Page 65 - Color Tour 2018
P. 65

Dogs bred for birds fetch, point and please
By Jennie Berkson
Special to the Color Tour
Watching a dog perform tasks it was bred to do is a central pleasure for folks who train their dogs to hunt whether it be upland birds or water- fowl. And fall is the time for it.
“It’s just a beautiful thing when they’re on point,” said Ann Schoelles, a Cedar resident who hunts with her Llewellin English setter, Able. “It’s magical.”
Others agree with this sentiment.
“I like to see a dog do its thing,” said Bingham resident Christopher Smith, who hunts waterfowl with his Labrador retriever, Mabel. “Even if I could get to the bird in the water myself, I love to watch her do her work. It’s the icing on the cake.”
Chris Butz, who has found a way to make his appreciation of hunting dogs his business, fully agrees.
“The No. 1 thing is the relation- ship between the hunter and the dog,” said Butz, who abandoned a career as an attorney to teach others about his passion. Butz is the owner of Bespoke Gun Dogs, which provides training and shooting on a preserve in Solon Township. He’s also owner of Leelanau Fin & Feathers Out tters, which opened this summer in the former Chemical Bank building in Leland, and Gills Pier Ranch, which offers Tibetan Yak and Peruvian Alpacas for ranch and table. Butz said his job as a trainer is to empower dogs, which are natural predators, to do what they do best — point and retrieve game birds. To accomplish that, Butz relies on good breeding, nutrition and practice.
“These are athletes,” he said.
Humans working with dogs need training too.
“You have to bring all these differ- ent skills to understanding how to read your dog,” said Schoelles.
A retired music teacher who plays viola in the Traverse City Symphony, she found the experience of dog training challenging.
“My teaching had taught me about being a good problem solver. With the dog training, I didn’t have that skill as a problem solver.”
Bird hunting also required shoot- ing a gun, something new to her.
She sought out Mark Frederick of Opeongo Bird Dogs in Cadillac for training help. They she learned how to handle a shotgun from Tim Stein, president of the Cedar Rod and Gun Club. Stein, the supervisor of Cleveland Township, resides on Little Traverse Lake.
“I could shoot the gun but couldn’t hit anything. I had lesson after lesson with Tim. I persevered. I’ve gotten much better at it,” she said.
Smith, an acclaimed outdoor painter who routinely wins duck stamp competitions, says patience is the key when working with his Labadore retriever.
“When you’re working with a dog, you need to have about 900 times more patience than you think you need,” said Smith. “It’s important to relax and lower your standards. You’re not curing cancer, you’re just training a dog.”
You’ll end up with a new best friend and hunting buddy.
“I just like sitting in the boat with her. She’s the only being in my life who doesn’t talk back to me,” said Smith.
Chris Smith enjoys a tender moment with Mabel.
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leelanau color tour 2018
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