By Dr. Ben McClelland
“Wildrose Kennels is the largest breeder, trainer, and importer of British and Irish Labradors in North and South America, specializing in its own signature brands of sporting dog—the Gentleman’s Gundog and the Adventure Dog. The company has a simple mission statement: Wildrose Kennels is dedicated to breeding and training the classic British and Irish Labrador retriever to become the perfect complement to a family’s sporting lifestyle.”
-Mike Stewart, Sporting Dog and Retriever Training: The Wildrose Way.
Leading Wildrose Kennels for more than two decades Mike Stewart developed a unique dog-training program based on positive methods. As the business has grown over the years—more UK Labs imported, more pups born and trained, new trainers brought on board, and more and more owners attending training seminars—Stewart maintained the same canine genetic traits and temperament, the same successful training methodology, and the same high performance requirements from staff members. Business success resulted from a reliably consistent brand: a Wildrose bred and trained Labrador.
In recent years the growing company has evolved further by creating licensed kennels in new locations. Wildrose International now maintains a one-kennel concept in three regional locations: Oxford, Mississippi; Dallas, Texas; and Hillsborough, North Carolina. Now these fully operational kennels are able to serve a much wider geographical area with puppy whelping, backgrounding, boarding, and training, in addition to offering a full calendar of events for handlers and their dogs. A unique computer software program houses information on all the dogs from each facility allowing each of the kennels to glean information about specific dogs. Each location offers experiences unique to its environs, while still maintaining product consistency.
Wildrose Kennels, Mississippi—Tom Smith
Tom Smith is the top dog at Wildrose Kennels in Oxford, Mississippi. After a stint as general manager, Smith now owns and operates the original kennel. Moreover, Smith also has partnered with the city of Wilson to bring guided quail hunts to the Arkansas Delta at The Bar W Shooting Preserve in Wilson, Arkansas.
A Note from Tom Smith:
“My Wildrose journey began eleven and a half years ago when I met my constant companion and favorite hunting partner Dixie (Hamish x Susie). After becoming an associate trainer and acquiring the adjoining property in 2010, I was blessed to join the staff full-time as the GM in 2014 with a budding plan to become the owner in 2019. The opportunity to be a part of this amazing organization and assist in the never ending growth of the Wildrose brand along with the constant improvement of our training methods and facilities has been a dream come true.
The onsite retail store Wildrose Trading Company, offers all the training gear we use and recommend along with Wildrose logo’d apparel, drinkware and other products. We wear the Wildrose Brand proudly and its always fun to meet people while traveling who have our dogs or recognize our signature puppy.
The Wildrose Experience is unmatched with the multitude of events we host. This year we have added the Bar W Shooting Preserve in Wilson, AR. We are offering guided quail hunts in the Arkansas delta set in an historic town that pays homage to the Old South. You can visit the Tom Beckbe flagship store, see the Hampson Museum filled with artifacts from the American Indian villages in the area, browse White’s Mercantile for quirky and cute home goods and finish it off with a great meal at the Wilson Cafe. Our partners offer a myriad of opportunities for hunting, travel and fun. I encourage our clients to take advantage of these great experiences.
The passion for our dogs and clients runs deep through every person who puts on that logo every day when they come to work. The kennel has been in Oxford for 21 years and we are looking forward to another 10 years of these amazing dogs. We all have big shoes to fill following Mike and Cathy, but I know the current team we have at our three locations and our associate trainers around the country will continue the heritage that has been built. There is nothing more exhilarating than living the “Gentleman’s Gundog’ lifestyle. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to work with these amazing dogs everyday?!”
Wildrose Texas – Guy Billups
Since 2017 Wildrose Texas has been located just 13 miles south of downtown Dallas on a beautiful campus at the historic, 850-acre Dallas Hunting and Fishing Club on the Trinity River in Dallas County, Texas. Incorporated in 1885 the club has been continuously operated ever since making it the fourth-oldest club of its kind in the US. The dynamo running Wildrose Texas is president Guy Cameron Billups, IV.
A Note from Guy Billups:
“I wanted to take a second and update the followers on Wildrose Texas, what we have done, are doing and what’s next.
Since moving the family to Dallas, TX to live in a 1905-built cabin, we have been on quite the Wildrose Adventure. Andrew Golden and George Bridges were the first to entrust Wildrose Texas with their beloved dogs and high expectations of the Wildrose Way. A thousand or so birds and a few years later, things worked out pretty well. I also got to know Jordan Caviness, a man with Wildrose running in his veins. We got together every week for group training sessions the first 8 weeks after the kennel opened. Jamey Rosamond and a few others started joining in on these small groups and helped create the skeleton of future things to come. By the end of 2017, we had the capacity to house 30 dogs and could feel the exciting momentum building.
2018 continued to be a year of spreading the word. We trained more fantastic Wildrose labs and met so many awesome people. We brought back summer small group training sessions on a weekly basis. With the hires of John Murphy and Gunnar Hirkschind, what was a one-man operation became an excelling team enabling Kelsey and me to end the year at the British Championship, a dream come true, watching great dogs and handlers work.
As we moved into 2019 the trip to the Championship would prove an exciting venture with the opportunity to bring over the youngest competitor, FTW Ffynongain Celt, “Otto.” Adding Otto to the sires’ lineup has been very exciting. Holly also joined the team, a Murphy x Pinny female, trained by associate trainer, Craig Korff. Holly was a wonderful blessing to us and enabled our first litter in 2019, proving to carry on fantastic Wildrose genetics. As we rolled into summer 2019, the kennel reached capacity on a very regular basis, so the planning began for a facilities expansion. With the huge help of Jordan Caviness, we completed building phase two, enabling the boarding of up to 40 additional dogs. With another addition to the team in the form of Pennsylvania native, Ben Baker, more great opportunities were offered. We pilot programmed “Wildrose Texas Summer Camp,” a daycare program where older dogs in the Dallas area could tune up and maintain throughout the offseason without having to miss a night at home. With raving reviews and requests for an extension of this program, we are pleased to have Ben as the main contact for Wildrose Texas Day Camp 2020, starting in February.
Looking ahead into 2020, we are excited to have litters planned that will be delivered in Dallas. Crawfish boils, small groups monthly training sessions and other activities are planned. The Adventure Dog Rendezvous comes to Dallas, April 3-5, with fishing, watercrafting, hiking, shooting, a BBQ and much more. I also traveled to England at the end of January to spend a week training dogs with the Bates, culminating in actually competing in a field trial. Excited to report back from this.
The sun continues to shine on the Wildrose Texas Experience.”
Wildrose Carolinas – Kirk Parker and Steven Lucius
Wildrose Carolinas is located in Hillsborough, North Carolina, on 250 acres of wildlife habitat in Southern Caswell County. Wildrose Carolinas features a 4,000 square-foot covered building with more than 30 individual pens and a full-service healthcare center dedicated to the comfort and care of dogs in training. A recently completed guest facility includes office space, two guest rooms and an entertainment area. The site offers a wide variety of training environments including 12 ponds including a ten-acre lake, rolling topography, flooded timber, grass fields and two miles of trails and roadway. The grounds provide the abilities to train for upland, waterfowl or adventure in every type of habitat one would encounter in the field or marsh.
A Note from Kirk Parker:
“I was first introduced to Wildrose Kennels when I read the 2009 cover-story article in Forbes magazine, “Luxe Labradors.” I liked what I read so much that I read it several times. Later, a 2012 article in Garden and Gun, “Leader of the Pack,” confirmed what I learned from the Forbes article. I was captured by what I thought was the most intuitive, thoughtful, and comprehensive approach to breeding and training dogs I had ever seen.
I grew up hunting in central Alabama and was always working with dogs, admittedly, pointing dogs at the time and it was and is today something I enjoy. I have been around dogs all my life and now I had to be a part of the Wildrose pack. I attended a workshop at a friend’s plantation in Alabama in conjunction with the Alabama Wildlife Federation — everything I had read was confirmed again. This is where I first met Mike and Cathy Stewart. Once I returned home, I exhausted the Wildrose website looking at the mating calendar and the different profiles of Sires and Dams. I wanted a fox red male and put in a deposit — the suspense began in earnest (in part because I had not yet informed my wife). A couple puppies were offered to me and due to travel and other circumstances, I could not commit to a puppy…. So, I waited some more. When I got the call from Cathy that she had a fox red male out of Red and Daisy, the time was right and I committed. I made the trip to Oxford from the Carolinas with the intent of picking a high-energy dog and as a result, his name — Gamble. And did I mention; I succeeded! I sent Gamble back for basic gundog training and then again for some more advanced and upland training. Steven Lucius trained him and did a great job. Each time, I made the drive to Oxford, I considered how nice it would be to have a Wildrose location in the Carolinas and the opportunity I believed was there from a market perspective.
I ruminated over this idea for a while and became more excited at the prospect. Early in 2017, Mike was making a trip to North Carolina for a photo shoot and I asked if I could meet him to get some help with Gamble and to ask him about the prospect of opening a Wildrose location in North Carolina, although he did not know that. And so I asked. We looked at a map and remarked at the population in the area – all he said was…”interesting.” And that was it.
Soon, I heard from Mike and he wanted to pursue this idea and so it went. Fast Forward . . . .
In August of 2017, Shawn Yates came on board and moved to Oxford where he trained and learned the Wildrose Way. In May 2018, after looking at several properties, I closed on the purchase of 260 acres of land in Southern Caswell County, north of Hillsborough, NC. Shawn and his wife, Kim, moved on site in May of 2018 and we set up a temporary location so we could train the dogs we already had entrusted to us and begin the process of building the full complement of facilities we now enjoy.
In September 2018, the kennel building was completed having 30 pens, a healthcare room, and a small equipment and feed room. In October 2018, the house in which Shawn and Kim now live was completed. Improvements were made to the property to enhance the wildlife habitat, training grounds, and access throughout the property. The Lodge was completed in November 2019. For now, our facility is complete. And we already need to expand in order to continue the legacy of great services Wildrose is known to provide. We have trained over 30 dogs, whelped 3 litters of puppies, held workshops and exhibitions in the area. Most of all, we have engaged and enjoyed developing relationships with clients, some new, some existing members of the pack who are glad to have a location in close geographic proximity.
Our property consists of 260 acres of wildlife habitat and training grounds with 12 water sources and we continue to develop it to enhance and provide even more options.
During the fall of 2019, Steven Lucius contacted me and said he was ready to be an owner and manifest his 12 years of learning at Wildrose Oxford. He was ready to take the next step in his Wildrose journey. After several discussions over a couple months, we agreed for Steven to be part of Wildrose Carolinas. In January 2020, Steven became a co-owner and he and Schuyler, Steven’s wife, made the move to North Carolina. Shawn and Kim continue to provide their excellent level of service in training and caring for the dogs. I am excited to have a new partner as part of the team that will carry Wildrose Carolinas forward.
We have big plans. As you will see from the video and photos, the property is excellent and has even more potential. We plan to develop our breeding program, enhance the wildlife habitat so that we can train in authentic upland and waterfowl habitat. We will be hosting workshops oriented towards gundogs, adventure dogs and therapy dogs. In summary, we plan to develop the property and resources so that we can extend the Wildrose experience to the pack with unyielding devotion to the Wildrose Way and the excellence, which is now synonymous.”
260 acres located in Southern Caswell County, North of Hillsborough, NC
12 unique water sources
Waterfowl and upland habitat
3 miles of roads and trails
40’ x 100’ kennel building with 30 pens and 8 oscillating fans
20’ x 20’ temperature controlled healthcare room and whelping area
20’ x 20’ equipment/feed room
3 bedroom home for onsite supervision at all times
2 bedroom lodge with firepit gathering area
3 RV hookups – 2 x 50 amp, 1 x 30 amp
Please come visit soon, we will be anxiously waiting…
Wildrose International, Mike and Cathy Stewart
Mike and Cathy Stewart maintain oversight of the trio of kennels that make up Wildrose International. Having developed a manual for kennel operations and overseeing the training of the kennel staff, the Stewarts make periodic quality-control visits to assure that consistent standards are upheld throughout the business. In addition, Mike continues to market the brand, appearing at numerous sporting events and conventions. Moreover, he creates opportunities for others in the company to make appearances as well. Finally, Mike employs his dog-whisperer role, assisting trainers in resolving intractable issues some dogs experience.
As in the past, the Stewarts will split their time between their seasonal training locations in Jasper, Arkansas, and Granite, Colorado. In 2003, Wildrose purchased and began the development of the Wildrose river training facility in Northwest Arkansas with two-thirds of a mile of river along the Little Buffalo, complete with both narrow and wide river sections. These training grounds, Wildrose of the Ozarks, offer a river-training dimension to the kennel’s training experiences. For nearly a decade the Colorado facility at Clear Creek Ranch has offered opportunities for summer mountain training at a 9,000-foot elevation, bordering as it does, the prestigious mountain trout stream Clear Creek, which was previously an Orvis-endorsed fly fishing destination.
Mike Stewart, Sporting Dog and Retriever Training: The Wildrose Way, 2012: 10.
Annie Johnston, “Girls, Guns, and Guy.” https://wildroseblog.wordpress.com/2018/08/01/girls-gundogs-and-guy/
Mike Stewart, Wildrose International, “It’s River Time.” December, 1, 2019. https://wildroseblog.wordpress.com/