American Field

2016 National Open Shooting Dog Champion is Honored

By Darron Hendley | Mar 15, 2017
From left: Dr. Jerry Champion, president of National Open Shooting Dog Association; Mr. Dwight Smith, secretary-treasurer; Mrs. Becky Gibson and Tony Gibson with Ross Young painting of Conecuh’s Shoe Shine.

A festive affair honoring the 2016 National Open Shooting Dog Champion, Conecuh’s Shoe Shine, was held at the Union Springs Country Club on February 8. The event was attended by over 150 bird dog aficionados from all over the United States, hosted by the dog’s owners Tony Gibson and his lovely wife Becky. Tony and Becky greeted arriving friends and family from near and far at the door thanking them for sharing this joyous occasion.

Everyone was treated to the traditional finger-licking good southern delicacy of fried quail and cheese grits with all the fixings. Once the crowd leaned back in their chairs and started rubbing their bellies, Dr. Jerry Champion, president of the National Open Shooting Dog Championship Association, and Mr. Dwight Smith, secretary- treasurer, called everyone’s attention to center stage for the unveiling and presentation of a beautiful original oil painting of Conecuh’s Shoe Shine by master artist Ross Young.

Shoe Shine’s story was recounted by several speakers. He was sired by another one of Tony’s great field trial dogs, Conecuh’s Black Market. Two of Black Market’s most notable wins were the Georgia Derby Championship and runner-up laurels in the National Amateur Free-for-All Championship.

Black Market was bred to a female under the care of well known Tennessee breeder and trainer, Buddy Smith. The mating produced a precocious little white and black puppy that was amply named “Shoe Shine” for his penchant to rub up against your feet when he wanted attention.

Tony acquired Shoe Shine as a puppy and promptly started him on his way to greatness. Tony started running him in field trials as a two-year-old in amateur and open Derby stakes. Shoe Shine’s potential was evident. He stood out head and shoulders above the competition. At the end of his Derby season, Tony gave Shoe Shine the opportunity to go down in history as one of the best. Shoe Shine was placed with South Georgia professional handler and trainer Doug Ray who polished, and polished and polished some more until Shoe Shine was ready to hit the big time.

It is no easy feat to reach the National Shooting Dog Championship trial. The season begins with hundreds of potential candidates, each with hopeful owners and hardworking trainers ready to campaign their best canine athletes. Qualifying field trials are held all over the United States and Canada to select which dogs make it. Shoe Shine got the runner-up nod at the National Priairie Chicken Shooting Dog Championship in Wisconsin. Shoe Shine was three years old. The focus was now on the big dance.

Sixty-three of the best shooting dogs showed up at Sedgefields Plantation in Union Springs, Ala., for the 2016 National Open Shooting Dog Championship. It is winner-take-all stake; no runner-up is named. You rarely hear field trialers brag about their dog.

Shoe Shine was at the top of his game and won it all with a performance any bird hunter would enjoy watching.

Tony contributes much of Shoe Shine’s success to his superior olfactory senses and natural physical strength. He has an unrelenting desire to find game and once he does, he appears to swell with pride, head high and with a poker straight tail, a trait that goes back to his grandmother, Blackhawk’s Meg, a producer of multiple field trial champions.

I would be remiss to not mention all that Tony and Becky Gibson do for the sport of field trials. Yes, they will have many great dogs in the record books to be admired for years to come. But, it is what they do personally for this sport that will endure for generations.

Congratulations to Conecuh’s Shoe Shine, and thank you Tony and Becky Gibson!

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