Wednesday, 9/22/10 Ft. Pierre National Grasslands

Wednesday, September 22nd.

I came to Pierre last night.  I had a really hard time finding a hotel room because there’s a couple of conventions in town. I ended up staying in Fort Pierre, which is across the river from Pierre.  I prefer it because it’s smaller and closer to the Ft. Pierre National Grasslands.

I woke up before sunrise to a light rain. I started getting my gear together and then it really started coming down. Instead of exercising dogs in the rain, I waited a bit and the rain slowed up a little bit.  I got everybody exercised and loaded back up in the truck. I finished getting my gear in the truck and I headed toward the grassland. The rain started coming down again.

I rode down to the highway and hung out to kill some time. I went to a nearby gas station on the South end of the grassland and to get a cup of coffee. When I got back into my truck, we had a major hailstorm come through.  I sat that out in the parking lot hoping my truck would not get to damaged.  Finally, the storm blew through and I spent the next couple hours driving and scouting the grassland.

I’ve never been on this grassland before and I needed to spend some time figuring out where parts of it were and to get a feel for the map and the roads.

I found a spot that looked good and took a round with Click and Bu.  I was pleased with Bu.  She did much better and ran a little bigger.  We had one sharptail get up on us wild.  That was all we saw.  I took another round after that with Sage and Stud. Sage false-pointed a bunch, and Stud ran pretty well, but he got away from me a couple times.

I wanted to run a few puppies before lunch.  I ran Apple first and was real pleased. She didn’t find anything, but she ran pretty well.  She’s got a lot of go in her and is a real classy and fancy pup.  I think she’s going to turn out real nice.

I ran Merle after that.  I was real concerned after going Merle on foot.  So far, he’s been way too much dog to hunt on foot.  I ran him on horseback yesterday and he stayed with us. That’s a little easier for a big running dog.  When you are on horseback, you can see the dog further out and he can’t also see you better since you are so much higher off the ground.

I’m pretty pleased how he ran today. He stayed with me.  He went with me.  He hunted.  The few times that he got out of sight he wasn’t gone for long, and he came back to check in.  He was quartering really well and hunting objectives and doing a really nice job.

He had a real nice point on a pheasant.  He locked up just as pretty as you please and stood there.  The bird got up and flew and he stood there. It is not pheasant season, but I shot in the air after she was long gone.  It was a hen, so we would have shot her during the season, but I did fire a gun just to get the gunshot in. He stood there steady to wing and shot.

The biggest disappointment of the day, hands down, was Mac.  I turned him out and he did not handle or listen.  He made about a 900 yard cast running a straight line, chasing cows.  I am going to take some of the fault because I put him into a pasture that had some cows in it.
He’s been cooped up for about two weeks, and it was his first time on the ground.  But he did not show me anything that I’m interested in.  We’ll try him again tomorrow and see if we can’t come up with something a little better.

I got everybody out on the chain gang.  I stopped at a spot on the grassland at a little parking area, and I got everybody out and got them cleaned up.  I got to use my power washer again.
Apple keeps getting car sick.  I’m going to have to give her a day off from food.  Mac is a little runny, too, so he’s going to take a day off.  I’m not sure how much they were getting fed while they were being kenneled, but I’m overfeeding them, I guess. We’re going to back down on both of them for a day or so.

Over all it was not a great day.  I saw a few birds.  Saw a lot of pheasants; lot more pheasants than I would have guessed in this part of the world, but they are definitely around the crops.

I like the grassland as far as the way it’s laid out.  It’s big and it’s real open, easy running, easy walking.  I did not see a lot of birds today, but I think weather played a role in that.  I also don’t think I was hunting in exactly the most ideal spots.
The roads are a little gushy from all the rain, so I’m a little limited as to where I can take my truck.  And that’s going to play a pretty big role this week.  They are expecting more rain tonight and tomorrow. I don’t think it’s going to get any better.

Steve Snell

North Dakota – September 21st


Tuesday, September 21st.

I spent last night in Bismarck, North Dakota.  I got up this morning and headed down to Flasher, where I met up with pro bird dog trainer –  J.C. Turner.  J.C. has been working Cash and Merle for the last 10 weeks on wild Sharptail Grouse, young pheasants, and a bunch of Hungarian Partridge.

The main reason I came this far north was to pick up these dogs and to see them run before we head back south.

We met up at his camp house.  He already had the dogs and horses loaded up in his trailer.  We drove from there to one of his training grounds so I could see the progress my dogs had made over the summer.

I am nowhere near a horseman, and I proved that once again this morning.  The first horse that J. C. started me on didn’t work out for me, so he switched me to another one.  This horse and I did better. I’m in a lot better shape than I was the last time I rode, and that makes a really big difference.  I also didn’t have to jump off this year, so that’s always positive.

We ran Merle first. He has made a lot of progress.  I am real happy with how he turned out.

To quote Mr. JC, “He’s a whooole lot of animal.”  Merle’s a really well bred dog.  His sire is Phantom’s Wizard and his mother is a full sister with to “Whippoorwill Wild Agin” –  winner of the 2008 National Championship at Ames Plantation.

Merle has always been a big, fast running dog.  He might be more than I want as far as for a foot dog.  He just really lacked wild bird experience.  He also had a bad habit of over running birds.  He spent a good bit of the summer learning to slow down and use his nose.

I was pretty pleased with his range today.  He stayed in with us pretty well and he hunted hard.  He found a lot of birds. 10 finds on the first round.  On a couple of points there were 20 to 30 birds.

He stood steady to wing and shot on most with just a couple of minor corrections.  He did a bang-up job.  I was really happy with his work. I may have me a real nice one here.

Next we ran Mr. Cash. Cash is a two year old English Pointer. His grandsire is Erin’s Southern Justice and his mother is a really well bred Elhew female.  I got him from Clarence Gamble, Great Basin Kennels in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Cash is one of my favorite dogs.  I bought him based strictly off his looks and his great grandfather.  Erin’s Southern Justice’s sire is Bly Spymaster. Bly Spymaster is Em’s sire.

I just wanted another black and white dog with some Bly Spymaster in him.

I was happy with how he ran and he looks like he’s carved out of stone.  Really muscled up and stylish.

The first three or four finds that he had didn’t work out real well.  He knew the birds were there, he just couldn’t pin them down.  Some of it was wind issues and some of it was confidence issues.  He wasn’t looking real good and J.C. wasn’t real pleased with him.

I had been getting real good reports on him all summer, so I was not that concerned.   We ended up running him just a little bit longer to see if we could get him to calm down and do his job.  We ran up a little planted feed strip and he had a real nice point.  J. C. went up to flush and three pheasants came flying out of the cover.  Cash stood there for them, steady to wing and shot.

We worked him a little bit longer down one side of a cover patch to the end.  Down the other side was a stand of corn, with a weedy patch that was probably 75 feet wide.

Cash locked up pretty as you please, looking like a million bucks. Stretched out – big and tall.

We rode up to him and J.C. got off his horse.  Birds started getting up everywhere.  Cash was right in the middle of at least 12 young pheasants. He stood there the whole time and watched them fly off.  Shot the gun, he stood there. It was a perfect find. He looked real nice.

We worked him back down that edge.  He had two more finds and did a real good job on both.  We got down to the end of the corn right at the road and he locked up again.  He must of had 40 birds between him and the road edge. All of a sudden birds just started boiling out of the cover.  He stood there for every one of them.  He had one bird pinned hard and we had to walk that one up, but the rest of them were just going everywhere.

I’m real happy with how that round turned out.

J.C. ran a couple of his field trial dogs.  I got a chance to see a couple of nice big running dogs. They both did really well.

I had a good time speaking with him.  This is the first year Mr. Turner has worked dogs for me, and I was real pleased with how they both turned out.  I’ll be using him again.
He’s in North Dakota for a little over 10 weeks.  That’s a long time on the prairie for a dog.  They get a lot of exposure to wild birds and that’s a key factor in training a dog

Even if you have a lot of opportunity to hunt wild birds, having them summer in the Dakotas is a pretty good investment.  In the summertime, I don’t work my dogs because it’s too hot in Mississippi.  So the young dogs are just sitting in the kennel.

I try to get all my dogs at least one summer on the prairie. It’s a good way to get a dog a lot of wild bird contacts.  That’s just something you can’t train with pigeons or pen-raised quail and then expect them to be able to handle wild birds in the fall

Steve Snell
Gun Dog Supply

South Dakota – Monday 9/20/10

It’s Monday, September 20th.
I stayed in Fort Pierre, SD last night and got a chance to go by the ranger station for the Pierre National Grassland.  I’ve been wanting to hunt the grassland for years and just haven’t been able to work it out.
I stopped at the main station to get a little information and talk to the folks that run it.  They were really nice and helpful.  I was able to purchase a few maps and ask about bird numbers and best places to start.  I also picked up maps for two other South Dakota grasslands—the Grand River/Cedar River, which is on the South Dakota/North Dakota border. The other one is Buffalo Gap, which is a little further west, off of I-90.  If I have enough free time I want to check out all three of those.  I don’t know if I’ll get that done this week or not, but I’ll have the maps if I need them.  You can get those online or you can order them by mail.  I’ve done both.  But while I was there, I figured I’d go ahead and snag them and have them in my possession.
I also ran into some hunters this morning while gassing up my truck that were all the way from New York State.  They had come over on some personal business, but decided they were going to hunt The Pierre Grassland while they were here.   They had some really pretty English Setters.  We had a good chat.
I got the dogs exercised this morning using the chain gang.  I am a gigantic fan of now.  We have used them most of my life, but for some reason I never liked setting them up on the road.  I’m not really sure why. I can take care of 8 to 12 dogs by myself much faster using a chain gang.  It’s quick, easy and it gives the dogs more time to take care of their business.
It’s  becoming more and more common that I travel by myself and have a large number of dogs with me.  Using a chain gang makes it all possible.
I’ve got six with me right now, which is not a large number, but it’s a lot easier just to chain them out and take care of all my sorting business.  It gives them a good bit more time out of the truck, which I’ve noticed Bu seems to need.  She requires more time than I’m willing to give her when I’m walking her.  If I chain her out, I can give her 15-20 minutes, it works out for me better.
I got all my regular ID dog collars switched out today, which is something I meant to do before I left town.
I had a couple of dogs that looked like I did not switch their collars out last year.  I normally switch out dog collars at least once a year.  Based on the condition of some of these collars, they had to be two years old.  I was pleased with how the majority of them held up.
The ID plate on Sage’s collar was coming lose.  I am not sure if he did that from pulling on chain gang.  I’ve got to look into that.  The rivets were stressed.
I’ve got a couple of dogs that are too thin.  I’ve got to work on that some.  Mac and Apple need about five pounds on each of them.  They’re just a little skinner than I prefer.
Stud is looking better but still needs a little bit more weight.  Sage is a little on the skinny side.  I’m a big believer of keeping them lean in the summer, but I may have pushed it a little far on a couple of these.  I’ll be interested to see what kind of shape Cash and Merle are in when I pick them up in the morning.
I’m headed north to Flasher, North Dakota. I  have a couple dogs that spent the summer with birddog trainer J.C. Turner.  They’ve been in North Dakota since early July.   A good 10 weeks.  I have been  getting real good reports on both of them.  We’re going to run them in the morning and see how they look.  Hopefully the weather will cooperate.
It’s a real pretty day today.  It’s 58 and overcast and a little windy.  I am going to try and hunt some this afternoon when I get to North Dakota.  I’ve got an opportunity to go to a couple different spots.
I’ve also got to pick up a new walk-in Atlas.  The “walk in” program in North Dakota is called PLOTS.  That stands for Private Land Open to Sportsmen.
I’ve got one of last year’s maps, but you can’t trust them from year to year.  The ground can come in and go out depending on if the land owner renews his contract. You’ve got to update your maps every year and watch the signs real close.
Both South Dakota and North Dakota do a really good job of marking the public areas.  There is an enormous amount of public land in this part of the world.  Millions of acres of public hunting land available including national grasslands, state lands, walk-in areas, and conservation areas all for the price of a hunting license.
It takes a lot of leg work to find the best spots.  You’ve gotta do your research and drive some miles.  Just because there is land available doesn’t mean it’s all great hunting land.  It’s hit and miss, and it takes a lot of work to find the great spots.  They do call it hunting for a reason.
I’m mainly going to treat today as a travel day, but I’d like to get at least a couple dogs on the ground if I can.

Steve Snell

Gun Dog Supply

Kansas September 19th, 2010 Sunday morning.

September 19th, 2010  Sunday morning.

We took the first round with Boo and Ted’s dog Lulu.  I was real pleased with Lulu.  She’s an eight month old puppy out of Wizard and Saffron, which is the same breeding as Apple.

She runs really big, but very deliberate. She’s not just running, she’s hunting.  I like to see that in a young dog.  I think Ted’s got him a real nice one. I will enjoy seeing her progress over the next year or two.

I was a little disappointed in Boo.  She’s staying real close to me.  She made a couple of nice casts, but overall she just sort of pitter-pattered around me.  I think a different dog on the ground might help her. I think getting her into a few birds would also help.

We had some chickens get up way out in front of us. It didn’t get her attention.  It was a nice walk but it’s gotten warmer.  It’s 52 degrees and still overcast with a little moisture in the air.

It’s a nice day to run a couple of bird dogs.

We’re going to stop down the road and turn out a couple more out before I head north.

—————–

To finished up the second day, we ran four dogs on the final round.  We ran Dottie and Vegas, who belong to Ted, and then we ran Click and Sage.  I was pretty pleased with all of them.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had four dogs on the ground at the same time.  It was relatively open, hilly country, but everybody covered it pretty well.

Click had a real nice race.  He did have a point, but there was nothing there.  It was across a fence on some private ground.  I had to put my gun down and cross the fence.

Later, he got into a covey of quail but did not work them from the right side of the wind. He was down in a gully and I couldn’t see him.  I saw the birds flush and then saw him come out.  So that was disappointing, but he got around some birds, so that was good to see.

I had a good time in Kansas.  I didn’t do very well on the bird count, but that’s OK.  The weather was nice and I enjoyed seeing everybody.  Had a couple nice long walks.  I got to see a little bit from four of my dogs.

We are now headed North to Winner, South Dakota.  Mac and Apple spent a good chunk of the summer with Dan Hendrickson of Phantom Kennels in South Dakota working on Sharptails and pheasants.  To save me a trip over to Texas to pick them up, I boarded them at a local kennel.  I am going to run up there and pick them up and then make plans after that.

Right now we’re a little footloose and fancy free.  I’ve got a meeting in Flasher, North Dakota on Tuesday, but beyond that we’re open.  We’ll do a little scouting in South Dakota and see what comes up.