2017 Ryman Gathering & Hunt: misc. questions and info


I have received a number of questions from folks planning to attend in January. Usually if one person is wondering about something others are too so I thought I would post some answers publically. Please feel free to ask questions, I’ll answer what I can. I moved from Vermont to Kansas only 3 years ago so I am only a little ahead on the learning curve but my partner, Mike, is a lifelong midwest quail hunter and is my go-to resource for info.
Where to hunt:
Kansas leases over 1 million acres as part of its Walk In Hunter Access program. Landowners receive a modest payment plus liability protection in exchange for allowing public hunting access. There is no sign-in required and you do not contact land owners. The WIHA areas are shown on maps provided by the state and on site they have white signs indicating property boundaries. Area sizes can range from 80 acres to many hundreds of acres. Online maps: http://ksoutdoors.com/KDWPT-Info/Locations/Hunting-Fishing-Atlas/Fall-Hunting-Atlas You can order free booklets from the state plus I will have map booklets available at the Gathering.
*Shells/guage – smaller is good. I happen to shoot 28 ga and use 7.5 shot for quail and pheasant, #8s are fine for 20/16/12 ga. These are small birds and delicious so protect your table fare.
*Research has shown that covey winter survival is best with approx 8 birds. So if only a couple/few birds flush on the covey rise, be conservation minded, hold your shot and don’t follow up on singles. If a covey is large, say 12-15 birds, follow up on singles, it is respectful to shoot a couple and then leave the covey alone.
* Call hunting quits at 3:00. I know this is contrary to ruffed grouse ‘golden hour’ hunting but on short, cold winter days it is important that coveys be left alone after 3:00 so that they have time to get back together for the night. On the flip side, you can start early, 1/2 hour before sunrise.
Why quail:
The fun of bobs is the dogwork that they provide. Once your dogs locate/point a covey the singles will flush and scatter and (assuming there are enough birds) you can then also get dog work on those singles. So you can get a lot of action from each covey. Sometimes the birds will fly and scatter into timbered areas and you’ll swear you are grouse hunting. Other times they will scatter and fly out into tall grass. Bobs will usually hold well for points but coveys will often run until pinned. The singles that hold tight in grass can require dogs to work carefully and thoroughly to locate them.
Wind and scent:
Wind is a definite factor in Kansas for scenting. Paying close attention and approaching areas with wind direction in mind can make all the difference between getting dog work vs wild flushes or missed birds.
January daytime averages are close to 40 degrees, nights 20. Sunny comfortable days are common. Wind is the norm: jackets w/hoods, hoodies, neck warmers, Stormy Kromer hats, etc make a big difference. If a storm happens to come in, snowfall is rarely more than a couple of inches and then often melts within a day or two.
You will travel mostly gravel roads. Roads that have signs “No Maintainence” or “Mud/Dirt Road” may be impassable if wet, the mud gumbo gets many 4×4 trucks stuck, yet they are fine when dry. Roads are all on a grid with 1 mile between each intersection. This makes it easy to navigate and follow the WIHA maps by counting the sections/miles.

2016 Grouse and Woodcock Hunt

We are recently home from our annual Wisconsin Grouse and Woodcock hunt.

Woodcock Moon? Stopped for the night on the way in North Dakota.
Woodcock Moon? Stopped for the night on the way in North Dakota.

Grouse numbers were still spotty in the region we hunt, but up a little from last year and maybe a bit more consistent. Not so many covers where you didn’t see any or maybe only saw a couple, and we had some very good hunts once we figured out which areas were better. Woodcock were somewhat scarce compared to what we’re used to. We mainly targeted grouse though, so didn’t spend a lot of time in the  young regrowth and alders that are best for Woodcock.

River has 2 grouse, but they went out from behind- both of them on the wrong side of the road! No shots fired.

This year we are having some of the “Terrible Twos” with the younger dogs. Some good performances, but also some hunts with teenagers who are a little too full of themselves. One minute it’s a nice point on a grouse, the next it’s too much excitement and a bumped bird. It’s typical for a dog that was impressing everyone at 8 months with amazing abilities to find and point birds to turn into something of a handful at two years of age. You can either wait it out, knowing that maturity will come, or you can give in and work more on training. They are showing good talent though, and we’re happy with how they are progressing.

Blaze in camp- one of the “Terrible Twos”.

As usual we were very bad about taking photos of hunts, but did manage to take the camera out a little near the end of the trip. Hard to leave the gun behind!

Lisa and River

We had a funny, pseudo scary thing happen on the last hunt with River, at least it was scary for River. He crossed a brook coming back to us in kind of a deep spot that had a steep bank below a hill we were on. He couldn’t get up the bank and panicked. All River had to do to get out of it was turn upstream and walk out in shallow water a couple feet away, but he wanted to come straight to us. Took one of us walking down there for him to figure it out. Wish we had a video of that, but we were too busy laughing at the big, supposedly macho boy crying like a baby. BIG relief when he saw the way out.

Iris with a grouse she retrieved out of a swamp.Iris is a little less afflicted with the Terrible Twos than some of the others- she went through it more last year.

Last hunt of the trip was with Doc in a cover that produced both Grouse and Woodcock a few days earlier.  This time it was all Woodcock except for one wild flush from a Grouse, and we had some fun with videos.

Pointing a Woodcock

It is not unusual for dogs to perform differently on Woodcock than they do on other birds. Pointing or working with a lower head, or hunting more slowly are common. With Doc it’s a lower tail on point, and sometimes a crouching point.

Doc is an example of just waiting out the teenage problems. He had some obedience training, but like most of our dogs that’s about it. His performance developed naturally. In this video Lisa walks in to the front of Doc’s point, and when no bird goes out she moves ahead in case it’s a Grouse. Doc decides to relocate, and re-establishes point closer to the bird. A dog that can re-establish without losing control or bumping the bird is especially valuable on running birds. In this case, with an easy bird like a tight sitting Woodcock, it’s just Doc showing Lisa she’s going the wrong way:-) Of course for the camera it’s a miss. Good excuse though- was a hard spot to get in and flush the bird.

This time a hit!

Doc eventually did retrieve the bird- he’s a little slow to pick up a Woodcock sometimes, but not before the camera battery died. Figures. We finally got a bird falling over a point in a video- something else was bound to go wrong. Maybe next time we’ll get the whole thing.

No Muskies to fill in on rainy days this year, but this pike decided to take the fly.

All in all a great trip that we wish could last a lot longer. Looking forward to Chukars next, and then Kansas Bobwhites.

News from the New York Coverts…..

Hello (again) Ryman Setter friends! Some news for you from New York State coverts. We had a great September running Josey and Chica in the field for exercise and scouting work in September.  Looking back at last month, I realize it’s a really under-appreciated, maybe even totally unrecognized, part of the season. While not great sometimes for exercise, the weather is better than mid-summer,  and the pressure is off. It’s just a training refresher, but the dogs don’t know that. They are back on wild birds. Maybe there is some wisdom there. Chica hit a year of age on September 1 and showed a lot of enthusiasm and raw talent. Well, lots of fun.






Josey is at her peak at 6 1/2 years. We found a few local woodcock, and a grouse or two as well. This year was a first for me, in that I switched over to using beepers instead of bells. Okay, the beeper lacks the charm of the bell, and the point signal seems almost unfair, but I believe the constant noise of the bell, as opposed to the intermittent beep, lets the dog track me better. I can’t prove anything, but I think the dogs handle better.





Chica is doing well. Thank you again Lisa and Cliff, we are really excited about her and feel she is our most promising young pup yet! Here she is working some quail we keep on our farm property up the road from our house. In the open, Chica  moves like a field trail dog, crossing the direction of the wind looking for scent. In the heavy cover, she shows a lot of cover sense, and checks in like any good Ryman setter would (of course!).





Thinking about posts this fall from Lynn Dee and the Weisse’s, and our own experiences, its nice to have dogs of different ages to work with at one time. An older dog or two or more you know you can rely on to hunt with takes the pressure off the performance of the young upstarts and as you will see, let’s training be a little more important than  hunting for its own sake. 20160925_151512





Pre-season training means scouting new coverts too. Last month we looked for a few new places to hunt now that our season is open. So one day, we explored a little bit to see how far the good bird cover extended in little spot we found last winter. Completely hid on all sides we found this lovely little pothole, loaded with wood ducks, lots of wood ducks. Maybe 50 or more.  Nothing like a half dozen woodies peeling off the water ever 30 seconds to invite a swim from a bird dog. Josey heads off across the pond to see where that drake landed, and Chica discovers she can really swim without the world coming to any end.  20160925_150454






October has been great. Good thing there is a lot of it left. The annual trip to northern NY was a great time. Sorrty we did not connect in person Chuck. Too early for the best part of the fall flight but still lots of woodcock. Oddly this year, lots of woodcock getting up wild well out in front of the dog. Grouse numbers were pretty good too. If you missed the news, the Finger Lakes has endured a severe drought this summer. Fortunately, the birds never got the memo. Local woodcock numbers seem on par with any other year, with some grouse showing up too.

We still have some work to do. After what seemed a conventional and successful introduction to gunfire this summer,  Chica showed some sensitivity to gunfire shooting some chukar before our grouse and woodcock seasons opened.   Nothing severe. We think the gun noise itself was not the issue, but the sudden frequency was a bit much for her. So, we are back working with some released birds to re-introduce gunfire in the context of a lot of birds. So far, so good. I think we are out of the woods, but am going a couple extra miles, shooting lots of blanks up at our farm chasing released quail.   In a month, if this stays the course, we will feel comfortable going back to live rounds.

We’ll report in again this fall. Best wishes to a safe and happy time for you and your dogs.

J.C. and Gail at Sugar Creek

Early Season

I was fortunate enough to again spend a month of early hunting season in Montana. Always an adventure, hunting this year was dogged by alternating heat and rain. Never saw so many rainy days in such a dry place.  Sharptail grouse were spotty but Hungarian partridge were good as were pheasants. I had 4 setters with me and most of the time I run 1 or 2 of them with a couple of my partner’s Fr Brits.
Sally was my go-to dog, always a pleasure to hunt with.


In MT we usually don’t hunt pheasants in typical phez habitat, we hunt crazy wild ones that we call “bad lands phez.”


Storm is my biggest runner which comes in useful in this country.  Here I found her just over the edge, backing one of Mike’s FBs even though he is in the next draw over from us.  A GPS collar is helpful in this terrain.


Huns and my new little 28 ga that I love

My 2 youngsters, Kate and Flint, are 10 months old and learned some early lessons up there.  Flint had a nice run with multiple sharptail that put it together for him and I was able to drop a bird over his first solid point.


Even lessons like learning how to check in to take water rations are important up there.  Here Kate learns from Belle the FB.

I am headed to Minnesota next week for some ruffed grouse and woodcock hunting; they are my roots and I look forward to the rich smell and feel of the woods. We will then be hunting quail and pheasant in Nebraska and Kansas starting in a couple of weeks until the end of January. My favorite time of year!


Lynn Dee

BAER Testing

In line with our philosophy of doing everything we can to produce healthy puppies, we wanted to BAER test our recent litter. In talking with other breeders, one of the things that precludes many breeders is having testing available in their area. As we were getting through the weaning stage,  I started to plan puppy shots as well as availability of hearing testing. We were very happy to find Dr. Judy Pawlusiow of Advanced Veterinary Mobile Diagnostics. What a great service to have someone come to your location and perform the testing in the pups familiar surroundings. Dr. Judy is someone you could tell cares about supporting healthy  breeding practices and provides her service at a reasonable price.

At 7 1/2 weeks old all the pups passed their hearing tests.

– Chuck