South Dakota resident
John Luttrell of Clark, South Dakota, is in Lawrence County to train hunting dogs during Arkansas's relatively mild climate of late winter.
Frank Witowski Jr.
Who let the dogs out? The answer to the popular catch phrase is John Luttrell who has come from South Dakota to Arkansas to train 16 hunting dogs over the course of eight weeks.
Luttrell, who has a kennel and dog-training business in South Dakota, arrived in Lawrence County on Feb. 10. He is staying in the DuckBill Outfitters cabin at 129 Lawrence County 705 off Hwy. 63, halfway between Hoxie and Sedgwick. Matt Callahan of Walnut Ridge, is a farmer who also operates DuckBill Outfitters, a duck hunting guide service. The farm on which the cabin is located offers plenty of acreage to perform his duties without distracting neighbors.
When Luttrell arrived, the area was still recovering from January's ice storm. Luttrell saw some of the effects of the ice, including the lack of electricity when he arrived. He said he could sympathize with area residents as the same thing happened in South Dakota two years ago. He says it stays below freezing during most of the winter, with no thaw until spring. In fact, that frigid climate is what brought Luttrell to Lawrence County.
"I can't be productive there (in South Dakota)," he said. "Coming here expands my revenue time in my business two months. I can get very little done there with the water frozen, snow up to my waist and very frigid temperatures. The only (negative side) is being away from my wife and kids for two months."
Last year, Luttrell decided he needed to find a place to train his hunting dogs during the winter season, and a client told him about a friend in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, and the rest is history. "These dogs have such a head start over every dog there because the dogs that are there aren't training," he said adding that the dogs he trained last year for two months in Lawrence County did exceptionally well. "One dog retrieved 175 pheasants last year," he said.
Three of the 16 dogs he is training this year are his own, while 13 belong to clients in his business. His dog, Jack, a Labrador, received the title of Master Hunter dog last summer in South Dakota.
Luttrell said he plans to return to Lawrence County each winter for eight weeks to train hunting dogs. Callahan said he is preparing to build a 15-dog kennel on the property to assist Luttrell in his endeavors. Luttrell uses Minturn resident Larry Jones' private reservoir for training the dogs in the water.
In exchange for the use of the cabin, Luttrell helps train Callahan's dog. Callahan testifies that he has made his dog, Belle, into a top-notch hunting dog who can understand hand signals. "It's helped with my business," he says. "He's really good at what he does."
Luttrell has been a guest on "Chasing the Flight, " a television program, giving weekly dog training tips. He has also been showcased in "Shooting Sportsman," "Gun Dog" and "Wild Fowl" magazines.
Luttrell has trained 23 different breeds of dogs during his 15-year career as a professional dog trainer. He says his favorite hunting dog to train is the Labrador.
The most unusual dog he trains is the drathaars, which are German pointer dogs. One of Luttrell's customers enters his drathaar in a competition in Germany that is similar to our Kentucky Derby for horses.
Luttrell trains dogs to hunt birds, pheasants, duck and geese, as well as professional dog hunting competitors. He says it takes about two months to teach dogs basic hunting skills. It takes additional time to teach them hand signals and other specialized training.
Luttrell will be returning back to South Dakota before Easter. "By the time it gets warm enough for snakes to come out, I'm done," he said. Although the winter is rough in South Dakota, the mild temperatures of summer in South Dakota make up for it, he added.
He feels right at home during his stay in Lawrence County. "The people are great," Luttrell says. "The Callahans have been awesome. We've made good friends with them and are trying to get them to come down to South Dakota and do pheasant hunting."
Luttrell said he never had a dog as a child but loved "man's best friend." His parents felt with their busy lifestyle of camping and hunting, a family dog would have been neglected.
During his childhood, Luttrell enjoyed playing with the dogs of neighbors, friends and relatives. Luttrell said his dad remembers him petting a German shepherd in a car parked next to them. There was a "Beware of Dog" sign on the vehicle but that did not keep him away, and the owner of the dog was astonished that his dog was friendly.
It wasn't until about the time he married his wife, Jackie, that he got his first dog, an American Water Spaniel. He was an established supervisor of a partition manufacturing facility in Minneapolis when he attended a seminar to train dogs to hunt.
Luttrell knew he wanted to be a professional trainer for hunting dogs and waited for an opening to get into the business. After working for a dog-training firm, he moved his family from Eagan, Minn., a suburb of St. Paul, to Clark, South Dakota, where he started his own business.
For 15 years, he has been a trainer hunting dogs and run a kennel. He also serves as a pheasant-hunting guide in the fall.
Luttrell's wife and their daughters, Samantha, 13, and Nicole, 10, share in his enthusiasm and enjoy the outdoors. Samantha bagged her first deer last year and visited Lawrence County with her dad on a weeklong hunting trip the last week of 2008. She also handled a dog in the AKC Hunt Test that earned the dog a Junior Hunter title.
For more information visit Luttrell's website: www.luttrellkennels.com.
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