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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Hickory Grilled Quail w/Charred Corn & Peaches 

In this issue we are pleased to present a favorite recipe from Sean Butler, Executive Chef, Five Star Plantation, Alabama.

quail recipe

Ingredients for  quail:
4  whole quail
1  teaspoon sugar
1  tablespoon salt
1  cup water
1  tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
1  sprig rosemary, Chopped
2  sprigs thyme, Chopped
2  garlic cloves, Crushed, chopped

Directions for the quail:
Put all ingredients in a glass or stainless-steel bowl. Marinate 3-8 hours. Grill quail over hickory. Serve over corn & peaches.

Ingredients for corn & peaches:
2 ears of corn, kernels sliced off and cobs discarded
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
2 medium peaches, diced
2 tablespoons fresh juice from 2 limes
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, roughly chopped

Put 1 tablespoon of choice fat in cast iron skillet and heat over medium heat until shimmering. Add corn, red onion, and jalapeño and season with salt. Cook until corn begins to char and onions and jalapeño soften, about 3 minutes. Scrape corn mixture into a large bowl and add peaches, lime juice, and cilantro and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.


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Wildrose Carolinas – Open June 2018

Wildrose International is pleased to announce its latest, full-service facility located  20 minutes north of Hillsborough, NC at 9851 NC Hwy 86, Mebane, NC 27302.

Wildrose Carolinas is located on 250 acres of wildlife habitat in Southern Caswell County, NC.  The development of the properties and facilities began in June with temporary facilities.

Construction is underway on a 40 x 100 sf covered complex with over 30 individual pens and a full service healthcare center dedicated to the comfort and care of dogs in training.  This building will be complete in early August 2018.

The extensive training grounds will consist of every type of hunting and training habitat  necessary for the development of sporting dogs including 12 ponds, a 10-acre lake, rolling topography and two miles of trails and roads.  Dogs can be trained in every kind of enviorment one could encounter in the field or on trail.

See photos below for a sampling of the Wildrose Carolinas facility.

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Wildrose Carolinas offerings:

  • Training
    • Backgrounding (crate, place, housebreaking, walking on lead)
    • Basic Obedience
    • Gundog training for waterfowl and upland pursuits
    • Adventure Dog training for the active family that wants to include their dog
  • Boarding of all Sporting dog breeds
    • All dogs boarded will be availed to our SEA system daily:
      • Strength
      • Endurance
      • Agility
      • Mental stimulation
    • Production
      • Black, Yellow and Fox Red puppies available (2019) as well as started and finished labradors
    • Events
      • Workshops open to all breeds
        • Starting your dog the Wildrose Way
        • Obedience
        • Basic and advanced gundog
        • Basic and Advanced handlers – we train you to train your dog
        • Adventure Dog Rendezvous

Our Staff:

Shawn Yates, Manager and Head Trainer, Wildrose Carolinas


Photo by: Katie Behnke

Shawn is originally from Southern Virginia and is the Manager and Head Trainer at Wildrose Carolinas. Shawn attended Virginia Tech where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Wildlife Science. Following college, he moved to Florida where he was responsible for habitat management and guiding upland hunts on a 6,500-acre plantation. Shawn began training sporting dogs discovering his passion.  In August of 2017, Shawn joined the Wildrose staff in Oxford where he trained for 4 months.   During this apprenticeship, Shawn was immersed in the Wildrose Way and quickly earned the respect of the Wildrose team.  While in Oxford, Shawn had the opportunity to work with dogs in all disciplines and stages of development.  Shawn has the capability to apply the full scope of the Wildrose Way training programs and health care systems at Wildrose Carolinas.  He is well versed in the gundog, obedience, and adventure dog programs. In addition, Shawn experienced multiple training seminars, puppy delivery days and the signature Double Gun event in Oxford.  Shawn understands the Wildrose methodology and brings the excellent services of Wildrose Kennels to the Carolinas.

Shawn is married to Kim Yates who has vast experiences with health protocols for all sporting dogs. She, too, will be an excellent complement to the Wildrose Carolinas operation.


Kim Yates – Retail and Healthcare Manager, Wildrose Carolinas

kim and pup.jpg

Kim Yates is from Madison Virginia and is our Retail and Healthcare Specialist. Kim grew up showing Labradors and Beagles. This encouraged her love of animals and she quickly began working with any species and breed she could. She has a vast background pertaining to animal care and attended Virginia Tech where she studied Animal Sciences. Kim moved to Florida with Shawn after getting married and was responsible for the health and records of approximately 20,000 head of cattle. After moving back to the area from Florida, Kim began working for an animal hospital and taking classes towards obtaining her veterinary technician license. She trained at the Oxford location from February to May of 2018 experiencing everything from whelping litters and monthly health checks to puppy picking. She looks forward to working closely with the dogs in training to maintain the best health possible.


Kirk Parker – Owner of Wildrose Carolinas


Kirk is an entrepreneur and business owner from Raleigh, NC.  He is involved in all aspects of Wildrose Carolinas.  In 2015, Kirk purchased his first Wildrose dog (Wildrose Gamble – Fox Red male). Over the last three years, he has trained using the principles of the Wildrose Way.  Kirk believed that there was an opportunity to bring the Wildrose experience to the Carolinas and in early 2017 approached Mike Stewart about doing so.  Timing is everything and now Wildrose Carolinas is a reality bringing the Wildrose experience to the Carolinas.  Kirk grew up hunting and training all types of hunting dogs and is passionate about the sporting lifestyle and particularly enjoying those pursuits with his dogs.

Please get in touch with us and come see all that is available for your sporting lifestyle at the Wildrose Carolinas location.

Please contact Kim Yates if you want to book your dog for training or boarding.  Or bring your dog to our facility for some group work and tour our facility.

Kim Yates
(919) 500-8797

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Wildrose Great Lakes Expedition

Diverse displays of the Wildrose Way

Great Lakes Expedition banner_edited-1

An exciting August opportunity is ahead on the sandy shores of the southern tip of Lake Michigan!

Erin Davis, Associate Trainer of Wildrose Kennels – Great Lakes, has a full weekend of events planned to truly exemplify all the joys that training the Wildrose way can bring.

Therapy Dog Registration
Evaluations for Therapy Dog Registration will be offered by appointment only on August 17th and 20th in Valparaiso, Indiana. Though Wildrose staff will be on site to support the participants, this is not a training event. These dates are being offered as an alternative evaluation site for our northern regional pack members. The dates are open to Wildrose and non-Wildrose dogs alike.

Basic qualifications for the dog includes a solid foundation in obedience and socialization. Additionally an online course must be completed by the handler prior to the test.

For more information on our therapy dog program collaboration with Pet Partners visit

To discuss the program, prerequisites for evaluation, or make an appointment please contact Scott Wilson, Wildrose Service Companion Director at

HRC Hunt Test
Looking for a new goal for your hunting dog or a different way to evaluate your current field training status?

Kankakee River Hunting Retriever Club is hosting their fall UKC licensed regular hunt test on August 18th and 19th at Grand Kankakee Marsh in Hebron, Indiana.

This is a testing event offered by a local hunt club which is open to the public. Associate Trainer, Erin Davis will be on site both days to support our Wildrose pack members participating in the test and assist those interested in learning more about the hunt test process.

Event information can be found at
To register for the test go to

Adventure Dog Merit Verification
For pack members coming to the area for either or both of the above listed events, skills for the merits of the adventure dog program can be verified in person by request.

Contact Associate Trainer, Erin Davis for the specific merits needed to advance your certification. Arrangements for access to areas around scenic Northwest Indiana will be made to complete the specific merits requested.

Dates will be planned pre and post therapy evaluations and hunt tests. Times will vary based on location, merits requested, and number of participants.

Go to to order your Adventure Dog Program packet and start earning your badges today!

Contact Us
For more information about these events and additional local information please contact Erin Davis at or 219-928-0621. Additionally you can follow her pack on Facebook and Instagram by searching “Wildrose Kennels – Great Lakes.”

Great Lakes Expedition_edited-1

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Girls, Gundogs, and Guy


“Girls, Guns and Guy”

By: Annie Johnston,

In March, Wildrose Texas hosted an event with the Dallas Women’s Sporting Club and Johnston Arms. Several ladies and their four-legged companions had the opportunity to attend, myself included. As the participants began to trickle into the century-old wooden building on the property, Guy Billups, owner and lead trainer at Wildrose Texas, lectured on proper dog handling. He covered a wide range of material in a relatively short amount of time, before we were sent to get the dogs and head to the field. Since I’m still waiting for a puppy, Guy let me borrow his dog, Wildrose Bleu, for the event.

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Annie Johnston lining dog

During the event we worked on several drills. Each dog in attendance was unique in his breed and personality. WR Bleu performed fashionably. I wish I could say that I was responsible, but it was evident that Guy had spent months training Bleu to get to this level. At one point, Guy moved all of us to the duck pond for some water retrieves. When it was my turn, I received very specific instructions to convey to Bleu. I tossed the first bumper into the water. “WHRRR,” I puttered, as it splashed some 30 yards in front of me. Turning to Bleu, I said his name, and he leapt off the edge of the mound and into the cold pond below. Halfway between the shore and the bumper, I whistled for Bleu to stop. Immediately he turned around mid-stroke, stopped, and watched me as I threw a second bumper to his left. He didn’t even flinch. Then, I gave him the back cast to retrieve the first bumper. As he swam back to the shore with the reward in his mouth, I was extremely impressed with the discipline and maneuvers Bleu was capable of.

This was the first class I had the privilege to attend at Wildrose Texas. As with any experience I have had with Wildrose, the facilities, dogs, and trainers demonstrate a profound amount of knowledge. Better yet, they are capable of sharing and communicating it with me, a new trainer, and making me feel both comfortable and confident in my abilities. Through this event, I gained even more respect for the Wildrose Way, the handlers, and their skilled four-legged companions. Wildrose Bleu, by the way, was later featured at the Kevin’s Catalog Fashion Show in Houston. His ability to transition from the field to the runway is quite impressive. Thank you, Wildrose Texas and your fantastic team, for putting on such a great event. I hope to participate in more in the future.

A note from Guy Billups:

Since arriving June 2017, the Wildrose Texas facility has transformed from a cabin dating back to the early 1900s, a slab of concrete, and some schematics into a fantastic facility. Receiving the feedback such as this has been awesome. In just a short year we’ve grown into a fully-booked, 30-dog kennel, a trading post and health care facility. We have hosted a “Starting your Dog the Wildrose Way,” Women’s Clinic, and a summer group training program.

What’s next on the agenda? The kennel is looking to employ two more kennel assistants.  Our import, Wildrose Harvey, will be joining the stud dog ranks.  Many more training seminars are on the horizon and one of the most exciting developments is the Wildrose Texas Jamboree. The Jamboree will be held the first of March and will be hosted graciously by the private Dallas Hunting and Fishing club. Events include steadiness work on the clay course, a Texas quail run scramble, and a Euro tower shoot.   Johnston Arms will be providing shooting instruction and we hope to be joined by other retail partners and sponsors.

We thank you all for joining in our endeavor to ensure that the sun never sets on the Wildrose experience.

Guy Billups,, 972-266-6808

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DU Retrievers Column-Diet & Nutrition Tips with Purina

Reprinted with permission from Ducks Unlimited Magazine and author, Tom Davis.

An excellent article by Tom about properly feeding a sporting dog based upon the advice and research of Dr. Brian Zanghi, Purina Research Nutritionist and owner of Wildrose Aspen (Deke x Ellie).  Brian’s advice is the basis of Wildrose’s nutrition protocols and is shared at each of our workshops across the country.  It is the “Wildrose Way” to feed active, sporting dogs.

By: Tom Davis

dekeWe all know that a sturdy platform requires three good legs. If any one of them is weak, wobbly, or flawed, it won’t be able to bear real weight. When tested, it’ll collapse.

It’s the same with our retrievers and the legs their performance is built on: training, conditioning, and diet. There’s almost always room for improvement with respect to the first two, and most of us, if we’re honest, would admit that we could do better. When it comes to diet, though, there’s really no excuse for notgiving our dogs exactly what they need, every day of every year, to perform to the best of their abilities.

The thing is, proper nutrition isn’t complicated. According to Purina Research Nutrionist Brian Zanghi, Ph.D., hunting retrievers should be fed a high-protein, high-fat “performance” diet—often called a “30/20 diet” in reference to the percentages of protein and fat, respectively—from the time they emerge from puppyhood to the end of their working careers. And they should be fed this diet year-round, notjust during the hunting season or when they’re competing in field trials or hunt tests.

“Feeding a performance diet year-round keeps your dog’s metabolic engine primed to operate at peak efficency,” Zanghi notes. “If you switch to a maintenance diet lower in fat and protein during the off-season, you effectively ‘de-prime’ that engine and put your dog at a conditioning disadvantage.”

kane.jpgThe only variable, stresses Zanghi, should be the amount of food your dog’s allowed to eat. “You want to keep your dog in ideal body condition at all times,” he says, “and to do that you have to adjust the amount you feed to reflect his activity level. That’s what I do with my own Lab, Aspen (a 3½-year-old son of

Deke, the official DU retriever). When we’re not hunting or seriously training, he gets two cups of food a day. When his activity level increases, I up the amount accordingly.” (To determine if your dog’s body condition is where it needs to be, go online, search for the Purina Body Condition System, and compare your dog’s profile to the chart. If he’s not in the Ideal range, you’ve got some work to do.)

While it’s OK to feed an adult dog twice a day if he’s not being heavily exercised—this is what Zanghi does with Aspen, who accompanies Zanghi to his office at the Purina complex in St. Louis—a dog that’s hunting, competing, or training on a regular basis will do better if he’s fed just once a day. “For a dog that’s exercising hard more than twice a week,” says Zanghi, “feeding once a day in the late-afternoon or early evening is definitely beneficial.”

What you definitely don’t want to do is feed your dog heavily in the morning before a hunt, a competition, or strenuous exercise of any kind. We hunters of the two-legged persuasion can’t imagine going afield without a filling breakfast but dogs just aren’t built that way.

“When you feed your dog in the morning,” Zanghi explains, “you trigger digestion signals that run counter to the exercise metabolic signals you want to promote. You’re putting your dog in a rebuilding and nutrient storage mode when he should be in a nutrient breakdown mode. Your dog’s biology is telling him it’s time to take a nap, basically.”

The process of digestion also increases your dog’s need for water—less of an issue for duck dogs than for upland dogs but an issue nevertheless.

In this same vein, giving your dog a mid-hunt snack won’t hurt as long as you maintain strict portion control. “You should keept it small,” says Zanghi. IMG_6996

“For a Lab-sized dog, no more than ⅛-to-¼ cup, whether it’s his regular kibble, a pre-formed ‘dog burger,’ or even part of your sandwich. The goal is to put some nutrients into his blood system but not trigger that digestion effect.”

One question Zanghi hears a lot is when, or whether, to switch an older hunting dog from a performance diet to a senior diet. Most of the latter are around 27% protein 14% fat and have fewer calories per unit of volume. “As long as your dog is hunting actively,” Zanghi advises, “he’ll continue to benefit from a performance diet. When you cut back to the point that he’s only hunting a few times a season, that’s the time to transition to a senior diet.”

Sidebar: The Hydration Factor

Keeping your dog hydrated, especially in field hunting situations where surface water may not be readily available, is an important part of the performance equation. There are a number of products on the market represented as the equivalent of Gatorade for dogs, but do they really help? According to Purina’s Dr. Brian Zanghi, the answer is No. “A colleague of mine published a study comparing the hydration benefits of an electrolyte replacement product versus those of tap water,” Zanghi reports. “What he found was that there’s no additional benefit whatsoever.” To help motivate dogs who are reluctant drinkers to get enough fluid into their systems, Zanghi suggests adding low-sodium chicken stock to their water.

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Barn Hunt & The Ratting Retriever


UCH Apple Blossom Misneach de Chroi “Meesh”

By: Jessica Anlauf
One of the fastest growing canine sports in the United States today is Barn Hunt. Live rats are safely housed in pvc pipe tubes and hidden among straw bales within a trial ring. Tubes which contain only rat litter as well as empty tubes are also hidden within the bales. A handler and dog team enter the ring and the handler releases his dog to find the rats. It is the dog’s job to distinguish between which tubes are empty, contain litter or contain the live rat and then indicate, often times by pawing, scratching or barking when they have found the live rat.

The Barn Hunt Association’s website ( IMG_0309describes the sport as “based on the traditional roles of many breeds in ridding farms, barns, crop storage areas, and homes of destructive vermin.”  Those breeds are generally found within the terrier group and were used by professional rat catchers in England who were paid based on how many rats the dog would find and kill. However, terriers weren’t the only ratters employed in the 1800’s. In fact, in a book titled “Full Revelations of a Professional Rat-catcher, After 25 Years’ Experience,” written by Ike Matthews in 1898, Ike describes how retrievers were vital to his employment and offered him an even greater profit than terriers ever could. Retrievers would hunt and find the rats but instead of killing them they would bring them back to him unscathed. Those same rats were then used in rat hunting competitions held later on. Therefore, a good ratting retriever would provide the rat catcher with a dual income, one for ridding the space of the rat and yet a second for the use of the rats in subsequent competitions.


Although competitions varied and evolved over time, Ike describes one particular form of competition held int he 1800’s that closely resembles that of Barn Hunt today. Rats were released into bales of straw, and roughly 60 men from all classes and walks of life would compete with their best ratters to see which dog could hunt and find the most rats. Rat Catchers like Ike were even employed by clients to train their dogs for rat hunting at their estate as well as for competition.

Today the sport ensures that rats are safe and unharmed by housing them in pvc tubes,


Photo © Debbie Christoff

but all other aspects appear to be the same. Terriers enter the ring with a natural instinct to kill, while retrievers hunt and oftentimes attempt to retrieve the tube. Individuals of all backgrounds enter the trials with their dogs and spend countless hours on training with professional dog trainers to ensure a successful run at the trials. The atmosphere is one of excitement and competition yet also of camaraderie and respect for the dogs. Barn Hunt is still a sport that can be enjoyed by all including the once highly valuable ratting retriever.


Jessica Anlauf
Apple Blossom Kennels – Braham, MN

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Parmesan Crusted Pheasant Breast; over brown gravy egg noodles with prosciutto wrapped asparagus


Recipe by: Tom Smith, General Manager Wildrose Mississippi

6 pheasant breasts
1 bag egg noodles
2 jars Campbell’s brown chicken gravy
6-8 slices prosciutto
1 bundle asparagus
4 eggs
1 bag of shredded Parmesan
Cook and drain approximately one bag of egg noodles.

Preheat grease in an iron skillet to medium high. Use enough grease to almost cover the pheasant

Dip the pheasant in an egg bath and roll in grated Parmesan, repeat.

Put the breasts in the skillet and crust the Parmesan until browned. Be prepared! The cheese will bubble and splatter.

Remove from the skillet and drain the grease from the breasts.

In a glass cooking dish (10×14 works for 6 breasts) pour the egg noodles then cover with brown gravy and stir until the noodles are coated. Chef’s choice to either make the gravy or use Campbell’s brown chicken gravy.

Place the cooked breasts on top of the noodles and gravy and bake at 375 for 30 minutes. This will finalize cooking the breasts.

Wrap approximately 3 stalks of asparagus with a slice of prosciutto, mist with olive oil and season to taste. Place bundles on non-stick baking sheet and cook for 20 mins at 375. I usually cook the asparagus the same time as the pheasant just on a higher rack.

And now, enjoy!

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Tweed, the Original Camouflage: A Look at Traditional Hunting Attire

By: Dr. Ben W. McClelland

different colors of tweed.jpg

Different colors of tweed

Most contemporary American sport hunters wear clothing that’s colored in variousshades of green and brown and patterned with leaves and black tree bark. Our preference of hunting clothes style—camouflage—comes from the military’s ages-old method of protecting personnel from detection by the enemy. A visit to Bass Pro Shops, Mossy Oak, or Cabela’s reveals the varieties of the today’s “in look” for outdoor wear: a bulky, camo winter coat with a hood and trousers to match.

As surprising as it may seem, tweed once reigned as the signature camouflage for any respectable sport hunter. How did that come about? Through a long and intriguing history, only the highlights of which I’ll outline.

According to “Tweed Guide,” “tweed emerged in Scotland and Ireland as a way for the farmers there to battle the chilly, damp climate that characterizes those parts. Tweed began as a hand-woven, rugged fabric, resistant to wind and water with excellent insulating properties. The cloth was rough, thick, and felted and the colors were muted and earthy.”


Prince Albert

In 1848 Prince Albert bought the Scottish estate of Balmoral and when the foundation stone of Balmoral Castle was laid in 1853 he designed the Balmoral Tweed for use—as camouflage—by all the stalkers and ghillies on the estate. Many of the English aristocracy followed the Royals, buying estates for grouse shooting, deerstalking and salmon fishing. Balmoral Tweed was predominantly grey with overchecks of red and black the background contains threads of black and white yarns twisted together to achieve the appearance of the rough hewn granite so familiar in Royal Deeside.


British tweed was ideal for sportswear for a 19th and early 20th-century gentleman due to its hardwearing qualities.  The English gentry quickly adopted tweed for outdoor wear on their country estates, but it wasn’t until King Edward VII took an interest in tweed, particularly the Glenurquhart tweed, when he brought the cloth to Savile Row, that it really became popular. (Tweed)

The word tweed was not derived from the River Tweed, although the cloth was manufactured in the Tweed Valley. Tweed is usually made by a variation of the basic twill weave, and the old Scottish name for twill was tweel. The name tweed is attributed to a mistake on the part of a London clerk who in 1826, when drafting an order or invoice for tweels, accidentally wrote tweeds, a name that quickly established itself. (Encyclopedia Brittanica)

The wide range of modified twill weaves in use includes herringbones, diamonds,

socks dogs

Wildrose Teton Valley (picture by Chris Dickinson)

chevrons, cross twills, and checks, along with an even more extensive variety of stripe, marl, fleck, and mingled heather effects in many tones and hues. The counts of the yarns and the twist and colours employed vary greatly, as do the ends and picks in warp and weft, or filling. Technical advances in dyeing raw stock, yarns, and fabrics, together with new techniques in finishing, have resulted in a wide variety of stable and hard-wearing apparel cloths made in different weights. (Encyclopedia Brittanica)

A lot of skilled fabric designing went into developing tweed as an effective camouflage fabric. As the “Tweed Guide” explains,

Sporting tweeds were developed as a form of indigenous camouflage to help hunters blend into the landscape particular to individual hunting estates. Color combinations were optimized to find the most effective combinations.  For instance, one local weaver produced eight color variations for the Strathconon Estate before enlisting hunters to prove which was least visible.  Tweed’s estate sporting background is the primary reason we have so many variations of patterns and colors today. (“Tweed Guide”)

One of the old traditions of the Highlands was that the chiefs provided some clothing for their retainers in the clan tartan.  As ownership of Scottish estates changed, new tenants and owners wanted to follow this tradition but they had no “right” to wear a tartan.  The story goes that the first Estate Tweed was “born” when General Balfour of Balbirnie rented the Glenfeshie Estate between 1834 and 1841, the General’s daughter was “disturbed because she had no tartan.”  So she designed a check, based on the Shepherd check, the traditional tweed of the Border shepherds, but with a scarlet overcheck.  She felt that this gave her a “tartan” for her staff, which the ghillies and keepers all wore right into recent history.  This check later developed into the Gun Club checks.

However, there was another reason for the creation of estate tweeds, and that was the need to blend in with the background of the mountain and moor to provide a camouflage for the stalkers when they were on the hill when pursuing the red deer of Scotland. (Tweed)

Also around the same time, Lord Elcho created his tweed for the new London Scottish Regiment.  He felt it wrong that soldiers should be wearing so conspicuous a colour as bright scarlet, and had this idea of camouflage in mind as a solution. This tweed, commonly known as the “Elcho mixture,” led onto the khaki uniform now worn in many versions everywhere. (Tweed)

For some hunters today, tweed is still seen as the preferred hunting attire—specifically, a tweed jacket (or blazer), flat cap, checked shirt and a tie, and breeks (short pants that fasten below the knee).

Admittedly, some social class structure is suggested by a comparison of contemporary hunting camouflage and traditional hunting attire. And perhaps because of mass marketing, camo is ubiquitous, while tweeds are less so.


Loader at Blixt & Co, Wildrose Teton Valley (picture by Chris Dickinson)

A writer in the “Gentleman’s Gazette,” views this as a regretful style choice: “Unfortunately for the dapper gentleman, shooting apparel has dwindled in the same sense that men stopped wearing slacks and blazers in the 50s and 60s and reverted to sweatpants and hoodies as being the socially acceptable attire for a day out. However, there is a contingent of us still who enjoy dressing for the event, and there’s no reason we can’t wear traditional country attire for a day of shooting. Any man who claims you won’t have a successful hunt should be reminded that camo has been used for just a few decades whereas men have been successfully hunting in elegant attire since the Romans.”

Actually, as the popularity of upland hunting grows, so does the appearance of traditional dress—svelte in tweed. Moreover, recently aired English historical period dramas, such as “Downton Abbey,” have also spawned greater interest in traditional hunting plaids.

American upland hunting destinations—which offer pheasant, partridge, and quail hunting—draw clients to the sport and to the traditional style of hunting dress.

For example, Idaho-based Blixt & Co. offers premier, traditional, driven pheasant and partridge shooting, as its website says, bringing “a long-held English tradition to the majestic American West.”

In giving advice to its clients, Blixt & Co. suggests traditional dress:

It is important to come prepared and dress for the shoot. Each shoot is different, but it is best to bring clothing that will keep you comfortable, warm and dry, with an eye to earthy colors and NO CAMMO or BLAZE. Driven Shooting attire should not be confused with duck hunting gear. Tweeds, wools and earthen colors are expected and you should avoid bright colors that will flare the birds. Blaze orange is required for upland or walk up hunting but should be avoided on a driven shoot as the birds flying overhead can see it and will quickly divert their course.

In addition to considering the weather, make sure that you can comfortably mount your gun and that you are not impeded by what you are going to wear.
A traditional Tweed Shooting Suit usually consists of the following: Breeks, Long socks with flashes, Shooting Vest, Sport Jacket, and a Field Coat or other outerwear.  Additionally matching or coordinating trousers can be included. You certainly don’t have to wear all of this, but if you are asked to dress traditionally, consider what you pack. You should also ask your host how formal dinners will be. On some English and Scottish Estates you are expected to wear black tie. (Blixt & Co.)

Blixt & Co. give much more detailed advice for Ladies Field Fashion. Owing to Jennifer Magnusson’s keen eye for ladies’ traditional hunting dress, she opens the section, “Notes,” in a pleasantly conversational style, saying, “Like you I am always looking for inspiration, great fitting items that I can add to my collection and advice from other women.” Jennifer continues, encouraging the clients to interact, “I use Pintrest a lot. You can check out my pins here! I also encourage you to share with me, your favorite items, where to buy, new brands and designers and I will share them here.” In the ensuing multi-page section, “Guidelines for Etiquette & Dress” presents four distinct style “Looks,” each one including a picture of the style described.

Hunters interested in traditional hunting attire can also look to Leonard Logsdail, of True Bespoke Tailors, New York & London. Logsdail presents a full line of traditional hunting dress for the high-end client. Dubbed “Logsdail Classic,” this ensemble includes a classically tailored collection of traditional hunting attire. In a series of YouTube Videos Leonard Logsdail presents each piece of clothing—showing the precise attention to functional detail in the design of each piece, including Game Shooter Vest, Field Coat, Sportsman Jacket, Gentleman Jacket, Poacher Jacket, Breeks, Gentleman Trousers, Cavalry Trousers, and Rake Trousers.

lonard logsdail.jpg

Leonard Logsdail

Viewing the videos, one can learn some interesting facts about bespoke tailoring—as well as some intriguing details about furtive hunting practices. For example, Logsdail appears to delight in demonstrating a large interior pocket sewn inside the lining of the Poacher Jacket. The pocket was designed so that a poacher could hide a hare from the game warden. A strap extends from the armpit to the top edge of the pocket in order to hold the weight of the hare, preventing the jacket from bulging and revealing its illegal contents.

Coincidentally, Leonard Logsdail was a recent Wildrose Workshop participant. In addition, the Wildrose Trading Company stocks his stylish necktie that features the Wildrose puppy-with-bumper logo.

Style choices for hunting attire will continue to trend towards hunters’ personal preferences and type of hunting activity. No doubt, more folks will sport contemporary camouflage; nevertheless, it’s heartening to see that tweed continues to make a resurgence, giving sporting men and women other functional and stylish options for outdoor clothing.


Works Cited & Consulted

Blixt & Co. Sporting Days


British Country Clothing


British Tweed – The Story: 14th October 2016, In “Fabric, Secrets & Know-How,” Tweed


Country Clothes & Odd Jackets


Encyclopedia Brittanica


Gentlemanly Pursuits: Hunting and Shooting Attire


Hunting, Riding & Shooting Suits from the 1930’s


Informal Country Style: Apparel Arts 1938


Leonard Logsdail, A short Interview


  1. Bruce Boyer, Len Logsdail, Part II


Logsdail Classic, a classically tailored collection of traditional hunting attire. YouTube


Nigel Carville, conversation, May 28, 2018. Wildrose Kennels, Oxford, MS.  Since 1999 Wildrose has had a relationship with Nigel Carville, Astraglen Kennels, Portadown, N. Ireland. On a recent visit to the Oxford kennels he provided helpful insights for this article.


Tweed Guide

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