Andrew Vavra

Andrew Vavra is the marketing specialist at Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s national headquarters. Born and bred in Minnesota, he's a passionate sportsman who appreciates the thrills (and chills) that come with hunting, fishing and camping in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Man vs. Dog

Posted by: Andrew Vavra under Bird conservation, Animals, Dogs, Recreation Updated: March 15, 2011 - 4:35 PM


It’s my belief that the best dog trainers have an unspoken form of communication with their dogs. Whether going through conditioning exercises or hitting the fields after feathered foe, their brains almost seem to work on similar wave lengths as they display an uncanny ability to be on the same page. Now I’m not suggesting that to be a great trainer you must also have the mental capacity of Harlan Pepper from “Best in Show,” but perhaps the phrase “keep it simple” isn’t so stupid after all.

As a younger dog trainer, it can be somewhat frustrating to see the ease of success other more experienced trainers have and I’ve come to the conclusion that their ability to train dogs is wholly dependent upon their skill to think like a dog and to know how a dog sees the world and the challenges set before them.

Therefore, to help me begin “thinking like a dog” I’ve started writing down various scenarios and what I’m thinking versus what I believe my dog is thinking:

Retrieving Bumpers in the Yard:

(ME): The neighbors are outside watching… please just return this to hand and don’t make me look like a fool…

(Beau): Ooooh! People! Do they have treats? I smell treats.

(ME): Crud.


Working the “Stay” Command at Longer Distances:

(ME): Ok, here we need to simulate me sneaking up on a duck slough and then releasing her after shots are fired.

(Beau): Ok, if I just slowly creep up on my belly every time he turns his back he’ll never know I’m moving…

(ME): She's lucky she's so damn cute.


Missing a Shot in the Field and Inadvertently Practicing the “No Bird” Command:

(ME): #&*@!

(Beau): #&*@!

As you can see, at least we’re on the same page when it comes to one thing. It’s a start.

The Over/Under blog is written by Andrew Vavra.




When both handler and dog are in sync, it's a beautiful thing.

When both handler and dog are in sync, it's a beautiful thing.

Why I Hunt

Posted by: Andrew Vavra under Recreation Updated: January 7, 2011 - 10:27 AM
While recently throwing a few back at the local tavern, I started a friendly conversation with a gentleman who eventually circled back to “Oh, so you hunt and stuff? I’ve never tried, but I don’t have a problem with it.” I immediately found it interesting that a non-hunter felt the need to qualify his comment with “but I don’t have a problem with it.” Is the average American’s perception of hunting so jaded that even people who don’t partake in it (but do support our rights in this time honored tradition) feel like the rest of the world is against it? Or do they not have a good enough grasp on the size, strength and history of which our hunting community is enveloped? Either way, at least I know why I hunt.
Have you ever felt the mind rattling nerves of trying to re-nock an arrow as a big buck nervously stands and wonders what made the leaves behind him explode from the forest floor? Has your heart ever stopped for a split-second as a rooster gave way to flight just inches from your boot? Can you still hear your friends heckling you for missing what should have been an “easy” shot at a late season Mallard? If you’re able to answer "yes" to any of these, then you understand the rush that comes with the highs and lows of hunting. But even so, I’d make a guess that if someone were to ask you why you hunted, you wouldn’t answer with any of those descriptions.
Chances are, if you hunt it’s because it’s in your blood. You were raised in an environment in which Mother Nature was your classroom and Respecting the Land, Rejoicing in Moments Afield, and Reveling in Camaraderie were the “Three R’s” you studied. Anyone can ride a bike to work and claim to understand and care about our natural world, but only hunters understand what it really means to be a part of it.
I enjoy paddling wilderness areas, camping in the backcountry and hiking remote trails, but nothing makes me feel more alive and more connected to the world around me than giving into my primordial urges and putting wild game on the table. It’s that escape from society’s “reality” into what is truly real that brings me back year after year.
Next time you’re walking through a remote field with gun and dog in tow, simply stop moving for a second. Take a deep breath and take in the sights and sounds. Remember that feeling because one day you might have to answer the question of why you hunt, or better yet, you might have to teach a young child why WE hunt.


"Remember that feeling because one day you might have to answer the question of why you hunt, or better yet, you might have to teach a young child why WE hunt.

"Remember that feeling because one day you might have to answer the question of why you hunt, or better yet, you might have to teach a young child why WE hunt.


Rent-A-Bird Dog?

Posted by: Andrew Vavra under Recreation Updated: December 7, 2010 - 2:09 PM

Letting a friend or family member borrow the dog you raised since puppyhood can be a gratifying, yet taxing experience.

Letting a friend or family member borrow the dog you raised since puppyhood can be a gratifying, yet taxing experience.

This past weekend was a harrowing adventure for my bird dog Beau, unfortunately I was 300 miles away from the action. Sitting in my apartment in Saint Paul, Minnesota I was relegated to checking my phone for text message updates pertaining to the pheasant hunting action in North Dakota. Not Exactly a dream scenario for me, but it was one I knew I’d eventually have to put up with.

Being a semi-broke college grad, I was lucky enough to have my dad give me a helping hand when it came to financing and training my pup. However, with this help came the caveat that he would be allowed to use her services a few times throughout the year. In the beginning I was so excited to bring home my own “tiny terror” (the nickname she earned for being a drywall chewing champ), that I gladly signed the dotted line and gave dad my blessing to borrow Beau at his discretion.

Little did I know how much worry and angst this would cause me. Being right behind your dog as he or she pushes through shoulder high snowdrifts or as they accidently fall through the ice on a frigid morning is one thing, but reading about your dog doing this is completely different. I think I finally understand my mom’s old saying that she “hoped for the best but anticipated the worst.”



Hoping for the best, I had to remind myself that I did indeed trust my dad’s judgment when it came to the situations he’d be presenting Beau with. However, could I trust Beau to treat him just as fairly? Beau and I had spent most of the summer and fall training and learning from one another. Building that special bond between you and your hunting dog doesn’t happen overnight, but when it does it’s truly remarkable. With the simple nod of the head or a slight puckered whistle she could decipher more from me than my hunting buddy could understand from a full sentence. Needless to say, many emails and phone calls about how Beau hunted were shared before she loaded up for the weekend.

All I wanted was for both parties to come back with tails wagging and smiles flashing, and they did. For the first time in years my dad was able to hunt behind a dog he could work with and he couldn’t have been happier. Their game bags were a little light by the end of the weekend but that didn’t damper the mood of man or dog, because it’s hard to feel sorry for yourself if you’re lucky enough to spend time afield.

Will I ever feel comfortable renting out my best friend? Probably not, but if it makes my dad happy then I can live with that – as long as his cell phone has service.


Seeing the dog you helped train bring a smile to someone's face can be a very rewarding experience.

Seeing the dog you helped train bring a smile to someone's face can be a very rewarding experience.

Happy Thanksgiving from “The Bird House”

Posted by: Andrew Vavra Updated: November 22, 2010 - 4:12 PM

For many people, Thanksgiving is synonymous with tedious amounts of travel, gargantuan levels of tryptophan and enough calories to make you blush in July. So why do we do it? Why do we fight brutal driving conditions, withstand long waits in countless lines and put up with our younger relatives’ lack in discovery of deodorant. After all, we’re certainly not clamoring for “Aunt Sue’s” dried out turkey or “marshmallow salad” all year long.

My best guess comes in a two part answer. 1.) It’s tradition and we all know we’re creatures of habit and 2.) It’s one of the few times when everyone’s schedules allows for families to gather together,  take a few extra sips of sparkling cider and truly be grateful for another year stored in the memory banks.

With pheasant season in full swing, many of us within the Pheasants Forever family – yourself included – have much to be grateful for. CRP had a general sign-up for the first time in four years, positive pheasant reports from much of the country have been flooding Pheasants Forever, and thanks in part to hardworking mentors, our youths continue to pick up the sport of hunting. 

If you’ve been lucky enough to chase roosters this fall, thank you for keeping a time honored tradition alive and well. If you were able to introduce a youngster to the joys of the great outdoors, thank you for ensuring our country will be left in good hands. If you joined or continued your membership with Pheasants Forever, thank you for allowing us to work toward benefiting another 5 million acres of habitat within the next 5 years.

Our hunting partners, friends and supporters are truly something to be grateful for. If it wasn’t for them, who would listen to our stories, believe in our passions and put up with our dirty dogs? Life would be quite dull without tales that stretched the imagination and missed shots that can’t be lived down. So consider this to be my premature, tryptophan fueled “Thank You” for another year’s worth of memories with “The Habitat Organization.”

Read more from Andrew's Pheasant Blog, HERE.


If you’ve been lucky enough to chase pheasant this fall, you certainly have much to be thankful for.

If you’ve been lucky enough to chase pheasant this fall, you certainly have much to be thankful for.


Changing of the Guards

Posted by: Andrew Vavra under Dogs Updated: May 7, 2010 - 10:53 AM

 During the summer months - At precisely 11:30am - a very popular spectacle can be witnessed outside of England’s Buckingham Palace: the changing of the guards. Lasting roughly 30 minutes, weary guards are swapped out for fresh bodies with greater precision than a Swiss watch. Surrounded by pomp and circumstance, tourists can be seen snapping photos and admiring the scene before moving on to another source of entertainment. Over the past week it has become clear to me that Buckingham Palace isn’t the only place to observe this symbolic change.
 Since I was nine years old I’ve been lucky enough to have the same hunting dog by my side. Always retrieving ducks and pheasants with unwavering enthusiasm, her past 14 years have been filled with fond memories and funny moments that I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of. However, this past season she made one thing clear: she wanted to collect her 401K and was ready to pass the torch on to another deserving pup.
 Coming to the realization that your best friend is no longer physically able to keep up with you is a heart breaking one and my only resolution was to simply get a puppy. Pushing away any thoughts of betrayal and hoping that my old wonder-mutt would be able to teach the new dog a few tricks, I made a phone call. At the other end was Justin of Hunters Point Kennel in Marshalltown, Iowa and a few months later I had a beautiful yellow Lab puppy in my arms. 

HPK's Double Curl "Beau" checking out her new home.

HPK's Double Curl "Beau" checking out her new home.

 Her name is Beau and she’s been with me for exactly one week.Full of energy, enthusiasm and bold as can be, she’s exactly what I wanted out of a puppy. In time I’m sure my old friend will take a liking to her (once Beau leaves her tail alone) and I’ll be able to throw doubles off the front porch for them. But until then, I’m just going to take note of the wise old sage watching the puppy from a distance and remember the past while looking forward to the future.
 Every year this happens in households all across the country. There are no bands playing, no one is marching in step and neighbors don’t need a guide book to understand what is going on. This is the way our old hunting dogs would want it. They’ve dedicated themselves to doing our will and putting smiles on our faces and the only thing they want from this “changing of the guard” is a pat on the head, a spot by the fireplace and the feeling that they’ve done a good job. However, a retirement fund full of raw hides and tennis balls doesn’t hurt either.



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