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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Heat Stress

By Mike Stewart, Wildrose International

Off-season training and early season hunting in hot weather can prove challenging for gingerany sporting dog enthusiast. Heat stroke is dangerous and potentially deadly. Pre-season training during summer months is necessary as dogs need field training to maintain skills important for the coming hunting seasons and exercise to get into physical shape. Hot, humid weather and a dog exerting maximum energy to run, jump, and hunt cover make a dangerous combination at the worst, difficult at the least. Extreme panting is not conducive to exceptional delivery to hand of bumpers or birds. Panting to cool the body limits the dog’s scenting abilities. Okay, we resort to water work. In the South, the water’s temperature is quite warm from the direct sunlight. The thermal line for cooler water may be several feet deep and offers the swimming retriever limited relief for body temperature reduction, but wet dogs do cool faster due to evaporation.
Keep in mind how a dog displaces heat without the advantage humans have of sweating:
90% cooling achieved through the mouth (panting).
5% through the bottom of their feet (pads displacing heat).
5% evaporation, if wet.

Now, consider what we require our dog to do in training: run hard in a fur coat designed for warmth and repelling water. Dark colors absorb heat. The dog’s exertion builds body temperature at a faster rate than it can be expelled since dogs can’t sweat. Worse, we require the dog to pick up a bumper or bird to be carried in the mouth which is their main capacity for cooling.

 Hot Weather Training

  • Don’t use plastic bumpers for land work. Select bumpers small in size to reduce weight, thereby the effort necessary to carry the bumper. The small size allows for more air flow. Canvas or fire-hose bumpers are absorbent and do not become slick with saliva.
  • Warm up the dog’s muscles before the training session with a short, slow walk in a shaded area.
  • Keep the dog in shaded areas as much as possible while working on sunny days.
  • Never leave a dog unattended in a vehicle with the windows up, even with the engine at idle.Vehicles can stop running on their own and it only takes a matter of minutes for a dog to overheat in a closed vehicle on a hot day.
  • Keep retrieves short in distance and allow for “breathers” between repetitions. Summer is not the time of year for lining extensions.
  • Involve water often by staggering exercises between land retrieves with “getting wet” activities.

Evaporation and lowering the dog’s body temperature with exposure to water are fair heat-management tools.


Photo by Katie Behnke

Pad Cooling: Keep the dog’s feet cool when possible.

  • Train early in the morning when the surface of the ground has not been baked to sweltering temperatures. The morning’s cooler earth still wet from dew is an advantage.
  • Avoid running or walking the dog over open, sun-exposed, dry ground. Stay with woodlands, shallow water and wet grasses.Also avoid the dog’s exposure to hot asphalt, concrete, sandy soil or gravel roadways.
  • Retrieves that require bounding in shallow water provide a welcomed option.

Evaporation:  Early morning water work is ideal training in hot weather conditions.

  • Early hours help avoid the sun’s heating effects as the day wears on.
  • Provide plenty of cool water before, during, and after training sessions. Use a squirt hydrate dogbottle, K9 cooler (see wildrosetrading company.com) or a no-spill water bowl to offer a drink between each retrieve. This tip is completely applicable to field hunts early season. Hydrate!!!

Other tips to keep in mind:

  • Do not feed your dog before the training sessions. This applies to feeding before hunting as well. The dog’s digestive system requires fluids and the digestive process increases body temperature.
  • Consider the physical condition of your dog. An overweight dog will overheat fast. Feeding a kibble of high levels of protein/fats and too much of it increases body heat. Control fat intake by changing the amount of food being consumed rather than changing the type of feed during the hotter months. Float the food with a small amount of water at the time of feeding. Most dogs do not drink enough fluids.  This practice should be continued throughout hunting season.
  • Don’t put away a hot dog. Just like with horses, after a high-exertion session, “walk ’em out.” Allow a cooling period and frequent drinks of water.
  • Dogs that enjoy the comforts of a parlor life… the air-conditioned home, can face a difficult transition to extreme outdoor temperatures. Be careful of shocking your dog with abrupt changes in temperatures. Pre-season, acclimate your gundog to the weather conditions that will be expected on early season hunts especially dove and pheasant hunts.



Know the signs of heat stress and heat exhaustion. At the first indication, stop, cool the dog down and monitor the dog’s condition carefully. Shock can come on quickly.

  • Glazed eyes
  • Staggered walk
  • Inattention and lack of comprehension
  • Rapid rasping/panting
  • Tongue hanging out and turned up like a cup on the end

heat stress signs

A dog’s body temperature will continue to rise quickly until measures are taken.  Do not immediately put the dog in a hot crate in a vehicle for rest or transportation. A cooldown is imperative. Do not apply ice water to cool down. Submerge the dog in water if possible, a creek, pond or even a small indention in the ground filled with available water. Otherwise, soak the dog in cool, wet towels. Keep water in the mouth even if they refuse to drink which is normally the case. During summer training and early season field hunts, have large amounts of water available in reserve as well as for immediate offerings afield.

Once dogs experience a heat stroke, they are very prone to have a reoccurring experience, more so than a dog who has never experienced heat exhaustion.  As with most problems in life, the key is prevention.

Any temperature above the mid-70s, a dog handler should remain alert depending on activities; nineties in the dove field, a high-humidity day training in a dry field, mountain biking on a hot afternoon, 80s in the field on opening day in the Dakotas, a warm day on the quail truck in South Texas.

Awareness and prevention are the handler’s responsibility because most enthusiastic sporting dogs just don’t know when to quit.  Heat exhaustion resulting in a heat stroke is a huge killer of active dogs. Be prepared!

Mike Stewart

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Ladies, Hunting, and the Dogs Who Lead Us There

By Erin Davis, Wildrose Great Lakes

Disbelief about the existence women who hunt and the caliber of their capabilities is simply a thing of the past. What was once unheard of or unacceptable and has transformed to encouraged and equal. Women are undoubtedly the fastest growing demographic on the hunting scene. Don’t believe me? Let’s talk numbers.


Erin Davis. Photo by Chip Laughton

According to data from the Outdoor Sports Foundation, National Shooting Sports Report 2016, and the National Rifle Association:

  • 2001- 1.8 million female hunters
  • 2007- 2.7 million female hunters
    • 2001 vs 2007-85% increase by gender
      • 2007- Women comprised 20% of all hunting licenses sold
      • 2013- 3.3 million female hunters
      • 2017- 3.9 million female hunters

○    2013 vs 2017-44% increase

  • 2017- Women comprised 21% of all hunting licenses sold
  • 2016- Women ages18-24 were the fastest growing demographic in hunting
    • 2016- Major retailers estimated 23% of all hunting related sales were to women
      • Female gun owners spent on average $870 annually on firearms and $405 on accessories
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Alec & Erin Davis and Lewis Matzat

The rationale for these trends are multifaceted. The evolution of social  acceptance and women being seen as valuable partners in the field has largely impacted those numbers.  Fueling that statistical growth is a vast amount of resources for empowerment and encouragement that is readily available. Accessing information is more appealing than ever with gender specific digital and print media such as Women’s Outdoor News and NRA Women, strong social media, presence within flunkers and Facebook groups, seminars like Becoming An Outdoor Woman hosted in states by their Department of Natural Resources, clubs such as Girls Really In To Shooting, and mentored hunts, as hosted by groups like The Sisterhood Of The Outdoors.

Furthermore, women are a vibrant representation leadership positions at Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever, which further solidifies inclusion and longevity within the sport.

As a result of this growth over time a strong market presence developed. It enlightened manufacturers to no longer subscribe to the old philosophy of “pink it and shrink it.” We’ve seen a revolution in creating products for the specialized nature of a woman’s body type in relation to proper unfit and quality clothing. Established companies such as Beretta, Orvis, and Sitka have created women’s gear to the same quality as their men’s lines. New companies have emerged such as Syren shotguns, McKenna Quinn apparel, and Prois gear that create products exclusively for women. Even major retailers like Bass Pro Shops and Cabelas now have vast floor space dedicated to ladies gear.

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Erin, Margie, Maria, Lisa and Sammye on a hunt

Motivating factors for pursuing the sport are personal. For some, this is a way to obtain organic, humanely harvested, and sustainable food options. This is something we can identify with at Wildrose. As a kennel, the foundation of our breeding program is to exclusively provide genetics for exclusively superior game finders. Many times, our pups are the biggest factor in a successful hunt. Seemingly everyone who hunts has a story about a bird that would have never been recovered without a dog. The ability to ensure an ethical hunt through the use of a dog is cornerstone reason for many women to start and continue to hunt.

Hunting is all about creating experiences with family, our dogs, and friends we’ve made because of our dogs from shed hunting to quail hunts. So many ladies of the WR pack initially came to puppy picking to get a hunting dog for their husband or son. These women never had an intention of personally owning a gun, let alone gearing up to hit the field. Much to their surprise, after witnessing their own dog’s natural abilities and desire many people feel compelled to help their dog achieve its full potential and the maximum amount of joy in its life. Every year the number of women who have converted in this way increases. The number of ladies who enter the Wildrose pack with clear initial intentions to hunt from the day they place their deposit on a pup is rapidly growing as well. The number of ladies actively participating at our annual Spring Handler’s Workshop in Oxford has sky rocketed. Female presence has become so strong it even inspired its own event aptly named “Dames, Ducks, and Dogs.

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Sarah Barnes in North Dakota

Any lady’s journey to the field is her own adventure to create. But for the women of Wildrose, that journey always includes dog.













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 Kayaking With Dogs – Top Three Factors for Fun on The Water

By Damon Bungard

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Wildrose Adventure Dog Rendezvous 2019

Kayaking with your dog is great way to spend time outside, cooling off on hot summer days, and getting some bonding time with your dog. But, there are few factors to keep in mind in both kayak selection and training that will help both you and your dog have a safe, fun experience and want to keep going back for more. So hop on board, and let’s take a ride.

  • Choosing The Right Kayak Shape

I’ve been a professional kayaker and designing kayaks for a long time – in fact it’s my job as Product Manager at Jackson Kayak. Just like when training a dog, or taking a child on their first camping trip, you want the first experience for both you and the dog to be a pleasant one, which translates to one you want to repeat.

A lot of that boils down to kayak selection and using the right tool for the job at hand. Not all kayaks are created equal, and certain design factors make some kayaks far better for paddling with your dog than others. Just like all guns aren’t created equal – would you hunt quail with a rifle? No, so let’s start with choosing the right kayak for the job.

Kayaks, like dogs, come in all shapes and sizes. In general length equates to speed – Short is slow, long is fast. Width equates to stability – Narrow is unstable and easy to flip, wide is stable and hard to flip. To counter that, width also sacrifices speed, so wider kayaks are also slower than narrow kayaks. The last big factor is hull shape, notable what we call ‘rocker’ and keel shape. Think of rocker like the arc of a banana. A kayak with a lot of rocker has a highly arced hull when viewed from the side, is banana shaped, which means it’s easy for that kayak to turn. A flat hull with low rocker, tracks better, or tends to go straight easier, and is harder to turn. Whitewater kayaks tend to have a lot of rocker because they are made to run difficult rapids and need to turn on a dime, but they’ll drive you, a novice kayaker, trying to paddle straight on a lake. Sea kayaks, touring, and fishing kayaks tend to have low rocker, and track better, because they are made to efficiently go in a straight line from point A to point B.

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Ashley and Tripper cruising along in the Florida Keys.

So what does that all mean for what makes a ‘good kayak’ for paddling with your dog? Since that generally means flat or slowly moving water, kayaks in the 10-14 ft range usually fit the bill for length. The sweet spot for most people is around 12.5’.

As for width, having the added weight of a dog, and expecting that weight to shift as the dog moves, means more stability is favorable to deal with that shifting load. 30-36” widths can generally handle those load variations, with the sweet spot being around 34”-35”.

Lastly, rocker and hull shape. Since we’re most likely to be on flatwater, look for a kayak with a pronounced keel line (ridge along the bottom), and avoid flat bottomed hulls.

  • Choosing The Right Kayak Hull Style

The next big question to ask yourself is what style of kayak do you like – Sit Inside or Sit on Top. There’s no right or wrong, and a lot of that just boils down to personal preferences. Sit Inside kayaks are more like canoes, with an open cockpit. You sit down in them and seats tend to be at or below the water line. Because of that lower center of gravity, they are more stable at a given width than an equally wide sit on top would be. A lot of people just feel more secure in a sit inside, and feel like they’ll fall off a sit on top. A lot of people like sit insides because the cockpit rim tends to keep gear and dogs inside the kayak. They also tend to be lighter than sit on tops. The downside is any water inside stays inside and cannot self-bail. It must be dumped or sponged out. You can flood a sit in kayak, just like a canoe if you take on too much water. Because of this they are best suited to flat water.


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Ashley and Tripper having a lunch smooch on the banks of the White River, AR. This is the Tripper kayak model, sit in, note the large open cockpit.

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Kilroy and Bubba, out for a kayak duck hunt. The Kilroy is a popular sit-inside with low center or gravity and large, open cockpit.

Sit on Tops on the other are just that, one complete shell of deck and hull. You sit on top of the deck, so have a higher center of gravity. There will be tunnels molded in from the deck to the hull call scuppers. Those scuppers let any water that collects on the deck to run through the kayak, so no water gets inside the body of the kayak. Many people prefer this, particularly if things like breaking waves or beach launches are involved.

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Ryan and Blue, out for a youth duck hunt in Vermont. They are on the Coosa Sit On Top model.

I personally like a use both depending on what I’m doing. My personal preferences are sit inside designs, like our Kilroy models.

  • Choosing The Right Kayak Features

This is a big one and where a lot of bad choices are made that can really impact your paddling experience. First are foremost – there needs to be space for the dog to be, and sit comfortably. If the dog can’t comfortably remain in one place, the paddler will not only be fighting shifting weight, but runs the risk of the dog interfering with the paddle stroke, trying to jump out, or worst, capsizing.

A lot of kayaks have big footrests or hatches or other features between your legs or in front of your feet. That is ok for lone paddlers who often use these areas for gear storage and access, but that clutter is just in the way for your dog. Look for models with large open areas either behind the seat, or in front of your feet so the dog has a place to be, that’s out of your way and clear of your natural paddle stroke. Ideally, the kayak will have an open are both behind you and in front, and the dog can be trained to use either.

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Tripper standing forward, clear of Ashley’s paddle stroke.

Look at floor shape. You want flat areas where the dog will be. A lot of dogs will naturally gravitate to the bow of a kayak as it moves forward. If that area is arced and slippery, it’s easy for them to slip and fall off. If it’s flat or concave, they can stand or sit there more comfortably.

It’s not a big deal on our 12lb dachshund Tripper, but with any dog over 30 lbs its very notable when they shift around.

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This is good example of where you don’t want big dogs to be – standing on a slippery, arced bow surface.

Next, look for traction aids, either built in in the form of foam padding, highly textured surfaces, or accessories available on the market or from home. Plastic is slippery, and dogs tend to get uncomfortable when they slip and slide on a foreign surface like plastic. Having some traction under foot really calms them down. I like built in foam paddling on the deck surface, or adding Dri-Dek tiles to their area. Worst case, lay down a towel, but they tend to get wet and muddy pretty quick.

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Jaeger comfortably standing on an open, flat bow of the Bite, lined with Dri-Dek for traction.

Another big feature factor is the seat style. Look for a seat that can more fore and aft, and shift depending on where and if you have a dog with you. A key thing with kayak performance is ‘trim’ and that means how level the kayak sits on the water when loaded. A small 10-15 lb doesn’t have much impact on trim, but a big 75 lb lab very much does. Being able to move the seat really helps balance the load and keep the kayaks paddling characteristics where they were intended to be, help keep the dog comfortable, and help you use your energy efficiently.

So there are some guidelines to help you shop around for a good kayak for your needs. You’ll notice I’ve avoided talking about pricing, and that’s because we all have our own budgets and needs. Prices can vary widely between the used and new kayak market, from $300-$3000 or more. For a new, quality, US-made kayak that will last you and your dog a long time and many adventures, I’d expect to pay from $700-$1400 depending on the specific style and features you want. If you want to spend some time kayak fishing either with or without your dog, expect to pay more for those added features, but many fishing kayaks will have the key design aspects I’ve pointed out here already built in, like traction aids, moveable seats, and stable hulls.

From our Jackson Kayak line, models like the Tripper, Tupelo, Bite, and Kilroy family fit the bill as my personal favorites for adventures with our dogs, whether cruising the lake, fly fishing or hunting. In July Jackson Kayak launched the new Kilroy HD and Yu’Pik, two models specifically made for a variety of outdoor adventures, including paddling with your dog, and they even accept the Orion Kennel cots as a forward seating position.

Kayaking With Dogs – Three Skills of Paddling Dogs

Now that we’ve talked about kayaks, let’s talk a little about good skills for all adventure dogs that will also help you getting to, on and from the water.

  • Sit / Stay

Sit and Stay are some of the basic obedience commands and helpful in so many aspects of life, but they are key in so many ways for safe, fun kayaking experiences. If your dog can remain under control and out of the way when loading and unloading kayaks from your vehicle, they won’t get hurt. If they can stay in one spot in the kayak and not move and walk all over the place, you’ll have a better paddling experience, they will to, and want to keep coming back for more.

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Jaeger both sitting and being quiet. Both still being worked on 🙂

  • Calm Around Wildlife

One of the best aspects of kayaking is the intimate interaction with nature. Instead of boats where we’re often detached from the water and surroundings, kayaks are intimate with the water, quiet, and you’re just ‘down in it more.’ A lot of wildlife just isn’t spooked by a kayaker, and you can often get far closer than you could one foot. But that can also mean close temptations for dog, from deer to ducks, and having a dog that remains in control when those temptations present themselves and not try to jump out or chase them is very important for their safety and yours. Some areas of the country have real wildlife risks to dogs around the water too, from venomous snakes to alligators, and you don’t want your dog jumping in or running wild along the bank in those areas.

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Ashley and Tripper enjoying the pelicans up close and personal.

  • Quiet

A lot of people seek the water in a kayak for some peace and quiet. Sounds really carry on the water, especially barking. Some dogs just bark at every leaf or stick on the water. While training to be quiet, just try to be conscious of your surroundings and others so they aren’t just hearing your dog all day.

If you ever have any questions or looking for advice, Jaeger, Tripper and I can be reached at jaegertracks@gmail.com, @jaegertracks, and @tripperadventuredog.




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Wildrose North Dakota Hunt


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North Dakota Group Shot by Chip Laughton

ROOSTER!!!! The word that makes every pheasant hunter’s heart race. For the upland enthusiast there is nothing better than chasing wild pheasants across the rolling prairies.  The annual Wildrose North Dakota TSR is right around the corner! Each year we take 2 groups of 21 Wildrose clients and their dogs to Zeke’s Rooster Ranch in Scranton, ND for 4 days of hunting, great food and camaraderie. The beautiful countryside and amazing numbers of birds make for an unforgettable experience. The hunt dates are- hunt 1:Oct 20 arrival, 21-24 hunt and depart Oct 25; hunt 2: Oct 25 arrival, 26-29 hunt and depart on Oct 30. We currently have limited availability for both hunts, so if you are interested please contact me at tom@uklabs.com for more information.

The following photos were shot by Chip Laughton of Days a Field Photography:

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Pheasant hunting stock photo image

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