American Field

Field Trial Report

Minnesota Grouse Dog Championship

Rufus Del Fuego Claims Title; Snyder's Full Rage is Runner-Up
By Ryan Hough | Nov 15, 2021
Championship Winners. From left: Ryan Hough, Justin McGrail (judge), Neil Anderson with the winner Rufus Delfuego; Steve Snyder, Scott Chaffee with Runner-Up Snyder's Full Rage; Ben McKean (judge), and AJ Kalupa.

Mora, Minn. — Sometimes things just fall into place, and everything works out perfectly. This doesn’t usually happen by chance when it comes to wild bird trials. At 8 a.m. Monday, October 4, The Minnesota Grouse Dog Association cut loose the first brace of dogs to begin what would be a cover dog championship to be remembered, with grouse observed on every brace of the three-day event.

At the annual club meeting last winter, it was decided that the time to reroute, scrap, and/or create new courses was past due. With the leadership of some key club veterans, and the efforts of familiar and new faces alike, courses were changed for the spring 2021 trials to be as equitable as possible, with the goal of granting every dog an opportunity to show their abilities on native grouse and woodcock.

The improvements to the grounds were impactful, but it was determined that more tweaking was needed. For the 2021 Minnesota Grouse Dog Championship, only two courses remained the same from the prior year. The efforts paid off in a major way, with very impressive bird numbers, and many quality performances.

This year’s judges included longtime club member and Minnesotan Ben McKean, and Michigan native Justin McGrail. Having owned and trialed multiple competitive cover dogs, Ben is no stranger to the grouse covers of the upper Midwest or field trials in general. Ben has judged multiple grouse championships and is a reliably fair, and consistent observer of fine pointing dogs.

Justin, although not a field trialer, is widely regarded as one of the best pointing dog trainers in the upper Midwest, and has been trusted to judge high end dogs in competition on many occasions. Having Justin come to Minnesota was a real pleasure to all those who got to interact with him. Not only does it take physical stamina to walk thirty miles through tough terrain, but the mental focus to not miss a bird take flight, and ability to separate dog performances at a trial with 10+ dogs cleanly handling grouse is of the utmost importance.


At 8:00 a.m. on October 4, the first brace set off on course No. 5. Hair Trigger Colt (Bukovich) and Meredith Grade Corky (Chaffee) both shot off the line and maintained a strong, forward race throughout the hour. At 4 Corky was found on point but no flush could be produced. At 9 Colt was found standing on an edge before the swamp crossing, but a bird was not observed. Both dogs pushed the edges of their bells for the full hour, and unfortunately, just a few seconds after time, Corky was found on point and multiple grouse were flown.

The second brace began on course No. 6 at 9:25 a.m.with Herschner's Thunderbolt Jet (Chaffee) and Ruffed Country Sweet Lily (Pharris). At 5 Jet had a picture-perfect woodcock find, and then a grouse find at 55. Perfect manners on game by Jet impressed the judges. Lily was found standing at 11 and 49, but no flush could be produced either time. Lily is very light on her feet and pleasing in the way she moves, she is a young dog to keep an eye on.

No. 3 was run on the south course, and was an exciting one with Grouse Trails Firestorm (McKellop) starting things off with a beautiful find on a grouse within view of the gallery. She maintained a dramatic forward race for the remainder of the hour. Bracemate Grouse Hill Pepper (Chaffee) also ran a strong race, with a picture-perfect find on a grouse at 12, and another stand at 28 in which the gallery observed a woodcock flush well behind the dog, but not recorded by the judges. Both dogs finished clean.

The 4th brace was run after lunch, on the Boy Scout course, in temperatures exceeding 70°. Hidden Acres Sandman (Landowski) showed strong power, a focused search, and noteworthy handling. He was found standing as time expired, and was allowed a chance to relocate. Snyder's Pioneer Scout (Chaffee) also ran a very hard and determined race, focusing on likely bird cover. In the end, both dogs would be “groused”, with no recorded finds.

"Brace 5 was ran on the new northeast course. Bill Frahm ran his first year shooting dog Woods R Calling Sadie braced with John McKellop's Grouse Trails Bravado. Sadie started out like a million dollar bill, but was picked up early on, leaving the judges hungry. Bravado fell off his bell 2 minutes into the brace, and after a 14 minute search was found with a woodcock, his intensity had not wavered. At 28 he was found standing, and then relocated just a few yards where he had another woodcock find. Bravado then went on to have woodcock finds at 42 and 55 with all in order. At 51 he recorded a stop to flush on a grouse, and then at 58 a grouse find."

No. 6 was a special one, as two female handlers squared off for the first time on our grounds, to my knowledge. Snyder's Sadie, handled by Tammy Chaffee, and Northwoods Cedar handled by Lindsay Saetre had a very fun and electric hour. Sadie had an uneventful first 15 minutes right up until she stuck a woodcock, and then handled another woodcock stylishly at 20. At 36 Sadie was found high on both ends, and a grouse was flushed. Sadie finished the hour strong. Cedar was an eyeful on the ground, showing flashes of an elite level ground race. She commands attention from judges and gallery alike as she relentlessly works cover. Cedar had woodcock finds at 35, 38, and 44, with all in order.

Day two began  at 8 a.m. on course N0. 5. Flycast Rollie Fingers (Chaffee) and Midnight Ghost Ryder (Pharris) desperately searched for the first 31 minutes of the hour before Ryder skidded to a halt as a grouse lifted on the right side of the course in a known covert. Both dogs spent the remainder of the hour hunting strong and forward, with no finds credited during the hour.

Moss Meadow Seeker (Moss) and Grouse Trails Crackerjack (McKellop) were next on course No. 6. Seeker ran a well patterned and flashy forward race for the entire hour, with woodcock finds at 12, 13, and 27 minutes. Crackerjack did not make it to the halfway point of the course, as he was delayed due to his incredible bird finding ability. Crackerjack had a woodcock at 2, another at 13, and yet another at 27. Jack then had a beautiful find and relocation on a grouse at 29, which took substantial time to locate him on point. Jack finished the hour with yet another beautiful grouse find.

The 9th brace  pitted War Paint (Cook) against the now 8 x champion, 3x runner-up Ponderosa Mac. Mac is a famous dog in the cover dog world, having won three national championships. Mac is owned by Steve Snyder and handled by Scott Chaffee. Mac has won the Grand National Grouse Championship twice, and the National Invitational Grouse Championship once. The size of the gallery always swells considerably when Mac is slated to run. At 1:18 p.m. Mac was still running at top speed from the breakaway when he slammed a stop to flush, he followed that up with a picture perfect woodcock find along a swamp edge at 14. At 16 Mac stopped on a relocation, after flushing in front of the dog to no avail, Mac was sent on with a grouse beside him that appeared to have moved out of position to be scented. The bird took flight with the dog moving, ending Mac’s bid. Blaze (War Paint) ran a strong fancy race as always, having fell off her Bell at the 15-minute mark. Unable to produce a flush, the handler moved her on only to have her slam on the brakes a short time later. By the posture of the dog, it was evident the bird was very near. As a bird lifted from nerly under the dog, temptation to stay still proved too much, ending War Paints run.

After lunch, North Slopes Allie (Graddy), and Fireside Aidan (Chaffee) ran their brace during the warmest part of the day. Both dogs were strong on the ground, with one find recorded by Aidan at 55. Allie ran a fast and fancy race, but was unable to produce a bird despite a noteworthy and purposeful effort.

Northern Lights Sirius, callname Walter, owned by Sig Degitz, was braced with Go Peter B (Lein) on the northeast course in the 11th brace. Despite strong ground efforts by each dog, handlers elected to pick their dogs up at 35 and 39, respectively.

The 12th and final brace of day two showcased two mature and hard charging female setters. Snyder’s Full Rage (Chaffee) and Northwoods Sadie Belle (Bjerke). Both dogs ran like the wind, with Full Rage starting things off with a grouse find 6 minutes in. Sadie looked pretty as a picture with a woodcock find at 34. Rage answered back with a woodcock find of her own at 35. Sadie finished the hour by stopping at 59:50. Upon locating the dog on point, two grouse were flown after time expired, while still under judgement, with all in order.

The last morning started with Outcast Cover Cruiser (Hough) and Grouse Trails Warrior (McKellop). Cover Cruiser ran a dramatic forward race, falling off her bell 44 minutes in, deep to the left on a swamp edge. Upon locating the dog but failing to produce a flush, the dog was allowed to relocate. Again, the dog stopped not fifty yards from her original stand. Unable to produce a flush yet again, she was moved on. Shortly after she continued on, the elusive bird flushed ahead while the dog was still moving, ending her bid. Grouse Trails Warrior was captivating on the ground, displaying the style and stamina that we all strive for when we buy a pup. Warrior finished the hour with a squeeky clean grouse find, and left everyone who watched her with the impression that a very bright future awaits her.

Brace No. 14: Rufus Del Fuego (Anderson) and Northwoods Atlas (Johnson) set off on course No. 6. Rufus got started early, with a pair woodcock finds within the first 10 minutes. At 35 Rufus fell off his bell, and after an exhaustive search he was found deep to the right of the course, high on both ends. A grouse was flown and shot fired. Rufus ran a strong race for the remainder of the hour. Atlas, despite a strong effort and purposeful application, ended the hour without a find.

The final brace of the stake was held on the south course with Over The Hill Patti (Lein) and Northern Slopes Bell (Graddy). Patti ran an electric, forward race as always, with a perfectly handled woodcock at 18, a grouse at 59, and a tireless race throughout. Bell, fancy as always, stuck a brood of grouse around the 20 minute mark, remaining still through the flush and shot. Bell was picked up a few minutes later, when a woodcock walked behind her point and flushed directly behind her.


The class of the field was seven-year-old male setter, Rufus Delfuego, owned and handled by amateur Neil Anderson of Duluth, Minn. In about a year's time, Rufus has been placed in four cover dog championship stakes, an impressive feat. Rufus’ grouse find was an impressive limb find in which he had to wait for several minutes to be located. Rufus will not accept no birds on his course, he simply expands his search until one is located. The last 25 minutes of his brace, he covered about 45 minutes of course, making moves on the ground that few dogs are capable of in the grouse woods.

Coming in runner-up was Snyder’s Full Rage. Owned by Steve Snyder of Ellendale Minn., and handled by Scott Chaffee, "Libby" is no stranger to the winners' circle. This is her 5th time being named runner-up at an open cover dog championship. Libby gives everything she has, every time she hits the ground, and consistently performs at an elite level. She is a first class bird finder and is very pleasing to the eye when she works.

Thank you to all the local, outstate, old, and new participants that made this an event to remember. Special thanks to the judges, Justin and Ben.

Mora, Minn., October 4

Judges: Justin McGrail and Ben McKean


[One-Hour Heats] — 7 Pointers and 23 Setters

Winner—RUFUS DEL FUEGO, 1656494, setter male, by Pine Straw Smudge—Rouge River Bogsucker. Neil Anderson, owner and handler.

Runner-Up—SNYDER’S FULL RAGE, 1655749, setter female, by Keystone’s Red Rage—Full Tilt. Steven Snyder, owner; Scott Chaffee, handler.

Judges: William Frahm and John McKellop III


3 Pointers and 4 Setters

1st—I’M EASY MONEY, 1693862, setter male, by Jetwood—I’m Blue Who. Kyle Peterson, owner; Ryan Hough, handler.

2d—NORTHERN LIGHTS ELARA, 1697276, setter female, by Northern lights Sirius—Lake Effect Tilly. Sigmund Degitz, owner and handler.

3d—LAKE EFFECT CLEOPATRA, 1694846, setter female, by Northern Lights Sirius—Lake Effect Tilly. Tim Kaufman, owner and handler.


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