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Midwest Summer Fishing Report, Dale Bowman , Jul 21

Ticks are becoming growing problem, Jeremiah Haas, Jul 19

Lake Iroquois Huge Fish Kill, Kenya Ramirez, Jul 19

The Science behind Fish Oil Supplements, NPR Illinois, Jul 19

Redear Sunfish Record, Dale Bowman , Jul 19



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Recent entries


Versatile Hunter

Hunting Dogs Part 1 - Which One to Choose?

Wed, April 17, 2013

I’m often amazed when people ask me what breed of puppy they should buy, explain that they want a great hunting dog, explain what color they want, how it should act in the house, and then tell me that they don’t want to spend much money.  What we need to realize is that with hunting dogs, as with many things in life, you often get what you pay for; and what you are paying for is good genetics and in turn, the higher likelihood of good natural ability traits.  Natural ability is the dog’s natural tendency to hunt.  Things like pointing, prey drive, retrieving, stamina, desire, cooperation, and many other factors can be considered part of overall natural ability.  You are paying for that particular dog’s genetics that are being passed down from one generation to another.  Don’t get me wrong—I hear people tell me all the time that they got a great hunting dog that was just given to them free of cost.  Just like other things in life, sometimes you luck out and get something for very little.  But how often does that happen, and are you willing to spend the next 10 + years with a hunting dog that doesn’t hunt if that is what you were hoping for?  My advice—don’t chance it.  Buy from a reputable breeder that has proven hunting dog lineage if you want a hunting dog. simple as that.  “I’m not willing to fork out $1,000 for a dog!, I sometimes hear.”  $1,000 is a drop in the bucket as compared to what you will pay to feed, provide vet care, housing, hunt travel, training costs, etc. over the life of that dog.  Don’t let that be the determining factor. 

How do you find a proven hunting dog lineage?  Well, there are many ways. First, determine what breed of dog suits your hunting and at home style.  The classic example I hear is that someone wants a hunting dog that is laid back at home and a fireball in the field.  Now, I’ve seen some dogs like that, but I’ve seen many more that bring that high drive and desire home from the field with them unless they’re constantly exercised.  Turning it off at home isn’t always easy for a high drive hunting dog, as you could imagine. Back to the breed question.  Questions to ask yourself: what do I want to hunt?  What kind of time am I willing to invest in a hunting dog?  What do I expect out of my dog in the house?  Will he be an indoor or outdoor dog?  Personally, I’m partial to the versatile breeds because I like to hunt various kinds of game throughout the year.  If I were purely a waterfowl hunter in cold northern climates I may be more likely to look at the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Golden Retriever, or Labrador Retriever, among others.  I believe in researching when making a big ticket/life decision and a dog is one of those.  Check into multiple breeds and breeders in your area and elsewhere.  Visit hunt dog trials and tests.  Meet breeders and just shoot the breeze with them.  A good breeder will openly discuss lineage, show you paperwork proving that lineage, and not be afraid to send you to another breed or breeder if they aren’t putting out the kind of dogs that might fit your hunting needs.  Be wary of a breeder that won’t allow you to visit their facility or share the names of previous puppy owners.  This gets into why I am a big believer in the hunting dog tests to prove hunting dog natural ability (such as NAVHDA and the VDD-GNA).  You can literally see scores, preferably from multiple breeding lines, showing how those dogs performed.  I too often see websites exclaiming a particular breeder’s “proven” hunting dogs’ abilities. I’m sometimes left asking, where’s the proof?  We’re not talking about a dog’s ability to take to training; we’re talking about a dog’s natural ability to hunt—two different things.  A dog with natural ability will hunt right out of the box with proper exposure, but should be taught obedience, however a dog with little or no natural ability cannot be taught to hunt.  Make sense?  It’s pretty straightforward.  None of this is rocket science.  Some breeds have very strict standards and dogs must meet those standards in order to be used in a breeding program.  Several of the European breeds have this breeding standard and to me it just makes sense.  Breed the best and you have a higher chance in getting puppies with natural ability.  Put the odds in your favor because as we all know, a dog is a commitment in long term responsibility, money, and care.  If done correctly, you should start out with a dog that will amaze you with its natural tendencies toward hunting.  Good luck on your search!

Spinone Pups

Drahthaar Pup

Draht Pup on Point


Dakota Habitat Being Plowed Under Like You Wouldn’t Believe

Sun, April 07, 2013

I keep in contact with a lot of Biologist friends from throughout the U.S. and occasionally get some good (or bad) news that I feel like I have to pass on:

We’ve lost 25 million acres of grass and wetlands in the past 25 years—the greatest conversion since the decades leading up to the Dust Bowl. The pace is astounding- we’ve lost more wetlands and grasslands in the past four years than we did in the previous 40. South Dakota, the pheasant kingdom, reports 500,000 acres converted from grass to crops since 2007. North Dakota reports a million since then.

Friends and I have spent the last 6 plus years in northeastern South Dakota and have seen the loss of habitat first-hand—it’s a bit heartbreaking to those who so love to see places that are still wild.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame farmers for trying to feed their families.  If put in their shoes, I’d probably do the same thing. That doesn’t make it any more palatable when you see thousands of acres that once held pheasants and ducks plowed up so that someone can pull a bad yield on low, wet ground or ground that sits on a highly erodable hillside. It just doesn’t make long-term sense to me.

Priorities are changing and the need to feed the world is on our shoulders.  Unfortunately with more pressure comes less ground for hunters to hunt the things that inhabit those places. . .


Bog Suckers Are Here

Fri, March 29, 2013

Have you guessed what I’m talking about yet?  It goes by many names—timberdoodle, night partridge, wood snipe. . . It’s the American Woodcock and this is a good time to start getting out and watching them do what Aldo Leopold (the father of conservation) called the sky dance in his “Sand County Almanac” book.  I argue this is one of the greatest books on land conservation of all time—and I’m sure many would agree.  If you’ve never read it—make the time.  I think you’ll thank me later. 

Back to the woodcock “dance”.  It’s really not a dance at all, but an elaborate breeding ritual that males perform each spring in order to woo the ladies.  I read Aldo’s book in college and met some local birders who showed me where to observe such a ritual.  I was blown away at what I saw.  They start their dance just before dark in any open area—fields, country roads, and anywhere else they can be seen while completing their ritual.  The way to find them is to listen for the distinctive “peent” that they let out repetitively while starting their ritual on the ground.  The best explanation of what they do then comes from Aldo himself “Up and up he goes, the spirals steeper and smaller, the twittering louder and louder, until the performer is only a speck in the sky. Then, without warning, he tumbles like a crippled plane, giving voice in a soft liquid warble that a March bluebird might envy. At a few feet from the ground he levels off and returns to his peenting ground, usually to the exact spot where the performance began, and there resumes his peenting.” 

Woodcock hunting is something I can’t say enough about.  Our tactic is to go north during the fall migration and hunt woodcock and grouse.  Wisconsin and Michigan are great states for such sport and both have ample public ground hunting opportunities.  You will find the woodcock in lower swampy areas as a general rule, although we’ve also found them in adjacent upland habitat.  The habitat key that seems to stand for both wet and upland sites, however, is that the lower ground cover cannot be dense—woodcock need to be able to move around while on the ground and forage for their prey—mostly earthworms.  Their bill is pliable and they use it to thrust into the ground and “feel” for earthworms.  They are great birds for pointing breed dogs as they sit very tight. I’ve come upon old Brahms staring intently at a perfectly camouflaged woodcock not 2 feet from his nose on multiple occasions before flushing it and missing through a tangle of alders and/or young popple trees (aspens).  Woodcock habitat is said to be dwindling due to the reduction in timber harvest and disturbance over the years. This is a bird (like quail, grouse, and other disturbance-dependent birds) that thrive in areas of newer growth.

Our first year hunting woodcock and grouse in north central WI I met a guide who had been hunting these birds for over 20 years.  We became fast friends and I’ve been hunting with him for the past 5 or so years up there.  One night while having a beer in his front yard I mentioned that the woodcocks were really making a racket that night.  He asked what I was talking about—he never knew that it was the woodcocks making the strange “peent” sound he heard so often! 

If you’ve never gotten to see “the dance” check it out—it’s well worth the minimal effort to observe such an amazing sight in nature.  For some additional information, including pictures (I’m not near as talented as Gretchen with a camera), some hunting, and the “peent” sound I talk about above, check out some of these fact sheets and youtube videos: