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Pups & Partridges on the Calapooia Prairie

Gary Lewis author badge for myoutdoorbuddy.com

hey say a great pointing dog only comes along once or twice in a hunter's lifetime. Some dogs don't have the heart or the desire. Others don't seem to have the nose or the brain. We brought home our pudelpointer in February when she was 10 weeks old and it was easy to see she had heart. Not every one has it. Prey drive was never a problem with this one. Liesl, which rhymes with lethal, lives for the chase.

When the front door opens, when I say, "Okay," she stalks out, nose twitching, body aquiver, as if she expects a partridge on the porch. It could happen. This pudelpointer, a product of 130 years of breeding in Europe and North America, is bred for the chase, both on land and in water. We expect her to point, to retrieve, to swim and search, to do it all in concert with her hunter.

Liesl, 11 month old pudelpointer, photo by Gary Lewis
Liesl, a pudelpointer, and Mack Jenks, of Eagle Crest, admire a rooster that both the pup and the hunter earned on a wet day afield near Crawfordsville, in the Willamette Valley. Photo by Gary Lewis

Liesl is not quite 11 months old now. In September she spent a few weeks with Rod Rist, of High Life Pudelpointers. Back home now we've worked on wild birds, a lot of times without a gun. She stalks, turns to me for direction, then charges in. They flush and she watches them go. She's learning she needs a hunter with a gun.

Recently, we required a test, so I called my friend Bob Mulligan, who has a young German shorthair female in the same stage of development, and Mack Jenks, who I knew could shoot, and we drove west to Sweet Home.

Pheasants used to be common throughout the state. As urban sprawl and efficient farming practices took over, the pheasant lost and today, a wild rooster is a rare sight indeed in Western Oregon. Out east of Interstate 5, east of Brownsville, at the foot of the Cascades, on the upper Calapooia River, is a wetland and timber property that preserves the flavor of the heyday of Willamette Valley pheasant.

George and Mary Jo Dern purchased the 150-acre property in May 1994 and began to rehabilitate the land which had been clear-cut in the early '90s. Twenty years later, the property retains a natural character, shaped by the Derns with shelter belts for wildlife and for hunting.

When we showed up at the place they call the Wildlife Ranch, it was raining. After a few minutes there was a break in the clouds and we started into the field. There was a lot of water on the grass, in the briars and on the Scotch broom. Moisture makes it easy for dogs to scent birds and, though Duchess had never smelled a chukar before, she took to it quickly, even making a water retrieve on one bird.

German shorthair owned by Bob Mulligan
Duchess, a German shorthair, points a chukar. Photo by Gary Lewis

When Duchess had proved she was a chukar dog, Mulligan took her back to the vehicle and I let Liesl out.

Growing up in the high desert, she is used to runs in lava and sagebrush. When she hit the ground she was on maple leaves and in ferns higher than her head.

I buckled the Garmin GPS collar around her neck and turned on my handheld unit. I pressed the New Hunt button, established the truck's location and the map showed a dog icon rapidly moving away from the truck.
"Liesl, here!" The dog icon streaked back toward the hunter icon (me).

For weeks we have worked on "Whoa." At the command she is supposed to stop and look to me for instructions. On wet maple leaves she slid like she was on ice skates. But she waited.

We started on the far west end of the field, downwind of a slight breeze that wafted down the Calapooia valley. The question in my mind was would she point or would she dash in and try to grab the bird? I hoped in the heavy cover she'd scent them not see them. I hoped one of my shooters would connect on the first bird.

We walked by it, but Liesl was not so easy to fool. When we held up, she quartered behind and locked up, rigid.

"Whoa." She cast a glance at me as if I didn't need to tell her that, then looked back into the Scotch broom. And a long-tailed rooster pheasant broke out from under our feet. Jenks had to turn 180 degrees and when the bird was at treetop level, he shot it.

Liesl watched it crumple and made the short retrieve. Because Mack shot it, she brought the bird to him.

On her next point, I connected. She made a short victory lap and brought the pheasant to me. We finished with five pheasant to her credit. Three were taken after staunch points and the last two took to the air before the dog could lock up.

Both the shorthair and this pudelpointer will find their true calling in the sagebrush and rimrock where coveys of chukar scratch out a living, but I think their masters needed this hunt to prove what we'd guessed all along. They have what it takes.

Gary Lewis is the host of Frontier Unlimited TV and author of John Nosler – Going Ballistic, A Bear Hunter's Guide to the Universe, Hunting Oregon and other titles. Contact Gary at GaryLewisOutdoors.com.

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Don Webster, author badge, myoutdoorbuddy.com
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Don Webster, author badge, myoutdoorbuddy.com
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How much venison do hunters harvest?

Venison Bourguignon (Venison Stew), photo by Daniel Bledsoe, Food.com
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DSC convention goers raise $1M in 1 minute

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It’s Not over Till the Lady Sings

mountain lion on rocky edge, photo courtesy of UDWR and Carrie Wilson, CA DFW
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old black and white photo of a skiff loaded with ducks and a man with his shotgun, courtesy of Don Webster
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Tyler Low with his 3x4 buck shot at 100 yards with a Weatherby Vanguard .300 Winchester Magnum. Photo by Kyler Olson
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Where Are All the Pheasants?

Sacramento Valley Pheasant, Steven T. Callan, Where Have All the Pheasants Gone
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Never say never

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Hunting trip gone bad

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