American Field

Won All-Age, Shooting Dog and Cover Dog Titles in Sixty-Year Career

Hall of Fame Handler David Grubb

By David A. Fletcher | Jan 09, 2020
David Grubb

A fifty-nine-year friendship has ended for me with the passing of David Grubb, reported to me by Paul Tutro Tuesday evening, January 7.

Dave was born in Stonehouse, Scotland on May 9, 1938 and came to the United States at age twelve.

I first met Dave Grubb, who was a mere 23 years of age when he entered a slightly built but pretty setter female named The Unchained Melody in the Ontario Championship, for which I served as reporter. I was 25 at the time, living near Bowmanville, Ontario.

Melody was drawn in the first brace paired with Richie Papa’s great champion Tyson’s Skyhill Flash. It was a wonderful brace with pheasant finds, backs and some fine hunting. Neither dog placed. Wink Griffin won with Puckety Jeff in a starting field of 21. The late Bob Wehle entered and handled Elhew Huckleberry and Elhew Jungle in the stake. The grounds were small farm fields, the property of Richie Papa and the venue was called the King Township Shooting Preserve.

After five years living in Calgary and working as staff reporter for The American Field, my wife Carol and I moved on Labor Day 1969 to our small farm near Lansing, Mich.

Invitations to judge or report, or both, came from several Michigan clubs. In 1970 I reported the John Hadaway Shooting Dog Classic at Highland, Mich., in which Dave Grubb captured runner-up with Elhew Quick Draw, J. T. Wherry’s pointer which also won the initial Herbert H. Cahoon Shooting Dog Classic under Dave’s guidance.

The 1980s were full assignments, among them the United States and  the National Free-For-All Championships at Jimmy Hinton’s Sedgefields near Selma, Ala. Dave Grubb was there. He qualified a great little pointer name Penelope several times  for the three-hour final series but never won it. Penelope, however, ran a fairly wide, very good handling race for the hour qualifier, and had a covey of quail or a woodcock superbly to get a callback.

Richie Frisella and I were the judges for the Grand National Grouse Championship in 1985 at Marienville, Pa. We placed Penelope champion. How could we use a dog who qualified at the Free-For-All, the test of the biggest running horseback all-age dogs in America? We were in the much tighter confines of the grouse woods. She was wide but every few minutes she would swing near the gallery, show herself to the judges and the gallery and make another wonderful cast to the front of course. Never behind, never gone very long, searching the best places on her course. One of those casts ended with a superb point of three grouse and she was the champion.

Dave Grubb trained this dog to perfection. She later won the Michigan Open Shooting Dog Championship.

Dave trained and handled numerous dogs in major field trials — Shalimar, Red Water Jupiter, Little John Boy, Rex’s Windup, Fast Astro Boy, and setters Collinswood Patrick, Rhinestone Cowboy and Memphis Cowboy — to name just a few. His record shows he won championships on six species of gamebirds — quail, pheasant, grouse, woodcock, chukar and prairie chicken. A remarkable achievement.

Violet, a big, strong pointer female, owned by Selma druggist Bill Swift, and later co-owned with Ray Grace, was at home in either all-age or shooting dog circles. She won three International Pheasant Championships and Pacific Coast Championships, as well as other titles.

What about Miller’s Silver Ending which Dave handled to several titles? I personally rode with Dave Grubb in training sessions after owner Ray Grace got the dog  following his Derby season. Dave polished Silver Ending’s bird work, hunting pattern and in so doing created one of the major circuit’s great competitors.

”Dan” won the 1997 National Championship, but Dave had been hospitalized right before Dan was to run and he was handled by John Rex Gates. Silver Ending won the Oklahoma Quail Championship three times, and added the Purina Top Dog of the Year Award to his list of achievements in addition to several other good wins.

I can remember evenings in Selma, Ala., where Dave wintered for many, many years, and working dogs at Alva Caine’s Tara Hill and the multitude of evenings we dined in Selma’s finest eating establishments.

For many seasons, in the spring, Dave regularly ventured west and competed his string on the West Coast trial circuit. He and his bird dogs almost always made the long drive home with handfuls of placements.

Dave Grubb was a very talented dog trainer. He had a very good rapport with his dogs. They were broke, stayed broke, never lost a whisker of style or demeanor getting to the “superbly mannered” stage of development. He had the ability to handle his dogs and keep them around enough to win a shooting dog event or ask them to pull out all the stops and cast like an all-age. He was successful at it.

Dave was elected to the Field Trial Hall of Fame in 2008.

I wish I could put on my best bib and tucker and go to Dave’s funeral, pay my respects to his family and bid my good friend of 59 years a final farewell. Dave directed that there be no visitation or formal funeral service.

He is survived by his devoted wife of 59 years Henrietta, sons Dave (Rossana) and Dean (Elizabeth), grandchildren Sabrina, Elise, Ariel (Al), Brooke, Dylan and Hunter and great grandchildren Alyson, Emma and Harrison.

May he rest in peace.

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