Coy Moore can talk turkey when it comes to dogs and birds. And, as it turns out, he can do much more than just talk. He breeds them, raises them, and trains them. The dogs he sells. The birds he hangs on to because they are “like gold,” he says.
The Yakima Valley, long an upland bird paradise, has seen a decline in the species owing to decreased grain acreage and fewer insects due to the use of pesticides. However, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, wild coveys remain and there are numerous preserves and ranches that raise birds such as quail, ring-necked pheasants and grouse. Moore’s broods are bred, raised, and trained specifically to help teach bird dogs. Yes, the birds are trained as well.
As the calendar rolls to February, Moore moves his bobwhite quail hens to a nesting shed. Warmth and light induce them to begin laying eggs, and he will collect a couple dozen from each by the time he moves the eggs to an incubator in late spring. Within a month, a new batch of quail will be ready for release onto his property. About another month and he will have them running wild but returning to their pen, ready to start earning their grain. Due to the lack of wild birds, the farm-raised fowl are vital to the success Moore has in teaching bird dogs at his business, Reliable Kennels near Moxee.
“It takes about two months to train a dog to hunt,” Moore said. “I prefer to get them from between six to 12 months old, but I can train or retrain older dogs too.” Moore added that he does not take every dog under his wing.
“I am honest with folks,” Moore noted. “It takes a certain personality for a dog to be a field trial competitor, one to be a hunter or a house dog. If I know a dog’s not going to be able to learn this, I will say, ‘If it was me, I wouldn’t waste my time and your money’. My reputation is important to me.”
Dogs learn to point and flush and hunt birds in the field. Besides boarders, Moore also owns about a dozen adult dogs of his own. Some are breeding females; others have been or are in training for sale as hunting dogs.
Even after decades of owning and operating the kennel, Moore shows no signs of slowing down. If the business should lag, the Arkansas native has plenty of skills to fall back on with his sociology degree from Central Washington University as well as an apprenticeship in cabinet making. For now, his reputation as a dog trainer generates enough business to keep him busy. Many are repeat customers.
Moore said his first visit to the Yakima area was as a kid. After relocating to Seattle, there were regular pheasant hunting trips with dad. He became fascinated with a fellow hunter’s bird dog and bought his own in his early 20s. An advertisement in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer led him to a hunting dog field trial near Olympia.
“An older guy told me to ‘act dumb. Just listen and soon you will hear something you don’t know,’” Moore said. “It was great advice. I was the only black face there and I have a pretty good personality so folks wanted to talk to me.”
Moore was a regular spectator at the trials, soon got a second dog, and continued to listen. He also asked questions every chance he got. And read books. Despite all of the questions and answers, Moore said seeing theory put into practice was the best training he ever got.
With the knowledge he gained by trailing another trainer, Moore eventually advanced from watching the field trials to taking home the hardware. In 1973, Moore claimed the top amateur trophy at the National Field Trial held on the Yakima Training Center. The following year, he decided to move to Moxee and start his own dog training kennel. What followed was years of working dogs, commuting to college, and more championship trophies.
“I worked my butt off and I survive by word of mouth,” is Moore’s blunt explanation of why he had winning dogs and how he became known as a top trainer.
By the mid-1980s, Moore gave up competing to focus on training, He figures that over the years, he has probably taught around 3,000 dogs. A good number of them were born on his property.
Moore, a registered breeder through the American Kennel Club, the oldest purebred dog registry in the U.S., raises only litters of German Shorthaired Pointers these days. His current pups include the less-common black variety, often mistaken for Labrador retrievers.
With his remarkable memory, Moore is able to rattle off the names of customers near and far, some who have purchased multiple bird dogs from Reliable Kennels. A local family who recently lost the 11-year-old bird dog they purchased from Moore will be taking home one of the current litter. Since he trained their older dog, it’s likely the pup will be returning to Moxee for some field work a few months down the road.
Moore’s operation is decidedly low-tech and also home to his “hobby” herd of cows, including the week-old calf he’s bottle feeding. A 2017 wildland fire burned the acreage he used as training grounds, along with six bird pens.
That setback didn’t slow Moore, who recently began taking guitar lessons because “to keep from being bored you must have hobbies.”
There appears to be no danger Moore will become bored any time soon.
“Before I finish one thing,” he said, “I always think of something else to do.”