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Forty-First Renewal is a Smashing Success

International Amateur Woodcock Championship

By Lloyd B. Murray, Jr. | Nov 27, 2017
Championship Winners. In foreground, from left: Austin Lesperance with Long Gone Porky and Lloyd Murray with Stokely’s Frankie B.  Standing: Keith Burgess, Judge Jim Wade, Judge Kellie Short and Austin Parsons.

Woodstock, N. B. — The quaint rural village of Debec, New Brunswick was the host location of the 41st consecutive renewal of the International Amateur Woodcock Championship.

With the fall colors of red, yellow and gold at peak foliage, the Saint John’s River Valley in southwestern New Brunswick is one of the most picturesque areas in the world. The former farming province is dotted with abandoned farms and reverting fields of apple orchards and alders. It is truly an upland bird hunters vision of heaven!

Several folks are the main cogs in the engine that fuels the New Brunswick Field Trial Association. Keith Burgess is “The Dean” of New Brunswick field trialers, and has been associated with all 41 runnings of this event since 1977.

Keith has served as a judge, marshal, reporter, club official and of course competitor. (I well remember that afternoon in October, 1990 when AFTCA Secretary Linda Hunt announced, “The champion is Yoho’s Runaway Bud,”  Keith’s great setter male.)

We are very fortunate to have Keith still actively involved in this Championship.

The NBFTA is fortunate to have some new worker bees involved. Austin Parsons from Nova Scotia leads up this group. Austin is one of the big reasons why the New Brunswick trials are so organized and just plain fun. Austin is a serious breeder of English setters, accomplished amateur trainer and field trial official. Austin has won this Championship twice (2013 and 2016) with two different females he trained. I remember Austin driving all day and night from Nova Scotia to New York to run his dog in The Invitational when we had a last-minute scratch.

Bob Little and Joe Dahl, although both successful professional bird dog trainers, always pitch in and volunteer each year by cutting courses and helping marshal and move cars during the event. Anthony Matthews, Dale Hackett, Justin Neil, Christopher Clarke and John Cullen all pitched in and helped with the actual running. This is Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, and we all appreciate you giving up time with your families on this national holiday to volunteer for this Championship and Derby Classic. Thank you all so much.

Again, we salute those who are now involved in these events, but cannot help but think back to those who are no longer with us, or are not involved with the game anymore. Men and ladies who started the New Brunswick Woodcock Classic in the early and mid-1970s, that with AFTCA approval, led at that time by Hall of Fame member Miss Leslie Anderson, granted the classic championship status in 1977. Folks like Basil Hawkins, Oscar Macdonald, Denis Dickerson, Clayton Buckingham, Andy Wishart, Keith Thomas, George Jamison, Russell Robinson, Harold (and Claire) Hatfield, Ron Ashfield, Bob Ahern and Dr. Warren Sims plus so many more all contributed to the founding and continuation of this wonderful event.

We used to run at a place called “The Mazzerollo Settlement” just below Fredericton, along the famous Saint John’s River, from 1977 to the late 1980s. There were ridiculous numbers of birds at that location, but the land was sold and the land we run on is owned and left in the last wills of Harold Hatfield and Andrew Wishart for use in perpetuity of the Amateur Woodcock Championship. So in many ways Harold and Andy are still with us as we walk the courses that they left for us. This location is strong in bird numbers in most years also (it is simply a matter of catching “the flights”). I remember judging in 1993 and we had 29 birds in the first brace!

AFTCA Secretary Piper Huffman handles all of the administration details connected with the drawing. Piper checks all dogs’ and handlers’ qualifications on the AFTCA dog database and membership web sites. Piper conducts the draw at the AFTCA national offices in Tennessee. Then posts them on several national web sites, so all we have to do is download them. Thank you Piper. All of us amateurs appreciate all you do.

In our region so many former very successful amateurs are now professional bird dog trainers that it has adversely affected our entries in amateur stakes. Men like John Stolgitis, Tony Bly, Steve Levesque, Craig Doherty, Judd Libby and Bob Little all turned pro with Johnny, Tony, Judd and Craig all former winners of this Championship, some several times. This is actually a national phenomenon with the National Amateur Grouse Championship drawing light last fall (2016) out west, with former great amateur Jerry Kolter leading the way to the professional ranks.

Purina of course is a multinational corporation and helped support this International Wooodcock Championship with product and advertising support. Thank you, Nestlé Purina, you are the best! I know for a fact the champion and runner-up are both Pro Plan fed dogs.

The hot lunches are capably prepared and presented by the Women’s Institute of Debec and of course the lovely country facility is called the W.I. Hall. These ladies made all homemade fare with ham, beans, hot rolls and assorted pies for lunch on day No. 1 and the second day we enjoyed homemade casseroles of turkey plus hot macaroni and cheese and cornbread with molasses. All the tables are preset with homemade relishes and jellies plus all the hot coffee and tea you can drink. The price is simply a donation, but I am proud to say most field trialers are very generous with the W.I.D. ladies, and we thank them for their work and dedication. This is another touch that makes “The Amateur” so warm and enjoyable.

Garmin also is a major sponsor of this Championship. Garmin donates two of their outstanding training units to the winner and runner-up. Most folks I know use these units in workouts daily. Thank you, Garmin. We appreciate your continued support.

We were truly blessed with a very strong and experienced judicial panel. Jim Wade from New Brunswick has judged many wild bird trials and championships in the Canadian Maritimes and throughout New England. Jim has campaigned winning pointers with perhaps Hey Suzie Q the most successful. Jim is an avid grouse and woodcock hunter also. Kellie Short from Maine was the other judge this year. Kellie has won this Championship and was runner-up on many occasions. Kellie has won both the Grand National Grouse Championship and the Grouse and Woodcock Invitational Championship (and runner-up in the Invitational several times).

Kellie has won most of the wild bird championships in the Northeast, some several times. Kellie breeds, trains and campaigns her own dogs. I cannot think of another amateur who has won this much at that level. Kellie has been elected to judge the Grand National Grouse and Woodcock Invitational Championship as well as the Grand National Grouse Futurity several times. In addition to judging many wild bird championships throughout the Northeast, Kellie has judged many horseback shooting dog championships as she is an accomplished equestrian. Kellie has a reputation as a fair but tough judge. Twice she has reverted championships to shooting dog stakes because she did not see a championship caliber performance, and did not want to cheapen the title. Both stakes involved my dogs, and I agreed with her. I defy anyone to give me another example where a judge had reverted two championships on their dogs and the handler came back and thought enough of that judge’s opinion to ask for it again. I guess the answer could only be, Kellie Short is an outstanding arbitrator of bird dogs. Thank you to both Jim and Kellie for adjudicating this stake.

Headquarters was again the John Gyles Motel and Restaurant. We have used this location for several decades and it works out great for us. It is close to the grounds; they give us great rates, good food and it features a well stocked bar. They open special for us for complete breakfasts so we can get rolling while it is still dark. (Dick Brenneman would be proud!) The former owner Heino is dearly missed but the new owner Paul is doing a great job and has remolded the restaurant and dance area. On Friday nights in Woodstock, N. B., the Gyles Bar is the place to be with karaoke featured and standing room only. Our own Bob Little showed them how it is done with several songs from his vast country repertoire with Merle Haggard being his best. It should be noted that when Bob L. was on stage the dance floor was full of many of the local ladies rocking out to Bob’s New Brunswick country twang.

THE WINNERS

The new champion, Long Gone Porky (Lloyd Murray), ran in the seventh brace with Cairds Little Brynn, fancy pointer female handled by Tom Wilkens. Brynn ran a fast race both in and out of bell range, but handled. At 56 Brynn stopped and pointed. Before handler arrived she moved on with no bird seen to finish her hour. Porky, Derby age (whelped April 10, 2016), short coupled, tricolor setter male, was named second the day before in the Miss Leslie Woodcock Open Derby Classic . Today he started fast and wide but settled in and hunted. It was hot and humid and at 25 he found a mudhole next to the course (there was hardly any water on any of the courses this year due to the drought) and this fired up the youngster. Several minutes later the dog pointed to the right of the course.

Handler and Judge Wade flushed everywhere and could not produce a bird. The dog was sent on and as we left the area a large hen woodcock got up in the only place we did not go. No credit was given but no damage was assessed. At 44 we heard Porky’s bell stop to the right of the course. As we came around a corner on the course there stood Porky with his head held high and tail straight pointing to the sky. As we approached one grouse blew out with shot being fired. At the report of the gun a second grouse took flight with Judge Wade relaying, “The dog only stood taller when the second grouse flew.” The young setter was really inspired now, laying one edge of bell cast upon another. At 56 bracemate came across the course and pointed attractively and hard. We called back “Point” to the other handler. Porky heard the calling and came into the area, saw his bracemate and snapped into a pretty back. While we were waiting for handler to come and flush, the pointing dog left, and no bird was seen. At this point Judge Wade informed all that time was up.

Porky has had some success in his young career so far. Winning the prestigious Gene Uhlman Open Puppy Classic at Oak Ridge, Pa., this past spring with Mark Hughes handling was a nice feather in his cap. Porky placed in several open and amateur juvenile stakes this past spring in New England with a first in the Northern New Hampshire Bird Dog Club’s Amateur Derby where he logged three broke finds and two backs to win the Amateur Derby which qualified him for the Championship. His second this fall at the White Mountain Open Derby Classic under Dave Hughes’ whistle and second in the New England Bird Dog Club’s Open Derby with Steve Levesque handling filled out his fall. Porky is co-owned with Kelly Shepherd of Waverly, Ohio and was bred by Dick and Jennifer Wyatt at Dick’s Heartland Setters out of Gladwin, Mich. Porky’s sire is multiple champion Long Gone Boston, whose sire was 6x champion Cracklin Tail Speed. Porky’s dam is a daughter of Grand National and Invitational Champion Terhaar’s Elvis, which was sired by multiple champion Long Gone George  Runner-up Stokely’s Frankie B ran in the second brace with Flagzup Fagin, capably handled by Anthony Matthews. Fagin started strong and fast, got hung up a bit and pointed several times without results, but he is young and the best is yet to come for the good size tricolor setter male. Frankie, good size white and orange setter male, ran a forward, hard hunting race, not extreme but in the pocket. Frankie stopped at 28 in a small group of ancient apple trees pointing solid. As handler and Judge Wade approached a grouse flew and the shot was fired, all good for the flush and shot. Frankie continued his quest for more birds and was rewarded at 48 to the right of the course when his bell again went silent. Judge Wade pointed the dog out standing tall along an old fence. As handler and judge got almost next to Frankie a large hen woodcock exploded directly in front of the staunch setter, which was fine for the shot. Frankie finished his hour across the dirt road hunting and swinging merrily showing plenty of bottom and reserve.

Frankie has numerous placements from Michigan to the Northeast and Canada. His most notable perhaps being winning the Kilkenny Open Shooting Dog Classic. This is his first titular placement. Frankie’s sire is a frozen semen breeding to Ch. Stokely’s Al B, which won the National Amateur Grouse Championship with this reporter handling. His dam is Dave Hawk’s Quail Trap Kate, which is showing the blood of such setter luminaries as multiple champion Grouse Ridge Reroy and multiple champion Long Gone George.

The Running

Bog Brook Okie Dokey (Richardson), diminutive setter female, fairly flew off the breakaway on course No. 1. Okie had a big banger on her and Tommy needed it as Okie was running big, but handling. Okie did get a little sticky from 17-20 but came on at handler’s urging. This speedster already has a title to her credit, and if she had scored on a bird this day I am thinking she would have had another. Old Glory Red (Parsons), setter female, is a former winner of this Championship. Red ran a forward hard hunting race. She stopped at 51 deep on the right and it took awhile to find her. A woodcock was walked up by Judge Short and handler, but not near Red, which finished going away. A grouse was seen in this area also, but we didn’t get it pointed.

Flagzup Fagin and Stokely’s Frankie B were reported earlier.

Ruffed Grouse Lilly (Col. Paul Christopher) and Doodle Ridge Mia (Bruce Mueller). The Colonel, as Paul is known (he taught at West Point), turned his snappy setter female loose in the third brace. This female hunts hard and is an eyeful. At 51 Lilly pointed a woodcock,  all in order, and finished fine. Mia is a medium size setter female. Bruce and his lovely wife made the trip up from Pennsylvania to not only run some dogs (Bruce ran the Miss Leslie also) but to take in some of New Brunswick for a few days after the trial. Mia is a former winner at the Grand National Grouse Futurity. Today she pointed a grouse at 33 deep on the left of the course. A large hen woodcock flushed wild at 56 to the left of the course in tall alders.

Setter female Long Gone Juicy (Murray) was fresh off her runner-up at the New England Open Grouse Championships in Kilkenny. Juicy ran a fast, forward race but a stop to flush on a grouse at 51 to the right of the course was her only bird work. Bear River Partridge Berry (Parsons), hard going pointer female, also has a wild bird title to her credit already. Today she got involved with a brood of grouse early which ended her bid. Berry is owned by one of the real gentlemen of our game, Christopher Clarke.

Defending champion, setter female Old Glory Kate (Parsons), scored a good woodcock find at 51 to the left of the course and finished hunting thoroughly in the good cover at the end of this course. Woodcock Haven Annie Oakley (Matthews), fast and attractive pointer female, ran a ground-devouring hour. Unfortunately, it was birdless. Austin shared his water with Annie at 47; it got very hot.

Long Gone Mersadies (Murray) and Cairds Macy Mae (Richardson). This brace featured two champions. Sadie, good size setter female, ran a comfortable but hard driving forward race. Sadie pointed at 51 along a field edge, was not sure, moved up and pointed again, and the woodcock lifted, all fine for the shot. Mersadies is a former winner of both the Purina Foster Derby Award and the Flanagan Setter Award. Macy Mae is a very good-looking pointer female, owned by Bob Little but handled today by Thom Richardson. Thom tried to steer the hard-going pointer through the course but at 45 he threw in the towel as they just weren’t jelling. At this point Thom got a little turned around and got a “bit” lost, but we sent out enough search parties that he was reunited with us before too long.

Long Gone Porky and Cairds Little Brynn were previously covered.

At this point we all retired to the headquarters area as stake manager Keith Burgess thanked all of his helpers, gave out beautiful judges’ (and reporter’s) gifts — custom-made and embroidered vests — and announced the winners.

Again, thank you to all who made this, the 41st consecutive running of the International Amateur Woodcock Championship, so wonderful.

Woodstock, N. B., October 7

Judges: Kellie Short and Jim Wade

INTERNATIONAL AMATEUR WOODCOCK CHAMPIONSHIP

[One-Hour Heats] — 4 Pointers and 10 Setters

Winner—LONG GONE PORKY, 1671466, setter male, by Long Gone Boston—D J’s Latest Flame. Lloyd Murray, owner and handler.

Runner-Up—STOKELY’S FRANKIE B, 1626584, setter male, by Stokely’s Al B—Quail Trap Kate. Tony & Marie Bly, owners; Tony Bly, handler.

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