Bob St. Pierre

Bob St. Pierre is director of marketing and public relations for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. A lifelong bird hunter, he chases upland birds each fall from Michigan to Montana with his German shorthaired pointer. He's often on the FAN Outdoors show, 6 to 8 a.m. Saturdays on 1130 AM.

Posts about Birding

My New Bird Dog and Puppy Potty Training

Posted by: Bob St. Pierre Updated: July 10, 2014 - 9:36 PM

I am proud to introduce Top Gun Escanaba v. St.Pierre, my new 10-week-old female German shorthaired pointer. My new bird dog pup, call name “Esky,” comes from the same bloodlines as my previous two shorthairs, Izzy and Trammell. If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you may remember my young shorthair Izzy died tragically last October. Izzy and Esky share the same dam, Top Gun Hope

Esky joined our family last Thursday after a trip to Top Gun Kennels in Iowa where we met a few of her siblings. The breeder, Steve and Jodie Ries, made my pup selection for me in advance. Steve and Jodie know me well, know my hunting style and know what attributes I was looking for in my new pup. There was no flipping over pups on their back to see which one fought me, or didn’t. There was no walking around the yard to see which one followed me, or didn’t. There was no chance of a pup having a good day or a bad one when I met them. I simply communicated my preferences and trusted them. This strategy of trust worked seven years ago with my first pup and I’ve kept returning to the same breeder ever since. 

Tip: I’ve found most gun dog breeders to be similarly dedicated to their client’s needs.  If you’re looking for a pup, ask prospective breeders for the contact info from some of their clients and make a few calls.  Speaking to owners from the same bloodlines you’re interested in will provide a tremendous amount of insight into both the breeder and the line.  It’s well worth the effort.

The Name Game

While I named my previous two bird dogs after Detroit sports heroes of my childhood (Alan Trammell and Steve Yzerman), I went a different direction with my new pup. “Esky” is the nickname of my hometown of Escanaba in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I selected the name for a couple of different reasons. First, I’ve never met another bird dog named Esky and a unique name in the field is important to me. Second, Esky sounds similar to Izzy, which I like considering the circumstances of losing Izzy at such a young age. Lastly, growing up in Escanaba translated into my love for the great outdoors and bird hunting in particular, so naming my dog “Esky” seemed a fitting tribute to a place I love. 

Puppy Potty Training

Life with a puppy is a shock to the system and our normal daily structure. In fact, I spent my Fourth of July holiday weekend not sleeping. Ten-week-old puppies want bathroom breaks at 2AM and 4:30AM, and you’d best move quickly to avoid accidents.

Tip: Puppies need to go to the bathroom as soon as they wake up. Carry your puppy outside as soon as they awake to avoid an indoor accident. Put that puppy where you want them to learn “going potty” is acceptable. Say “go potty” until they go to the bathroom. Jump up and down like you won the Stanley Cup after the pup successfully goes to the bathroom.

And it begins again; the process of training a puppy and adapting to life with a new member of the family. Stay tuned for more posts as I go through the process of training my third bird dog.

Note: I’m hoping to contact the gentleman from the Maplewood/White Bear Lake, Minnesota area who has named his new shorthair puppy, Izzy, in tribute to my pup. I’d like to express my gratitude. Please email me at stpete@pheasantsforever.org. Thank you!

Related Posts:

Our Busy Izzy Rests

Updates: Izzy, Trammell & a Thank You

Birth of a Bird Dog Litter

Bird Dog Names, From A to Z

Wolters’ Gun Dog: A Great Place to Start for New Bird Dog Puppy Owners

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.

Prevent Gunshy Problems in your Pup this Fourth of July

Posted by: Bob St. Pierre Updated: July 2, 2014 - 7:57 AM
Avoid exposing your puppy to fireworks - Graphic by Logan Hinners, Pheasants Forever

Avoid exposing your puppy to fireworks - Graphic by Logan Hinners, Pheasants Forever

Many folks pick up new bird dog pups in early summer. Count me among that group again this Fourth of July weekend. As you celebrate our nation’s independence this week, beware of two common causes of gunshy bird dogs.    

Fireworks

Bird dog puppies should be methodically introduced to gunfire in association with birds and a fun atmosphere. A step-by-step process helps prevent gunshyness, reinforces that a gunshot equates to a retrieve and helps connect the dots through the entire process of what you’re expecting out of that pup as your new hunting companion. Unfortunately, a fun family evening watching fireworks can seriously frighten a pup and create a fear of loud noises, and consequently gun shyness. While I have no doubt thousands of folks who read this blog will say their bird dog pup was exposed to fireworks and didn’t end up gunshy, in response, I’ll say it’s not worth the risk testing your luck at the expense of a new pup.

Parades

As a first-time owner of my very own bird dog pup in 2007 I’d been coached to avoid fireworks, but parades caught me completely by surprise. At 11-weeks-old, my shorthair accompanied my family to a Fourth of July parade in Rhinelander, Wis. As I recall, it was a beautiful day with lots of people and lots of other dogs for my pup to socialize. It was a wonderful scenario until the local high school band started to march down the parade route pounding on drums. I looked at my wife in panic, scooped up my puppy and yelled back to my wife that I needed to get “Trammell” away from the drums. Fortunately, I was able to get a few blocks away without any negative effects, but I still consider it a close call. 

Any pro trainer will tell you the training necessary to reverse a gunshy dog is a long, arduous exercise. It’s always the best plan to avoid it from happening in the first place. To read more on the topic, I’d suggested the following articles:

How to Prevent a Gunshy Dog by Brian Lynn of Outdoor Life

Keeping your Dog from Becoming Gunshy by Steve Snell of Gun Dog Supply

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.

Hannah Stonehouse Hudson Talks Life, Love and Bird Dogs this Saturday Morning on KFAN

Posted by: Bob St. Pierre Updated: June 24, 2014 - 10:18 PM
Hannah Stonehouse Hudson, Jim Hudson and Scout

CAPTION: Hannah Stonehouse Hudson, Jim Hudson and Scout

It’s been a rollercoaster for Hannah Stonehouse Hudson the last two years. 

In the summer of 2012, Stonehouse Hudson snapped a photo of a dog named Schoep swimming with owner John Unger in Lake Superior.  I don’t have hard statistical data to support my next statement, but I feel confident proclaiming it to be one of the most virally popular images of the Facebook era.  In turn, it put Hannah’s Stonehouse Photography business on the national stage. 

Joy turned to grief a few short months later when Hannah’s husband, Jim Hudson, tragically drowned in Lake Superior.  Jim was a professional fishing guide and a pretty famous one at that.  I’d never had the pleasure of meeting Jim in person, but I was grateful to have interviewed him on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN just days before the accident.  I’ve also never had the pleasure of meeting Hannah in person, but I’ve admired from afar (Twitter, Facebook, interviews, etc.) the grace in which she’s handled the ups and downs of life these last two years. 

I’m excited to report Hannah will join Billy Hildebrand and me on FAN Outdoors this Saturday morning at 6:30AM.  We’ll talk about Schoep, Jim, fishing, dogs and her exploding pet photography business.  She’ll also teach us her five steps to taking better pet photos ourselves.  Hope you’ll tune in to what should be a fun and inspiring show.

Social Media Links to Follow Hannah Stonehouse Hudson

Twitter – https://twitter.com/Stonehousephoto

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/PhotographyofHannahStonehouseHudson

Blog & Website - http://www.stonehousephotoblog.com/

 

 

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.

Bird Dogs, Scent and Finding Birds

Posted by: Bob St. Pierre Updated: April 28, 2014 - 3:46 PM
ScentCone3
With their incredible noses, bird dogs are easily able to distinguish between different environments and bird species, and different species within the same environment. Photo by Bob St.Pierre / Pheasants Forever

I spent a number of days this spring running my German shorthaired pointer, Trammell, through woods I know hold timberdoodle on their migration north. It was interesting to watch Trammell navigate the scent determining when to point and when to press. It got me thinking about the incredible ability of a dog’s nose, so I reached out to Bob West of Purina Dog Foods and a professional trainer with 50 years of experience to teach me more about bird dogs and scent.

The Scent Cloud

“Although the bird dog world has referenced it as a ‘scent cone’ for years, scent doesn’t follow a geometric shape. Scent more closely resembles a cloud,” explained West.

West explained that scent does indeed get bigger as it disperses downwind from the source, but the air current, temperature, humidity, and individual animal’s body heat are just some of the factors influencing the path of scent particles.

Scent 1
Bird scent more closely follows in the form of a cloud as opposed to a cone. Photo courtesy Bob West / Purina.

Using smoke bombs to simulate scent, West has observed the unpredictability of these scent clouds. “I’ve watched scent travel in a path similar to the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. There are indeed holes in scent that one dog can shoot through and another just a few feet away will encounter.

Temperature & Moisture

The temperature of the environment, the body heat emanating from the bird, and the moisture of your dog’s nose are all critical variables as well. Cool, moist days are better for dogs to locate bird scent. Scent seems to hold tighter to the ground longer under cooler and moister conditions.  Likewise, Bob West’s field trial research indicates before 10AM and after 4PM are the optimal times of day for dogs to locate birds, which generally coincides with the cooler portions of the day.

Moisture is also important in your dog’s nose. A dog’s ability to scent requires the sensory receptors in the pup’s nose being clean and moist. This is one of the reasons abundant water is necessary in the field.

West also believes dogs have the ability to sense, or perceive the body heat of a bird. “Birds are warm blooded animals and I believe our dogs have the ability to determine a bird’s location by using more than just the sense of smell. I believe bird dogs also factor in heat from other animals, as well as disturbed vegetation.”

Hot Spots

The combination of a concentration of scent, disturbed vegetation and the bird’s body heat create “hot spots.” Oftentimes, these hot spots are the cause of a flash point or a flusher’s increased tail motion. It’s perfectly okay for your dog to focus in on these hot spots. The key is for the dog to process the clues mentally and decipher the bird’s subsequent moves forward.

Dog’s Health

A pup needs to be in good physical condition to accurately process scent, heat and disturbed vegetation. “It’s my job to talk about nutrition because of my role at Purina, but it is in fact critically important to your dog’s success in the field. A dog that’s appropriately nourished, well hydrated, and in good physical condition for the rigors of hunting is certainly more able to find birds as well as mentally process scent and clues,” added West.

Bird Identity

I’ve long believed my shorthair had the ability to observe the difference in habitat between the grouse woods and the pheasant fields, then to know what bird she was scenting for during a particular hunt based upon the cover being hunted. What I wasn’t anticipating was that she’d be able to distinguish different species by scent in the same environment, but that’s exactly what happened on a recent hunt club visit when Trammell locked up on a rooster pheasant with a bobwhite quail in her mouth during a retrieve.

West confirmed the photo’s story, “There is no doubt dogs know the difference between species of birds. They also can differentiate between individuals of the same species. For instance, I’ve observed dogs point roosters with a rooster already in their mouth. Dogs definitely know the smells of different species and individual birds being hunted.”

West also went on to explain that dogs do not get desensitized to smell like humans. “If you walk into a room with fresh cut roses, you’ll notice them for the first few minutes but then the ability to distinguish that rose sent fades. That fade doesn’t happen with dogs. Their noses are exponentially better focused than our sense of smell.”

Hunting Dead Birds

West also reports that dogs can tell the difference between a dead bird, crippled bird and a living/healthy bird. So, when you drop a bird in the tall grass that isn’t immediately retrieved, just stop. The worst mistake a hunter can make is barging into that spot and start breaking down that vegetation. “Let your dog work the cover and scent. If that bird has been hit, imagine the scent from broken tissue or a ruptured digestive track. Your dog will find that scent if you don’t tamper with it. Don’t underestimate your dog’s ability to read disturbed vegetative cover too.  They can piece together the puzzle.”

Up Wind, Down Wind, Cross Wind

“Hunt em all,” proclaims West.  “You’ll never encounter a day where hunting up wind will always lead you back to your truck. Dogs are used to hunting through variable wind conditions and these different wind directions can make your dog a better bird finder in the long run.”

Just Add Luck

As we finished off our conversation, I asked West to break down into a percentage how much of a dog’s success was the result of its training/master and how much was the dog’s ability. Here’s how he broke it down for me.

Locating Birds (finding): 30% Human influenced / 70% Dog’s Natural Ability

Handling Birds (pointing, flushing, working a runner): 25% Human influenced / 50% Dog’s Natural Ability & 25% LUCK

“You simply can’t forget about luck,” Bob finished.  “Sometimes all the training and dog power can’t equal a dose of good luck.”

If you’d like to learn more about bird dogs and their scenting abilities, Bob West was a guest on FAN Outdoors radio on Saturday April 26th.  Listen to the KFAN podcast.

 

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.

Wolters’ Gun Dog: A Great Place to Start for New Bird Dog Puppy Owners

Posted by: Bob St. Pierre Updated: April 16, 2014 - 2:14 PM

Over the course of the last few weeks, I’ve received dozens of messages from bird hunters excited to welcome a puppy into their lives for the first time this spring. Most of these messages have revolved around one central question:

“Do I have any tips for starting off on the right foot in a pup’s training process?”

Yes, yes I do. Although it was first published in 1961, it’s my opinion Richard Wolters’ book Gun Dog remains the gold standard for beginning bird dog owners.

  • Fundamentals of Obedience. While the book covers more advanced elements of your hunting dog’s education (introduction to guns, birds, and water), it’s Wolters’ focus on the basics of obedience that keep me pointing folks toward Gun Dog as a wonderful foundation upon which to create the bird dog of your dreams.
  • Visual Learners. Gun Dog is also filled with photos and easy-to-understand captions of the training process. Like a good cookbook that includes a snapshot from every step of a recipe, Wolters does a wonderful service to the reader including photos to bring home his text for more visual learners.
  • Bowties & Bird Dogs. Speaking of photos, I always get a kick out of the photos of Wolters training his English setter in his bowtie. The point being, Wolters’ training exercises are short and easy for the bird dog owner after a long work day.
  • Breed Agnostic. It doesn’t make any difference if you own a Lab, springer, or German wirehair, Gun Dog is a versatile training guide for retrievers, flushers or pointers.

As you progress in the training process, you’ll encounter folks who disagree with some of the finer points of Wolters’ instructions. For instance, some pointing dog trainers nowadays don’t want to teach their dog the sit command out of concern a point will slide into a sit. Additionally, Wolters’ text came prior to the advent of e-collars as training tools. There is no doubt some things have changed in the 53 years since Wolters wrote Gun Dog. The basics haven’t changed and that’s where Gun Dog shines.

I’ve used Wolters’ principles to help me establish the fundamentals in two German shorthaired pointing bird dogs that have also doubled as obedient members of our family. I plan to use Wolters’ guidance again on my pup to arrive this summer. If you’re looking for the first building block in training a bird dog yourself, then Wolters’ Gun Dog is a fantastic place to start.

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.

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