Tales from the Woods
There are few words that can describe my good friend John, his passion for the sport, his demanding excellence for dog work and ability to get to a dog in the heaviest of grouse covers. He is one of a kind. There comes a time, however that we yield to our abilities and things come to a close, this is one of those moments. John began hunting with me in 1989 coming with a friend Tom Word, the famed sporting dog /field trial author who spent 20 falls with us here at Little Moran, stories of Tom, his sons David and Scott are many, this story is only the beginning of being so blessed.
I had a big hard going tri-color male “Jack” who was a son of Champion Kingway. Jack who was an incredible bird finder, not too pretty to look at, but at the end of the day, he found birds when other dogs could not. John was hooked from “Jacks” performance becoming a part of the family and dearest of friends from that point on.
A year later John sent me an all white female setter..with a hint of orange named Lily, that first year she was just coming into her own and went back to Virginia to mature a bit. The following spring Lily came back to Minnesota to continue her training…what a difference that year made. John left her with me the entire summer and hunted over her that fall in our grouse covers. She was great! At the end of the season I sent Lily back to VA. to hunt with John at his famed “Ridgeway Farm”. My reports from John were very mixed, but in short, she was becoming a respectable bird dog.
The following summer John called and made arrangements to send Lily back to ‘finish” her off as a bird dog. He mentioned that he thought he had ruined her because she became her own dog, hunting on her own and turning into a rogue.
The day she flew back to MN it so happened I was doing a pointing dog seminar/demo at the Minnesota Horse and Hunt Club south of the metro. I picked her up at the airport and while allowing her to empty herself, I tested her on a few obedience commands…she was flawless. I used her within the hour as a demo dog at the event where she would have made anyone proud…she did me! The rest of the summer during her advanced training she was a model citizen and remained that way for me for the next 10 years.
Lily was at home in Minnesota hunting grouse, she was the queen. I have been blessed to handle many “great” grouse dogs, many of my own, but Lily set the bar. She beat grouse in so many ways, pinning the most wily bird, possessing the ability to hear a bird flush, follow the bird and re-point it numerous times, lucky was the bird to escape the wrath of Lily.
As with all things in life, there is an end. Her hearing became an issue as she turned 12 years old having trouble finding us in the heavy covers…her time had come, a sad day!
During the 25 years John and I spent time in our covers we had opportunities to see some other very good dog work and John being so gentlemanly would remark that “the dog work was remarkable..and that even Lily could not have pinned that bird.” Perhaps…and perhaps not, but his stoic way of compliment the dog work matched everything about John, a gracious and true sportsman. There will be many more stories for our hunts and friendship and love for another!
The photo above is of John and Lily, painted by my good friend Brian Jarvi who captured the pair to every detail. The painting was presented to John the last night of his annual hunt of 25 years. The room was full of other dedicated grouse hunters, the toast was to Lily, John and a wealth of memories from the two of them. There was not a dry eye in the room.
These photo’s are of John and Lily, myself and a little dog named Seba, Fred and Magnolia.
Jean Ledoux Came to Mn via Ed Scheer, 1968-69 world skeet champion…still missing in Ontario while on a grouse hunt…the setter Buzz came back to the road but his pointer goldie and Ed were never found.
Jean took a wingshooting class from Ed in FL, where Jean spent part of his winter. His passion was wood cock, and Ed sent him my way.
Jean had hunted w/c through out Europe, and loved the bird, in a very reverent way, year one…..shooting 7 birds between the 2 of us, he hung them in the old barn, went to them each mornin with an eye dropper full of Amanack…a French Liquor. He spoke to each bird as he put drops of the liquor into their bills. The birds hung for 4 days, plucking them on the 5th. More on the table fare Talk of the soup stock!!!Plucking the birds with Travis…his little Plucker!
He praised and gave thanks to each w/c he shot, holding them high in praise and reverence for giving up their life.
Day one we were not into the cover but a couple hundred yards, the bell went silent, as we approached the pointing setter, a woodock fluttered to the top of the aspen cut, As I went to pick up the downed bird, I heard a tumterous crashing and as I turned Jean was all but tackeling me to have his first american woodcock. He had broke open his gun, laid it in the crotch of a deadfall where upon he held the bird upward while saying a french prayer…..thanking the woodcock for such a splendid flight and for its beauty. During the prayer I could understand Le’becase’ knowing it meant woodcock.
He lowerd the bird, to admire it’s beauty, then bringing the bird to his nose breast up and inhaled the woody arouma of the grand little bird, with a look of triumph and sadness he says ” In France the woodcock is known to be a very sexy bird….they have such the long bill …and their tongue to match, therefore they are a very sexy bird.” Kinda scared me!
Shortly after he shot the first grouse he ever had a chance at or had ever seen. In picking up the bird I handed it to him…not knowing how he would praise the grouse….he boffed at it…saying nono….just the woodcocks, just the woodcocks. He wouldn’t even hold or admire the grouse, but every woodcock he gave thanks!
He was terribly rude to our staff and to Gayle…who was always the stupid stupid woman in the kitchen especially when I was no where near. We couldn’t usher him out the door fast enough because of his rudeness, he told stories of the Vonree, a stag hunt off horseback back in france, where each hunter/rider had a french horn and their own song to signify the finding of a track etc. The hounds, the feeding of the dogs. He demanded on returning the following year during the peak of the migration, however that time period was already full,,he was relentless. I knew the hunters who were booked over the next years dates did a lot of business in Paris, I contacted them about Jean being in camp, they thought he would be a fun addition…His last remarks…I shall be like a fly on the wall…no one will even know am there!
Getting his start in 1979 it was apparent that Steve Grossman had found his life’s work, his heritage. He began in 1979 managing Dakota Hunt Club in Grand Forks, ND. It was here where dog training skills took root, working with drug and bomb dog handlers from the Grand Forks Air Base to gain obedience training, from there it was honed by hunting and working dogs first hand, for both upland waterfowl.
In 1984 Steve began Little Moran Hunt Club LLC on his family farm near Staples, Minnesota which was homesteaded by his great grandfather in 1902. It began as a pheasant club and dog training kennel. Burnt Creek Setters became part of the Little Moran legacy in 1985, where Steve became trainer for Burnt Creek while working out of Little Moran. The setters did a great job on native ruffed grouse and woodcock of which Steve began guiding a few of the hunt club members with great success.
It was from that point on in 1987 that the ruffed grouse and woodcock hunts would become the corner stone of Little Moran and the addition of Double Gun Bird Hunts. The Double Gun Birds Hunts is a portion of Little Moran which is devoted to only wild bird hunting and endorsements with Orvis.
With the success of the setters Steve became a consultant for Purina and the Pro Plan Brand, overseeing cover dog trials, horseback trials, conducting dog training seminars and demonstrations nationwide on behalf of Purina. The highlights were numerous seminars and demonstrations at the Grand National Grouse and Woodcock Hunt and the Grand National Quail Hunt, along with numerous outdoor shows and major articles highlighting the setters and Double Gun Bird Hunts.
Steve’s reputation for providing classic hunts where dog work and a time honored dedication of the hunts has become Steve’s marquis. This respect and admiration for the game and dogs are first and foremost. Hospitality and service are equally important to Steve and the entire guide staff at both lodges and are echoed throughout the lodging and dining room management as well. These hunts are truly in a class by themselves.
The unique style of how hunts are conducted and the precedent set by Steve and staff led to the opportunity of becoming an Orvis Endorsed Wingshooting Guide for over 6 years. It became very evident that the Double Gun brand was much more than a single guide, growing to a point where becoming an Endorsed Outfitter was a much better description of what Steve and Double Gun offered.
The reputation of Little Moran Grouse Lodge has been earned by Steve, guides and staff which stands by itself; the expectations are the same for Wild Prairie Lodge.
“Wild birds in wild places” behind great dogs is who Steve is: There is nothing more beautiful than to watch a great dog weave through a grouse cover or sweep the prairie, this is a time honored sport, rich with tradition and spirit.