whatever forest beast had led him astray.  My initial hunch was a relative of the moose pictured above.  Tony is convinced it was more likely one of Yogi's brethren.  It his dog so if he wants to say he was following a bear far be it from me to argue with him.

The other dogs also got into woodcock in our grouse covers.  Jack had three finds, each with a total of 5 birds and I walked up one.  Bertha, Trash's littermate that has just arrived at Tony's for some training, had 3 finds.  That put us at 21 woodcock in two braces.  As we got to the last cover, it was already getting hot and Trip and Little Thudd had a relatively short brace with two more woodcock finds to give us a total for the morning of 23 woodcock and 0 grouse.  Don't worry Timmy, the Little Thudster got a full hour and 1/2 yesterday with multiple finds I just happened to be driving my family to the airport and can't report on what I didn't see.