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Field Trial Report

Alabama Open Shooting Dog Championship

By Lisa Littell | Nov 23, 2021
Championship Winners. From left to right: Will Dunn (judge), Mike Tracy with Waybetter Rocky, Robert Moorer, Steve Hutto, Casey Hollander with Bail Me Out; Hunter McDuffie, Wyatt Puckett, Sean Hauser (judge) and George Tracy.

Union Springs, Ala. — The 2021 Alabama Open Shooting Dog Championship turned ’em loose on Wednesday, October 27, at Conecuh Station Plantation in Union Springs, Ala. The record-breaking 125 dog entry in the Conecuh Station Open delayed the running of the Amateur stake by two days. The 64 -dog entry in the Alabama, also a record breaker, caused a delay in the running of the Dixie.

There are not enough words to thank Tony and Becky Gibson for their generosity in sharing these cherished Conecuh Station Plantation grounds. Their dedication to our beloved sport is inestimable, and their example has fostered and perpetuated these traditions, not only to the trials and competitors in Bullock County, the field trial capital of the world, but is a lodestar to the institution of field trialing and sportsmanship.

It was 53° on a clear Alabama morning, and the lumbering early morning sounds at the Field Trial Barn slowly grew more precise in tempo, reaching their Pavlovian crescendo with the rumblings of Kenneth Newman’s tractor. Kenny has been expertly piloting the dog wagon chariot at Conecuh Station for more years than anyone can remember, each morning going up the line with a deliberate and measured pace, retrieving and delivering dogs, passengers and the occasional doffs. Cutting of the engine at the line signals the start of the day.

The trial was judged by Will Dunn of Lebanon, Ky., and Sean Hauser of Manchester, Ia., and Georgia. “All-Age guys . . . how that will work out?” It worked perfectly. They are more than individuals who traditionally campaign dog on the all-age circuit; they are dedicated sportsmen who know the standards better than most, who watched each entry with full focus and attention and served humbly and with honor. They respected each entry, the landowners, and each person involved in the trial, and they maintained all judicial standards of ethics on and off the courses.

Sean was accompanied by his lovely wife Debra on Saturday. Deb works hard to ensure trial news, photos, drawings and results are timely shared on her Facebook page, Field Trial Bird Dogs. Thoughts and prayers of the entire Alabama field trial community are with Deb as she recovers from a recent Achilles tendon rupture. We hope to see you back in the saddle again soon!

THE COMPETITION

Mike Tracy set the tone in the first brace with Waybetter Rocky. The noble white and orange pointer male was scouted by Jack Kimbrell. Conecuh Station Trump, a classy setter male was handled by Bo Brewer and scouted by Doug Ray. Both dogs flew the Chute and branched off to hunt.

Rocky had a find at 13 with an impressive covey rise, his bracemate honoring, followed by a nice showing at the turn at 20. Trump had a picture-perfect find before the turn at 21. Rocky found more birds at 25 near Bird Alley, and Trump duly backed. Rocky scored another covey at 36 at the Chopper Field followed by another at 41 at the Tiki Hut. Trump, holding his position, carded a covey at 48. Tracy called point at 51. Rocky was standing solid, Trump honoring, and birds flew. With both dogs making a wide swing through Love Oak Ridge, we ended the hour at the Shop.

Michael Martino and Mike Tracy were up next in No. 2 with Backcountry Buddy and Faithful. Tracy had a single beside the lake and Buddy was up at 5. Martino locked in at 15 east of the Cabin followed by an unproductive relocation at 19 and another relocation at 46 on the West Lake Ridge.

Anthony Martino and Mike Tracy were on the line next with Sam and Cheyenne Jack, respectively. Backed by Sam, Jack had a good find at 6 at the feed trail past the cemetery. After two unsuccessful relocations at 24 and 34 we were headed back to the house.

After lunch, we turned loose on the new afternoon courses. Tony Gibson and his crew have worked tirelessly to make way for a new afternoon route, turning these grounds into a stellar, six-course venue. Brace No. 4 was Conecuh Station Romeo (Bo Brewer) and scouted by Doug Ray, and George and Mike Tracy with Miller’s Heat Seeker, starting with a divided find at Tripod Pond. Bo called point at 33, and all was in order. George raised his hat at 37 for another picture-perfect covey. The pair had a divided attempt at 43, and Romeo was up at 44. Heat Seeker finished strong behind the Cabin.

Erin’s Tough Grit with Tommy Rice and scout Hannah Wright and Miller’s Record Heat with Mike Tracy and Jack Kimbrell were on the line for No. 5. After a nice race, Record Heat was up at 27. Tough Grit encountered game at 40, a good find, and another at 50 by the Lilly Pad Pond, and we finished near the Landing Strip.

We were too slow for Osceolla’s Seminole Wind and LF Silverbell, and Mike Tracy and Doug Ray exited contention at 15 and 17.

After strong storms Wednesday night, our second day started at 9 a.m. in a light mist and under cloudy skies, Mike Tracy and Bully Rock and Doug Ray with Absolute Dominator, owned by Johnny and Joyce Taylor who were in attendance. Dominator, however, was not in attendance long, and Ray called for it at 11. Bully Rock had good finds at 33 and 38, and we were up at the Chopper Field.

The sun was out by brace No. 8, and it shone brightly on Mike Tracy with Bittersweet War Cry. We turned loose at the Chopper Field. War Cry put on a show with a find at 10 at the turn before the Love Oak, and an impressive cast at Red Hill. Michael Martino and Panther Creek Gunsmoke had a classy, Rutland perfect find at 22 near the Equipment Shed. War Cry found another covey at 26 behind the Cabin and a perfect finishing find by West Lake Ridge.

Doug Ray and Mike Tracy turned Hatteras Riptide and Iron Bully loose at the pond dam for the last brace of day two, and after a good find by Tracy at the feed strip by the cemetery at 4. We ended the morning at 14 at the Crossroads.

Doug and Mike were together again in brace ten with Pinson’s Imagine That and Miller’s Braveheartt. Ray called point at Tripod Pond, with Braveheart backing. After an unsuccessful relocation, it was déjà vu all over again for the pair, and they tried again at 20 by the Cabin, and Imagine That’s brace was over, followed by his bracemate at 35.

Brace No. 11 was loosed at the Lilly Pad Pond, with Dominator’s Ghost Rider (Ray) and Grand Prairie Thrill (Rice). The assistance of global positioning systems was requested.

The last brace of the day — Michael Martino with Sandhill Mayberry and Miller’s Blazing Hot Chick with Mike Tracy. Mayberry worked the course, with an unsuccessful relocation at 12 above the Big Bottom followed by a nice find on West Lake Ridge at 19 and another at the lake at 24.

It was 57° Friday morning with overcast skies. Miller’s Upgrading the Ante (G. Tracy) and Panther Creek Merlin (M. Martino) were called to the line. Frank Rutland was in attendance to watch his Merlin. After a divided find at 15 at the turn before the green field, Merlin was flying solo, and oh how he rolled. With a flawless covey rise at 21 on the Knoll he sailed around the turn like a dream. He stayed off the road and hunted in deep. All eyes were on Merlin when he disappeared. The ride into the woods to deliver the retrieval device was heartbreaking. He was found on point buried deep under cover. I rode up the birds. He never moved.

No rest for the weary. Michael Martino was on the line again in No. 14 with Apple Annie’s Sweet Delight, Doug Ray with Hard Truth. Turning loose at the Love Oak, Hard Truth tallied three finds around the lake at 11, 15 and 19. After an unproductive relocation at 31, Hard Truth went in deep, and the  retrieval device was out at 58. Martino called point at 26 at the Little Conecuh River but went without birds, and we finished on the hill.

We turned the fifteenth brace loose. After a divided relocation proved fruitless, we were done by 11:00 a.m.

The first afternoon brace saw Darron Hendley call point for Pineywoods Bellaire at 6, but her birds eluded him. Belle went on to swing a wide cast before running herself out of contention. Anthony Martino and Grace were up at 17 and No. 16 was in the books.

Twin Willow Ice, classy white and black female owned by Addison McDuffie, and the 2021 National Amateur Free-for-All Champion, was handled by Bobby Hartwig and scouted by Hunter McDuffie. George Tracy and Casey Hollander met the challenge with High Drive Fancy Pants. Turning loose at broken branch crossroads. Fancy Pants had a good find at 8. Ice  had a limb find at the North Red Road split, followed by a picturesque find in the Egyptian wheat at the base of West Lake Ridge. Ice made the turn at the North Pond Dam and headed for greener pastures. After the tracker was reluctantly relinquished, she was found on point near the North Lake Field.

Bo Brewer and George Tracy made quick work of No. 18, and that was all she wrote for Friday.

It was 56° Saturday morning. Tommy Rice and Michael Martino had Nella’s Belgium Brew and Sunbelt Repeat on the line. Brew had a relocation at 2, backed by his mate. Rice picked up at the turn, and Martino ended his running at 38 at the Chopper Field.

No. 20: Miller’s Southern Gossip and Windcreek Boomer went without birds. Both were up by 45.

Bobby Dubose and his Wonder Dog and Doug Ray with Showtime Dominator, owned by Chris Koutros, were loosed at the bottom of West Lake Ridge. They shared a divided find at 11, with Wonder Dog going on to have finds at 22 and 35, but he was up at 44. Dominator had an unsuccessful relocation at 23, followed by a perfect find at 36 and an impressive showing on the ground.

George Tracy with Armstrong Mountain Dusty and  Michael Martino with Hillhavyn Drug Runner were loosed under overcast skies. Drug Runner had a good find at 23 and was up at 25 at the Lilly Pad Pond.

No. 23. Towncreek Hardaway Pete (M. Martino) had a picturesque find at 9 and left us in the dust. Panther Creek Rosie, daughter to Panther Creek Merlin and Pineywoods Bellaire, was handled by Tommy Rice. Rosie made an impressive effort and was collared at the Cabin Crossing.

Hillhavyn Major Tom (Martino) and Charitable Deed (Rice) bolted out of the gate in No. 24, and both handlers threw in the towel at 43.

Halloween morning. Miller’s Lock N Loaded (G. Tracy) blew the Chute and was up at 15. Absolute Tornado (Ray) had a picturesque find on the Knoll and an impressive ground race. He charted another find at 49 at the Love Oak, and we finished at the Cabin Crossing.

In No. 26 Renrav Mr. Tony’s Shag (Martino) found birds at 32, and Miller’s Strolling for Gold (Tracy) at 33.

Hatteras Sandstorm (Ray) and Reedy Creek Dial Tone (M. Tracy) rounded out the morning, Dial Tone having an impressive ground race and a good find at 10 between the Twin Oaks and the Equipment Shed, where we last saw Sandstorm. Dial Tone finished strong with another find at 48.

Sunday afternoon, Michael Martino's Hillhavyn Good Time Rail rendered a solid effort with bird work at 6 and 21, but was up. Tommy Rice and OAHE Buck supported his bracemate’s efforts and carded a good find at 32 before the Lilly Pad Pond, followed by an unproductive at 35, and we were on to brace twenty-nine.

Mike Tracy and Bail Me Out met Anthony Martino and Spur at the Lilly Pad Pond. Spur was on point at 5, with Bail Me Out standing dutifully behind him. Unfortunately, despite their stature, the birds were less polite, refusing to fly. Spur went on without us, and Martino reached for it at 25. Bail Me Out,bscouted by his owner, Casey Hollander, went on to rock the Ridge loop, having perfect finds at 24, 26, 32, 36 and 58.

The last brace Sunday: Miller’s War Bonnett (M. Tracy) and Hillhavyn Drug Money (M. Martino). Tracy called point at 17, which was honored, but unfortunately, unproductive. Martino collared his dog, and Tracy was on his own for a good find at 24 at the Lilly Pad Pond.

The Mikes were back in the penultimate brace of the trial on Monday morning, Tracy with Miller’s High Heat Index and Martino with the impressive Bo Bunda. Both handlers called point at 2, with Martino on the left and Tracy on the point at the end of the Chute. After a notable ground race, Tracy scored another find at the Sand/Shop Road Intersection at 27, but he ended his race at the Chopper Field.

The final brace pitted father and son,  George Tracy handling Suemac's Tiger Rose and Mike with Miller’s Extreme Heat. Turned loose at the Chopper Field, George picked up his young dog at 5. Mike called point at the Tiki Hut at 4, but the birds eluded him. After an impressive cast through Love Oak Ridge, Mike ended his brace at the Shop, and that, as they say, was that.

Bittersweet War Cry and Showtime Dominator were on stand-by to be called back, but the need for a callback was negated by Mike Tracy and Bail Me Out Sunday afternoon. Mike took home the Henry Banks Memorial Shooting Dog revolving trophy for the second year in a row, along with the runner-up bowl, winning both titles after stellar performances by Waybetter Rocky and Bail Me Out.

The 2021 Alabama Open Shooting Dog Champion Waybetter Rocky is owned by Bill and Muriel Primm of New Jersey and Carl and Collin Bishop of Pennsylvania. In Rocky’s seven years he has taken the title of champion no less than thirteen times. He was the Purina Shooting Dog of the year in 2020. He has had at least thirty one-hour placements, several runner-up titles and two Futurity wins.

Runner-up Champion Bail Me Out is owned by Casey Hollander of Blakely, Ga., and has a Championship title under his belt, now two runner-up titles, and six classic wins.

Union Springs, Ala., October 27

Judges: Will Dunn and Sean Hauser

ALABAMA OPEN SHOOTING DOG CHAMPIONSHIP

[One-Hour Heats] — 61 Pointers and 3 Setters

Winner—WAYBETTER ROCKY, 1652783, pointer male, by Brown’s Tom Tom—Waybetter Reba. Muriel & Bill Primm, Carl, Collin & Bishop Joyce, owners; Mike Tracy, handler.

Runner-Up—BAIL ME OUT, 1659355, pointer male, by Great River Ice—Summerhill Black Label. Casey Hollander, owner; Mike Tracy, handler.

APPRECIATIATIVE POSTSCRIPT

A special thank you to Purina and Greg Blair for their support. Purina donated dog feed to the winners and provided the ad for the trial. Also, a big thank you to SportDog and Jim Morehouse for donating tracking collars to the winners. The club, officials and participants extend their most sincere gratitude for the generosity of these sponsors. We appreciate their continued support of our trials. We are grateful for their friendship, and we look forward to the honor of their continued patronage.

The Alabama Shooting Dog Championship is presented by the Sedgefields Field Trial Club. This club is responsible two of the most important and historic trials in the country, the Alabama Open Shooting Dog Championship and the Dixie Open. They also hosted the inaugural running of the Shenandoah Derby on November 12, 2021.

The Sedgefields Club is helmed by Cecelia Moorer, Joe Moorer, Robert Moorer, Jamye Leigh Chittam, Mike Green, Ted Roach, Hunter McDuffie, Bobby Hartwig, Bill Lee and Tony Gibson. These men and women work extremely hard to ensure these trials go off without a hitch.

Robert, our fearless leader on the ground also handles a myriad of tasks during the trial, not the least of which is maintaining and enforcing order and sportsmanship. The club made sure to see that no detail went unattended.

Cecelia and Jayme Leigh managed the drawing, which was held at the Union Springs Country Club on Thursday, October 21.

If you went hungry at this trial, it was your own fault. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were provided at no charge. Breakfast was expertly prepared every morning by George Cole and Faye Duncan. Competitors and attendees were treated to fresh biscuits, scrambled eggs, fresh fried eggs, sausages, country ham, bacon and more! Their cheerful welcome each morning revived even the weariest trialers.

Chef Ban Stewart prepared delicious and healthy hot lunches each day, including London broil, beef roast, catfish, fresh and roasted vegetables, rutabaga mash and more! Renee Peek and Connie Hicks treated us on Halloween with camp stew and collard green soup and a cornucopia of sweet treats. It was a hearty Halloween treat.

Monday night’s supper was provided by Casey Hollander and Stanton Harrell, owners of last year’s winner, Miller’s High Heat Index. A feast of tomato garlic chicken was prepared by Ban Stewart. Selena Moorer made her famous spaghetti for us one night, and it warmed all the souls.

The Greenway Sportsman Club hosted a shrimp boil on Saturday night with live music and a trick or treat event for the kids.

 

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