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 Recreation

The Dog Days of Summer

Posted by: Bob St. Pierre Updated: June 26, 2013 - 1:40 PM

 

 

The summer months are a tough time to be a bird dog owner.  State owned wildlife areas and federally owned waterfowl production areas are both closed to dogs till mid-July because of the nesting season.  No arguments with those regulations, it makes sense for those lands’ purpose as critical pieces of wildlife habitat.  Nonetheless, as a guy owning nothing more than a suburban lawn, trying to find a place to keep the dogs in shape and burn off a little of their ya-ya’s is a challenge in urban America.

Early on in my suburban life, I tested the dog park route.  Although dog parks are good in theory, they are only as functional as the least socialized mutt in the pack at that moment.  Consequently, I’ve witnessed all varieties of reasons to quit trying to exercise my bird dogs in sanctioned off-leash dog parks, but the final straw came two years ago when a pair of owners tried to teach their pooches dominance by escalating their differences in dog training philosophy to an all-out fist fight.  As a crowd gathered (dogs and humans), I vowed never to return.

These days, I’ve got two off-leash dog running options from mid-April through mid-July.  The first option is a local game farm hunt club that is closed during the summer months.  They allow members to run their dogs on their private land during the off-season because of the absence of wild nesting birds.

My second option is a real gem.  It’s about 80 acres of land donated to the local community.  To date, the township hasn’t quite figured out what to do with the property yet.  There’s rumors of little league fields (like we need more empty ballparks for kids not to be using), but fortunately for me and my two bird dogs the land has gone two full years as off-leash dog running heaven.  It’s a location somewhat hidden to passers-by, but there is a Vizsla owner, a Springer owner and a few Lab owners I see there regularly.  In two years, I can count the non-hunting dog breeds I’ve encountered on one hand.  It seems us bird dog folks share a common need to find some good running ground for our canine athletes.

Do you have an off-leash piece of property to exercise your bird dog during the summer months, or do you leash up the pup and go for a jog?

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.

The 5-Tool Pheasant Hunter

Posted by: Bob St. Pierre Updated: June 12, 2013 - 8:30 AM

 

The best pheasant hunters are lights-out shooters. Photo by Rehan Nana / Pheasants Forever
The best pheasant hunters are lights-out shooters. Photo by Rehan Nana / Pheasants Forever

Back in my baseball days, we had a ballplayer come through Saint Paul heralded as one of the era’s best 5-tool prospects.  J.D. Drew was the guy’s name and after 14 MLB seasons with one World Series title; he lived up to most of the hype.  In baseball terms, a 5-tool ballplayer possesses the following five traits:

1) The ability to hit for power

2) The ability to hit for a high batting average

3) Speed on the bases

4) A strong arm from his position

5) The ability to field his position at a high level

As is often the case, my mind was bouncing as I ran the dogs this evening after work.  I started thinking about the comparable five tools of elite pheasant hunters.  Here’s what I came up with:

1) A Good Shot.  No matter how politically correct you want to be, success in pheasant hunting ends with meat on the dinner table.  So, no matter if you call a good shot “a kill,” “a harvest,” or “bagging a bird,” your hand-eye coordination better be fluid, your swing smooth and your eye dead on.

2) Endurance.  The best wild rooster chasers I know are also tremendous athletes.  If you’re going to walk a big up-and-down Dakota prairie or bust a snow-filled cattail slough with resistance against your every step, you’d better come physically fit.  A wild pheasant hunt ain’t any place for Bubba to work off his summer barbecue beer belly.

Having a good idea of where pheasants will be found depending on time of day or season is a valuable skill to have. Photo by Rehan Nana / Pheasants Forever
Having a good idea of where pheasants will be found depending on time of day or season is a valuable skill to have. Photo by Rehan Nana / Pheasants Forever

3) Birdy Cover Reader.  I had a hard time narrowing down this to one single phrase.  Under consideration were “Problem Solving Ability,” “Habitat Evaluator,” and “Signs & Signals,” but the premise of this skill is a hunter’s ability to visually narrow down the best looking habitat likely to hold birds while also eliminating the low-probability areas so as not to burn off too much energy without hope of reward. Biologists tend to be naturals at this skill; able to identify food sources, loafing areas, and thermal cover other hunters may simply look at and see as tall grass, medium grass, short grass, thick grass, thin grass or no grass.  I also absolutely see a correlation in one’s ability to judge birdy cover with their length of hunting career.  Personally, growing up as a ruffed grouse hunter, I am still a better grouse cover analyst than I am a pheasant habitat reader.

4) Dog Handling.  While some folks may choose to go without the help of a bird dog, in my opinion pheasant hunting is a team sport.  The canine component of your dynamic duo can close huge gaps in any deficiencies you may have in the first three of the tools described above.  When it comes to dog “handling,” I am referencing not only your dog’s level of skill in scenting, endurance, pointing, flushing, tracking and retrieving, but I’m also encompassing the hunter’s ability to train a bird dog, handle a bird dog in the field and (perhaps most importantly) read a dog’s body language during a hunt.

Giving back as a conservationist can mean mentoring young hunters in safety and ethics. Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever
Giving back as a conservationist can mean mentoring young hunters in safety and ethics. Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

5) Conservationist.  I liken this category to an athlete possessing “intangibles.”  True 5-tool pheasant hunters know when NOT to take a shot.  The context of any bird hunting situation is constantly changing.  Safety and ethics come into play with every shot and a Hall of Fame pheasant hunter is a great quick decision maker.  I also view this category as a call to action for any bird hunter who doesn’t give back to the habitat ultimately responsible for the birds.  “Giving back” can mean a lot of different things to each individual.  As a Pheasants Forever employee, I’d like to think every pheasant hunter feels a sense of responsibility to give $35 annually in membership dues to an organization committed to perpetuating the future of pheasant hunting though our habitat mission.  However, I think “giving back” can also mean creating quality wildlife habitat on one’s own land, engaging politicians in conservation policy or mentoring young hunters in safety and ethics.  My point is that being a conservationist is a complex proposition, but it’s the 5th tool elevating a pheasant hunter from Barry Bonds to the rare air of Willie Mays.

 

 

 

Did I miss any obvious skills in my assessment of the five most important tools of a pheasant hunter?

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.

Why Do My Bird Dogs Like Turtles?

Posted by: Bob St. Pierre Updated: May 30, 2013 - 10:45 AM

While running my shorthairs earlier this week, we encountered a large snapping turtle.  The big “hen” snapper had left the confines of a nearby wetland to (I presume) lay her eggs.  My older GSP, “Trammell,” caught a whiff of the turtle and b-lined for the reptile.  After a moment’s wavering point, Trammell went in for a closer look only to be nipped in the snout with a glancing blow from the turtle’s pliers-like jaw.  Seconds later, in spite of my scolding, my younger shorthair, “Izzy,” mimicked Trammell’s path.  Fortunately, the younger pup was quicker and avoided the snapper’s jowls.

Box turtle
This flush could take a while. Pheasants Forever File Photo

This encounter immediately had me recalling a visit to the Fort Pierre Grasslands of South Dakota in which Trammell locked up solid on point . . . of a box turtle hidden in a stand of beautiful bluestem.

My next thought was to Bob West, Purina’s bird dog expert who I often call upon when my own bird dogs leave me perplexed.  “Do you have any idea why pointers have a propensity to lock up on turtles?” I questioned.

“I have no idea,” West responded with a chuckle.  “I can remember a particular field trial many years ago where I lost track of points after dozens of pointers locked on box turtles that day.  There is just something about the scent of turtles that makes a pointer lock up.”

Bob and I discussed the fact most turtles in the north (painted and snapping) spend almost all of their life in the water, so turtle points are less common compared to areas further south with lots of terrestrial box turtles.  Either way, West went on to assure me, “There is nothing wrong with your dog, it’s very common for pointing dogs to lock up on a turtle.”

How common is it?  Has your bird dog ever pointed a turtle?

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.

Naming Your New Bird Dog Puppy

Posted by: Bob St. Pierre Updated: May 14, 2013 - 10:41 AM

 

My dad with his Brittany featuring an original name: "Bleu Skye St.Pierre"
My dad with his Brittany featuring an original name: "Bleu Skye St.Pierre"

Earlier this week, Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Online Editor, asked me to write a blog about my favorite bird dog names.  Actually, what he said was, “you’ve sort of cornered the blog market on posts about names . . .

Soooo, why don’t you write a blog about some of your favorite bird dog names?”

 

Admittedly, I am a name snob.  A dog name snob in particular.  Ironic coming from a guy named “Bob,” I know.  I get it.  We all have our “issues.”
Well Anthony, challenge accepted.  To start, here are a few of my five categories for coining a good bird dog name.

 

1) Be Original.  I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to beat this theme until I never meet another dog named “Remy.”  Ever hunted in a group with three dogs all named "Remy?"  Think how confusing that is for you, let alone all three of those pups!  IMMEDIATELY rule out names referencing your favorite shotgun (Remy, Reta, Benelli, etc.).  Also eliminate “Drake” and “Hunter.”  A bird dog is a unique opportunity to be creative, personal and original.  Embrace the opportunity.

 

2) Names Tell Stories.  I believe you should have to tell a story to explain your pup's name to someone.  The conversation ends when your pup is named "Phil."

 

3) Pay Homage.  A dog's name is a terrific way to honor someone or something special in your life. However, let it be known naming your Brittany “Spears” is a jailable offense for man, woman or child.

 

4) Sense of Place.  I really like dog names that reference a special place in a person’s life.

 

5) Fit the Breed.  When possible, it's cool to match the pup's name to the breed or your heritage with the dog’s name.  There are lots of fun ways to connect a dog's German, English, French, Spanish or Irish heritage through their name.

 

With those five bits of advice in mind, here are five dog names that stick out as favorites of the hundreds of pups I’ve encountered during the decade I’ve served with Pheasants Forever.

 

1)      Sprig (Original).  Anthony earns honors for coming up with a name for his Cocker as he references his favorite duck, the pintail.

 

2)      Bleu (Stories).  Truth be told, I didn’t fall too far from the “weird tree.”  My dad named his Brittany pup using one of the weirdest decision trees ever conceived. At the time he received his new Brittany pup (it was a gift from me & my brother), my dad was addicted to blue PowerAde.  He also happens to love bleu cheese.  Consequently, it made sense in his mind to name his brand new pup “Bleu Skye St.Pierre” or “Bleu” for short.  It’s odd . . . but, it’s original.  I like original.

 

3)      Kirby (Homage).  It’s not a secret I like baseball.  My first bird dog is named in honor of my childhood hero, Detroit Tigers great Alan Trammell.  Similarly, my co-worker Bill Fisher named his pup “Kirby” in honor of the Minnesota Twins great, Kirby Puckett.  However, the best story of this name came from another Twins great, Kent Hrbek.  Kent was fond of saying Minnesotans named their dogs “Kirby,” but they named their cows “Herby.”

 

4)      Como (Sense of Place). Wayne Carlson, a friend of mine who is also a Ramsey County Pheasants Forever Chapter officer, named his spectacular Brittany after the St. Paul neighborhood where he and his wife, Emily, reside.  I love bird dog names referencing places people cherish.  Dakota, Kota, Montana, and Aspen are other good place-based names that come to mind.

 

Como, a bird hunting machine with a cool name
Como, a bird hunting machine with a cool name

5)      Valborg (Ethnicity).  Bob Larson, Pheasants Forever’s Chairman of the Board, has deep Scandinavian roots.  So deep that he named his bird hunting poodle “Valborg” to honor his heritage.

 

What method did you employ to generate an original name for your bird dog pup?

 

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.

 

What’s the Nickname of your Favorite Pheasant Hunting Honey Hole?

Posted by: Bob St. Pierre Updated: May 2, 2013 - 8:34 AM

 

Chances are only a few hunters refer to the Pintail Pass Game Production Area in South Dakota by its official name. Pheasants Forever File Photo
Chances are only a few hunters know the Pintail Pass Game Production Area in South Dakota by its official name. Pheasants Forever File Photo

It’s been my experience bird hunters attach a nickname to their very favorite spots.  Most of us don’t use official state-designated names like “Mud Lake WMA” or “Stan Musial WPA.”  Instead, we invent colorful names like “Scotch Double Rooster Hill” or “The Red Zone.”  As a self-diagnosed obsessive compulsive organizer, I thought it’d be fun to categorize the naming conventions used most often in titling a bird hunter’s favorite spots.  I’ve come up with three primary categories:

Descriptors

The most obvious nicknames are derived by the geographic or topographic attributes of a piece of property.  These names are descriptive enough for insiders to know exactly the property being referenced, but also vague enough to keep outsiders away from favored covers.  Examples include; “The Triangle,” “Big Bluestem,” “The Berry Patch,” “Circle Slough,” “The Horseshoe,” or “The High Line.”

The Former Owner

My radio partner, “The Captain” Billy Hildebrand, is notorious for naming his favorite spots in reference to the land’s previous owner.  In most cases, these spots are now officially-named public Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs) in the central Minnesota county where Billy grew up.  However, during Billy’s youth, these same spots were privately owned by family, friends and acquaintances.  Consequently, the Green Lake WPA is simply known by Billy and his hunting pals as “Schuler’s.”

Historical Happening

These places earned their name as a result of a classic event taking place amongst friends, family or bird dogs.  Over time, these pieces of property are the ones we hold dearest because of their link to loved ones and memories.  Examples include, “Nester’s Hallow,” “Trammell’s Triple-double,” “The Opener,” “Miracle Shot,” “Numero Uno,” and “The Chicken Ranch.”

Does the name of your favorite hunting honey hole fit into one of these three categories?  What’s the nickname of your all-time favorite spot? 

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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