American Field

Trainers Report . . .

Aug 22, 2019
Ruthann App

The Epp dog camp came to life again for its 49th summer in the sandhills of Saskatchewan between Swift Current and Maple Creek.

“Ed and Susan Epp of Horseshoe Plantation in Tallahassee led the convoy of four rigs,” reports Ruthann Epp.

“Hartley Holton is taking over the hunting operation for Horseshoe so he and Eric Small had their rig with dogs and horses. Ed and Susan pulled Wyatt Epp’s rig with Matt McAllister from Four Oaks Plantation in Thomasville. Wyatt flew in to check on his operation.

“Ed’s son Dillon Epp manages Orton Plantation near Wilmington, N. C. He and his crew, including Squire Lee, Justin Wayne and Michael Stanley, brought two rigs. Squire Lee was hired this past year to manage the hunting operation for Orton so this is his first year on the Canadian prairies. Through his eyes the conditions for working dogs was like a dream — fifteen coveys in a couple of rounds.

“Ed said, ‘I hate to tell you, but this is a down year.’

“There was a late snow that evidently affected the first hatch. Ed said they saw chicks still not able to fly when first arriving. Now, as they are ending their six weeks of training, they are seeing more birds.

“The ripened chokecherries have drawn the sharptail into those areas that early in the season were not being seen.  That will be good for us amateurs who are arriving at the end of August and early September in preparation for trials at Travis Gellhaus’ nearby grounds and at Mortlach.

“Shannon Nygard of Bozeman, Mont., Hall-of-Famer John Ivester of North Carolina and Paul and Tracy Falkowsky and family from Calgary plan to stop in with their dogs.

“Sean Derrig welcomed the group in early July in Illinois and gave them a place to unload the four rigs of dogs and horses and will again do so on their way back to North Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

“Ed goes on a fishing trip every June so they have been bringing a freezer full of fish every summer to help feed the fifteen plus people at the camp besides hosting a big fish cooking for all the neighbors and landowners. Forty plus gathered at the camp barn for good food and fellowship. Susan is the ‘head cook at the dog camp’.

“My mother Mary was described that way our first year at the camp those many years ago. She was a bit insulted but really it is quite an important role.

“When my mother no longer could make the trek my father Freddie Epp made a wooden spoon for Susan and handed it to her as passing the torch and said, ‘I duly transfer the title of dog camp cook to you.’ She has surpassed the title. Homemade cinnamon rolls, teacakes, homemade pizza in addition to all kinds of healthy hearty meals three times a day.

“And still the tradition that my father and mother instilled in us as kids to be enthused about getting up at 5:00 a. m. and working dogs all day is intact.

“Every Friday is field trial day. Gingerbread dogs are formed from a cookie cutter that Cap’n made forty plus years ago and at lunch the winners are announced — and in this trial everyone wins something.

“The first year that our family arrived at our camp, there was only a three-room homesteader’s shack that had been vacant for thirty years. Then ‘the big house’ — a four-room farm house — was moved to yard in the late 1970s. A mobile home was brought in during the early 1980s and now, to house all the men, travel trailers are rented and brought in for the summer.

“A barn was built in the late 1980s with the help of Ray Pearce and Jason Williams who were part of the crew of trainers then. Improvements on the houses have taken place in the last few years in addition to better water lines and a ‘real septic tank’, and this year a double bathhouse was built.

“The old kennels that my dad built were torn down three years ago and the dog trailers from North Dakota were brought in to make easier caring for the dogs.

“The pull to go north is strong for me as I am literally making my way there now, just pausing long enough to write this report. Good horses and good dogs on the Canadian prairies — not much can top that.”


No sooner had Ruthann Epp’s report arrived than word came from Broomhill, Manitoba where Colvin and Mazie Davis are spending the late summer.

“We left for the prairies on July 29, and made it to Mike Crouse’s place in Dixon, Ky. Colvin’s Jack Russell was with us. ‘Roscoe’, Colvin called him, among other names, was not doing well. He was fourteen, and we had to put him down on August 2 in Kentucky. Colvin was affected by the loss, and we turned around and went back home to Alabama.

“Well, as they say, ‘the prairie beckons.’ Not long after, Colvin came home and said, ‘Get some tickets,’ and we left for Broomhill on August 17.

“Karen Jones picked us up at the airport in Minot. Wayne Thompson had the house stocked with groceries and Donna Gervin has provided a truck for our transportation,

“The country here looks great. Not much rain in June, but come July also came the rain. The crops, right now primarily oats, are coming off. The lack of rain, then coming late, has harvesting running behind a week or two.

“Colvin did a tour of the nearby country on a four-wheeler and while passing where Jim Gervin’s sons were harvesting saw a large covey of chickens flushing. Robin Gates, who is nearby, says he’s finding birds, so conditions should be ideal for the trials scheduled to start here September 1.”

Comments (1)
Posted by: Steve Standley | Aug 31, 2019 07:14

Excellent report! I enjoyed reading it. Hope everyone is safe.


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