Products tested: Wrangler RIGGS Workwear Ripstop Ranger Cargo Pant, Pyke Gear Northcutt Upland Briar pant, Cabela’s waxed/oiled Brush pants, Filson Oil Finish Double Tin Cloth Pants, Orvis Upland Softshell Pant, and Filson’s Shelter Cloth Brush Pants.
Disclaimer up front. No one asked me to write this, and possibly there is one manufacturer who would wish this to be unpublished the way my review on their website was. By that you may have ascertained no one gave me any of these pants, I purchased everyone one of these with my own hard-earned cash and used each pant for at least one full upland season if not more. Meaning at minimum I have a minimum of 85 to 100 days or so wearing each of these pants in hunting, training, and/or hiking situations. I don’t think anyone cares about a review done on any product that the tester has had only a weekend of exposure with.
I will rate each pair on: Protection, Packability, Comfort, Durability/Repairability, and miscellaneous factors that may be unique to a particular pair of pants that significantly affect its usability for better or worse. Then I will rate each pair as an overall value.
Pyke Gear Northcutt Upland Briar pant
Protection: 1 of 5
Packability: 5 of 5
Comfort: 5 of 5
Durability/Repairability: 2 of 5
Overall Value: 1 of 5
Coming in DFL. These are expensive pants coming in at a whopping $250 full retail. Pyke recently cut the price to $180, but this didn’t increase the value proposition. Let me tell you why. When you order your Northcutts’ you will receive an email from Mr. Pike himself, offering to answer any question you may have, or offer assistance as appropriate. I was impressed. My pants arrived, and again I was impressed, but also concerned. These pants are super lightweight, and they run large in the waist. I reached out to Mr. Pike regarding fit, and never heard from him. My Pyke’s became my go to training pants due to their ability to handle cold mornings and still manage hot temperatures towards the end of each training session. As long as I wore a belt, these pants were rock stars, and I couldn’t wait to take them hunting. As a note, the front pockets are rather shallow. I haven’t lost anything I have put into them, but then again, I am paranoid whenever I put something in them and check repeatedly. For early season Sharptail in Montana these bad boys were pretty sweet for reasons already stated. The first chink was their extreme light weight and open boot cuff. Dense grass caused the pant leg to ride up and the fantastic stretchy material showed its first downside as well, once something was pulled in, the material just ate it and deposited crumbs all up and down my legs, into my socks and boots – boo hiss. But okay that can happen with other pants, and we’ll get to that down the line here. Still, I was enjoying my Northcutts for the most part, then came Eastern Washington Pheasant season. My wife and I hunted a ditch filled with thistle and honestly it turned into the worst field experience I have ever had. The spines penetrated the “protective” facing material then was consumed by the stretchy comfortable inner material and the result was wearing a pair of pants made from chopped up Brillo pads. My legs had been mauled by thistle crumbs, my socks and boots filled with them as well. Each step was a nightmare. I drove home in my underwear. Even after washing and drying with several tennis balls it still took over an hour to hand pick all the pokeys out. Later I took these pants to Arizona to hunt Mearns quail. Everything in Mearns country wants to hurt you, and all I can say is the more protection you need, the less these pants give. You will be left with bleeding scratches from catclaw, and if there is a sharp pokey thing you don’t want to be a part of, rest assured, you will feel it and there is a high probability you will be gifted with one or more scabs from the encounter. Also of note, the interior of the pant cuff will attract gobs of grass awns, cactus spines, and so forth. Why is this so important? Well, if you don’t take the time to manually remove them at the end of a use, they will still be there after a wash and be deposited you’re your boots and/or clean socks the next time you wear them to walk. Gifting you the start of a walk with something pokey someplace in your sock and/or boot – yay! Additionally, the base pant material has proven to be highly susceptible to abrasion, pills easily and thins rapidly while doing so. This pair does not yet have a whole worn through but where my Final Rise rests there is a dollar bill sized area primed for failure. Lastly, I wrote a product review on the Pyke website since Mr. Pike will not actually write back to you. He did reach out after that. We spoke, he claims to be building a prototype for me to test. Shortly thereafter my review vanished from Pyke Gear’s Northcutt page. I think that says volumes about what is going on there.
Cabela’s waxed/oiled Brush pants
Protection: 4 of 5
Packability: 1 of 5
Comfort: 3 of 5
Durability/Repairability: 3 of 5
Overall Value: 4 of 5
Second to last. I’m not even sure these are made any more, but I wore them and killed them, so they need to be part of the pack in the event you might find something similar on the market. I recall these things costing less than $100 bucks and more than $50. They sure looked the part, and the oil was easily felt. You are just supposed to slap them on and wear them, no washing. So that is just what I did. The first several wears were like wearing pants made of grease-soaked paper towels – you know the kind. Imagine frying bacon strips on a Saturday morning, when you have determined a strip is ready you carefully lay each one out on a paper towel to absorb the excess grease. I imagine Cabela’s sorted through everyone’s trash for a generation and made these pants from those grease-soaked towels. You are welcome. If you stick with them, it does get better, but in your first few showers your legs will be fully waterproof as they will be coated in whatever material they soaked the pants in - so you have that going for you. They are also incredibly hot until the finish wears in. For packing, you must put them into a plastic bag before you put them in your suitcase if you would like to avoid staining everything these pants touch. Like Pykes, these pants could ingest grass up into the legs, easily solved by dropping trou mid-field and pulling everything out. The break in on these pants isn’t for the faint of heart but if you made it you were rewarded with a decent and protective pair of pants for a reasonable amount of money. The cotton material these are made from lasts until it doesn’t, so unless you eagle-eye holes and such one day they will go from seemingly fine to looking like you lost a fight with a badger. On the other hand, you will look like an Old Timer who has really put the miles in with the heavy wear these pants will show in fairly short order.
Filson’s Oil Finish Double Tin Cloth Pants
Protection: 5 of 5
Packability: 1 of 5
Comfort: 3 of 5
Durability/Repairability: 5 of 5
Overall Value: 4 of 5
Fit for a post-apocalyptic world, so as long as you need not run from anyone or anything - ever. I paid about $190 for mine several years ago. These pants are brutes! They are heavy, can be hot, and are thick. Similar to the Cabela’s pants already discussed you have to protect your other garments you pack from these pants due to the oils impregnated into the heavy weight cotton canvas of these pants. Also, these guys are thicker than two pair or three of any normal pair of pants, if you are limited on space these bad boys are not your friend. If you are hunting in the cold, these pants might be welcome, but for early season prairie birds you will regret wearing them. The boxy cut and extreme weight can also make serious hill climbing a mildly uncomfortable chore. The legs are the most open out of all the pants tested in this review and are susceptible to grass intake. On the upside, they will pull grass to the top, so reaching in and pulling the offending piece of prairie out through the top isn’t a big deal, and if you are hunting in mixed company you don’t have to disrobe in the field as an added bonus. Possibly the single greatest issue I have with these pants is the weight paired with the studs for the suspenders. I must use a belt when wearing these pants to keep them up. The belt then presses the studs into my hip bones, which after a few days can lead to deep bruising that lasts for a week or more. The only way I have been able to mitigate this is by wearing suspenders with heavy gauge leather buttonhole ends. This has proven to keep the inner part of the stud from grinding relentlessly into my hip bones. Repair is easy if you happen to catch a snag on barbed wire, and it seems as far as wear goes, they may outlast me.
Wrangler RIGGS Workwear Ripstop Ranger Cargo Pant
Protection: 4 of 5
Packability: 4 of 5
Comfort: 3 of 5
Durability/Repairability: 3 of 5
Overall Value: 5 of 5
for the 2020/21 season I was looking for a way to not spend a lot of money to be protected in the backcountry, so I gave this unlikely pair of pants a shot. If I recall correctly, I paid $55 bucks at my local ranch store for them. For money these really are hard to beat. They offer no protection from water or moist grass, so use gaiters. Like the Cabela’s pants they wear secretly and suddenly holes will randomly begin to appear towards the end of season in high wear areas. The upside is the wear isn't excessive. You could reinforce/repair these I suppose if you were careful to inspect them after each wear. They do have a boxy cut like Filson’s double tin, but the lighter weight fabric makes it less of an issue, so how much that affects you will likely be up to how you are built. For me it wasn’t awesome, but it wasn’t terrible either – just not my most comfortable pair of pants. The knees are reinforced, and Wrangler has left a part of that reinforced patch unsecured to allow for a little more flexibility. If you have to go under a fence or kneel down in the dirt to retie your boot, sometimes these will pick up sand and dirt. This can be concerning at first, but nothing a hearty pat can’t resolve. All in all, in a pinch I’d use them again.
Filson's Shelter Cloth Brush Pants
Protection: 5 of 5
Packability: 4 of 5
Comfort: 4 of 5
Durability/Repairability: 5 of 5
Overall Value: 5 of 5
I used a pair of these bad mammer jammers for fourteen years! Yes, you read that right. 14 years. Man, people loved to hate them, telling me how awful they were in one way or another. Never have I had so many people so eager to share their unsolicited thoughts on any piece of gear I have used in fifteen years. Meanwhile they kept buying pants. I just sewed a new patch on. I sent them back to Filson twice for seam repairs. They did exactly what they said they would do, and my pants came back fully reinforced and put back into service. When wear appeared, I was able to patch the area with ease and resume wear. In fact, I harvested chunks of material from that pair of Cabela’s pants to use as patch material for my beloved Filsons’. I sewed a leather cuff at the bottom early on, and I walked thousands of miles in them. By the end of last season, the material had become thin enough I could feel a cutting breeze through them – still they offered full protection from everything Arizona could throw at them. These pants are old school and don’t have a few features, like a crotch gusset, that could be all that is needed to improve fit and how they allow you to move. Even so, they wore more comfortably than all the pants listed here to this point excepting the Pyke Northcutt. For early season hunts, I simply learned to not wax them up heavily, or only below the knee, and that helped the pants to run cooler. Full disclosure I bought my pair on close out for $55 bucks! Which really made mine the ultimate value. I do think it’s rather obvious even if I had paid full price they were a great overall value given the length of service I got from them. Still if I were to spend $250 on a pair of brush pants again these are what I’d spend my money on. Nothing else has come close, or has it?
Orvis Upland Softshell Pant
Protection: 4 of 5
Packability: 5 of 5
Comfort: 5 of 5
Durability/Repairability: 4 of 5
Overall Value: 5 of 5
The “untimely” death of my Filson’s prompted me to look towards some of the high-tech pants on the market and as you well know I bought a pair of Pykes, and these. To be honest at first, I was smitten by the Pyke pants and this pair of pants may have remained band new for another season until the lack of protection issues arose. Sure, I wore these infrequently during the summer while training, I forgot about the leg vents which when used really do help cool off the pant and significantly increase the comfortable temperature range you can use the pant in. Overall fit and finish of the pant is sweet, I mean for $180 bones you’d hope so, right? They are fairly stretchy and so move well with you whatever it is you are doing. The zippered front pockets took me a bit to get used to, as I was averse to the feel of a zipper on my hand, but there is not denying the usefulness of having 4 zippered pockets at your disposal. Sadly, directly after drafting this article the front right zipper failed. It must not have been zipped fully, and the zipperhead was pulled free from one side – there is no provision to get it back on track, so there it is just being a piece of junk. One great feature is the snap-cuff located inside the ankle area. You can leave it open or make it tighter and pretty much eliminate the need to use gaiters. Even when the cuff is left loose, it has had a 100% prevention rate on letting grass and stuff from sneaking up my legs! The synthetic facing material is pretty darned good. You may feel an occasional prick or scrape from a thorn, but I have yet to be left with an actual scratch in my skin, something very import for my friends on blood thinners. The base material can attract some types of plants, most notably the Velcro churro, but relative to the Pyke’s or my wife’s first and second gen Ladies Prois Pradlann Field (which for the record are magnets for the stuff) pants it’s nothing a couple of easy flicks can’t manage. The base material doesn’t offer much protection from pokey stuff at all, so changing direction in a patch of catclaw is something you will do only once. These Orvis brush pants find a nice balance between comfort and protection. I would buy another pair without reservation.
For the three of you who follow my blog, recently renamed The TGK Blog, you will know that I enjoy spending time with my dogs. I’ve come to learn ‘training’ and hunting with them are simply different avenues to cultivate a stronger relationship with them as companions. I’ve ‘trained’ dogs since I was ten years old, and I learned as most of us have at that age by following an adult and using the method they used. It was easy to accept, as there didn’t seem to be any other way to go about ‘training’ a dog. The books that were available at the time only further supported the process. I remember when the Monks of New Skeet’s books were the hottest thing on dog training next to a branding iron ready to go…
I recall being introduced to ‘clicker’ training in the early 90’s when I lived in Alaska. The way it was presented made me more than just a skeptic, to be honest; I thought it was a joke. I did see there was intent to train without the use of force/pressure/use of harsh aversives. But I just didn’t get it.
It wasn’t until I moved to New Mexico and began training with Janet Miller that I saw ‘balanced training’ in action, and I immediately liked it. I saw the benefits of using things the dog liked to get them to perform versus just making them do it because it is what I wanted. When I got into agility with Shadow, my Golden, through Janet – that was all positive. But I wasn’t clever enough to recognize it at the time. Still, my time training with and learning from Janet redefined how I worked with and wanted to work with my dogs.
Years later I re-discovered the Drent and really wanted to make this bird dog thing happen. I read dozens of books on training a dog for field use. All of them required the use of force in one way or another. Nothing I was comfortable with, in fact, one book I ordered as a reprint of a famous out of print training book went into explicit detail on how to properly hit your dog with a 2”x4”! Feeling shocked, I recall throwing that book away. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to train with a few notable gundog guys in New Mexico and Washington. At the puppy end of their programs, it was all fun and games, but to get high trials levels of ‘performance’ aka steadiness, the need for the use of force was there. Still, they weren’t doing some of the incredibly harsh things some so-called trainers were doing. Things that were as shocking if not more so than the 2x4 guy… Fast forward a few years, my own style had become more and more LIMA (Least Invasive Minimally Aversive) through fits and starts in a clumsy haphazard way that tends to occur when a person is without a road map or mentor. I often wondered about how this could apply to the world of Gun Dogs. In the Gun Dog world Positive/Force Free/LIMA ‘training’ is rare as hen’s teeth, and as I have learned, a highly taboo topic.
When Jenna had lived in Western Washington state, she trained in a group that used the Gibbons-West method; a low-pressure, low-force way of training for her Fowler dog. This intrigued me – so it was possible! Why had I not heard of this? It made sense to me that training gun dogs should be able to be done without the use of force, after all in nearly all other facets of dog-sport the use of force in training is taboo these days. From Agility, Dog dancing, Flyball, frisbee, even in Mondioring and so many points in between people have been getting high drive dogs to do totally amazing things. More importantly, how have they done it? Well, the more amazing the behavior has been, the more likely it is that the handler/trainer has gotten the dog to offer the behavior and then rewarded the dog for doing so. Then the act of performing became rewarding for the dog. The dog chooses compliance…
Jenna suggested we try to train with Brad Higgins. Contact was made, and the appointment set. I don’t recall the last time I was so excited to learn something. From the moment you arrive, you are being educated. This I loved. I will not bore you with repeating the experience here, as I have written about it already. In short, I will say this, we both had a wonderful experience and came away with our eyes opened further and our heads reeling from trying to take in so much added information. We returned home with elevated expectations for the hunting season and how we would ‘train’ the following summer. Sadly, our original quail lady had elected to skip out on far more than producing quail for us, so our big summer of working with Ila and Tule was tabled. I did however add several books to my pile to read.
Just like leading up to our first Higgins experience dumping out old irrelevant information was without question the single greatest hurdle to learning the new. Learning is a journey, a fantastic one if you are ready and wanting to grow. I had become inspired and given the impetus to make another big step in the direction I had been pointed for a long time. This time with purpose and direction and possibly a mentor. With this experience fresh in my mind, I reread several canine behavior books – now with a whole new level of meaning and much deeper level of understanding. I also joined force free training groups, added all kinds of books on learning theory, modern force free training methodology to my reading pile.
Over that summer I realized I, more than Ila, needed to go back to train with Brad. I returned to Nevada and with Brad’s help we focused intently on my handling. Brad videoed me and he critiqued my handling, missed queues, off timing, and the few things I did well. It was then he went from teacher to mentor. I had a lot of respect for Brad before, his care and passion are unmistakable, and dare I say it, palpable. We covered a lot of ground, I learned a great deal about myself and what I was doing, or rather what I thought I was doing. I spent those days so focused and deep in concentration I ended up with a truly crushing migraine – I had thrown everything I had at learning.
It should go without saying, Jenna and I had a great hunting season, better yet we had secured a new quail lady! Amanda has been fantastic. She works hard to deliver healthy strong birds for our program, and we are appreciative of her great attitude and commitment towards helping us achieve our goals. For this first summer of having a flight pen full of quail, we used Pharaoh quail. Amanda brought in a strain that was going to be edgier than the normal docile pharoah for us. While some were flightier, most were not. We did learn the lighter color the bird was, the more likely it was to act wild. Ultra-rare it was when a rich-brown or dark grey one got up and left Dodge.
With the Higgins method it has been my observation that the use of pressure and harsh aversives are replaced with structure. To be successful with the Higgins method you need birds that will fly, act wild and you need to adhere to a deviously simple protocol. With some patience and a few good birds, the dog learns that you are critical to its success as a hunter. Better yet, the dog believes you are the key to his success! With this ‘truth’ installed in the dog’s mind his level of cooperation is amplified. All you have to do is not screw it up. This relationship is built upon trust and cooperation. The more this is allowed to grow, the higher the level of performance you will get from your dog: better bird management, points that are stauncher and more dramatic, and yes, even better retrieves. All by basically just slowing down, being quiet, paying attention and being calm.
So back to our pharaohs. One of the more interesting and useful parts of the Higgins Method is allowing the dog to flush. Yes, seems unusual and maybe even quite contrary. But after your dog has established its point, and you have situated yourself the dog is taught the “all right” queue, where the dog has permission to charge in and flush the bird, or simply relocate, or stand and defer to you. But in many cases one or two explosive steps is all it takes to get a bird to break and its game on. Do you like to shoot doubles? Here is your chance. What we learned in ‘training’ is our birds wouldn’t go and the girls would simply scoop the bird up on the “all right” – which technically is fair play, but what wild bird would let that happen? Moreover, this ninja grabbing became problematic for us, and the girls, most notably Ila learned to stalk in like a panther and snatch the bird. There is a clear difference between when a dog is managing birds and creeping. Ila still didn’t have intent to put the bird up because if it flew, she stood steady, but if it sat tight, she would panther cruise in until the bird was in her mouth, eight out of ten times or worse she had the bird.
We consulted with Brad, and he confirmed our suspicions – we had a bird problem. To move forward we had to ditch “all right” at least temporarily. But what to do about Ila, the furry bird snatching glacier? Since we don’t use “whoa” or zap our dogs, just what were our options? Well truth be told; the solution was incredibly simple. I knew the difference between Ila managing a bird on the move, and when she had intent to cruise in for a snatch. This was the cornerstone to the fix. When she went into cruise mode, I simply recalled her, I knelt and praised her for returning and we left that bird alone and went to another. She was denied her reward, which is all. It took two times that day, and another on the following training day. She hasn’t cruised since. No yelling, no whistle bleating, no “whoa”ing, no zapping, no dramas; it was that simple.
In all we had a great summer of fun Ila, Tule, and I. We ‘trained’ three or four days a week. I honed my craft and improved my timing by taking video of most of our sessions. I did learn I am a terrible videographer, but what I managed to capture was adequate for its intended purpose, for me to learn and improve. Yes, with the Higgins Method the handler is held accountable for what goes on and how well the dog performs. We understand what the dog will do when they make associations. With consistency in handling, it becomes easy for the dog to make the associations we find desirable. In this case steadiness, basically the dog becomes non-reactive to birds flying, gunfire, birds being shot, etc. Chasing is eliminated entirely All of those things become queues to remain steady. Early in the program dogs are helped to make the association that flying/flushing birds mean to be steady without verbal commands or queues be it verbal or electronic. We then make the association that they may flush the bird, but become steady again once the bird flies, again without command or queue form us, the flying bird is again our queue for steadiness. This is much easier than you might think.
Once the gun gets involved a lot of energy is added to the situation, and once we have added a bird tumbling to the ground, there is again even more energy added. For us, this isn’t an insurmountable obstacle for us, and one we can defeat without the use of any kind of harshness. Our dogs learn the gunfire is also a queue for steadiness. Even while hunting at our local preserve hunters in other fields shooting will cause our dogs to pause briefly. Typically, the opposite of dogs trained conventionally, who when they hear gunfire usually rocket off in the direction of the report of the shot! Because so many of our birds where very weak to get off the line, I had to put a bit more emphasis on gunfire being a queue for steadiness to ensure the safety of the situation. Again, this was done without the use of force. I simply leaned a little further into the associations we had already built.
How did I do that? To be honest it was simple and based on modern learning theory. Done again in the Higgins way, as quietly as I am capable of. By emphasizing my return to the dog after the shot, varying the time to get back, and varying the time for release once I got back to the dog, my queue “hunt dead” was properly reinforced as the association I wanted to make. Releasing the dog is easy, there is a lot going on, a lot of energy and excitement in the air, and usually a downed bird to be found and retrieved. Once we had the release ironed out, on occasion I would let the girls go without returning to them, but only if they remained steady and turned to look for me – anticipate my return to them. This will be the area I focus on through the upcoming hunting season. I intend to be mindful of making a point to return to them on occasion before offering the “hunt dead” queue. Just a few times here and there will be all it takes to keep the whole thing together.
I ended my ‘training’ season by starting our Spinone pup using the Higgins Method with remarkable success and having two Drents that were dead nuts bang on steady to release. With the few birds I had left I elected to try working Tule & Ila as a brace. They both played the game by the same set of ‘rules’, and they both used the same queues to the same level of fidelity no less. I wasn’t nervous about running them together at all. I just wanted to see how it would go down. Tule works closer, Ila tends to run bigger. As a pair it’s about perfect. They worked so well together, very cooperative! If Ila has the bird, Tule very naturally will honor her. Once I walked past her, she would resume working and either establish her own point or would again ‘honor’ depending on the wind or situation. Ila is by default of her personality is a risk taker, instead of ‘honoring’ she would work around and set her own point in her own way at the distance she thought was right for the situation – never with the intent to compete or interfere. Yeah, so just like that I now have a brace of Higgins dogs. Lucky me.
Haha, I say it like it just happened, but in some ways it did because we all just had a lot of fun over the course of last summer. We learned a lot from one another. Trust, timing, teamwork. I improved my handling, timing, consistency. My patience and persistence grew by using the video because I stopped repeating mistakes, and even when I did repeat an error it was never to the degree it was before – improvement is the name of the game. So really it was through diligence and attention to detail I have a brace of Higgins Gundogs and an eight-month-old pup that performs better than most folks seasoned pros…
We even got to take our act on the road and offered guiding services for Sage Canyon Outfitters in Oregon where every client we took out made similar remarks about enjoying the slower more casual pace of the hunt, the quiet: no yelling or whistle bleating from me, and never hearing a dog squeal from being shocked – they all commented on that and how much it bothered them to see it happen to the other guys dogs. Additionally, they really liked being able to get set up around the dogs they watched work and with a ‘thumbs up’ all around the “all right” was given and easy shots presented to the guns.
I jest that Drents would make terrible guide dogs for the seeing impaired. But for those looking for game birds... A Drent is just the right medicine!
I was invited to come down and fill in during a guide shortage at Sage Canyon Outfitters outside Maupin, OR to take care of some big parties desiring a guide with dogs. Not only did these folks get treated to hunting over one of the rarest versatile pointing breeds around, but they also got to hunt over Higgins Gun Dogs.
Our clients got to hunt at a nice causal pace, without needing to hear me hollering at dogs, bleating a whistle and so on. They watched our Drents establish point after point, walk in and get set up for some easy shooting. Have the dog released to flush, then go back to being steady while the birds flew, and all hell broke loose time and time again.
Here are only a few shots. We got to meet some fun folks, and despite being gifted with some easy shooting despite what the tailgate photos may indicate. In the end, our clients had a great time, and the tips were generous. Best of all, we've been invited back!
Everywhere I go, and the tailgate gets opened, or every time I post a photo that shows my truck vault people take notice of my drawer system. A little backstory for you, my friend Dave had offered to build me a vault for several years, and I finally built the courage to ask him to help me make it happen. We set a weekend and I drove over to Bozeman. Dave got a head start by picking up the bulk of the supplies needed and went started by laminating and cross-screwing two sheets of 3/4" together to make the uprights of the box. I arrived, and the flurry of activity started!
From start to finish I have ~$500 worth of materials involved: wood, screws, glue, finishes, hardware and so on. Currently I have the top surface/load deck coated in Flexi Seal after using various other deck/fence paints with varying levels of success. The top surface of the load deck from the bed is 10.25".
The box and drawers are all made from 3/4" hardwood plywood. The uprights are doubled up, cross screwed and laminated. I've had 3,100 pounds loaded on top and the drawers still worked perfectly. Down the center of my box, I have 6" lag bolts punched through the centers of my medium duty tie-down anchors, strategically placed based on various kennel arrangements and use oak runners with 2,500# ratchet straps to secure my kennels. We can carry: 4 Roughland Intermediates, or 3 Roughland Intermediates and a Roughland Large, or 3 Roughland Intermediates and 2 Roughland Mediums.
The drawers are about 10" deep and are about 6'1" long and ride on hand planed waxed oak sliders. The two small side drawers run to the wheel well. One holds grooming tools, and water port parts, the other ammo. The Ammo drawer was built to hold 12 ga ammo.
The area ahead of the wheel well, I could use as drop in storage, I just haven't cut the panels for it.
I've added some notes to the slide show to make it easier to pair comments with photos.
Enjoy, and if you have questions or comments, please feel free to reach out.
Drents are at the large end of Medium-size, or at the small end of Large-size for dogs. We like the idea of being safe vs. being sorry. So, when you have an intelligent and active breed like the Drent and you have all sorts of ideas for activities and training to do with them, please have a look before you make up your "work schedule" for your precious pup.
Today we bring you the explanation why we should not perform intense physical exercise with puppies until 18 months or even 24 months. Puppy growth rates vary by size. It's important to adapt diet and exercise to your puppy s' specific requirements to ensure ideal skeletal development. Endochondral ossification (the process during which cartilage turns into bone) differs according to the adult size of your puppy, with closed growth plates (complete ossification has occurred) between 3 months in toy breeds and 24 months in large breeds (see photo).
There are many factors affecting growth rate and maturity age, for example, males mature more slowly than females. There are variations in periods of 'fast growth' ranging from birth to 11 weeks in small dogs and toys. Large breeds range from birth to 20 weeks (Hawthorne et al 2004) excessive exercise and inadequate nutrition during these periods can lead to conformation and malformation of bones, which can lead to the osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease.
The recommended exercise levels for puppies are 1 minute for each week of their life, twice a day. This should be negligible impact at a steady pace. If your goal is to train to compete for flyball or agility (for example), it is recommended to avoid any jump training until full ossification has occurred.
This is what we mean to tell you not to rush with your pups, work other things with them. Work their minds, smell, worry about socializing etc. After spending the development months and making the corresponding plates, consult your veterinarian if your dog is 100 % for sport.
When you get an 8-week-old puppy, keep in mind these images!
His bones don't even touch yet. They walk great with large, flexible legs and wobbly moves because their joints are composed of muscles, tendons and ligaments covered in skin. Nothing fits right or has a real grip yet. So, it is critical to not allow the puppy to become overworked or over exercised during this time. This relaxed pace allows the puppy the opportunity to grow properly. Every big jump or bounce causes bone impacts...in reasonable amounts, it's not problematic and it is normal. But when you let the puppy jump up and down from the couch in the living room or bed, have free access to run the stairs, you take him for excessively long walks, you can damage that joint during training.
A well-formed body is something that comes from excellent parenting and education, BOTH, not just one. Once he grows up, you'll have the rest of his life to play with and perform high-impact exercises with him. So, keep calm while they're still small puppies and give them the gift that can only be given once.
The complete and unabridged version
So, what’s it like to hunt over a Drentsche Patrijshond, one of North America’s rarest versatile pointing breeds?
And what if the game you were hunting was one of North America’s most prized birds, an uncommon species many hunters have pinned to the top of their bird hunting bucket list?
I’m going to go out on a limb and guess most of you do not know what a Drentsche Patrijshond, aka Drent, is and without boring you with a textbook introduction to the breed, I’ll offer this snapshot. The Drent is nearly four hundred years old, and, unlike the German versatile breeds, it was developed in a more organic way. For example, in the Dutch Province of Drenthe, located in the northeastern part of the Netherlands, commoners had the right to hunt. But most of them were quite poor and couldn’t afford more than one dog. Therefore, that one dog had to do it all; keep vermin out of the barn, pull a cart full of produce or cheese to market, play with the children, warn of approaching strangers, and yes of course, hunt. The rest I hope to convey with an account from the field.
I am by all accounts a Mearns quail hunting nutter and have spent no less than one hundred and thirty days over the past eleven years hunting them along our southern border, I’ve identified two different color phases of the female and four different crest patterns of the male. Forecast reports, bird counts and weather, mean little to me, as I am drawn to the region for its ruggedness and austere beauty, locally produced wine, and of course the opportunity to meet up with friends to hunt these amazing little birds.
This hunt took place a couple of years ago. Accompanying me was my favorite and cutest hunting partner ever, my wife Jenna. We had planned to hunt with a duo of dogs. First, Jenna’s boy Fowler, a classic Nimrod-type Drent, who is at the heavily coated end of the spectrum for the breed. He was eight years old at the time and sports a fluffy white tail you simply can’t miss. Additionally, he happens to be the first NAVHDA UT titled Drent. He would hunt with my girl, a Drent with heavy Clovis-type influences, a coat at the opposite end of what is considered allowable and nearly all white. She moves like a flash of lightning, scales rocky slopes like Spiderman, is my medical response Service Dog, and is one of the most honest dogs I’ve hunted over. The difference in type boils down to subtle variations in skull structure and overall bone mass of the dog. A Clovis dog will have a bit more of a heavier and domed skull and carry more bone than a Nimrod type, with a flatter and more wedged-shaped skull. Both are wonderful examples of each type and really show the allowable variation within the breed between them. Of note, there is quite a bit of allowable variation in the breed and one really needs to spend time learning breed to know what ‘right looks like’ – but once you know, it’s easy to spot those who fall outside the boundaries of fair play.
On this hunt, the action had been slow but steady. Down from the year before – an all to familiar trend. Yet, when we asked other hunters about their hunts, it seemed like we were finding more birds than most of them – again, nothing new to us, but that isn’t to say we don’t work for it. After all, some days are hard.
This day’s location was brand new and was chosen primarily by looking over satellite imagery and making comparisons to other areas where we’d had success before.
As we wound our way to a suitable parking spot, attempting to avoid as much of the catclaw and mesquite branches as possible, I can tell you this; it did not look anything like the traditional old man strolls you see in video footage or photos you see in print. This place looked daunting. This was going to be something: a proper canyon, much bigger than we had realized. Still, we were committed, being so far off the beaten path, with the sun already coming up. How hard could it be? After all, it had already been a tough season, so why not hunt this ragged gash tucked deep into the Madrean Sky Island habitat of the Chihuahuan Desert?
The end of the trail for the Power wagon was break under a large evergreen oak. The peaks towering ahead of us were a bit over a thousand feet above the boulder strewn creek bottom we parked on. This was going to be interesting; we had all the right habitat even if it was much rockier and vertical than what most people are looking to hunt, or so we thought. We booted the dogs up and readied ourselves for a long hike.
As Jenna was gathering snacks for the hike, and I was relieving myself of my coffee rental, I heard “the dogs are on point!”. Standing there, with the wrong gun in my hand, I said “what!?”. “Powder and Fowler are both on point” she said. Less than fifteen yards from the front of the truck, on the steep bank of the mouth of the canyon, the dogs were sharing a point on a covey of Mearns. Both neatly crouched, as is most typical, frozen in time and space on the steep embankment. A Drent’s tail is a good barometer as to what may be in front of him or her. A flagging tail generally indicates the dog is unsure; maybe the birds are running out? But when they are sure, you will see that brushy tail outstretched, positioned between two and three o’clock, in-line with the backbone much like the tail of a weathervane – it’s just how they are built, there is no changing it. A Drent’s tail is there mostly to knock things off the end table. I carefully made my way forward with a handful of shells hastily jammed into my front pocket. And that is when I realized just how steep the embankment was. The covey flushed as I neared Fowler as a dry branch snapped underfoot. Most of the birds flew straight up and into the sun, but one juvenile bull made a tactical mistake and veered left. My shot connected just before he crested the rise of this spit of land which would have allowed him to really travel. With minimal interference from me, Powder was on the retrieve. Drents have a strong retrieving instinct and can rival more traditional retrieving breeds. In fact, doubly so if the right training methodologies are employed. The breed has a reputation for being both soft and stubborn, but I challenge the notion of stubbornness after having trained a dozen or so Drents. Using traditional training methods, Drents will become either bored, frustrated, or worse yet, intimidated and will shut down, leading many to think they are stubborn. Since I have converted to ‘Force-Free training’ for all aspects of my training program; from the mundane, to field and retrieving work. I’ve not experienced a ‘shut-down’ (stubborn) dog since. Moreover, this change has enabled me to tap into the Drent’s innate desire to please and work with their ‘boss’. We were on the board right from the start. How about that?
With this rather immediate and unexpected success, we set out into the canyon. In Sky Island country, conditions and temperatures can change throughout the day depending on the orientation of the land in relation to the sun, and of course changes in elevation.
We rounded a bend, barely ten minutes from leaving the truck. My GPS told me Powder was on point up ahead and above us in the full heat of the sun. She had worked just out of eyesight. A Drent will adjust its range depending on conditions and terrain to remain in loose contact with the gun, with ranges typically flexing between thirty yards for deep brush and out to around one hundred and fifty yards or more in the open. The Drent was, after all, built by foot hunters for foot hunters to hunt patchwork fields customarily separated by dense hedgerows and the brushy edges of watery dikes surrounding polders. But that wasn’t the case here. I began my ascent up the steep side, carefully negotiating the crumbly slope dotted with scabby grasses. Every step up was reduced by half as the soft unset rock gave way. I had to use the edge of my Kenetrek boots in an effort to gain purchase. Progress was slow, and the heat of the unfiltered sun was withering. Yet, Powder held her point. The covey was moving, but they were in no rush. She would take an occasional step and re-establish her point. Drents are highly intelligent and learn early how to gauge scent as well as the movement of their quarry. Mearns are renowned for holding tight for the pointing dog, which is only somewhat true these days. It seems, too many hunters have taken advantage of the Mearns’ predictability. This coupled with increased hunting pressure of recent years, has all the dedicated talking about the change in Mearns tactics. Some will hold, while many will run like their more common desert brethren. Most recently I’ve witnessed coveys flush wild from a hundred yards away or more – if I wanted to hunt Huns, I’d go to Montana! These are not the Fool’s Quail of yore, which have enticed many to hunt them.
As my body heat began to fog my safety glasses, I opened my vest for ventilation. Powder held her point but when I paused to catch my breath or sort my gear out, she looked back to verify my location and progress. This is quite typical for the Drent. As a breed they are naturally cooperative team hunters which thrive under benevolent leadership. I believe the Drent to be ideal for the hunter who wants to hunt with a friend and is willing to trust their dog to make decisions versus a four-legged tool – there are other breeds for that.
As I neared her, my steps became more tentative on the steep unstable surface. I worked to get above her, managed to get parallel to her and paused. The footing was better, and she hadn’t moved in some time. The birds were close. Powder shifted her gaze to me, then looked forward and stretched her neck. I released her to flush the birds. I set my bead on the dark underside of a large bull quail flying uphill towards the deep grass. With a puff of feathers and cartwheeling wings, he pitched in. I asked Powder to make the retrieve. It was an easy find, as he was caught in a dramatic flutter as gravity wedged him into the base of a dense tuft of grass. Two birds down already. It was shaping up to be a genuinely nice day. Might I have enough tender Mearns meat to make a batch of my somewhat famous quail Posole by the end of the day? For sure I’d be able to put them to use in my quail Marsala recipe. Maybe I was getting ahead of myself...
Moving down hill is quicker than going up, so within a moment we were back to Jenna and Fowler and boy was he ready to go! A few yards further we entered the throat of the main canyon where the conditions swung a full 180-degrees. It was as if the canyon was alive and breathing. As the ‘outside’ temperature was rising, it was causing an inversion in the canyon, forcing freezing cold air from the upper reaches of the system down and out the mouth. Then after a few minutes this ‘push’ would stabilize, and just as you could get feeling worked back into your fingers, another push of arctic grade air would snake through, stinging our eyes, cheeks, thinly gloved hands, and sending chills into our cores.
Was it the second push of this artic air, or the third? One of them caused Fowler to move forward in an entranced walk, as if here were stalking something. He moved in this way for over a hundred yards. He took a long pause in the creek bottom; the thermal belt had paused again.
Powder caught up but was staying clear of Fowler. She knew he had something she hadn’t caught a hold of. Then the cold air drainage restarted, our glasses fogged, and Fowler began to move again, this time couched, like panther stalking its prey. Powder moved alongside, also stalking. But it was clear she still did not have the scent; she was just mimicking Fowler’s movements as she carefully picked her way through the dense catclaw.
Fowler scaled the short cut bank to a grassy plateau choked with catclaw and dense grass. A few mature evergreen oaks dotted the braided boulder laden creek bottom. Both dogs froze like statuary, a bit more upright than normal. But here was no way for Jenna and I to get through the catclaw, we had to stay in the creek bed and work our way around until we could find a break and work our way in.
As we did, the Drents took turns, one pointing the other backing, and then switching roles. This team stalking is something we are very used to, and just love being a part of it. As we rounded the bend to get onto the island with the dogs, Powder slipped down into a braid of the creek on the far side. She had managed to work up wind of the covey and come back in from above.
Team Double Dutch had the covey in a pincer with only one way out, across the other portion of the creek bed, and up a rocky landslide which had tumbled from the canyon top a thousand feet above. I didn’t need to release the dogs to flush. As I found stable footing, I found myself in the middle of the covey. Birds erupted from all around me, I fired, then fired again – a double. Birds continued to flush! There were at least two dozen of them. What a find! This was easily two if not three family groups together, a regional conference. If I’d had better presence of mind I could have reloaded and taken more as several quail were late to depart in a delayed popcorn flush. Were we the first hunters to make contact with these birds this year? With three rich covey finds in this first hour of hunting and four birds in the game bag this was setting up to be a wonderful day afield.
As we made our way further into the canyon the cold air pulses continued at regular intervals, the gentle whooshes lasted just long enough to make us wonder if we were crazy. Then they would subside long enough to rewarm ourselves as we trekked further in and up the rocky creek bottom. Each bend was different. Shaded, cool and comfortable, or fully sunlit and broiling hot. Around yet another bend the scene would be wrapped in shadow, a place where the hoar frost grew to epic proportions in its freezing shadowy depths.
It was in one of these shadowlands that we noticed both dogs on point; Fowler high up in the sun near a partially burned oak and Powder low in a bramble of brush, grass, and younger oaks. As I approached Powder her point intensified, I had to pause to take stock of the situation. She checked in with me, then I resumed by circling to her right and coming over a slight ridge covered with some tall dense grass. A single sunbeam had managed to penetrate the cold and darkness around us. Meanwhile just a few feet away, Powder lowered her head, her breath melting the frost on the grass in front of her. It was a tight spot to be in. I gave her the release command, but all she did was look me in the eye, then look ahead and nod her head as if to say – they are right here!
Sure enough, there was a covey right in front of me, tucked away in a patch of gently warming frost-free grass. I carefully looped the shotgun over my shoulder and lifted the camera up to rattle off a few shots hoping desperately the autofocus would find a way to grab a quail or two through the grass. I put the camera away, grabbed my gun and took a step.
All hell broke loose! Quail shot out of that grass like popcorn on a stove top; bouncing off branches, zinging here and there, and just when I thought the show was over, one hen lit through my little window. It proved to be an unfortunate decision for her, but still there was enough vegetation to keep it from being a super clean shot, and she buzzed off a short distance. Easy for Powder to relocate, but where was Fowler? Funny thing about Mearns, their habitat is immense. You can find them on flat easy walks in the open chaparral, or tucked away under clumps of cat claw, most of all, you find them where they are – in the most unlikely and damnedest places. He was still up on the hillside, still pointing – good boy! Powder located our little hen with a bonus point and flush at her release. Five birds and six shots today – I’m on fire and still have a dog on point. By the time I was able to get to Fowler, his tail had begun to flag, which was a sign of things to come.
Still Powder backed him once she got to within a few yards… and that’s when the large Coatimundi (Nasua nasua, a member of the raccoon family found in Arizona) decided to make a break for it and climb to the top of the tree. We had a good laugh and were glad that the big male Coati didn’t want any trouble.
Pushing ever higher the canyon opened and began to resemble more typical Mearns country. This one, however, was on a breath-taking scale. We had gained enough elevation to make our way into the chaparral where the winds could blow. And with the wind blowing, we knew we’d probably have some running birds, even in a place like this. It wasn’t long before our beloved Drents made bird contact again on a lower bench which led up to the highest reaches.
Powder and Fowler were exchanging roles, pointing and backing, with Fowler mostly in the lead. Up and up we went, and the higher we got, the stronger the wind. The birds were running. We’d catch a glimpse of one here and another there cutting and running from grass clump to catclaw in the scabby open area and gusting winds. They were like phantoms. I’m sure I had seen them darting about. Fowler managed to get a nice long point, but we just couldn’t get up hill fast enough to his side. Powder was running from side to side behind us, as if marshalling nervous birds, stopping to pause when Fowler pointed.
Then, just as we thought we were in the money and ready for a shot, the most peculiar thing happened. The quail began to talk. I’ve never heard them chatter like this before, a harmony of high-pitched alerts, sounding much line a bubbling spring to notify their mates of a strategy change. For us, it was a wave of excitement washed with confusion; after all, how could they be so close, yet never appear? But when the chatter stopped, the grasses jostled violently as the quail began running again. The covey had split up and were hauling ass every which way, except towards us. We continued to press them to the top. This was a grudge match now. Once at the top, on the backside of a depression, and out of the wind, Fowler nailed a solid point. Powder backed. I was able to walk in like royalty, right past Powder, then past Fowler. The few remaining birds flushed. I took one on a nice passing shot as it headed into the air current. The other barrel I let off just because I enjoy the sound and wanted to strike fear into their little hearts (no seriously, I missed like everyone does).
We had a great day, our dogs had a great day, and we had a long walk back to the truck. Despite the Drent being established nearly half a millennia ago half the world away by farmers for farmers to hunt hedgerows and patchwork fields, it seems to me, the Drent’s qualities are perfectly suited for hunting these native polka dotted kings of the high desert. Our success, is perhaps a case of having the right tool for the job? I’d like to think so. Scenting conditions can be difficult in the heat of the sun and scabby dry grass, having a dog that will calmly work areas and stay on task, make effective calculations on its own, and work as a team seems to be a winning combination. Since this was an out and back hunt, I found one of Fowler’s favorite songs in my music library, Prince’s Purple Rain, and put it on speaker as we headed back down our boulder strewn path.
We’ll see you all again next year.
Well hello to you my loyal reader. Sorry it has been a terribly slow year for the blog, just because it has been slow here it doesn’t mean we have been just laying around drinking beer and eating potato chips! If only life could be so grand!
Obviously, we had an exciting and gorgeous litter of puppies from Tule and Fen. After they all went to their homes, we took action on something we have been making casual threats at for the past couple of years and added a non-Drent to the household! You may have seen Fizzy on our social media. In short, we each had our list and had come to be okay with at least one breed from each other’s list but after hosting Laura Reeves for our puppy evals, we were presented with an opportunity we just couldn’t pass on – a Spinone Italiano pup. Not just any Spinone, but one from a breeder who has a proven knack for producing a disproportionate number of the top winning Spinone in the nation! So just like that, Fizzy came into our lives.
In addition to looking high and low for remarkable studs to “import” for our program, managing a litter, volunteer Instructing for Ladies Hunting Camp, we become a distributor for Inukshuk Professional Dog Food, and getting this super cool Spinone as already mentioned. Additionally, we built a flight pen for keeping quail. If you have been following us, you know we use the Higgins Method for force-free field ‘training’ for all of our dogs (to include the Spinone). One of the biggest challenges with using the Higgins Method is the need for birds that will fly. You can get the basics done in a shockingly short amount of time, however, to polish your handling skills and get to a high level of performance, your need for good flying birds is significant. On the bright side, each session is a replication of a hunting scenario where you and your dog learn and gain experience as a team. With proper attention to detail your team performance will creep ever closer to perfection.
Well, the quail situation took a massive hit one evening shortly after my son’s summer visit began. Two nights after a large intake of quail, we had a Trash Panda probing our flight pen, and despite shoring up defenses it/they finally made their move and massacred 40 quail. It was a tragic sight to behold. Terrible if not terrifying was the aftermath. A buddy of mine lent me a live trap to use. So the trap was set and our Ghost in the Darkness managed to take all the bait, without getting trapped and still dig into the pen, and left a dump right in the middle. It is clear we are dealing with an experienced urban troublemaker. We went back to the drawing board with our security plan, dug trenches, sank heavy gauge fencing, weighted with bricks and rocks, and added a solar powered electric fence rated to contain large unruly livestock. We have had two confirmed attempts to breach since, but the juice has been too much. Giddyap, zap, zap, motherf’er!
So, in short, we have been running to and from puppy classes, doing bird work with our dogs, and *gasp* living a bit of life. Yeah, I know that too takes time and energy too. With that, blog posts have been negligible, and my consumption of books has been reduced to a trickle. On the upside, Jenna and I have come a long way with our team handling, and it shows in the improved performance of our dogs. Ila is nearly finished, Tule is holding her own, and baby Fizzy is legitimately doing great work for us – but in all honestly her lower energy level has made the process very easy.
It’s mid-August now, just a few days away from Powder’s x-ray which is a stressful time for us. Her pregnancy was confirmed by ultrasound, which was of some comfort. But to be honest all it really did was mark the start of The Great Wait. How many are in there? Will any be reabsorbed? Will they all arrive safe and full of life? Those are all great questions. Powder’s x-ray is close on the horizon, and that will be a big help. A quality x-ray can show us many things and help us to set expectations for delivery day. Until then we wait. Trying not to get overly excited and get our expectations too high, while at the same time trying not to judge how she looked during previous pregnancies to arrive at some guestimate as to what may or may not be happening. The random whelping supplies we needed to replenish our stocks have all arrived, the whelping room has been cleaned, set up, and arranged.
So, with that I need to get ready for the concert tonight. Until next time, take care and thanks for stopping by.
I'm just a guy suffering with an infatuation with gundogs since childhood. Fourty some years later this is what you get.