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75th Diamond Jubilee

Grand National Grouse Championship

Call Me Maggie Named Champion; Ponderosa Mac is Runner-Up
By Mike Singleton | Jan 04, 2018
The Winners (L to R): Brent Peters, Richard Hollister, Stake Manager Bryan Wood, Richard Wyatt, Champion Call me Maggie with owner/handler Craig Merlington, Reporter Mike Singleton, Judges Bruce Minard and Mike Groy; Roger Johnson, Carl McRae, Runner-Up Ponderosa Mac with handler Scott Chaffee, Grand Secy.-Treas. Tom Fruchey.

Gladwin, Mich. — The 75th Anniversary “Diamond Jubilee” of the Grand National Grouse Championship, the grand-daddy of them all, and the Super Bowl for cover dogs, was held on November 7-12 at the Gladwin Field Trial Area grounds near Meredith, Mich., attracting a talented field of 79 dogs, 63 setters and 16 pointers (with over 80 championship placements among them).

After six days of running on a Sunday afternoon at the Alibi Hall, our own town-crier Bryan Wood blew the whistle and announced: Call Me Maggie, six-year-old white and orange setter female owned and handled by Craig Merlington of Cedar Springs, Mich., the winner and awarded the Grouse Bowl by Secretary Tom Fruchey. Ponderosa Mac, five-year-old white and chestnut setter male handled by Scott Chaffee and owned by Steven Snyder of Ellendale, Minn., was named the runner-up.

Maggie came from a litter of six on May 19, 2012, four of which went to field trial owners. Craig bred his female Call Me Kate, a four-time champion, to Ch. Lilleyhill’s Secret Stash. These four offspring have amassed a record five championship placements and over 75 wins. “Did you think about putting them together again, Craig?”

Ponderosa Mac is a prodigy of four-time champion Jetwood (owned by Steven Snyder) and Cooper Mountain Pepsi, also a three-time champion (owned by Michael Cooper). Mac has two championship placements and many wins in his young career.

Three years ago the Grand was held in Gladwin and when the opening meeting was held, I attended with a couple of friends, one being a third generation handler. Like most meetings, there were a lot of ideas discussed. Someone suggested that we hold the Grand earlier when all the birds were here, referring to the Lake States and Beaverton trials held a couple of weeks earlier where dogs had 5-6 finds in their hour braces. I could hardly contain my excitement. “What a great idea,” I thought.

I turned to share my excitement with the third generation dog trial gentleman sitting next to me. Out of the corner of my eye I caught him shaking his head in a negative manner, which stopped me cold, leaving me a little confused. If that wasn’t confusing enough, when he quietly spoke as if he was just speaking to himself, it became even more “foggy” to me.  “That’s not what we want,” he said.

I thought, “It’s not?”

The next thing he said really threw me for a loop. “If we have it at that time of the year, any dog could win.”  Again I thought, “And that would be bad?”

It wasn’t until the last statement he made that allowed the sun to come through and lift the fog and allowed me to see clearly. He continued, “This is the time of the year we want to separate the great dogs from the good ones.” Bingo! He’s absolutely right.

This is the Grand and it shouldn’t be easy. The easy birds should be gone and only the seasoned ones left that have been chased around all fall and are dog and bell leery. The cover needs to be down to expose any flaws, mistakes or busted birds. We need to see the dogs reach out further and hunt harder to find the birds. With 5-6 finds if you take 5 minutes to locate, flush and return the dog to the course, you would be left with less than 30 minutes of running time. This wouldn’t allow us to judge one of the most critical aspects of what we look for in a trial dog today: can he or she run for an hour and finish strong and to the front? Yes, he is right, this is the time of the year to run the Grand and there’s no better place than right here in Gladwin.

The Gladwin venue is celebrating its 101st birthday this year. The grounds and courses have gone through many changes in the last three years. The 5,000-acre reserve has been on an accelerated cutting program under the watchful eye of our local DNR biologist Bruce Barlow and Forest Management Supervisor Patrick Mohrey.

The last four-year contract that started in 2015 called for the cutting of 529 acres (about 15 percent of the total reserve), with a large percentage of that to be completed this year. This should ensure that the reserve stays in great shape for years to come, maintaining grouse and woodcock in this premium habitat. This is also the reason you will see constant changes in the courses, to adjust to the new cutting and take advantage of the new growth coming in. Hoister Lake was drained this spring to do maintenance on the dam and will be filled again by the spring run-off.

Once again the Beaverton Club hosted the trial with Ken Moss, president, and Tom Fruchey, secretary, taking charge to run a great trial as always. Although the Beaverton Club and its members are listed as host, this is truly a joint effort by all clubs and their members. I think I can speak for Tom and Ken when I say thank you to all who helped move cars, marshal and attend to all other duties necessary to run the trial. Also to the handlers who had their dogs ready for their braces, allowing the trial to run smoothly.

We were blessed again with great judges — Bruce Minard of Beulah, Mich., and Mike Groy of Annville, Pa. Bruce has been working dogs since he was a teenager and turned pro in 1996. Along with his lovely wife Jennie and son Neal they established HiFive Kennels. Since becoming a professional Bruce has trained twenty dogs that have gone on to win thirty titles. He has run dogs across the country, on horseback and on foot in the woods. We were grateful to have him in the saddle and back in the woods again.

Teaming up with Bruce was Mike (Booker) Groy. (What can I say about Mike that hasn’t been before said or written in a police report?) I’ve judged and reported for Mike many times and not only is he fun to be around because of all the stories he tells, he is very qualified, having been in the dog business since the 1970s and trialing since the 1990s. Mike is asked to judge major stakes every year and the fact that the judges have to be voted on, should tell you how highly he’s thought of. We’re hoping to have Mike (and his Lilybelle) back in the woods to join us next spring.

Birds have been down this year, with the unusual spring and heavy mosquito hatch. We believe we’re dealing with what we think is a heavy die-off from West Nile. Despite denials from the state of Michigan, we believe this has been going on for several years. It’s not only affecting the grouse, woodcock have tested positive as well. We encourage everyone to stay on top of this and make sure your DNR and game biologists react to the situation. There’s no one who cares more or counts on these birds more than our field trial group, so we need to make sure our concerns and experiences in the woods are heard.

During the trial the weather was below normal by about 20°; fortunately the wind only picked up one day, Thursday. We started the day at 7° and went through sessions of sleet, snow, rain and strong winds. It laid down about an inch of snow that lasted through Sunday.

THE WINNERS

The winner ran on Friday in the last brace of the day on course No. 14-15, with She’s Miss Behavin (Belly), handled by Brian Trimmer. This brace garnered the largest gallery of the stake, about 35 persons, a bit surprising being this late in the day. [Rumor in that the big gallery was people wanted to see if Brian could handle his dog better than he handles Forman’s truck. Sorry, Brian, couldn’t help myself.]

The real reason was these were two very good dogs and people sensed something big might happen. They wouldn’t be disappointed. Bryan called the dogs to the line and they were released at 4:15. Course 14-15 takes off from the north corridor road and heads back towards the junction, bypassing the beaver dam. It was obvious early that Maggie came with her “A” game, making a large cast to the front with Craig letting her go for 4-5 minutes before having her come back and check in. Belly was running well but not quite as big.

Craig continued to let Maggie reach out showing little concern she would show up at the front. I've watched Craig and Maggie run many times and these two have a great rapport. She moved comfortably through the first half. Just before the half way point Maggie made a big cast to the front and didn't appear in a timely fashion. Craig sent his scout Robert Ecker off to the right (the last spot he’d had her bell), just before crossing the logging road while he continued forward. Upon reaching the logging road at the back of the course Maggie was still “AWOL”. By that time Craig knew she was standing somewhere. A little concern started to show on his face and in his voice. Knowing she had run a great race to that point and if he could find her standing and produce a bird he would give the judges something to think about. He decided to stop and wait for Robert and try to locate her.

Mike Groy and I continued forward with Brian making the loop and heading down the hill and up the other side. We came across Maggie standing just off the course to the right. We called back to Craig that she was standing. He quickly moved up, then moved in to flush with Bruce quickly following. He made some wide sweeps knowing she had stood there for a while and the bird might be on the run. Unable to produce a bird Craig decided to tap her on. She searched the area for a short time and then headed forward. Both of the dogs’ races continued much the way they started, with Maggie biting off the bigger chunks.

At about 45 Belly stopped and began chewing chunks of snow off her feet. When we reached the first tote road heading back to the junction, Brian decided to collar her.

Craig had about 10 minutes left to come up with a bird or waste a real nice race. The clock ticked down to the last minute, leaving Craig thinking “It’s all over.” Listening to what we thought were the last tinkles of her bell…it stopped. This sent Craig’s pulse quickly from 70 to 150. We moved forward and found her standing on the right just off the path, in full view of everyone. Craig moved in with Judge Bruce right behind him, making a large flushing attempt knowing “this was it!”

When he got back to the dog he looked at Bruce and threw up his hands with frustration said, “There's grouse tracks all over!”  Bruce responded, "I see them." You get no credit for tracks.

Craig asked if he could relocate her, was granted permission and tapped her on. She made a couple of short casts and stopped about 30-40 yards ahead. Craig and Bruce headed for the dog. I decided to stay put not wanting to interfere with might be a jumpy grouse. While I was standing waiting, Robert Ecker came walking by not knowing Maggie had stopped again. At almost the exact moment Robert asked me if she’d stopped again, a shot rang out. Robert threw his fist in the air and exclaimed “Yes!” I thought, “Now that's great sportsmanship.” I realized they're friends but Robert had ten of his own dogs in this stake and it would be pretty easy just to root for yourself.

We moved forward to see Craig bring Maggie out of the woods and his heart rate returning to normal. Maggie ran a strong hour and I knew then she was a contender.

Ponderosa Mac and Scott Chaffee also ran on course 14-15 on the last brace of day one with Brent Peters and Baxter's Apache John. Both dogs are strong and in their prime. They were released at 4:19 and headed to the front.

AJ is often wound up pretty good at the start and settles in later. This was the case today, with Brent working hard early to keep him in touch. Mac started off much like Maggie. These dogs have very similar running styles and both handlers handle them much the same way. Mac, making a nice cast to the front and showing up in a timely fashion. Mac made about three nice casts, and when he didn't show up on schedule Scott started to search off to the right where he’d last had him. Bruce moved forward and spotted him standing, calling point. We didn't have any clean dogs to this point so we decided not to take anyone off the trail except handlers and judges, to give the dogs the best opportunity possible. Judge and handler disappeared and shortly after a shot sounded. Upon their return, I was told it was a grouse and all went well.

Brent continued forward and made his way towards a low area that often holds woodcock during the flights but they had long since gone. Wrong!   AJ’S bell went silent at 28 as we rounded the corner. Brent moved into the brush on the left while we took the path around and we all converged on the dog about the same time. AJ was standing high, head and tail just like you want them. Brent moved in and a woodcock took flight, shot was fired and manners were proper.

Brent brought AJ back to the course, happy he had a find (but wishing it was a grouse). Dogs and handlers were back together again and moving forward. They quickly settled back in with Brent working hard to keep AJ in touch, being a little pumped having found a bird and Mac making a nice cast forward. We moved a grouse out of the trees at about 35 as we moved along the path. We continued forward at a comfortable pace until about 50 when we hit the logging road. On the right a grouse blew out and Mac came in and slammed on point. Scott asked if he should shoot. Bruce said, “I can give you credit for a stop to flush.” Scott accepted the ruling and moved Mac on. Scott became a little cautious, making sure he didn't whoa Mac into an unproductive when his bell slowed. I was sensing he was in good shape at the time and not wanting to risk something going wrong. Both dogs finished nicely, day one under our belt.

THE RUNNING

With 79 very qualified dogs, unfortunately we had just a handful with bird work. Trying to describe this many braces without any birds and keep it interesting is a difficult task. I hope the handlers and owners understand that most dogs did a great job but sometimes it’s difficult to give them their due credit in writing.  “Thanks, Mike”.

Day one, temperature at a cool 14° and high hopes based on the success the Futurity dogs had finding birds on Sunday. Traditional stake manager Bryan Wood was on hand to announce the start of all braces, with President Dick Brenneman and his lovely wife, Helen, walking the braces and oversee the running.

At 7:30 a.m. Bryan Wood called the first two dogs to the line.

On course No. 1-2: Bad River Rutherford (SM/owner-handler Tom Vanecek) and Dun Rovens Drifter (SM/owned by Rich Hollister and Jack Harang; handled by Rich Hollister) quickly got to work, looking for Mr. Grouse. They moved along the course until we crossed the first logging road that leads to the birdfield. Just forward to the right, Drifter pointed with Rusty backing. Rich moved in to flush; unable to move a bird he tapped him on, whereupon Rusty released himself. In a weekend stake you might have overlooked this, but not in a Championship “so say the judges”. Frankie was up. Drifter continued forward until about at 45 when we reached the north road. Rich wasn’t happy with his application and called it quits.

Course 3-4: Paramachenne Flight (SF owned by Danie Nein; handled by Mark Hughes) and Bo of Pineywood (PM/owned by Richard Warters; handled by Robert Ecker) headed forward along swamp on the right and over the berm. Marshals reported back to Bryan that we had crossed the berm (hell hath no fury, like Bryan if you don’t tell him you crossed the berm. There have been marshals banished from the grounds for smaller mistakes). Dogs moved through course 3 with no birds and on to No. 4. Red had a little trouble making the corner and we were separated for a while. Robert moved slowly through the cuts hoping to find a grouse or lingering woodcock but none were home. Dogs got back together at about 45 and finished the cuts and course with no luck.

After the second brace each day we stopped for treats and something hot to drink. Thanks to Fruchey’s bakery and several people who made some delicious cookies. Wayne Fruchey made sure the goods, hot coffee and cider were on time every day. Bryan wouldn’t let us take more than ten minutes as the days were growing shorter and we wouldn’t be able to release a dog after 4:30.

No. 3, on course 5-6: LaSombra (PM/ owned by Carlos Escanlante; handled by Dave Hughes) and Bud of Pineywood (PM, a former runner-up in the Grand, owned by Richard Warters; handled by Robert Ecker). LaSombra had recently won the Pennsylvania Grouse Championship. Dogs headed into the cuts hoping to strike gold, but that would not be the case. At 20 Bud pointed on the right down the hill, Robert moved in quickly hoping to get a find in the books. No birds were home and Robert moved him on. About two minutes later on our way back to the course, a grouse blew out in front of us. Robert said, “A mental note to myself,” referring to the fact he would have this course for the next two days. They went forward to the north road and made the turn and headed back towards puppy junction. The last 10 minutes of this course is normally very fertile with birds, but not the case this fall with only an a occasional bird being found. That didn’t stop both handlers from taking their time and giving it their best effort, to no avail.

Course 7-8: Ryan’s Honey Rider (SF/owned by Ryan Saling; handled by Scott Chaffee) and Out Of the Shadows (SF/owned and handled by Robert Wheelock). This is a new course and the first 15 minutes are pretty brutal on the dogs with thick head high briars along the path, so much so we may have to reroute it next year. The dogs headed in hoping to come out the other end with their eyes in tact. Both managed well and upon crossing the road at the half, Maddie pointed on the right in a likely location but again no birds could be moved. We moved forward and a grouse lifted, what would end up being one of many that we would walk up with no dog contact. Both dogs finished strong without bird contact.

No. 5, course 9-10: Wayward Flying Tomato (SM/owned by Anne Hughes; handled by Mark Hughes) and Nobody’s Shadow (SM/owned and handled by Robert Wheelock). This brace breaks away at the tubes and heads towards donut junction. It offers a great chance to show your dog in the first half with a few bogs that often hold grouse, but that was not the case this year. Both dogs did a great job on the first half with only Micky stopping at 7 on the right in the cut; again no bird moved. The second half featured some nice grouse cover but none would be moved today. Both dogs finished nicely with no bird contact.

Course 12-13: Single Shot Barley (SF/ owned by Paul Gittetto; handled by Dave Hughes) and Boston (PM/owned by Jim Kilrain; handled by Scott Forman). Boston had just won in the Northern Michigan Cover Dog Championship. The dogs left the line in a hurry and at 5 both bells went silent just ahead. We rounded the corner with excitement, but our hopes were quickly dashed as the dogs came into view, pointing each other. Handlers moved the dogs on without flushing. At 24 Bailey stopped in an unlikely spot and Dave decided to move the dog on without flushing. At 38 Boston stopped on the left near the road. In our effort to locate the dog, we moved two grouse, no dog in sight. We finally located Boston forward of the grouse and were unable to move any additional birds. Again both dogs finished nicely with no bird contact.

Brace No. 7 had the runner-up and was described earlier. Day 1 was over, only five birdsmoved and  one clean dog.

Day two started at 21°, cloudy skies. Bryan called the dogs to the line at a little after 7:30 a.m.

Course No. 1-2: Straight Forward (SF/ owned Dick Brenneman and Bob Watts; handled by Dave Hughes) and Grouse Trails Cracker Jack (PM/owned and handled by John McKellop). This was a quick brace for Jack. Forward pointed at 10. Jack was deemed to have come too close, without backing. Straight Forward, a great dog with nine championship placements, pointed at 19 along the path and no bird could be moved and again 31 with the same result. She’s been a great dog to watch over the years and if we don’t get a chance to watch her again, we can take solace that we will still be able to watch her offspring for years to come.

Brace 9, on course No. 3-4: Full Blast (SM and a former Grand National winner, owned by Dick Brenneman and Bob Watts; handled by Dave Hughes) and Grouse Trials Pride (PF/owned and handled by John McKellop) headed along the swamp and across the famous Bryan Woods berm. At 17 Jeb’s bell stopped and Pride’s shortly after. When we reached the dogs Jeb was pointing but not looking real sure of himself and Pride backing. Dave decided to move him out without flushing and both dogs were tapped on. We moved forward for about 5 minutes and two grouse blew out on the left side. It was like the birds had lost their scent this whole trial. At the road crossing we had a repeat, with Jeb standing and Pride backing in the swell just before the road. This time Jeb looked solid and Dave moved in to flush but couldn’t move a bird. John took Pride on while Dave allowed Jeb to try and relocate with no luck. Both moved across the road onto course 4, hunting the cuts and covering the ground well. Because of the two stops we were unable to finish the course. The dogs were no more than leashed when six grouse blew out single file as we stood there and counted. I was standing by John and he could hardly contain his excitement. I can tell you that John’s pretty animated if you’ve ever had the chance to walk one of his braces.

Course No. 5-6: Nic Of Time (PM/owned by Jim Kilrain; handled by Marc Forman) and Miss Pennstar (SF/owned by George Najor; handled by Robert Ecker). Nic was just coming off his win at the Lake States Championship. Both dogs were evenly matched and ran nice races staying forward and running hard. Robert even tried to find the grouse he walked up yesterday, with no luck. They moved them around the course and put them in the spots the birds should have been. Both dogs finished strong with no bird contact.

No. 11, course No. 7-8: Sumac’s Shay Sha (PF/owned by Roger McPherson; handled by Mark Hughes) and Herbie’s Asta La Vista (SF/owned by Shannon headed onto the thick cover and worked their way to the road. Just after crossing the road Asta stopped in the thick cover. Scott moved in and a late migrating woodcock took flight. Asta stood perfectly through flight and shot. Both dogs broke out of the thicket and into the open timber at about 15. They finished 7 and moved onto 8 which held birds through most days of the trial, just not today. We got to the tote road where Sass was coming back from a cast, a grouse blew out as she slammed on point. There was several occasions when just a few seconds would have made a big difference. She was credited with a stop to flush. Dogs finished just before the tubes with no further bird contact.

Brace 12, on course No. 9-10 : Pistol Grip, (PM/owned by Mike Husenits; handled by Mark Hughes) and Grouse River Rock ‘n Roll (SM/owned by the trial Nazi, Bryan Wood; handled by Marc Forman). The brace started out like a normal one but soon got a little crazy for Mark but a little funny for the rest of us. As I stated earlier, course 9 features some mud bogs that normally hold grouse around the edges. Pistol went to see if any birds were home today and got stuck in the mud. No matter how much Mark called and begged he wouldn’t move, so in he went…up to his knees to retrieve him, while the rest of us chuckled a little. Rock ran what I thought was one of the better races, pushing forward covering the ground without a lot of handling. It would be to no avail as no birds were moved until 58-60 when two grouse got out of the trees to the right.

No. 13, course No. 12-13; Phillips Halfmoon (SF/owned by Matthew Phillips; handled by Mark Hughes) and Grouse Ridge Pepper Anne (SF/owned by John Capocci; handled by Scott Forman) worked the cover well and stayed forward until 31 when both bells went silent on the left between the path and the road. Handlers thought the dogs were probably together. That was not the case as both were found standing about a 100 yards apart. No birds were moved by either handler. The dogs were moved on and crossed the road and onto the second half. Shortly after crossing Remi stood on the right in a spot we hadn’t moved any birds. I wasn’t real hopeful but was surprised when Mark moved in and a grouse flew out. All went well and we had our second clean dog. The only other action was at 51; Remi was found pointing but Mark didn’t like her posture and moved her on.

Brace 14, on course No. 14-15: Meredith Grade Annie (SF/owned by Dennis Keysor; handled by Scott Chaffee) and Wicked Thunder Alley (PF/owned by Teri Lee Propst; handled by Robert Ecker). Annie had won runner-up in the Northern Michigan Championship a few weeks earlier. This was the hot course and these two had high hopes. We moved through the first part of the course anticipating a bird at any moment. That wouldn’t happen until 24 when we reached the low area where Brent Peters and AJ found their woodcock yesterday, very close to the same spot we found Annie standing. Scott moved in and Mr. Woodcock flew, shot was fired and all was well. [I believe this bird got tired of the action and attention it was receiving because this would be the last time we saw him during this trial.] Scott moved forward with Annie, a dog I think may be the fastest dog on the ground I’ve seen this fall. Annie stood on the tote road at the back of the course. She was pointing to the left which is a steep dropoff. Scott headed over the bank and as soon as he disappeared Annie’s tail twitched. I knew what was going to happen next. Sure enough, she couldn’t take it and went looking for Scott. Her day was done. For the last 20 minutes Robert had the course to himself and he worked it like a surgeon. This is great cover and he paced himself in a manner that allowed Alley to hunt every possibly location a bird might be hiding. Try as he might, there would be no birds found today.

Day No. 2: Thirteen grouse moved and a second clean dog. Day No. 3 started at 7°; it would be the toughest day for man and dog.  We would endure rain, sleet, snow and heavy winds.

No. 15, on course No. 1-2: Long Gone Studly (SM/owned by Lloyd  Murray; handled by Dave Hughes) and Shady Hills Whiskey Bonfire (SM/owned by Shadyhills Kennels; handled by Scott Forman). Whiskey was coming off his runner-up in the Pennsylvania Championship. This course would only see one bird all week and that one was flushed wild out of a tree. These two dogs are both very strong hard running and pleasing to the eye. They worked hard and covered a lot of ground trying to find something to point but were not be rewarded for their efforts.

No. 16, course No. 3-4: Centerfold Bette (SF/owned and handled by Harold Homes (Doc) and Double Deuce Dexter (PM/owned by Doug McMillen; handled by Dave Hughes.) left the line and headed along the swamp and towards the berm. Bette’s bell went silent and this excited all of us because the berm has been home to a grouse all this fall. We hadn’t found him the first two days but hoped he had returned home. Doc found her standing on the right and was unable to produce a bird and we were disappointed again. They made their though 3 to the swale at the road, that also is often home to a grouse. Dexter pointed and fell victim to the same fate as Bette earlier. We pushed across the road and into the cutting around the corner. Bette was working the left when her bell went silent. Doc located her standing and flushed in the likely location but couldn’t move a bird. He tapped her on and low and behold up goes Mr. Grouse and flew right over her head. Doc came back to the course with Bette on the lead and shaking his head wondering what might have been. We continued forward with Dexter until time, no additional birds being moved.

No. 17, course No. 5-6: Fox Brook Ike (SM/owned and handled by Chad Wheeler) and Wild Kat Run (SF /owned by Derrek Zukovich; handled by Robert Ecker). This course also failed to produce the birds it normally does. We weren’t far into the course when Kat pointed on the right, Robert immediately found her but again couldn’t move a bird. Chad moved along the trail until 40 when he decided Ike just wasn’t going to do it today and leashed him. Robert suffered another unproductive at 45 and finished with no further bird contact.

No.18, course No. 7-8; River’s Edge Bailey (SF/owned by Pat Cooke; handled by Marc Forman) and Rockland Ridge McGraw (SF/owned by Gary Chlapaty; handled by Robert Ecker) headed into the thicket. Handlers tend to let their dogs run wide to try and avoid going through the briars and getting torn up early. Also, we hadn’t moved any birds in this stretch in this trial. The best laid plans can often turn to s--- as it did today. Half way through the cut a grouse got up on the right; both handlers just shook their heads. We were coming out of the cut when Maggie was found pointing on the right up the hill. It wasn’t the likeliest spot but at this point no one was taking any chances. Robert moved in and again no birds were found. We finished course 7 and moved onto 8 where better opportunities often lie. We moved through the thicker cover and into the oaks and at 50 Bailey thought she found the scent she was looking for and stood. This produced a familiar theme: no bird. Dogs moved on towards the tubes until time.

Brace 19, course No. 9-10: Grouse Ridge Larry (SM/owned by Paula Giulitto; handled by Rich Hollister) and Hunter’s Paleface (SM/owned and handled by Lance Bressler). Larry is a dog Rich recently acquired and I believe this is the first time he’s run the dog.  They weren’t truly in sync yet and Rich called it quits at the half. On the other hand, Lance with his veteran steed motored through the course hunting hard to no avail, the only action we heard was a grouse wild at 48 no dog in sight.

No. 20, course No. 12-13: Quail Trap Will (SM/owned by Dave Hawk; handled by Scott Chaffee) and Cover Charge Search Engine (PM/owned by George Crumlich;  handled by Mark Hughes). Another brace with two fine dogs, fairly well matched and that had no luck finding birds. Both covered the ground well and hunted hard without reward. The only action was a grouse flushed wild at 48.

No. 21, course No. 14-15: Ghost Train Cody (SM/owned and handled by Tom Fruchey) and Waymaker Super Sam (SM/owned by Rich Hollister and Bob Kluger; handled by Hollister). Cody’s day was shortlived as he chose not to mind at breakaway. Sam, with the course to himself, made the most of it early. He put down a nice ground race the first half covering all the likely spots. The only first half action was a grouse getting up wild at 16. We made the turn at the tote road in the back and headed into the cover that had been producing some birds. At 42 Sam got a nose full of grouse and handled himself perfectly through flush and shot, credited with a nice find. Rich moved forward feeling pretty good. Sam suffered an unproductive at 50. I was the third horse back when, at 56, all I heard was Rich hollering “Whoa!”. The next thing I witnessed was Rich going for his lead, disheartening to say the least. One thing I’ve always respected about Rich.When his dog makes a mistake he doesn’t wait for the judge to order the dog up.

Day No. 3 ended with six birds moved and four clean dogs. Day four started out at 21°. It felt like a heat wave after yesterday.

Brace 22, course No. 1-2: Snyder’s Full Rage (SF/owned by Steven Snyder; handled by Scott Chaffee) and Double Deuce Molly (PF, last year’s runner-up in the Grand, owned by Doug McMillen; handled by Dave Hughes). Molly was scratched. Libby, coming off a runner-up in the Wisconsin Championship and runner-up in the Northern Michigan Championship had the course to herself. Again we would have a dog that did her job as she has all fall, covering all the likely spots but unrewarded, suffering a unproductive at 35.  Only one bird was moved at 40, no dog to in sight.

Brace 23, course No. 3-4: Grouse Trails Sharptail (PF/owned and handled by John McKellop) and River Edge DJ (SM/owned by Pat Cooke; handled by Marc Forman.) DJ didn’t perform as usual, lacking the normal pep in his step and was picked up. John with another one of his beautiful pointers would make the best of his run. He has great control of his dogs and it’s a pleasure to watch them. Sunny would do a very nice job covering the course but I knew what John had in mind. Get her to the end where the six grouse were seen the last time he ran this course. A funny thing happened on the way. We were not quite to the area where the birds were when her bell stopped. Bruce had a good line on her and spotted her a short time later across a marshy area.  He sent a very excited John off in that direction. When John spotted the dog he called back to Bruce with excitement “She’s right here.” Bruce hollered back “I see her. Go flush.” John got about half way across the marsh when the bird went. Again he started hollering, “Bird!’ as it flew. Bruce replied. “I see it. Go to your dog.” John fired and made his way to Sunny. He collared her and brought her back to the course. He was so excited I don’t know if his feet were even touching the ground. I told you he can get excited. It was fun to watch and we had our third clean dog. She finished her last few minutes without additional bird contact.

No. 24, course No. 5-6: Snyder’s Pioneer Scout (SM/owned by Steven Snyder; handled by Tammy Chaffee) and Faith’s Maximum Justice (PM/owned and handled by Ken Delong). Another brace with two good young dogs with bright futures that did everything they could to put themselves in the mix. This very good course would not give up birds easily this trial. As a matter of fact, it wouldn’t give up any today. Two nice races that went for naught.

No. 25, course No. 7-8: Sutter’s Back Country Race (SF/owned by Paula Guillito; handled by Mark Hughes) and Rowling’s Nike (SF/owned and handled by Chuck Rowling) would at least have an opportunity early in the thicket that had been dry earlier. They headed into the thicket and both went wide avoiding the heavy briars. About 5 minutes in, two grouse flushed on the right with a familiar scenario (no dogs in sight). Everyone started to think this trial was jinxed; 90 percent of the birds were walked up with no dogs in sight. Considering the bird count was down this year it hurt every time this occurred. Both are veteran dogs and covered the ground well without results.

Course No. 9-10: Chip’s A One Hundred (SM/ owned by Steve Chiappini; handled by Scott Forman) and Sunrise Star (SM/owned by Dr. George Najor; handled by Robert Ecker). This is going to sound like a broken record but this was truly a tough year for bird work. Two very experienced dogs on a course that normally holds many birds.  Today it would only hold one that would only show itself when no dogs were around. I give a great deal of credit to the judges for keeping their attention through forty braces. These dogs went through their paces and again at 57, at the end of the course a grouse lifted to the right, both dogs on the left. Go figure.

Brace 27, course No. 12-13: Uppercove Billie Babe (SF/owned by John Capocci; handled by Scott Forman) and Celtic’s Signature (ISF/owned by Paul Ober; handled by Robert Ecker). This would be a sentimental journey for Billie. At age ten this would probably be her final performance. A great career which included four championship placements and many wins. Scott decided to let her show she still had it, but didn’t want to push her too hard and picked her up at the half. Mary, one of the few red setters we have running and competing in the grouse woods, decided to take it all the way through and make a thorough effort searching all the corners. But again, we saw no feathers on this course.

No. 28, on course No. 14-15 had the winner, and was described earlier.

Day four ended with our fifth clean dog and five birds moved. Day five started at 21° and cloudy skies.

No. 29, course No. 1-2: Grouse Ringer Tony (SM/owned by Gary Vitali; handled by Marc Forman) and Willowood’s Squig Tone (SM/owned by Chris Demattio and handled by Dave Hughes) started with a little twist. At about 5 minutes in, Lenny came prancing back on the trail with a grouse in her mouth. The bird had been dead for what looked like a day. Dave scooped it up and Mr. Grouse was sent away to the DNR to be checked for West Nile. [Results have not come back as of the reporting of this trial. We’ve already had a grouse test positive in Roscommon County just a few miles north of us and several in the U.P.] We worked our way around the course with the dogs working hard and no live birds seen.

Course No. 3-4: Glenrae’s Mr. Finnigan (SM/owned and handled by Ann Naus) and Dew Sweeper (PM/owned by Dick Straub; handled by Dave Hughes). I wish I had better news for you but this would be much the same. The birds would make themselves scarce and avoid the dogs’ detection. Finn flew across the ground and Sweeper swept ground but no birds were turned up.

Course No. 5-6: Moss Meadow Rambler (SM/owned and handled by Ken Moss) and Islander (SM/ owned by Pedrag Kazic; handled by Robert Ecker) cruised the course trying to find what many dogs couldn’t. They, too, would end up empty -handed. Again the only bird seen was one walking around in the cutting at the end of the course, no dogs available to challenge it.

No. 32, course No. 7-8: Blast Off (SM/owned by Justin Evens; handled by Marc Forman) and Travel Alert (SM/ owned and handled by Dr. Harold Holmes) are two first-year shooting dogs, but very capable of winning this stake. The dogs made it through the briars with only small scratches and came out the other end running hard in the open timber, clearing course 7 and onto 8. Early on 8 often holds birds, but not today. They moved through without stopping or giving indication any birds were in the area. They headed towards the tubes and finished with no bird work.

Course No. 9-10: Pepper Jack Wood (SM/owned and handled by John Bodo) and Moss Meadow Doc (SM/owned and handled by Ken Moss). Doc was scratched because he broke his tail in a training session the day before. Jack would have the course to himself. This is often a nice advantage. That would be the case today. Jack’s a big runner and often hard to keep on track in the woods. He took full advantage of this making a large cast and staying to the front. About half way we all realized with a bird this could rearrange the leader board. I believe John realized this too and had a little extra pep in his step. About three fourths of the way through the course Ken Moss (John’s scout) looked at his watch and realized John was going to run out of course too early. As we were making the right turn at the corner Ken yelled to John, “You’re way ahead of time.” John turned to acknowledge him and Jack came in and slammed on point. The bird lifted. John, not realizing the dog had stopped, turned around and called for the dog. Jack released himself and headed out; at which time John was told what happened. It’s hard enough when you see your dog make a mistake but when it’s right in front of you and you don’t see it it’s tough to take. The timing couldn’t have been worse. It took John a few minutes to digest everything and after a short time thanked the judges. A class move at a tough time.

No. 34, course No. 12-13: Hershner’s Grouse Gunner (SM/owned by Scott Hershner; handled by Scott Chaffee) and Henry of Ferguson (SM/owned by Tom Eberle; handled by Lance Bressler). Gunner had recently won a runner-up in the Woodcock Championship. This brace would also have some action. At 15 both bells were silent and excitement quickly grew through the gallery; late in the day has been when we were getting most of our bird work done. Handlers quickly located dogs and the air quickly went out of the balloon when they found them pointing each other. No harm no foul incurred. Both dogs were running nicely and staying forward. We had more action at 40 when again both bells went silent. We didn’t have far to go; both were standing just off the path to the right. Handlers moved in, a grouse quickly flew and two shots rang out. Dogs were credited with a divided find. At 55 Gunner slammed on point as a grouse was taking flight; Henry came in and backed. Gunner was credited with a stop to flush and Henry a back. At 55 the pair was looking hard for something that might separate them from the field but finished without further bird work.

No. 35 on course No. 14-15. Ana Lake Kiah (SF/owned by Rob Matson; handled by Dave Hughes) and Grouse Ridge Razzle (SF/owned by Gary Vitali; handled by Scott Forman). This would be a short brace, Ana stood at 15 where no bird could be moved. Ana wasn’t handling well today, Razzle wasn’t having a great day either and both dogs were leashed at the half.

Day No. 5 — six birds moved and two more clean dogs. Day No. 6 started at 25° under clear skies. In four braces we could name a winner.

Course No. 1-2: All Out (SM/owned by Joe Hopkins; handled by Scott Chaffee) and Blast Zone (SM/owned by Dick Brenneman and Bob Watts; handled by Dave Hughes). These two fine dogs covered this course thoroughly, ranging far and wide and searching all the likely spots. The long stretch along Joy Road with all the oak scrub didn’t give up a bird the entire trial. Like many fine dogs in this stake, they came up empty.

No. 37, course No. 3-4: Dun Rovens Mind Tricks (SM/owned by Brendan Terrien; handled by Rich Hollister) and Kendal Hills Dawson Creek (PM/owned by Tim Tufts and Tim Perschke; handled by Mark Hughes) ran a course that gave up few birds in this trial and would give up none today. They headed to the berm and around the corner not finding what they were looking for in the first half. They headed for donut junction where the six birds had been moved earlier in the trial but none home today, finishing with no action.

No. 38, course No. 5-6: High Point Left Turn (SM/owned by Jeremiah Watson; handled by Scott Chaffee) and Attitude’s Tru Grit (SM/owned by Dennis and Hope Beauford; handled by Robert Ecker). These two are nicely matched, both big strong males that run hard. They are a pleasure to watch cover the ground and both are good bird finders. As hard as they tried, they too fell victim to the fate of many others, nice races and no birds. Only action was an unproductive by Mickey at 58.

Course No. 7-8: Centerfold Sis (SF/owned and handled by Dr. Harold Holmes) and Grouse Ridge Darla (SF/owned by Thomas and George Crumlich; handled by Mark Hughes). The last brace of the trial hoping for something good to happen. We, like the handlers, would be disappointed. A brief moment of excitement came at 13 in the heavy cutting when both bells went silent. We shortly found the dogs on the path pointing each other, no harm done. They, like so many others, would finish without bird contact. We headed back to Alibi hall for the announcement.

Gladwin, Mich., November 7

Judges Mike Groy and Bruce Minard

GRAND NATIONAL GROUSE CHAMPIONSHIP [One-Hour Heats] — 16 Pointers and 62 Setters and 1 Irish Setter

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

Runner-Up—PONDEROSA MAC,1645586, setter male, by Jetwood—Copper Mountain Pepsi. Steve C. Snyder, owner; Scott Chaffee, handler.

A POSTSCRIPT — ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The Grand was established in 1943 by Sam R. Light, John Hadaway and W. Lee White at a meeting in Cleveland, Ohio. Established were three regional areas — Northwest, Mid-Atlantic and Lake States. It's been rotated in those three areas for 75 years with exception of when bird numbers were down in that region.

The last time the Grand was held in Gladwin,  Long Gone Buckwheat handled by Dave Hughes and owned by Lloyd Murray of Stark. N.H., was named winner and Terhaar's Rogue owned and handled by Dave Terhaar of Allegan, Mich., was named runner-up (the youngest dog ever to place in the Grand I've been told).

The inaugural running was held in 1943 at the Black Forest grounds in Pennsylvania, Caviar owned and handled by J.S. Applegate named the winner. Since that time the Grand has been held at Gladwin 34 times; Marienville, Pa., 20; Pharsalia N.Y., 8; Kilkenny Management Area in New Hampshire, 8; Norwich, N.Y., 1; Andover, Mass., 1; Ipswich, Mass., 1 and Black Forest, Pa., two more times.

In the 75 years of the Grand, eight dogs have repeated as champions: 1949-50, Sam's L Skyhigh; 1955-56 Retina; 1960-61 Sam L'S Rebel; 1967-68 Elhew Holly; 1972-73 Pleasant Valley Liz; 1976-79 Pleasant Valley Clyde; 1996-98 Elhew Whisper Autumn; and 2003 and 2006, Hard Driving Bev. No dog has ever won more than twice.

The title has been withheld four times. Eleven handlers have won more than once, with Hall-of-Famer Dave Hughes topping the list with 13 wins (probably one of the very good reasons he is in the Field Trial Hall of Fame). Dr. James E. Stiteler, Luther Smith, Jim Tande and Rich Tuttle each has four wins many two-time winners.

The largest entry was in 1999 here in Gladwin with a field of 99 dogs. Seneca's Autumn Reign, owned and handled by Matt Mentz, was named the winner.

The annual awards dinner was held Monday evening, November 6, at the River Walk in Gladwin. A fabulous buffet was hosted by our friend Dean Reinke and Purina. Jim Trotter from Garmin also attended and donated a collar to be awarded to the winner. We thank both gentleman and their organizations for all the support they have given us through the years.

Secretary Tom Fruchey took the podium briefly and outlined the agenda for the running, then turned it over to Thor Kain to announce the award winners. Dave Hughes quickly got tired of walking back and forth, winning Handler of the Year accolades, then taking honors for Straight Forward, setter female, winning the Dog of the Year and the Flanagan Setter Award. “Cracker” is owned by Pennsylvanians Bob Watts and Dick Brenneman.

Winning the Derby of the Year was Clermont Lucky Brynn, also winning the Seminatore Setter Derby Award, owned by Rich Simpson of Brookville, Pa., and handled by Dave Hughes.

Dave Fletcher then took over to announce the new inductees to the Legends of Cover Dog World. Dave announced that Chuck Langstaff, Wayne Fruchey and the late Andy Eaton were the newest members along with Ghost Train, owned by Wayne Fruchey and Pioneer Will owned by Michael Halley and Jack Harang. Jack quickly invited Scott Chaffee to join him at the podium where he graciously gave Scott full credit for making “Will” the dog he turned out to be.

Thor then announced they were taking donations for the late George Johnson's Life's Patron plaque at the National Bird Dog Museum.

Dean Reinke, our good friend from Purina stepped up and offered a pallet of Purina Pro Plan (a $1000 value) for $500 which Bruce Minard quickly took advantage of. Dean repeated this offer and Dave Hughes immediately followed suit. Dean then immediately donated the $1000 to George Johnson’s Life Patron plaque.

Thor then brought Bruce Barlow, our local DNR biologist to the podium as the keynote speaker for the evening. He talked about the reserve and his love and dedication to maintain it as it was intended; trialing and camping, and renewed his commitment to continue the cutting program that's been so successful in keeping the reserve full of birds, (which drew a large round of applause from all of us). We are blessed to have someone like Bruce to protect the reserve and look after our best interests. We all applaud and thank you, Bruce!

The Open Grand National meeting was held on Tuesday and the directors meeting was held Wednesday. Joe Cammisa was nominated to be the new president of the Grouse and Woodcock Invitational successing the late George Johnson, and he graciously accepted. .

In a trial this size it is difficult to thank everyone who lent a hand. With the amount of marshals and car movers you need to keep it running smoothly, as this one did. Here are a few of those people, the Hollister family and Bernie Bauman for providing the horses and making sure they were where they needed to be. Bryan Wood, who the judges nicknamed “red tail”… referring to a hawk circling around waiting to pounce at the first sign of a mistake. Denise and Brent Peters, Ken and Mary Moss, Tom Fruchey, Wayne Fruchey, Roger Johnson, Harold Holmes, Carl McRae, Dick Wyatt (who we named the iron man because he marched up heart attack hill more than anyone else); Thor Kain and to all handlers and everyone else that helped in any way to contribute in the success of this trial. A special thanks to Kelly Fruchey for the wonderful lunches we a appreciated during those cold days. To the judges for spending six days in the saddle and remaining sharp until the last brace. As always a special thanks to my friend Denise Peters for editing and formatting my report.

A note from Denise to Mike Singleton “for adequately and admirably reporting this event. It is a hard job and many thanks for his endurance, his attention to detail and his ability to tell it like it is while giving humility to all who contended!” M.S.

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