What started as an after-school job in 1988 cleaning dog runs at Pine Hill Kennels in Rockford, Michigan, led to Justin McGrail becoming one of the United States premier trainers of wild bird dogs. He quickly took on the responsibility of working puppies, basic training, and began apprenticing as a bird dog trainer. After 5 years, his desire to stretch his and his dog’s legs led to a training opportunity in Oregon, where he embraced training on the vast western landscape and the variety of wild birds that reside there.
He returned to Pine Hill in 1997 and focused on developing and training dogs in the grouse and woodcock woods. In 2011, he started Black Creek Dog Training with the mindset to expand the dog’s opportunities by traveling to Montana before the grouse season, then on to Kansas and Arizona after. While on the road, he guided sportsman for respected outfitters; Montana Bird Hunts and Arizona Quail Guides. This offered the opportunity to train dogs on Huns, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Sage Grouse, and a variety of wild quail.
This depth of experience has led him to be a sought-after field trial judge in the cover dog world, with opportunities to judge the 2015 Michigan Woodcock Championship, the 2019 Lake States Grouse Championship, and the 2021 International Woodcock Championship.
When not working with bird dogs and their owners, he enjoys the quiet country life with his wife Tiffany Patterson DVM and their daughter Hazel, and on occasion the cold flows of a northern Michigan stream in search of wild trout.
Growing up in Illinois, Ron purchased his first hunting license in 1972. Primarily hunting pheasants and rabbits with his buddies, but still dogless as a group. After a random invite to hunt over a German Shorthaired Pointer, he knew then that one day he would have a bird dog of his own. His later move to Michigan enabled him to expand hunting opportunities, his circle of friends, and the purchase of his first bird dog.
Soon thereafter Ron joined the Michigan chapter of the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA), a group dedicated to fostering, improving, and promoting the versatile hunting dog breeds in North America. This is where all roads crossed for Ron. Over the next three decades, he's hunted, bred, and tested his dogs. Along the way he was approved as a judge, and later appointed as a Senior Judge for NAVHDA. Since the 90's Ron's had the privilege of traveling across the country evaluating over 20 breeds of pointing dogs, as well as getting to know the people and stories behind them.
These experiences were the catalyst for launching The Hunting Dog Podcast in 2015. Throughout the years of producing content, his listener's favorite episodes were always those that concentrated on training. This was the inspiration for the development of the Upland Institute - an online platform to give all birddog enthusiasts the resources for getting the most out of their companions in the field.
Citing one of Ron's favorite quotes that speaks to his love of people and dogs:
"For me, it's always been about the friends and dogs that we know, the ones that have passed on, and the ones that we have yet to meet."