Updated: Sep 28
Beginning in July 2020, I became a regular contributor to Wisconsin Outdoor News (WON) in "From The Little Cabin In The Woods" column.
This article was published in the WON Nov 4, 2022 issue.
In addition, The American Airedale, the publication of the Airedale Terrier Club or America promotes the versatility of the Airedale terrier. This article also appeared in their No. 4- 2022 issue.
“I would really like to have a chance to see if Chipper likes bird hunting,” shared Sue Zimmer.
Major loves to find, flush and retrieve pheasants. He likes to share in a good pheasant dinner as well. Photo courtesy Shannon Honl.
Sue is the proprietor of Stone Pony Pottery in Pewaukee, WI. Her adorable female Airedale, CH Bobcat Call Me In The Morning BCAT RATO CGC TKI, had just scored Select Bitch for a 5-point major and Owner Handler Best of Breed at the Waukesha Kennel Club Airedale specialty show. My boy, GCH Coldstream Major Mischief Second to None CGC JFT TKI, had just won one of Sue’s lovely Airedale dog bowls, along with a fancy rosette proclaiming him Best Veteran in Sweepstakes at the same show.
Major(left) and Chipper(center) excelling at conformation. Right photo shows Chipper and Major sparring at the National Floater in Lake Elmo, Minnesota. Judges do this to see that the dogs have attitude and correct expression. Right two photos courtesy Sue Zimmer.
For those uninitiated in the dog show world, those letters in front of the registered name indicate high quality breeding, great looks, impeccable grooming, expert handling, and a lot of hard work and good luck. The letters after the registered name indicate that the dog can do things. The Airedale Terrier Club of America touts Airedales as being versatile. They have an awards program that honors dogs that have proven they are. Chipper and Sue’s male Airedale, Jolee Aire Buckwheat RATM TKN CGC JFT CAT are Platinum Versatile. Major is Gold Versatile and within striking distance of the last title needed to join Chipper and Buckwheat at the top.
Chipper(left) competing in Fast Cat. Buckwheat (center) in a rat hunt test. Right..Major training for a Fur Tracker Test. Left two photos courtesy Sue Zimmer. Right photo courtesy Shannon Honl.
“How would you like to bring Chipper up to the little cabin for some pheasant hunting this fall,” I offered in response to her interest. “I have a game farm license for the land. Lake Elaine Pheasant farm is nearby. We could put some birds out for the dogs and Major could show Chipper and Buckwheat what to do.”
The Little Cabin In Fall. Photo Christine Thomas.
To say Sue was enthusiastic about the idea would be a drastic understatement. I told her I would contact her when the weather cooled off. Sue’s friend, Jay Abts, a park ranger in the Kettle Moraine State Forest, is a hunter. I suggested that they introduce the dogs to firearms, to be sure that we did not create gun-shy dogs on the day of the hunt. I gave her permission to invite Jay to come along, as it is always good to have another shooter in the field.
Finally, we set a date for mid-October. We had a discussion regarding the advisability of putting a show dog, that is only four points away from grand champion, in the field. Sand burs and show coats are a dangerous combination. In the end, enthusiasm for the opportunity prevailed.
I began to get text messages showing video of Zimmer and Abts, taking the dogs afield. Bumpers were thrown, shotguns were fired. Airedales raced down-field for the retrieves. We were ready.
The day of the hunt, we had two kinds of introductions to make. We needed to introduce the dogs to each other, and we needed to introduce them to the birds. The three Airedales had met at least twice at the Randall Cooley Memorial Airedale hunt tests at Rock River Kennels in Beaverdam, WI. However, the meetings were brief and always on lead. I suggested that we begin by hunting Chipper and Major together. We could introduce Buckwheat a little later. That introduction went well. In fact, the dogs all got along famously.
Chipper's introduction to pheasants. Photo courtesy Sue Zimmer.
Sue was interested in seeing what Chipper would think of pheasants. So, we let her out of her kennel and walked her past the Ranger, where the crated birds rested in the box of the vehicle. As Chipper approached the rear of the UTV, she made a sharp turn towards it.
“She is on them,” I observed enthusiastically.
As I dropped the tailgate, exposing the crate, Chipper came around and locked up on point. Then, she put her paws up on the bed of the box and proceeded to investigate.
“She definitely has prey-drive,” I said.
We started out by putting one bird in the field. Our thinking was, that it would give Chipper a chance to experience the hunt, while not potentially losing all our birds should she decide to charge out ahead. Stan covered the left side. Jay took the right. My task was to take the dogs down the middle. Sue’s job was photographer. It is nice to have someone along who can take photos. It is hard to run the dogs, shoot the birds, and take pictures all at the same time.
Chipper's first rooster, up close and personal. Photo courtesy Sue Zimmer.
The hunting part worked great. The guys had placed that first bird in a clump of young red pine trees. The wind was stiff and out of the northwest. We were working the dogs south to north. This was a perfect setup. As the two dogs approached the trees, they both became “birdie”. Those of you who hunt know the drill. An abrupt turn, an intense gaze, the rhythmic tic toc of a tail held upright. Unfortunately, the bird had already run. It flushed way out ahead of both the dogs and the hunters. Jay shot. It was a valiant, but futile effort.
Chipper was good about recall, so we put out three more birds. Chipper and Major looked like they had been working birds together all their lives. They ranged back and forth across the field. They crisscrossed in front of the hunters. When they got out of range, I called “too far.” They both came closer. The dogs found and flushed all three birds. The shooters missed the first two.
“This works a lot better, if someone shoots the birds,” I observed with a twinkle in my eye.
Finally, someone connected with a rooster. Major went for the retrieve. Chipper raced behind him. Sue was so excited for the retrieve, that she almost beat the dogs to the bird. She had asked me earlier what would happen when both dogs went for the bird. I told her that Major would defer to Chipper. I was right. He went to the bird. However, he let Chipper pick it up. The pheasant was still very much alive. Chipper was not at all intimidated.
Chipper on the retrieve. Buckwheat in the background. Photo courtesy Sue Zimmer.
We had a really great day in the field with our dogs. Buckwheat got his turn after lunch. He was happy to race across the field with Major.
Jay, Sue and Christine caught on a trail cam in the field.
However, he was not particularly interested in the birds. It is not for everyone. He has titles in fur tracking and barn hunt. Maybe feathers are not his thing.
At the end of the day, we had eight of the 12 birds we put out. We had a fabulous day afield with our beautiful Airedales. Both couples have some fine pheasant cuisine in the future. We added to our friendships with each other. We all have stories to tell.
“I think you have yourself a bird dog, “I congratulated Sue, as we loaded the dogs and guns into the vehicles. “If you want to put some “polish on the apple”, she is going to need serious training. However, you and Jay can take her to the field and have fun, just like she is. She is a natural.”
Chipper checking out the day's bag. Photo courtesy Sue Zimmer.