Gemma (OFA Excellent) is still a work in progress. Gemma is learning how much fun it is to hunt the fields. She has a strong prey drive, and wants to learn, and please you. Both Sire & Dam should finish out this year.
Thank you Chuck for doing this interview. Can you tell us a little about your occupation and interests/hobbies?
I am an IT solutions architect. I work as a consultant where I design, implement and migrate complex corporate directory and email systems. For my work I travel about 40% of the time, traveling nationwide to our customer’s locations. My interests and hobbies are my family and kids, their sports, camping and outdoors as well as riding ATVs and occasional skiing, snowmobiling and fresh water fishing. Recently we acquired 25 acres on a small lake in upstate NY with grouse and woodcock covers nearby. We are in the preliminary stages of designing a small cabin and a large garage where we will initially spend weekends and vacations but at some point we will live there for about half the year. The property will be the future home of Parker Hollow English Setters, we will be building with the dogs in mind, with yards and a training area and we look forward to being close to grouse covers.
How did you come to have Ryman’s and how long have you had them?
I started hunting as a kid, getting my license at age 10. I spent nearly every weekend at our camp along the Delaware River with my uncle, who introduced me to the outdoors. I was always out in the woods looking for small game during the fall and winter. At that time NJ had a decent grouse population and we would stumble across grouse and they got into my blood at that early age. Later we moved to the Catskills in upstate NY and there were grouse all around the property. I hunted without a dog but developed a passion for grouse. I didn’t hunt much after college, but shortly after Larissa and I were married we got our first dog, a Cocker Spaniel named Dryefus. I was just getting back into hunting and tried him on birds. Although he was not from hunting lines he worked out well and a few buddies and I decided to take a trip to NH since the grouse numbers in NJ were dwindling. After about 10 yrs. of hunting, Dryefus became a very good flushing dog and I was spending at least a week every year in NH to hunt grouse and woodcock. During this time I started hunting with friends who had pointing breeds and I decided that my next dog was going to be one of the pointing breeds. After being around quite a few dogs of various breeds, I knew that I did not want a larger, high strung dog, instead I wanted a calmer dog that would also be good in the house. While at a local outdoors show, I happened to come across a Ryman breeder and I was immediately drawn to the Ryman type of dog. A few years later after Dryefus passed I got my first setter Addie, who is now 11 years old, from that same breeder.
How many dogs do you own and what is your average number of litters a year?
I have 3 dogs. When Addie was 4 years old we acquired our Belle, another Ryman-Type setter. I also have Jersey, a 2 yr old female from Belle’s first litter. I have bred one litter so far and hope to breed a litter every 2 -3 years until I retire when I hope to breed more often.
If you were to write a mission statement for your breeding program, what would it include?
To produce healthy, well conformed dogs that point naturally. Dogs that can handle wild birds, especially grouse and that will hunt all day at a good pace. I also want dogs that have temperaments that are a pleasure to have around the home and are easy to train. I typically am able to hunt only 10-15 days/year due to work and family obligations so I want a dog that can become proficient on wild birds with that limited bird exposure. With respect to the Ryman community we hope to gain from other breeders as well as to contribute when possible.
Where do you hunt and what is your favorite bird species to hunt?
I hunt NJ, NY, NH and recently MI. I also hunt KS when at the Ryman Breeders Gathering. My favorite species to hunt is grouse and woodcock.
Of the species you hunt, which one do you feel is the most valuable for evaluating your dogs’ abilities, and why?
Grouse, because they are challenging and leave little room for dogs to make mistakes such as getting too close. I believe that birds that run and stop, over and over, are the ultimate challenge for the dog and require a dog to move cautiously without getting too close while at the same time not losing the bird. In my eyes, to watch a dog effectively work and eventually hold a running grouse is as good as it gets.
Do you keep a journal or log of your hunts?
At times but I am not consistent, I’m certainly not as much as I would like to be. I admire people who consistently keep a journal and hope to one day be better at keeping a journal myself.
Tell us about your training philosophy and approach to dog work on birds when hunting
I recently wrote an article for the RymanSetters.com blog which gives some insight into my abilities, methods and philosophy. Overall, I believe less training is more with these dogs. I am a relatively inexperienced trainer. I have limited time and I also have to travel to where I can train. Because of that I believe in just teaching basic field commands, both verbal and whistle. I teach come and a turning signal with a whistle. I introduce a dog to the gun as well as a limited number of training birds, after that I like to just take the dog hunting. I typically don’t start my dogs too young, right around 8 months old, although recently due to an upcoming trip we started Jersey and her littermate Sampson (owned by my hunting buddy) at 4 months so they would be at the point where we could take them hunting at 5 months on the trip. At 5 months they handled fairly well in Kansas on wild quail. I believe in shooting only birds that are properly pointed and that by doing so, the dogs will learn that they cannot bust birds if they want to be rewarded.
I expect a dog to have some points during their first season but allow them to make mistakes with little to no correction. By the second season they should start getting more reliable and I should start seeing them figuring things out and producing nice points. By the third season and beyond they should be proficient and continue learning to handle tricky birds. From a training perspective, after the second season I am just tweaking things, but for the most part I believe that experience will teach them what they need to know. I have yet to train a dog to be steady to wing or shot however that is my next goal with Belle and Jersey is to teach them steady to wing. The reason I feel that it is becoming a necessity is that later in the yr if I hunt a preserve or with less experienced/beginning hunters I feel that it would be safer and provide more shooting opportunity if the dog stays where they are and doesn’t chase the bird when it flushes.
Thank you to Chuck for taking the time to do this interview. Happy Hunting!