American Field

Field Trial Report

National Amateur Grouse Championship

By Bob Wheelock | Feb 02, 2012
The Winners. From left: Judge Matt Mentz, Bob Grassi with Upper Cove Billie Babe, Deb Levitan, Ron Levitan, Tom Vanecek, Judge Harold Holmes, Russ Gingras with Birch Run Susie Q and Bob Wheelock.

Meredith, Mich. — The  Gladwin Field Trial Grounds was the site of the 2011 renewal of the National Amateur Grouse Championship hosted by the Michigan Amateur Field Trial Club.

Temperatures cooled. We had a wide variety of weather, from driving rain to gale force wind, calm and damp and then on Sunday near perfect conditions. In Michigan the grouse cycle is at a high and the woodcock are always abundant at Gladwin. The courses were in great shape, the Alibi was freshly painted and the paddocks were updated. We were ready to roll.

Matt Mentz of Prattsburg, N. Y., was a returning judge from the 2010 Championship in Pennsylvania. Matt was paired with Dr. Harold Holmes of Flint, Mich. In the cover dog world neither man requires an introduction. They are well known, well respected and have been involved in field trials as long as anyone can recall.

When the stake ended at noon on Sunday, the judges named Upper Cove Billie Babe, owned and handled by Bob Grassi of Washington, Pa., the 2011 National Amateur Grouse Champion. Runner-up honors went to Birch Run Susie Q, owned and handled by Russ Gingras of Fife Lake, Mich. Both dogs ran in the last two braces of the stake and Tom Vanecek scouted both dogs.

Upper Cove Billie Babe was drawn in brace No. 23 with Shocka Zulu, handled by Bill Nettles. Course No. 3 starts in an aspen cut and most handlers take a slow pace through this cover. Not these two handlers. At breakaway I think they out paced their dogs. Handlers were tearing through the cover and the dogs were keeping pace. Billie Babe worked steady and forward. Zulu was everywhere and Bill had his hands full keeping him in check. At 23 we crossed to course No. 4 and this reporter wondered if we had enough course left to finish this brace. At 36 Billie stopped on the left in open timber. She was tall and looking good as a grouse took wing, the shot was fired and all was in order. At 40, 90 yards in, Billie stopped again. As Grassi came to flush a grouse was seen running, then flew. Billie again was standing tall and steady. Bob collared her back to the course.

At 42 Bill and Zulu caught the front where at 46 Zulu had an unproductive. As we reached the end of course No. 4 Billie Babe dug deep into the large cut at the end. At 55 her bell was silent. Handler, scout and judge went in. After time her bell started up and she came strongly out of the cut and was rounded up. Billie ran a nice race, quick and steady, hit the objectives and was pleasing to watch.

The last brace of the stake — Birch Run Susie (Gingras) and Wild Apple Faith (Ken DeLong) — was slated for course No. 5-6. Breakaway was at 10:59 a. m., the breeze kicking up.

Susie Q broke hard with a large cast to the left through pole timber and into a nice aspen cut. She stopped at 22; Russ moved her on immediately. Faith started shorter but worked well through the cover. As the dogs crossed the road at east gate junction the action started. At 28 both dogs stopped but were separated by some distance. Woodcock were produced for the two and all was in order. At 32 we had a carbon copy of the previous stand and woodcock were again produced for both dogs. At 24 Faith stopped, was relocated and stuck another woodcock. At 27 Susie Q had a woodcock. She looked good standing tall in the thick aspen cut. Susie then headed through the open cover as we crossed onto course No. 6. We turned a corner and she was standing tall on the trail. As Russ approached a grouse lifted and flew low across the field. Susie was on fire, digging hard, moving fast to the front and Russ had a good handle on her. At 44 she stopped for a fifth time; a woodcock was produced. At 55 she had her sixth bird, then finished going away, as strong as she started.

At 40 Faith’s bell could not be heard. We went in looking but couldn’t find her. She was up front with her bracemate and finished the hour strong and fast.

Other dogs that the judges recognized: Texas Copper Top was beautiful on the ground, fast, fancy and scoured the woods looking for birds. One grouse find, a divided woodcock; carried first until the last day. Eric Naus’ Pine Hill Silent Echo mounted a serious challenge. She had a strong flowing beautiful forward race, three immaculate woodcock finds, also carried until the last day.

Once again the officers, members and all in attendance put their best effort forward to make this weekend flow smoothly. The efforts of Rich Hollister and Kit Foster, our two vice-presidents, Chris Demattio, secretary-treasurer, Tom Vanecek, Ron Levitan and Bernie Bauman, directors, and myself as president. Throughout the trial things flowed smoothly as Chris DeMattio organized the movement of trucks with the help of Malcolm Sias, Cliff Milbrandt, Bryan Wood, Brent and Denise Peters, Eric and Ann Naus.

Every brace was marshalled, Tom Vanecek and Ron Levitan with a yeoman’s effort each day. You can’t tire these men out. Russ Gingras, Sean McKellip, Kevin Kline and others pitched in. This reporter had a horse incident the first day, a tree, a stump and a rock. I was helped out a couple days by Bernie Bauman and Ron Levitan and back in the saddle Saturday afternoon.

Dinner Saturday night in honor of our fine sponsor Purina was well attended. Captain Ron and Deb Levitan again came through with their now renowned walleye fish fry. It was a wonderful night. Purina representative Dean Reinke was in attendance for the dinner and spent a couple days walking braces and meeting with old friends.

Dale Hernden, down from his trout camp on the Ausable River, a principal in initiating, organizing and running the inaugural National Amateur Grouse Championship, joined us. [See Dale’s fine article in the September 10, 2011 issue of The Field about the initiation of this fine Championship.]


The first brace broke away on course No. 1 at 8:06 a. m. on a foggy Thursday morning, rain threatening.

Texas Red Hot (Kevin Klein) and Quail Trap Max (Ken Moss) dug in strong as the cover starts right off the leash on this course. At 8 Max stopped to the left in a small pine plantation. As Ken went in to flush a grouse took to wing and Max went with it. At 11 Red Hot stopped but Kevin could not put a bird to flight. Red Hot finished birdless with a steady and forward race.

Norton (Ed Morgan) and Wintergreen Max (Mickey Fancher). At the breakaway Max blew right through the cut at the beginning of course No. 3 and went forward out of bell range. Norton worked wide left through the cut working it thoroughly but was not handling this day. At 12 Ed called for the tracker. Max was moving far forward in and out of bell range. At the cross over to course No. 4 Max was on a leash.

At the breakaway Bad River Frankie (Tom Vanecek) went strong to the front, Been There (Ed Morgan) moving a little slower but working the cover. At 16 Frankie looked good pinning a woodcock. At 23 both dogs were standing and a divided find on a woodcock was recorded, both dogs looking fine. At 52 Frankie was leashed after he was seen under a woodcock. Been There finished the hour with a smooth race.

Quail Trap Sadie (Moss) broke away strong and fast and well to the front. North Wind Dancer (Reggie Durant) ran to the front but stayed back. Both dogs stopped at 17, each on their own, but no bird could be produced by either handler. At 21 both dogs were together standing tall and a divided woodcock find was recorded. At 27 Wind Dancer was under a bird and leashed. Sadie was running hard and forward, had a woodcock at 30, another at 33 and finished strong and forward.

Vitali’s Grouse Ringer Purdy (Gary Vitali) and Upper Cove Desert Devil (Grassi) worked hard and hit the cover but to no avail. Desert Devil had an unproductive at 15, Purdy with the same at 58.

Mains One Dot stopped at 5 but Tom Mains wasn’t able to produce a bird. Dot relocated and we heard a cry. She had run into deadfall and pierced her abdomen. A quick trip to the local vet, a bit of surgery and all is well with Dot. Ghost Train Liz (Tom Fruchey) continued forward, steadily working through the cut. At 20 the bell stopped and Tom produced a woodcock. All was in order. Liz moved forward and got further away as the hour ran on. She was lost at time.

Roger Johnson with Springpond Marshall, Brent Peters with Captain Jack wrapped up the first day. Both dogs moved well at the start and hunted hard. Marshall took a bender somewhere in the distance and was lost at 10. Jack was forward but couldn’t pin a bird. He was gone at 42 and the day’s action ended.

Friday morning we were back to course No. 1 with Vitali’s Grouseringer Sam I Am and Wintergreen Cody with Mickey Fancher. It was a short brace, both dogs trying to root a porcupine off the course. Sam went to the vet, Cody wasn’t near as bad; his quills would be removed on the tailgate.

Moss Meadow Traveler (Ken Moss) broke away hard and fast and stayed forward for the hour. Texas O’Riley (Klein) was shorter and more lateral. Both dogs finished birdless. The judges commented Traveler had run a championship race Mickey Fancher with Wintergreen Foster and Chuck Rowling with Rowling’s Lone Ranger. Foster ran nice and to the front but Mickey had a difficult time keeping him in check. He was lost at 25. Lone Ranger worked hard, hit all the right spots, finished the hour but went birdless on this day.

Course No. 7-8 starts through a nice cut that has held many a grouse and always has woodcock. Pine Straw Katydid (Mike Reeves) and Texas Copper Top (Klein) hit it hard. Katy stopped at 2 but no bird was produced. At 4 Copper Top had the same experience. Both dogs were back ahead. At 29 both were standing, a woodcock flew and a divided find was recorded. At 32 Katy was found backing Copper Top. Another woodcock, all in order. At 38 the same scenario, Katy backing Copper Top. This time a grouse blew out in front of Copper Top. Both dogs continued strong to the front, Katy finishing the hour, Copper Top with an unproductive at 58 before finishing strong.

Lucky Luke Star (George Najor) and John’s River Pearl (John Crisenbery) were away on course No. 9 heading strongly up the hill. This is a twisty hilly course and in the wind it can be a challenge to keep track of a dog. That’s what occurred. Star was lost at 35. John was not happy and leashed Pearl at 45.

The weather was changing, rain and wind coming. Mains Sunshine Hunter (Mains) and River’s Edge Duke (Pat Cooke) were unleashed on course No. 11. Hunter put in a nice effort, ran bigger than his bracemate and finished the hour birdless. Duke ran a more lateral race, hit the right spot but on this day and this course a bird could not be pointed.

The rain quit as Sutter’s Harley Blue (Larry Sutter) and Ruby’s Shadow (Bob Wheelock) were loosed. At 6 Blue stopped deep on the left. As Larry went in Shadow came across and backed. No bird was produced and both dogs were released. They charged forward. At 13 Blue stopped again. As the handler walked in a woodcock lifted and Blue went with it. At 15 Shadow stood tall and a woodcock was produced, all in order. Shadow continued forward, hard charging, and finished the hour strong and away.

Saturday morning. K Del’s Wanbli Owankiye (Ken DeLong) was forward and strong for the first 30, hitting the cover in a manner we are all familiar with. She slowed as the hour progressed. At 54 she stopped, no bird produced. Wanbli finished the hour. Miss Canada (Greg Hilla) also started strong, running wide and fast. She backed Wanbli at 54 and had an unproductive at 58. She finished the hour.

Two Ohio grouse trialers, Chris DeMattio with Willowood’s L L Bean and Pete Casgrain with Star’s Misty Willow. Both broke hard into the cut at the start of No. 3, working steadily. They went through this area without a stop. At 20 Bean stopped and a grouse was sent to flight, all in order. At 58 Bean’s bell was silent again and a woodcock flew, all in order. Bean finished the hour with a controlled and steady race. Willow was digging hard and hitting all the likely spots. She had a vacant stand early on and a woodcock at 58. Willow finished the hour still digging hard.

Following a coffee and pastry break we moved the horses down to course No. 5 which starts out open and wide and breakaway is always enjoyable. The course then winds in and out of good cover and pole timber. Mike Reeves’ Chip’s Charlie Brown and Call Me Kate (Craig Merlington) broke away hard and fast, reaching out. Craig had a difficult time keeping Kate in check and lost her before the road crossing at 30. Charlie Brown was standing nicely at 35; a woodcock was produced. Now in a large and heavy cut, Charlie Brown dug in forward. The bell stopped fast and deep at 45. Both judges, the handler and scout looked in every corner but they couldn’t find Charlie Brown. Time ran out.

It was a short breakaway on course No. 7. Sutter’s Grouse Wing Rowdie (Larry Sutter) and Pinehill Silent Echo (Eric Naus) dug into the cut but no birds were produced in this section. Echo was running hard, digging in, deep and forward. Echo’s bell was silent as we crossed Trestle Junction at 27. Looking down the river Echo was standing tall on the river’s edge, a gorgeous sight. Eric worked his way through the alder and a woodcock flew. It was a beautiful play. Back to course, she headed forward up the hill to course No. 8. As we crested the hill her bell stopped again. Another woodcock was produced at 32. At 35 Echo’s bell stopped for a third time. She relocated and stuck another woodcock, standing tall and looking great. She finished the hour as she started, hard charging, digging deep and moving forward. She was carried until the final day. At 39 Rowdie and Mr. Sutter caught up to the front. At 39 Rowdie’s bell stopped but the stand was barren. At 44 Rowdie was standing again. As handler went in he started up. Rowdie was leashed at 46.

The weather was now breezy and clear. Dun Roven’s Gentleman Doc (Klein) and Pat Cooke’s River’s Edge Sadie hit the cover hard on course No. 9, working hard through this hilly course. Sadie stopped at 8, all in order as a woodcock lifted. Doc was digging deep to the left. At 12 his bell drifted out of range and he wasn’t seen or heard again on this brace. Sadie continued forward as the wind increased. She got sticky as we crossed the road and entered the aspen cut. She worked forward through the cut, into the pole timber and moved into the next cut. At 47 in a nice piece of cover she had a stop to flush on a grouse. She finished forward.

The wind had laid and Dun Roven’s Gary (Klein) and Hifive’s Magickal Merlin (Brent Peters) worked at a steady and pleasant pace. At 13 Gary stopped next to the trail but no bird was produced. At 17 he stopped again; as Kevin approached a grouse flew high and strong, all in order. Merlin was running hard and big and was a challenge to keep in check. Gary had another unproductive at 37. At 55 Merlin stopped, relocated, was tentative. Gary came in the area and stopped, screwed sideways and very intense. Merlin was stopped but looking about. As handlers tried to determine their approach two grouse lifted and Gary went with the shot. He was done, so was the hour.

No. 13 begins in a nice aspen cut and Elhew Juniper (Reggie Durant) and Ramblin Ruby Lou (Wheelock) dug in and started hunting. At 4 at the first road crossing Ruby was standing under a pine on road edge. No bird was produced. Ruby then ran forward out of bell range. June stayed close working at a steady pace. At 20 June stopped on the left at the edge of pole timber. As Reggie walked in Ruby was standing in front, June backing. Wheelock flushed and released Ruby to relocate. She moved immediately forward and we were back on course digging hard, fast and forward. June continued at her steady pace. At 50 Ruby stuck a woodcock, all in order. She finished as she started, strong and forward. June ran out of steam as we hit the hilly end of this course.

Sunday was a day we all wish for when we enter the grouse woods: calm and cool, perfect conditions to run dogs and point birds. Three braces to go and this trial was ready to be won.

Course No. 1: Grouse River Ace (Bryan Wood) broke hard and fast to the front, and Ghost Train Whirlwind (Tom Fruchey) was behind but dug in hard as the cover starts early on this course. Both dogs were working hard, Ace deep to the front and “Greta” working at steady pace but shorter. At 14 Greta stopped near the trail. A grouse flew and she looked good. After this find she was fired up and digging deeper. Bryan was challenged to keep Ace in check; he was out front and moving fast and steady. Both dogs worked through the end of course No. 1. As we reached the river Greta’s bell was gone and the scout was sent in. Ace hit the road at the tubes and headed left, the course headed right. Both handlers, scouts and judges searched long and hard. We never moved from the road crossing. Ace was leashed at 50; Greta was lost to judgment at the same time.

Braces No. 23 and No. 24 were noted.

Meredith, Mich., October 2

Judges: Dr. Harold. J. Holmes and Matt Mentz


[One-Hour Heats] — 48 Entries

Winner—UPPER COVE BILLIE BABE, 1591856, setter female, by Shady Hills Billy—Grouse River Princess. Robert Grassi, owner and handler.

Runner-Up—BIRCH RUN SUSIE Q, 1604082, setter female, by Taz—Miss Canada. Russell Gingras, owner and handler.


Kevin Klein of Waterford, Pa., and Larry Sutter of Streetsboro, Ohio saddled up for the Puppy Stake. Call Me Maggie, setter female owned by Craig Merlington, took the blue ribbon, followed by Pepper Jack Wood, setter male owned and handled by John Bodo, and Ehde’s Noname, handled by Andy Ehde.

Ron Sposita of Milford, Mich., and John Crisenbery of St. Clair, Mich., judged the Derby. First was awarded to Hifive’s Rockaby Baby, pointer female owned and handled by Mike Lareau. Second was Ghost Train Cody, setter male owned by Ghost Train Kennels and handled by Tom Fruchey. Third was Pine Straw Smudge, setter male owned and handled by Mike Reeves.

Judges: John Crisenbery and Ron Sposita

AMATEUR DERBY — 13 Entries

1st—HIFIVE’S ROCKABY BABY, 1624468, pointer female, by Hifive’s Rock Solid—Hifive’s Dancing Shadow. Mike Lareau, owner and handler.

2d—GHOST TRAIN CODY, 1624794, setter male, by Lilleyhill’s Secret Stash—Full Tilt. Ghost Train Kennels, owner; Tom Fruchey, handler.

3d—PINE STRAW SMUDGE, 1622040, setter male, by Chip’s Torquato—Pine Straw Katydid. Mike Reeves & K. Amber Duff, owners; Mike Reeves, handler.

Judges: Kevin Klein and Larry Sutter

AMATEUR PUPPY — 11 Entries

1st—CALL ME MAGGIE, 1629871, setter female, by Lilleyhill’s Secret Stash—Call Me Kate. Craig Merlington, owner and handler.

2d—PEPPER JACK WOOD, 1627023, setter male, by Terhaar’s Elvis—Grouse River Princess. John Bodo, owner and handler.

3d—EHDE’s NONAME, 1629850, setter male, by Terhaar’s Rocko—Terhaar’s Ivy. Andrew Ehde, owner and handler.

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