Call him crazy, but Tracey Lieske believes that gundogs develop better with wild game birds rather than the pen-raised fowl that dominate commercial wing shooting. He doesn’t base that conviction on some wide-eyed notion. His Wild Wing Lodge and Kennel is a twelve-thousand-acre wonderland of woods, grasses, and crop covers that’s home to a thriving population of indigenous quail. And those hard-flying birds are just the thing to bring out a dog’s prey drive and sharpen its skills.
“Our philosophy is to expose the young dog to all of the elements that Mother Nature has to offer, including numerous bird contacts,” Lieske says. “We’ve found that by doing this we build on the dogs’ natural pointing ability and desire, to produce a bird dog that has a lot of style and intensity around its game.”
For Lieske, the program is a big win for his English setters, a breed that loves to work but that he says typically matures more slowly than the English pointer. “English setters generally don’t mature until about two years old, and we’re seeing pointer-like performance from our setters at six to ten months old.”
In addition to training, Lieske also hosts quail hunters at Wild Wing Lodge during the season. Off-season, he trains in the mild weather of his Wild Wing Lodge North, on Clearwater Lake in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. And if you stick around, he offers prime grouse hunting during the month of October. read more