Pihkatapin kennel

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 Kelopojan Noora is GAMELAIKA

Russian-European laika Kelopojan Noora is one thing Vesa Haataja, who lives in the village of Oulanka in Salla, is proud of. This female, which already had a title Champion of Beauty, was granted the well-respected title of GameLaika by Finnish Laika Club.

    Soon 4-years old Noora, is included to the elite among the Russian-european Laikas in Finland; so in every way an exellent representative of her breed. Last fall Noora gained a Third Prize open class result in birdtrial with 57 points and a First Prize open class result with the top grade points of 91,25 in moosetrial.

    The title GameLaika is granted every testperiod to a laika, which gains the highest sum of points in moosetrial additioned with birdtrial result. The best result of both trialtypes is counted and both results must be good enough for prize in that trial.

    The purpose of this, now for the second time granted title, is to bring out the very best huntingdogs among laikas, which are naturally suited for hunting several gamespecies. The thing that rises the value of Nooras title, is that besides Russian-European laikas also two numerically bigger laikabreeds are competing of the same prize. Those are West-Siberian Laikas and East-Siberian Laikas.

        Hunting with dogs at the wilds of Lapland

    The hunter, who researches game for living in Northern wilderness, radiates a peacefull enthusiasm for hunting, especially with ancient spitzbreeds. Four years ago when Vesa Haataja planned for taking a new huntingdog, he thought carefully out what kind of dog he should have. Earlier he had had two Finnish Spitz.

    Those red, blacknosed dogs fullfilled their drive for game mainly by barking grouse to trees, but also in duck and geese hunting. With years passing by, the exellent tendencies for barking birds of this domestic spitz came well-known for Vesa who spend much of his time hunting. In time, however, hunters mind got more and more interested of larger game species and finally started reaching the position of being his primary interest.

    "In the early 1990's I managed to shoot down two bears" tells Vesa. It didn't happen with the help of dogs however, but at late fall by tracking them down on firstsnow. The Spitzes did bark at bear when they got together with one, but didn't have the courage to go any nearer than one hundred meters of the bear. So the kings of the forest were left in peace when I was hunting with these dogs. But with the same breath Vesa tells of a Finnish Spitz from nearby, which has had several bears shot for bark.

          A new dog for many gamespecies

    The downhill of  grouse population also in Norther Finland played a part in finding more versatile huntingdog. At the same time also the dog would get the possibility to spend more time of the huntingseason in forest. A thought of a dog that could be taken to hunt also large gamespecies was riping in hunters mind.

    " After Finnish Spitz, I wanted a dog, that would bark moose and bears better ", summarizes Vesa.

    The Russian-European Laika started to seem like a breed that was worth considering. One can make a huntingmate of  it for the hunt of both birds and larger game. " Very important feature of a a dog is also how it communicates with its master", emphasizes mr. Haataja. At the large backwoods of Northern wilderness, where the distances are very long, one must get its dog with him when its time to go home.

    The final thing that made Vesa to make up his mind for taking this black-and-white, Carelian Beardog resembling laika, was the experience his friend had had with this breed. The experience of hunting with a Russian-European Laika had been very good for that friend and it helped Vesa to make up his mind.

    One phonecall to a puppydeviser of that breed in Finnish Laika Club, Hannu Olli, and a desired puppy ready to be handed out was found. It just happened that Hannu Olli had one pup left in his own kennel, that was waiting for someone to buy her. The date for picking up the pup was settled and soon was a future gamelaika on her way to her new home at Oulanka.

    There has also been successful dogs in the past of Kelopojan kennel. It was the male Russian-European Laika, a double Champion Kelopojan Jura, which Hannu had bred himself, that won the all-time first  Moosetrial Championship for Laikas in Kuusamo 1993.

    Vesa started to build an unshakeable trust between the young dog and her master, from the very beginnig. He always takes his dogs with him to his workplace at Värriö researchstation. The dogpen at the station is literally Nooras second home. As the pup was growing up, Vesa started consciously offer her some contacts with wildlife, so that she would take interest of many desirable scents. 

        Learning what bears smell like

    Nooras first contact with the odor of a bear was when she was 6 months old. Since then, there has been many more contacts with bears. 

    "There was this one day when a man came to my workplace and told us that he had seen a bear not far from the station. He had been skiing and this angry bear had rushed on him several times and stopped about ten metres away at nearest. The shocked man told how he had ignored the attact-attempts the bear had made from the side, but determined kept on skiing forward and then finally the bear had left him alone."

    Of course that kind of a bear observation  intrigued Vesa very much, after all he had once studied bears for living at the backwoods of Salla. Later that day he took his skies and went to the place of the incident and took, of course, the half year old Noora with him to show her the tracks of a bear. After skiing a couple of kilometres he reached the scene and started to follow the tracks to find out what really had happened there.

    From the tracks Vesa concluded, that the bear probably was a mother who was trying to protect her cubs by making these fakeattacts against the earlier skiier. Noora also seemed promising  interested of the tracks. It didn't take long when the angry motherbear herself showed up and stopped the tracing.

    "At that point, when the bear saw both me and the dog, she started to come straight at us with a full speed. I quickly turned my skies to the opposite direction and started to ski as fast as I could away from the angry bear. I thought it was best to loose the dog free so that her leash wouldn't get tangled and she to get killed by the bear. At once Noora started to bark furiously the first bear she had ever seen."

    "The bear followed me several hundred meters, when I intentionally skied towards an open swamp. When I got to the open area, the bear stopped following me and turned back at the edge of the swamp. Soon she left also Noora alone, which came back to me and we headed back to the cabin.

    After that Noora has barked bears many times, although mr. Haataja hasn't yet got the chance to shoot a bear for his dogs. At the summer 2001 Vesa took Noora to Ylä-Tuloma for a beartest in laikas original country. Her result was the second best that day  with 69 points and a 3rd "Nest" Diplom. So Haataja knew already as they left, that Noora would bark bears at their natural environment. That made his mind somewhat confident on getting a diplom there, the only question was, what would be the points in doing so, says Vesa now afterwards with a glint in his eyes.

        Practice makes a birddog

    Vesa got grouses as his first game, and now he hunts birds every fall also with his dogs. So far he has gotten some 20-30 grouses, mostly young capercaillies, but also a fiew elder ones and some black grouse too. At fieldtrials for birds, has Noora been three times so far. Best result was open-class 3rd price with 57 points, which came at the only trial she was in last fall.

    Vesa Haataja says that Noora was interested of birds already when she was young. At that time she wasn't that good in following them, but with a little guidence from her master, she became rather good in that too. Vesa tells he has put a lot effort on training Noora to bark birds with a tame hen woodgrouse he knew.

    " I used to walk with the dog so slowly, that it certainly was able to find the bird from long enough distance away. When it started to bark, I very carefully drove the bird away after a while. First she didn't know how to follow it very far, but because the hen was so tame, and it didn't fly that many hundred metres away, we used to track her down time after time again. That way she learned to follow them better and now when a bird flies off, she runs with full speed a couple of hundred meters and then she suddenly stops and starts listening which tree it's going to sit in.

        Becoming moosedog, slowly but certainly

    Noora was almost a year old when she was taken to get contact with moose for the first time. From the very beginning she was really good in finding the moose, says Vesa. The first barks were quite promising and you could have shot moose for them. If the animals stayed where they were found or moved just a fiew hundred meters, the dog would bark them an hour after hour and  stopped in on her master every now and then.

    "Before I had shot any moose for Noora, it happened that whenI went to the place where she was barking and made the moose leave,  they would go some half a kilometer away. First the dog would follow them but then she would come back to me and seemed like she didn't want to go there again. Right then I thought it was about time to manage to shoot a moose for her."

    But that year all the moose of their hunting club, were shot for an old and experienced dog of which Vesa tells he got very upset to the bunch. Next fall he explained the issue better and ask for a permission to shoot one training moose for his dog. Luckily the elder dog was getting too old already so after all the moose were shot for Noora that fall. After a fiew downings, the dog was becoming more and more convinced of the moosematter and started following mooses longer if necessary.

        Duckhunting with a laika 

    Whenever on geesehunting Vesa has kept his dogs with him, so also Noora has had her part of it. Vesa thinks the best waterfowls for food are geese and ducks so he hunts primarily them. "One day, before I had shot any moose for Noora, but only some grouse, we got near this pond that was around twenty meters of diameter."

   " I was already passing it by when Noora gave one bark at the shore of the pond. There was a thick and tall gras there so I could see nothing but her tail peeking out once and again. Simultaneously a bunch of ducks jumped from the hammock to the water and started quacking at her. Of course Noora then started to bark. It was the first day of duckhunting-season so there was this whole brood of ducks."

    "I saw that they were at good position and swimming towards eachother so I made a shot once. Four duck stayed at their places and three of them flied a fiew meters across the pond. I was a little amazed that Noora didn't swim to get the dead ones, but run around the pond and started to bark the rest of the ducks. I desided that if they would come to a good position, I would shoot again in order to train a fine huntingdog of Noora. After the second shot cracked in the air the rest of the three ducks were dead. Only after that did Noora go to the water and retrieved the ducks."

        Curves in order 

    Kelopojan Noora became The Champion of Beauty at the age of three, which is quite remarkable achievement for a Russian-European Laika. Not only is there fiewer members in a smaller breed, but also RELs has been bred towards better hunting qualities. Both good appearances and most of all fine hunting qualities posessing exellent representative of her breed, is most valuable dog for breeding in a breed that has only a fiew dozen pups registered per year.

    Noora has already one litter out in the world. The eight black-and-white spitzes that were born the spring before last. One of them is growing at the breeders own kennel and is called Pihkatapin Sako. Vesa has heard a lot of good and promising work from the pups. One female hears to work already surprisinly long times at moose.

    Most of the pups has gotten sertificates from dogshows, so the breeding has succeeded in that too. One of Nooras pups, Pihkatapin Siru won The Best of Breed at the main show for laikas held last winter in Kuusamo. The secont best female of Rels in that show was Pihkatapin Siru from the same litter and Noora added the success by being fourth herself.

        Hunting with multipurpose dog 

    But how does the hunting work in practice with a dog that barks many different gamespecies ? Vesa says he can tell apart the different barkingstyles his dogs have and knows thatway whatever game is in question.

    "Yes, I have learned that with Noora. If you can hear how she starts the bark and she's not far, then you can tell what game is there. For example if you're hunting moose and Noora starts to bark capercaillie, I can tell by the way she barks that it's bird. Or if it's squirrel. So Noora barks at squirrel too, but is fortunately giving that up now that I have told her not to do that."

    I have a principle that if a dog barks, I will most certainly go there and see myself what there is. I won't start whistling the dog off from about five hundred meters away. 

I will go there and see. If it's something we hunt for, then I may shoot it down. But if it's something we're not hunting then I will just walk by and tell the dog not to bark that kind and then they'll leave it there.

    From the story of Vesa Haatajas life with his dogs, comes out the fact that behind an exellent dog there is not only her good genes, but also a countless days spend in the woods, training a huntingdog as a goal. And that is the only way to get a multifunctional dog that every hunter wants. The GameLaika of the year, Kelopojan Noora, well-earned shakes the myth that no dog can work well with all game.

Janne Pitkänen
Koiramme(="Our dog-magazine") 7-8/2002