American Field

A Personality Profile

Mervin “Ike” Eisenhart — Fifty-Five Years of Field Trialing

“Quiet People Have the Loudest Minds”— Stephen Hawking
By Andy Wert | Sep 05, 2017
Mervin Eisenhart

The year is 1962, astronaut John Glenn, Jr. becomes the first American to orbit the earth, Jackie Robinson becomes the major league’s first African-American elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, the U. S. Navy SEAL force is formed, and Merv Eisenhart places his first dog in a field trial.

The dog was a Brittany named Rosa de Hunter. She was Merv’s pheasant dog and family pet. Pheasants were plentiful at that time in York County, Pa., and Rosa was a quick learner. Merv heard about a fun trial at York Pointer and Setter Club through a friend at work. You didn’t call in an entry, you just showed up the day of the trial and competed. Even though it was a fun trial, the dogs had to be steady to wing and shot.

Rosa won a ribbon and that’s how the 55 years all began for Merv.

Born in 1936 at Thomasville, York County, Pa., Merv was an only child. There were no hunting dogs in the family while Merv was growing up but his father was an avid pheasant hunter. Merv started to hunt with his dad around the age of fourteen and thus began a lifelong passion for hunting and the outdoors.

Merv graduated from West York High School and it was there where he met his wife Arlene. They were high school sweethearts and married in 1956. Three children were to follow, Rick, Ross, and daughter Brenda.

After high school Merv worked in construction for several years and then found his lifelong work with Gladfelter Paper Company of Spring Grove. Merv worked on a paper machine for the company, eventually becoming boss machine tender and spent a total of forty years with Gladfelter.

In 1966 Merv moved his family to a farm near Glenville, Pa. He bought the farm to train dogs and also to raise crops. After placing Rosa at York, Merv met professional dog trainer Gerald Tracy of Glen Rock, Pa. Merv’s farm was conveniently located only a few miles from Gerald’s training grounds. Merv started to spend some of his spare time training at Gerald’s. Rosa’s placement made Merv hungry for more of the same. He started buying pointer pups but just couldn’t find the right combination of running and pointing style in any of them.

Finally he found a dog from Illinois advertised in The American Field for $250, a pointer female. He bought the dog on a trial basis and had Gerald start to work with her.

Gerald liked the female. She was stylish but didn’t have a lot of run. Gerald advised Merv to send her back but Merv decided to keep her. She didn’t win anything through her Derby season but then she caught fire! Nearly seventy shooting dog placements were to follow. Her name? Ch. Hullabaloo.

Many more great pointers and setters were to come, all handled in amateur stakes by Merv and open stakes by Gerald and George Tracy, grandson Luke Eisenhart, and pro Jeanette Tracy. Ch. Jovial Jake, R-U Open Pheasant Ch. Hobbs Matt Dillon, Ike’s Cracker Jack, Sara Lou, Ch. Maple Valley Thunder, R-U Open Pheasant Champion Maple Valley Cowgirl were all pointers campaigned under the Eisenhart banner.

Littermates (Erin’s Southern Justice-Flattery) Maple Valley Lightning and Maple Valley Thunder were Merv’s one-two punch in 2004-2005. When the proverbial dust had settled, Thunder had won the Purina Amateur Shooting Dog Award for the 2004-2005 season. Both had successful careers for Merv, Lightning accumulating 16 wins and Thunder, 23!

Merv has also had several outstanding English setter males. Tricky Dick’s Tomoka, son of Tomoka’s Tricky Dick and grandson of the great Tomoka, had more than sixty shooting dog placements to his credit before being sold to a Japanese sportsman.

[On a personal note, Tricky Dick’s Tomoka was born in my kennel and was given to Gerald Tracy as a stud fee puppy.]

Another good one was Ch. Ultimate Reissue, co-owned with the late George Ekdahl. The tricolor setter won the Region 2 Amateur Championship and also won the National Amateur Pheasant Championship.

Merv is 81 years old and is still campaigning dogs. He and Bob Reed currently have a first year shooting dog pointer male called Steel City Storm. “Sport” is with Jeanette Tracy and will compete in top shooting dog competitions this coming season.

Merv’s involvement in trials is not only as a competitor but also as a club organizer and official. He is currently a director of the Indiantown Gap Bird Dog Club and Keystone Bird Dog Trust, president of the York Pointer and Setter Club, past director of the National Shooting Dog Futurity, and he served as the president of the Region 2 Amateur Shooting Dog program. Some of Merv’s judging assignments have been the Keystone Championship, Region 2 Amateur Championship, and South Carolina Open Championship.

Merv has seen a lot in his fifty-five years of trialing and hunting. He has seen pheasant numbers in York County dwindle to almost nothing. He has seen all of his old hunting grounds either posted or turned into housing developments.

He has seen changes in the trial game also. Bigger running and classier dogs in shooting dog stakes are the norm. It is becoming more difficult to run weekend trials because of all the one hour stakes.

Merv’s strongest and most loyal supporter through the years has been wife Arlene.

She is a great traveling companion and helpmate wherever the trail might lead to the next field trial.

The person carrying on the Eisenhart banner in the bird dog game is grandson Luke Eisenhart. You can see the pride in Merv’s eyes when he is discussing Luke’s accomplishments. He recalls how he and Arlene would take Luke along to trials when Luke was a youngster and how grandpa Gerald Tracy would tutor Luke in the finer points of dog training.

Anyone who has spent time with Merv knows he is the strong silent type. But don’t let his demeanor fool you. He is a doer and not a dreamer. After many years of field trial involvement he is still a positive force, waiting for that next great bird dog.

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