By Amber Johnson
Have any of you seen the movie “Hidden Figures?” You know, the one about three brilliant African-American women at NASA who served as the brains behind the launch of astronaut John Glenn? It was a fascinating historical movie released in 2016, and it left me wondering about other activities and events in our region where local women deserve the spotlight.
For example, I love exploring and even dabbling in a little rock climbing when I can.
One local caving and climbing pioneer woman who also happens to be in the South Dakota Hall of Fame is Jan Conn. Born in 1924, she and her husband, Herb, moved from the East Coast after he served in World War II as an electrical engineer for the Navy Department in Washington, D.C. to follow their climbing passion. In 1947 on a trip to climb Devils Tower, they passed through the Black Hills of South Dakota. It was then that they discovered the Needles and decided to live in the Black Hills.
Together, they made around 220 first ascents in the Needles and published a climbing guidebook to the area. They started exploring Jewel Cave in 1959, and over the next 20-plus years Herb and Jan mapped over 62 miles of Jewel Cave’s interior. They later explored Wind Cave, finding 15,740 feet of virgin passage.
In a 2008 interview for Climbing Magazine, Jan explained how they ended up in South Dakota.
“I know sometimes people think we had this high dream of living like this, in a place like this … it wasn’t that way,” she was quoted as saying. “We just kept backing away from the things we didn’t like. This is where we landed.”
Like Jan, many other women are quietly showing their passion and talent in the great outdoors. I have met so many incredible and neat women over the past few years that I am excited to shine the spotlight on them in future issues of Outdoor Forum. Step aside, men — these women are dynamic darlings, and you will learn a thing or two from each one.
Jenny Martinsen, from Martinsen’s Red Point Kennel
One such hidden figure is Jenny Martinsen. Together with her husband, Tate, they own and operate Martinsen’s Red Point Kennel in Humboldt, S.D., a training facility that hosts anywhere from 30-50 dogs a year. They specialize in training puppies all the way up to advanced hunting dogs. In addition, most are trained for trial or field competitions, too.
“Tate and I were married in September 2009, and it was a year prior to this that we purchased our first Hungarian vizsla, which we named Ginger,” Jenny said. “Vizslas are a pointing, hunting and versatile breed that originated in Hungary.”
Jenny said Ginger was bought with the intention of just being a family hunting dog, but after a few private hunt-training sessions with Joe Rodriquez of R Place Kennels, the Martinsens realized they didn’t just have an ordinary vizsla on their hands.
“Joe loved Ginger’s hunt drive and willingness to work and learn quickly,” Jenny said. “With his help and encouragement, we began to test Ginger in NAVHDA events, and we joined the local dog club.”
NAVHDA, or the North American Versatile Hunting Dogs Association, is a non-profit organization that works to foster, promote and improve versatile hunting dog breeds. NAVHDA employs tests that are standardized, and the judges are highly trained and experienced, coming from all over the world.
“Throughout the process of training Ginger for hunt tests, Tate and I both gained a huge passion and love for dogs and training them, too,” Jenny said. “While I am at work as a surgical tech, my job is to read the mind of the surgeons and anticipate and place the needed instrument in their hand before the request is even spoken. With the dogs, I have attained the ability to read and understand them, too. Training dogs is a huge team effort — what one of us doesn’t see in a dog, the other does. We can usually read a dog’s personality within one week.”
Ginger will turn 10 years old in a few months and is known officially as VC Martinsen’s Lil Pheasant Popper MH. The VC stands for versatile champion, and there are currently only 12 vizslas in all of North America that hold this title. The MH stands for American Kennel Club master hunter, which is the AKC’s highest hunt-test level. Ginger’s litters have also produced multiple other versatile champions, AKC master hunters, NAVHDA utility prize dogs, and NAVHDA natural ability prize dogs.
The Martinsens have competed all over the United States and have assembled an impressive resume filled with NAVHDA and AKC titles. They’ve also received titles from the VDD Organization, which is a German testing system.
However, Jenny said they are looking forward to receiving one more coveted award from NAVHDA.
“I would say the award that stands out the most to us is the one we will be receiving in January from NAVHDA. It is a versatile champion breeder’s award,” she said. “This means that two of our vizsla puppies from the same litter had to accomplish the highest award in NAVHDA, which is the versatile champion title. There has only been one other vizsla breeder to ever accomplish this in the history of NAVHDA. So, to say we are proud and excited to receive it is an understatement.”
Jenny said four out of the 12 NAVHDA versatile champion vizslas in North America came from the Martinsen’s kennel.
“That is huge and speaks volumes for our breeding and training program,” she said. “Tate and I have gained all of our training experience by being mentored by Joe and Jean Rodriquez and training and testing our own four dogs. Tate now trains dogs full time six days a week, 10 months of the year, and he manages the day-to-day chores of the kennel. I help him any free moment I have, and our team effort is essential for the success of the kennel.”
Jenny said she’s involved with training four days a week, sometimes more.
“I take on the role of dog trainer when Tate is gone traveling and testing dogs,” she said. “I also do all of our puppy placements and the raising of our litters. Marketing, managing clients and maintaining the website are also my job.”
Jenny said that she and her husband define success in a variety of ways, not by titles alone.
“Titles are great, but watching a dog point a bird for the first time is really what gets us excited,” she said. “Success is so important to us, I think, because we love seeing the dogs accomplish great goals. To watch a dog develop and learn is so rewarding for us and them. It never gets old seeing that dog doing what it loves to do and a happy owner bragging it up and sending us their brag pictures.”
Along with hard work comes the opportunity to play, and Jenny said seeing dogs fulfill their potential in the field makes all the work worth the effort.
“Of course, we do get some time to play and enjoy the dogs, as well,” she said. “My girlfriends and I had a blast this fall hunting near Pierre with my dogs. Just the three of us gals and our own vizslas hunted for four days, covering 23 miles. We shot prairie chickens and grouse and had a blast. Tate takes time away, too, and together we like to hunt pheasants, ducks, geese, grouse and prairie chickens. That’s my favorite thing to do is take my dogs and get outdoors and see them point. I love the outdoors. It’s therapeutic out there.”
While the Martinsens story started with a viszla, Jenny said Red Point Kennel caters to other dog breeds, as well.
“We train all breeds of dogs,” she said. “We begin training dogs usually around the age of 4 months even to 9 years old for an average of four to eight weeks, depending on the content taught. We train from January to October. From October to January, Tate manages and guides at BBB Lodge. We do basic obedience training from January to March. We do specific hunt training from March to October.”
Jenny said their dog-training regimen can be broken down into different categories.
“Basic hunt training is four to six weeks, and in that time frame we teach them to scent birds, point birds, how to flush, sit, present and to condition around the gun,” she said. “Trained retrieve fetch takes eight weeks, usually. We train the hunting style that the owner prefers. Some like their dogs far out, and some want their dogs closer. We also teach using the electronic training collar. We train with the collar in many areas of our training. This collar also has a beeper so owners can locate their dogs during a hunt. Collar training is about a five- to six-day process in itself. We actually teach the dog how to shut it off.”
Manners are an important part of the training process, too, Jenny said.
“For discipline, it varies on the dog,” she said. “You can use a knee, collar, loud noise or more. It depends on the dog and on the type of correction needed.”
The Martinsens develop an individual training program on a client-to-client basis.
“We can help clients achieve their training goals based on a thoughtful assessment of individual needs,” she said. “We provide a strong foundation of socialization and basic obedience, ultimately developing your canine hunting companion for versatility in the field and water. We charge monthly, which covers everything except the cost of birds, which we use sparingly. We take on a limited number of dogs, including competition dogs.”
Going forward, the Martinsens don’t plan to deviate too far from their current recipe for success.
“I think the vision for our future is simple,” she said. “We are about quality, not quantity. We are specific about our requirements for training, our breeding requirements and also even who receives our puppies.”
Currently, she said there is a one-year waiting list to receive one of their puppies.
“There is a lot of time and effort that goes into the breeding, such as all dogs are bred with the intentions of being strong hunting dogs with a lot of drive,” she said. “That is why we do our best to place them in family homes that do a lot of hunting or even competitions. In the near future we plan on building a larger-scale kennel with some more amenities to help simplify the day-to-day chores.”
The biggest upgrade at their kennel won’t have anything directly to do with the dogs, though.
“We will be adding a new Martinsen dog trainer to the mix this coming March, as we are expecting a baby boy,” Jenny said. “We can’t wait to teach and show him the same love and passion for dogs that we both have.”
Stay tuned for the next issue of Outdoor Forum in April when I will introduce you to another local hidden figure of the outdoors, a master fly fisherwoman named Laurie. You won’t want to miss reading her story and learning how she finds success at the honey hole.
About the Author: Amber Johnson is a freelance writer and avid outdoors woman.