Hello Chapter Members,

In response to the concern over current events, we have cancelled our next group training event on March 29th at Four Brooks.  We are monitoring the current situation and taking a wait and see attitude with respect to any of our Events after April 1st.

Assuming that our 2 tests in May can still be held, our  Board of Directors has decided that we will not be providing lunches at these events.  All Handlers, participants and Volunteers will be notified individually by email as more information is known.  You can also periodically check this website’s pages for any new information.

We had over 90 responses to our training survey, and it is now closed.  Thanks to all those that responded!  We will be reaching out to all respondents  to try to form smaller, more focused focused training groups than we have in years past.  Small groups may be the ONLY way we can hold any training this spring.  We will see.  If you are a chapter member and are  interested in training with us this year and did not fill out the survey, please send an email to training@mnnavhda.org

In the meantime, please reference this Training Resources Page   for information about NAVHDA related training principles and content.

Thanks everyone.  Hang in there!

Pete Aplikowski

MN NAVHDA-President




Hello chapter members, this warm weather seems to have really gotten people’s blood pumping about training & testing season.  We are fielding an increasing amount of emails and calls, so I thought it would be helpful to send out this update.

*Anybody with a Kelley Farms grounds pass please use extreme care and caution the next few weeks if going out to run your dogs.  The roads will be extremely soft and please do not tear them up.  Ideally, it would be best to stay away from there the next few weeks, but if you go, park by main gates and walk-in only-thank you!


Due to strong demand for Test entry slots this year, we have added a day of testing slots at our May 15th, 16th, 17th Natural Ability Test at Four BrooksThere are a few slots still available to chapter members only.  Although the test is still marked as “Full”, on our website, please contact test secretary Jacob Tillman at jacobtillman80@gmail.com to see if there are openings, and he will send you the registration info.  You will need the password. Do not delay, as this will soon be opened up to the public to ensure we fill the test.

There are also still a couple slots in our MOCK Natural Ability Test set for Saturday May 2nd at Kelley Farms.   This is open to chapter members only, and to see the Event post you will need the password: navhda

We will be looking for Volunteers at all of our tests in 2020, and it is not too early to get these dates on your calendar.  We also expect those of you who are entered to run a dog in our tests to volunteer to help on a day you are not running.  Please review the dates and contact the Test & Clinic Coordinators if you can help.  No experience is necessary.

We also have an upcoming Training/Testing  Clinic this Saturday March 14th at Cabela’s in Rogers.  Preparing for NAVHDA testing.  There are still openings.


As a chapter, we are making some big shifts in Chapter Training Philosophy.   We are not professional trainers, and will not train your dog FOR you, but we will do our best to provide access to the resources YOU need to assist in training your dog to whatever your testing or hunting goals are.  This includes the information we have on the Training Resources page of this website.  These are things you can study and work on at home or on your own.   We want everybody to have a specific goal in mind when they show up to training this spring, and to come as prepared as possible.  To start thinking about your goals and training processes, please check out these News posts I wrote last winter.

We are getting closer to announcing our Training day information and formation of the summer Training groups.  If you have not done so, please take our Training Survey.  We will be closing this survey later this week, and once we sort through the data, will be forming our smaller training groups.

Wondering about what Judges are looking for when you test your dog?  The Handler Clinic on May 2nd & 3rd is an in-depth look at the AIMS Program & Test Rules book and how the NAVHDA scoring & scorecard system works.  There are still a few openings in this Event.

For a full Overview of all of our upcoming Training & Testing Events, please see the last  Training Events Update or our Full Calendar.

Finally, please check out our Sponsors.  We do have 2 professional trainers as chapter sponsors, and encourage anyone who may not have the time or confidence to train their own dog, or needs specialty help to seek out their services.

Feel free to contact me at pete.aplikowski@mnnavhda.org, or our Director of Training Mitch Carlson at mitch.carlson@mnnavhda.org with any questions as we get rolling into Training season.

Pete Aplikowski-President


Last fall, as the newly placed Board of Directors began work to prepare the Chapter for the 2020 training and testing season, it became apparent that the current Bylaws were outdated, left many gray areas open to interpretation, and did not account for the use of technologies we have available today.

Some of the areas that the Board felt needed to be updated were:

  • Update the Chapter Mission Statement
  • Add clarity about Board nominations and voting procedures.
  • Update Board and Appointed positions and responsibilities.
  • Eliminate the Director of Promotions position to get the Board to an “odd number” of Directors for voting purposes and add more Appointed positions to spread out the workload.
  • Acknowledge the need for the use of email, a website and social media for communication with the membership, and allow for electronic voting when necessary.
  • Provide for recognition that there are other policies and programs adopted by the Board from time-to-time that should be documented and recorded as Appendices to the Bylaws.

The Current Chapter Bylaws provide that:

Article VII: Bylaw Amendments.

  • Section 1:        Amendments to the bylaws will be voted on by the membership with a two-thirds majority of Members present needed to pass.
  • Section 2:        Members must be notified of amendments two weeks prior to the annual meeting.

This week, The  Board of Directors of the Minnesota  Chapter of NAVHDA unanimously voted 8-0 that these Proposed Updated Bylaws  be distributed to the members so that they can be voted on for approval at the Annual Meeting.

The 2020  Annual Meeting and Fable Fest is scheduled for Saturday Feb 1st.  We look forward to seeing you all there!

Your 2020 Minnesota Chapter of NAVHDA Board of Directors


Happy New Year Chapter Members!

Hunting season is over for the majority of us, but good luck to those of you still chasing birds in the more southerly states.  Please share your pics on our MN NAVHDA Facebook Page.

Our Annual Meeting and Fable Fest is rapidly approaching and will be held Saturday February 1st from 6-9pm at Chomonix Golf Course Clubhouse in Lino Lakes.  Catch up with your fellow chapter members, share hunting stories and talk about your upcoming training plans.  Please consider donating a wrapped item for our silent auction fundraiser.  It can be serious or funny.  Include a creative hint to entice (or mislead) your fellow bidders.  (Watch out for the Norwegian briefs!  You never know where they will show up.) Chili with all the fixings  will be provided.  Please bring a side dish to share-salads, hot-dishes, and desserts of all types are welcome.  One change this year is that NO Outside alcohol can be brought in.  (New Anoka County Parks Rules.)  There will be a cash bar with beer, wine and liquor at your own expense.    In addition to Officer Reports and a short Business meeting, there will be a VOTE on updating the Chapter Bylaws. Click here for Full Event details.

Minnesota NAVHDA Chapter membership renewals  were due by 12/31.  You can renew online, or do a print & mail option.  Renewals are $40.00.

2020 Training Season kicks off soon.  Follow the links for Registration Info.

  • There are still a few openings for the NEW Winter 10 week Positive Obedience Class geared towards puppies 12 weeks to 12 months old.  Starts Monday January 13th in Stillwater.
  • The traditional Winter Barb Jensen Obedience Class is FULL and closed to entries.
  • The NEW Retrieving/Force Fetch Clinic on Feb 8th is FULL and closed to entries.
  • Training/Preparing for NAVHDA Testing Seminar Saturday March  14th 10am-2pm at Cabelas in Rogers.
  • For the 4th consecutive year, we will be holding a NAVHDA Handler Clinic, on May 2nd & 3rd.  It will be led this year by longtime Chapter member and Senior Judge Terry Petro.  Limited to 20 participants, so sign up early.  These clinics have filled the last 3 years.

Last Year, Our Chapter led the entire NAVHDA system with 16 testing days over 5 weekends.  We are repeating that schedule this year and  our 2020 testing calendar is now published and all tests are open for entries.  New this year is online test form submission and payment options. We encourage those with testing plans to sign up early.  Tests filled quickly last year.

**So that we can help better serve your training needs & goals, we are asking all those who plan on participating in Training this year to complete our 2020 MN NAVHDA Training Survey. Weekly small group Training information will be published by the end of February. **

Lastly, I would like to thank all of our Chapter Sponsors for 2020:

  • Waconia Ford
  • Autumn Breeze Kennels
  • The Natural Hound & Naked Bear Naturals
  • Pete & Kathleen Aplikowski RE/MAX Results Real Estate
  • Jan’s Hanging By A Thread Embroidery By Design
  • Kelley Land & Cattle Company
  • Oakwood Gamebird Producers
  • Sudden Valley Kennels


Pete Aplikowski

MN NAVHDA-President




According to the NAVHDA AIMS book: “The Utility Preparatory Test (UPT) is designed to evaluate a dog midway in its training towards becoming a reliable versatile gun dog.

The Utility Test (UT) is designed for more experienced dogs in an advanced state of training.  It evaluates their ability to perform as reliable versatile gun dogs and demonstrate their physical and mental capability to take training.”

What follows in this article will make more sense if you are familiar with the different segments of the UT test.  You can refer to the NAVHDA AIMS Programs Test Rules

The UPT test requirements allow a dog a bit more slack in Retrieving and Steadiness, but for the sake of this discussion let’s start with looking at how dogs are evaluated and judged at the UT test.

OBEDIENCE:  If you look at the scorecard for the UT test, there are 13 areas where the dog is being judged on Obedience.

RETRIEVING:  Their are 3 different retrieving events on the UT test.   There will be multiple opportunities to retrieve shot birds in the field.  Dead ducks will be retrieved on land & water, and an opportunity to retrieve a live duck is also a possibility during the Search for a Duck.

There is no “right” or “wrong” way to train a versatile dog, and all dogs respond to training differently.  The following steps provide some guidance on the order in which one might consider training a dog for the UPT or UT test without getting bogged down in the various methods of training  retrieving and obedience.

PHASE 1: Retrieving-A dog needs to be a RELIABLE retriever of game to qualify for a prize (pass) this test.  The game it is sent out for MUST come back to the handler to receive a passing score.  Dogs that retrieve reliably to hand with minimal commands achieve the highest scores.     There is NO point in training the segments of the UPT or UT test if your dog does not bring back game RELIABLY.   Having to correct this behavior while actually out running the test event segments during training is a waste of time, birds, and can confuse the dog.  Even if your dog is a very natural retriever, reinforcing that by doing a force fetch or conditioned retrieve process and making sure you use real birds & ducks during the process will pay off on test day, and in the field during hunting season.

PHASE 2: Search for a Duck-A dog needs to achieve a minimum score of 2 out of 4 in this segment to pass the UPT or the UT test.  In general, this means the dog must go out and search for a wounded duck that it did not see fall for a certain amount of time and search a certain amount of the water & cover.  This takes a tremendous amount of independence and desire to work AWAY from the handler.   Dogs that are overly cooperative or have had too much steadiness training BEFORE building this independent love of searching for ducks can often struggle with this part of the test.   High prey drive dogs with a strong passion for ducks can master this task in a short amount of time, and even recover quickly from too much steadiness training. In general, though, it is best to err on the safe side with this and make sure your dog has the GO and loves to search for ducks before you teach it to WHOA ! (Steadiness).  Another  caveat here is to avoid throwing too many objects for your dog during retrieve training, especially at the water.  Dogs that get too accustomed to going on the strong visual cue of a marked object oftentimes have trouble expanding their water search out of the range and distance  they are used to retrieving these items.  Another tip-NEVER train duck search in the presence of a blind at the water.  Dog;s learn by association, and we do not want the dog confusing this segment of the test with the “Remain by Blind” portion.

PHASE 3: Heeling-Your dog should have been accustomed to walking on a leash and trained to not pull and have some basic manners while it was a puppy, but now the test requirements call for a much more higher level of obedience.  You will notice on the UT scorecard that the ONLY trait being judged and scored  during  heeling is Obedience.  Teaching a good clean heel with your dog is a very good place to start more advanced obedience because you have a direct connection to the dog to make timely corrections and it can really set the tone for making the dog know you are the boss.  Achieving a good level of Obedience in heeling will pay off big time when you move on to whoa training and steadiness.

PHASE 4:  Field Steadiness (Flush, Wing, Shot, Fall) and Steadiness at Water (Marked Retrieve Sequence)-Whether you train steadiness by the  blind at the water next or move to the field and start working on steady to flush, wing, shot and fall is not critical.  They both involve off leash obedience and training a dog to stay put in the presence of distractions until you release the dog.  There are various ways to train steadiness.  The point I am trying to make is WHEN to work on it, not necessarily HOW.  When training steadiness for the field (Flush-Wing-Shot-Fall), great care should be taken in the amount of pressure being put on the dog in the presence of birds so as not to diminish it’s pointing intensity or it’s field search.  The use of check cords and e-collars in this phase need to be done very carefully IF AT ALL!   A really solid WHOA foundation BEFORE putting birds down for the dog will really cut down on the number of birds you will need.  In a NAVHDA test, you CANNOT use an e-collar, and being able to STOP a dog that breaks with a verbal WHOA or a whistle can save your bacon!  Ween yourself OFF of e-collars as soon as you can and verify that you can WHOA your dog in any situation, with any distraction, including in the presence of a flushing bird.

PHASE 5:  Putting it all together-When your dog has shown it has a good understanding of all the UT test segments and is meeting your expectations of performance, it is time to start mixing it up and moving from segment to segment and take note of any problems you see.  A common thing that can happen is that after doing all the steadiness training, the dog’s duck search will diminish and you will have to go back to that for awhile.  When field training, you will also want to make sure you run your dog not just on a couple birds, but do a full 30-45 minute field run in a variety of cover and weather conditions.  Strange things can happen on test day, and you need to be prepared for these and train for these.  If the cover is sparse, and birds are visible and running, can your dog handle it?  Did you train for that?  If birds are grouped up and multiple birds flush, can your dog handle it?  Did you train for that?  If your dog is coning back with a bird on a retrieve and goes on point on another bird, how are you going to handle that?  Did you train for that?  If it is raining and the birds are soaking wet at the test how will your dog react to the change in scent and bird behavior?  Did you train for that?

Prizing or Passing a dog in either the NAVHDA UPT or UT test will be a rewarding experience for the handler. Even obtaining a Prize 3 in UPT shows that you have a useful hunting companion on land and water, before and after the shot.



All new puppy owners take pride in seeing their dogs’s first few “points” and snapping a few quick photos to commemorate them.   It is a beautiful thing to see that inherent natural trait come out in a pup, and sometimes also a relief if it comes easily, since some dogs need more specialized exposure to bring out their inherent pointing instinct.  (That is a topic for another discussion.)

Once a new puppy owner gets a few photos of their dog on a nice pretty point, there can be a natural rush to keep advancing the dog into steadiness training, especially if that first hunting season is approaching.  Having a dog that is at least “steady to wing”, is a big step in improving the safety of the dog, and increasing the hunter’s chances of bagging game.  That said, for young pups, especially prior to their Natural Ability Test, caution should be taken in advancing to obedience work like steadiness and retrieve training.

While initial bird exposure and building search desire is vitally important to the development of a young bird dog, this is a period of a pup’s development where an owner/handler should exercise caution and not be in a hurry.  Some key NAVHDA principles can provide some guidance with this.

In the NAVHDA Natural Ability test, a dog is not being judged on Obedience.  As the name implies, the test is a measure of a dog’s inherited natural abilities including Nose, Search, Pointing, Cooperation, and Desire.

Thinking beyond Natural Ability evaluation, a key NAVDHA principle is that the the judging of “pointing” ends when a dog on point “is aware of the presence of the handler.”  The reason this is an important concept is that it defines the transition between what a dog coming into contact with a bird does naturally (Pointing and Cooperation) and Trained Obedience.  Obtaining steadiness in a bird dog requires Trained Obedience.

The pup is also not being judged on Retrieving, either of birds in the field or bumpers in the water.  In the Natural Ability test, because dogs are not expected to be steady, they will most likely run down and catch a flushed bird.  Some dogs that are natural retrievers and exhibit a lot of cooperation will bring these birds back to or near the handler,  and move on with the test.   If your dog does this, be happy with it and encourage it!   For dogs that do not willingly bring birds back (playing keep away, for example,) caution should be taken not to train (i.e force fetch, conditioned retrieve)  the dog to retrieve to the handler, as it may affect the dog’s Desire, Search, Pointing, or even willingness to enter the Water after a bumper toss.

The NAVHDA AIMS Programs Book states that a puppy is eligible to run their NA test up until the day they turn 16 months of age.  While all dogs are different, and develop at different rates, this 16 months of age timeline perhaps should not be ignored, even for dogs who have already run or are not running the natural ability test.  A dog at least 16 months old has had more time to mature and form a bond with its owner/handler.  Being around gunfire and wild birds in real hunting situations will also build a pup’s confidence prior  to being subjected to the training pressure it takes to becoming a “finished” gun dog.

Young dogs that have not had enough proper bird and field exposure can have their natural abilities diminished by the obedience training required to achieve steadiness and a finished retrieve.  Obedience training requires “pressure” and all dogs react differently to various types and levels of corrective training pressure.  Pressure can come in the form of physical or verbal commands, a check cord,  an e-collar, gunfire, or even a poorly timed launch of a release trap.    Some dogs can take a lot of pressure without affecting or diminishing their inherent natural abilities. Some cannot.

Dogs learn by association and the last thing you want is for a pup to associate negative experiences (too much training pressure) with the tasks of searching, pointing  birds, swimming and having fun.    Some traits exhibited by over-pressured dogs:

  • Lack of Intensity on Point
  • Flagging tail on Point
  • Taking out and/or mutilating birds
  • Blinking (avoiding birds)
  • Diminished Search (clinging to handler)
  • Avoiding the field altogether
  • Avoiding the Water
  • Gun Shyness

The pace at which a dog develops and when to apply certain training techniques to achieve your goals with your dog is a personal decision.  Understanding the proper amount of corrective pressure to use with your dog and thinking about some basic NAVHDA principles related to pointing and steadiness just might help you avoid some mistakes and setbacks.




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.  EXTENDED-Applications are still open for 2020.

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