With another hunting season recently in the books, and spring winds blowing, it's time to start thinking about training and testing.  The Chapter Board of Directors has approved Membership, Training and Testing fees to stay the same for the 2015 Season.  In the interest of budgeting and paperwork, please consider renewing your membership before the Annual Meeting on March 28.  A 2015 Membership Form, with payment information, can be found here:  MEMBERSHIP 2015  Feel free to contact the chapter directly if you would rather "re-up" over the phone.  If you paid for a 2-year "Introductory Membership" last year, you will get an email confirming your paid membership for 2015.  To contact Tom with questions or payment details:  406-212-5767

Somewhere in Chukar Country - January 2015
MARCH 26, 27, 28 & 29
Our first training opportunity will be once again at the Pais Casa Ranch.  Camping will be available on-site.  There are no electrical hook-ups or water, so camping is "rustic".  There will be an outhouse at the training grounds.  Information on area hotels will be forthcoming.  Directions will be posted soon.  A huge thanks to Karen Conner for making her facility available once again.  Pigeons, chukars and dead ducks will be available at the event, and we should be able to get pheasants as well.  Stay tuned as more information will be posted with specific times for a "Natural Ability Seminar," "Utility / Utility Prep Seminar" and "Conditioned Retrieve" training.  As always, training for both "NAVHDA Testing" and "Continued Hunting Dog Development" are welcome and encouraged.

The Montana Sharptail Chapter of NAVHDA will hold its Annual Meeting in concert with its first training event - Saturday evening at a location yet to be determined near Three Forks.  Stay tuned for exact location and time as we find the best place.  The priorities for the meeting will be:

Weekly Training Opportunities Throughout Montana - Coordination of Insurance, Permits, Locations, Etc.
Location and Dates for Extended Training Camps (2-5 day events)
Board Member and Officer Elections - 2015
Chapter Service Projects - Habitat and/or Ranch Projects
Test Site Coordination

TESTING - 2015
We should have dates set in stone in the coming week with land-owners, but so far we look to be on track for the following:
Whitefish, MT (Tentative) - June 6 & 7  Natural Ability, Utility & Utility Prep
Wisdom, MT (Tentative) - August 7, 8 & 9 Natural Ability, Utility & Utility Prep
We are still looking to possibly add a couple of Natural Ability Dates, potentially in July, at a location yet to be determined.  Fees are the same for 2015:  $125 for NA and $165 for UT/UPT.  Chapter members have priority until 30 days from the first day of a test series.  Test Entries will not be formally accepted until we get final approval from both NAVHDA International and the respective property owners (expected to be quite soon.)


The "Wishlist" was a great success in 2014....... The chapter was able to add several launchers, a shotgun, decoys, numerous bumpers, and even a "Brute Trash Can" from Crazy Uncle Bearcat.  In addition to your membership, please consider a donation to the "Chapter Wishlist" and keep the chapter assets growing.  Thank you for your consideration:  Chapter Wishlist


In order to possess upland birds for "non-commercial" purposes on your premises, you must obtain a free permit from FWP.  If you hope to obtain live birds to take home from the chapter, or any other source, you must have one of these permits.  More information, as well as a PDF download for the permit, is available here: Captive Upland Bird Possession

The Montana Sharptail Chapter obtains appropriate permits for each training and testing location, which covers all members and participants at those locations.  For any other dog training that chapter members pursue, outside of chapter sponsored events, you are required by FWP to obtain the appropriate free permit for dog training if you plan on using any captive upland birds (e.g. pheasants, chukars, Huns.) NOTE - Pigeons and quail are not considered game birds and are exempt from this requirement.  More information, as well as a PDF download for the Dog Training Permit, is available here:  Dog Training Permit

Dora, Kruz, Eddie and Swipe - Sharptails, September 2014


Ethan and Nigel Waterton look on from the gallery, as judges confer.
Thanks to all who jumped in to make for a successful 2 weeks in the Big Hole Valley.  Curtis Fry put on an outstanding Handlers Clinic for 18 NAVHDA members including 2 youth recipients from the Kirsten Rieser Scholarship Fund.  Training week was active, followed by four days of Natural Ability, Utility Prep and Utility Testing.  Congratulations and thanks to all handlers and dogs for their participation and enthusiasm.

The Test Series was smooth and seamless, as a result of the tireless and well-organized efforts of Test Coordinators Anne Roberts and Phil Jacob.  NAVHDA Judges Travis Miller, Sheryl Tepp and Bob Farris put in countless miles over the 4 day series, and we are all appreciative of their commitment to NAVHDA. Too many volunteers to name made the weekend a great success.  The generosity of the Geim Ranch and Hershey Ranch, for access to their grounds is once again greatly appreciated - it is truly a privilege to test and train on one of the most beautiful places on the planet. A huge thanks to Jane and Ken Wigen for preparation of the grounds and "wiring up" food and lodging for Judges and the Community Center for the Handlers Clinic.

Special thanks also to Snowghost Ranch - Whitefish, DJBar Ranch - Belgrade, Spruce Creek Farm - Billings and "Angus and Emmet's Ranch" - East Helena, for training, testing, judge lodging, and "snake break" opportunities throughout the year.

Jade Miller, 16 of Carter Montana, hangs markers on a fence as part of a project to reduce "fence strikes" near sage grouse leks.
Bruce Waage, NRCS in Billings traveled to the Big Hole and led a group of Montana Sharptail Chapter volunteers in a fence marking project.  The goal is to reduce "fence strikes" by sage grouse.  The project will be ongoing for the chapter, as there are countless miles of fence on DNRC and Forest Service lands in the Big Hole that are prime sage grouse habitat.  Our focus will be on "leks" and expand out from there.  A lek is the spring courtship grounds where hundreds of birds will gather and males strut and display their unique plumage.  After breeding, the birds then spread ubiquitously throughout the proper habitat to nest and live the remainder of the year.  We will be working with the "Sage Grouse Initiative" to continue the project, and submit an article to both "The Versatile Hunting Dog" and "Pheasants Forever Journal".  The project is a great opportunity to learn, teach, and partner with several groups such as FWP, DNRC, USFS, SGI, NRCS, and local ranchers, just to name a few.  A great write-up and photos about our project can be found here:

Bridget Nielsen with GSP Raven and gunners Ken and Elton after the field portion of the Utility Test.  Judges confer in the background.
Judges Travis Miller and Sheryl Tepp confer, as Apprentice Leslie Lowe tallies her score card.
Hannah Ryan and Rye start off on the Field portion of the NA test with the judges, gunner and gallery.
Handler Trevor Ferguson and Senior Judge Travis Miller approach as Madison holds a solid point.
Sprig holds down the fort for Jehnet at "Camp Wirehair"

Ethan and Travis move in on a Deacon point.

Ken moving cattle next to the Pheasant Tracking field after the last Track was run.
Ken moving Bulls........ An entirely different perspective on "Temperament Testing"
Loaded up and ready to go.  Fast Eddy makes one last run through camp at Doolittle Creek.  
Raffle Winners:
Dogtra Collar: Brian Riggs
Quill Jig: Bob Miller
Jacket: James Warren
Cap: Gary Tabbert

Thanks for a great year everybody.  Have a productive, safe and fun hunting season - it is just around the corner.


Jehnet's GWP Sprig with some water work on the Yellowstone -  DJBar Ranch Training Night - Belgrade

The August Gathering on the Big Hole River is almost upon us. It is time to get caught up on the schedule and opportunities that exist.

August 2-3 - led by NAVHDA Senior Judge Curtis Fry
There are still a couple spots available - Please make sure you call Tom to register.
The cost is $120.00 - More info on Handlers Clinics is available here:
This is a phenomenal opportunity and there are only a handful around the country on any given year.

Training for Testing and general hunting training is available from August 2-7
We will have pigeons, chukars, ducks and pheasants available.
Training fees are 20.00 for one day or 30.00 for two or more.
Envelopes will be available to keep track of your bird use.
Please RSVP to if you plan on attending any of the training days, what your approximate bird needs may be (if you know) and what you hope to accomplish.

August 8 - UT & UPT - Test is Full
August 9 - UT & NA - Test is Full
August 10 - NA - Test is Full
August 11 - UT and NA (One NA spot is now available)

We hope to take on a couple of different projects throughout the week.  On Monday August 4, Bruce Waage, a Sage Grouse Specialist with NRCS will share a presentation and lead the group in a fence marking project on the ranch.  There are several leks (Sage grouse courtship areas) on and near the ranch where we train and test.  The fence markers have proven very useful in decreasing accidental fatalities sage grouse getting caught in barbed-wire. This will be a great opportunity to both learn and contribute.
Please RSVP to if you want to jump in.

We also hope to take on a service project for the ranch that is a win-win opportunity.  A traditional zig-zag wooden fence known as a "worm fence" needs to be built to isolate cattle from a riparian area.  The project is a priority for both the ranch and for wildlife.  We will have more info forthcoming, but the wood will be procured prior to the training week.  More info will be forthcoming on this project.

We will need several folks to "jump in" throughout the event.
Transportation to the Handler Clinic for the leader (August 1) from the Butte Airport
Transportation from the Handler Clinic for the leader (Augst 4) to the Butte Airport
Setting up the Event Tent (18 x 30 - Frame Tent)  Friday August 1.
Lunch help (available for 5.00 on the grounds) for the Handlers Clinic and for all 4 days of the Test Series
BBQ Help Friday and Saturday Night of the Test Series (we'll try to go out Sunday night somewhere)
Test Help - Bird Planters, Bird Shuttling, Field Marshals, Gunners, Etc.  Anne and Phil will be coordinating volunteers for the Test Series.  Email contact will go out to all chapter members.
Bird Care - Throughout the week.
Clean-up - Ongoing and final sweep
Tent - break down.  Monday night, August 11 or Tuesday morning August 12.
As of now it looks like we have all judge transportation taken care of for the Test Series.

We've had several generous donations throughout the year which has enabled the chapter to acquire several essential assets.  Additionally, the "Snake Avoidance Clinics" have been successful, with more than 100 dogs through and 1600.00 added to the chapter coffers. We've added 4 launchers with remotes, a singleshot 12 gauge, decoys, a dozen bird crates, a canoe and now an 18 x 30 commercial quality "event tent" to the chapter asset list.  The event tent stretched our wallet a bit, but the board was in agreement that it was an essential investment for the chapter and will increase opportunities in the future.  Any added gifts toward the tent will be deeply appreciated and are tax-deductible.

We now have more than 100 individual and family memberships, totaling approximately 150 members.  We will have an informal "Membership Meeting" on Saturday night August 9th after the test and before dinner at the tent.  A brief opportunity to bounce around ideas and look to the future.

We've sold approximately 1/3 of the raffle tickets. (5.00 each or 5 for 20.00)  The drawing will be held at the end of the test series.  Tickets can be purchased remotely with Visa/MC just by calling Tom:
More info is available here:

Keith introducing his new Pudelpointer pup "Gusto" to birds. Snowghost Ranch - Whitefish


Anne and Shooter (Braque du Bourbonnais)
Although most of the state is covered with a blanket of snow, the training season is nearly upon us - the Three Forks Training Camp is just a month away.  We had a great turn out this month for the Annual Meeting, considering the nasty weather throughout the state over that weekend - thanks to all who ventured to Great Falls to set the path for the coming year.  Although we'll be adding plenty of training opportunities, the following dates were adopted:

May 3 & 4 - Billings NA, UPT & UT
May 31 & June 1 - Whitefish NA, UPT & UT
August 8-10 - Wisdom NA, UPT & UT
All of the Test Dates have been accepted by NAVHDA and we have secured most of the Judges we need for the tests.

Three Forks -  March 27 -30 (Directions and Camping Info Forthcoming)
Wisdom - August 2-7
Whitefish - Dates forthcoming
Billings - Dates forthcoming
Other Locations and Dates to be come.

NAVHDA Handler's Clinic:
August 2-3 (Approved NAVHDA Clinic Leader to be Named)

Snake Avoidance Clinic (Snake Breaking):
Whitefish - June 1
Derek Jennings, training "Stop to Flush" with his Griff at the first Three Forks Training - 2011


Dogtra Company donated a 2500 T & B collar to the Montana Sharptail Chapter.  We will use this collar as the Grand Prize for a raffle benefiting the Youth Scholarship Fund.  More info can be found here: SHARPTAIL YOUTH RAFFLE
Directions for purchasing tickets are on the raffle web page.  If you are interested in helping sell tickets, please contact Tom at 406-212-5767 or .

Admittedly, it is a program in search of a better name, but it was unanimously approved as a priority for the Sharptail Chapter at the annual meeting.  In essence, it is formalizing a chapter project that puts "Training for Hunting" on equal footing with "Training for Tests" at all of our Training Camps.  The following encompasses the goals of the PVDD program:

“Natural Ability” or “NA” testing and training is usually how people are introduced to NAVHDA.  The elements of Natural Ability are key components to the foundation of any versatile hunting dog – swimming, tracking, field search, pointing and use of nose in addition to understanding and developing “desire” and “cooperation” are the first stepping stones to developing a solid and productive relationship with your companion.

Once a team of dog and owner have completed “Natural Ability,” the goal of the Montana Sharptail Chapter is to stay dedicated to the continued development of that partnership, whether or not a member decides to pursue continued testing such as “Utility” or “Utility Prep,” through the NAVHDA system.  The mission of NAVHDA and the Sharptail Chapter certainly pertains to testing and the dissemination of information, however, it also includes helping members learn the fundamentals of training versatile hunting dogs in a manner that results in the safe, ethical and efficient taking and recovery of game.  As a result, the Montana Sharptail chapter is developing a “Progressive Versatile Dog Development” program (PVDD) devoted to assisting chapter members who are unsure about, or simply not interested in the continued testing of their dog.  In its program development, the chapter is fully committed to giving equal footing to PVDD, in conjunction with seminars, clinics, training camps and testing.

The “Progressive Versatile Dog Development” program will begin with a survey and assessment of the dog’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as help identify the inclinations and priorities of the owner/trainer.  There will be no tests, judges, scores, prizes, or awards within the program – simply a framework that should help the owner identify priorities while working both with the chapter and while at home. 

Elements of the program will include, but are not limited to:    

* Improvement of the "Field Relationship of dog and owner
* Developing “Retrieve” – from polishing a “Natural Retrieve” to a fully “Trained Retrieve”
* Establishing “Stop to Flush” and “Stop to Shot”
* "Lining Drills" for blind retrieves on both land and in water
* "Marking Drills" for singles and multiples on both land and water
* Development of "Manners in the Blind" for Waterfowl Hunting
* "Backing" or "Honoring" from point through the retrieve  
* Steadiness to "Shot" and/or "fall"
* "Trash Breaking" including Deer, Porcupines and Snakes
* General Obedience Skills                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
The goal is to develop PVDD as a Montana Sharptail Chapter project through at least the coming year and assess our gains at year end.  Input from novices through experienced chapter members will be key to its success. 

Christine, Natalie and GSP Double Dutch in Wisdom, MT
The Montana Sharptail Facebook Page is a great way to keep in touch with Chapter Members, folks who have moved away from Montana, and the greater NAVHDA community.  It is very important that the page reflects the mission and objectives of the chapter and NAVHDA at large.  We strongly encourage "Facebook Group Members" to be chapter members, although we also understand that folks move away, or occasionally test with the chapter, and "Chapter Membership" is not absolutely essential to "stay in touch."  That said, we are in the process implementing some new administrative controls on the page, simply to make sure that all posts comply with our 501(c)3 status (For example, no posts should be political in nature, or conduct commerce such as offering "goods for sale" or "looking to buy".  Another good example is the posting of photo of a litter of puppies - that would be fine - mentioning that they are 'for sale,' however, would NOT be okay.  Additionally, we need to make sure the page complies with our insurance policy.  For example, what may seem a harmless statement of - "Hey, I caught a bunch of pigeons - if anyone wants to come to my place and train - just let me know" - could be construed as a sponsored event in which case we'd need to make sure all insurance parameters are met.  It should be fairly easy to keep the page consistent with the chapter objectives, and 99% of what has been posted in the past is great and appropriate stuff - our great and beloved dogs, hunting, training, state land status, how to release your dog from traps, testing, etc.  Hopefully the page becomes both more popular and more useful, as well as an avenue for informal chapter communication.  Please visit the page to request "Facebook Group Membership."

First of all, a huge thanks goes out to folks who have contributed to the Chapter Wish List .  To-date, we have received gifts for a 12 gauge Single-shot, 8 Bird Crates, an "Easy-up Tent, 2 Launchers, a Set of Decoys, a Garbage Can and several Bumpers.  Folks have asked, and we certainly will take "in-kind" donations - we just want to make sure, for example, that things like chairs nest together and are efficiently transportable. 



Natalie White, age 11, handles "Double Dutch" to an NA Prize III as Senior Judge Ruth Weiss looks on.

Happy New Year everyone!  It’s hard to believe that a new Training and Testing year is almost upon us.

2013 was a fantastic year for the Montana Sharptail Chapter – it would not have been possible without the countless volunteer hours, miles, lunches and effort of several chapter members to make it all happen.  THANK YOU all for making 2013 a great year.  With Training Camps and Tests in Billings, Whitefish and Wisdom, the geographic area served would cover no less than 19 chapters on the Eastern Seaboard on the chapter locator map.

Please join us in Great Falls for the Montana Sharptail Chapter Annual Meeting: February 9, 2014 at 12:00 at the Meadowlark Country Club in Great Falls, MT.  Current Members and all interested parties are welcome.  Membership Fees are the same as last year, at least until the meeting.  Please renew by the end of February, if not before.  The "Member Directory" on the website will be updated by February 28.  A 2014 Membership Application can be found here:  SHARPTAIL MEMBERSHIP APPLICATION

Team Griff'n After a Day of Chasing Huns

As we look toward the coming year and our continued goal of serving the entire state of Montana, our tentative schedule is no less ambitious.  Board members have already secured, or are working to secure grounds for the following events:

3-4 day Training Camp in Three Forks, MT Late March or Early April
NA and UT/UPT Seminars in Whitefish, Billings and Bozeman, February and March
Training Camp and Test in Billings, MT Early May
Handlers Clinic and Test in Whitefish, Late May/Early June
Training Week and Test Weekend in Wisdom – Early August
Additionally, we are working to put together informal evening and weekend training events in Whitefish and Billings.
Prairie Heart's Pretty Lazy Angus - Utility Prep Prize II, June in Whitefish  - Utility Prize II, August in Wisdom

Staying true to our philosopy:  Beyond Natural Ability – A Commitment to the Continued Development of our Hunting Companions.
We will continue to put “Training for Hunting” as a first priority for the Montana Sharptail Chapter.  Multi-day training events have allowed us to address “Testing-Oriented” training, as well as offer plenty of opportunity for folks who want to continue the development of their hunting companion outside of the NAVHDA testing system.  Emphasis is on:

Building a cooperative and confident “Field Relationship” between dog and handler.
Stop to Flush, Stop to Shot and Manners on Birds – From upland to waterfowl.
Building Retrieve:  From polishing a “Natural Retrieve,” to “Hold and Here” or a fully “Conditioned Retrieve.”
“Lining drills” and “Blind Retrieves” on land and in water.
“Marking” – both singles and multiples on land and in water.
"Backing / Honoring"
Obedience training: “Whoa”, “Heel”, “Down,” “Sit,” “Place” etc.

Most importantly, we want folks to take home techniques and tips they can continue to use at home, in the absence of birds.  It is opportunities like these that make training “in the presence of birds” (e.g. training days) that much more productive.
Kiara, learning the finer points of "Hold"

There is no doubt that our continued success is due to an environment and attitude where we learn more by helping others and their dogs, than we do when our own dogs are “on the ground.”  Watching, helping and working with other dogs and handlers translates into better understanding and training our for own dogs when that opportunity comes.  

As we look to the coming years, it is essential that we build the chapter's training and testing assets - this will only improve our ability to serve our growing membership, in addition to providing "equipment checkout" opportunities to individuals and groups around the state.  We have put together a "Chapter Wishlist" - please consider making a donation to the chapter by contributing for the purchase of any of the following items: Montana Sharptail Wishlist

We look forward to another successful year in 2014, with abundant opportunities for NAVHDA veterans and new members alike.  Please forward this newsletter and invite any interested parties to the coming meeting or any Montana Sharptail event.   As always, give all your dogs a big scratch, and feel free to email or call with questions.


Team Griff'n with a Montana Mixed Bag