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2023 Year in Review

Let's kick off the new year, at least with the remaining 10 months, with some highlights of activities and fun from the past year.

-Like many other eastern states folks, we can avail ourselves of woodcock moving back north after wintering in warmer southern locations. Call it training, refresher work, exercise or what have you, it's something we look forward to each year. This past year, we used the time to scout some new covers, and get the dogs muddy, you know, exercised, while trying to break the last grip of cabin fever. Right now, we look forward to doing that all over again. Folks who have this opportunity but don't take it are missing out. Some of the reasons are obvious, but others aren't but are still really valuable, especially for young dogs or new to pointing dog owners. We'll save that discussion though, for another blog post later this winter. before it's too late for this year.

-If you called us this time last year, you heard we had a promising young female named Roxanne we proposed to breed later in the year... if an OFA evaluation of her hips and elbows came back with the right results. Great news! Rozanne's evaluations came back "Normal" for elbows and Excellent for hips. You can see the results at this link to Roxanne's OFA evaluation.

The "Our Next Litter" tab on our website will be updated later this winter with a description of Roxanne, and a link to the Beau, the sire we propose to breed her too.

- 2023 was the Sugar Creek year of the quail here at home, bobwhites particularly. We own a 60 acres parcel of farmland where our puppies get started learning about birds and gunfire in several grassy fields. Early on we found that bobwhites released for training that did not return to the recall pen would establish one or two coveys on the property. That suited us perfectly. The birds that survived were skittish and flushed boldly. You were never sure where the dogs would find them.  When neighboring idle farms were re-developed to produce organic field crops, our training quail found the weed infested crop fields across the road much better to their liking. So last year we planted millet and buckwheat, and then left the prior year's deer food plots to grow up to ragweed and other seed producing annuals. With such a succulent feast, surely Mr. Bob would find his best refuge back on our land, where he belongs! Or so we thought. 90 mature and very hard flying bobwhites were released in September. Other than a sighting from a tree stand when deer hunting, the story is still "Elvis has left the building....". The latest report is there are a couple coveys hanging close to the seed cleaning and grain storage structures on the neighbors' farmsteads. Oh well.......

Roger found this stocked pheasant for Katie while we were hunting a gorgeous piece of New England grouse cover. Huh? No sense wasting a good point.

-This was a big travel year for us during the hunting season. October started out awfully warm and dry around home. With that to deal with, we were happy to load up to spend 4 hunting days in New England. There we teamed up with a friend whose setter came from breeding one of our females to a very nice classic Ryman type male from Lynn Dee Galey's Firelight line. We hunted a totally new area with no prior scouting or intel on specific covers but still were happy with the outcomes. Nice to hit the peak of New England's famous fall foliage show too. From there, it was back home for some half days of hunting, and resupply for a three week trek to the western Great Lakes and Dakotas.

Ugh, another one we did not get to!

-There is nothing like long immersion in good hunting locales with a crew of dogs. With three solid weeks in the field, we could afford to spend quite a bit of time looking for new covers or as you'll hear, watch someone else's dogs work. It takes the pressure off to over manage each individual day. The grouse/woodcock portion of this trip presented a new challenge. The area we stayed in Wisconsin experienced a snow storm the prior December that bent over all the alders, and many stands of aspen. The occasional scenario of not being able to approach a dog on point suddenly became the norm, particularly in some covers. But that is hunting, the only thing you are given is simply the opportunity to be there. Grouse numbers were not great either, but each cover seemed to produce one or two solid points for each dog, we had some fresh game dinners in camp, and the bag of spent hulls didn't seem diminished from prior years.

Chica and Mori on point while Frank gets ready to move in.

-The prairie portion of the trip offered pheasants, sharptail grouse and prairie chicken hunting. The prairie grouse are such a contrast to the ruffed grouse back home. Instead of hiding in the densest places they are out in the widest, most open place where they see you coming. An hour of walking across uninterrupted waves of short grass produces nothing and suddenly the dogs slam on point. Soon flocks of 10 to 30 birds are peeling up off the ground. The prairie gives you the opportunity to see some aspects of how dogs work and handle birds much better than in the grouse woods. Its fun, instructive and different.

-This season helped us confirm decisions we've made that will influence the future of our dogs and breeding. Being hunters makes us better breeders by giving us the best context for understanding and evaluating dogs we have produced or might breed to. Our extended trip allowed the opportunity to spend plenty of time afield hunting forest and prairie birds with an excellent dog we have tremendous confidence in that will sire our next litter. We also got to evaluate a different and very significant male and a talented young female from Classic Setters in Missouri. As of this writing, the male puppy that will be joining our home is a week old and thriving. It's very exciting

Beebe and Mori, dam and sire of our next much anticpated puppy with JC and Frank. Fran Thompson photo.

to be bringing in some new bloodlines to keep our breeding program looking forward. Yup, it will still take a couple years for such a dog to prove its worth. In the meantime, we are wrestling with a host of dog names but will only get to pick one. It's instructive to be on the buyer's side of the

equation for a change, too.

Fortunate to become friends with Bill and share camp with him and his October setters.

-Finally, we got to spend time with friends, and also hear news from folks who have one of "our" Sugar Creek setters. One of the great joys of October (there are many...) is hearing again about dogs we placed with folks who are out working with them in the field. Each year it is harder to keep up with the acknowledgements, while we are out in the field making our own new memories. But, please don't stop! It's easy to make new friends in amongst all this too. As for our breeder-friends, we could not do this well without them. Alliances with other breeders raises the bar for everyone. We elevate our common standards, know more about the development of a greater number of dogs, have a stronger net pool of breeding candidates and ultimately have stronger

programs than we could alone.

John and Jennie In Minnesota.
Art, Maxine and Annie, often found sharing and representing our beloved sport to others.

Greg's Annie. They got off to a great start in Annie's first season and by all reports its just been getting better.

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Katie O'Donnell
Katie O'Donnell
Feb 23

What a great year-in-review for 2023 — very excited for updates on all of these plans and new additions for 2024!

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