Hello Minnesota NAVHDA Chapter Members!

Per the Chapter Bylaws, your new board was put in place in early October, and we are already working on plans for Training & Testing in 2020.  Test & Training dates for next year will be announced as soon as we have the grounds & venues secured.

Board Positions were appointed as follows:

President Pete Aplikowski term expires 9/30/2021
Vice President Keng Yang term expires 9/30/2020
Secretary Peter Ness term expires 9/30/2020
Treasurer Kevin Boog term expires 9/30/2020
Director of Testing Brent Haefner term expires 9/30/2021
Director of Training Mitch Carlson term expires 9/30/2021
Director of Judging Nathan Freshour term expires 9/30/2021
Director of Promotions Ted Wentink term expires 9/30/2020

One of my focuses as President will be to come up with ideas to manage the size of the Chapter.  We are at over 250 members, likely the largest NAVHDA Chapter in the entire NAVHDA system.  Being a big chapter has it’s advantages but also presents challenges.

In 2018 & 2019,to meet demand for more test slots, we expanded our testing days, and led the entire NAVHDA system with 16 total testing days over 5 weekends.

In addition to the many testing opportunities we offer, our Training schedule and access to birds and grounds for our members may be unprecedented in the NAVHDA system as well.  We are fortunate the size and strength of our chapter has allowed us to establish these.

In my travels around the country as a Judge, I have had a chance to meet many NAVHDA folks from different chapters and gain some insight into how they operate.

I will be working with our new Director of Training Mitch Carlson and our training coordinators on reorganizing our training nights into smaller groups, and expanding our website resources to provide members with some training tools that they can implement on their own.  We will also be establishing more training resources for members who want to train their dogs toward the NAVHDA Utility Preparatory & the Utility Test.

Please keep in mind that chapter members and resources can only introduce you to methods to train your dog, and no dog can be effectively trained by simply showing up at our chapter training days & events.  Training your versatile hunting companion is a daily ongoing journey you will go on together.

Lastly, I would like to remind everyone that we are an all volunteer organization, and nothing happens without many people chipping in to help.  With the size of our chapter membership,  it should not be difficult to fill all the volunteer roles we need throughout the year.   No experience is necessary, and one of the best ways to learn about NAVHDA and versatile dogs is to volunteer at our training & testing events.  When the calls and emails go out for volunteers in 2020, please take advantage of the chance to help the chapter, and increase your own knowledge of dogs and NAVHDA.

Stay Tuned!  2020 should be an exciting year for Minnesota NAVHDA.


Pete Aplikowski

President-Minnesota NAVHDA

Joe Dolejsi Annual Youth Scholarship Fund

This scholarship has been established by the Minnesota Chapter of NAVHDA in memory of and in recognition of Joe Dolejsi’s commitment and many contributions to NAVHDA and the development of the Minnesota Chapter.  Joe was a dedicated leader at the International level as well as the Chapter Level. He also enjoyed interacting with youth and was a firm believer that their involvement would be a cornerstone to the growth of NAVHDA.

At the International level:
  • He was a Judge for 27 years.
  • He judged 1793 Dogs at 218 individual Chapter Tests.
  • He was a Handler Clinic Leader.
  • He led 14 Handler Clinics.
  • He was the Director of Testing, 1996.
  • He was the Director of Judge Development for 2 years, 1997-1998.
  • He was the NAVHDA International President for 6 years, 1999-2004.
  • He was the NAVHDA International Treasurer for 10 years, 2008-2017.

Every year the Chapter will award a scholarship to a young Chapter member, 18 years or under at the time of their application. Applications must be submitted by December 1st.

The recipient will be awarded coupons for the following MN NAVHDA events/privileges:
  • 1-year Family Chapter Membership* (include coupon with mail-in registration)
  • 1 Obedience Class – 10 Week Session (include coupon with mail-in registration)
  • 1 MOCK Test (NA or UPT/UT) (include coupon with mail-in registration)
  • 25% off ONE MN NAVHDA Test Fee. (NAVHDA International Testing Incentive Program offers reimbursement for the other 75%)**
  • Free Pass to any MN NAVHDA Training Events for that year. Includes any grounds and registration fees. Purchase of birds is the responsibility of the handler.

The youth awarded the scholarship must be the individual handling the dog and registering/signing up as the Handler (training or testing)

*If recipient or family is currently a member of the Chapter, the coupon can be used for the following year.

**Recipient must sign up and register for any event on their own.  Coupons must be submitted along with registration forms or presented at the time of a daily event not requiring registration. Normal test refund policies apply and a credit, not cash will be refunded.  Reimbursement from NAVHDA International for their Youth Incentive Program covering 75% of test fees must be applied for separately with NAVHDA International.  If the recipient elects to participate in a Chapter sponsored Handler’s Clinic, they must apply for the NAVHDA International Kristin Rieser Youth Scholarship Fund  which will pay for participation in this event.  Please visit NAVHDA Youth Program site for more info

To apply for the scholarship, please follow this link: Application for Joe Dolejsi Scholarship

The winner of the Joe Dolejsi Annual Youth Scholarship will be selected by vote of the Board of Directors of the Minnesota Chapter of NAVHDA. Children and grandchildren of members of the Board of Directors are not eligible to participate.

DONATE to the Fund  Contributions to this fund in memory of Joe are tax deductible.


From a very early age, Piper’s parents noticed that she had some “dog whisperer” in her.

“When Piper was born, we had a 3 year old German Wirehaired Pointer named Top Shelf’s DeLong GeeBee Racer (GeeBee). GeeBee followed Piper’s every movement and was quick to join in on any games she suggested. We had fun playing “Where’s the Kong Ball?” and “Where’s Piper?” – games we suggested to provide GeeBee opportunities to hunt for items around the house while practicing his whoa/release commands. Piper and GeeBee loved playing those games together.” shared Piper’s mom.

Piper lost her best friend a few years ago, when her parents had to make the difficult decision to put GeeBee down.

Piper and her first dog GeeBee

“The loss of GeeBee was really difficult for me. I lost my best friend the day he died. I remember how hard it was seeing GeeBee struggle with pain and wanting to help him, but he would only let my mom comfort him. I so badly wanted to be the one who could help him.” explained Piper.

In 2017, Piper’s parents surprised her during Christmas with news that the family would be getting a German Wirehaired Pointer puppy in the spring of 2018. Top Shelf’s Q DeLong D.B. Cooper was born on National Puppy Day-March 23rd 2018.

“I was so excited! I immediately asked if the puppy could be MY dog! My parents agreed. I thought it was really cool that Cooper was born on National Puppy Day, but not as cool as when we discovered Cooper is actually related to GeeBee. His Great-Great Grandparents were GeeBee’s parents” said Piper.

Piper & Cooper meet for the first time!

“From the first day they met, Piper & Cooper established a special bond. The two developed their bond through hours of play on land and in the water, along with attending puppy and beginning obedience classes that summer/fall. One night, my spouse and I mentioned to Piper how we would like to take her and Cooper hunting for pheasants someday. We explained how he would need to be trained for hunting and asked her if she would like to handle Cooper in his spring 2019 NAVHDA Natural Ability test. Piper enthusiastically said “Yes! He listens to me. I should be the one who runs him!” explained Piper’s mom.

Completing a basic obedience class

In early 2018, the Minnesota Chapter founded a youth scholarship program in honor of longtime chapter member Joe Dolejsi. Joe was a Senior Judge and Clinic Leader, and influential member at the local and International level of NAVHDA. The purpose of this scholarship is to assist a youth dog enthusiast and handler with training and testing assistance and give them a foundation to build on for their future training, testing and hunting endeavors.

Piper submitted an application. Cooper’s breeder Jeff Jalbert, a NAVHDA Judge and owner of Top Shelf Kennels, wrote a letter of recommendation for Piper to receive the scholarship. Piper and Cooper were subsequently awarded the scholarship in January 2019.

The two started off their training year by attending the Minnesota Chapter’s 10 week Winter Obedience Classes from January to March.

“The first night of class was a little scary. I was the only kid in the class and the only female handler that night.” exclaimed Piper.

Once the snow finally melted, the two started attending the weekly field training nights at Kelley Farms. In early May, they participated in the Chapter’s MOCK Natural Ability test to get a better idea of the different segments of the test and to gauge their progress as a team.

Working at the water
Water Break

On June 1st, 2019, Piper and Cooper ran their Natural Ability test.

“I was feeling a little nervous going into the natural ability test and felt like I passed my doubts onto Cooper. I thought I was ready for the test, but was nervous not knowing how Cooper would do. I felt a little frustrated and mad throughout the day that he didn’t do the events perfectly like I had seen him do other times.” explained Piper.

“The test started with the water, then field and ended with tracking. Cooper had a lot of energy that morning and was harder to handle than usual. We had practiced water retrieves many times with straight retrieves, but that morning he ran the shoreline a bit before finally jumping in to get the bumper. My doubts settled a bit going into the field because he’s really good at that. I believed he would do great. Then as we walked along, he missed a couple “hups” and my doubts returned until I saw him point out some birds. The pheasant track was the event I really felt we didn’t do well on because his pattern was wide and then he went down into a tree line where I couldn’t see him. A judge walked over to where he went into the trees, stood for a bit, and then told me to call my dog. Cooper came back without a pheasant.” shared Piper

“At the end of the day when everyone’s test scores are read, I was blown away when they shared Cooper received a 104, Prize 1. I was expecting him to get a Prize 3 or something because he wasn’t the Cooper I was used to, the one who I’ve seen as a Prize 1, Prize 2 during training nights. My doubting Cooper and myself brought the bar down for me encouraging him. I really did not know what to expect at the end of our test.” said Piper.

After the NA test with NAVHDA judges

Piper and Cooper did not stop there, though. They continued attending the weekly training nights to try to become better prepared for the upcoming pheasant hunting season. They both learned a lot and performed well as a team, and just as training season was wrapping up, Piper had Cooper steadied up to wing, shot and fall. A lot of progress for this young team!


Piper, Cooper and their parents look forward to hunting this season and getting Cooper on some wild birds. In 2020, they plan to be back training with the Minnesota Chapter and working toward the Utility Preparatory and Utility Test.

The Minnesota Chapter will be taking applications for the 2020 Joe Dolejsi Memorial Youth Scholarship until December 1st, 2019.  More information can be found at MNNAVHDA.ORG


The MN Chapter of NAVHDA ran its 41st Annual Pheasant Championship on June 22nd at the Major Avenue Hunt Club near Glencoe, MN. The day began at 60 degrees, cloudy, and a nice breeze. By afternoon the temperature reached 67 with continued overcast, and a moderate breeze. A very pleasant day.

The north field had been burned this spring and the grass was fairly thin, although there were areas with thicker cover. The cover in the south field was noticeably heavier, but open enough that walking was easy and the dogs could be kept in sight. Each field encompassed approximately 18 acres.

The competition was close, with 5 teams each bagging 5 birds and only 11 points separating them. Bryan Thomas, Jake Goergen, and Banshee, in the 7
th group, scored 121 points which held up until Mike Busse, Bob Ferris, and Riley, in the last group of the day, also scored 121 points. In the ensuing run-off (20 minutes with no additional birds planted) Team Busse edged out Team Thomas with 2 finds to take 1 st place which earned them $315 in prize money. Team Thomas earned $135 for their 2nd place effort.

I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on our good friend, Bob Ferris. Bob has been a faithful competitor in this event for many years. He has never been one to make excuses or let the small matter of age keep him from participating. This year, at 75 years old, not only did he partner with
Mike Busse twice, but he also answered the call for the 20-minute run-off immediately following his run in the last scheduled team of the day. His efforts were instrumental in helping Mike secure another 1st place finish.

As is customary, the first 6 places each received a handsome solid walnut plaque, and the top placing teams, beginning with 3rd place, made selections from the prize table for their efforts.

At this year’s event, 66 pheasants were released for 10 teams and 37 birds were harvested. This is a 3.7 bird average per team, which is up slightly from last year when the average was 3.2 birds per team. 2011, with 4.9 birds per team, remains the high-water mark for harvest ratio at our Pheasant Championship on the Major Avenue grounds.

Thanks to all who entered their dogs in the event this year. In addition to many of our long-time participants, we enjoyed the company of 3 first time competitors.

In addition, thanks are in order to Myra Martin of Major Avenue Hunt Club for allowing us access to these excellent grounds and club house. She also offered a delicious lunch for us. This is the 26th consecutive year this contest has been held on these grounds and may be the last. Major Avenue has been sold, and we’re uncertain if the new ownership will be agreeable to having us run the Pheasant Championship on their grounds.

Special thanks to all the workers who volunteered their time to make this event possible. We often have the same workers from year to year, but this year was somewhat unusual in that we had 2 first-time judges and 5 first-time bird planters. All these new workers did an admirable job and the event ran without a hitch.  A drawing was held for the workers for a $50 Cabela’s gift card. Matt Walvey, who planted birds, was the lucky winner.

Scorekeeper/Field Marshall and Driver:

Jason McKinzie

Bird planters:

Chad Gillete, Tony Hennan, Matt Walvey , John Cooper , Rick Neuman


Diane Koetz , Pete Ness , Chris Buller , Brent Haefner


Place Handler/Partner Dog Breed Age
1st Mike Busse/Bob Ferris Riley GS 3
2nd Bryan Thomas/Jake Georgen Banshee PT 6
3rd Russ Koetz/Bryce Adams Remi GW 2
4th Pete Aplikowski/Dan Haakenson Ike PP 6
5th Lance Olson/Ed Erickson Vinny BI 5
6th Bryan Thomas/Bryce Adams Cutter GS 10

This article was posted in the February 2018 issue of NAVHDA’s Versatile Hunting Dog Magazine:

According to the NAVHDA AIMS book, The Utility Preparatory Test (UPT) is designed “to evaluate the dog midway in its training towards becoming a reliable versatile gun dog,” and the Utility Test (UT) is “designed to test a dog’s usefulness to the on-foot hunter in all phases of hunting, both before and after the shot, in field and marsh, and on different species of game.”

For an inexperienced handler, the UPT is a great introduction to the hunting team concept and the different areas of focus for the full UT. There is no age limit for a dog in the UPT, so it can also be a good way to evaluate a dog that missed running a Natural Ability test.

But what about the UPT as a measure of a dog’s usefulness to the hunter? Years ago, I had a Lab and then a Boykin spaniel. I was a novice bird-dog man, but we found, flushed, and shot birds and had fun. With some retrieving and steadiness training, it would have been a lot more fun (and much safer). There were shots taken that should not have been—low-flying birds with dogs on their tails. There was a time in Iowa that I dropped a rooster across a dredge ditch, and the dog refused to go across. It was half a mile to a bridge, and I became the dog on that one mile retrieve. For those of you who do not hunt waterfowl and feel all the water work required of a Utility dog does not apply to your hunting style, think again. Pheasants, grouse and woodcock all live near water, and it seems almost every year one of my dogs retrieves an upland bird from water.

In the NAVHDA UPT, a dog is evaluated across many areas, but, for the purposes of the points I am trying to make with this article, let’s focus on Steadiness (in the field and at the blind) and Retrieving (land and water).

In NAVHDA testing, Field Steadiness is brokendown into four parts as described here:

“Steady to Flush” – Judging “Steady to Flush” begins when the dog is aware of the presence of the handler. Think of “Steady to Flush” as behavior during the flushing period. The steady to flush judgment ends when the bird leaves the ground.

“Steady to Wing” – Judging “Steady to Wing” begins when the bird leaves the ground and ends when the gun is fired.

“Steady to Shot” – Judging “Steady to Shot” begins when the gun is fired and ends when the bird hits the ground.

“Steady to Fall” – Judging “Steady to Fall” begins when the bird hits the ground and ends when the dog is sent for the retrieve.

Continue reading “Steadiness & Retrieve Training-The UPT Test”

2018 Handler Clinic (2 Day Clinic)

  • Where: Kelley Farms (Kelley Land & Cattle Company), 11425 155th St N, Marine on St Croix, MN 55047
  • When: Saturday, June 9th and Sunday, June 10th, 2018
  • Time: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • Cost: $130.00 (members and non-members)

The Handler Clinic is an educational tool developed by NAVHDA to help dog owners and handlers understand the testing system. The clinics are conducted by designated trained leaders; all of whom are NAVHDA Senior Judges. During the two-day clinic weekend, participants experience all aspects of a Natural Ability, Utility Preparatory, and Utility Test. The first few hours of each day are devoted to informal classroom instruction. There is discussion of Test mechanics, the scoring system and NAVHDA philosophy.

The group then goes out to the field to judge and score dogs being run in the actual Test process. After each dog has run and been scored, there is a discussion of performance and scoring as observed by the participants and the clinic leader. The discussion includes strengths or weaknesses of training and handling observed in the demonstrations, and how they may have affected the dog’s inherited skills.

Who Should Attend?  People with their first pup see how other dogs work and gain insight into what their pup is doing and why. This helps them to develop their pup’s talents and improve performance in weak areas. ➢ Novice handlers learn how NAVHDA evaluates versatile dogs, and are better prepared to handle their dogs in a test. ➢ Experienced handlers gain a deeper, more technical knowledge, of how the team of dog and handler are judged. ➢ Breeders learn what to look for in their breeding stock and their progeny, and how to use NAVHDA records obtained through our Test Records for selective breeding. ➢ For aspiring NAVHDA Judges, attending a Handler Clinic is one of the first steps in our Apprentice Judge Program.

Download Event Flyer and Entry Form

Please read this message from our President-Rolf Rogers

With the recent revision of our web page and our presence on Facebook, we have been provided improved ways to communicate with our Chapter members.  As a result, the Board has decided to transfer the publication of the Chapter newsletter to the new web page and discontinue issuing a stand-alone newsletter.  We believe this change will provide you with more timely, quality information than could otherwise be achieved with a monthly and often semi-monthly newsletter.

The Chapter has grown and along with that, the need for great communications becomes increasingly important but difficult to execute.  As a result, we have also determined the position of Vice President should be changed to Vice President & Director of Communications.  This restructuring, if approved will assure timely and accurate information is always shared with the Chapter.

Along with this change, we would plan to discontinue the appointed post of Newsletter Editor.  Responsibilities associated with this post become part of the VP & Dir. of Communications’ responsibilities.

To revise the job description and eliminate the appointed post of Newsletter Editor requires a motion and vote by the Chapter to modify the bylaws at the annual meeting/Fable Fest. Members at least 18 years of age may vote at this meeting, provided dues are current.  Attached is the motion for your review in advance of Fable Fest. The Board of Directors has unanimously approved this motion and we ask for your support. Should you have any questions about this information, please feel free to contact me at 612.219.4109 or by email: rolf.rogers@mnnavhda.com

Click Here to Review the Motion

I look forward to seeing you at Fable Fest!


President MN NAVHDA