American Field

Erin’s Muddy River Wins 2018 Running; Lester’s Shutout is Runner-Up

Dominion Open Chicken Championship

By Sheldon Rogers | Oct 12, 2018
The Winners. Justin Rogers and Robin Gates with Erin’s Muddy River and Dave Tinsley with Lester’s Shutout. Standing: Judges Dave Noell and Sheldon Rogers.

Mortlach, Sask. — The Dominion Open Chicken Championship followed on the heels of the Saskatchewan Open Derby, getting underway at 8:00 a. m. on Sunday, August 26. It was contested over three days with 38 dogs drawn.

Rising to the top was Erin’s Muddy River, seven-year-old white and orange pointer male owned by Tommy Hamilton of Springfield, Ky., and handled by Robin Gates.

Muddy River, as a first year all-age dog, won this title in 2013. He claimed the Manitoba Championship crown in the fall of 2016 and that fall was named runner-up in the Saskatchewan Open Championship.

During his bid here, the judges were watching intently and hoping for game to be pointed by either dog in this brace. Both put on a good showing but Muddy River got it done, carding two finds. On the second find, nearing the end of his hour after a strong forward cast, he swapped ends at full speed. The lengthy ride and solid stance as the big covey of sharptail began getting up upon flush, moved him to the top spot after one of the best braces in these Championships in recent memory, and one that we will be used in comparison for champions to come.

Runner-up came out of the 4th brace, Lester’s Shutout, seven-year-old white and orange ticked pointer male owned by Brad H. Calkins of Centennial, Colo., and also handled by Robin Gates. Shoutout won runner-up in this stake in 2015.

Shutout carded two finds. One at 58 where he was found standing in the heavy cover at the end of chicken alley. That combined with a solid race was enough to carry him in top spot until the eventual winner would knock him off.

The venue is well known, Mortlach, Saskatchewan. For this year’s running, drought had come back to the prairies. The hot dry conditions seen in the Saskatchewan Open Championship would continue. But a weather change had occurred the day earlier settling the dust and adding a bit of moisture to the ground. Resulting in better scenting conditions and birds being reported being ridden up in spots where dogs had come up empty just two days earlier. Bird counts have been steadily on the rise in the last 3-4 years. Particularly evident in Hungarian partridge, as the population has seen resurgence with coveys of 10 to 12 birds common being flushed throughout the trial.

Judging our renewal this year was Dave Noell of Laurel, Mont., returning for his second year, and Sheldon Rogers, your scribe, filling in for a late judging change. It was a pleasure judging with Dave. We both enjoyed the opportunity to watch some great performances from both dogs and handlers.

Thank you to this year’s sponsors, Purina and Garmin, both supplying product to our winners and bringing landowners together with competitors for the banquet. Extending our appreciation for the use of their land and allowing us to continue the traditions we have come to enjoy over the past decades. With the sport changing quickly I myself hope to continue for decades to come.


Our champion came out of the 9th brace, the third brace of day No. 2. An overcast day with temperatures hovering near 68°, wind coming out of the east, making it a good time to run dogs.

Two early pickups, however, had us starting just as we cross the road coming out of Campbell’s. This brace started fast with each dog grabbing an edge and not looking back, Touch’s Gallatin Fire (McLean) to the right along the barley strips and Erin’s Muddy River (Gates) down the center before turning up the fenceline to use the wind and available cover. Gallatin Fire crossed farther up and was seen briefly on the deeper of the two fencelines then disappearing along the horizon. By 25 both dogs were gone, handlers riding to the top of the rise looking and scouts deployed for each.

Muddy River was spotted first deep in the next field easing his way back to the front, then Gallatin already ahead, both ready to hunt the next treerow heading south out to a range that makes any handler nervous, aware of the sharp turn coming up. But by the time the marshal set his course to Miller’s hole both dogs could be seen turned and heading in the right direction, only to have a third dog, thought at first to be a coyote, identified as a loose German Shorthaired Pointer coming from a local farm without a collar and set to join in. Gallatin was first to reach the cover of Miller’s hole and first to get pointed at 41. Birds were reported leaving early, unfortunately not seen as the judges rode up. Handler elected to flush but came up empty.

Muddy River continued to push forward with point was called at 48. Judge and handler set out for the long ride. Flighty birds spotted leaving, Muddy River staunch throughout. Coming in just as Gates was dismounting for the shot was our loose Shorthair. She was in for the back but only for a brief second then off to hunt some more, pressure no one expected. Not sure too many dogs could handle it but River’s training proved he was up to the task as Gates continued with the shot. Gallatin Fire finished strong and to the front but could not get birds pointed.

Muddy River’s second find came at 58, again far to the front. This time 6-7 sharptail sitting tight for the flush, and this time no distractions as Gates shot with everything in order, Muddy River finishing his bid in style and making him hard to beat.

In the 4th brace were Touch’s Game Point (McLean) and runner-up Lester’s Shutout (Gates). Game Point ran big and forward but was seen entering a pasture to the south at 20 moving in the wrong direction. McLean called to no avail, his retrieval unit out at 38.

Shutout started with the course change along Ira’s pasture coming a bit too early in his bid continuing east seen turning up the far east fenceline and eventually reconnecting with Gates ahead at 18. Coming up the heavy alfalfa, birds were seen in the air at 25. Gates calling point, Shutout standing in the area. More birds took to flight as handler and scout rode up, Shutout solid for the shot.

The next 10 minutes were run with purpose as he set in to hunt although it cost him in range. Each forward cast was well directed to likely cover, taking advantage of the wind each and every time before reaching for Chicken Alley at 40. The cover allowed him to show his heels again and he did not disappoint as Gates sat tall in the saddle to point him out along the lake bottom at 50 before being swallowed up in the white grass.

At 58 scout called point deep in the tall grass with birds pushed up as he rode to him. Although an argument as to the validity of theses being his birds could have been made, it was not needed as his birds took flight right were he said they were with the flush, Shutout standing tall throughout as time was called.

The Running

The first brace broke away at 8:00 a.m. sharp, a slight breeze out of the northwest and a clear sky. A small amount of precipitation the night before only left behind evidence in the form of dew on the ground. Touch’s White Knight (McLean) ran a forward race with point called at 16; birds left before the judge arrived; flush and relocation could not produce more. He was lost for a spell but eventually found by scout at 35 but again no birds could be produced, resulting in a harness. T’s Wild Man (Gates) was slow to start but showed he could run by 10 after crossing the road and pointed out to the north heading to Choke Cherry Lane. Point was called at 30 but as handler approached moving birds would be too much ending his bid early.

Valiant (Anderson) steadily improved as his brace went on but could not get stopped on game before finishing his hour. S F Bandwagon (Smith) ran big and forward til the course swing to Miller’s hole caused him some problems. Coming back to the front at 39 he recorded a find on 3-4 sharptail. After regaining the front he finished his hour going away.

Hush Money (Anderson) and Westfall’s River Ice (Daugherty) could not get going in any way that pleased the handlers with both up early. River Ice at 25 with Hush Money to follow at 29.

The 4th brace was reported earlier.

Touch’s Black Out (Anderson) and Worsham’s Silver Comet (Worsham) both pushed the winners, putting together an excellent bid for the championship. Breaking away from camp they showed they were ready to run. Requiring scouts out early as together they had hooked up and both were heading southwest but the course southeast. Black Out back first and shortly after watering saw him lock up on point. High and tight with the flush resulting in a large covey of Huns taking to the air, Black Out showing impeccable style through the shot. Silver Comet, back to the front by this time, headed up Horseback Ridge in the area where the big covey started their decent. He eventually was found standing with Huns again lifting on the flush, everything in order. Both handlers, tying to stay connected, began riding and calling on them as they started to stretch out wide with scouts sent out to help once more. After returning, Silver Comet suffered an unproductive at 36. Each dog slowed a bit in this stretch, but by 43 both dogs were spotted the hedgerows along the south end of chicken alley and pushed to the front once more. Handlers, riding forward so as not to lose them, resulted in point called at 51. Comet standing tall with Black Out in for the back. Huns up again on the flush, both showing manners and style throughout. Both finished strong reaching for hedgerows to the north as time was called.

House’s Buckwheat Hawk (McLean) ran strong to start and suffered an unproductive at 26, was in and out till last seen in judgment along the rough pasture east-west fenceline at 40. The retrieval device was handed over at time Shadow’s Full Throttle (Gates) was never seen after 10 along the lake, the retrieval unit used at 30.

The second day started cooler than previously experienced throughout the trial. A slight breeze out of the east and partly cloudy skies, near perfect conditions to run a bird dog; however, the next two braces could not take advantage of it.

Lester’s Jazz Man (Anderson) was quick to start as he entered the Eastmond pasture to the north of the quad gates but did not return in judgment. Westfall’s True Grit (Daugherty) made a couple of nice casts until coming up from behind. He then suffered an unproductive at 25. Daugherty reached for the harness after the relocation came up empty.

Miller’s Happy Jack (Anderson) had a hard time negotiating the two Campbell pastures. Escaping early at the cross fence resulted in the retrieval unit. Shadow’s Next Exit (Gates) did make it through the pastures but an in-and-out performance after that was not what Gates was looking for, electing to pick up at 25.

The 9th brace was reported earlier Lester’s Private Chapter (McLean) suffered an unproductive at 28 and had a find at 32 but was lost to the front resulting in the retrieval device at 55. Shadow’s White Cross (Gates) shortened after finishing Horseback Ridge at 25 and was in the harness soon after.

Touch’s Malcolm Story (Mclean) and Shadow’s Lord Magic (Gates) both had trouble staying forward and eventually could not show enough to push the leaders resulting in an end to their day by 25.

Executive Action (Anderson) ran his first 10 well but after getting stopped at 18 and not trusting he had them resulted in birds up as he relocated. Big Sky Pete (Gates) came onto a second covey 20 yards over the rise from his bracemate with similar outcome. The judges were not in best spot to confirm what had occurred with the dog standing as they approached, but Gates had seen enough.

The 13th brace started our third and final day, with a strong breeze out of the north and clear skies.

Phillips Field Line (Anderson) and Osceola’s Black Dial (Gates) ran well from the breakaway, both making the turn as they crossed the road west of the quad gates. Field Line with a find at 23 in the cover heading to Choke Cherry Lane but suffered unproductives at 31 and 40. Black Dial, last seen heading south at 18, never made it back to judgment.

14th brace and 15th braces were combined as 14b Salem’s Annie Oakley (Daugherty) and 15a Ace’s R Wild (McLean) showed ill effects suffered in the Saskatchewan.

Hailey’s Wild Again (Anderson) and Lester’s Georgia Time (Gates) took advantage of the wind out of the north made for a well put together first 30 minutes. Each had distant casts executed well and their application to the cover was flawless. Georgia Time recorded a find in the alfalfa at 31. Unfortunately, as the course swings back to the north, both struggled to continue their earlier pace. Wild Again the stronger of the two finished his hour without birds. Georgia Time suffered a shortened race and an unproductive at 52 resulted in the harness.

Manteo’s Ace of Spades (Anderson) and Power Play (Gates) struggled with finding a consistent forward race into the wind. After crossing the Eastmond grid, Power Play pointed convincingly in the alfalfa at 28 where birds had flushed the day before, but after a lengthy relocation he found his spot back on the truck. Ace of Spades began to settle in as we began heading east, giving a reprieve from the strong headwind. Finding his form and the cover to the front catching his eye, he stretched out; unfortunately it would result in an absence with Anderson calling for the retrieval device at 52.

Touch’s Spaceman (Anderson) and Westfall’s Black Thunder (Daugherty) had the wind at their backs and both took advantage early. By 32 the hat was off for Black Thunder, concealed on the back side of one of the rows. Before judges located him, birds were seen leaving and as they rode up both dogs were found to be standing and each was steady for the shots. From there the hedgerows swallowed them up. By 42 one dog seen wide to the west and going away, was confirmed to be Spaceman. He never made it back to the front with Anderson conceding at 55. For Black Thunder, Daugherty doubled back thinking we had missed him standing but his search came up empty and he too had retrieval unit in hand at 55.

Touch’s Mega Mike (McLean) and Erin’s Longmire (Gates) ran well but could not put together a consistent ground effort that could press the winners. Mega Mike suffered an unproductive before pick up at 35. Longmire slow to start but showed well in the middle before fading in the open stretch before the second half of Chicken Alley. Gates elected to pick up at 50.

Touch’s Adams County (Anderson) and Westfall’s Black Ace (Daugherty) continued the struggles experienced in the last few braces. Adams County’s pace slowing by the half ended his bid and Black Ace was seen sparingly from the start, retrieval device employed at 25.

Mortlach, Sask., August 26

Judges: Dave Noell and Sheldon Rogers


38 Entries

Winner—ERIN’S MUDDY RIVER, 1642384, pointer male, by Erin’s Bad River—Thoman’s Miss Annie. Tommy Hamilton, owner; Robin Gates, handler.

Runner-Up—LESTER’S SHUTOUT, 1645649, pointer male, by Lester’s Snowatch—Grace’s Sunshine. Brad H. Calkins, owner; Robin Gates, handler.

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