Category Archives: Photos

2019-20 Season Wrap Up

Overall we had a good season and got a lot done with the dogs. Our Sage Grouse season remains closed so our hunting began in Wisconsin in October. We found plenty of Grouse but most were still in broods, which was a little odd for this time of year. Our focus was on the youngsters we started the last couple years and they continued to develop nicely. Here’s a pretty poor shot of Feather pointing a Grouse:

Feather on Point
Feather Pointing A Grouse

And Misty with the first Grouse she’s had shot over her:

Lisa with Misty and grouse
Misty’s First Grouse

On this trip Misty developed a unique style when handling birds. When she smells birds she goes straight to them like a laser beam. She crouches and does kind of a fast stalk, very intense, no side to side motion – just straight to the bird. Very positive – no messing around.

OK, we can’t resist a puppy photo. Heather came from Thorn Plum Kennels in NY.  She’s a nice pup we’re hoping makes a good addition to our crew.

Cliff With Heather
Cliff With Heather

In December we headed to southern Idaho and spent a few days in some of our old Hun covers that we hadn’t hit in years. The birds were still there and they were spookier than ever. Small coveys that ran a lot and didn’t put up with any mistakes. A great challenge for the dogs and they were up to it. It was really nice to see the dogs handling tough birds like this even when we didn’t get shots at the flush.

We arrived in Kansas on New Year’s Eve for another Gathering and some Quail hunting. Birds were way down this year but we still managed to get some good hunts in. The Gathering was fun and informative as usual and we had quite a crowd this year.

Lisa With Thistle
Lisa With Thistle
Rick with Abby
Rick Walking In On Abby’s Point

A highlight for us was what we called a “parade”. We got together one morning for kind of a show and tell session before dispersing to hunt. Breeders present broke out their dogs and described the breeding and qualities of each dog. Very informative.

Breeders’ Show And Tell Session

We switched our focus to getting pups started and had fun watching them discover what life is about.

Dusty Pointing
Puppy Point / Dusty (Brook x Coulter)
Heath REsting Up
Heath Enjoying The Fireplace

Since we weren’t finding many birds we headed back to Idaho to finish out the season on Chukars.

Chukar Camp
Chukar Camp

Bird numbers weren’t spectacular but it was good enough to get a lot done with the dogs. Not to mention it’s beautiful country.

Tillie / Piper x Doc
Tillie (Piper x Doc)
Prince On Chukars
Cliff, Thistle and Misty
Cliff With Thistle And Misty
Fog Bank
Fog Bank Spilling Into Valley

We had great weather and lots of good dog work to wrap up our season. Memories that will carry us through until next year.


Summer Puppy Training

We have four new pups to work with this summer so we thought it would be good to share what we’re doing with them.  They’re all coming up on six months old. In addition to the basic commands we use around the kennel (come, kennel, etc) they’ve had a few play retrieving lessons – less than 10 sessions.  Three are from our Iris x Mac litter – Lock, Blue and Thistle. Here are videos of their first retrieve lesson and one from this afternoon for comparison:




This is Misty from Firelight Setters.

They’re all enthusiastic about bringing the glove and obviously very excited about the game. Keeping it to a minimum prevents having them get bored. This game will give us something to fall back on if they hesitate to pick up shot birds later and is well worth the effort.

We also take them for occasional short walks in the forest near the house so they learn to stay with us and keep track of where we’re going. Everything is an adventure at this point and it’s fun to watch them explore the world. Here are a few photos from this morning’s outing:



Season Wrap Up

We started our season as usual on Sage Grouse in Idaho. Sage Grouse are still in trouble here but there were enough birds around to get some good dog work and a couple excellent dinners.

Prince Pointing Dead Sage Grouse
Prince Pointing A Dead Sage Grouse

We then headed to Wisconsin for our annual Grouse and Woodcock fix. We had several young dogs that needed to see some birds so our emphasis was on giving them the opportunity to show us they have what it takes. Grouse numbers were disappointing given the spring drumming counts and most birds we found were spooky and hard to get close to. It seemed like a higher percentage were adults which explains their wariness. We managed to find enough to keep it interesting but overall it wasn’t fantastic hunting and made it difficult to get our youngsters going. One bright spot was a couple coverts with good numbers of woodcock which helped make up for the lack of dog work on Grouse.

Feather Warming Up After Morning Walk In Wisconsin
Violet and Prince in Wisconsin

With poor reports of Chukar numbers in Idaho after last year’s heavy snows we decided to spend the rest of our season chasing quail in Kansas. So right after Christmas we loaded up and drove to Kansas, arriving just in time for sub-zero temps and howling wind. It was too cold to hunt so we spent our first three days scouting.

Think There’s A Covey In This Cover?

January 2-10 was spent at the 2nd Breeders Gathering. Hunting was tough after the weather warmed up as birds we had located seemed to vanish. We spent a lot of time with friends old and new and had a very productive series of discussions about goals for

Walt Lesser, Bob Mele and Lisa
Walt Lesser, Bob Mele and Lisa

First day out was a reunion of sorts. We joined Walt Lesser with October Kade, and Bob Mele with October Lizzie Lee (Bob adopted Lizzie a couple years ago). We miss Lizzie and she reminded us why on this day, making a point on a covey and a single plus retrieving both birds shot over her points.

October Alder Run Kade
October Lizzie Lee

Walt Cottrell and “Rose” joined us for a hunt and Walt got these photos of Gen pointing a dead quail, Rose backing her, and Lisa with her Bobwhite.

Rose Backing Gen
Gen Pointing Dead Quail
Lisa with Bobwhite Quail

After saying our good byes we got serious about locating birds for our young dogs. This is only the second year we’ve hunted Bobwhite Quail so it’s as much a learning experience for us as for the dogs. A light snow fall helped by allowing us to locate/track birds and we altered our hunting style as well as the habitat covered to maximize our chances of finding birds. It paid off. These birds tend to sit tight which makes them pretty easy for the dogs to handle. However they don’t put off much scent so, combined with their tendency to hide rather than run (we did find coveys that ran), they are surprisingly difficult to locate. The dogs had to figure this out and cover ground more thoroughly and we had to learn to hit areas we had previously passed by. We finished the hunt with dogs making points on the last 7 coveys we found.

October Mountain Heath in Kansas / 2018

Two highlights of that last week occurred on the same day. Buck has had very limited experience despite being two years old (thanks in part to Lisa injuring her knee and foot our second day in WI and being unable to hunt the rest of the trip). He found a couple singles last year (pretty tough for a young dog) but hadn’t really had much chance otherwise. We were hunting a cover we knew held some birds and he hunted very well, covering likely areas as he should. We passed through an area where he slowed down and scoured it thoroughly. We noticed scattered droppings and Buck moved out and sped up when we got away from the sign. So we went back towards where we’d seen the droppings and he immediately slowed down and worked the area over and over. Eventually he located a good sized covey and pointed them, sitting tightly within a few feet of his nose. He clearly knew those birds were there and searched until he found them. Later that day we hunted Coulter. He’d made points on a couple coveys before but this one showed he’s got it figured out. In a brushy draw He and Candy got birdy and we again noticed scatted fresh droppings so we knew there were birds around. They both made several short points while moving up the draw, following the birds as they ran ahead of them. About 100 yards up the draw and in the last patch of brush Coulter pointed the covey and held until we arrived. A very nice piece of dog work.

Our last day of hunting capped off the trip nicely. We’d been running Piper every day and she’d seen a couple singles flush but had no other contacts. This day she got out ahead of us and pointed for a while. It was windy and we never heard the flush but she had a covey pointed and was back where they flushed checking it out, making several short points and eventually locating a single straggler from the covey.

Piper in Kansas 2018
Piper in Kansas 2018

In the end we’re really happy with the development of our youngsters and got to enjoy some quality hunts with our older dogs. Now it’s puppy season (we’re babysitting Brook’s litter right now) which will keep us busy for the next few weeks.

The Value of Retrieving

We’ve always considered retrieving an important part of a hunting dog’s job.  Aside from being a nice addition to the enjoyment of the hunt, a good retriever knows how to search for and locate crippled birds that run off after hitting the ground, giving you a chance to recover birds you have little or no chance of finding without a dog.  A couple incidents on our recent trip to Wisconsin served as a nice reminder just how important it is.

One morning I took Iris out and,towards the end of the hunt, we flushed a Grouse that fell at my shot.  I marked it well but knew it wasn’t dead so I got to the spot as fast as I could.  Iris quickly found a single feather on the ground and searched the immediate area for the bird.  There was a lot of blood on the ground and a small spot of fresh grouse droppings so I knew I was in the right place.  Iris acted like she smelled the bird a short distance away but we were unable to find it so I gave up and headed back to the truck.  Having only had a handful of birds shot over her Iris just didn’t have the experience to know how to find a running cripple despite searching hard for the bird.

Since it was only a quarter mile or so from the truck we decided to take an experienced dog back to the area to search for the crippled Grouse.  River is very good at hunting dead so he got the call and we took Violet along for the experience.  Upon reaching the site both dogs quickly located the scent where the bird hit the ground and started searching for it.  River began working in circles around where he first smelled the bird and soon located the same spot where Iris got birdy about ten yards away.  He knew what that meant and started searching in a line beyond this second location.  Twenty yards further on he pointed and there was the Grouse, still very much alive, hiding under a log.

P1050497He soon grabbed for it and caught it after a short chase, turning my mood from disappointed to elated.

P1050505A few days later I had Lizzie out and a Grouse flushed from over a small hill ahead of me.  I threw a quick shot at it but lost site of it as I shot so I didn’t know whether I’d hit it.  Two more Grouse flushed so I hurried over to give Lizzie a chance to point any remaining birds.  She locked up so I snapped a few photos then walked in to flush.

P1050523When nothing happened my first thought was she’s pointing where one of the birds had been.  Then I remembered I’d shot so I looked on the ground and soon saw the bird hiding where it fell.  Very nice.

We then followed up the other two birds and Lizzie pointed the first in young Aspens overlooking a wet area.  The bird flushed out over the alders and I shot it.  Lizzie beat me there and was searching excitedly about fifteen feet from where I marked it.  She didn’t locate it so I called her over to where I marked its fall.  She got birdy right away and searched hard in circles around my mark, repeatedly sniffing under clumps of grass and willow trying to locate the bird she could clearly smell.  She then headed over to where she’d first smelled the bird and continued hunting on that line, quartering narrowly and several times sniffing the ground.  I followed and she pointed the Grouse about forty yards ahead.  Again it was hiding under a log and she quickly caught it.  Needless to say she made my day.  A point on the third Grouse, this time with a clean kill, added the icing to my cake.

P1050528-eAlthough there is disagreement about the value or necessity of retrieving, some even claiming it is a negative (the desire to catch the bird makes the dog less likely to hold point), for me there is nothing to discuss.  We have an ethical obligation to do whatever it takes to recover game after the shot and a good retriever simply can’t be beat when it comes to locating downed birds.


Chukar Hunting Trip Report

camp2We just finished our Chukar season in western Idaho.  With bird numbers still low and  weather (fog) and road (mud – at one point we lost control of the truck at 10 mph in low gear and 4WD) conditions conspiring to keep us away from most areas it was really tough to find birds.

Visibility at times was under fifty yards
Visibility at times was under fifty yards


Ten minutes after this photo was taken the fog rolled up out of the valley and engulfed us (again!), forcing us to bail on hunting this hillside.
Ten minutes after this photo was taken the fog rolled up out of the valley and engulfed us (again!), forcing us to bail on hunting this hillside.

By the end of the season it felt like spring.  Temps in the 50s, Huns were paired up, grasshoppers were out and flowers were blooming.

Pink Campion
Pink Campion

Roads dried out enough so we could get around better the last 4-5 days of the season and we found a few more birds. We had to work REALLY hard to get our young dogs into birds.  Like 4-5 hours a day climbing hills like this:
lisa in canyonWe had six 8 & 10 month old pups with us that had never seen wild birds.  We worked them a few times on training quail and got them shot over in October and they looked really good so our expectations were high.  But the proof is in how they handle wild birds so we were intent on seeing how they would do.  They not only met our expectations, they exceeded them, and they’re easily the best batch of young dogs we’ve had.  3 out of 6 (Prince, Blaze, and Iris) made points on the first wild birds they found and Brook was pointing Chukars by the end of the first hunt on which she saw birds.  We even managed to shoot a couple over those first points.  We weren’t fast enough to get photos of them pointing but here are some videos of retrieves:
Iris (River x Spice) retrieving the first Hun she found, and pointed:

Brook (Doc x Camas) retrieving the first Chukar she pointed – this is actually the third time she brought it to me:

Here’s Gen (Heath x Pepper) on the first bird we shot for her.  She wasn’t quite sure what to do with it at first but the early play retrieving lessons paid off and she recognized the fetch command:

And this is Violet (River x Paint) retrieving a Hun:

We had one hunt that’s good for a laugh.  Every day we see a different truck parked in the same spot and we always hear shooting there.  We’ve never hunted it but we decided to give it a try.  So we climbed up and crossed a ridge over to a big canyon that’s hard to reach from other places so we thought we were on to something.  It was very steep dropping into the canyon so we were walking very slow when Lisa says “there goes a covey of Chukars”.  It took me a while to find them – hopping up a huge cliff 100 yards ahead of us in short steps all the way to the top.  They’d obviously played the game before and there was no hope of getting them.  This is the spot:
lisa in canyon2It was like one of those old cartoons and we were Elmer Fudd.  It did make us notice this Golden Eagle nest though:

 Golden Eagle nest - the pair was courting nearby

Golden Eagle nest – the pair was courting nearby

All in all we had a good time and were especially happy with the performance of our youngsters.  Seeing them put it all together under such trying conditions with only a few bird contacts was very gratifying.  Since we took more photos we’ll just put them in here for fun.  Hope you enjoy them.

Lisa with Prince (Heath x Pepper)
Lisa with Prince (Heath x Pepper)
Cliff with Violet (River x Paint)
Cliff with Violet (River x Paint)
Close up of Violet's Head
Ruby (Doc x Suzie)
Ruby (Doc x Suzie)
Cliff's Bernardelli
Cliff’s Bernardelli
Candy (River x Spice)
Candy (River x Spice)

dogs in truckcliff fog

Brook (Doc x Camas) with Chukar
Brook (Doc x Camas) with Chukar

October Blue Darter- Versatile Dog

Andrea and Dart
Andrea and Dart

We have never participated in field trials or hunt tests, but we have always thought that our dogs should do OK in NAVHDA’s Natural Ability Test, with the possible exception of the tracking requirement. But, without actually trying it this was only a guess. Last year Andrea Ashbaugh decided to enter her female Dart, out of Pepper and Heath. As far as we know this is the first time one of our pups has been entered in a NAVHDA test.

Dart as a Pup
Dart as a Pup

Andrea is a good trainer and Dart was coming along great for a young dog, but as the test approached it was looking like things weren’t going to go very well. Dart had been pointing wild birds fine but she thought planted birds were dumb, plus she had no enthusiasm for water retrieves. The guys at the NAVHDA chapter were also giving Andrea some grief about trying this with an English setter, especially a Ryman type.

At the last minute Dart decided to play along and everything suddenly fell into place. She got a Prize One with 4 points out of a possible 4 in all but one category! In Andrea’s words here is how it went:

“107 out of a possible 112 points. Nose:4, field search:4, water:3, pointing:4, tracking:4, desire to work:4, cooperation: 4. 4 is max possible in each category, and each is multiplied by an index # correlating to the importance of the characteristic. Water got 3 b/c I had to verbally encourage her, but she swam with minimal delay for plain bumpers. It was windy and (relatively) cold, but she did it. I really liked all of her work, and the judges loved her cooperation in combination with her obvious desire. And her ease of handling for the physical exam, lol.

Dart expressing her opinion on all of this
Dart expressing her opinion on all of this.

“In the chapter results, she was (of course) the only ES tested.  She was the only one out of 12 tested that got a 4 on tracking, which I thought was pretty cool, as our “work” on tracking consisted of maybe 2 drags in our tiny front yard.  Nose, much?  Her track was about 80 yards to the pheasant with her sticking to an interesting zig zag down the track the whole way and locking on point about 15 feet from the bird.

Out of the 12 tested, 4 got a prize 1.  I think Dart might have even gotten a 4 on water if the entry hadn’t been a drop off into the little pond they used.  She immediately went for her first bumper, then on her 3 or 4 step into the water she fell in over her head.  After splashing back onto the bank, she was a little hesitant, feeling out the drop off then swimming for her two retrieves which got her the 3.

What blew me away wasn’t so much her overall performance, because I’d seen how well she searched for and pointed wild stuff, and cooperated as she developed this year, but her extremely fast learning curve from “planted birds are non-entities” and “swimming for plastic bumpers is a REALLY STUPID idea” to a prize one…two weeks.  Two.  Weeks. Good god, what if I actually knew how to train one of these dogs?”

Dart and Rabbit
Andrea is a falconer and lucky Dart gets to point rabbits as well as birds.

Congrats to Andrea and Dart!

At Home With Friends
At Home With Friends


Chukar Hunting in the Arctic

Lizzy on a snowy chukar point.

The word that best describes this season’s chukar hunt for us is- COLD!!  Cold and snowy.  It’s common to have some cold periods during the month or so we can camp over there, usually a few days or maybe a week of lows in the teens and highs in the twenties or thirties.  This time it was colder than that for the whole trip.  The warmest days had highs only in the mid twenties, and it was down in the single digits all but a few nights.  There was also a significant amount of snow to deal with.  All of this made for tough hunting conditions for us and the dogs.

Pepper on a welcome bare slope.

The only good thing about the snow is that it helps to concentrate the birds.  Steep, south facing slops often melt off if there is any sun, despite the cold air temps, and when they do there will almost instantly be new cheat grass shoots in response to the moisture.  Some of our favorite hillsides were a foot deep, but others were lush with new growth, and had plenty of birds.

A melted off slope like this will be lush with new cheatgrass shoots, the main winter food source for chukars.
Camas pointing in a low elevation area where all the south facing slopes were largely melted off. No birds on the north face over the hill to the right, where the snow was still several inches deep.

Our basic strategy most days was to sit in camp with heaters running until mid day, and then get one hunt in during the warmest part of the afternoon.  Some days it took quite a bit of debating to drum up the courage to actually get out of the truck.  High teens, along with not too much wind, seemed to usually be the cutoff for whether we thought we could hack it or not.

Don't be fooled by how pleasant this scene looks. Note that Lisa has her ear flaps down, a rarity.

Fortunately all of our current dogs have already proved themselves on wild birds, so we could just go enjoy the best part of the day without feeling pressure to be out when it was too miserable.  Still, by the time a good 2 or 3 hour hunt was over we would typically be hurrying off the mountain to get back to the truck as the evening temperature dropped, with dogs in tow who wished they didn’t have snowballs between their toes.

Another great point from Pepper.

Always nice to be out camping and hunting with the dogs, even if it is 5 degrees.  At least it wasn’t minus 20 like it was at home while we were gone.  Eventually the season is over though, and it’s time to get back to work.  Also had to get home so Paint could whelp a new litter…

Upcoming Litters

We have three litters due late May/early June.  Paint x River is due around May 22nd, and Pepper x Heath is due around June 2nd.  Paint is definitely pregnant, we’ll know about Pepper within the week.  These are repeat breedings that produced excellent pups.  There are pictures of several pups from both litters in our Feb. 6th post “2011 Pups“.

The third litter will be out of Blair x Heath.  Blair is a very nice example from our Bess x Sage breeding owned by our good friend (and extraordinary veterinarian) Walt Cottrell.  She is 47 lbs, OFA Excellent, athletic, and hunts close.  She also looks a LOT like Bess.  Bred to Heath, we expect her to produce medium sized, athletic pups with great conformation.  Walt will raise Blair’s litter in PA.

October Blair

Blue- Sky x Heath

Blue’s owner Sue sent us these photos of Blue from recent trips in the field.  Blue is almost two years old, born early March 2010.

Two points on Huns.
He’s got Sharptails in the rest.
The last two are both shots of one point.  In Sue’s words- “He went into some deep grass and out of sight and when I found him he was on a nice solid point. This is the one he held so nicely when the sharptail decided to fly off one at a time, honking and flapping, he held for all of that. I was in front of him saying “Whoa” and he started to let down a little but held for me while I looped way out in front and flushed the rest of the flock, about 15 birds in all!”
Except for the first Hun point, all of these photos were taken during one outing last week.  Nice work Blue!