Wild Recipes: Quail Scampi

Recipe by Annie Johnston, Johnston ArmsScampiIMG_4134

½ c. butter
¼ c. olive oil
¼ c. chopped green onions
1 tbsp. minced garlic
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 lb. quail meat, boned and cut into bite-size pieces
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
¼ c. chopped parsley
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 lb. angel hair spaghetti**
Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat butter and olive oil and sauté onions and garlic over low heat. Add lemon juice, quail, salt, pepper, and parsley. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until quail is done. Add tomatoes, and heat thoroughly. Serve over warm spaghetti noodles.
**Note: For a gluten free option, substitute rice for spaghetti noodles.
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How to Knock Down Teal

By James Allege, Duck Camp

September 6, 2018 – Most of us have missed – a lot – on Teal. Reading this article will not make you stop missing, but it will make you miss less and allow you to start talking smack to your buddies who are missing more than you!

The early Teal season is a lot of fun for us duck hunters. We’ve been chomping at the bit all year long, and it’s finally the time to work our dogs, blow our whistles and swing on those tasty little rice rockets. But shooting small Teal is a different ball game than a committed fat Mallard or Pintail. Teal are quick and agile, so we must hone our craft to have success when hunting them.

Teal Hunting Artwork

Have Your Head on a Swivel

They can come from any direction, and those little buggars will be over your decoys and on top of your blind before you’ve seen them at all. Jump in the blind early and get still and quiet. When conditions are right, you’ll hear those little jet fighters buzzing around you. Once first light hits and it’s shooting time, get in active shooting position and be ready to pull up and shoot.

Use the Right ShellsTeal Hunting in Texas
In general, most of us hunt waterfowl with BBs (geese), No. 2, No. 3 or No. 4. But these
little ducks should be treated differently when it comes to ammo. We recommend using No. 6 (steel, of course) for Teal. This allows you to knock them down at close range and doesn’t explode the birds. You still get your meat, and boy is that meat tasty.


Shoot When Ready

Teal Hunting in TexasA lot of duck hunters designate a “Get ‘Em” guy who calls the shot when a group of birds has committed. This is a great tactic, but should not be a hard rule for shooting Teal. Unless they are balled up and coming in as a flock (lucky you), the Teal will pass in singles, doubles and often from multiple directions. Our advice is to allow the experienced hunters in your blind to pull up and shoot if a bird is in range. With that said, don’t ruin it for the group by shooting a single if there’s another flock in sight. Use your common sense, but you should think about shooting these small ducks differently than the other species because they are so fast and elusive.


Pick One Out

This rings true for shooting any types of Waterfowl, really, but it’s especially crucial for shooting teal. If you shoot into the flock, you will almost never hit one unless they’re balled up super tight. Pick out a bird, focus on the head, and swing through the shot. Once you’ve knocked that one down, find another one and repeat.

Here’s to shooting doubles in September! Best of luck out there, everyone.

Teal Hunting

Shameless plug: Our Lightweight Hunting Shirts are the best on the market for knocking down Teal!


James Allege

Wildrose Texas Partners

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Deer Tracks with Wildrose Ruddy

By Kim Yates, Wildrose Carolinas

It was about 3 years ago that Shawn killed a nice buck on opening day of Archery season

Kim and Ruddy

Kim and Ruddy

in Florida. We had been in the stand about 45 minutes when he called me and said that he was on his way to pick me up so I could help him with the blood track. It took us about 2 hours, several loops and turns, and trudging through the swamps of Florida to find the buck. I swore that my next dog would be trained to recover game.

The decision on what breed to get took me a while. Did I want a hound that was known for its scenting abilities and difficult to train, or did I want something that I could use for more than just blood trailing? I ultimately decided on a British lab for its biddability and hunting capabilities. This is where Ruddy entered the picture. We picked her up January 12thof this year. She’s a fox red Scottie x Cleo pup with all the energy that someone could ask for. She is also extremely smart. Training her has been entertaining; she can get bored easily so we are constantly having to change things up. She gets some training with tracking about once or twice a week in addition to her gundog training.

Training has included synthetic scent as well as the real thing. She was introduced to a preserved deer tail the week we got her along with her puppy bumper being soaked with deer blood. The hope was that she would imprint on the scent as a desirable object. The tail was by far her favorite and I have several pictures of her running through the snow toting it. Free play with the tail was encouraged as a positive reinforcement of a desirable trait and activity. This built up to a washcloth tied on a string and soaked in blood trail scent. I would throw the rag to a desired starting point and drag it towards the ideal end location. This yielded some successful tracks early on but she lacked the drive and excitement that Ruddy normally shows in her work. It was at this point that we realized we needed the real thing.

On September 18th, 2018, Shawn shot a buck and the shot was good enough to create a heavy and relatively short blood trail. We recovered the deer and marked the trail as we went. The following morning, we brought Ruddy out and got her to the beginning of the trail. I took her off lead and told her to “Find it.” which is a separate command from “loss”. She was off like a rocket and followed the trail almost perfectly. She went the full 68 yards and “recovered” the hide of the buck. Once she got the hide, we drug it around and made a party/game out of it. We wanted to reinforce the fact that she had done what we wanted.

It’s quite a site to see training come to fruition. In my case, the tracking training hasn’t been 100% of the time. Despite the challenges we have faced along the way, I believe that we are doing well and headed in the right direction. I was able to save the hide and some blood from this buck and will be using it to further her training. If you decide to train for tracking, I would highly recommend making contacts with hunters in your area. Have them call you if they end up with a really good trail and use it to train even if the animal has already been recovered. Any real track is better than no track. It doesn’t matter how long it is, if it’s straight or twisting. Take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself and remember that your dog is always in training.

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The Three Types of Shotguns Every Sportsman (or Woman) Should Own

By Annie Johnston Fisher, Johnston Arms


Annie Johnston Fisher

The decision to purchase a new shotgun often involuntarily invokes a variety of opinions from friends, neighbors, and fellow sportsmen. Simply conduct an internet search of the firearm you wish to buy and a handful of forums, blogs, and listings will occupy your screen. This article is not a commentary on the best gunmakers or shotguns on the market, though when asked, I will share my thoughts. Instead, I argue that every sportsman or woman needs to invest in three different types of shotguns to satisfy their outdoor needs.

Much like a bag of clubs is needed in golf, so different shotguns are needed for the types of targets that present themselves in the field. First, I recommend that everyone has a designated clay target shotgun. Typically, this is heavier in weight, has longer barrels (28-32”), and is either a 12 or 20 gauge. The weight of the gun and longer barrels encourage the shooter to insert and swing through the clay target without stopping the gun. Unlike in the field, the heavier weight is an asset, as there are frequent breaks and less walking. I personally shoot a 20-gauge over/under that weighs 7 ¾ lbs., with 30” barrels. For reference, I am only 5’1”!


Next, no sportsman or woman is complete without an upland shotgun. I often find that this is the most controversial. Some find it unsporting to shoot a 12- gauge, and instead prefer to shoot a subgauge like 20 or 28. Others, especially from the South, can be found carrying something as small as a .410 in the field. Regardless of the bore, an over/under or side-by-side are excellent for wingshooting, and comes down to personal preference. One of the most important factors to consider when selecting an upland shotgun is the weight. If you will be covering a lot of ground, a heavier gun may be less desirable. I became the envy of all the men on a recent hunt in Oregon, when I carried a 28-gauge side by side that weighed just over five pounds. Such a lightweight gun can have its disadvantages, but walking with it isn’t one. As a general rule, a side-by-side will weigh less than an over-under. If you opt to carry a 12-gauge in the field, perhaps consider one with shorter 26-28” barrels. Your upper body will thank you later.


Lastly, you’ll never find me with my clay or field shotgun in a duck blind. Ever. If you’ve spent any amount of time duck or goose hunting, you know what I’m talking about. Water and a fancy wood stock don’t mix. While there are more weather resistant over-unders on the market, I prefer a 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun for waterfowl. Though I have managed to shoot a few geese with a 20-gauge, I am much more confident with a 12. The 12-gauge gives you more pellets of the lighter weight steel shot, which can be helpful with pass shooting. I have found that a 12-gauge can also be a challenge, especially for women, as the length of pull can be too long. I recently purchased a women’s-specific 12-gauge semi-automatic for this purpose, and have been very satisfied with the results.

While I try to only shoot clays with my target gun, it is important to transition to your other shotguns before the seasons starts. I suggest practicing sporting clays or five-stand with your field and waterfowl shotguns before opening day. The clays may be difficult at first, but with time and practice the feel of the other long guns will come back to you, preparing you for success in the field. Within these three different categories of guns, there is an overwhelming variety and depend on personal preference and price ranges, and exceed the scope of this article. Rather, I hope that you consider the types of shotguns in your safe and their intended use. With time, each will begin to feel as an extension of your arm, and natural in the field.


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Wildrose Training Programs – Multiple Applications of a Common Methodology

By Dr. Ben McClelland

logo puppy and wildrose kennels

All kennels have one thing in common: dogs for sale. Wildrose Kennels, however, stands on an upper echelon of the canine breeding and training world. What makes Wildrose unique? We could list a number of things, including expert trainers, superior facilities (in multiple locations), and exceptional breeding stock.

Paramount among all factors are Mike Stewart’s guiding vision, his business model, and his development of the Wildrose Way, a unique, low-force, balanced training method that is field-proven and prepares dogs for versatility—any hunting situation or outdoor activity in any terrain and at any destination. Moreover, our Wildrose dogs are desirable companions in the home.

Wildrose companions travel with us along every pathway of human life. We have Wildrose Gundogs, Wildrose Adventure Dogs, and a variety of Wildrose Companion Dogs—Wildrose Scent Specialists, Wildrose Service Dogs, Wildrose Emotional Support Dogs, Wildrose Therapy Dogs, and, yes, a Wildrose “Facility Dog.”

Training in all of the programs relies on essential obedience and a training regimen


Sporting Dog and Retriever Training, The Wildrose Way

governed by twenty laws of training in order to establish foundational excellence in the dog’s behavior and within the trust relationship between handler and dog. One can find the full panoply of training instruction in Mike Stewart’s comprehensive text, Sporting Dog and Retriever Training The Wildrose Way (Universe Publishing, 2012).

Part of the genius of Wildrose’s operation is the manifold opportunities that clients and their dogs have to participate in structured dog-handling and hunting-and-training activities—from Starting Your Dog the Wildrose Way to Driven Wingshooting and an Adventure Dog Expedition. Between now and next April, Wildrose offers over two-dozen such activities in various locations. (See “Upcoming Wildrose Events.”)


Let’s look more closely at Wildrose’s three programs of special training.


The Gentleman’s Gundog

Wildrose Kennels specializes in breeding, training, and importing fine Labradors of British and Irish influence for the selective wingshooter. Our Labs—whether they are puppies, started, or finished retrievers—are distinctive in character, temperament, and ability as defined in the term Gentleman’s Gundog.

As our program description states, we believe that a Labrador, to be considered as a classic Gentleman’s hunting companion by English standards, must reflect certain desirable qualities. These desirables, which have undergone twenty years of continuous improvement, remain as the core values of the Wildrose Kennels breeding and training programs.

The Qualities of a Fine Gentleman’s Gundog include:

  • Intelligence and trainability
  • Keen natural hunting and game-finding ability
  • Superior compatibility; calm, quiet temperament; strong identity with their owner and family
  • Multi-purpose retriever equally proficient on dove, duck, quail, and pheasant
  • Excellent handling ability
  • Extremely steady to shot and fall; readily honors other working dogs
  • Appealing confirmation based upon the British standard; medium frame and weight
  • Superior field-proven ancestry

Nowhere can one see better exemplars of the Gentleman’s Gundog as in Wildrose’s

butch beach

Judd Beech and Kane at Double Gun and Sporting Dog Classic 2017

annual Double Gun and Retriever Classic, held in Oxford on an October weekend. Because it combines wingshooting with training, this multi-day event enables handlers to evaluate their gundogs’ skill levels before hunting season.


The Wildrose staff sets up various hunting sites in perfect field situations, including mown uplands and water venues. Split into three groups, participants begin with walk-ups, shooting clays and retrieving thrown or launched bumpers.

The simulated walk-up training clinic serves as a great workout. For one thing it is good to get the dogs socialized to group work. Also, it helps handler and dog communication, steadying the dogs under gunfire with bumpers flying, and then sending them for retrieves on command.

Evenings after the field-work offer one of Wildrose’s best features: camaraderie. As so many folks can attest, among the benefits of Wildrose are the hospitality that comes from the top down throughout the staff, the opportunity for clients to return at any time to train at the kennel locations, and the sense of togetherness everyone feels when they gather for evening social time. Gathered around a logfire, everyone warms up with a Wildrose tradition: Chris and Lani Wilke’s home made mint juleps.


Tailgating after a fun day in the field.

The value of the training, the warm camaraderie, and the unsurpassed, simulated hunting venues at Wildrose will call many back to the DG classic.


Wildrose Adventure Dog

AD logo words and color

Prepared to go anywhere, the Wildrose Adventure Dog is the perfect complement to a family’s outdoor lifestyle. For hunting, fishing, camping, and biking, the adventure dog is a companion of distinction.

A highly compatible, English Labrador retriever that is equally civil in the home or office as it is controllable in the countryside.

Our Adventure Dogs are thoroughly socialized and trained for a multitude of sporting activities, categorized under fourteen merits, including:

By demonstrating their achievement of merits, dogs can attain titles: Trail Rated (TR) with 5 skills completed; AdventureDog Certified (ADC) with 9 skills completed (including Public Access) and Master Trekker (MT) with 12-14 skills completed.

A number of Wildrose folks have engaged in AD activities, including some that were featured in previous journal articles, including WR Howie and WR Valentina. While AD dogs and their owners pursue the achievement of merits independently, many find it most desirable to participate in one of the many AD workshops, following a structured program of training.

The first such seminar convened in Buena Vista, Colorado, on August 20 and 21, 2011, where a diverse group of dog handlers came from various points of the globe to participate. BV, as the locals call the town, is located at about 8,000 feet elevation in central Colorado at the foot of the Collegiate Peaks (14,000 feet) and in the Upper Arkansas River Valley.  BV is a popular access point for world-class whitewater rafting, kayaking, and fly fishing on the Arkansas River, and biking, mountain climbing, and backpacking on local Fourteeners and the Colorado Trail.  The AD seminar participants sampled most all of these activities as Mike guided them through an action-packed two days of outdoors adventuring with dogs. Two BV sponsors loaned equipment: Trailhead (bikes) and Colorado Kayak (a kayak).

By the conclusion of the seminar the participants had been introduced to several new outdoor activities that they could enjoy with their dogs.  They also had taken measure of their dogs’ skill levels, finding activities that they could practice in their backyards.  The outdoor scene, the learning, and the fellowship all gave these dog handlers memories that will last a lifetime.  These folks experienced what all of us do who attend the Wildrose training activities: strangers who happen to enjoy working with dogs go through a challenging set of activities—learning, and laughing, and bonding together—and having developed friendships that will carry across the miles and years.

The upcoming event for AD folks this year takes place in quite a different outdoor venue: In February Wildrose Adventure Dog enthusiasts can participate in the Wildrose Adventure Dog Expedition-Bahamas, Blackfly Bonefish Lodge, Abaco Islands, Bahamas. Blackfly has been featured in Garden & Gun Magazine as an exceptional 5-star resort destination. Perfect for a Wildrose experience, the participants will enjoy individualized casting instruction, a sea-to-table culinary experience, golfing opportunities on a world-class course and biking, hiking, watercraft, fishing and other K9 adventures hosted in a fantastic location.


Wildrose Companion Dog

WSC Logo (1)

Wildrose labs are known for their amazing scenting abilities, temperament and trainability. Their instincts, intelligence, desire to please, plus their smaller size make them exceptional candidates for service, detection, alerting, and tracking as well as sporting companions.

Wildrose British Labs may be found providing a wide variety of valuable services in communities across the country. But these fine animals are not limited to just providing services and assistance, they are also personal companions of their handlers, and may pursue dual life styles, participating in therapy work and hunting during seasons. Examples include:

  • Diabetic Alert
  • Search and Rescue
  • Therapy Dogs: Schools, hospitals and nursing homes
  • Assistance
  • Detections: accelerant, cadaver, etc.

Dr. Scott Wilson serves as the Wildrose Service Companion Director. As a Pet Partners Team Evaluator, Scott has been busy enabling many Wildrose dog owners and their dogs to become qualified to conduct therapy dog visits under Pet Partners auspices.

In the Oxford area therapy dog activity abounds with visits to addiction recovery centers,Whitney.jpg nursing homes, and school classrooms. One of our therapy dog programs is an ongoing collaboration with teacher Whitney  Drewrey  of Lafayette Schools, the Mississippi Teacher of the Year.

Here’s a look at that collaboration: Twice monthly on Monday mornings Whitney’s  daughter-in-law, Wildrose Trainer Danielle  Drewrey, brought a Wildrose  Therapy Dog or two to Whitney’s reading circle. One day last fall, Foxy, a two-year-old yellow Labrador, accompanied Danielle and  Dr. Scott Wilson joined in with his dog, Sterling, also  Wildrose  Therapy Dog.

Danielle, a  Wildrose  Kennels trainer, is also the training coordinator for Wildrose Service Companions. Scott  is the  Wildrose Service Companions Director. They have been spear heading the use of service dog companions in a number of settings, including nursing homes, courtrooms, and schools.

Scott and Sterling  stop  directly behind Danielle and Foxy. Whitney began by reading a page of  The Berenstain Bears  to the class. Then, she turned to a student to continue the reading. The student read to Foxy, who listened attentively.

Whitney later explained, “Students, who lack confidence because they are behind a grade level or more in reading fluency and comprehension, feel at ease as they read to a dog that listens attentively without judgment. The dog is not going to make fun of them for reading a “baby” book as some of their peers might call it.”  This reading success, she said, builds the students’ confidence in reading out loud. If a child will find a love for reading, they will want to read more, and ultimately increase the fluency and comprehension component of their reading.

Educational research concurs with Whitney’s assessment of the  value of her students’ reading to Foxy.  A study revealed that the activity of students reading to a dog  “targeted the students’ intrinsic motivation (i.e., the students wanted to read to the dog) and their self-efficacy (i.e., belief they could perform better each time they read). . . [which] can increase pride (Shernoff, Knauth, & Makris, 2000).

After Whitney and her students had finished reading the book, the students got their reward: taking turns, each one walked Foxy  or Sterling  down the school hallway. During this part of the activity, students lined up for their turn. Their excitement bubbled over in smiles and giggles.

For Whitney  Drewrey’s  students  with multiple disabilities and areas of need, the Therapy Dog project for the reading circle produced many and varied benefits. In the  book-reading process the dog’s presence  focuses the students’ attention and motivates them to engage in the academic activity. Walking the dog  enables  students’  physical,  tactile stimulation and  motivates them  to move around, thus improving muscle development. Moreover, students practiced new social skill development and engaged differently in  learning  activities in an emotionally receptive  environment. Finally, in interacting with the therapy dog, students felt ownership and responsibility, developing their self-confidence and social skills.

Conclusion: Wildrose’s three specialty programs have served us well. Following these programs, thousands of Wildrose dog owners enjoy active lifestyles—and achieve work of distinction—with their exceptional canine companions in a multitude of ways. Each activity issues from one common methodology creatively expanded to enrich our varied outdoor lifestyles.

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The Life and Times of Wildrose Sterling


WR Sterling

By Dr. Scott Wilson, Wildrose Therapy Dog Director

Wildrose Sterling (Barney X Ivy) came into this world in September 2016 with great
expectations.  As a young pup he showed promise – intensely focused, bold, curious, and driven with a marvelous temperament and obvious willingness to work with his trainer.  His training progressed rapidly and his potential for a long gun dog career in the field seemed inevitable but every once and a while nature throws a curve ball. In the early winter of 2017, Sterling’s career aspirations took a sudden turn along a different path.  As luck would have it, or as nature designed, Sterling is incredibly patient, friendly, and adaptable, so he decided to investigate a career in animal-assisted intervention.  The first step involved expanding his exposure to many more human environments. He accompanied multiple handlers into stairways, hallways, elevators, children’s playgrounds, local parks, restaurants, assisted living facilities, numerous public buildings, and so on to assess his acceptance of these human environments.  As expected, he was happy and friendly everywhere and with everyone, and so began his next adventure.  After a time enjoying life indoors in a new multi-dog home, Sterling, in collaboration with a new handler, passed his national therapy dog evaluation with flying colors.  Sterling and his new handler immediately began therapy visits to a number of facilities.  He took to this new job like a duck to water.  Sterling reads people like a book, he sits as still as a statue when people seem cautious and allows strangers to approach at their pace. When strangers relax, Sterling puts on his “What’s up Doc?” face with a barely perceptible head tilt and that always brings on the smiles.  He seemed destined for a long career as a canine therapist when late that winter a much more important opportunity popped into his life.  Wildrose got a call from a disabled Veteran.

Yvonne was struggling with her transition back into civilian life with all of the accompanying changes and stresses, so she started searching for a service dog.  Her need was immediate, but the availability of service dogs anywhere was and is severely limited.  That’s when Sterling stepped up to volunteer his services and the Create Foundation stepped in to help this Veteran. Sterling was trained and thoroughly evaluated for therapy work with his second handler, but he was not yet trained or evaluated for service work, so Yvonne’s doctor at the VA Clinic in Tupelo prescribed an emotional support animal and Sterling’s new adventure got underway.  Sterling moved into his new home (hence the need for the ESA prescription) and began working with yet another handler.  (Spoiler alert – it was entirely obvious the first time Sterling met Yvonne that their companionship was headed in the right direction.)  Everyone was well aware of the upcoming challenges and they came in rapid succession beginning with a landlord who immediately objected to the presence of a canine absent additional financial arrangements.  In his inimitable fashion, just like he charmed the gallery at last year’s Double Gun, Sterling put on a great performance for the landlord and the first significant hurdle was in his rear view.  Sterling was given a practice month to adjust to his new home, family, and training.  He met new family members, including children and other pets, and they all got along famously.  More importantly, within a fortnight Sterling demonstrated that his senses were ready for this new job.  During the very first week Yvonne phoned Wildrose to say that Sterling was already marking changes in her behavior.  She clearly recalled an incident where Sterling was nudging her toward a sofa and her next conscious memory was waking up on the floor after passing out.  Sterling knew something was amiss and he conjured up a new behavior.  Later that week, Sterling awakened Yvonne from a nightmare by leaving his customary dog bed beside the master bed and climbing on the master bed for the very first time. Yvonne woke up to see Sterling’s happy “What’s up Doc?” face right in front of her nose.  Sterling was clearly discovering novel ways to communicate with his new handler, but we still had considerable work to do to get prepared for his service career.  Sterling and Yvonne continued training together through that first month practicing visits to public and very distracting places like Walmart and the Yvonne/Sterling team continued to improve.  Over the next several months Yvonne expanded Sterling’s exposure into new training environments, like the VA Clinic, the barber with her children, the doctor’s office, and long-distance car trips to visit additional family.  Scarcely any of these events were routine before Sterling joined Yvonne’s family.  Sterling quickly learned to adjust his behavior when wearing his service vest and as predicted, the two work as a team and support each other.


Sterling was quite young when he met his last handler.  Without a doubt there was definitely a learning curve for both parties and a few hiccups along the way.  Wildrose recommends that all working dogs be crate trained.  Among other things, the crate helps with house training and provides a safe space for the dog to relax where they can’t eat stuff they shouldn’t. Some service dog handlers recommend multiple quiet times in a crate every day to help the working dog stay focused and alert on the job.  The “Home Alone” movie series should never cast a dog as the main character, particularly a dog under 2 years old, not fully acquainted with household paraphernalia, or any canine likely to entertain creative new ideas.  Many dog owners, including myself, fail to realize just how much havoc a healthy dog can accomplish in a few short minutes. Yvonne had the displeasure of such an experience with Sterling.  Dogs who spend a great deal of time with their handler may develop a touch of separation anxiety as they train for their new responsibilities and young Sterling has a creative imagination.  In one instance, when Sterling was comfortably chilling in his crate, someone who shall remain nameless because their intention was good, opened Sterling’s crate in Yvonne’s closed bedroom thinking that would make him happy.  To the contrary, Sterling was surprised, a bit confused, and a little anxious in this novel situation, so he began searching for things that reminded him of his handler.  This search ended badly when he ingested a pair of earphones and a phone charger.  Fortunately, all that material “passed,” and everyone learned from the experience.  The Yvonne/Sterling team has come a long way together on their journey and they are just getting started.  Sterling has found his calling and he loves his work as well as his new family.


Scott Wilson

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Wildrose-Purina Pro Plan Emmy Award

Nick Snotot

Nicholas Stroot Mid-America EMMY Award in the category of Director-Post Production

The Wildrose-Purina testimonial productions were recently recognized with an Emmy!  Nicholas Stroot received the Mid-America EMMY Award in the category of Director-Post Production.  Nick Stroot along with Emily Narkiewicz Puricelli and Renee Walsh with Checkerboard Square, St. Louis, did a fanatic job on the editing process. We are very proud of the results and this significant achievement!

These productions have been utilized in advertising for Purina Pro Plan during the Westminster Dog Show, the video-tron at Madison Square Gardens during Westminster Dog Show, NBC’s Incredible Dog Challenge Finals and in the upcoming National Dog Show on Thanksgiving Day.



The productions were aired at the Emmy Awards ceremony.

The Wildrose-Pro Plan award winning Productions.

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Memories of Jack

By Heather Cass

Jack may not have been the perfect dog — but he was the perfect dog for me.

Heather and Jack walking.jpg

We met on Facebook.  It was the spring of 2011.   I had recently lost a dog, a beloved family member.  While she could never be replaced, I was ready to share our home with another dog.  But I worried that my schedule and other commitments would make it impossible to “start over” with a puppy.   I had seen an article about Mike Stewart and his wonderful Wildrose labs and I knew one possibility they offered was a “finished dog.”  A dog who was typically 2-3 years old, who had been trained in obedience and hunting.  I visited Wildrose in Oxford and placed an “order”.  I even attended the Beginning Handlers Workshop and was convinced that a finished dog would be right for me.  But, which one?  This is where Mike’s skills as a matchmaker came in.  He called one day to say that two dogs had arrived from the UK who seemed to fit my criteria.  They were both wonderful dogs, but wonderful in different ways.  His idea was to post videos of each of the dogs — Sam and Jack — on Facebook and invite other Wildrose Pack members to “vote” on which dog would be best for me, and why.  Then I would have the final say.  Voting was enthusiastic, if often contradictory. For example, some favored Sam, the smaller dog, as a better “fit” for a “lady’s” gundog.  Others suggested that it would be better to be accompanied by Jack, who was bigger, in my daily life in the city.  Both valid points. It was even suggested, by my daughter, that I should choose Jack because he was almost four, older than most, and might have a harder time finding a home.  Although it was officially my decision, in the end I relied heavily on Mike’s observation that Jack — who I favored because his looks reminded me of the dog I had lost — was very sweet and gentle and would fit well into the non-hunting part of our life.

And fit he did.  So well that it was soon hard to remember a time when he had not been by my side.

Jack was an intrepid traveler.  We both loved road trips and logged tens of thousands of IMG_3297miles traveling from our home in Maryland to Mississippi, Arkansas, Idaho, South Dakota, and everywhere in between. Sometimes these were sightseeing and hiking vacations, sometimes they were for training, hunting or picking up. I quickly learned that the qualities required for an excellent gundog — obedience, steadiness, and a patient, quiet demeanor — made him welcome on the road in city and country alike. At lodges and country house hotels we were often encouraged to leave Jack sleeping by the lobby fireplace while we went into the dining room.  One enthusiastic concierge pronounced, “He contributes to the ambiance.”  On another occasion, at a Wildrose seminar in Sandanona, we returned from lunch to find Jack at fireside having his picture taken with a group of young Japanese tourists.

Jack was a dynamic and accomplished hunter.  He had participated in field trials in the UK and he won the Wildrose Double Gun Retriever Classic his first time out, in spite of working with a novice handler. From the beginning, he knew far more about handling and hunting than I did.  And he proved to be an excellent teacher.   He taught me that “quiet is better”.   I didn’t need to shout and flail my arms as if hailing a distant ship. (This move, my misinterpretation of the traditional hand signal, was dubbed by Mike “The Heather Cast”.)  He also showed me, as no training manual ever could, what it meant to hit a scent cone, and why a good retriever hunts with his nose in the air.  Training with Jack was always a pleasure.  He always gave 100% and made me look better than I was.


Tim Clancy of Wildrose New England

When I had to be away for an extended period, I left Jack with Wildrose Associate Trainer Tim Clancy in New England.  He loved those visits, hunting, picking up, and hanging out with the Clancy pack, dogs and humans.  His hands down favorite was Tim and Danielle’s daughter, Kiley. They had a special bond.

Jack loved the smell of coffee.  It had so many positive associations.  All our road trips were coffee-fueled, and our early morning walks often included a stop at Starbuck’s, where I left him sitting in a patio chair while I went inside. The chair had a practical value: it made it easier for us to see each other through the windows, and harder for passing dogs and children to interact with him.  For his part, it felt to Jack like a tree stand, so he sat in silent but alert anticipation of the reward to come.  Of course, an unaccompanied lab sitting in a chair on a city street is bound to attract “petters”, so he never had to wait too long for the prize.

Jack was a beautiful dog, inside and out.  He was an elegant and powerful athlete.  He 20111101_DSC0182had style, drive and intensity. It was a pleasure to watch him in the field.  His lines were straight, his jumps effortless and graceful.  But his soft, gentle eyes revealed an equally gentle soul.  Around people he was sweet and calm, seemingly equally happy sitting in a patio chair at Starbuck’s or on a tree stand in a marsh.  Experience had taught him he could anticipate pleasure in both settings: the chance to retrieve a duck or be petted by a passerby, both rewards for being steady on his place.

Jack appreciated simple pleasures.  He loved to retrieve: birds, bumpers, tennis balls.  Even baseball caps. He loved road trips.  He loved the sound of gunfire and the smell of coffee. And he loved being with me.  The feeling was mutual.


Wildrose Jack gallery.

































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Remembering Lucy

We lost another of the first DADs that Wildrose placed. Her name was Lucy and she belonged to Valerie, who posted a tribute on Facebook: 


Photo from Valerie Christ Chapman

My Dearest Lucy, 
I’m not really a dog person so it was very surprising even to myself when I decided after one semester of Physical Therapy school that I needed a diabetic alert service dog to prevent nighttime hypoglycemic episodes/seizures or I was not going to be able to continue school.  It’s a path I started down that has forever changed my life.  It’s what brought me to you. 
24/7 for 6 years, with a nose bump or a gentle wave you faithfully alerted to me whether my blood sugars were going up or down.  Then, before retiring to being our family dog. You helped pull me along when I was temporarily confined to a wheelchair.  You were by my side when I graduated with my physical therapy degree, got engaged, and even walked down the aisle in my wedding.  You started my first job, at Mercy Hospital, with me.  We had to put an obnoxiously large “Do not Distract” sign on your back because everyone could see how amazing you were and they wanted to interact with you, too.   
You saved my life, kept me out of the hospital, and helped me to have stable blood sugars so I could safely get pregnant and for that I’m eternally grateful.  You made me a much more patient and less anxious mom. From the day that little baby Callista came home from the hospital you knew you had a new friend and someone else to protect. As Callie started to climb, you patiently laid there as a makeshift jungle gym. And as you grew together, you both loved playing under blankets, time alone together in the backyard, and eating any of Callie’s food you could get in your mouth.  Your name was Callie’s first word.  You got hugged and kissed before every one of Callie’s naps and bedtimes.   
You toured Las Vegas, hiked the Grand Canyon, had been to Saguaro National Park, canoed in Green Bay, went on many tent camping trips, and enjoyed Daytona Beach.  You’re one of very few dogs who rode The Maid of the Mist through Niagara Falls as well as visited the launch pads at The Kennedy Space Center. 
If anyone thinks you were just my dog, they’d be wrong.  Cory met you the day after I did and he’s trained you, cared for you, and loved you just as much as I have.  We had to say goodbye to you on Friday.  We are heartbroken but we will forever be thankful for the blessing of you.  I love you, Lucy and I’m a lot lost without you. 
Love you always, 
P.S.  And because you could never be replaced Callie thinks our next pet should be penguins from the Milwaukee Zoo.

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Wildrose Trainer Profile Series: Blake Henderson, Veteran Trainer 

By: Dr. Ben McClelland

IMG_6091 In his comprehensive training book, Sporting Dog and Retriever Training The Wildrose Way, Mike Stewart emphasizes the related roles of “communication” and “relationship” in training a dog: “Knowing how to interpret the subtleties and innuendos of canine communication is vital to a proper relationship. Communication begins with never compromising the trust and respect built into your relationship with the dog while still establishing a position of leadership” (Mike Stewart 41).

Through years of unstinting effort, veteran trainer Blake Henderson has developed an uncanny skill of working dogs through the gundog training regimen effectively. What’s been key for him in becoming so adept at the art and science of dog training?

Before directly answering that question, let me fill you in on Blake’s previous work history at the kennel, and some personal background, because he didn’t arrive at his apprentice trainer year, sight unseen. Not in the least. Born and raised in Oxford, MS, Blake began working at Wildrose as a kennel hand in 2007 and moved to kennel keeper at the end of 2008.

blake and trace

Blake and his dog Trace

During his six years working in those positions, he made significant contributions to the kennel’s infrastructure, creating more realistic scenarios to replicate real hunting environs for dog training. For example, designed and constructed three duck blinds on the kennel’s ponds and lakes, giving trainers and their dogs a variety of actual hunt-like conditions for water retrieving.

Moreover, Blake worked with the evolving bird program, with bird-dog training, and with upland hunting activities, maintaining sufficient birds for training. I recall traveling with him on a pigeon-purchasing trip to an Amish farm in nearby Pontotoc County. Blake bargained with the farmer for some of his barn pigeons, leaving a few empty cages at the farm. Returning a few days later we picked up the caged quarry. Many times, Blake would travel to several states throughout the Southeast and Midwest, gathering up various upland bird species.

Then, Blake began the kennel’s own bird breeding program with an incubator, birdcages, birdhouses, and a fly pen.

One of his most useful facilities for dog training is the recall house. Using Belgium homing pigeons, he developed a recall house where about 40 birds are housed and fed. To train dogs to stay steady in the face of a big flush of birds, trainers place dogs at sit in front of the recall house and flush the birds out the door. After a short flight around the area, the birds return to openings in the top of the house, roost and rest, and are ready for similar releases day after day. The recall house, with its flush of live birds, continues to be an invaluable facility for steadying dogs and preparing them for real hunting situations.

Also, during these years of working at the kennel, Blake met Mary Lee Ward, who ran the Wildrose Trading Company. The two—who share a love for dogs, the outdoors, and hunting—married in 2015 and now live close by in Lafayette Springs with personal dogs, a kennel, and a workshop. (Blake is always engaged in a rebuilding or a repair project on one type of vehicle or another.) While Mary Lee and Blake most enjoy wing shooting, they hunt everything they can together—deer, ducks, dove, quail, and squirrels.


Trace, Blake, Mary Lee and Gypsy

So, following those notes on his kennel work history and his personal background, let’s return to the question, “What’s been key for Blake in becoming so adept at the art and science of dog training?”

Early on in his days as an apprentice trainer in 2013, Blake understood what Mike explains to all novice trainers: “Your dog’s success depends as much on you as it does on him or her. A good hunting dog is bred to do many things naturally. You, on the other hand, are not genetically predisposed to train a dog. You need to spend as much time learning how to be a great canine leader and communicator as you do learning to apply the principles of effective dog training. An understanding of why dogs act the way they do, how canines learn, and how they communicate is imperative if you are to train hunting dogs in a positive, natural manner” (Mike Stewart 35).

During his apprenticeship year under Mike’s tutelage, Blake eagerly sought all of his mentor’s advice, as he worked a string of 6 to 8 dogs. As Blake worked his dogs, Mike stood at a distance, observing. Afterward, Blake would ask for a critique. Mike might say, for instance, “Okay, with this dog you’ve done the activity here enough. Don’t get in a rut. Move to a different spot. Remember—Five times in five different places.” With another dog Mike might suggest that Blake try a different approach altogether to the training drill. Mike’s critiques varied and were focused on the unique situation for each dog, whether it be reading the dog, keying on correct timing to stop a dog from moving out of the target range, or using the right tone with a particular dog. Over the year Blake was able to develop a handler’s mindset and an arsenal of training strategies.

blake and steven talking with mike.jpg

Blake and Steven planning with Mike

Then, in 2014 when he became a trainer with 12 dogs, Blake had a foundational understanding of the related elements of a trainer’s mindset and methods of inculcating training activities in his dogs. Beyond that time, Blake has continually sought to improve his training techniques and strategies by seeking the insights of mentors. For example, when the dean of Associate Trainers Craig Korff (Wildrose Kennels – North Central) visits Oxford from his home in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, Blake makes a point of sitting down with him to discuss the finer points of specific training activities.

However, don’t think for a minute that Blake is an all-work-and-no-play type of guy. Far from it. Everyone on the staff—including Blake himself—views him as a jokester. As keen an observer of people as he is of dogs, Blake easily seizes on someone’s characteristics,


“Blake’s witty humor and brother-like teasing”-Erin Davis

foibles, or circumstances and makes playful remarks. As I join the staff for weekly Group Work sessions, I’ll soon hear Blake’s comedic commentary on someone and something they said or did. Soon, I’ll become the focus of his barbs, as I work—not always with the sharpest technique—through the day’s training scenarios.

Yes, Blake is a tonic, lifting everyone’s spirits even on Mississippi’s most languid summer days. And no time does he do this more effectively than in his prankster mode. Bearing a mischievous grin, he’ll sneak up behind someone, tickling the back of the neck with a long blade of grass. Or he’ll set up a more elaborate practical joke for a hapless fellow worker. Ending in either an impish chuckle or a belly laugh, Blake’s aim is always to bolster camaraderie and lighten the tedium, as the staff works through all the day’s goals. Associate Trainer Erin Shay Davis (Wildrose Kennels – Great Lakes) notes that even with Blake’s witty humor and brother-like teasing, “he has absolutely always made me feel like a valued member of the pack.”

Blake is all business—from start to finish—when it comes to handling dogs. At the very beginning with a new pup he works to develop a relationship with the dog, becoming the pup’s friend, orienting him to the kennel and to the other dogs, all the while just being supportive of the pup, reassuring him in his new surroundings, while still being a leader, and not letting the pup get away with any misbehavior without some correction. After they’ve established a respectful bond, Blake, works on foundational obedience— such as, sit, stay, retrieve and recall, using positive reinforcement. (See Note below.) During this introductory phase, Blake is reading the pup’s demeanor, personality, relative energy level, athleticism, ability to take line, and to retrieve on land and in water. He After getting into the dog’s mind, that is, after gaining an understanding of the dog’s way of acting and thinking, Blake designs the training techniques he’ll use, depending on his assessment of the type of pup he is dealing with.


Hold Conditioning

For Blake, hold conditioning is a pivotal moment in the dog’s role as a learner and Blake’s as a leader. All of the fun field activities of retrieving end and the dog enters a two-or-three-week process focused solely learning how to develop a “good mouth” for retrieving birds. Blake says, “Hold conditioning—getting the dog to hold a stick gently but firmly in his mouth—is asking him to do something that he absolutely does not want to do, but he does it because he wants to please you.” That’s where the foundation of your relationship with the dog comes in. If Blake has developed a relationship with the dog built on respect, the dog will go through the various steps of hold conditioning, motivated by a desire to please his trainer. As Blake explains further, “We don’t force a dog to hold. He must do it on his own. But he does it because he knows you want him to.”

Following a successful hold conditioning process, Blake carries the dog back into the field work activities, sharpening up lining drills along a fence, teaching multiple types of retrieves on land and water, using a variety of birds and bumpers, introducing gunfire, etc. Besides working through the training regimen alone with the dog, Blake says, “I also do a ton of group work to steady the dog up. I want him to learn that when he’s in the field that he has to honor other dogs, to be steady when they are working, and to wait quietly and patiently for his turn. Blake continues over the last several weeks of a dog’s training to build on that early relationship with the dog, shaping him into the best gundog he can be.

Over the years of handling experience, Blake has developed savvy in reading dogs. As Erin Davis says, “Blake has a great eye for exceptional waterfowl retrievers, knowing exactly what it takes to be successful afield from a practical stance.” Midwesterner Davis wryly notes his Southern roots when she says, “Through his sweet Southern drawl, he’ll freely share a mountain of honesty about a dog’s abilities for the field and help you best prepare for a hunt.”

Adding more detail, Erin says, “As a handler and trainer Blake has the commanding presence of an assertive leader who gives clear direction to his dogs.” Erin observes, “One of Blake’s major strength’s is knowing when to let a dog work and when to step in and help him out. His ability to anticipate the dog’s needs, know his individual strengths and weaknesses, and creating diverse training scenarios allows him to produce confident dogs that excel in the field.”

After working with a dog for several months to its achievement of being a started dog, Blake still has another job to do: training its owner to handle the dog effectively.  Understanding Mike’s insight about novice handlers and trained dogs (as noted above), Blake has the owner begin working the dog through a training activity while Blake watches from behind. Blake says, “The dog knows more at this point than the owner. The dog is familiar with the drill; he’ not going to mess up. At a certain point I will interrupt the activity, have the owner put the dog at sit, and I’ll walk in front of the owner, and ask him why. ‘Why did you do this or that? Why?’ It’s not necessarily that he did anything wrong, but I want the owner to stop focusing on the end goal and get inside the process, not struggle through the drill and maybe let the dog go off course or become disobedient. Rather, I want the owner to focus on reading the dog, staying in the moment, thinking through the process with the dog, and thinking like a handler: ‘Which hand do I signal with? When do I blow the whistle? How loud do I blow it?’ That’s when the owner begins to think like a handler and can become much more effective working with his dog.”

Blake sees this moment of discovery for the owner—reading his dog and thinking like a handler—as an essential step to his effectiveness throughout his life with the dog. While the owner has observed Blake using “muscle memory,” just intuitively employing timing, tempo, and tone to work with the dog, the owner has to think through every step of the drill, every action of the handler, until he can begin developing facility with it. Blake hopes that the owner will hold this revelation in his mind and go home and practice, practice, practice with his dog—all the while developing that respectful, trusting relationship with the dog that Blake has developed with him.

Guy Billups (Wildrose Kennels Texas) attests to Blake’s acumen in reading dogs and in enabling dog owners to become dog handlers:

“Blake does an outstanding job teaching handlers how to problem solve anything with a dog, going beyond just getting a drill done to making sure the dog understands the command. It is very important to know why and how a dog does something not just that he does it. To me this is probably more important than any one drill. As trainers we can do great things with clients’ dogs but if the end users, the dogs’ owners, can’t perform the same tasks and eventually continue the dogs’ improvement, then it is all for naught. I think everyone beams when a dog comes back to the kennel better than when he left training. It means we successfully trained the handler. As we opened Wildrose Texas, I was concerned about how to translate dog training to dog owners. Blake was very helpful when I quizzed him on what clients receiving newly trained dogs should be instructed to do with their dogs. I knew what I could do with owner’s dog but it was important to understand how the owner could build up to that point, by starting out slow and small, as they got back in sync with their now-trained gundog. Blake’s ability to teach handlers is paramount to his and Wildrose’s successful delivery of proficiently trained retrievers for the home and field.”

On a recent weekend, Blake flew to another state with a dog that he trained for several months, delivering it to the owner and spending valuable time enabling the owner to begin learning how to become a handler.

Returning to Wildrose the next week satisfied with that delivery, he began a new day, finding stimulation in getting out with his string of dogs, because each day is fun. Something different happens every day. No day is the same. And he enjoys the mutually supportive friends on the kennel staff. And who knows the fun that a new day can offer a trickster!

billups, henderson, yates, lucius.jpg

Billups, Henderson, Yates & Lucius – Photo: Katie Behnke


The concept of relationship between trainer and dog, as discussed here, concur with Linda Case’s recently published analysis of how a “well-known psychological phenomenon called the Benjamin Franklin Effect” works in dog training. Her review of research studies bears reading by the interested dog trainer. Her conclusions show that both positive and negative reinforcement have significant outcomes on the cognitive and emotional state of the dog as well as on the dog’s owner. Simplified conclusion: Dogs perform and feel better when trained with positive reinforcement and owners feel better about the dogs they train with positive reinforcement. With negative reinforcement, the opposite is true for both dogs and owners (Linda P. Case 199-201).

Works Cited

Linda P. Case, Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog, Mahomet, IL, AutumnGold Publishing, 2018.

Mike Stewart, Sporting Dog and Retriever Training The Wildrose Way, New York: Universe Publishing, 2012.

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