Diabetic Alert Dog Donated to Oxford Boy

Originally posted by The Oxford Eagle

brandon and bilko

Brandon King is in the fight of his life, but he will not continue it alone.

The 10-year-old, who has Type 1 diabetes, faces a daily struggle with his fluctuating insulin levels. Thanks to donations from community organizations, King recently was gifted a diabetic alert dog to help monitor his insulin levels.

Bilko, a yellow British Labrador bred at Wildrose Kennels of Oxford, was trained at Wildrose and Hub City Service Dogs in Hattiesburg in preparation to help King.

“We are honored to have one of the Wildrose Diabetic Alert Dogs placed with Brandon,” said Tom Smith, president of Wildrose Kennels. “We know it will be life-changing. Thanks to the hard work of the Northwest Student Nursing Association and generosity of the community, we were able to give Brandon a best friend and life-saving companion.”

For individuals like King who live with Type 1 diabetes, the biggest threat is rapidly changing and irregular blood sugar levels. Even with the modern technology of the 21st Century, such as glucose monitors, there is still not a method that’s able to sense changing blood levels as quickly as diabetic alert dogs.

Dogs trained to assist diabetic individuals learn to monitor smells in the air for a specific scent on the human breath that is related to rapidly dropping or low blood sugar levels. The dogs are then trained to alert the person with diabetes, usually by touching them in a specific way, such as pawing or nudging them.

The dogs are even trained to alert family members when necessary. Bilko will be on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, allowing King’s family to worry a little less each day.

The Wildrose Diabetic Alert Dog is sponsored by the Northwest Mississippi Community College Student Nursing Association, with contributions from Wildrose Oxford, Hub City Service Dogs, the CREATE Foundation and the King family.

group DAD2

Donations will cover the cost of the dog all the way through lengthy stages of training. The total cost for Diabetic Alert Dog training can be more than $30,000.

Danielle Drewrey of Wildrose Kennels trained and worked with King and his family on how to handle Bilko in the home, at school and restaurants. The early training was designed to help King gain confidence and build trust with Bilko.  Drewrey also taught King’s family how to send Bilko on retrieves as a reward.  “As soon as they met, you could tell they were going to be best friends,” Drewrey said. “Brandon did great throughout the training process.”

The Student Nursing Association at NWCC presented the final donation for Bilko at Wildrose Kennels Oxford last Wednesday.

To learn more about Wildrose Diabetic Alert Dogs, visit www.uklabs.com or contact Scott Wilson at srwilson@uklabs.com.

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Preseason Hunting Prep

Written by Wildrose Carolinas

Carolinas Photo 2

With hunting season already here in some locations and fast approaching for others, we offer a few helpful tips and reminders for taking your young dog through its first hunting season. It is important to build on all of the time and effort that you have put into training up until this moment. While most of this is for younger dogs, many of these concepts apply to seasoned dogs as well.

Transitional training: A key step on the journey to developing a true Gentleman’s Gundog is the transitional training before the dog goes to the field for the first time. Try to closely simulate the environment your dog will encounter so that the first time your dog experiences something is not the day of the hunt. Training the way you intend to hunt is a crucial part of how your dog will perform. Build transitional training drills that utilize the tools you plan on using during hunts, such as dog hides and stands, duck blinds, guns, decoys, other dogs, etc. Also, consider how you get to your blind. Do you walk carrying all sorts of gear? Do you ride an ATV? Boat? Have you ever asked the dog to sit quietly while you load and unload and set up to hunt? As we all know, the excitement of real birds, more people, and gunfire are stimulating to say the least. Dogs get excited just as we do; the rush of stimulation can lead to bad behaviors, which usually leads to a bad interaction between you and your dog and nobody wants that. Working your dog with the purpose of transitioning to the real thing, “practicing” prior to the season, allows your dog to be more comfortable with the new environment, sounds, smells, and gear associated with a hunt. Since we know dogs are place oriented, this step in training will serve to make things go smoothly despite all of the action. Ideally, if you can expose your dog to the actual place you will be hunting before season begins, you should. This gives your dog a chance to learn the lay of the land and the particular location.

Carolinas photo 1

Game time: Go to the field with the objective of continuing to train your dog instead of shooting. Early on, let others shoot and focus on your dog. Depending on how things go, you may begin to shoot yourself. If your dog is steady, attentive, quiet, and focused, reward with a retrieve. If not, take note so that you can work on it later. While it is tempting to give the dog a lot of retrieves, it can be overwhelming and cause some undesirable behaviors later in the dog’s life. Finding and/or recovering game is natural to sporting dogs, but the behaviors we all aspire to shape, not so much! Focus here; use the first few hunts, and season for that matter, to continue and extend training rather than shooting and it will pay dividends in the long run. When you’re packing your hunting gear, include a couple bumpers to take with you. If you find yourself in the field on a slow day or have an unsuccessful retrieve, take the opportunity to give your dog a retrieve that will set it up for success. Never let a young dog fail; it is always important to “end on a win.” The “win” could be a simple trailing memory retrieve in front of the blind. Or, if you notice that your young partner is struggling to find a downed bird, place a bumper in the area of the fall so the dog finds something. This will build its confidence in itself as well as you. Remember, this is a marathon and not a sprint; begin with the end in mind and set yourself up for a great future.

Be realistic in your expectations. Your dog should never have its first hunt be with 10 shooters in close quarters with dozens of retrieves. That’s too much stimulus. The ideal first outing would include one to two shooters with selective retrieves. For example, if you were to shoot 20 birds during the hunt, your dog makes 3-5 retrieves. You want your dog to see you pick up birds as well. We refer to these as denials. Over the course of the first season, ideally, your dog will only pick up 25% of the birds shot. The combination of other dogs, yourself and your hunting partners should get the rest.

gunner kennels

A few final thoughts: Before your dog ever goes on a hunt, he/she should be steady and have a firm grasp on all the basic gundog skills. The dog should be steady to gunfire and comfortable with multiple shots, quiet, stop to the whistle and take casts—back, right, and left. All of these are important. With these skills, you should be confident to work your dog to recover birds you or your partners shoot.

Be sure to pay attention to the weather forecast before you leave for your hunt. High winds, rain and snow, and temperature changes can affect the performance of your dog. Prepare for success and carry drinking water and a vest to help your dog perform to the best of its ability. Hunting a young and inexperienced dog in harsh elements such as ice and snow can also confuse, hinder, or possibly injure a dog if severe enough.

Taking your young dog on its first hunt is exciting and rewarding. This is particularly true if you view the hunt as an extension of training. Realistic expectations are paramount. Take your time and make haste slowly! Focus on your dog and look for areas to improve and enjoy the journey to developing a hunting companion that is a joy to work with for years to come.


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The Flip Side

Mike Stewart, Wildrose International

Many may recall, years past for sure, 45 record singles.  One side of the disk offered the artist’s single hit with another selection existing on the flip side.  These singles had a large hole in the center to allow multiple records to be stacked, played in order, then flipped to the other side for continued play.  Thus, the flip side. This term has become relevant when naming a useful Wildrose training solution.

Our training feature this issue is The Flip Side, a great tool for developing a gundog’s lining and handling abilities while encouraging the dog to think not just react as well as respond to handling influences. Ultimately, this is the desirable outcome of our gundog training efforts:  Develop gamefinding abilities and promote an interdependent relationship between dog and handler… teamwork.


The Flip Side

I have had excellent results with the flip side exercise for seasoned dogs to improve memory, avoid the suction of old falls and enhance handling as well as lining abilities.  It is a useful tool to influence a dog that occasionally becomes opinionated in the field thinking that he knows in this situation what is best at the expense of ignoring the handler’s directions. The Flip Side may help convince the “bold one” that they may not be the smartest guy in the room.

The Set Up

We begin with a double. Select two points of cover in a field, woodlands or shallows at water’s edge.  Place a single bumper, scented preferably, at each point as a memory. The placement should be an inversion. Bumpers are placed as “seens” on the opposite side from the direction the dog will approach (back side of the point). Once placed, establish a circle memory by walking around the area until the pre-placed bumpers are at a 45-degree angle or a V configuration.  The dog will be lined from the opposite side of the bumper’s placement, thus an inversion. Line for each bumper, oldest placement to the newest.  Distance, obstacles, and types of cover are completely up to the handler and the dog’s abilities.

dog on retrieve

With both “birds” recovered, it’s time for The Flip Side.  Place the bumpers behind your position as a ladder.  The dog once again observes.  Now, circle the entire pattern area stopping center and beyond the first two bumpers placed.  Your position is now behind the inversion previously set and centered between the “old falls.”  Think of kicking a field goal.  The target is the distant ladders.

dog on retrieve 2

With The Flip Side set, line for the first memory through the two old falls and cover.  As the dog departs for the recovery, back up a few yards.  Be prepared to handle if your dog succumbs to the temptation of the old falls (suction).  If successful on the first, we have extended the line for the second and perhaps have added another obstacle, obstruction or cover feature.  There is nothing to say that you could have placed three or four bumpers in your ladder.  With each, as you back away, you effectively narrow the slot between the previously placed bumpers in round one increasing the challenge with each repetition.

dog on retrieve 3

The Flip Side can be modified in other ways such as distances, types of cover, adding triples for the first retrieves or even distractions. The exercise is an excellent training solution for both waterfowl and upland retrievers alike.

Be sure to review our complementary new upland gundog training series at https://www.uklabs.com/about-wildrose-videos

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Wildrose Women in the Field: Maryetta Pabody

By Dr. Ben McClelland
As told through the women’s words

During the past fifteen years female participants in shotgun sports has increased 61.1 percent, according to Chris Batha, “Shotgunning Women’s Movement,” Shooting Sportsman. Field clothing for women has been designed to meet the new demand, as well.
Of course, for several years there have been some women wingshooters in the Wildrose pack, including Associate Trainer Sarah Barnes Reffert, whose was pictured afield in Covey Rise some time ago and Associate Trainer Erin Shay Davis. However, in the last few seasons the number has grown significantly. In this article we feature the stories of some in their own words. You may expect others’ stories to follow. 

Marietta Pabody and WR M1A1 Abrams, call name Abe.

During our 20-year marriage, Glenn had trained and hunted over three Labs and one mixed breed. I loved each of our gundogs, which were also family dogs; however, I didn’t hunt and was very averse to training with e-collars, which Glenn used at that time.

maryetta and abeWhen it came time to pick a breeder for the heir of our most recent retiring gundog, we both appreciated the positive training methods in The Wildrose Way. Following these training methods, I knew I wanted to, and could, partner with Glenn to train Abe, with whom I started working on March 9, 2018, puppy picking day at WR Oxford.

Our goals were first and foremost to train Abe as a gundog.

Being a new trainer/handler, I had to quickly learn to be patient. Results didn’t happen overnight. It was/is challenging partnering with Glenn to train Abe, because Glenn has been training dogs since dinosaurs roamed the earth and was now training Abe and me. We have to collaborate on training plans and share results.

Abe has two handlers who have subtle differences in how they handle. Now I was training a gundog, but I hadn’t gone to the dark side . . . upland hunting. A second goal was to campaign Abe in UKC Hunt Tests. At this point I knew that I needed to learn how to shoot a shotgun, which is required by handlers in all but the Started tests. I began taking skeet lessons in February, 2019. Since then, I have been taking weekly skeet lessons from a National Skeet Shooting Association Certified Level 3 Instructor. In June I started taking a second lesson weekly. It was so much fun that one night before lights out, I turned to Glenn and said, “I have a confession. I want to kill a bird.” My desire to hunt was born. On September 1st, 2019, I will go on my inaugural hunt with Abe when we open the Northern zone dove season in Lubbock, TX.

maryetta and abe2

Choosing a gun has been a thoughtful process. From February, 2019, to May, 2019, I shot Glenn’s Beretta 686 Onyx 28 gauge while I researched which shotgun I thought would be best for me. My top considerations when choosing the right shotgun for me were: Fit, Length of pull (females require a shorter length of pull), Height of comb (females require a higher comb), Cant of buttplate (females typically find a canted buttplate more comfortable against the shoulder), and Gauge. I really liked the weight of Glenn’s 28 gauge and the recoil was acceptable. Most people I talked with recommended a 12 gauge, but I knew it would be heavier and thought the recoil would kill my shoulder.

maryetta and abe 5

I was also concerned about Look: I wanted a wood stock and didn’t want an engraved game scene. In May, 2019, I bought my first shotgun, a Beretta 691 Vittoria Sporting, over under 12 gauge with 30-inch barrels; the 691 was specifically designed to fit the smaller frame of lady shooters. None of the shotguns I shouldered had an exact fit, even the Beretta 691, so I had after-market modifications made to improve the fit:

Added adjustable comb (allows comb to be adjusted up & down, right & left; although the 691 was built for a woman’s frame, the comb wasn’t high enough for me) and Added Graco Gracoil Adjustable Buttplate (allows buttplate to be canted and reduces recoil). The last modification to be made: Change to right cast from neutral cast (comb is adjusted as far right as possible and I’m still shooting slightly left of target). I’m considering purchasing a 3-gauge fitted tube set so I may also shoot 20 gauge, 28 gauge, & .410 bore with my 12 gauge 691.

maryetta and abe3

I have found limited sources and selection of hunting attire. Some women’s attire appears to have the same cut and proportions as men’s attire; shirts and pants are boxy as if no consideration was taken for the women’s shape. If another salesman tells me they don’t have women’s hunting attire and then asks me if I’d like to try on the men’s equivalent, I think I’ll just shut down and go to my place! What I like today: SHE Outdoor: Base layer tops & pants, camouflage tops & pants; Orvis: Field pants, shooting shirts, upland shell, upland hunting vest, upland waxed cotton mesh strap vest, guide pants & river guide shirts (for training in hot Texas summers); Filson: 3-layer field jacket, twill belt pouch (for skeet)


We have several field activities planned with Abe.

  • September 20 Uvalde, TX, dove hunt
  • Local dove hunts remainder of season
  • Regular group training at WR Texas
  • Basic & Advanced Handlers Workshop at WR Oxford
  • Cajun Experience at Covey Rise Lodge
  • UKC Hunt Tests
  • Working Guy Billups’ IV momma dogs
  • Retrieving for European pheasant hunts at Greystone Castle, Mingus, TX

maryetta and abe4

My advice for women who want to become dog handler/shooters is don’t wait; start today! Mack, our once-in-a-lifetime dog, passed April 1, 2018, at 16 years. Because I wasn’t training gundogs or hunting, I only knew the incredible family dog he was; I missed the opportunity to know the whole Mack. Thanks to now being a handler and shooter, I will know the whole Abe.

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Wildrose Women in the Field: Bess Bruton

By Dr. Ben McClelland
As told through the women’s words

During the past fifteen years female participants in shotgun sports has increased 61.1 percent, according to Chris Batha, “Shotgunning Women’s Movement,” Shooting Sportsman. Field clothing for women has been designed to meet the new demand, as well.
Of course, for several years there have been some women wingshooters in the Wildrose pack, including Associate Trainer Sarah Barnes Reffert, whose was pictured afield in Covey Rise some time ago and Associate Trainer Erin Shay Davis. However, in the last few seasons the number has grown significantly. In this article we feature the stories of some in their own words. You may expect others’ stories to follow. 

Bess Bruton, Wildrose Irie

bess irie

Bess and Irie

In May, 2016, I started working at Wildrose Kennel in Oxford, MS, after attending the March Handlers clinic, and learning about the training method Mike had developed. I had been looking for a place to learn how to train dogs, with a more positive, balanced way of training. Being a horse trainer for over 30 years helped me to understand the Wildrose Way, and its excellent benefits, and results. My main job at the kennel was working the momma dogs. It was rewarding, and I gained a lot of knowledge working with different ages, experience levels, and personalities.

Irie and I first met in November, 2016. She had gone through basic gundog training with IMG_5259Clint Swinney, the kennel manager. In March, 2017, Irie was placed in the kennel’s new “Service Companion” program, and came to live with me to be trained as a Therapy dog. In October, 2017, she passed the Pet Partners Therapy dog evaluation, becoming a Certified Therapy Dog. Since then, she has achieved status as an approved Courtroom Dog, a Master Trekker Adventure Dog, and an advanced gundog.

When I started at the kennel, I became interested in clay shooting, and upland bird hunting. The guys at the kennel taught me how to handle and shoot a shotgun. I practiced shooting clays, under the watchful eye of Bryan Hargrove and I participated in the gundog seminars offered through the kennel. I’ve also taken clay-shooting lessons at several clay courses. Shooting clays helps with being able to hit a moving target, quick response, and hand-eye coordination.

bess irie3

Before buying a shotgun, I tried a lot of different guns, mostly friends’ guns, and rentals at clay courses. I purchased a 20 gauge, Mossberg Youth Over & Under. It is lightweight, for a small frame person. Most of the other brands were too heavy or the balance was just not quite right.

It is difficult to find women’s clothing in a size small, which is comfortable. I wear corduroy pants for winter upland hunting. And lightweight pants for summer clay shooting. Also long sleeve shirts are good to protect the arms and fingerless gloves for a good grip, without interfering with feel of the trigger pull. A good pair of tough, waterproof boots is essential when walking through unpredictable terrain.

I mainly go with Irie on tower shoots for pheasant either to shoot or to pick up. Wildrose Double Gun is on my calendar for fall, 2019, and a couple other Wildrose gundog events in 2020, as well as possible upland bird hunts next season.

Irie and I do a lot of hiking, and she travels with me, which helps develop good social bess irie2skills, and she gets lots of experiences being in different types of environments. At home, and on the road, Irie also works on obedience, and retrieves with WR bumpers, and a launcher, following the Wildrose Way.

I suggest that women work each skill separately: Learn proper dog handing, and proper gun handling/ shooting at separate times. Practice both for several months separately. Then combine the two, in several practice scenarios or workshops with instructors. Last…go hunting, once you have developed aptitude, knowledge, and confidence.


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Wildrose Women in the Field: Heather Cass

By Dr. Ben McClelland
As told through the women’s words

During the past fifteen years female participants in shotgun sports has increased 61.1 percent, according to Chris Batha, “Shotgunning Women’s Movement,” Shooting Sportsman. Field clothing for women has been designed to meet the new demand, as well.
Of course, for several years there have been some women wingshooters in the Wildrose pack, including Associate Trainer Sarah Barnes Reffert, whose was pictured afield in Covey Rise some time ago and Associate Trainer Erin Shay Davis. However, in the last few seasons the number has grown significantly. In this article we feature the stories of some in their own words. You may expect others’ stories to follow. 

Heather Cass, Wildrose Jack

My dog’s name was Jack. Born in the UK in 2007, Jack came to Mississippi —where we met—as a finished gundog in 2011.  I had visited Wildrose for the first time in late 2010, after reading a magazine article about Mike Stewart and his wonderful dogs.

My goal was to get an already- trained adult dog as a companion and family dog.

Heather and Jack walking

Heather and Jack

I had no experience hunting and no idea about “handling” or even retrieving.  I got Jack because he perfectly fit my needs as a companion. The added bonus was that he was a skilled hunter.  He clearly loved his work.  And to do his work properly, he needed a handler.  It turned out this was a team sport.  I was intrigued. I had planned from the outset to work hard with my dog to maintain his obedience skills.  It was easy and fun to expand that to include his hunting skills.  And with the help of the seminars and events that Wildrose sponsors, I was able to learn while he practiced.  And have a lot of fun and meet wonderful people along the way.

To increase my versatility as a handler, I’ve begun shooting sporting clays at a public course near my home. Most of the “regulars” are retired military and many of them spend part of every day there.  They are friendly, generous with their knowledge and, of course, love dogs.  They have an excellent training program, which I thoroughly enjoy.  I’ve acquired a sporting clays gun.   When I graduate to the field, I’ll need another gun.  But that problem is still in the future.   My next step will be, following the principles of the Wildrose Way, to find a “transitional” event. There I can put together handling and shooting in a situation which is more controlled than the possible chaos of a real hunt.

This summer my focus is on finding a successor to Jack, who died last year.  I will always miss him, and always be grateful to him for introducing me to this wonderful sport.


Heather sending Jack on a retrieve

The popularity of shooting sports for women seems to be exploding.  I don’t see a downside.  I’ve always felt very welcome in the field.  So, my advice if you think you might be interested: go for it!  It’s a wonderful way to spend time outdoors with family and friends and – of course – DOGS!  You won’t regret it.

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Wildrose Women in the Field: Maria Perez and Lisa Johnson

By Dr. Ben McClelland
As told through the women’s words

During the past fifteen years female participants in shotgun sports has increased 61.1 percent, according to Chris Batha, “Shotgunning Women’s Movement,” Shooting Sportsman. Field clothing for women has been designed to meet the new demand, as well.
Of course, for several years there have been some women wingshooters in the Wildrose pack, including Associate Trainer Sarah Barnes Reffert, whose was pictured afield in Covey Rise some time ago and Associate Trainer Erin Shay Davis. However, in the last few seasons the number has grown significantly. In this article we feature the stories of some in their own words. You may expect others’ stories to follow. 

Maria Perez and Lisa Johnson, Wildrose Cypress

Lisa became a hunter many years ago and picked it back up about four years ago when cypress ducks hutnginthe yacht club we belong to had a shotgun clay tournament.  That’s about the time I decided to pick up a shotgun for the first time.  Chris and Lani Wilke belong to the same yacht club and we knew Chris was an avid hunter.  He showed us his collection of guns, shared with us his experience, and away we went.  We joined a local gun club and took lessons.  We learned about cast, comb, leading the target, not aiming, types of shotguns, etc.  We became friends with a local outfitter.  I settled on a Browning Maxus semi and Lisa added a Berretta A400 to her collection that already included a Remington 1100.  We began to book our own hunts and we met a hunt broker, with whom we became good friends.  We’ve hunted ducks, quail, pheasant, and turkey.  We hope to add a dove hunt this year.  A year ago, we both added O/U shotguns to our collection.  Lisa went with a Caesar Guerini Syren Tempio (gun specifically for women).  And I went with the men’s CG Tempio.  Most women’s cheeks are higher and necks longer than men.  This requires a higher comb.  Some gun manufacturers have started making guns for women.

cypress out in field

Chris and Lani told us about Dames, Ducks, and Dogs.  So, we got two more friends, Margie Offan and Melissa Warren, from New Orleans to register and join us.  And, away we went.  There, we met and became friends with many Wildrose Women and Trainers.  One in particular, Sammye Pisani, lived in New Orleans also.  Thus, we formed the WR New Orleans Syndicate.

We started attending many Wildrose events.  We had worked finished dogs so we understood what it’s supposed to look like.  Sometime in 2017, after a WR event, Lisa and I decided to get on a puppy list.  In July, 2018, we picked up Cypress and began our handler adventure.  We take her everywhere with the three Chi Wees: Gracie, Jack, and Izzy.


With regard to clothes, we did a lot of research, tried on a lot of clothes, kept some, and returned a lot.  Also, footwear is important.  To me, clothes are personal; style and fit are key.  We share with our lady friends much of what we find.  We sometimes have to wear men’s clothes. Somehow, we seem to make it work.

cypresss shooting

Maria shooting at a Wildrose Seminar

It’s been great seeing more and more women attending WR events and picking up a shotgun.  Anyway we can help to increase these numbers we are happy to do so.  I found this article recently to validate my thinking that women hunters is an untapped market: “Shotgunning’s Women’s Movement,” by Chris Batha, in Shooting Sportsman, July 12, 2019:https://shootingsportsman.com/shotgunnings-womens-movement/?fbclid=IwAR3S2IsvttzpO_dx5cRu5Dr_o4oa_AyBZPzR-VwtMbSHM_FbINEqVbFBMuc


Chris Batha, “Shotgunning’s Women’s Movement,” Shooting Sportsman, July 12, 2019:


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Wildrose Women in the Field: Hattie Billups

By Dr. Ben McClelland
As told through the women’s words

During the past fifteen years female participants in shotgun sports has increased 61.1 percent, according to Chris Batha, “Shotgunning Women’s Movement,” Shooting Sportsman. Field clothing for women has been designed to meet the new demand, as well.
Of course, for several years there have been some women wingshooters in the Wildrose pack, including Associate Trainer Sarah Barnes Reffert, whose was pictured afield in Covey Rise some time ago and Associate Trainer Erin Shay Davis. However, in the last few seasons the number has grown significantly. In this article we feature the stories of some in their own words. You may expect others’ stories to follow. 

Hattie Billups, Wildrose Augustus of Oakhurst, call name Gus

I picked up Gus just over three years ago and began training him right away. My first IMG_2819goal with Gus was obviously to have an obedient, well-mannered companion. Actually, I hardly sent him on a retrieve for the first few months. Retrieving is in his blood, I wasn’t worried about him wanting to retrieve. I wanted to build our relationship. I wanted him to focus on me. I heard another pack member say, “I want to be the source of all things fun for my dog.” Some people may not get that, or think it sounds cruel. Labs are very loyal dogs; they want to please. If Gus could leave me and go entertain himself, he is less worried about me. Don’t get me wrong. Gus had free time as a young pup, but he was always in training so I structured his free time. Gus and I would go on long walks. I let him explore his surroundings, but he never got out of my sight. We crossed limbs on the ground, walked in tall grass, on pavement, over rocks, etc. Since I got him in the winter, he didn’t swim until he was about five months old, which is a long time before introduction to water. I’m pretty sure that is not the recommendation of the trainers at Wildrose but it worked for us. Those of you that have ever watched Gus know he is a very exuberant retriever and absolutely loves the water.


Adventure Dog Arkansas

Of course, I trained him for upland and waterfowl, but I wanted more for Gus. I purchased the Adventure Dog packet and started working on skills. Gus is now a Master Trekker. I attended my first Double Gun in 2016. In 2017 I decided I wanted Gus to win Double Gun in 2018. Therefore, I started working toward that goal and Gus won Double Gun in 2018. I also became very interested to learn more about the program Scott Wilson heads up for Wildrose Therapy Dogs, the Pet Partners program, for which the owner and the dog have to be evaluated. So, Gus is now a Registered Therapy Dog, receiving a Complex rating, the higher of the two ratings you can receive.

My husband and son hunted upland and waterfowl regularly over the years. I did some

hattie and gus ND

Photo by Chip Laughton

dove and waterfowl hunting. They each had a dog, but once I got my own dog it was truly a game changer for me. I wanted to become a better shooter so that Gus actually had something to retrieve.

I would say I have been shooting for 30 years; however, I got more serious about it when I started hunting with Gus. I practiced with clay targets in the back yard over the last few years. I started taking lessons earlier this year when we joined Providence Hill in Jackson.

I have had a few different types of shotguns over the years, but I would say the last three have been my favorite. Guy bought me a Caesar Guerini, Syren Tempo 20 gauge for my birthday a couple of years ago. Recently, we were on a three-week trip out west and wandered into a gun store in Montana. Montana and Mississippi have the same laws when it comes to guns; therefore, we were able to purchase my waterfowl gun: a camouflage skin Beretta Outlander 12 gauge. My most recent purchase came after I joined the ladies club based at Providence Hill, Magnolia G.R.I.T.S. (Girls Really In To Shooting). I purchased a Syren Elos N2 Sporting Gun 12 gauge.

I would say my favorite hunting is waterfowl. One of my goals next hunting season is to hunt sandhill cranes in Texas. I keep hearing it is the ribeye of the sky. I purchased Rex Spec goggles for Gus to use while hunting the cranes. Cranes have been know to go after a dog’s eyes if they are not expired when retrieved. We are also headed to Canada to hunt geese this fall as well as a trip back to Montana to hunt ducks along the Madison River.

hattie gus COThese days, our daily training during the off months is mostly about keeping him in shape. I try to swim Gus often. During the summer months in the south it is a good way to keep him cool and in shape. Swimming is a great workout. Let me be clear: it is not free swimming; he is always retrieving something. Over the next few weeks I will start working more specifically on tuning up the basics getting ready for the hunting season.

I guess my advice to women entering the wing shooting world would be to get your own dog. I borrowed Guy’s dog, Corky, for a few workshops, but it does not compare to the feeling you get handling your own dog. Get instruction on shooting, if possible. I would say whether you train the dog or send the dog to one of the Wildrose campuses for training, read Mike’s book, watch the video clips, and attend the workshops and events. Labradors are very smart and very forgiving. They truly just want to please.

Billups family

Hattie, Guy, Gus, Corky, Coffee and Nacho

I keep telling Mike that with the Wildrose Women in the Field gaining in numbers the term Gentleman’s Gun Dog needs to be tweaked. I have also heard him refer to the dogs as, Dogs of Duality. I think that works.

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Wildrose Women in the Field: Crystal Hines

By Dr. Ben McClelland
As told through the women’s words

During the past fifteen years female participants in shotgun sports has increased 61.1 percent, according to Chris Batha, “Shotgunning Women’s Movement,” Shooting Sportsman. Field clothing for women has been designed to meet the new demand, as well.
Of course, for several years there have been some women wingshooters in the Wildrose pack, including Associate Trainer Sarah Barnes Reffert, whose was pictured afield in Covey Rise some time ago and Associate Trainer Erin Shay Davis. However, in the last few seasons the number has grown significantly. In this article we feature the stories of some in their own words. You may expect others’ stories to follow. 

Crystal Hines, Wildrose Finn, Wildrose Rusty


Growing up, Chris had always wanted a yellow lab, so in 2017 we drove to Oxford, MS, where our story with Wildrose Kennels begins. The grounds were grand and immaculate. It was obvious that the dogs had an impressive level of care. The kennels were bustling with the staff and that day we met Tom Smith, Mike Stewart, and Cathy Stewart. My husband, Chris had called in advance and requested a tour. Tom gave us a tour with Big Red and WR Dixie in the back of his side-by-side. We also met WR Taz and several stud dogs during our visit. In the beginning, we were interested in looking for a yellow lab as a companion and hunting dog. After seeing “Big Red,” I was hooked. I wanted one! This idea of a yellow lab having another label of “Fox Red” was a new concept for us. We were happy to sign up for several litters and place our deposit for a yellow puppy to add to our family.

In June, 2017, we picked up Wildrose Finn at 8 weeks old. He was an active little yellow lab playing with his littermate. WR Finn’s parents are Scottie and Beretta. Scottie is a male “Fox Red” Yellow Lab and Beretta is a female Yellow Lab. WR Finn has a nice blend crystal2of the two parents’ colors and we refer to him as a lighter “Fox Red” color. WR Finn has so much energy and drive, and has proven to be an asset in the field. He loves the water. He is our “high jumper” entering the water to retrieve birds. Chris signed up WR Finn for additional training at 7 months old with a Wildrose Trainer and invested in the training book by Mike Stewart to learn the “Wildrose Way.” We dropped WR Finn off for his training as he joined Blake Henderson in his new forever trainer bond. WR Finn learned the basic obedience and gun dog training. We had a few months of puppy time at the house and a Basic Handler’s class and WR Finn was back at Wildrose again. Blake has transformed WR Finn into an impressive gun dog. Blake understands his strengths and weaknesses and has a sweet spot for WR Finn through all of his challenges during training. Wildrose is not just about selling a dog. There is more to the kennel than just running a business. There is the emotional connection and the rewards and successes of all the hard work it takes to create a true gentleman’s gun dog. Wildrose has proven to be more of a family and friends community. The trainers have a passion for the dogs and working to build their skills. The Wildrose classes and FB groups allow for bringing the Wildrose family (pack) together to help support each other through ideas and suggestions. The classes offer the basics for the beginner owner and puppy to the more advanced training for both the dogs and owners. In addition, Wildrose offers experiences such as the Adventure Dog program that gives you and your dog an opportunity to build a closer bond while having fun on an adventure!

We signed up for training classes and visited Wildrose several times over the last two years. There were times we worked other Wildrose dogs as loaners while WR Finn completed his training as a pup. As fate would have it, Chris had the opportunity to work with Rusty, a new import at the time. Rusty was learning the ropes at Wildrose to become a future Wildrose stud. We knew we wanted a second pup to add to the family, so we added our names to another litter for the future. After our first visit, I was sold on Big Red. That was until Wildrose purchased Rusty, a “Fox Red” yellow lab. We knew his litter would be a great one. He had the best laid-back personality and had the ability to turn it on for hunting. He had the best of both personalities. This would be perfect for me. I was looking for a calm pup that would be my “lap dog” when I wanted and also be excited for adventures.

In 2018, we got the call. Tom asked the best life-changing question: ”Would you be interested in Rusty?” I was so excited. Rusty was available for purchase. The decision was made to sell Rusty versus breeding. It was fate! We drove down the very next weekend. I wanted to see him. Tom gave the presentation of all Rusty’s skills and honestly, this was the first time I touched a “real” dead duck. Just to be clear, I have never hunted and didn’t really expect that this would be something of interest for me. But there we were… Rusty was swimming back to me with the water retrieve of the wet duck, I had to step up and grab it from him. He was very excited to bring this back to hand. Wow! It was a turning point for me to begin “handling” the dogs. After a few minutes of discussion, Chris and I agreed that Rusty was the best dog for me. He was calm and patient. He could make our family whole.


Another Wildrose event, called “Double Gun came about in October, 2018. This event was more for Chris to improve his skills and work with Rusty and WR Finn. Since WR Finn was not ready for the competition-hunting portion, Chris worked Rusty. This was a new experience for Chris working with Rusty in this environment with a shotgun. I held onto WR Finn during the training exercises, just to be around and as supportive as I could. I was a spectator for the competition-shooting portion. It was a fun two-day experience learning and making more friends.

The next event we signed up for was the Covey Rise Pheasant Tower Shoot in Louisiana. This was in January, 2019, and was the first hunting experience that I had ever gone on, so I was excited and nervous. I was depending on Chris to handle the dogs for the hunting/retrieving part and I would be a spectator or support. It was a five-hour trip for us to travel with both pups to learn handling skills with our pups in a series of training exercises. The trip would end with a day hunt for pheasant from a shooting tower. It turned out to be more than the Louisiana experience. It was an opportunity for all attendees and trainers to bond and have a great time. One thing that stood out was that all these Wildrose dog owners had such well-behaved companions lying on their place beds. Distractions were everywhere with lots of people around and music during the social events. The Wildrose dogs were gentlemen. I was also impressed that our dogs were also well-behaved in a different environment than our normal life. During the training event, I found myself separated from Chris in a training group based on the dog’s experience. Rusty is one year older than WR Finn, and their experiences are varied. crystal4I was up for learning something new and Rusty was a pro at the exercises. He surprised me on all the skills he has. I was feeling a bit better about being away from Chris and working on our skills after the first few exercises. Also, everyone was so nice and supportive. There were several other Wildrose pack members with their dogs. It wasn’t as though I was alone. I was just not with Chris and this was one of our first training/exercise experiences. On the hunt day, Chris took WR Finn and his shotgun and went his way. He asked Sammye Pisani to work with me to help support and empower me to work with Rusty. Sammye took me under her wing and we worked WR Valentina and Rusty with pheasant retrieves. This worked out really well. Again, I was impressed by the entire experience. Rusty did great! I was not prepared to handle “dead” birds. I didn’t even have gloves. Sammye was so kind. She let me borrow gloves and I was able to handle Rusty with recalls, etc. This was a step of growth and independence for me, and a great opportunity to bond with Rusty. He listened and took direction very well. I was intrigued by the shooting part of the experience, even though I am not an avid hunter. I wanted to learn more. I have enjoyed shooting at targets with handguns and rifles in the past, but this was a different type of shooting. The targets (clays/pheasant) are moving in the air vs. a stationary target. I took a lesson onsite at Covey Rise before the event ended to see if this is something I would be interested in pursuing. The instructor, Mike, gave simple instructions and made it very easy to understand. Once it was time to practice shooting at clays, I was enjoying myself. It took a bit of practice understanding when to pull the trigger, etc. But once I got it, I was having a blast. Those clays went down left and right in shreds. It was a high point. Needless to say, I have asked for my own shotgun. Chris has purchased a new stock for me to try his shotgun and make sure this is something I will truly be interested in. Just a note, we just purchased a clay thrower last weekend. I am easing into the process.

Next will be the hunting apparel. I have noticed there are some Wildrose pack members that have some impressive hunting apparel. I enjoy shopping, so this may be my next expense after the shotgun purchase, of course. I have been given some great suggestions for shotguns and apparel for when I begin looking for shooting/hunting items. As far as the type of shotgun, Chris uses a Beretta Silver Pigeon(over and under). He is giving me his Benelli (automatic) and adding a different stock. The stock will be a compact stock with a 12 inch LOP (length of pull). It is important to find the best fit for you. When I took my first lesson, the instructor measured my arm. I was loaned a 14 inch LOP shotgun that was too long for me. So, the instructor had one that was just my size, which for my short arms is 12 inches LOP. So, if anyone is thinking of looking for a first gun, make sure to get some advice before purchasing.

Since we live close to Wildrose Kennels and have developed such a great bond with the trainers, we often return to visit and train. We have sent WR Finn back for additional on-site training after his initial obedience and training to be a gun dog and will continue to send WR Finn and/or Rusty back for conditioning, as needed. In the offseason, Chris and I have taken WR Finn and Rusty to the lake and the beach. Both were great opportunities to build on water and land retrieving skills. Our house has two acres and we train on the weekends at home, Wildrose, or Chris’ hunting property.

We attended the Wildrose Dog Handler’s class in March, 2019. There is a basic and an advanced level class. This time Chris and I signed up for both levels. I had Rusty and he crystal5had WR Finn. We were separated again. We worked the exercises on different ends of the Wildrose Kennel property. This time, I had adjusted to being away from Chris and was excited to learn new skills and work with Rusty. I am thoroughly impressed with Mike Stewart, Tom Smith, and all the trainers. Rusty and I needed the basics class, but really enjoyed the advanced portion of the classes. Rusty was challenged and I was thrilled. He made the best hunts/retrieves that I thought were difficult or impossible. For example, the brush pile that seemed to be twelve feet high was not the impossible retrieve for Rusty. He returned with the bumper I had thrown with just a little smart maneuvering over and under the branches. It was daunting watching him, but he made the retrieve and was thoroughly happy making the return to me. There were times during training that it took both a focus and understanding of the task and the expected result of many firsts for me. But Rusty was a professional. It is a nice balance of my novice skills and his expert skills.


I was intrigued with the Adventure Dog program for all the tasks and experiences it entails. I relate this program to a “pup” scouts type of structure. There are a variety of skills and tasks to earn badges. We signed up for this program and attended the Adventure Dog Training event in April, 2019. I will say this was a standout moment for me. Our adventures included bicycling, kayaking, airplane ride, trails, fishing, etc. By the end, we managed to have Rusty and WR Finn with Trail Rated badges and because Rusty has done additional tasks when he camped with us in the past, he took home an additional badge of Adventure Dog. We will continue to work on WR Finn to add his Adventure Dog badge soon. The next level is Master Trekker. I was impressed by all the participation in the program. It is a special experience to have your dog beside you as you paddle your kayak, run beside you as you bike down the road, or sit with you on a plane. That was a personally exciting time. Thanks to Wildrose and Danielle for creating and coordinating such a fun bonding experience. I will never forget the bass pond. Those who were there will know what I mean. I would argue that, even if you are only interested in gundog activities, try the Adventure Dog event. It will strengthen your bond and give you and your dog other activities to learn similar behaviors. It is very much about trust. You have to trust your dog and they need to trust you in both activities.

In April, 2019, a few weeks later, I was asked to participate with Chris in the 2019 Continental Pheasant Shoot at Little Q. This was another adventure I had not anticipated my true participation in. I expected to walk along-side Chris and WR Finn and watch while he handled both dogs, as needed. As it turned out, there were plenty of shooters crystal7that day. They needed more handlers in the field to retrieve the birds. So, here we go again. I am now out in a field handling Rusty during gunfire, but away from Chris. It was another level of independence. Luckily, Rusty has been such a true hunter/retriever that it made this experience a great one. He was excited to be there in the midst of it all. I believe we both have a great sense of trust in one another. At one point in the hunt, I glanced over to Chris and saw WR Finn spot a pheasant on the ground that tried to take flight. WR Finn jumped mid-air to catch it. I wish I had more time with the camera to catch all the amazing times. I have been able to capture some moments, usually after the victory. In the coming year, we have signed up for Double Gun in October, 2019, and Covey Rise Pheasant Hunt in January, 2020. We would encourage anyone who enjoys spending time with their dogs to attend the Wildrose events. It gives the dogs and owners such great opportunities to learn and have experiences that are hard to replicate on your own.

I am at the beginning stages of becoming a shooter/handler but have been inspired to learn new things and take on additional tasks that were intimidating before. I would say, take a chance and try something new. Don’t miss an opportunity.


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Bacon Wrapped Dove in a Cream Sauce

Recipe by Glen Pabody, owner of Wildrose Abeglen and abe

About three years ago I was opening up the dove season in Vernon, Texas. After the hunt the adult beverages were broken out, the dogs were fed and watered, and the coals were started. Everyone had contributed something to what would become a memorable meal. There were about fourteen of us and everyone had kicked in a few dove breasts apiece to the head chef. Unlike the usual “wrap ’em in bacon and baste them with Italian dressing,” our chef did something different and truly mouth watering. I took his recipe and tweaked it a little and boy is it good!


A day or so before you plan to prepare your dove, brine them in salt water. Cover them with 3-4 inches of water and refrigerate. I usually do this twice, pouring off the bloody water and recovering the dove with salt water and placing them back in the fridge.

Shortly before preparing them, drain the salt water (which should be bloody. The salt has an astringent action and pulls much of the blood from the meat and seasons it at the same time). Then thoroughly rinse the meat and set it aside.

On prep day pre-heat your gas grill to 350 degrees or get your charcoal going to a light grey color.

The next step is fileting the meat from the breastbone. This is an optional step, some folks prefer cooking the dove whole, but my experience is the meat cooks more evenly when fileted.

Following fileting the meat, wrap the two breast halves in 1/2 of a strip of thick-sliced bacon and pin with a couple of toothpicks.

Too much bacon (is there really such a thing?) overpowers the dove flavor and doesn’t allow the meat to cook evenly.

Set aside and begin preparing the sauce. You’ll need…

* 2 sticks of butterbacon wrapped dove 2

* 1 pint of heavy cream

* Worcestershire sauce

* Garlic powder

* Coarse ground pepper

* A pinch or two of salt (you won’t need much)


Put your cream and butter in a medium saucepan. Add in 3-4 good shakes of the Worcestershire sauce, the same of garlic powder,

a couple of shakes of the coarse ground pepper, and salt. Heat slowly and allow to simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat.

Place the doves in a shallow throwaway aluminum pan, place on the grill, and cover with the sauce. Allow the dove to cook for about 10-12 minutes, then remove from the sauce mix and place directly on the grill turning them frequently for 3-4 minutes till the bacon begins to crisp a little. Don’t over cook. The meat should be medium to medium rare.

Remove from the grill, plate, and drizzle some of the sauce mix over the birds. Enjoy!


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