By: Dr. Ben McClelland
Editor’s Note: This is the second article in an ongoing series on Wildrose Syndicate members and their dogs. Syndicate members are a subgroup of Wildrose handlers, who participate with their dogs in various Wildrose field activities, such as picking at upland bird shoots, participating in the Wildrose pheasant hunt, volunteering at shows and presentations, etc. In this article Craig Korff, Wildrose Associate Trainer, North Central, along with Wildrose Syndicate members, Allan Klotsche and Greg Thomas, write about their dogs and the adventure they experienced picking pheasants at Blixt & Company’s Driven Shooting this fall. Here is their story. -BWM
Associate Trainer, Craig Korff – Wildrose North Central
During the week of Sept. 11th, 2017, two of my clients and good friends, Allan Klotsche and Greg Thomas, joined me on a trip to pick up at Blixt & Company’ s Driven Shooting near Driggs, Idaho. Lars and Jen Magnusson and their staff work tirelessly to provide the finest driven shooting in America. Through association with Mike Stewart and Wildrose Kennels, trainers and owners of Wildrose dogs enjoy the opportunity to pick up at this fantastic venue. Ryan Alderman, trainer at Wildrose Teton, was a great host to us. Ryan does an excellent job of organizing and directing the handlers and their dogs for each drive.
Both Al and Greg are proud owners of Wildrose dogs and are very dedicated to the training and proper handling of their dogs. I had the pleasure of training Greg’s dog, WR Josie (Deke x Heather), through the WR Gundog Program. Greg traveled 2 1/2 hours one way, one or two days per week, through the late spring and summer to become more familiar with Josie’s training and to work on proper handling. Al , who has about an hour drive one way, came up about one day per week with WR Beau (Deke X Dream) to train together, as well as attending the Handler’s clinics at Wildrose each spring. Both Al and Greg believe in “Training the Wildrose Way” and are dedicated to learning the proper handling of their WR dogs.
On the trip to Idaho we took 6 dogs with us:
Al with WR Beau, black male, Deke x Dream, 2 1/2 years old.
Greg with WR Josie, black female, Deke x Heather, 21 months old.
Me, Craig, with WR Holly, black female, Murphy x Pinny, 20 months old.
Plus three dogs in training:
WR Maggie (littermate to Josie ), black female, Deke x Heather, 21 months old, owner Kurt McCulloch.
WR Lanner, imported in May 2017, black male, 2 1/2 years old, owner John Raitt.
WR Jax, black male, Barney x Ivy, 11 months old, owner Ryan Little.
A note on Jax, Being only 11 months old, he was a little young for this trip; however, he has been with me for about 7 months after backgrounding with Erin Davis. Jax is doing exceptionally well in training and performed brilliantly whether handled by me or Greg. Jax never broke once and withstood performing his duties under all the difficult circumstances and complexity of the driven shoot.
I cannot stress enough the training value of picking up at Blixt&Co. This isn’t a venue for the young dogs, as the driven shooting takes place in very challenging terrain with difficult obstacles to deal with. That, coupled with hundreds of birds in the air, constant gunfire, diversions of birds falling, and other dogs picking during retrieves, multiple retrieving opportunities and running birds all create a very complex environment in which the dogs are working. Proper handling of your dog is extremely important to help guide them in their work.
There are many training opportunities during every drive, such as watching birds in flight, being steady to wing, shot and falling birds, honoring another dogs work, staying on the bird sent for, hunting (“loss”) when sweeping for downed birds, trailing and picking runners, ignoring diversions and blind retrieves.
The clients’ previous experience in handling their dogs is a plus. Good preparation is essential to provide a solid performance base for your WR gundog, such as, working on solid obedience, steadiness, marking, honoring, ignoring diversions and participating in group work.
Prior to the trip Al, Greg, and I had discussions of what to expect and the importance of keeping each dog under control in this environment. Al and Greg worked very hard to prepare and they did a brilliant job of handling their dogs in extremely complex conditions, which contributed to their dogs performing so very well.
Also, as Al, Greg and I were planning, this adventure to the west, Al suggested checking for any VRBO’s in the area. Al did some checking and we settled on a home in Driggs. This turned out to be one of our best decisions. Each had a private room and we shared the rest of the house. We enjoyed making meals and having more time to share and discuss our fabulous experiences. A significant plus was having our dogs in with us on their places. Having the dogs in was very important as the elevation and terrain took its toll on our dogs. My personal dog WR Holly has a calm, pleasing temperament, with the ability to be patient and calm. In the field she has tremendous focus and is an aggressive bird finder and retriever. This drive and determination took its toll on her as after the first two days afield the webbing between her toes was red and irritated as well having scrapes on each of her front legs. All of these required attention with antiseptic cream and sprays with buffered aspirin for the soreness and good rest after the days events. The dogs had a day off on Thursday, which worked out well. Based on how Holly acted Thursday evening and early Friday morning I wasn’t sure that she would be ready to go afield. We loaded the dogs into the trailer and headed out to meet for the shoot. Upon arriving I opened the door to Holly’s compartment and called her out. She came out ready to go as if she had no soreness or stiffness at all. The desire in these dogs is amazing.
Note: Here are a few important points to consider when traveling/hunting with your dogs:
1. Always have a well-stocked first aid kit with you to treat your dog when needed.
2. Have the phone number and address of the closest vet to the area you will be in.
3. Be sure to give your dog a close examination at the end of the day to check for injuries, thorns, stickers, seeds in the eyes, and be prepared to treat anything you find.
4. Do a quick check before heading out the next day to make sure your valued companion is physically ready to go afield.
I highly recommend, to all Wildrose trainers and owners of Wildrose dogs, to make the trip to Idaho to pick up at Blixt & Company as part of the the Wildrose Syndicate. It is a one-of-a-kind experience. I also want to thank my good friends, and Wildrose Syndicate members Al and Greg for making the trip and experience so enjoyable. –- Craig Korff
I am very passionate about training dogs and developing that 1:1 relationship with my dog, so I decided to train Beau myself, but with a lot of support from the Wildrose team. Beau is our fourth lab, but the first one from WR and trained the WR way. Our previous dogs were great hunters, but really not what you would consider calm in the house and a companion that you would want to take anywhere. I am fortunate to live close to Craig Korff and was spending 1 day each week co-training with him – picking up tips from Craig, and learning by watching Craig work with his other dogs. As you well know, Craig is a class act and an enjoyable person to spend time with. WR is lucky to have someone of his passion and experience as part of your team. I cannot emphasize enough the value that I have received from the Training the Wildrose Way book and the multitude of videos that WR posts on social media. I also am a regular attendee at the WR Handlers workshops in Oxford, MS. Although I can tell a slight difference between a “professionally” trained WR dog and Beau, I am extremely satisfied with how he is turning out and get many compliments on him.
Dog’s Background / Personality
I was on the waiting list for over a year, anxiously waiting for a call from Cathy. On October 31st, my Mom suddenly passed away which, as you can imagine, was a really tough life-event to deal with. Two weeks later, Cathy called me and said that Dream had a litter on October 31st and did I want a pup? Filled with emotion – I knew this was the right litter for me! Beau is a protoypical WR dog, calm and mellow in the house and driven in the field. He has a great nose and an insatiable desire to hunt. When we have company come over to the house and Beau is on his Kuranda bed they will not even know that we have a dog sitting in the next room. The value of place training is absolutely priceless. Beau and I are tied at the hip. When I am home, we do everything together. He runs errands with me and especially likes going to the airport when visitors come in from out of town. Although he is not technically a service dog, he loves going inside, riding the escalators and waiting outside of TSA to greet a familiar face!
Blixt & Company Driven Shoot, September 11-15, 2017
When Mike first mentioned the Blixt & Company Driven Shoot, I knew that it was something I wanted to do. I am an avid fly fisherman and love the western part of the United States. I knew that this type of training would be nearly impossible to replicate at home or any local training ground. The experience that we had spending a week in Driggs, Idaho, was something way beyond my expectations and one that I would HIGHLY recommend to others. If anyone is serious about advanced handling of your dog, this must be on their list.
Ryan Alderman, Associate Trainer of Wildrose -Teton Valley, was a great host to Craig, Greg, and me while we participated in the Blixt & Company Driven Shoot. Ryan integrated us with his regular group of handlers – who were all very welcoming. On these driven shoots there are 8 shooters, each standing at a peg about 40 yards away from the next shooter. As handlers, each one of us would be assigned a peg and we would stand indiscriminately about 25 yards behind the shooters. The three of us would most often split two pegs, which gave us plenty of work to share across the dogs. After the second day of picking, Beau was so sore and stiff that he could hardly navigate down the two front steps. I was prepared with my first aid kit and hoped that a buffered Asprin and rub down would help him be ready for the next day. The next morning, Beau was still somewhat stiff and didn’t have much energy. Having traveled all the way out to Idaho, I wasn’t real interested in leaving Beau in the truck for the day, so I decided to take him out and just have him sit and get the experience of hearing lots of shooting and seeing lots of birds. However, when the first gunshot went off, Beau miraculously found a second life and said, “Put me in coach!” His retrieves were a bit atypical that day as he took his lines at about 1/2 pace, even more gingerly on the return once he had the prize in his mouth. Forty retrieves later, he successfully finished his third day. From there on out, he was good to go for our final day of picking. There is nothing bigger than the heart of a Labrador!
By the end of our trip our dogs heard 18,000 gun shots, saw roughly 12,000 birds and picked over 2,000 birds (across the 8 of us who were picking)! There is just no substitute whatsoever for this type of volume and experience. I feel like we got 4-5 years worth of training in one week. The steadiness of the WR dogs proved to be such an important component. I was glad to see, but not surprised, that none of the 6 dogs we brought out broke even once.
I have posted six YouTube videos showing what a driven shoot is like and some nice double and triple retrieves that Beau had. You can find links to these at:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hB6o7O7IqsI https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hrc8xzo5SX8&t=1s https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cPqOekChIk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOlFC7g75Ms&t=1s https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvzYZmt9-h4 https://www.youtube.com/edit?video_referrer=watch&video_id=K5DbW4IuTFw
If anyone is “on the fence” about this trip and they would like to speak with someone who went, I would be happy to share the many positives of my experience. At a high level, the key benefits were:
1. Unbelievable steadiness. It is one thing to practice at home, but it is just priceless being in a “war zone” with shots going off constantly, dogs running all over, birds dropping in every direction, including within inches of the dogs.
2. Marking. We practice a lot of sight marking and sound marking at home, but I could not believe the improvement in Beau from day 1 to day 4. His senses were so alert towards the end, especially when we were positioned deep in the woods.
3. Diversions. Last year at the WR handler’s workshop we did a simulation of a driven hunt, which was pretty neat. However, the real deal is so much more of a sensory overload for the dogs. It’s unbelievable to see the dog’s ability to stay focused on the bird he was sent for while so much else is going on. The wooded areas that we picked from made for some super challenging terrain with a lot of difficult obstacles to navigate.
Things I would tell other WR handlers in advance of coming out for a Blixt & Company Driven Shoot:
· Get your dog in the best shape possible. The combination of the altitude and the terrain are very tough on the dogs. Not only should they be actively training, but they should be working on aerobic activities like biking and swimming. Beau does a lot of this, which helped him work all four of the days, but he was still very sore in the mornings. Beyond the pure physical exertion, the altitude plays a factor as well.
· Work on toughening up your dog’s footpads in advance – whether it be through gels and ointments or the terrain you are training in. This is something that became an issue for our dogs and held a few of them out for a day. We applied generous doses of Musher’s Secret in the field and at night, which helped. The local pet shop also recommended a spray on antiseptic product that also seemed to help.
· Get into shape yourself. While my count showed us walking between 3-4 miles each day, it is not the walking that gets you, it is the climbing up and down the rocky hills for the sweeps at the end of a shoot. Standing on a 45-degree hill for the shoot is also something that gives your knees/back a workout.
· Make sure you are prepared with plenty of hydration for the dogs and collapsible water dishes. It was 80 degree the first three days that we were out there. Then it turned to 35 and snow!
· Prepare your attire. You are not allowed to wear any camouflage. Although pickers don’t need to be dressed in full English hunting attire, you need to be in khakis, grays and greens. Be prepared for temps as high as 80 degrees and bright sunshine to snow and 30s. We had both in a 24-hour stretch.
· Pack a cooler with plenty of human water and food for lunch as you are pretty far away from town to run in and grab something. It is pretty dry, so having a case of water in the cooler at all times is a good idea. –Allan Klotsche
Josie started her training with Erin Shay Davis from Wildrose Great Lakes. At nine months of age, she went to Craig Korff in Wisconsin. Craig trained Josie until she was 18 months old when she came home with us to southwest Wisconsin. We are so delighted in what Erin and Craig have taught Josie through all of her training. They are true assets to Wildrose! I work with Josie an average of two hours every day. We do a number of Wildrose drills. I also use various types of launchers with live pigeons and ducks. I’m a firm believer in tossing diversions on retrieves. Hunting lost is a very important part of her training and we practice it several times each session. Overall, Josie is a pleasure to work with. She has taught me many things.
Josie’s Background & Disposition
Associate Trainer, Erin Davis, Wildrose – Great Lakes, discusses Josie’s training background and describes her personality.
“She completed the backgrounding program with me then completed hold conditioning and was just starting her gundog skills. I brought her home around February 1st and I believe she moved with Craig in late October. She had basic obedience commands like sit, recall, place, crate training, and heel. She also had exposure to basic retrieves with trailing memories, 180s, sight memories, and hunting cover on command. She was stopping to the whistle with distance and learning the early parts to back casting. She was working in grass, low cover, thin tall cover, and water. Always a strong swimmer, Josie probably loved water work and hunting cover the most. She’s always had a willing attitude and enthusiasm for her hunting skills. She was very natural with her learning and never had to be forced or convinced. A trusting partner who was content to be a teammate in the field from early on, Josie had steadiness with denials and did a great job honoring other dogs through group work with dogs of varying ages and experience. She had traveled pretty extensively for a 6-month-old with multiple trips from Indiana to Mississippi and Arkansas. She attended the handler’s course that year as a spectator and starting your dog the Wildrose way class. She even participated in the starting your dog class with a young child as her handler to which she was attentive and gentle. Josie’s sweet gentle disposition made the child comfortable and allowed her to enjoy the day of learning. She attended the adventure dog workshop that year as well after exposure at home to kayaks, fishing, bikes, ATVs, hiking, horses, and public access. She was a very hardy puppy who was never fazed by in-climate weather. From the very start Josie was a go-anywhere girl, always willing to hop in the truck for a quiet ride and well mannered at each stop, including going out to dinner with us.” –Erin Davis
Blixt & Co Driven Shoot, September 11-15, 2017
I recently had the opportunity to pick up on a driven shoot at Blixt and Company in Idaho. What a fantastic experience this would turn out to be for Josie! Picture this….. NINE shooters, TEN dogs and Hundreds of birds! Talk about excitement! We worked hard at keeping our dogs steady on the first couple of drives. Gradually, we started letting them retrieve a limited number of birds as long as they remained steady. At the end of each drive, the dogs would hunt lost for cripples and dead birds during “sweeps.” There were over 1,500 birds shot in the first three days! The dogs couldn’t have gotten that kind of experience and exposure anywhere else. This goes to show that training the dogs the Wildrose way pays huge dividends when we transition to the field.
Attire for picking up at Blixt & Co: No camo, and no bright colors Your dog’s conditioning is critical. Higher elevation and some heavy cover can be tough on a dog.
This was a wonderful experience that I would highly recommend to any Wildrose owner and their dog. Special thank you to Ryan Alderman, Trainer, Wildrose – Teton Valley. Ryan made us feel very welcome and worked us in with the other Dog handlers. Feel free to contact me at 608-527-1950 or email me at email@example.com with any questions you may have. Miscellaneous Notes Driggs, ID, is 45 minutes from Jackson, WY, and approximately a 30-minute drive to Wildrose Teton Valley.
Private aircraft are able to fly into the Driggs Airport, which has a 7,300 ‘ runway. Elevation is 6, 231. Hertz has rental cars at the airport. We were able to rent a VRBO. There are several rooms offered in the area. Some take dogs and rates do vary. Best Western: 208-354-2363 Super Eight: 208-354-8888 Broulim’s Grocery Store, 240 S. Main St. Driggs. Driggs Veterinary Clinic: 1309 N. Hwy 33, Driggs. 208-354-2212. Open 8-5 Monday-Friday. Saturday 8-12 noon.
Having owned several hunting dogs over the years, I’m all too familiar with the training going out the window when the shooting starts. Those are the times we “hope for the best and prepare for the worse.” Josie was wound up as we headed out to our first peg. Not making a mistake on the first shoot was foremost on my mind. To my surprise and relief Josie sat quietly and focused on birds in the air. I watched closely and saw her marking birds as they fell. After two days her tail had that bent in half look and I could tell she was a bit gassed. The following day I didn’t use her but by our last day she was roaring to go. All was not perfect, but Josie did well and I couldn’t have been prouder.