Firelight Bird Dogs

Firelight Bird Dogs

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Profit, Bird Dogs and My Dog Ate My Lottery Ticket

To anyone who actually hunts and breeds a few bird dogs, the first part of the title is obviously a joke that they fully get. But the second part of the title is unfortunately true. 

Yep.  I rarely buy a lottery ticket but for some reason, yesterday I did. Once home I tucked it under my laptop for safe keeping and in the hopes that I would remember to check the numbers since I have been known to buy tickets and for months forget to check them.  But this morning I carried my laptop into another room for some work, forgetting about the ticket until I noticed one of the dogs - okay, it was Flint, I am not going to protect the guilty - chewing on something. What I took from his mouth was just enough to tell me that he had just eaten my Powerball ticket. So if the news announces that the winning ticket was sold in northern Michigan and unclaimed, please don't tell me.

As far as making money on bird dogs, that is a serious topic which deserves its own post one of these days.  But the bottom line is that hunting and being a conscientious small breeder of bird dogs is a labor of love and is an expensive one: it certainly does not bring a profit.  Yes, a litter of pups a year brings in a short burst of money - thankfully - because the ledger hangs long and heavy on the expenses side IF you are raising bird dogs who are actually hunted and proven to have talent before they are bred. A breeder who just keeps a large number of dogs in kennels and always seems to have puppies available, make no mistake, that is a commercial kennel operated for profit, not bird dogs. 

If you are a serious hunter who wants a talented bird dog, please understand that the genetics of hunting talent are intangible and somewhat fragile. Even two outstanding parents might not pass the same level of talent on to their offspring. So why would you risk buying a pup whose parents have not been proven to have any talent at all? Whose only claim to fame is that somewhere back in the pedigree are the names of dogs and breeders who did indeed work hard to earn reputations of talent. If you are a wild bird hunter, the fact that a pup's parent was able to locate a chicken pen-raised bird in a training situation tells you nothing about talent. So, if you are a wild bird hunter, give yourself better odds than my Powerball ticket once gave me and buy a pup from parents who themselves have been proven talented on wild birds.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Dog Speed

I am test-driving a new camera right now and taking lots of awful photos with it. Wonderful new technology and equipment fail to overcome my shortcomings as a photographer. But I have fun any way. 

This photo caught my eye and made me laugh.  I am calling it: which speed of dog do you like?  On the surface it is just a poor quality but fun photo. But it is also a conversation starter. I have many discussions with hunters about how fast their bird dog covers the ground but find that since our dogs do not have speedometers on them, words such as fast, moderate or plodding have very different meanings to different people. GPS units report mph run by the dog but that is skewed somewhat by things such as terrain, did you leave it on as you drove between covers, how often the dog went on point or even how often the dog stopped to pee. Without actually seeing a dog hunt or a really good video of the dog, it is a difficult trait to measure. Yet footspeed is an important topic to hunters - and therefore breeders - and there is no right or wrong.  So, which flavor of speed would you choose from this silly photo?

Friday, August 30, 2019


I am a Founder and Breeder Member of, a group of hunter-breeders dedicated to the future of ryman-type setters.  We are non-profit, voluntary and peer-moderated: there are 3 criteria to be a Breeder Member. 1) Must hunt your breeding stock on wild birds. 2) Must do appropriate health testing such as OFA hips. and 3) Must be ethical and honest in dealings with other breeders and puppy buyers.  Participating in this group allows breeders spread across the country to get to know one another and each others dogs, discuss issues and education, and we even get together for a week every year to hunt and see the dogs at work.   So we can all get to know one another better, I am doing a series of Member Interviews.  When my turn came up for the Interview, writer and retired teacher Randy Lawrence stepped in to interview me so that, as he put it, "Lynn Dee didn't have to talk to herself any more than usual."  The following is a link to the interview as published on the RS site and on social media.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

It Took Nine Years

"How do you choose the sire for your litters?"   As a very small breeder, just one, maybe two litters a year from my personal gundogs and pets, I am often asked this question.  I wish I had a good answer.  Well, in my mind they are all good answers but in reality there  are about as many answers as I have litters.

Take, for example, my litter from last summer.  In January 2018 I attended the Breeder Gathering in Kansas.  The Gathering days are filled with daily hunts on wild quail with evenings of lively group dinners, discussions, and a lot of fun.  Breeders often get together for hunts for the collegiality but also the opportunity to see each others dogs hunting.  One day in particular that week I hunted with fellow RS breeders Bob Mele and Walt Lesser and we put down my Sally and Bob's two females, Lizzie and Abby.   Those 3 dogs were nearly indistinguishable as they skirted the edges of the cover, hot footin' it to hit likely spots on the horizon and weaving in and out of every pocket on the section.  Although that particular cover was not terribly productive for birds, I was highly impressed by Bobs dogs and discovered that they were aunt/niece.  Two days later I hunted with Doc, who was Abby's sire and Lizzie's brother, and as I watched him hunt and then at the end of the hunt, lie down and relax on the sunny hillside next to his owner, I knew that I had found the sire of my next litter from Mustang Sally.  My Annie is the product of that pairing and at only 12 months old that little spitfire gal has the world rolled up and waiting with red carpet.

My current litter was in the plans for a long time. Years.  The sire is a son of my favorite ryman (yes, I know we are not supposed to have favorites but Tweed was exceptional so I will make that exception) and when I met Parker and his owners for lunch 5 years ago at Parker Pie in Vermont for pizza (an absolute must stop each visit back east) I was taken aback at how Parker was his mother in male form: The look, the personality, the character, the bird dog, the quality.... unmistakable.  Plus, he is the brother to my outstanding bird dog, Storm. 
 I knew that day that I had to get a puppy from Parker.  Nearly 4 years ago I sent a photo of a 3 week old puppy to Parker's owner, Ken and said that I finally had the right female to breed to Parker so the boy had better keep himself prime.  That baby pup was my Kate and I knew from the beginning that she was a special keeper and that she was the right match for Parker.  The plans were set for 2017 but a family emergency suddenly made Ken and Parker unavailable when Kate was to be bred so I bred her to another lovely male and those pups have been precocious and oh so pleasing.  But I still wanted my Parker x Kate litter.  An accelerated sale and move from my house in Kansas this April had me stretched thin  and of course, that is when Kate came into heat.  So the movers and my household headed to a storage unit in Michigan while Kate, the rest of the pack and I headed to Cape Cod.  Our timing was perfect. We got two breedings, I filled up on fresh seafood and then we were headed back west, this time aiming for northern Michigan where I needed to shop for and buy a house in time to deliver the pups that I knew were coming.
                                  Kate                                                                         Parker

I moved into the new Grouse House on a Saturday, built a whelping box that Monday and welcomed the 8  Kate x Parker puppies that weekend.  They are only 4 weeks old now - my favorite age - but already I can see that yes indeed, these pups are what I thought they would be.  It took me 9 years to get to you Parker buddy, but it looks like you sure made it worth the wait.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Grouse House or Fun House?

Relocating the Setters and myself into northern ruff country at times reminds me of the Fun House back at the amusement park that I went to as a kid.  Although the grounds look familiar and pretty straight forward at first glance, you never know what lies around the next corner.  And like the carnival mirrors which distort the most familiar of all images, your own body, sometimes even very familiar settings have all new dimensions and twists.  Take banking for instance.  My task today: open and establish a checking account in my new community and deposit some checks which finally found their way to me via the US Postal Service, although I am confident that the Pony Express would have been quicker.

Bank #1: Hello, I am moving into the area and would like to open a checking account as I have several checks that I need to deposit. "Sure! What is your name and address?"  Well, I have a contract on a house but have not yet closed on it, however I did open a PO Box here.  "Okay, well then I need your Michigan drivers license to open an account." Me: I am not yet able to get a MI drivers license because I do not yet have an address. "I'm sorry, I cannot open an account without an address, please come back when you get your drivers license or an address"

Bank #2: " There is a $xx monthly fee charged for a checking account, here is our list of fees."  Wait, what?  You would charge me to keep my money in your bank??

Bank #3: Two smartly dressed young tellers stood behind small podiums in this bank, no long counter barricading them away from the customers.  "Welcome! Our bank is very different in that we are very oriented to the individual customer.   May I make an appointment for you to open an account?"  Umm, I have the time now and in fact came into town specifically to open an checking account.  "Well, we want to get to know each of our customers individually so we will need to make an appointment for you. Would you like to set that appointment up now?" No, I would like to open an account now.  "I'm sorry, but we need to make an appointment."

I'm trying to remember what comes after the Fun House Hall of Mirrors. Meanwhile, we returned to our wonderful camp in the forest with only the breeze in the tree tops for noise.  And we will breathe. 

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Lynn Dee Sightings

Hey all.  Contrary to some reports, I have not fallen off the edge of the world although I may have been driving along the rim a bit. In the past 2 weeks I moved from my house in Kansas and then drove to Cape Cod for some fresh seafood.


Well, okay, I didn't drive that far just for the seafood although it truly would have been worth it.  I went to accomplish a breeding of my Kate to a male from my 4th generation, a dog that I adore. He is a talented bird dog and handsome but it is his uncanny resemblance to his mother, my late Tweed who was perhaps my favorite ryman (I know, we're not supposed to have favorites) and he shares the same incredible personality.


My Kate's timing for her heat and the breeding went from a gamble to impeccable, with a breeding my first day there, timing confirmed by progesterone testing.  She's a good girl and somehow understood that I had planned this breeding since the day she was born 3 years ago.  This pic shows why I choose Kate as a little puppy: I saw her greatgrandmother Patch's eyes in her puppy face and knew she was the one. (Patch on the right)

An iconic hillside farm in Ohio has been my oasis this month. There I found warmth and support, laughs and pep talks, food and comfort, and a parking space for my travel trailer so that I didn't have to drag it out to the seacoast.  I even crossed paths there with friend from Idaho on his own travels east.  And importantly, in recent weeks the farm had been the nurturing safe harbor for a dog very much in need, a rescued boy of my breeding whose story will be told in another writing but who joyfully has now re-joined my pack.

I am now in northern LP Michigan and in search of the new home for my pack and myself.  Instead of hunting for birds with the travel trailer as base as I do in the fall, I am hunting for a house.  Michigan met most of the items on my checklist for a new spot to call home: no location met all.  So although it is pretty flat here in Michigan, I still have managed to not fall off of the edge.  A word of thanks for the friends who check in on me daily and keep track of me, you are more important than you know.  I'll let you all know when we are Home.
Lynn Dee

Sunday, March 10, 2019

You Can Take the Girl Out of the North...


"To have less and do more" became my motto almost 8 years ago and resulted in selling my beloved farm in Vermont.  The house was a classic post&beam saltbox that had tripled in size over its 100+ years, with bountiful years resulting in additions and double staircases which caused more than one visitor to get lost within the house.  The land was the ideal mix of fields and woods and four generations of my Firelight Setters pointed their first grouse and woodcock near the apple trees, alders and stone walls that were out the back door. 
But owning it required that most days I had to be away to earn the money to support it and I was ready for change.  So I sold the farm and took early retirement.   Well, okay, "early retirement" is a stretch since I did not meet the age and certainly not the financial criteria normally associated with retirement. Perhaps jumped-ship would be more accurate.

Since that time I moved to a rural house in Kansas and increased my hunting days from 25 to 60+ each year, with 6-week trips to Montana and 3-month seasons hunting quail here in Kansas.  The experience has been invaluable to me and to my dogs.  I have come to love watching the dogs stretch out and roll over the Montana hills and lock-up onto point on sharptail or a group of huns. I now understand why bobwhite are so well loved:
They offer both quality and quantity of dog work like no other species as the dogs work the brushy edges of Kansas fields.  Dog stamina and ability to stay healthy and strong when hunting several hours a day, day-after-day for weeks has crystallized the importance of breeding for both good conformation as well as the intelligence to handle a wide variety of terrain and species.  

But. Yes, but.  Ruffed grouse hunting still lured me.  Three years ago I went directly from 6 hot, dry weeks on the Montana prairie into the sweet, musty home of ruffs in Minnesota for a few days.  It was then that the call began.  Each of the past two years I spent a month hunting ruffs
in Michigan and it became clear: You can take the girl out of the North, but you can't take the North out of the girl.  I will continue to travel to the prairies and plains for hunting, but the woods where ruffs are found will see more of my time.  Which brings me to the past week where I signed a contract to sell my house here in Kansas and soon I will be traveling to northern Michigan in search of my next house.  I hope it will become my home, but only time will tell.  One thing of which I am certain: Home is somewhere in the North woods.  

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Blue Hens

In animal breeding the term "Blue Hen" means a female who consistently produces quality offspring, regardless of the sire to whom she is bred.   A male who consistently stamps his offspring with his own good traits is said to be prepotent.   To get either of these in a breeding program is when a breeder truly begins to put their mark on their breed: They begin to produce dogs that can be identified as being from their program either by performance traits, appearance, or both.  There are many breeders who produce nice dogs who perform well and look as they should. But there are fewer breeders who produce generation after generation of dogs with consistent quality and traits that can be identified as coming from that line.

I'm not sure how this much time could possibly have passed me by already, but last year I put the 7th generation of Firelight ryman setters on the ground.  My little breeding program is very small, limited to only as many dogs as I can actively hunt.  Reading about Blue Hens and Prepotent sires in other breeds where breeders own dozens of dogs and produce many litters a year got me to reminiscing about the wonderful females who have led me to own my current crew of 5.  If you care to take a moment, take a walk back through time with me. 

7th generation







1st generation

Cheers, and thank you, to all of these dogs and more that I have loved.
Lynn Dee


Thursday, February 14, 2019

Be Afraid. And Act.

            It's time. Time to stop being so dang nice and tolerant. Time to act. For a few years now I have read and heard stories about fellow dog lovers, breeders, bird dog owners and other pet owners having to defend themselves against wrongful accusations regarding the welfare of their dogs.  Each time I felt badly for the individual and although I knew it was wrong to not do more, I just ducked my head a bit and was relieved that it didn't happen to me. Thankfully it still has not happened to me but it has come close enough for me to no longer idly sit by.  And you and your dog may be next so I encourage you to read this and to consider what action you can take. Just in case you think that the fact that I am a hunter and breeder means that I am at greater risk of having their dogs taken away, I'll give you the two most recent scenarios that have brought me to action.  Any one of you who has used a kennel to housebreak your puppy or keep your dogs safe, make sure you read through to the end because you are in the target zone also.
            Situation 1. Nice suburban couple has 3 fairly large dogs that they adore. Well trained and socialized, the dogs live in the house, go on vacation with the family, and romp in a yard that was fenced in for their safety.  For safety when traveling, the dogs travel in the back of their vehicle, secured in airline approved travel kennels.  A recent family health situation brought them to travel to another state (which happens to be a destination state for bird hunting, may I add) so of course the dogs went along. The husband frequently checked on the dogs in the vehicle out in the parking lot of the hospital which was Ground Zero for the whole family.  At one point he decided to walk the dogs and reached into the back of the vehicle to unlatch the kennel door. The normally well behaved dog excitedly burst out of the kennel and rushed to jump out of the vehicle. My friend reflexively grabbed the collar of the large dog and had to use his body as a block to prevent the dog from jumping out into the traffic lane. Phew, close call.  But.  But then he hears a womans voice nearby, yelling that she "saw him punch that dog in the head" and she was calling the police for animal abuse.  Shocked, he secured the dog (it's safety comes first), turned and began to explain the situation but the woman was yelling at him and snapping photos of him with her cell phone.  An officer did indeed come, listened to both the woman and the dog owner, rolled his eyes as the woman persisted, and told the dog owner that it was obvious that there was no wrongdoing so everyone please go on their way. The officer also said that these types of hysterical, over-reactive reports are not unusual these days but that he is required to at least respond each time. My friend, the dog owner, was mortified and in shock.  Not only had he experienced a close call with his beloved dog jumping into a traffic lane but he had a stranger outrageously accuse him of cruelty which was unthinkable for him and dogs.  With his family dealing with the passing of a loved one, he decided it was best to simply put the incident behind him although he did wonder aloud if his face was going to be on Facebook that evening under the heading of Dog Abuser......
            Situation 2.  It's wonderful to have a farm. Plenty of rural acres, you can run your dogs for exercise and training.  But even well trained dogs sometimes "get a wild hair", forget their lessons and let their legs take them where they shouldn't.  Particularly when they are highpowered bird dogs and they live in bird country...sometimes temptation is just too much. For 3 days this particular dog had her fun on the run while her owner went without sleep, drove hundreds of miles of back roads looking for her, made posters, spread the word and worried himself sick.   Finally a call came from someone who had found her; he said she was at the dog warden's kennel “in rough shape,” to be picked up in the morning.  Even more concerned now, the owner drove to the home of the man who had found the dog, paid him a sizeable reward, and thought it odd that the man apologized over and over for not calling the owner first from the info on the collar.  The owner reported to the county animal shelter first thing the next morning.  The dog is a fit athlete, but after 3 days of running she was thin and tired but fine, and her owner was enormously relieved to get her back safely. However, the dog warden informed him that he was being charged with animal abuse because in the opinion of the person who found the dog and the veterinarian who then examined her because of the complaint, "she was at a ’Level 1’ of starvation."  Despite the fact that the dog is of a hunting breed known for being very slender at any time and despite the fact that she had been missing - and therefore had not eaten - for 3 days.  Despite the fact that he is a lifelong farmer whose profession, passion and heart has been wrapped around elite hunting dogs like the wayward one who rode home on his front seat, wagging her tail and very happy to be headed home. So now this dog's owner is on county probation for animal abuse, with no opportunity for explanation and no specifics of how/what the probation actually means, other than that his farm is subject to random visits from animal control authorities.

Still thinking that you are safe from this type of legal accusation?  If like most owners of multiple dogs you happen to use kennel runs to keep your dogs safe and to keep your house from becoming a kennel, check out the following active proposed legislation.  If this law passes and you keep a dog in a kennel overnight in New York, you will be punished with jail time and fined.   
 Section 1. The agriculture and markets law is amended by adding a new 
section 353-g to read as follows: 

       The list goes on for the number of bills being proposed across the USA that would make many pet lovers/owners criminals and allow other people to decide whether you and I can own a pet. If we responsible animal owners do not fight back, the list is going to get longer.  Stand up for yourself and for your animal. Educate the ignorant and that includes making sure that friends and families are not unknowingly supporting anti-animal groups through monetary contributions: the marketing ploys can be very deceiving and the money that the anti's collect will be used against you and I.  Stay alert to proposed legislation and let your representatives know that you oppose.   Nearly 70% of households in the USA own a pet, let's stop the anti-pet minority from pushing us around.  Don't just be afraid. Stand up and speak up.  For you, me, and our pets.  

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