Loving Life-Sarah Hodges


Sarah Hodges was born in Des Moines but primarily grew up in Oskaloosa, IA.  She grew up in a loving, happy home of six, her dad Brad, her mother Beth, one older sister Anna, one younger sister Emilla, and one younger brother Phillip.  It was a busy home filled with school activities, sports and music practices.  As a child Sarah described herself as a quiet child, even if her siblings would say differently.   She was pretty reserved in school and her activities.  Her shyness did not keep her away from the physical activities she enjoyed such as soccer, dogs, and the violin.  Her childhood was great, her parents and grandparents were always super supportive and her siblings were pretty awesome as well.  They always had the opportunities to try different things.  After high school Sarah attended Waldorf College, in Forest City, IA.  She studied Wellness/Sports Medicine and played 2 years of collegiate soccer for the Warriors.  Sarah then transferred to Mercy College of Health Sciences where she graduated with her Medical Assisting Certificate.  After a few years, she then went back to college at William and Penn College for working adults and received her Bachelors of Arts in Human Resource Management.  Currently she lives in Fort Dodge, IA where she works as a Medical Assistant.  Sarah has always felt the need to help people.  Medical Assisting allows her to help people in several different ways.  Sarah enjoys fishing, hunting, hiking, and pretty much anything outdoors.  Sarah’s niece, Emma brings her great joy.  She loves her role of Aunt!  Her dogs also bring great joy into her life.  She has been blessed with her life so far but if she had to pick her biggest life challenge so far it would probably be not seeing eye to eye with her parents when she was younger.  Thankfully they have always been supportive, even when Sarah was being difficult.

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Sarah got involved with dogs and training at an early age.  She always loved animals so when she was ten years old, her parents got her a gig volunteering at Shadowland Kennels with Jim Reeves and Julie McVey.  They were Sarah’s path into the dog world.  Jim let Sarah run his dog Risky at a few training days and that is all that it took to hook her.  Jim also got her involved with NAHRA by letting her help him with his dogs and taking her to hunt tests with him.  Jim Reeves has been Sarah biggest mentor and encourager.  He has really helped her with her passion for dogs and has challenged her to think outside of the box when pursuing results.  Larry Dusanek has also been a good mentor to Sarah and NAHRA.  When asked about what NAHRA could improve upon, Sarah replied aside from wishing that there were more NAHRA tests in Iowa, Sarah is happy with NAHRA.


Sarah now has three dogs of her own, Levee, is her 1 year old Black Lab and the only one of her dogs that has run in NAHRA.  Levee has one pheasant season under her belt and Sarah is very much looking forward to testing/hunting with her as she matures.  Tucker, is Sarah’s 6 year old American Cocker Spaniel, he is her little buddy.  Last year Sarah discovered that Tucker would retrieve birds, so she is working on training him to run at least in one NAHRA test, once his confidence is built up.  Decca is a 4 year old Wirehaired Pointing Griffon.  She is a fun dog to hunt behind and she has several pheasant seasons under her belt.

Sarah is a proud member of the Skunk River Hunting Retriever Association.  YAY Skunk Dogs!  Sarah said “I am so proud of this club.  We have seen growth in not only members, but active members.  We have also started doing some pointer trainings.  I think this has encouraged people to look into our club”.  Sarah typically trains with fellow Skunk dog members, but now that she has moved further away, it is a challenge.  She tries to make it to Oskaloosa every so often to train with Jim Reeves, but she has been training by herself with the help of Jon, her boyfriend.

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Sarah has run hunt tests in NAHRA and AKC, but prefers NAHRA because of the people.  Sarah said, “NAHRA people are so friendly and helpful!  There are some people that I have known since I was ten, so it feels like family when I get to see them at a test.  They have all been very helpful, especially when I was a young handler.  This has helped me as I have progressed”.  Sarah biggest challenge as a handler is nerves.  She gets very nervous going to the line.  She is excited to get to the next level, with her dog Levee so they can start running trails.  Running trails is Sarah’s favorite thing to do, she also likes running water marks and the challenges they present.  When asked how she felt the first time going to the line Sarah said, “When I was younger I remember running through things like, don’t forget to drop the leash, or wait for the judge to call dog.  The first time I went to the line with my own dog, I was so nervous I can’t remember what I felt.  The very first ribbon I got, I was so excited, it felt good to know I had worked hard at something and accomplished my goal.  My first ribbon with my own dog, I was ecstatic, I was so proud of my little girl and the team work we have achieved together.”  Her proudest moment with Levee was at SRHA’s Spring test.  Levee and Sarah had an awful training day the week before the test.  The test of course had several different factors that she had not been asked to do yet.  Climbing a steep embankment was one of them.  It was so awesome for Sarah to watch from the line as Levee figured out how to maneuver around the fallen log and retrieve her duck.  Sarah’s goals for 2016 are to finish Levee’s Started title and get her CGC, Canine Good Citizen.  She would also like to try an obedience trial.  Sarah is not a judge, preferring right now to focus on her dog, but in a few years she is interested in trying her hand at judging.


Sarah enjoys pheasant hunting with her Dad, brother and her boyfriend Jon.  Jon and Sarah got out last season and Sarah got her first wild roosters.  She is going to try deer hunting this fall.  Sarah thinks it is awesome that more women are becoming involved with the outdoors.  More the merrier.  It has been awesome for her having girlfriends that have the passion for hunting.  Even though they all prefer to hunt different things, nature and providing food for the table bring them together.  It has been great- the number of woman who have joined SRHA.  Sarah is happy to have women that can relate to what she loves to do.

Sarah loves the Midwest as there is always something to do.  She has no plans on moving out of the area in the future.  Sarah’s idea of the perfect day would be load up the dogs and the fishing poles, find a nice spot to take the dogs on a hike, do a little fishing, and finish out the day with grilling and a campfire.

One thing that people may be surprised to know about Sarah is for as much as she hates to travel out of the Midwest, she would like to visit Australia or New Zealand.  We all hope Sarah get the chance to do so one day!

Frank “The Ramrod” Plewa

Frank Plewa is the outgoing President of NAHRA.  Many of you know him as Frank, some of you know him by his nick name “The Ramrod”, others know him as “Swampcop”.  I know him by all names plus the fourth name I am proud to say, “Friend”.  Frank served two plus terms as President and came on board when NAHRA was really struggling.  With his leadership, NAHRA has come a long ways since then. Read his story now!


Frank was born in Altoona, PA and raised in the little coal town of Lilly located about 2 hours east of Pittsburgh.  He was the third child in a pack of nine, there were 3 boys and 6 girls.  Due to circumstances that would take too long to explain, Frank and his youngest brother, Mark, were raised together by their adopted parents, whom Frank will be forever grateful for.  Frank’s parents were very strict so young Frank was forced to be on his own a lot and never had a lot of friends until grade school.  Where Frank grew up there were not many kids his age to run with, so socialization was mainly through school and his love of sports.  However, college thoroughly changed Frank from a very shy person into the party animal that most of us transition through.  The initial breaking out of the nest nearly flunked him out of college, but thankfully self-preservation kicked in, and he eventually grew up.  Frank’s first love of sports was baseball by far, which he played some version of until his late twenties, until marriage and a career made him an adult.  Fishing and hunting were always another form of entertainment for him especially during his high school years.


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Frank received a B.S. degree in General Agriculture from Penn State in 1981.  The degree in agriculture is a bit misleading as Frank focused mainly on the wildlife biological sciences, a path that was not initially apparent to him.  For a number of years Frank bounced from seasonal fisheries and wildlife management jobs with the state and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services until he discovered his true calling with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  Since 1987, Frank has been in the Corp’s wetland program doing mainly enforcement work.  Thus, the “Swampcop” was born and he has thoroughly enjoyed the ride ever since.  Problem solving, environmental and related social issues were quite rewarding to him and certainly cured any remaining shyness!

Valerie, Frank’s wife, grew up in the same little town as Frank but they did not get together until she started college also at PSU.  Frank was four years older than Val so he had to wait until she was legal to date.  They got together on Val’s 18th birthday (he told us he had to wait).  Their courtship was a little difficult as Frank was either not working or bouncing from part time job to part time job.  Val was patient with the broke Polock, and much of their spooning was just spending time together, but they also spent a lot of time at family events.  Both of them came from large families so that ensured many, many weekend events.  Being that they came from Irish, Polish, Slavic and Italian decent they did not need a lot of reasons or encouragement to party! Frank said that he thought their bond grew stronger because they did not have much but each other for a while.  Through everything, Val is and has been the most stable thing in Frank’s life, he loves her dearly and always will.  It must have been true love as Frank and Val will celebrate 30 years of marriage in October and have been together for 36 years!


Frank’s involvement with dogs went back as far as he could remember.  They always had dogs for hunting, mainly Beagles.  In high school Frank started to hang around with a neighbor who bought and sold Beagles and Coon Hounds.  He spent many a night with that old man learning how to hunt and persevere with dogs.  It wasn’t until Frank was in his thirties that he discovered retrievers and it was quite by chance.  He wanted a big dog and fortunately, the litter of Danes he had heard about were all sold.  The next litter they heard about was a litter of Labradors.  They purchased a little ball of fur that they named Shenah and the rest is history.

Frank did not have a true mentor although he did consult others who were successful.  Initially, other than a friend who introduced him to Labradors, there were no other trainers around for him to consult or train with.  There were those that he admired as handlers while attending tests and while failing miserably at first, he might add.  Tom Stazierowski, Joe Letta, Jack Jagoda, Brian Jones, Randy Buettner and a few others that he probably has forgotten had what he wanted, complete dogs.  The guy that probably influenced him the most was a fellow named Bob Costa from Maryland who was the founder of the Patuxent River Retriever Club (a NAHRA club that disappeared long ago).  Bob allowed Frank to come down and train with his group probably because he hounded him at every test.  Bob encouraged Frank to start his own club due to the amount of travel involved with coming to train with Bob’s group, not because what some of you might think, that Frank was a big pain.  Bob was very helpful in getting Frank started and with the help of six others, The Northern Piedmont Retriever club was born.  To this day Frank is still an active member of this club.

When asked how he got Val involved with dog training, Frank said, “Very simple, she made the decision that if she wanted to see much of me, she needed to go along training.  That worked well with the first two dogs and then, another and another turned a couple hours of training into half a day or more.  Regardless of the level of participation, she has always been my biggest supporter and always there whatever the outcome.  Heck, she has even become one of the best judges in our program in spite of me!”

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Being a follower is not in Frank’s DNA so he never adopted an established training program, but instead adapted a lot of ideas into his own style.  Not knowing about force fetch and too cash poor to afford an e-collar helped develop a very different style of training in many people’s eyes, the “Amish” training style.  And in Frank’s case, at least at first, probably the strongest order of Amish.  Sure, he read everything that he could find, but he needed more help as we all come to recognize in our early training days.  He did do a lot of watching and listening to those who would talk with him and added to what others have described as a healthy understanding of dog behavior.  Frank also had a huge desire to be successful, second place or doing half a job is not in his nature.  Regardless of the excuses Frank may make for himself, not passing a test has always rubbed him the wrong way.


When asked why choose NAHRA over the other hunt test games available, Frank said that he did start with AKC and did well at the lower stakes but a friend took him to Virginia to a NAHRA test in the early 1990’s where it didn’t take him long to see that NAHRA would become his first love in the dog games.  At the time Frank had started to do some waterfowl guiding and decided that the program that could help him build the best dog was NAHRA.  Field Trials interested him, he felt that his competitive nature would take the fun out of training and be hard on the dogs so he steered away from it.  Frank enjoyed the National Field Retriever Association (NFRA) testing during it short existence and even got his club involved hosting tests at a time that coincided with serious problems in NAHRA.  Fearing that NAHRA was dying he decided to get involved and joined the NAHRA BOD which gave him a revised focus. NFRA eventually dissolved.

On remembering his first time that he went to the line with a dog Frank said “I was as nervous as anyone else ever asked this question”.  It was with his first Labrador, Shenah, who drug him to the line at an AKC test.  Frank was not sure what he heard or saw except when the bird hit the ground and he yelled fetch, it was a bit premature on his part.  Frank and his dog excused themselves with the encouragement of the judges to watch the rest of the dogs perform that day.

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Frank’s involvement started with the above mentioned friend that took him to the Aylett Retriever Club NAHRA Field Test in northern Virginia in 1992.  Frank ran both AKC and NAHRA for the remainder of the year and then went strictly to NAHRA after that except for a short return to AKC Master events.  Frank never developed a rapport with the AKC crowd and felt much more at home with his NAHRA friends. Frank never finished the Master level for a title.  He felt that retriever training and testing was about building a good dog, not who could get through a meat grinder.

When Frank was asked what test or event stands out in your mind the most and why?  Frank answered “A test that is probably the one that changed my fate in this game.  It was a bad experience at the time but one that fueled my competitive juices to be a better handler.  I failed that test and those that know me understand that failure is not an easy pill for me to swallow.  It was my first exposure to a poison bird blind, a necessary skill for a dog and handler to master but I was as unprepared as my dog.  I was so mad I wrote a letter to Jack Jagoda, NAHRA President at the time, and received a response that angered me even more but in time I realized that I had to get smarter to get better and ultimately, I needed to be prepared.  Jack very discreetly explained that this is a necessary tool for the hunter and dog and I must be prepared for these types of situations”.

As a judge Frank feels that any time a handler asks him for advice is an honor, but there is definitely one moment that stands out for him.  That was handing an older man his first and only Senior ribbon many years ago.  This man was an enthusiastic NAHRA supporter but failed every test he entered.  He explained that he trained alone, which were shoes Frank once walked in, so he tried to help.  Frank talked with the gentleman after many tests about what he could do to get over the hump.  Frank saw him improve in several area but he would fail again and again, many times while Frank was judging.  However one weekend he and his dog did the best job Frank had ever seen them do as a team but were several points short.  Frank must confess that this was the one and only time that he passed a dog that was that many points short but it was the effort and perseverance of both that made him think he should pass them.  Frank thought that he would have to strong-arm his co-judge if necessary but he was on the same page as Frank and they passed the team despite some criticism from others.  Frank guess that they did it mostly as a reward for working hard and being such a faithful supporter of our program.  The tears in the man’s eyes as he accepted that ribbon told Frank that maybe the founders would forgive him.  Frank doesn’t remember seeing him after that but it was a long time ago.

The advice that Frank would give new handlers is to be prepared for anything!  Find a good mentor and hold on to them.  Pay attention to the small things that you can correct and the big things become easier.  He also suggests to become a judge as soon as you can.  Some of his most meaningful and enlightening times came as a judge.  You see everything you should and should not do, especially those little things.

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GMHRCH-1 MFR Fowl Weather’s Token Trouble was Frank’s once in a lifetime dog.  He was a machine that was all business in the games and especially in the field.  Trouble was the dog that validated Frank’s training style with his accomplishments and then produced a lot of fine offspring.  Trouble was Frank’s first 1,000 point dog and produced numerous other dogs that have attained the same or higher accomplishments.  He was the backbone of Frank’s hunting business for many years.

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Frank did not choose to run for President of NAHRA but became the President by default.  The current President at the time resigned leaving him the job, in no way did Frank have a desire to be President.  Frank seriously considered asking the BOD to find someone else as he wasn’t sure he could do the job, but it was apparent no one else would step up so he thought he needed to do it, at least in the short term.  He told himself that all he needed to do is keep NAHRA going for a year until the next election where a better person could be identified.  It became quickly apparent that the NAHRA Frank so much loved was in deep trouble especially financially so there was no way that he could quit after the first year. He had the energy, but he thought not necessarily the smarts to do this job, so he knew that he needed to bring people on board immediately to try and stop the bleeding.  Despite attempts by past leaders to question his choices and direction, the right people came to the BOD and things started to settle down and they developed a path forward.  Frank gave himself the nick name of the “Ramrod”.  It was a self imposed name from hunting trips that he had been on.  Hunting trips can be chaotic if no one is in charge and so they always elected a “Ramrod” to take control of the trip.  In life and in dogs, there are many followers but there must be a single leader or you have chaos!


This was a critical time for NAHRA, things were going south quickly and Frank enjoyed the game so much that he could not sit back and let it die.  A couple of years earlier people tried to change NAHRA into something else which caused Frank to jump ship.  Frank in his own words said, “I have a big mouth at times and my resistance to the proposed changes created a lot of friction leading to my making enemies of former friends but it did not matter to me, I was not going to continue if NAHRA changed to something other than what attracted me in the first place.  I did not care if we would lose potential members that did not care to hold dead ducks, a path we were heading towards.  I wanted this to be what the founders saw, the chance for the average hunter to produce a quality gun dog.  In any case, I took the job and was reelected twice”.

The biggest challenge as President for Frank was overcoming inherited debt.  Anyone knows it is hard to fight back with one arm tied behind your back.  Fortunately Frank was able to surround himself with good people who are not afraid to make necessary changes and cuts to get things right.  The financial problems had other effects that often cripple an organization as well.  It is hard to implement initiatives and good ideas to get into the black when you are almost penniless. Frank gives credit to his fellow BOD for doing a great job setting the table for us to get back and eventually prosper.  There is now a platform in place for NAHRA to grow but, it will be up to all of us as members to make the fruit.  Frank doesn’t take credit for the financial turnaround except for getting the right people in place to make it happen.

The Hunter stake is Frank’s most treasured accomplishment.  The Hunter stake was met with a lot of opposition at first, but now has become a much needed stepping stone to the higher stakes that was sorely lacking in NAHRA.  Frank believes that the Upland Retriever Program, even though it is in the early stages, can also have the same success.

As for NAHRA’s. future Frank said “I think we realized that NAHRA should change in some ways to become more diversified in what we do but without losing our identity.  We added the Hunter Testing level and the Upland Retriever Program which allows for added participation without changing the program that the founders intended, at least in my interpretation.  These initiatives support our mandate of producing some of the finest hunting retrievers in the world”.

Frank has no regrets now that his term is done.  He said that it is time for him to step down as this organization needs a new driver with the energy and ideas to continue the recovery and growth.  His biggest fear was that he would stay too long and things would get stale.  Now that he has his life back he plans to spend more time with his beautiful wife and his dogs, both of which, at times have taken the back seat to the President position.  His career as a wetlands biologist is winding down and he has assumed more of a teaching role to hand it off so to speak to the next generation.

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Frank’s other passion is spent chasing pheasant, ducks, and Canada Geese.  When Frank figured out that he could only eat so many birds but he wanted as many retrieves for his dogs as he could get, he started Fowl Weather Guiding Services.  Guiding became the answer as his pack grew or maybe it was the reason that his pack grew.  Frank lives off the flyway so most of his efforts are for geese but several hunting trips a year are not out of the question for him.  He did admit that he is not bashful about an opportunity to pursue something else.  He still spends hours in a tree (deer hunting), looking at the empty woods, but every once in a while Mr. Darwin’s theory rewards him.

Describing a perfect day Frank said that in life, it would be waking up knowing that his family and friends, which would include the dogs, are whole and healthy.  In a perfect training day it would be a sunny day with a trailer full of 4-12 month old pups eager to work and please and enough energy  to take all of his.  A perfect day in hunting world would be a overcast day in the thirties with a 10-15 mph breeze and a few flurries.  A perfect day in NAHRA would be that he did what he could to keep NAHRA the greatest testing program for the hunter.


Now that retirement is closer and things have settled down, I asked Frank if he could live anywhere in the world, where would he live?  The answer was simple “My roots are so deep in Pennsylvania that I do not believe I could go anywhere else now.  In a perfect world for a younger man, I would keep an address on the Olympic Peninsula but live and work with the ducks up and down the Mississippi and in the Chesapeake”.

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The one thing about Frank that most people would never guess is that the first six months of his life were spent in an orphanage until he was adopted back into the family by his great Aunt and Uncle.  It was the greatest gift that he has ever been given and it was a real game changer.  Without them, Frank has seen what the alternative can be and he has always been grateful to be given the life he has.

Minnesota Four Points NAHRA Double Senior Upland Hunt

First of all let me introduce myself. I am Jeff Brezee, current President of Southern MN Hunting Retriever Association. I work in Health Care; I have a beautiful wife of over 21yrs and three incredible daughters. My passion has always been the outdoors and more so, retrievers! My current two Labradors are 6yo MHR HRCH Brezee Oak’s Brother Bear MH “Bear” and 2 ½ yo MHR HRCH Brezee Oak’s keep to the Code MH “Jasmine”. Jasmine is also half way through her UH title with HRC and now has a good start towards her MUH title. I am a strong advocate for retriever enthusiasts to get involved! No matter what the venue, it’s all about that teamwork! Probably my favorite is NAHRA. I’ve often posted on social media that after a NAHRA test weekend, I feel like I was on a hunting trip! The realism and comradery is second to none!

I was asked to describe this past weekend’s test for the Blog, so here it goes.

Saturday, February 27th, 2016 proved to be a very memorable day where it reached 55+ degrees in MN! I believe this is the second year of the Upland program for NAHRA and Four Points Retriever Club once again didn’t hold anything back! I had Jasmine entered for both senior events and Bear was along to be one of the test dogs. After our 2 ½ hour drive, I checked in to Pheasant Ridge Shooting Preserve and then promptly found a place to “air the dogs”. The grounds looked awesome! Everywhere I could see was a beautiful pheasant haven! To the West I could see one of the senior tests getting setup, so we made our way over and started catching up with friends I haven’t seen all winter. Clear skies and fields of gold with very little snow was left on the ground, workers and contestants were dressed in blaze orange hustling to meet the 9am start. This is when I learned that we were using all Roosters! Sweet! Just like hunting! This meant that all of those flushes were going to be very tempting for a dog to break! (Cackling, gaudy, giant birds flushing with that eruption that can give a man a heart attack!)

The two tests were going to be occurring simultaneously. The 1st test was starting as an upland hunt w/blind, after running that we would go over to the 2nd test. During the 1st test, handler and dog would hunt their way down a strip of sorghum next to standing corn. After about 75 yards, a gunner would yell “ROOSTER-ROOSTER” and a bird would be launched from a winger across the field of view in front of the team. Sometimes that bird would be going about 45 mph, but pretty much every bird was knocked down, the dogs were expected to sit to flush and shot. After the judge released the dog, they would retrieve the bird to hand and then continue hunting down the field. Forty yards down the sorghum, one of the judges would fire two rounds from behind some cover and start an excited dialogue about knocking down another bird! (Keep control of your dog!) This would be where you have to reign in your animal (after hunting on their own) to a very controlled, precise blind! The blind started on a steep bank that was sloping to the right. The object was to keep the dog from falling with the terrain, try to cut a sliver of corn field and proceed across a roadway, up another hill and into some cover for the bird. This was a challenging blind, but very rewarding if done well. After the blind, each team would continue hunting around the field for about another 150 yards.

After completing this portion of Test 1, all the handlers went over to Test 2 to run that COMPLETE test. Dan Hove and Phil Hines had a 30 acre field set up and they were going to use it all! But before we got started, Four Points delivered enough hamburgers w/the fixings to feed an army (like I said, they didn’t hold back)!



Test 2. Bear would be the test dog for this event and it started with a hunt along a grass wetland in a ten acre field.  At the end of the wetland, each team would curve around some willows to the left where a wily rooster would get launched into the air. This bird proved to be a bit too tempting for a couple of dogs as it was bigger than life! Bear actually had to do it 3x because the electronics weren’t behaving! He proved to be a very competent test dog! After that bird was retrieved (providing the dog was steady to flush and shot) you worked your way to a ridge where a couple of shots signaled that a double blind was awaiting. Again, this is a trying situation where you have to be able to really reign in your dog to work again as a Team.

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The first blind was downwind, down a side hill to a deadfall, bear did this in one whistle. The second was across a large ditch, through a wall of cattails and back up the hill (crosswind blind). This took two whistles for the veteran. Once the blinds were completed, you would turn and resume hunting across another large field. These weren’t small hunts; the dogs had to prove that they could cover some ground in front of you and both judges on each side of you! At almost the end of the field another “bigger than life” rooster was launched into the air. (Both birds in this test were very tempting birds because the dogs truly had to work for them. By the time they were put into the air, the dogs had probably forgotten that this was a test!) Anyways, what impressed me was the fact that this second bird always seemed to get launched at a questionable gunshot range and the gunner almost always dropped it!

After the “Steady to flush/shot” the dog would make his/her retrieve and then proceed to the end of the field where a “second bird” fell on the other side of some corn. This was the “hunt-em-up” portion of the test. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect for this but I have trained a bit at home. Dan gave me a bit of a pep talk (being the test dog) and Bear was sent into the cover and quickly re-emerged with his bird! End of Test 2, but you can tell that there was a great deal of expectations!

Back to Test 1: John Giudice and Troy Callanan had finished setting up the rest of their test. First was a trail (Oh no! I forgot that we haven’t done a trail since last October!) Since there wasn’t any snow to deal with, this was an excellent opportunity to trail a rooster. It was along a waterway at the bottom of a hill. Troy always seems to knock down a bird and “can’t find it” J. My little Jasmine put her nose down in the feathers and once I barked “Get that bird”, she was off to the races with her nose on the ground! Didn’t take her long, whew! The next stage was another hunt along some sorghum with standing corn on each side of you. We walked about 100 yards before another rooster was launched and quickly gunned down. Once again, steady to flush and shot!

One blind left! On the way back from the last flush, there would be a shot fired. The blind was a concept that few have trained for! Through sorghum, across a grassy field and right into a standing corn field! The bird was visible and about 20 yards into the corn, but getting that precision cast proved to be a challenge

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This was a very solid test with many challenges! I’m sure that my fellow handlers would all agree that on this day, we were hunting! Hunting with very high caliber dogs! You had to earn that ribbon and I applaud NAHRA for coming up with this new program!

Following both Tests, the Four Points crew once again didn’t hold back! They always have a way to make you feel welcome and with friends. A full coarse meal was served! A modest raffle, good fellowship and then the award ceremony! First time titles were acknowledged for the Upland program in both Working and Senior levels! We had handlers from Alaska and Missouri, a very nice turn out! Can’t wait until the next one!

Thanks to Jeff Brezee for being the guest blogger this week. He did a great job, so much so he may have a new job!

Photo credit-Travis Lund and Jeff Brezee

Congratulations to Phil Hines who earned the first national MUR titles on his two dogs Molly and Ruffy (2015)

Congratulations to Travis Lund on his MUR title on his dog Atlas, the first black lab in the nation to earn this title and also congrats on his passes on Atlas’s daughter Rayna at the WUR level.

Congratulations to Joe Grohs on his WUR title on his dog Sunny. The first WUR titled dog from Alaska. The trip from Alaska was worth it!

Congratulations to Todd Fuchs and his dog Ice on being the first national WUR titled dog.

Congratulations to Eric Borg on his MUR title on his dog Link.

Congratulations to all that earned a ribbon!

Hopefully I didn’t forget anyone on their title.

Thanks to Travis Lund for chairing the event, Paul Agranoff for doing the test secretary duties, to all the judges and workers for your outstanding work, and all who participated and had fun.

Special thanks to Mike Bergren and the staff at Pheasant Ridge Shooting Preserve for allowing us to use your facilities. Without you we couldn’t  do what we love.








A Girl and Her Hunting Dog Sully

About a year ago, right around this time I was trying to find people to work our NAHRA booth at Pheasant Fest. Jim Reeves, a member of Skunk River Hunting Retriever Association, said “I have a couple of girls, Aleah German and Sarah Hodges that are new to the club that will work and they will probably bring a boyfriend or a dog.” I thought “OK great, they will work for 20 minutes and take off with their boyfriends” but you never turn down workers, right!?  I could not have been more wrong- not only did they do their share of the work but I know for sure one boyfriend was in tow and was made to do his share also.  They worked the crow;, Sully, Aleah’s dog was a big hit and I heard glowing comments from many people about them. They were no girls, they were Superwomen.supergirlclipart (1)

This was especially true at Skunk River’s Regional in August where I think that Aleah chaired the event along with working in a winger station and running her dog. Sarah was out in a blind the entire day with breaks to take care of her new puppy. You will hear more about Sarah’s story in a different post.

10568814_10152338336064163_8797375846319716235_n   Aleah German


Some little girls dream of being a princess. Aleah’s dream was becoming a dog trainer, she even knew what kind of dogs she wanted to train- sheepdogs. Some little girls liked frilly dresses, having tea parties and playing house. Aleah was rarely indoors, instead spending countless hours exploring and learning about nature with her dad and playing with her animals. I am pretty sure that camo outranked frilly dresses.

The youngest of five girls, Aleah is the only hunter in the bunch. Her dad is the one responsible for her passion of the outdoors. He did not have a normal 9-5 job that most of our dad’s had. Aleah’s dad, Guy German is a world famous lumberjack who has broken numerous world records. He is referred to as “The Godfather” of the sport of speed climbing. How cool would that be to have a dad that is a lumberjack?

Aleah was born in Sitka, Alaska and lived there until she was six.  Her family then pulled up stakes and moved to Columbus, Nebraska which is where she grew up and lived until she moved away to attend college. During high school she helped teach dog obedience and agility classes as well as puppy obedience classes in college. Aleah attended University of Nebraska, Lincoln and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science in 2011. Currently she lives in Oskaloosa, Iowa where she works at MidWestOne Bank. She has three dogs, a 22 month old Vizsla, Sully, a 10 year old Rat Terrier, Napoleon, and Chiweenie puppy, Gimli, a cat, a quarter horse and a handful of quail. Of course this can change at any time. Being that Aleah doesn’t like to just sit around the house, relaxing for her is sitting in a tree stand, taking her dogs for a run or riding her horse. Her dream of being a dog trainer lives on but her focus changed when her hunting obsession took over from sheepdogs to hunting dogs.

An ex-boyfriend actually was the one that sparked Aleah’s interest in hunting when she was 18. She learned a lot about hunting from him and his family but since she mostly hunts alone, she also self taught herself on a lot of things.  She predominantly deer hunts and upland hunts but loves any kind of hunting. If she had to pick her favorite hunting it would be deer hunting with her bow. She would love to see more women get involved with the outdoors. Aleah feels as though it is becoming more popular with women these days, many women just don’t know how to get started or they are discouraged from doing so since hunting has always been a “man’s sport”. She has been discouraged and told she was crazy many times, but she stuck with it, and now it is the most important part of her life. She REALLY needs more female hunting buddies!

Aleah started researching gun dog breeds for months and finally narrowed it down to a handful that she thought would fit her best. She wanted to be different and was tired of everyone telling her to get a Lab. A friend of her’s happened to have a litter around that time and told her to “just come and look”. Well you know how that ends… Sully picked Aleah that day at 3 and a half weeks old and the rest is history!

When Aleah moved to Oskaloosa in the summer of 2014, Jim Reeves of Skunk River Hunting Retriever Association convinced her to join the club. She had always wanted to do hunt tests, but she really didn’t know where to start and she had a Vizsla puppy which is not the typical retriever. Jim supported her 110% and Aleah will be forever grateful for his encouragement. Now days not only is Aleah a NAHRA member but the Vice President of Skunk River HRA.

When asked to tell me the story of the Amazing Sully these were Aleah’s words:”Sully, Oh Sully. She was the first puppy that I’ve ever owned that ‘picked me’. She went everywhere with me (and still does). We truly have an indescribable bond. She doesn’t come from stellar/champion parents and honestly doesn’t have that high of a bird drive, but she will do ANYTHING I ask her to-simply because we adore each other. She naturally likes to carry things around so she took to retrieving quite well. I decided to ignore the numerous skeptics in running a Vizsla at a retriever test and entered my first hunt test in the spring of 2015. She passed 4 for 4 and became the first Vizsla to ever earn a title in NAHRA history. We entered an AKC Junior hunt test in the fall of 2015 and earned two passes there as well. I really wanted to prove the true versatility of  the Vizsla so I made the decision to change focus and train for our first pointer test. With the guidance of Sheena Collins (Hardwood Kennels) and a lot of hard work, Sully earned her AKC Junior Hunter title in pointing in October of 2015. We have been working really hard ever since and have huge goals set for 2016. We are excited to move up to the NAHRA Hunter level and beyond.”

Sully has earned a NAHRA Started title, AKC Junior Hunter (pointing), and a AKC CGC title. Aleah says that Sully loves to shed hunt in the off season and enjoys playing find the remote, fetch the dog bowls and chasing field mice. Aleah’s greatest challenge with Sully has been that Sully lines herself up with the winger station. She is way too smart and figures out that when in doubt, just go to the winger station first and make the appropriate angle from there. She also like to say hi to the helpers. Since Aleah’s family doesn’t really understand much about hunt tests or hunting in general they really don’t get what she is doing but she is surrounded by the best support ever- her fellow Skunk dogs. Aleah’s training mentors have been Jim Reeves and Sheena Collins; she said without these two incredible people she doesn’t know where she would be.  They are so humble, knowledgeable and passionate about what they do.

When asked how she felt for the first time going to the line at a hunt test, Aleah said: “You know that feeling when you’ve eaten really bad Chinese food? Or… ran a 400M race in track? Combine the two: I thought I was going to throw up, pass out, and/or have a heart attack.”  Aleah’s proudest moment was when Sully got her first ribbon, she cried (in front of dozens of people) because so many people told her she could never do it. Aleah was so proud, she will never forget that feeling or that day ever. Best of all Jim was there that day to give her a big hug.

Aleah’s goals for the future are lofty for 2016. She wants to achieve Sully’s NAHRA Hunter title, AKC Senior (retrieving) and AKC Senior (pointing). In five years her goals are to achieve Master titles in both pointing and retrieving. From her research she doesn’t believe that this has ever been accomplished. She would also like to start training other people and their dogs to reach their goals.

When asked if she had any encouraging words for new handlers, Aleah said “Surround yourself with knowledgeable supportive people. You can do anything you set your mind to! Don’t get discouraged. Every dog has a bad day. Don’t expect results in just a day. Stay positive and keep  after it!”

One thing no one would ever guess about Aleah is that her socks are rarely matching and she has been exposed to rabies twice!

I can’t wait to see Aleah and Sully running this summer.  I’ll be there to cheer them on!

Photo credit-Aleah German

A Day in Wisconsin

Your  2016 hospitality committee made the supreme sacrifice, braved sub- zero temperatures, not to mention wind chill and ventured into the land of cheese heads and Packer backers to gather information to make your stay this summer more enjoyable.

The committee of Ray and Lisa Esboldt, and Patsy and Dan Hove started our  whirlwind tour in New Richmond, WI. Which is about 20 miles from the test grounds. First stop was at the Quick Lube and Party Rental place to check rental rates for tents. Only in WI will you see this pairing, you can rent a cotton candy machine while you wait for your oil to be changed. The friendly young man that helped us gave us prices but made it very clear that to get correct pricing we would have to talk with Dan, the owner but he wasn’t there. I guess we will be talking to Dan at a later date. We hopped back into Ray’s truck and took a little drag up and down the Main street, reminiscent of my growing up years in North Dakota.  The only difference this time was, I wasn’t looking for boys or a party.  New Richmond has several places to eat ranging from McDonalds, Subway, Burger King to the Brew House, Corner Bar and Grill or the Laurel Supper Club. For any of you that run low on Kinetic dog food during the Invitational, it is available at Doyle Farm and Ace Hardware Store located at 560 Deere Drive. There is a Laundromat located in New Richmond called Laundry Village & Dry Cleaning, 363 N Knowles Ave, 715-246-9121.

If you looking for a place to stay we did check out the AmeriVu Inns and Suites(formally known as Riverfront Inn) 814 N. Knowles Ave, 715-246-4606. It is currently open during renovations which should be done by June. The owners are friendly and working hard to make it a nice place to stay. They offer free breakfast, free WiFi, a pool, and dogs welcome for a fee. There is a area in back that is ok for airing,  and parking lot will accommodate dog trailers.

The other motel we checked out is Americinn Hotel & Suites. Price is $91-100 per night. They only have 5 rooms available for Friday night, none for Saturday but will put your name on a list for cancellations. Dogs welcome for $15.00 fee. Parking lot will be tight for trailers. No real good area for airing dogs as the back of building is a pretty steep bank but there is a playground next to the motel which would work.

Next stop was Amery, WI where many of you are staying.  Amery has a little bit of everything.  There are 23 resturants in the area, five vacation home rentals within 20 miles of Amery, bars, liquor stores, laundry, grocery stores, antiques, golfing, tubing down Apple River, gas, Vet,  a variety of great locally owned stores, craft/gifts and coffee shops. Amery is 16 miles from the Turtle Lake Casino, Turtle Lake, WI. There is one sporting goods store called Sports and More and one laundry, River Street Laundry and Dry Cleaner.  The laundry is opened M-F 8-5.

Forest Inn- 715-268-4100.  The Forest Inn has 21 rooms with a large parking lot good for parking dog trailers and a large area in the back to air dogs.  They offer free breakfast, Direct TV,  and free WiFi. The motel is clean and the staff is very friendly.   The Forest Inn is the official headquarters for the Invitational. We do have the whole motel booked for NAHRA for the week of the Invitional.  There are still a few room available but you should book now as there is no guarantee that you will get one closer to the Invitational date. Dogs are welcome.  The price of the rooms per night is $59.95. The Forest Inn is close to the liquor store, McDonalds,  a Chinese Restaurant, Subway and Pizza.

There is one other motel in town that is not recommended called The Camelot Motel.  It might be what you call iffy. Google it and you can decided if you would want to stay there or not.

Amery has several really good places to eat.  The Farm Table, 110 Keller Ave. is a new restaurant featuring seasonal food sourced from small local farms, 300 acres or smaller near Amery.  All food is made from scratch and  the menu changes to what is in season.  Currently they are open Wednesday-Sunday call 715-268-4500 to check times.

Ellie’s Ice Cream is charming and cute with a small town ice cream shop feel. It is located at 204 Keller Ave.

Ida Mae is a Mom and Pop look back at a old fashion dinner.  They have super friendly staff and good food. It is across the street from The Farm Table on Keller Ave.

Amery Family Resturant has large portions of food with a good menu and reasonable prices.  It is the local favorite in town.

UW Wanderoo is located at 1629 70th Ave.  It is a cool bar with good food.  The bar is in the basement of a old school house.  They are known for their chicken, burgers and out of the world Friday night fish fry.

The best Patio bar in town is Wapogasset Waterside Bar, 870 Walleye Ct., where you can sit on the patio and throw stones in the lake or enjoy drinks around the fire pit.  They have good old fashioned comfort food.

No need to go without your designer coffee as there are also a couple of different coffee shops in the area.  Cabin Coffee is located at 1300 110th Street.

Amery also has a wonderful Vet Clinic, the staff is helpful and Dr. Jill is great!  Hopefully no one will need their services but just in case… Northwest Wisconsin Veterinary 949 WI-46. 715-268-6226.

We then headed out to Clear Lake to check out Lucky’s which is the site of the Handler’s Breakfast on Wednesday morning.  We passed by Rusty’s Watering Hole and Chow House located at Four Corners 1901 WI-46.  The Watering hole sits on one corner, the Holiday Station Store on one corner, and the Marathon Gas Station on the other side. Not sure what makes up the fourth corner.  The Watering Hole is about 5-10 minutes from the test ground. They have a good menu with excellent food. You can get anything from burgers to prime rib and oh yeah, beer and other adult beverages.  Open Mon-Thurs 8-9. Fri-Sat 8-10 and Sun 8-9.

Clear Lake is a small village with no motels but there is a gem of a campground there.  It is located at the park on two small lakes. They offer fishing, horseshoes, archery range and playground. To reserve a camp site contact the Village Office @ 715-263-2157.  There is also four vacation home rentals within 25 miles of Clear Lake. Clear Lake offers a Post Office, Nilssen Grocery Store, gas station, Lucky’s, Cabin Bar & Grill and Midway Bar and Grill.

Lucky’s will host the handler’s breakfast with a breakfast buffet. Lucky’s is owned by Linda and Harry.  They will also be handling the pizzas and delivery for us on Pizza Night at the Farm.  Check out the shuffle board when you are there, it is great! Lucky’s also has a full bar.

We  headed south twenty-five miles to Baldwin, WI where we will host our banquet Wednesday night.  Baldwin is located one mile North of Interstate 94 on Highway 63.  The banquet is being held at The Orchard Event Center, in The Barn.  The Barn was built 1890 and showcases the original hand hewn beams. It is a very cool place with many detail such as the hayloft.  Make sure that you check out the bar area and the amazing can coolers that are built into the bar.  After discussing menu options and raffle logistics with Mary, from The Orchard, Patsy and Lisa checked out the bathroom, both the mens and womens, for some ideas for Lisa’s bathroom remodel while the guys rolled their eyes and telling us why our ideas couldn’t be done at home.

Baldwin offers most amenities, gas, liquor, Nilssen’s Grocery Store, Vet, lodging, laundry, coffee, restaurants and a clinic.  Baldwin’s Laundromat, The Giant Wash is located at 760 Main Street Baldwin.The two motels in town are the Super 8 and AmericInn . Both are right off Interstate 94 with easy on and off access. Both are good places to stay with a pool.  Check first to see if they have any dog rooms available if you are thinking of booking a room.  The rooms are clean,  they have friendly staff, a free breakfast offered every morning, WiFi, and Direct T.V.  The Super 8 has best parking lot for airing dogs and dog trailers.  AmericInn has good airing area but the parking lot is a very tight fit for dog trailers.

Our Final stop had us back tracking to New Richmond to have dinner at The Laurel Supper Club, where the judge’s dinner will be hosted on Tuesday night.  The Laurel, 1905 Hwy. 64, is 7 miles east of New Richmond. We arrived there just as they opened and were  still setting up for several Christmas parties they were having that night. We waited at the bar with a couple of drinks and went over our  judge’s dinner options with Linda while they got our table ready.  The Laurel is pretty nondescript from the outside, the inside is cozy with kind of a 70’s vibe going on but it not the décor that brings people in. What bring the people in is the excellent food and friendly wait staff.  You will get your money’s worth of food starting with amazing popovers with a cinnamon honey butter. They really are good and I am not even a huge popover fan.  The menu has something for everyone even the most fickly eater. My camera had died at this point so I don’t have any pictures of The Laurel. That just means I will have to go back, oh darn.

After a delicious dinner we were on our way home. We had a lot of fun discovering Wisconsin for you and can’t wait for you to be able to do the same.  I am glad that you will be doing your discovering in the summer instead of the dead of winter.  If you have any questions or concerns please contact me.



Niki Tilleraas NAHRA’s First Featured Chef


It has turned cold up in the North Tundra Region (formally known as the Central Region).  Dispite the cold and the Viking’s loss to the Sea Hawks last Sunday, we have one good thing going for us and that is Niki’s Pheasant Pot Pie. Read on to learn more about Niki and get her recipe for her pot pie.

Niki T

Meet our first featured chef, Niki Tilleraas. Niki and her husband Troy live in the country near Vermillion, MN where they own and operate TNT Kennels.  Niki describes herself as a wife and mother.  Being a pretty humble, down to earth gal, Niki would be the last person to toot her own horn, so I will do it for her.  In addition to being a great wife and mom, Niki is a “Glam-ma” to two granddaughters, a puppy lover, the heart and soul of TNT Kennels, a dog mom to many of our dogs, a doggie sexologist  (I’ll have her explain that one) and a good friend.


Niki and Troy have four children Brianne, Nick, DaKota and Tucker, one son-in-law Payne, one daughter-in-law Brittany and two beautiful granddaughters Dallas and Paysen.

Niki’s great parenting skills came into play at one our FPRC tests several years ago when her son Tucker was probably around 8 or 9. Tucker was allowed to help out in one of the blinds.  He was partnered with Jason Skyberg.  In hindsight, probably not the best pairing as Jason was quite the jokester.  Jason explained to Tucker that male pheasants were called cocks.  When they called for the bird Jason told Tucker that he should stand up and yell as loud as he could “Cock, Cock, big cock”.  Tucker was silent for a few minutes and then said “My mom wouldn’t like that.  I will just say rooster, rooster.”

One of the many hats Troy wears during the hunting season is guiding at Firesteel Creek Lodge near Isabel, S.D. With plenty of pheasants on hand, Niki has found a good way to use pheasants.  Niki’s Pheasant Pot Pies have her family always asking for more.

pot pie pic

All photo credits: Niki Tilleraas



(Makes 6 large pies)


4 or 5 pheasant breasts

5 or 6 larger baby red potatoes

1 – 14.5 oz. can of sliced carrots

1 – 8 oz. can of mushrooms

1 – 29 oz. can of corn

1 – 28 oz. can of green beans

2 – 49 1/2 oz. can of chicken broth


Salt and pepper

Pie shells (boxed or homemade)

Roast the pheasant breasts in the oven with onion, some of the chicken broth, and seasoned with salt and pepper. Once cooked and cooled, cut the pheasant breasts into bite size pieces and set aside.  (The roasting of the pheasant could be done a day ahead and refrigerated until ready to use.)  Strain the pan broth and add it, along with the rest of the chicken broth, to a large kettle at medium high heat.  Cut the potatoes into bite size pieces and add them to the broth.  Let them simmer in the broth for a bit as these will take longer to cook than the other vegetables.  Then start adding the roasted pheasant & onions, carrots, mushrooms, corn, and green beans to the kettle.   Once these are all cooked, thicken it with flour and water (like you do for gravy…1/2 cup flour to 3/4 cup water…twice per pot).    You should now have a nice full kettle of filling with the consistency of stew.  Remove from heat and let cool a bit before transferring to the pie shells.  Cut slits to vent the top crust, double wrap in tin foil and freeze.  Bake at 425 degrees for 1 1/2 hours from frozen state.


**All veggies are optional. Use whatever you would like.   **Strain canned veggies before adding to kettle.  **Could also skip the crust and be served like stew or poured over biscuits.




Welcome to Retriever Nation!

 Happy New Year! 

Mike Matson

Welcome to Retriever Nation!  This blog has been a long time coming, after a little (maybe a lot) of procrastination on my part and the awesome help from Suellen Appellof to get the blog up and running here is the first post.


Phil Hines and Molly

The purpose of this blog is to introduce people to things I love and am passionate about. A blog is an excellent way to introduce the members who are the heart and soul of NAHRA to the membership across the United States. How many of you have had dealings with Rosemary in the NAHRA office?  How many of you could pick her out in a line up? Not many I would say but maybe you will have a chance to meet her and find out a little about her from this blog. I would also like to showcase the amazing talents of the retrievers that run in NAHRA along with other dog games.  And lastly to just share some of the simpler pleasures of life.  To do so I need help from you!  If you have a story you would like to tell, a picture you would like to post, a recipe to share, a product to endorse, a person to be highlighted or maybe you want to be a guest blogger let me know.  My email is pahove@aol.com.


Hi I am Patsy.

Thanks for checking out Retriever Nation Blog!


Dan Dan and Patsy

Here is a little more about my story. Thirty-five years ago I married my partner in crime Dan Hove. After raising 3 kids who were all involved with traveling sports, we finally found ourselves with some free time on our hands. Together with my passion for animals, dogs in particular and Dan’s obsession with hunting and the outdoors, we discovered a new hobby to be completely consumed by.  It was called “The Hunt Test Game”!

We were blessed with our first dog Belle. She was Dan’s constant companion. She became the wife and I was dismissed to the title of mistress whom she tolerated.  Belle went on to accomplish goals we never even knew we had.  She was the first 1,000 pt. dog in the Central region.  She was a true champion in every way.  Not wanting to be left out, Grace came into our lives as my dog. Grace and I went on to slay the dragon and put on some impressive titles as well.  Then along came Chai.  She didn’t start out to be our dog, but she made it clear our home was where her heart was.  Chai was very talented, earned many titles and was the third dog to earn her 1,000 points in the Central region.  Very impressive as there is only four dogs in this region that have achieved 1,000 pts.  Belle, Abby (Dan Tongen), Chai, and Beamer (Fritz Baier).  All have passed onto the Rainbow Bridge except for Beamer.

As our dog family expanded to include Chai, it just kept on growing until I found myself a dog mom to seven dogs. Our children soon were complaining that we loved the dogs more than we loved them.  Children can be so needy.

As Belle, Chai and Grace’s hunt test days wound down, Dan and I started judging more. We have traveled across country judging and running our dogs.  We have met people who would become great friends, others that have become like family.  We have gotten to see the best of the best and have had a ton of fun along the way.  NAHRA has been a part of our lives for the past 17 plus years, I guess you could say we are in for the long haul!

So long for now.  Make sure to check out the next blog post featuring the cooking talents of Niki Tilleraas!


Alaska NAHRA SR Upland Test- Working Retriever 1- Video-Photos

Dan Hove was up in Alaska at the end of July 2015 for the first Alaska NAHRA Upland Retriever Hunt test.   Long story short is we “produced” some excellent video presentations of the Senior and the Working level upland tests.   The NAHRA board wants  to put the two videos on the NAHRA site.   Courtesy Joe Grohs, Chugiak, Alaska

NAHRA Sr Upland Test – Small

NAHRA Working Retriever 1 – Small

A few photos …Judges:Dan Hove and Dwight Dial, Kody and Joe with ribbons .  Zink  and Sunny

 Dan Hove, Kody Bull, Dwight Dial
Dan Hove, Kody Bull, Dwight Dial
Dwight Dial, Dan Hove, Joe Grohs
Dwight Dial, Dan Hove, Joe Grohs
Cody & Zink
 Judges and Brad Hanson & Abel
Judges and Brad Hanson & Abel
Judges with Sunny and Joe
Judges with Sunny and Joe