Sarleyy: Who knew so much went into training a dog?

Last time out, I mentioned that I know one of the best dog experts in northern Illinois. Woodstock’s Joe Scarpy owns and operates Bull Valley Retrievers and Hunt ‘Em Up. I asked you to send in your dog questions, and a couple of you obliged. Since I’ll be writing about Scarpy again, you still have time to forward your canine questions to me.

The 52-year-old Scarpy had a couple of family dogs as a child but didn’t turn into a true dog person until later in life. When he bought his first home, he figured a chocolate Labrador retriever would be a good addition to his family, and his love affair with Labs began.

He took the dog out into the field and heard a popping noise as the animal ran past him. He was puzzled and took the dog to the vet. He learned the dog had hip dysplasia. He kept the dog as a family pet and obtained another animal to use as a field dog for hunting. He began to research dysplasia and other things that affect working dogs. He learned how breeding was intrinsic to the health of an animal.

His new dog was a black Lab who took to field training quite well. Scarpy and Deuce were able to win titles in Cabela’s North American Sporting Dog Challenge, the U.S. Open Pheasant Championship and other prestigious competitions.

Scarpy bred Deuce, kept one puppy, then bought another dog. Scarpy was hooked on Labs. Certainly not a puppy mill, Scarpy’s Bull Valley Retrievers has had a limited production of litters since he has been at it. Scarpy is all about quality rather than quantity.

I asked Scarpy why he was all about Labrador retrievers, which happen to currently be the most popular canine in the U.S.

"These animals have a great temperament," Scarpy said. "They are easier to train than most other breeds, which I attribute to the fact that they are very highly intelligent. They are a breed which is multifunctional, meaning that they can be taught to do more than one thing. Labs are great.”

If and when Scarpy decides to breed one of his dogs, he will put the new pups up for sale. You can go to Scarpy and select your animal and then decide if you want to take home your new puppy at the tender age of eight weeks or to have Scarpy train it for you.

Scarpy can turn the pup into a “started dog,” meaning a dog that is trained in proper obedience, to be able to achieve a successful single bird retrieve whether on land or on the water and to follow basic commands. It takes Scarpy six to eight months to train a dog to reach that level. Many new owners buy their dog and leave and then don’t see the animal for half a year. Wow. That must be difficult.

Obtaining a “seasoned dog” requires leaving the animal with Scarpy for a year. The seasoned dog will be able to retrieve doubles, meaning two downed game birds one after another, and follow hand signals, as well as audible commands.

A “finished dog” requires a full year of training. After that year, the dog will be able to retrieve triples, work with other dogs, follow hand signals, do complex handling routines and will have experienced two seasons of hunting in the field. I’ll bet you never knew that dog training could be so intense and complicated. I know I didn’t.

Like I said, Bull Valley Retrievers' specialty is Labrador retrievers, either yellow, black or chocolate. Scarpy’s passion is for training dogs to become excellent hunters but has no problem selling one of his pups to someone who only wants an animal to be a great household companion.


Local ice maven Trevor James reports, “The weather many have been looking forward to has moved in quickly. Safety is key for last ice, as this weekend will hold the end of our extended season. Don’t be afraid to head north to Milwaukee and check out the harbor fishing. Eric Haataja, one of your recommended guides (, is a blast to get out with. As for the Chain O’ Lakes and Geneva, the fish are in the weeds. Bright colored jigs such as pinks, chartreuse and glow/uv have been the ticket tipped with plastic or spikes. We also have located some walleyes on the Chain on a No. 66 glow hook tipped with a minnow."

Dave Kranz from Dave’s Bait and Tackle writes, “We still have 8 to 15 inches of ice on most lakes that do not have a creek flowing into them. That being said, some fishermen have been heading to the McHenry Dam to catch walleyes in open water. The river is pretty high, and floating debris and ice is a hazard, so be careful if you plan on fishing the open water. Call 815-455-2040 for an updated report.”


Swap meet: The Annual Indoor Fishing Swap Meet & Sale is again being presented by Walleyes Unlimited, USA from 8 a.m to 1 p.m. March 30 at Fox Lake's American Legion, 703 N. Route 12. Parking is free, and admission is only $2. Kids under 18 are admitted for free. Walleye, bass, muskie, salmon and panfish gear will be for sale along with new and used fishing equipment, fishing tackle, boating and marine Items. Food and beverages will be available from the American Legion. For information, call Walt Koch at 847-710-5453.

Spring turkey permits: The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has announced that remaining 2019 Illinois Spring Turkey Hunting permits will go on sale at over-the-counter locations beginning at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

“In fairness to all turkey hunters, I decided to delay the start of over-the-counter sales for an additional week,” newly appointed IDNR Director Colleen Callahan said. “Since not all of our vendors were able to process sales, some hunters would have been able to purchase permits, while others would not, and DNR is committed to making this a fair process for all hunters.”

The IDNR will publish a list of vendors that are able to sell OTC permits Tuesday. Those hunters located too far from a listed vendor will be able to call the IDNR beginning Tuesday at 217-782-2965 and purchase a permit by phone. Permits will be mailed to those hunters who purchase by phone. For more information on turkey hunting in Illinois, visit:

• Steve Sarley writes about the outdoors for Shaw Media. Write to him at Steve does a weekly podcast about fishing called “WeFishASA.” You can find it at

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