This pate is definitely a crowd-pleaser, even for your guests who are not so sure about eating wild game. You can easily substitute quail and chukar or even ducks in this recipe, but pheasants are my favorite.
1/3 c. craisins
1/3 c. pistachio nuts (shells off)
3 strips of bacon
1/4 c. yellow onions finely minced
1 clove garlic mined
1 1/3 cups of pheasant breast (cubed)
1/3 c. dry sherry wine
2 sprigs Sage
2 sprigs of Thyme
1 tsp. lemon juice
½ c. goat’s cheese
2 tbs. fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut up bacon into small ½” square pieces and fry in a large saucepan until slightly brown. Add the onion and garlic and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes. Then add the sherry wine, sage, thyme and pheasant meat and sauté until pheasant is just cooked (about 7-10 minutes). When the pheasant is done, remove the sage and thyme and allow to cool.
Place pistachio nuts and craisins in a food processor and process until the mixture is fully blended. It will not liquefy, but it will become pasty. Add cooled pheasant mixture (including the liquid) and process until smooth. Then add the goat’s milk cheese, lemon juice and parsley and finish pulsing to reach the consistency of pate you like.
Serve room temperature on crackers. Will store in the refrigerator for 1 week.
Wildrose Midwest, the latest of Wildrose International’s four kennels, is located in Kohler, Wisconsin, with its main training grounds at River Wildlife, Kohler Corporation’s 600-acre outdoor Sport Club. Wildrose Midwest was something that Al, Mike, and Cathy Stewart talked about for a number of years. Wildrose has a strong established base of customers in the Midwest who were anxious to have more local training support and workshop opportunities.
Never letting an opportunity slip by, Al and Mike decided to launch Wildrose Midwest in late 2021 with some great support along the way. First, long-time Associate Trainer, Craig Korff and his son, Chris, who is also a trainer, were co-located within 5 miles of Al’s target location and anxious to see Wildrose grow in the area. Having two outstanding trainers on the team from day one was a real blessing. Second, Al had a membership and relationship with Kohler Corporation’s outdoor Sport Club, River Wildlife, which afforded him and the team 600 acres of perfect training grounds. All that is needed now is a piece of property to build the kennels and housing on. This has proven to be more of a challenge than anticipated and Wildrose Midwest is still looking for their permanent mailing address. Wildrose Midwest has run fifteen workshops since their beginning and is fortunate to have four, part-time employees besides Craig and Chris, who understand the Wildrose Way and do a great job helping out. In the summer of 2023, Wildrose Midwest will welcome Jill Koren and her partner Bob to the Midwest where they will be helping with training, boarding, whelping, and even shooting sports (Bob’s expertise). Jill is a quail guide on a plantation in Alabama and has been training the past two summers with Mike Stewart out in Colorado. Wildrose runs Starting Your Dog The Wildrose Way Workshops, Gun Dog Workshops, Handler Workshops, Duck Camp Warm Ups, Adventure Dog Workshops as well as small group workshops and private lessons.
A Personal Note on Al Klotsche and His Background Al has been married to his wife Mary for thirty-four years and they have two adult sons, both of whom are married and each of them have one child, giving Al and Mary a grandson and granddaughter. Al is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys all of the natural beauty that Wisconsin and the Midwest have to offer. Al has enjoyed a successful career starting and running business across the world with more than fourteen years being spent working in the Asia Pacific region. After thirty years in “corporate America,” Al decided he wanted to spend more time enjoying the outdoors and working “for fun.”
On one of the fly-fishing trips that Al took over to Western Wisconsin, the guide asked if he could bring his Labrador Retriever along. Although a bit apprehensive about a dog screwing up the fishing waters, Al decided to give it a try. That British Lab amazed Al at how calmly he sat on the river’s edge and then ultimately rejoined the anglers downriver after they had fished out a section. This led Al to switch from his prior, traditional American Labs to the Wildrose line of British Labs. Al was passionate about learning the Wildrose Way and began working with two Associate Trainers in the Midwest to learn and refine his training skills.
Al’s Development as a dog trainer, using the Wildrose way—in his own words My early days of dog training were all about game recovery. If we could find it, it was a good day. At times, this came at the sacrifice of manners and obedience. When I started seeing the biddability of British labs, I quickly learned there was more that I was missing. I have been fortunate in my life to learn from some of the very best trainers who also have become personal friends. In my early 20s, I would hang out with Ray Sommers on weekends and do whatever he needed in exchange for him working with me and my dog.
When I formally got involved with Wildrose, Ray had long retired, and I was fortunate to meet up with Craig Korff. Craig helped me with the finishing touches on my current dog, Beau, as well as teaching me the Wildrose Way. Craig is one of the most patient trainers that I have ever worked with, and his pace is evident in the steadiness of his dogs. I pride myself on a diversity of training scenarios to ensure that dogs are as ready as they can be for any environment. During the off- season, I am frequently re-creating hunting scenarios that proved to be a challenge during the year. Of course, when training a young dog, repetition is key, but when working with more advanced dogs, I am always looking for new challenges for both of us. The true test for me is driving up to a completely new location, getting the dog out of the truck and being able to run a complicated drill, like a land, water, land blind retrieve.
A Note on Al’s Personal Dogs and His Hunting Interests I currently have four personal dogs. Eight-year-old Wildrose Lambeau, two-year old Wildrose Bella, one-year old Wildrose Duke, and ten-month-old WR River. With Duke, Bella and River, I promised my wife I would buy three and keep one, but the way they are all turning out, this is not going to be an easy decision! Bella is a Kelmarsky Crow import from the UK and will soon be a mama dog for WR Midwest. If River continues to develop as she is, she will also join the mama dog ranks. Beau is my white muzzled hunting companion that I have taken all across the United States on hunting trips and family excursions and I hope that Duke will be Beau’s successor as my hunting dog.
If I only had one day of hunting left in my life, you would find me duck and goose hunting. While Wisconsin does have a good waterfowl population, I am drawn to the potholes of North Dakota and the saltwater flats of Southern Texas for some of the best and consistent duck hunting in the country. I also enjoy upland hunting at some of the local clubs as well as out west.
The Uniqueness of Wildrose Midwest As the expression goes, necessity is the mother of invention. In our first year of operation, we utilized the resources that we had and got off to a good start. Our trainers were quickly filled to capacity with long-term commitments, the puppies we had were sold out, and our full slate of workshops kept us even busier.
Besides the monthly gun-dog training that we do like the other WR kennels, I really enjoy working 1:1 with DIY clients and helping them learn and practice the Wildrose Way. I personally spend a lot of my training time working 1:1 or in small group sessions. While few clients are capable of developing a dog to the same level as a professional trainer, I get great satisfaction out of seeing them accomplish their goals. I have a general “curriculum” that I follow, but I end up customizing it for each client. Whether we meet weekly or monthly, after each session, customers receive a homework list of things that I would like them to work on in between sessions. We have also developed a private portal on our website just for clients who send in training questions and videos that we help them in between lessons.
The Opportunities and Advantages of Belonging to a Network of Kennels within Wildrose International As a startup business (Licensee) the other Wildrose locations could not have been more supportive. The One-Kennel concept that Mike and Cathy have developed is very evident in the way that we all work together. In my first year, with no breeding stock on the ground in the Midwest, Guy Cameron (Wildrose Texas) helped provide me with enough puppies to fill some of my opening demand. When it came time to launch a website, Steven and Kirk, from Wildrose Carolinas, were there to support me from a web design standpoint and we continue to collaborate technologically. Tom Smith and the team at Wildrose Oxford are helping “the new guy” with a roadmap of do’s and don’ts for starting a new kennel as well as providing product support and a place where I can send new trainers to learn the Wildrose Way. I was really surprised when I attended my first Licensee meeting in March 2021. I thought we would were going to sit around Mike and Cathy’s house, have a few beers, and talk dog training. Quite the contrary, this was a formal business meeting that lasted the entire day from 8:00 – 5:00. The entire focus of the meeting was on “running the business” and serving our customers. Despite being different people, we all are very committed to providing our customers a common experience. It is quite common for clients to want to interact with multiple Wildrose locations based on their travel and training needs. For a bunch of dog trainers lead by a former police officer, this was quite the business planning and strategy session! It quickly became clear to me that our collective life experiences are a tremendous asset and collectively we are stronger than any one location could be on their own.
With contributions from Mindy Ladner, Mike Stewart, and a King County Detective, Washington
BURIEN — Quinn, a 2-year-old golden Labrador retriever, worked his first drug bust Wednesday, helping a team of veteranBurien police and King County sheriff’s detectives score an estimated $2.5 million worth of crystal meth, fentanyl and black-tar heroin before it could be cut up and dispatched across Western Washington.
The former Purina Puppy Chow model, certified as a narcotics-sniffing police dog just six weeks ago, did “exceptionally well” on his virgin foray into the dark, money-driven world of international drug smuggling, according to his K-9 handler.
The tables showed off a serious haul, part of what is believed to be one of the biggest drug caches in the Sheriff’s Office’s 170-year history. The operation, including earlier seizures, kept 400 pounds of methamphetamine, 31 pounds of heroin, 25 pounds of fentanyl powder and nearly 500,000 fentanyl pills from reaching the streets.
The combined street value of the drugs: more than $10 million, according to investigators. Detectives also seized four cars, eight guns and roughly $520,000 in cash that was likely destined for more drug purchases. Twelve people were arrested, six of them during coordinated stings Wednesday on houses, cars and hotels from Edmonds to Tacoma.
-The Seattle Times, December 24, 2022
Quinn is an exceptional dog, who attests to the power of selective breeding and expert training the Wildrose Way. Here’s his background story, including his lineage, puppy backgrounding, specialized training, and placement as a Narcotics K9with King County Sheriff’s Department which includes Seattle, WA.
Quinn, the Puppy
In December of 2020 Mindy Ladner, a veteran Wildrose Mississippi staff member, had the opportunity to purchase a male puppy from a Legend-Julie litter, because a client passed on taking him at the last minute. Ladner had raised and trained Legend from a pup and hoped that the son would be as biddable. She was right. Ladner said, “I trained him in all of the background skills we do with all pups, plus my husband and I took him on numerous camping and kayaking trips. Quinn proved to be an excellent companion for such adventures. However, as he matured and got much larger, I realized that Quinn was going to be a bit too big for kayaking with his size.”
So, Ladner began training Quinn as a gundog. However, as Quinn grew into adolescence, Ladner experienced issues handling him. Ladner said, “Quinn was smarter than me, or at least he was sure he was!” So, Ladner approached Mike Stewart about taking Quinn to Colorado for the summer. Stewart routinely takes on the training of client dogs that require his special problem-solving expertise.
Quinn, Colorado Summer Training
Stewart took on Quinn’s training regimen, as he tells us:
“Quinn joined our 2022 summer training enrollment at the Wildrose training grounds, Clear Creek Ranch, Colorado. Mindy requested that he complete the Wildrose Basic Gundog course in the West with the goal of placing him as a Gentleman’s Gundog by fall. The training focus going forward would include stop to the whistle, steadiness, hand signals, and hunting in cover.”
Stewart found Quinn to be a hard-charging lab: bold, independent and passionate. He said, “Mindy did an excellent job with Quinn’s heel work, denials, place training, delivery, and social behaviors. My focus was to develop handling and hunting skills for a dog meant for game recovery. Over June and July, Quinn learned the primary skills for upland hunting: handling, quartering, and hunting cover. These practices are outlined in Chapter 8 of Sporting Dogs and Retriever Training, the Wildrose Way, which I followed precisely. Quinn had a natural passion for the work no matter the challenges of weather, obstacles, cover, or terrain. He had the drive and the nose for results.”
“In midsummer, Tom Smith, President of Wildrose Mississippi, received an inquiry from a narcotic detective with the King County Sheriff’s Department, Washington, seeking a well-started dog for narcotic detection. After discussions, it seemed Quinn was a logical fit. A good search/scent discriminator has the prerequisites of nose, drive, desire and temperament. Quinn checked all those boxes.”
“Return to the Days of Yesterday”
“Recalling my days in law enforcement and the occasional experiences with searches and K9 sniffers, I was excited to ‘seize’ the opportunity.” And so, Quinn’s transformational journey from bird hunter to narcotics hunter began.
“The first undertaking was to develop Quinn’s ability and understanding to search/hunt while on lead. This would be required in urban settings and is different from his unencumbered hunting afield for game.”
“We began searches by capitalizing on his excellent scenting abilities and his passion for tennis balls. The balls were scented with roll-on bird scent (available at wildrosetradingcompany.com). Why? At this stage of training, scent is scent. Obviously, I did not have access to the controlled substances that Quinn would later pursue. So, we searched for bird-scented tennis balls hidden in locations where the scent of narcotics were likely to be identified, both on vehicles and in structures.”
“We began working around my truck and with each recovery he was lavished with praise and allowed to catch the ball. The search expanded to the barn, patio and building exteriors. Quinn was a quick study and loved the games of hide and seek.”
“Next, we moved to the lodge and guest accommodations that are located on the ranch. Remember, according to the Wildrose Way, skills must be successful five times in five different locations before they can be considered a predictable habit. So, we searched the kitchen, the pool table area, the bar, the dining area, the guest rooms, and the laundry/storage areas. Quinn was red hot with success.”
“With the basic search skills mastered, the polish had to be added. These steps involved chaining a passive alert. When Quinn located the ball on a search, he retrieved it… the reward. This behavior would not be healthy when narcotics were detected. He could not touch any substance found.”
“As soon as Quinn became, shall we say “birdy” on scent, I conditioned him to sit for the alert. His reward became a Kong rubber bumper. This was his “toy,” not the scented substance. Why a Kong? I wanted the reward object for his enjoyment to be different from the Wildrose bumper that he would continue to retrieve in his exercise program. One was a fun bumper; the other was business… two objects – two behaviors.”
“Next came field control. I thoroughly trained Quinn in behaviors that would be expected on a call out:
Sit quietly in an open vehicle
No interaction with other dogs
Exit and load in the vehicle on command
Stay quiet when crated in the vehicle
Relieve himself on command while on lead
Sit quietly outside the vehicle as officers assemble
Remain quiet and patient outside a doorway as officers identified their presence and made entry
Remain calm upon entering a location to be searched: threshold conditioning
During a search, remain controllable, so as to not damage property
Be proficient with distractions – day/night searches, weather conditions, people present, blue lights flashing, other dogs on the scene. The Stimulus Package at work, for sure.”
“On September 5th, two deputies from the King County Sheriff’s Department arrived at the Colorado facility after a long drive from Seattle. One was to be Quinn’s permanent handler; the other was the evaluator. After demonstrations, Quinn’s assessment exceeded their expectations. Quinn departed that day to spend the next 30 days with his new handler. Quinn immediately adapted to his new home and loved the family. The evaluating deputy, who is the department’s Master K9 Trainer, advised Quinn’s new partner to ‘establish the relationship first, scent work will begin after 30 days.’ Great advice!”
Quinn, Narcotics K9
The detective of the King County Sheriff’s Office, who is Quinn’s handler that Stewart referenced, discusses his professional background and tells us about his work with Quinn.
“I am currently the narcotics detection K9 handler assigned to the Special Emphasis Team. K9 Quinn is the only narcotics detection K9 in the King County Sheriff’s Office, which is the largest Sheriff’s Office in the Northwest. The Special Emphasis Team is a plain clothes/ undercover detective unit that utilizes confidential informants, surveillance, and undercover operations. The Special Emphasis Team focuses on large scale complex drug investigations with ties to Mexican drug trafficking organizations, and it also provides a covert capability to Major Crimes Unit to target and apprehend violent high impact offenders.”
“As the K9 handler for the Special Emphasis Team, I have some non-traditional requirements of a narcotics detection K9. In addition to the normal requirements of a detection K9—superior nose and hunt drive—I also wanted a K9 that was exceptionally well mannered, exceptionally environmentally steady, and would thrive with long hours in the car or office. For my specific application, I did not need or want a K9 that would be ‘working’ 10 hours a day.”
“Through my research, I found the Wildrose Kennels and sent an email through their website. Speaking with both Tom Smith and Mike Stewart on the phone, I explained my unique requirements for a K9. They told me about a Quinn who was being trained by Mike at his Colorado kennel. Traveling to Colorado, I met Mike and spent the day with him, learning about Quinn and how Mike trains his dogs. I spent the first part of the day observing Mike and Quinn doing drills and skills and the second part of the day working Quinn. I am a new K9 handler so learning under Mike was quite beneficial.”
“When I returned home with Quinn, he and I went from being total strangers to becoming best friends in a very short period of time. Quinn’s pedigree and training with Mike made this transition very easy and fast. At work, Quinn and I are always together. He is either in the car with me or on ‘place’ in the office. I have found that the more work we do together, both training and real-world deployments, the stronger our bond and relationship becomes.”
“Quinn lives at home with me and is integrated into my home life. As with all working dogs, Quinn has boundaries and structure because he is not a pet. I train with Quinn every day to exercise his mind and body. This mental and physical exercise is vital to our work and makes our non-working times easy. There are days when I need Quinn to search multiple locations and be extremely active. But there are also days when we may spend hours on end being relatively sedentary on surveillance. I incorporate many of the drills and skills from Mike’s book during our off-duty days. I have found that these drills sharpen my skills as a handler and sharpen Quinn’s hunting, steadiness, confidence and obedience.”
“K9 Quinn is trained to alert to the odors of heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine. Washington State requires that certified narcotics detection canine teams complete +200 hours of K9 School with a certified trainer, pass a certification test, and complete a minimum of 4 hours of training every week. Although not always possible due to operational demands, I aim to put Quinn on drug odor every workday. I review my team’s active investigations for upcoming likely operational deployments and will attempt to replicate those environments in training. I also evaluate areas of improvement for myself and Quinn and work on those areas in training.”
“I have the best job in the department. Every day, I go to work with my best friend, Quinn, and work with a team of highly skilled detectives to disrupt drug trafficking organizations. I would like to highlight and sincerely thank the following people for the K9 Quinn’s initial success:
Mike Stewart for Quinn’s foundational training and pedigree. Great K9’s start with great genetics and early training. I reaped the benefits of all the hard work that Mike put into Quinn.
Detective Dave Keller for his mentorship, coaching and setting the example.
K9 Officer Brad Smith with the Marysville Police Department for teaching, coaching and instructing the K9 School Quinn and I attended. Officer Smith is a regionally renowned, highly respected, and sought-after master K9 trainer for both detection and patrol work. Officer Smith has the unique ability to diagnose and fix issues with both K9’s and handlers.
Detective Bill McCormick with the Regional Drug Task Force for his coaching and mentorship.”
Stewart provided a concluding note to Quinn’s journey from a Wildrose puppy to a Narcotics-Detection K9: “Last fall, Quinn completed his narcotics detection training and was certified by the State of Washington. He was now ready for deployment as a ‘Deputy Dog.’ On December 22nd, I received a message and photo, the best Christmas gift I could receive. Quinn’s first case was a stunning success with the recovery for huge amounts drugs and cash. So proud of Deke’s grandson. I must say I enjoyed my time with Quinn and I’m honored to have had the opportunity to make a Wildrose contribution to the war on drugs. ‘Go get ‘em boys!’”
At the detective’s request, the name of Quinn’s handler is withheld for job security reasons, as he and Quinn are actively engaged in ongoing enforcement action against major drug trafficking in the region.
The Seattle Times, “Major King County drug bust nets $10M worth of meth, fentanyl, heroin.”December 24, 2022. Sara Jean Greene.
Game recovery remains a primary mission for the hunting retriever. This requires not only possessing skills necessary to locate a downed bird but also the ability and determination to pick wounded birds resisting apprehension:
A Bird that launches in flight in front of the pursuing dog
In this article we will consider the latter challenge, the flight bird attempting an escape. Developing a dog’s recovery skills for birds that go “airborne” becomes an important subskill in the training process for a gundog.
Developing eye-mouth coordination begins as an element of hold-delivery conditioning. We want to develop a soft mouth as to not damage the game but one that holds a bird securely – no mouthing, dropping, or chomping. A firm, stable hold, despite the dog running, negotiating obstacles, exiting water, etc.
This is achieved through our positive hold conditioning program as seen in Sporting Dogs and Retriever Training, the Wildrose Way, page 118. It’s during the latter part of this process that the eye-mouth coordination development is perfected.
During delivery training, movement with the bumper begins. To teach a dog to drive forward and pick a bird that has the ability to launch into flight, we first must encourage the dog to move forward to retrieve a bumper that is off the ground held at the dog’s eye level.
With the dog sitting or standing steady, extend the bumper by hand in front of the dog at eye level or a bit lower but off the ground. Give the release command to retrieve. Encourage the dog to move forward and solidly collect the bumper from hand. Once our student is confident and successful with this skill, extend the distance. Simply hold the bumper in front of the dog around eye level, give the “fetch” command, in our case, the dog’s name, then add movement by backing away holding the bumper steady at eye level. Now the dog must move quickly forward to collect the bumper. This process is introduced in the latter stage of hold conditioning so when the bumper is retrieved from hand, the dog holds it securely and returns directly and promptly, no frolicking or dropping.
Our next movement will be to engage the dog in a bit of chase. With the bumper extended, release the dog to retrieve while rotating the bumper in a circle around you requiring the dog to pursue attempting to catch the bumper.
Now elevate the bumper. Release the dog as the bumper is held higher above the dog’s head. The dog must jump to secure. Eye coordination is now becoming more important.
Finally, in this series, back away quickly as you elevate the bumper gradually upward. The dog must keep moving forward then, time the jump to make a successful pick.
The Ball Catch
Here we develop the dog’s skills to catch a tossed ball midair along with the reinforcement of steadiness by denials. With the dog standing or sitting facing the thrower, a short distance away, the tennis ball (or any reasonably sized ball that is not hard) is tossed toward the dog with the retrieve command. The ball should be somewhat above the dog’s muzzle so the dog can move forward and upward to recover. Perform this exercise with your dog on soft ground to avoid high impact on a hard surface.
Only give the dog one pick out of three tosses. Two are denials to reinforce steadiness. Gradually, with success, extend the distance and the height of the toss.
Next, add a bounce. With the dog sitting or standing, face the dog on a hard surface. The dog can be at the edge of the pavement on soft ground. Now we add a single bounce of the ball, so it bounces airborne just in front of the dog allowing the dog to catch one out of three tosses. With each denial I recommend the command “no.” With each catch, the release is the dog’s name.
Once a single catch is mastered, move on to a double bounce. Here steadiness and patience are required. If the dog moves on a double bounce too quickly, he will miss the catch. Timing and eye-mouth coordination matters.
It’s also a great exercise to place the dog on a hard surface facing a building with a slanted rooftop. The dog watches the ball as it is tossed on the roof. Soon the ball reappears high overhead and the game is on. Will the dog recover the “bird” on the first or second bounce?
Another excellent game with a purpose is the frisbee catch. It’s best to use a frisbee that is soft, not hard plastic. Begin facing the dog at a short distance. Pitch the frisbee toward the dog just above the head, slightly to the dog’s side. On command we want to dog to catch the frisbee in flight, again two out of three flights are denials. Gradually, extend the distances, time in flight and angles the dog must negotiate to recover.
The flight of a frisbee really duplicates the motion of a bird sailing by. Once the dog learns how to bolt out quickly to make a catch of the frisbee in flight, some even requiring a jump, the skill may well pay dividends in game recovery.
It’s always a good idea to get a skill right on land, then move it to the water. Practice these “catches” in shallow water to improve waterfowl recoveries.
Developing eye-to-mouth coordination with any gundog is a fun and easily perfected. By occasionally revisiting these “games with a purpose” any hunting retriever will gain proficiency in making challenging live bird recoveries. Once again, that’s the main job of a retriever. No bird left behind.
Come join us for the 20th annual Basic and Advanced Handlers Workshop at Wildrose in beautiful Oxford, Mississippi. Our Basic Handlers Course March 16-17 is an immersion into the Wildrose Way with topics such as pack leadership, pack mentality and the psychology of the sporting dog. This course is split with classroom and field exercises taught by the Wildrose International staff from all 4 locations.
The Advanced Handlers Course March 18-19 takes the foundational skills learned from the Basic course and steadily increases the complexity and stimulus for the dog and handler duo. We delve into complex drills and the “Why” behind them. This class also includes classroom and field exercises taught and supervised by the Wildrose International staff.
This course is open to any sporting breed and includes lunch on the grounds. Handlers Course is a fantastic venue to learn more about your dog and The Wildrose Way while spending time with the amazing Wildrose Pack where you will make friends for a lifetime.
Chris: “I have attended every Handlers Course since I first picked up Sailor in 2004. I’ve learned something at every event. Sometimes what to do and sometimes what not to do from both trainers and clients. I plan to continue attending while enjoying time with my dog, like-minded people and learning something new.” – Chris Wilke, New Orleans, LA with Sailor, Harken, Jax and Stetson
As part of Purina® Pro Plan’s® marketing plan to reach more sporting dog enthusiasts, the brand management team decided to run a promotion that they could highlight at their upcoming spring tradeshows as well as on-line through social media. When the Purina team reached out to Mike Stewart with the idea, Mike knew a perfect location to host their event – Wildrose Kennels Midwest. Wildrose Kennels Midwest has established a unique relationship with Kohler® Corporation’s River Wildlife, a private hunting and sportsman club offering a wide variety of outdoor experiences coupled with 5-star dining and resorts.
This February, Purina® Pro Plan® will be launching the promotion which will remain open to any US resident between February 10th and May 10th. At the end of the promotion, one lucky winner and guest will receive the Ultimate Outdoor Adventure Weekend valued at up to $10,000! Over three action-filled days, the winner will be able to enjoy a wide variety of experiences including dog training, shooting, kayaking, fishing, hiking, golf, spas and much more. The Wildrose Midwest team will be coordinating all of the details for the lucky winners and ensuring the experience is truly exceptional.
We highly encourage you to register for this promotion and hope you are drawn as the lucky winner. Please watch our social media sites for links to the upcoming registration.
Since we learned about the “Ribeye of the Sky,” a Sandhill Crane hunt was in our future. Thanks to the help of pack members Todd and Monica Swearingen, we found an outfitter and scheduled our hunt in West Texas.
You may be asking, “Aren’t Sandhill Cranes endangered and protected?” According to the National Wildlife Federation, there are three subpopulations of Sandhill Cranes that are non-migratory. The Mississippi Sandhill Crane is found on the southeastern coast of Mississippi. Florida Sandhill Cranes occur in many inland wetlands of Florida. The Cuban Sandhill Crane lives exclusively in savannas, wetlands, and grasslands in Cuba. Mississippi and Cuban Sandhill Cranes are critically endangered.
We hunted lesser Sandhill Cranes that migrate from the Platte River Basin in Nebraska. With our non-resident, small-game license, and Sandhill Crane permit, we set off for West Texas with Guy and Hattie Billups in our campers. We met the guide at a designated field, helped set up, then got ready. Not knowing what to expect, we were excited like Christmas morning. Cranes started to fly into the decoys around 7:00 am. By 8:00 am, we had limited out. We knocked off two items of Lisa and Hattie’s bucket lists. Sandhill Crane hunting and limiting out in an hour. It was an amazing and incredible experience. Will we go back? Heck yes!
Initially, we planned to hunt the dogs, but after hearing a few stories about how aggressive cranes can be even after you think they are stone cold dead, we decided against hunting the dogs. Instead, we trained with them after the hunt with a couple of birds. It was fun watching the dogs trying to figure out how to pick up such a large bird.
I researched ways to cook Sandhill Crane and finally settled on the recipe below. I hope you go Sandhill Crane hunting and try the recipe below.
Trim the white fat off the breasts, remove any pellets, and as much of the shiny membrane that is on one side.
Combine the olive oil, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lime juice, garlic, salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning in a large bowl.
Marinate the meat in this for anywhere between 4 to 48 hours. (I did 48 hours and massaged every 8 hours to ensure even coating)
Heat a cast iron skillet with oil, sear each side of the meat for around 5 minutes. Aim for a meat temperature between 135–140 degrees.This timing produces a medium-rare steak. You may increase or decrease it as per your requirements. Caution: Too medium toughens the meat.
Let the meat rest on a plate covered with foil for about 5 minutes before serving.
The likely or even inevitable arrival of a hurricane is part of what you agree to when you buy a house on the coast of Southwest Florida. My wife, Mitzi, and I bought a place in 2018 on Don Pedro Island, also locally called Palm Island or Little Gasparilla, about 11 miles north of Boca Grande Pass and Cayo Costa. Cayo Costa was the called center of landfall for Hurricane Ian on Wednesday, September 28th. It was a devastating storm of historic scale, even for a state used to them. For two days we did not know if our house had endured, but with great relief, a drone flyover photo on Friday revealed indeed it had its roof and four walls. We could also see our boats had survived and were still on the lifts! We were aware of reports of severe damage to friends and neighbors’ homes, and of a massive amount of cleanup of trees and debris lie ahead. Power and Water service were out indefinitely.
I packed the truck Saturday with what I might need to address damage and start to dig out – two generators, tools, chainsaws, tarps, zip ties, duct tape, K-rations, etc. I anticipated this would essentially be a demanding camping trip combined with tons of work. However, the most important thing I brought along was an indispensable companion – Wildrose Boca. Having a well-trained, reliable, and friendly companion with me in that environment made the experience much more pleasant than it would have been, both for me and the neighbors who were beginning to make it back onto the island.
Our first challenge was encountered as soon as we arrived after the 16-hour drive. Don Pedro is accessed only by an 8-car ferry, which was not yet back in full service. My neighbor, Mike, had returned the night before and offered to take me over in a 2-man Kayak. The truck and tools would have to wait on the mainland overnight. “You brought a dog?” he asked seeing Boca with obvious alarm. He was concerned she wouldn’t tolerate a Kayak ride across the gently moving 200-yard wide Intercoastal Waterway. I assured him she would be steady and once we were both seated, told Boca to LOAD UP. While we glided across the channel in the peaceful sunset light, he told me how impressed he was with her. I explained that as part of her early training, I had exposed Boca to everything I could think of in a process called DE-SENT, part of training the Wildrose Way.
Once on the island, the extent of the storm’s impact was visible everywhere. Most of the homes built recently fared pretty well. Some, however, were a total loss. It was a dangerous environment for a dog, so keeping Boca at HEELat all times was required for her safety, as was strict adherence to STAY. (I use the word “JAIL”). She certainly understood that something was wrong on the island and acted more subdued and cautious than normal.
After the storm, the humidity and temperature were relatively comfortable. A light breeze usually blew at night, making for excellent ‘camping’ weather. Boca and I slept outside on the porch, where we could look west and see the painted ‘just after sunset’ colors each evening over the now-peaceful Gulf. I had a patio couch, and she had a simple bed – which became PLACE for the week. With consistent, early place training, no crate is necessary. I simply tell her ‘Place’ and she is there all night. Place may be the most important thing you can teach a dog. In the absence of electricity, the stars were beautifully bright. The only missing element was maybe a campfire. I have to say I felt some kinship to all those who have camped alone, with just the night sky and a great dog for company. I was of course aware of the ugly possibility of looters, and so when Boca awakened me about 3 am on our 2nd night with a low growl, she had my full attention. Sneaking to the edge of the overhang and shining a flashlight 20 feet down revealed the Bobcat we knew to be living nearby had returned. We do not train for this behavior, but I like to think that the urge to be protective is always there, teased out over eons of human-dog synergy as a benefit of mutual trust. Either way, I slept better knowing her fantastic nose and those ears would wake us long before any real threat was nearby.
Coconuts and Cleanup
The wind blew literally thousands of coconuts to the ground, as well as mountains of palm fronds and limbs and even entire trees. Several of us teamed up and cleared roads and access to neighbors’ homes. After watching us awhile, I noticed Boca picking up debris. Hold conditioning came in handy, as I would ask Boca to HOLD some of that debris and pitch in by dragging it to the piles we were making. Turns out Boca likes to eat a Coconut also. Splitting a coconut with a hatchet, I would let her have one every afternoon. Should I forget, she would find one and bring it to me, of course.
Cooler Heads and Better Days
I suppose one of the first orders of business when arriving to your home after a hurricane is simply a careful assessment of what may be damaged – or just missing. I found parts of railing spread downwind for several hundred feet. A friend who is an excellent fishing guide in the area and I found most of those pieces. We set about putting railing sections back together. One item that turned up missing was a white Yeti 65, with a Wildrose Mississippi logo on it. I use it in the skiff as kind of a mini tower to sight fish for Tarpon, and so certainly wanted it back. I was lucky to spot it hung in the mangrove, about 300 yards downwind from the boat lift. It required a kayak ride and long pole to retrieve it, and Boca was again happy to come along, steady in the boat as always.
I understand from folks who have lived in the area much longer than we that while this was a severe hurricane strike by any measure, the recovery started immediately and was extremely organized. I was impressed by the attitudes, cooperation, and determination of the people I met. To a person, seeing a well trained and even helpful dog in that environment was a positive. All the time and effort invested in her training paid off, but in ways I could not have anticipated when she was a pup. Having her with me made the experience almost pleasant.
It will be a good while before the Boca Grande area is back to its beautiful, idyllic self. The tarpon for which the area is famous never left. I was not surprised to see a pod working just off the beach in the crystal-clear-again Gulf one morning during that long week. They are such a part of the area that Boca has learned to notice them. She will even indicate their presence by suddenly acting ‘birdy’ in the boat. Oblivious to the damage just over the beach, they were hunting as if nothing had happened. Watching them, I wondered in the species’ 100 million plus years how many times this same scene had played out after a hurricane. Their presence was a reminder of the certain recovery to come. I am glad Boca and I got to see them.