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.

Patsy

 

 

 

 

 

 

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