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Field Trial Report

American Brittany Club Prairie Chicken Championship

By Ken Windom | Oct 06, 2017
The Winners. From left: Carla Tracy, Raus Tracy, Judge Stan Williamson, Tom Tracy with Roustabout’s Eustace, Stan Truksa, Burton Wice with Driving Miss Daisy, Judge Ken Windom, Mary Karbiner, Ben Kuykendall, Tom Milam and Carolyn Kuykendall.

Bassett, Neb. — The 2017 renewal of the American Brittany Club’s Prairie Chicken Championship, hosted by the Nebraska Brittany Club, commenced September 18 on  the Ted Morton Cattle Ranch and surrounding properties. Fifty dogs vied for the title of champion of this prestigious event.

Professional and amateur handlers alike, from Texas to Tennessee to Idaho, convened for the only remaining wild bird championship sponsored by the American Brittany Club.

This year’s winner was Roustabout’s Eustace, five-year-old orange roan male owned by Dave Capstick of Janesburg, Mo., and handled by Tommy Tracy, Jr. Tee, as he is called, ran in the third brace of the first day and put down a solid, wide-ranging all-age run with two well-spaced finds several hundred yards away from his handler. He was also credited with a stop to flush, which he handled with immaculate manners.

Runner-up laurels went to Driving Miss Daisy, five-year-old white and orange female owned by Burton Wice of Creve Coeur, Mo., and also handled by Tommy Tracy, Jr. Daisy ran in the last brace of the stake and had a pleasing forward race, taking many edges at good range. She had one find, two backs, and a stop to flush during her hour, and was very stylish on them all.

Pressing these two dogs was perennial winner Glade Run Irish, eight-year-old white and orange male owned by David Webb of Valencia, Pa. Irish was also handled by Tommy Tracy, Jr. Irish rendered a strong, forward race, with two stylish finds. Also in the mix was McChesney’s I Got My Mojo Working, seven-year-old white and orange male owned by John Chejne and Connie McCaffrey of Rossville, Minn., and handled by Scott Johnson. Mojo had a big first half, though not always forward, and scored two mannerly finds during his hour.

The Ted Morton Ranch lies in the northeastern portion of the Nebraska Sand Hills, a geological terrain comprising an ancient dune field that formed from wind-blown sediment released from the continental-scale ice sheets that once covered much of North America. As the climate warmed, grasses and other vegetation gained a foothold, forming the vast prairies of North America. These grasses and other plants stabilized the sand dunes, forming what is now the Sand Hills. Native birds,

especially grouse, adapted to the resultant prairies. Among the several species of grouse inhabiting these grasslands is the Greater Prairie Chicken (Tympanuchus cupido). Modern agricultural practices have modified or destroyed much of the natural habitat for this species, greatly restricting its current range. Only parts of Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and isolated regions of Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois maintain habitat suitable for this species. Most of these states no longer allow hunting of this once popular game bird. The nature of the Sand Hills is not conducive to the planting of row-crops; however, thus maintaining a habitat for these grassland-loving birds.

The American Brittany Club began holding a field trial dedicated specifically to the Greater Prairie Chicken in 1964, under the guidance of Rand Constale, aka “Mr. Chicken”. The initial running was held in Wisconsin, hosted by the Badger Brittany Club. It continued at that venue for a decade, then began alternating between Wisconsin and the Nebraska Sand Hills, with members of the Missouri Valley Club organizing the event. Since 2001, it has been run exclusively in Nebraska, the Nebraska Brittany Club taking over as the host club in 2011.

Putting on an event of this magnitude requires months of preparation beforehand and a lot of work during and after the actual trial. Stan and Claudia Truksa of Firth, Neb., have been the go-to couple for several years who keep this Championship alive. In addition to taking entries and handling the drawing, Claudia maintains contact with the landowners and others in the nearby town of Bassett, Neb., to ensure everything is in place. She also drives the dog wagon, ably assisted by Linda Milam, Jerry McGee, Mary Karbiner, and Ted Morton and his tractor.

Stan Truksa acts as the marshal, keeping everyone on course and making sure the gates are opened for the handlers, judges, and gallery. He and Jerry McGee laid out the six one-hour courses utilized in this Championship.

Adjudicating this year’s trial were two well-known Midwest Brittany people, Stan Williamson, currently from Missouri, and Ken Windom from Iowa.

Field events of this magnitude would not be possible without the generous support of our corporate sponsors,

Purina and Garmin. These fine companies have long been advocates for horse-handled field trials, among their many other sponsorships, and we greatly appreciate all they do for dog-related field sports in general and the American Brittany Club in particular.

We also thank the landowners who allowed us to utilize their properties for this event: Ted Morton, Curtis Luther, Wade Dearmont, and Butch Fischer.

Jeana Harmon, at the Corral Bar in Basset, provided refreshments for the morning breaks and prepared a delicious steak dinner on Tuesday night. Scott’s Place provided lunches for the judges as well as provisions such as ice and fuel.

Thanks also to Chris Raymond of Plains Equipment in Ainsworth, Neb., for providing the John Deere Gator used as the dog wagon.

THE RUNNING

Monday, September 18. Breakaway at 8:00 a. m.; temperature 55°, high cirrus clouds in an otherwise blue sky, light and variable winds.

Both Ru Jem’s Last Penny (Tracy) and Kinwashkly Tempo (Ed Tillson) were away to the south at good range, with Tempo the wider of the two.

Unfortunately, he was too wide and Ed called for the retrieval unit at 37. Gallery rode up a covey at 22. Penny continued to make several nice moves. She was credited with a stop to flush on a chicken at 37. Penny shortened some toward the end of her hour.

M K’s My Lil Ammo (BB/Johnson) and Roustabout Countyline (Nade/ Truksa). BB made a hard right at breakaway and had to be gathered up. Nade couldn’t quite get it going today and was picked up at 17 in the big bale field. BB continued on, her run increasing as she went. She made several big casts, especially along the edges provided by fencelines and windbreaks, but was not rewarded with bird contact, although the gallery did spot chickens rising in the distance on several occasions.

Roustabout’s Eustace (Tee/Tracy) and High Hopes Jac’s Original Spice (Holman). Tee was seen stopped at 8. Spice circled the standing dog and was leashed for failure to back. Tee then moved on and no flushing attempt was made. He continued forward, increasing his range as the hour progressed. He was seen pointing at 28 several hundred yards away in a meadow. A pair of birds rose as handler rode up. Tommy had to cross a fence to get to a dog. A shot was fired, and a third chicken lifted. Dog was collared and brought out over the fence and released, when another chicken lifted in front of him at 31; he was credited with a stop to flush. Scout called point at 38, with birds produced and all in order. Handler called point at 53

but was unable to produce a bird. Tee finished his hour to the front.

Temperature at the beginning of the afternoon running was in the low 60s. Wind had picked up to around 10-15 mph. The sky was cloudless.

Kashmir (Kash/Tracy) and Shady’s Desert Knight (Johnson). The first brace of the afternoon broke away north of camp. Knight was not himself and handler picked up at the water tank at 7. Kash was somewhat inconsistent but did make several strong moves. His final cast took was a good half-mile away; unfortunately he was not rewarded with bird contact during his hour.

Shady Way’s Joker’s Hill Country Express (Stan/Tracy) and Black Creek Blaze (Holman). Stan broke away hard to the right and had to be gathered up, then made another hard right as we crossed the road, after which he was put on a rope and taken to the dog wagon. Chad called point for Blaze at 16 but pushed up a jackrabbit while riding to the dog. The chase was on, and Blaze was not returned to judgment during the allotted time.

Sniksoh Windtuck Willy (Tillson) pointed at 2 but only a tweety bird was seen in the area so was taken on. He seemed distracted today and was somewhat erratic in his run. He disappeared at 39 and was not returned to judgment. The Crash Scene made several nice moves early but was not his usual self and Tracy elected to pick up at 26.

Day No. 2: 59° with high, thin clouds, a gentle southerly breeze, and dew on the grass.

Whizki’s Sting (Holman) was seen under a bird at 14 and was put on a rope. Sparky’s Prairie Wind Gypsy seemed distracted and was picked up by Johnson at 15 after pointing a meadowlark.

J J’s Levi The Lionheart (Williams)  and Piney Run Jake (Patterson) were loosed into the meadow near the Morton ranch house. Jake was making some good moves but suffered unproductives at 17 and 22, ending his bid. Levi also made a number of strong moves. He was credited with a stop to flush at 20, and again at 36, but suffered a style faux pas on the latter one and was leashed.

T L M Tejano Bob had difficulty getting lined out and Milam elected to pick up at 24. Ace’s One Eyed Jack (Holman) scored a nice find at 22 in the hills near the big bale field but was seen under a bird at 35, ending his hour early.

Temperatures had only warmed up to the low 60s as we began the afternoon braces; the wind had picked up some.

High Point Spike’s Southern Girl (Kuykendall) really punched a hole in the wind today, running a big, searching pattern, but was not rewarded with bird contact during her hour. Glade Run Lolo Uno (Tracy) had trouble finding the front and was leashed at 22.

C V K’s Spartan King (Leo/Tracy) and Sniksoh Little Diamond (Kate/ Johnson). Kate was credited with a stop to flush at 7 but was seen under a bird at 11 and was up. Leo had a find at 11 and a stop to flush at 20. His run was big but erratic. He pointed again at time but was asked to relocate when handler was

unable to produce a bird on the initial flushing attempt. Unfortunately, Leo bumped the bird during his relocation.

Glade Run Irish (Tracy) and McChesney’s I Got My Mojo Working (Johnson) was a fun brace to watch as both dogs made huge opening casts. Irish continued running hard and to the front. He scored two finds at 20 and 53 with all in order for both. Mojo had problems staying to the front but did make several nice moves. Unfortunately, the extra effort in getting back to the front took its toll in the second half of his hour and he slowed perceptibly. He pointed a nice covey of chickens at 40 and a single at 48, also with all in order.

Wednesday morning, 50°, high, thin clouds on the horizon, and a light breeze.

Kokomo Josey Joe (Tillson) and J J’s Diablo With Rusty Tears (Williams) started running big and wide and were out of pocket for several minutes after entering the meadows near the Morton ranch house. Both were returned to judgment and continued their big ground game. Joe was seen rimming a large field, then disappeared in heavy cover, presumably continuing onward but hidden by the vegetation. When he did not return within the allotted time,

handler asked for the retrieval device. It was later learned that he was buried on point near the area he had been last seen by handler and judge. Rusty was trying her handler’s patience but he did get her around. She was credited with one stop to flush and one unproductive.

Jac’s Ray of Sunshine II (Holman) and Spanish Corral’s Sundance Kid (Sonny/Gower) made big opening casts. Ray was seen under birds at 6 and was up. Sonny continued alone, continuing to impress with his ground game, especially one move along the tops of the old dunes. Unfortunately, he suffered unproductives at 12 and again at 27 to end his hour early.

Jagoub’s Buzzin Bayou (Tracy) and Touch of Bourbon Little Chug (Carson/Johnson). Skeeter made strong moves early. He was credited with a stop to flush at 11 but was under birds at 25 and was leashed. Carson put down a very good, forward run but was not rewarded with bird contact.

Weather conditions for the afternoon braces were warmer than in the morning, a cloudless sky, and a nice breeze from the W-NW.

Crescent City Girl was not pleasing Tillson and was picked up at 21.

Georgias Texas Two Step (Tracy) made big forward and lateral moves. She appeared to be making game on two occasions but did not establish point either time, ending her hour birdless.

Kinwashkly Fat Bastard (Tracy) and Highpoint Blazin High Noon (Cooper/ Kuykendall) were away to the front, with Cooper making a huge opening cast. Fatz pointed a chicken at 8 but suffered a lapse of manners and was up. Cooper was making another huge cast and handler rode out to bring him back onto course when the dog pointed several hundred yards away. Handler called point and went toward the dog, stating that a bird had left. Unfortunately, neither judge saw the bird. He continued his powerful forward run and pointed again at 34 but no bird was produced. He appeared to be making game as time expired and handler was given the option of allowing him to work the bird or to pick him up. Handler elected to pick up, and a chicken lifted in the area as he was gathering up the dog.

Gun Creek Gangster (Doc/Holman) and Roustabout’s White Knight (Lance/ Tracy) were lateral from the breakaway, seemingly entranced with something in the hay meadow. The weather continued to warm up as the afternoon progressed, and this extra exertion took its toll on the dogs. Although the dogs were watered in one of the many windmill-fed tanks on the ranch, Tracy was not pleased with Lance’s performance and picked up at 25. Doc continued on but at a reduced range compared to the first half. He did score a nice find at 39, and this revived him some, but he never regained the earlier speed and range.

Thursday morning. Arrow’s Tequila Rustler (Rusty/ Beaver) and Spanish Corral’s Sonny Patch (Gower) ran good races, Patch being the wider of the two. Handlers rode up a covey of chickens but neither dog had bird contact.

S S Rig’s Colorado Gun Runner (Milam) made a nice cast early but was out of pocket in the area of Bo’s honey hole before being returned by scout. He then proceeded to circle the motte of trees, to the chagrin of his handler, and was leashed at 48. Crossed The Line (Tillson) was putting on a performance on the ground. He made a true prairie all-age cast into the hills and continued with what was arguably the best overall run of the stake. Unfortunately, he was not rewarded with a bird for his efforts.

Revin Gunrunners Tilly (Tracy) and Crosscreek Argus Early Christmas (Gus/Holman) were generally forward at moderate range. Tilly had a find at 29, with Gun backing. All was in order but Tracy elected to pick up Tilly at this point. Gus continued on alone but had no further bird contact during the second half of his hour.

Afternoon conditions were considerably warmer, a cloudless sky and a southerly wind about 15 mph.

Brendi Brooks Cowboy Up (Tuff/ Tracy) and Tequila Scorcher (Lincoln/ Tillson) were away, running hard. They were seen together at least a quarter mile ahead of the handlers but on the other side of the fence. By the time handlers reached the gate both dogs had circled back, making a huge cast to come back around to the front. This extra effort took too much energy on a hot, windy day and both handlers elected to pick up at the windmill at 33.

Both Stoney Hill’s Princess Fiona (Johnson)  and Roustabout’s All In (Al/ Tracy) were putting down a good race when Fiona got too close to a small covey of chickens. The flying birds were too much of a temptation for Al and both dogs were up at 14.

T L M Tall Tale was big but had directional problems. Tracy elected to pick up at 29. Rammer Jammer Jax continued on but the heat and wind took their toll. Kuykendall picked up at 50.

Friday morning was significantly warmer than previous days, temperatures in the mid-70s and a strong wind The final brace — Driving Miss Daisy (Tracy) and M K’s Magnificent Bandito (Chico/Johnson) — left camp at 8:00, both dogs running hard. They were wide right when Daisy scored a mannerly find past the windmill at 12. Chico pointed at 18 in meadow south of Morton ranch house with Daisy backing; no bird was produced. The dogs were watered and both made good moves, Chico along the right side of the field and Daisy to the left along the fence. Chico pointed again at 34. One judge saw a chicken lift past the standing dog and fly behind a hay bale; miscommunication between handler and judge caused handler to attempt a flush without success, then ask his dog to relocate. The relocation was unsuccessful, but no unproductive was declared since a bird was seen, but no credit was given for a find either. Daisy continued her forward race and was credited with a stop to flush at 53, exhibiting good manners at the flight of the birds. She finished her hour strong. Chico had no further bird contact.

Bassett, Neb., September 18

Judges: Stanley Williamson and Ken Windom

AMERICAN BRITTANY CLUB PRAIRIE CHICKEN CHAMPIONSHIP [One-Hour Heats] — 50 Brittanys

Winner—ROUSTABOUT’S EUSTACE, 1664075, male, by Roustabout’s Kid Parker—Super Natural. Dave Capstick & Tim Self, owners; Tom Tracy, Jr., handler.

Runner-Up—DRIVING MISS DAISY, 1660139, female, by County Line Ace’s High—Famous Chick. Burton Wice, owner; Tom Tracy, Jr., handler.

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