Ryman's Big Mac
Well, to be honest I don't remember a life without sporting dogs! My earliest childood memories were of my Dad's Ryman Setters and English Pointers. He and my Grandfather were avid grouse and quail hunters, always having a couple bird dogs in the kennels. The quail unforunately, were all but gone by the time I was old enough to hunt. I did however get to experience some excellent grouse hunting in the Southern Appalachians. I can still vividly remember killing my first grouse over a little English Pointer named "Lucy".
While the grouse hunting was fun, my first love growing up, was my squirrel dogs. I was blessed in having plenty of territory to stomp around behind the house growing up. Most fall afternoons were spent running home from the school bus, to grab a .22 rifle, a dog and head to the woods till dark. Chasing squirrel dogs was my passion through high school and into college, and that's when it happened.................
Rowdy on the Middle Fork of the Holston
Lucy on the frozen North Fork of the Holston
Hippie after winning the Tar Heel RC Spring 2014 Derby
.......as a freshman at Virginia Tech, my eyes were opened to a whole new world in the outdoors. A good friend, and fraternity brother, took me on a duck hunting trip on the Chesapeake Bay. I've been hooked ever since! I purchased my first retriever puppy in 1998, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever I named Lucy. Her training and skills were very rudimentary compared to my retrievers today, but the sheer will, grit and toughness she possessed was something anyone could appreciate!
In 2003, I purchased my first Labrador. His name was Hank, and he was a handful! My desire for a more polished retriever led me to study as much written material as possible. I met some like-minded individuals from the area, and we started training regularly. Eventually the Northeast Tennessee Retriever Club was started from the training group. Hank taught me a lot of things over his career. We dabbled in hunt tests, and ultimately he turned into a fine gundog, and served as my "top model" for my outdoor photography. I also brought along another Lab during this time. "Rowdy" was a fine gundog himself. He was relentless when it came to chasing a cripple on the river! He's retired from the field now, but he still keeps the groundhogs in check around the house!
In 2012, after the passing of Hank, I found myself ready to start another pup. "Hippie", would be the Lab to take things to the "next level". Most of the members in our Club had moved their focus more towards field trials. Being able to watch some of the finest dogs in the country run these incredibly tough setups, I knew that this type training would serve as the basis for my next pup. Hippie has developed into the kind of dog I had hoped for. He won a Derby, and a Qualifying stake before turning three. He's a pretty nice little gundog too!
In my research for training material, I found a puppy training video by Bill Hillmann. I had heard of Bill, and knew of his reputation as having trained numerous high point derby dogs (the most in AKC history). Upon watching this video, I knew that this material was different. His approach with young puppies was very different, but it was his demeanor towards the pup that really stood out. It wasn't about drilling home the commands, but rather developing the bond and relationship needed to develop a dog to his fullest potential. I studied every bit of information I could find about Bill's way of training. I have since come to know Bill personally, having attended several of his seminars, and been able to train with him. His mentorship and guidance have been invaluable. His way of training serves as the basis for my approach to developing retrievers to reach their full potential.
I started taking dogs in for training in January of 2015. I have since had the opportunity to work with several dogs at various levels.
I appreciate you taking the time to view my site. I look forward to working with you and your retriever to reach your full potential!