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.

The Dogless Pheasant Hunter

Posted by: Bob St. Pierre under Environment, Weather, Recreation, Birding, Fishing Updated: October 17, 2013 - 3:41 PM
Plain and simple, the dog work of a pheasant hunt provides a very high percent of the enjoyment for me in the field.
It's hard to hunt pheasants without a good bird dog, but not impossible.

A fan of Pheasants Forever on Facebook recently posed the following question:  "Is it hard to hunt pheasants without a dog?"  I believe the answer to this is as easy as adding 2 plus 2.  There is no doubt hunting pheasants without a dog is harder; simply no doubt in my mind.

 

However, there is a question I think provides greater room for debate: "Is it even possible to successfully hunt pheasants without a bird dog?"

 

First of all, I am a dog guy.  Plain and simple, the dog work of a pheasant hunt provides a lot of enjoyment for me in the field.  That being said, I do believe I'm unbiased in saying a dog is more important in pheasant hunting than in any other bird hunt.  Unlike virtually every other gamebird, a pheasants' first survival instinct leads them to run rather than fly from danger.  Consequently, pheasants can run circles around a dogless hunter without providing any indication of its existence.  Pheasants are also tough birds to kill in the air.  Personally, I am an average shot, and I believe my dog saves at least 90 percent of the birds I cripple from going completely unrecovered.

 

So back to the question.  My answer is a qualified "yes."  Here are the four instances I think you can successfully hunt pheasants without a dog:

 

1)      Walking linear cover.  Roadsides, drainage ditches, and fence rows create linear habitat a pheasant hunter can walk without a dog until he/she pushes a bird out the end or squeezes one out the side.

2)      Small Patches.  Same basic principle as walking linear cover.  If you can push a small piece of habitat completely surrounded by plowed fields, then your odds of boosting a bird multiplies.

3)      The Big Group Push.  If you have enough guys to walk close together, it's possible to push a big field and jump the young birds that lack the elusiveness of running around your footsteps.

4)      Game Farms & Preserves.  There is no doubt that pen-reared birds lack the survival instincts of a wild pheasant that has evaded predation its entire existence.

 

I'll add two caveats.  First, in all four of these scenarios, it's possible to flush a rooster without the assistance of a dog; however, finding a winged bird without a dog is another story all together.  Any ethical pheasant hunter entering the field without a bird dog should take great care in making high percentage, quality shots.  Second, I would wager a good bird dog will lead to twice as many birds flushed walking these same scenarios as hunting without one.

 

I'm sure there are dozens of dogless pheasant hunters reading this blog who have harvested wild roosters in vast expanses of cover without the aid of a canine companion . . . Where are the holes in my opinion?

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.

Reading your Bird Dog's "Tells"

Posted by: Bob St. Pierre under Environment, Weather, Recreation, Birding, Fishing Updated: October 8, 2013 - 8:22 AM
Trammell goes on point with ears at attention
Trammell goes on point with ears at attention

Successful poker players often talk about identifying opposing player's "tells" in route to victory.  Some card players can't look others in the eye when they've got a good hand, or they start tapping their fingers on the table when they're bluffing.  Baseball pitchers are known to have similar "tells."  I can remember one pitcher from high school who would only grunt when delivering a curve ball.  Fastball = no grunt.  Curve = grunt.  I hit pretty well off that guy.

 

I believe a parallel can be drawn between successful hunter and dog teams.  Without the ability to talk, the hunter is left to interpret the pup's body language in the field to determine what that dog's nose is communicating to the rest of its body.  Most of us refer to this interchange of scent to body language as a dog getting "birdy."

 

While there are common traits consistent across bird dogs, I believe each birdy dog's tells are as unique as batting stances in the Hall of Fame.  In my opinion, the basic birdy dog indicators are a pup's tail, ears, eyes and pace.  The key to being a successful hunter over your bird dog is honing in on how your dog's tail, ears, eyes and pace behave when your pup's hot after a bird.

 

My shorthair has a couple of surefire tells.  The biggest indicator for me is the pace at which her tail wags left to right.  The faster it goes, the surer she is to be on a bird's trail.  Contrastingly, as soon as she believes she's located it, her tail and the rest of her body goes "rock solid" into a point and her ears are pricked at attention.  In essence, the more statuesque she is, the more certain she has the bird pinned in the cover somewhere in front of her nose.  As long as I'm not behind her, she'll also make eye contact with me; making sure I see her and know she's got one located.  I absolutely get a rush out of the eye contact.  To me, it galvanizes the passing of the baton from her job to mine as the shooter.

 

While Trammell's tail and eye contact tells aren't unique to her, she does have another tell that I've yet to witness in anyone else's bird dog.  When Tram is hot on the trail of a running rooster, but she simply can't locate it after an extended chase, she'll let out a whine.  When I hear that whine, I pick up the pace as fast as I safely can with shotgun in hand, because based on past experience that whine tells me she's on the scent of a wily old rooster that is going to flush before he ever lets her get close to a point.

 

When it comes to pace as a tell, my buddy Matt Kucharski's Lab, Lucy, provides my best example.  There is no doubt a dog's chasing speed picks up as it zeros in on a rooster.  Matt's Lucy is no exception.  As the scent grows in intensity, so does Lucy's horse power, until Lucy finally zeros in on a rooster pinned under grass.  At that point, Lucy stops, looks up to locate Matt, and then immediately pounces on the clump of grass concealing the bird.

 

What is your dog's surefire "tell" when on a bird?

 

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.

To Mom & Dad: Thanks for giving me a life outdoors

Posted by: Bob St. Pierre under Environment, Weather, Recreation, Birding, Fishing Updated: September 18, 2013 - 9:07 PM

On December 22, 1982 - my 9th birthday - my parents bucked a trend that would ultimately shape who I'd become as an individual.  The trend they bucked?  My dad gave up his good paying city job outside of Detroit to move our family into the rural woods of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  I became a "Yooper."  From that point forward, my life included ruffed grouse, a Brittany named "Tinker," musky fishing, canoeing, and camping.  Growing up in the country was the greatest birthday gift I would ever receive. 

Unfortunately, the opposite decision - to move to the city - is the norm for most families in today's society.  In my opinion, this is the singular catalyst that has set a domino of other trends in motion; all leading to one disturbing truth that's got me and everyone else passionate about hunting and fishing shaking in our Irish Setters - kids today don't spend time in the outdoors like we used to when we were youngsters. 

Now, don't take this as a condemnation of city life.  I fully recognize the cultural, economic, and societal advantages associated with living in an urban area.  However, the city life has made getting outdoors complicated.  My generation's dangerous Red Ryder BB gun is no match for the dangers lurking in America's alley today.  Our children's safety and the fear associated with their protection have made organized, sanctioned activities, team sports, dance lessons, and video games a safe alternative to 24-hour surveillance.  Again, don't take this as a condemnation of baseball, hockey, football, or dance.  I cherish my own Little League memories. 

The point is today's youngsters don't get home from school, grab a fishing pole and head to the river like I did just two decades ago.  "Big deal," you may retort.  You may even point a finger and call me a "latch key kid;" yes that dreaded stereotype from the '80s.  Well, it's those "latch key" trips to the river or through the grouse woods where I learned about nature, the land, myself, and life.  I found snapping turtles laying eggs, uncovered salamanders, caught smallmouth bass on orange jointed Rapalas, and bagged flushing ruffed grouse with my Ithaca Model 37.  It was a utopian environment for any kid to grow up within.  A utopia that's difficult to find out the door of most youngsters' homes today.

I don't have the answer to reversing this trend and I'm not sure that anyone does.  But, I do believe the trend does need to be reversed.  I'll leave you with one final thought - "If those of us who care about our hunting traditions don't take the initiative to pass down our passion for the outdoors, then who will?" 

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 Dog Names, From A to Z

Posted by: Bob St. Pierre under Environment, Weather, Recreation, Birding, Fishing Updated: August 28, 2013 - 2:38 PM

 

The author and his young shorthair named Yzerman

The author and his young shorthair named Yzerman

 

 

I’ve admitted – repeatedly – that I’m a dog name ‘Snob’ with a capital “S.” So without further adieu, allow me to offer a dog name I love for each letter of the alphabet . . . with a couple extras thrown in for good measure.

A is for Aspen.  Although this name is on the edge of too common, since I know three co-workers with dogs with this name, I must admit I love the multi-level nod to a place this name inspires. It could be referencing a town in Colorado or a favored grouse-y habitat.  Either way, I can picture it, smell it and embrace it as a dog’s moniker.

B is for Bine.  Pronounced “BeNay.”  I’m incredibly reluctant to put this name in print because I’ve ear-marked it for myself and believe it’s so dang cool that people are going to “steal” it in droves. And, you all know how snobbish I become when a dog name reaches too high a popularity level. So, at the risk of exposing my next dog’s name to the world, I introduce you to the Ojibwe name for ruffed grouse: Bine. Have a listen to its pronunciation.

C is for Como.  Wayne Carlson, a friend of mine, named his spectacular Brittany after the St. Paul, Minnesota neighborhood where he and his wife, Emily, reside. I love bird dog names referencing places people cherish.  #SenseOfPlace

D is for Dude.  The Big Lebowski.  I don’t think I need to write any more. If you don’t get it, don’t name your dog “The Dude.”  If you do get it . . .

E is for Eve.  According to Internet folklore, the band Eve 6 came up with their name after watching an episode of the X-Files also called “Eve.” I love both the X-Files and Eve 6, so naturally gravitated to this name, not to mention the underlying “Adam & Eve” references.

F is for Fydrich.  Fidrych references Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, the deceased Detroit Tigers pitcher, 1976 American League Rookie of the Year, Yankee killer, and pop culture transcending character. “The Bird” was known for his quirky personality, which included grooming the mound and talking to the baseball between pitches. To me, Fidrych’s nickname – The Bird – makes it a perfect fit for a bird dog’s name. Unfortunately, my wife VETOED this name during the process of naming of our last puppy. NOTE: This is also the first appearance of a recurring theme that will most likely irritate all non-Michiganders. I have a strong affinity for dog names associated with Detroit and Michigan sports figures.

G is for Griswold.  “Fletch” was a first-runner-up in the “F” section, but Chevy Chase hits the list with his signature character Clark W. Griswold of the National Lampoon’s Vacation series.

H is for Herman.  Herman, the Munsterlander . . . Thanks to anonymous STEVE for this fun name he left in the comment section of my blog entry Naming Your New Bird Dog Puppy.

I is for Iago.  “My name is Iago Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die,” was the memorable line from the popular character in the 1987 movie, The Princess Bride.

J is for Jacques.  In general, I’m against using common people’s names for dogs.  My biggest complaint stems from a hunt where my companion’s dog was named “Bob.”  Needless to say, confusion ensued. However, I believe “Jacques” is uncommon enough a guy’s name (outside of Quebec) that it’s tailor-made for that new French Britt I’ve been contemplating.

K is for Klinger.  Jamie Farr’s popular character Corporal Max Klinger provides a bird dog name with a nod to all those Baby Booming M*A*S*H fans out there looking for a piece of nostalgia.

L is for LaBatt.  Since Pheasants Forever doesn’t currently have a national beer sponsor, I am free to admit my favorite barley soda is LaBatt Blue.

M is for Montana.  There is no doubt this name borders on the edge of being too popular; however, if you’ve ever been to “Big Sky” then you know . . . it’s the most under-rated of all the top bird hunting states. Only big running bird dogs deserve the name “Montana.”

N is for Nirvana.  “Load up on guns, bring your friends,” is the first line of Nirvana’s breakthrough grunge classic, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” It sounds to me like Kurt Cobain just wanted someone to go on a classic South Dakota pheasant drive.

O is for Orion.  Thanks to anonymous BRENNEN for this fun name he left in the comments section of my blog entry Naming Your New Bird Dog Puppy. “I named by yellow Lab ‘Orion,’ as in the hunter.  The greatest hunter in the universe”

P is for Pebbles.  What comes after Pebbles?  Bamm-Bamm! Sounds like a great bird dog’s name to me.

Q is for Q.  Let’s face it, there aren’t a lot of options here; however, the simplicity in syllables makes “Q” an attractive choice, particularly for Quail Forever members.

R is for Rocky.  I have always loved boxers (the dog) named after boxers (the fighters).  Although boxers aren’t hunting dogs, I think there is room in the bird dog niche for a few male pups named Rocky Balboa.  For some reason, I think of a muscle-ripped English pointer when I think of a fitting breed for dogs named “Rocky.”  Wirehairs also seem to fit the name in my mind.

S is for Seven.  Without a doubt, this was the most controversial letter in my selection process.  I have two great friends who both own fantastic bird dogs with unique “S” names. Anthony Hauck, PF’s Online Editor, has the marvelous English cocker spaniel “Sprig,” and my radio partner Billy Hildebrand has a tremendous Brittany named “Snap.” So, I avoided the conflict and selected George Costanza’s favored baby name, “Seven.”  If you’ve never watched this episode of Seinfeld, then you MUST check out this clip.

T is for Trammell.  If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, then you know my first GSP is named in honor of former Detroit Tigers great Alan Trammell, my childhood idol. “Trammell,” the dog, is my pride and joy, so I will always be partial to this name and forever reserve the right to name another pup down the road in her honor, rather than in the baseball player’s homage the second time around. It’s also important to me to point out that my childhood dog, a Brittany, was named “Tinker.” Tinker was also a great dog, but there was considerable debate between my brother and me about whether we were naming her in reference to Tinker Toys or Tinker Belle. As I recall, I was on the Tinker Toys side.

U is for Uno.  A simple, double syllable name for your first bird dog.

V is for Vern.  “Know what I mean Vern?”

W is for Wingnut.  What do you want your bird dog to be? Crazy about birds . . . a “Wingnut!”

X is X.  It’s a simple name for a simple pointing dog equation . . . “X” marks the spot.

Y is for Yzerman.  Readers of this blog have come to know her as “Izzy,” but her real name is “Yzerman.” Steve Yzerman is my generation’s Gordie Howe. The retired center and captain of the Detroit Red Wings, Yzerman was to hockey fans from Michigan what Alan Trammell was to Tigers fans during my childhood years of the ‘80s.  I’ve never encountered another hunting dog with the name and it personalizes the pup to me while adding on to the story of my Michigan upbringing with Trammell as my bird dog tag team.

Z is for Zetterberg.  Yes, I did it again and closed out my list with another Detroit Red Wings favorite. “Z” for short will likely be my first German wirehaired pointer some ten years down the road from today.

There you have it, my favorite bird dog names from A to Z. I don’t expect you to like all (or any of these). I guess that’s not necessarily the point. Dog names should be unique to the individual doing the naming and hopefully that will create some originality in the process.  That being said, what’s the most original new dog name you’ve come up with as a result of reading this list?

Related:

Please Don't Name Your Bird Dog That

Please Don't Name Your Bird Dog That Either

Please Don’t Name Your Bird Dog “Bob”

Naming my Second Bird Dog, Part 1 of 2

Naming my Second Bird Dog, Part 2 of 2

Naming Your new Bird Dog Puppy

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.

Defining a Good Bird Dog Blood Line

Posted by: Bob St. Pierre under Environment, Weather, Recreation, Birding, Fishing Updated: July 24, 2013 - 9:43 PM

 In the last couple of blog posts, I’ve written about my newfound respect for Field Trials and Hunt Tests.  As I was driving home from a night of dog training last Thursday evening, I caught a FAN Outdoors radio interview with pro dog trainer Tom Dokken.

tomdokkenweb
Tom Dokken

During the interview, Tom articulated why folks interested in acquiring a hunting puppy should consider field trial and hunt test blood lines to find the best bird dog puppy blood lines.

“Successful field trial and hunt test dogs,” Dokken explained, “have proven they have the genetics to be good hunters in addition to being very trainable.  Even if you have no intention of trialing your own dog, these characteristics are exactly the same traits important to creating a successful bird dog.”

Dokken went on to explain how to find these successful field trial and hunt test blood lines in a breeding’s documents by looking for the following acronyms after a dam or sire’s name:

FC = Field Champion

AFC = Amateur Field Champion

NFC = National Field Champion

MH = Master Hunter

SH = Senior Hunter

To listen to the full podcast of Tom’s interview, follow this link to Hour 2 of the show on July 18.  You can also contact Tom direct by visiting his website.

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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