American Field

Shady Hills Whiskey Bonfire Named Champion; Highbank’s Back’N’Black is Runner-Up

Michigan Woodcock Championship

By A. Naus | Dec 07, 2018
Championship Winners. From left: Marc Forman, Shady Hills Whiskey Bonfire with Scott Forman, Brent Peters, judge; Bryan Wood, Bill Nelson and Highbank’s Back’N’Black with Scott Chaffee.

Gladwin, Mich. — The Twenty-Ninth annual Michigan Woodcock Championship began October 10. Fifty-six dogs were up for the challenge, having come off productive summer and fall training.

The weather was unseasonably cool most days, good for the dogs, but with rain blowing through one day and increasing winds most days, the challenge for both dogs and handlers to “get it done” was high.

Plentiful bird numbers; 25 seen or heard, along with 42 woodcock and 16 grouse successfully pointed in five days provided ample opportunity to impress Judges Johnathon Fricke of Lowell, Mich., and Brent Peters of Gladwin, Mich.

The Ruffed Grouse Club did a great job hosting this important cover dog stake. The list  of names is wonderfully long, volunteers, members, handlers and spectators who gladly lent a hand  from organization to triumphant conclusion.

This year a very special thanks goes out to Bryan Wood for keeping the show rolling smoothly. Between getting every brace started and on time and rallying volunteers to get vehicles where they needed to be by communicating with marshals, he got us to coffee break, lunch and end of the day on time.

Much thanks to all those who put in effort this year marshalling braces, moving cars, providing lunches and beverages and helping with dinners; Chuck and Theda Langstaff, Craig Merlington, Brian and Tracey Trimmer, Scott and Tammy Chaffee, Joe Malone, Billie Ballin, Ricky Hollister, Ken and Kristi DeLong, Dave and Mark Hughes, Scott and Marc Forman, Deb Nihart and Denise Peters.

Big thanks to the Hollister family, Rich, Jenny and kids, for supplying quality horses daily for the Championship and companion stakes. And of course, a big shout-out to Bernie Bauman for wrangling those horses and always having them and the trailer where  needed.

This highly enjoyable sport thrives as a result of the lasting camaraderie and friendships developed between braces, during donut breaks, lunches and dinners. Those stories of memorable dog performances and unforgettable people told by seasoned attendees after each breakaway, shared over meals or around campfires each evening, are welcome to be retold and reheard. They are the spirit that keeps us all coming back to the woods, back to these woods, to compete every year. To see our friends from far and wide, and experience the laughter and add to the memories once again. It becomes genuine hugs and handshakes at final announcement.

It goes without saying how much we all appreciate the unwavering support received by Dean Reinke at Purina. It all helps these events attain continued success in this historic and prestigious sport we hold so dear.


Shady Hills Whiskey Bonfire took top honors. This young white, black, tan and ticked setter male handled by Scott Forman had a very smooth race. He flowed through course No. 1 and No. 2, hunting efficiently in the scrub oaks and reached out finding the next opportunity to hunt. Whiskey showed intensity and style with every find that carried through the flush and shot. He had numerous finds in his hour, maintaining a level head and forward run that required minimal handling. With a finish as strong as he started, Whiskey rightfully earned his championship title.

Next to him on the podium was Highbank’s Back’N’Black, white and black pointer male owned by Bill Nelson of Michigan. Handled by Scott Chaffee, “Jack” was fast and forward, grabbing the attention of the judges right from the get-go. He had several finds along the aspen ridge of course No. 9, while adding some big moves in search of cover to his run. He used all of his bell during his run while staying synced with his handler to a solid finish, earning the runner-up spot.


The Championship began promptly at 7:30 a. m. with Little Miss Sunshine (PF/Bruce Minard) having a forward run and hunting hard. At 30 handler chose to pick up this responsive pointer for not having quite enough gas in the tank. Shady Hills Zena (PF/Forman) started out fast and energetically hitting the cover. Just off the path, ten minutes in, a grouse lifted as Zena swung through to the left. With steps taken in the direction of flight, her endeavor ended early.

La Sombra (PM/Hughes) and Thunderbolt Jet (SM/Chaffee) were both running hard and handling with ease. Jet was snappy with a high set tail, carding a woodcock at 34. La Sombra used all of his bell, hunting the swamp edges of No. 3 and aspen edges of No. 4 hard. Both bells stopped on slope on course No. 4 in a young aspen cut. Before reaching the dogs, a woodcock lifted from between them. The bird, flying at Jet, seemed too tempting for the young setter, ending his bid. La Sombra finished the hour strong, but birdless.

Hypointe Left Turn (SM/Chaffee) handled well, stayed forward and was rewarded well with grouse finds 19, 41 and 46. He added the needed woodcock to his tally at 51 during a stop deep in cover. Two woodcock popped out with the flush, with good manners through the shot. Lefty finished on a good note. Young Grouse Freddie (SM/Forman) made several nice casts toward deep edges. His bell stopped at 25. After a relocation could not produce a bird, he moved on to fresh cover, honoring Lefty’s second find and sharing in the last grouse find.

Full Breeze (SF/Hughes) and Upper Ammonoosuc Violet (SF/Ecker) dug into the cover off the start of course No. 7. Breeze stopped quickly at 5 but was moved on after a thorough relocation did not produce a bird. She had another staunch point at 42. Hughes opted to pick up after she struggled with a second relocation. Violet was an easy handle, stopping at 37 and 40, but was also picked up after no bird was produced.

Beaver Meadow Rose (PF/Hughes) and Summer Solace (SF/Chaffee) put on a smooth display throughout the hour. Rose was always seen or heard heading to the front, making several nice casts toward river bottoms and over aspen ridges. Summer ran aiming for good cover through both courses. She had one unproductive early in the brace, this being the only time either bell stopped.

Rock Solid Casey (PF/Ecker) and River’s Edge Bailey (SF/Forman) were off and running hard on course No. 11. Casey  battled  the strong winds to maintain contact with her handler during the first half. The retrieval unit was requested, ending her effort. Bailey continued her forward run, hitting all the right spots in her determined attempt, being unfortunate to finish without birds.

Faith’s Maximum Justice (PM/DeLong) showed high energy during his run. At 12 he was found on point, high tail and holding firm. Without a bird for the flush or relocation, Justice continued on to finish the hour strong. Wayward Flying Tomato (SM/Hughes) charged hard through the first half and settled in to hunt course No. 14. His efforts were rewarded with a woodcock find at 48. All in order, he finished on a good note.

Day No. 2 began overcast and still windy with expected gusts of 35 mph.

Charlie Unchained was “in the pocket” as she flowed through the course, finishing well with a woodcock at 55. Distant Spec (PF/Hughes) immediately dug into the cover, digging deeper and deeper. Weather conditions made contact with her handler challenging for most of the hour. Her retrieval unit was requested by 50 minutes.

Ripley’s All In (PF/Minard) and Braggabull (PF/Hughes) were away on course No. 3, quickly reaching for the cover. The winds were not letting up and increasing the challenge for both dogs and handlers. At 45 the retrieval unit was requested for All In. Bull’s bell stopped two minutes later. During a relocation a woodcock flushed wild near the pointer. She stopped appropriately, stood for the shot and finished the hour hunting.

Twilight’s Echo Promise (SF/Hughes) was flashy and quick moving, searching the aspen and scrub oak cover. She had a forward run, finding the edge of her bell range. Grouse River Rocken Roll (SM/Forman) hunted the cover with a crackin’ tail and spirited run in between. His bell stopped in thick cover at 54. After a long search his bell was heard to start up again after time.

Grouse Ridge Larry (SM/Chaffee) had the hour to himself after Sandland Hodge (SM/Ecker) was scratched. Larry headed deep into the “pricker patch”, unfazed by the thickness of it, hunting efficiently. He handled well through the first half but needed a stronger run to continue past 30.

Sterlingworth Jack (SM/Ecker) had a steady paced run with several hard hunting casts that resulted in a woodcock find at 28 and a strong finish. Ponderosa Mac (SM/Chaffee) hit the aspen ridge hard, having woodcock finds at 4 and 23. He handled well through the cross over between courses and carded another woodcock in the next aspen cover at 34. Mac progressed to complete the hour strong.

Grouse Hill Bullet Proof (SM/Forman) and Fireside Aidan (SM/Chaffee). This energetic pair ran fast and hard, leaping over logs and Trimmer’s Creek to the delight of onlookers. The bird work came near the end. At 52 Proof had a stop to flush, all in order, moved on to have grouse find at 56. He suffered an unproductive after several relocations near time. Aidan honored each bell stop.

Call Me Maggie (SF/Merlington) and Rockland Ridge McGraw (SF/Ecker) went right to work. Maggie stopped at 12, was relocated after flushing attempt and rolled into a back for McGraw, which was now stopped just ahead of her. Neither resulted in a bird being put up. Both dogs were sent on. Maggie was at the limit of her bell and McGraw was finding the pocket. They both stopped again, one at 30, and the other bell stopping at 40. However, with undesired results both runs ended before time.

The air was brisk at the start of day No. 3. Chip’s A One Hundred (SM/Forman) and Glenrae’s Outlander (PM/ Naus) bolted off the line. “Buck” struggled to get focused and start hunting; the handler opted to end his run early. One Hundred searched the cover to come up with birds at 24 and 30. All in order with each woodcock flushed, he continued to be forward and finish strong.

Hershner’s Gunner (SM/Chaffee) paired with Upper Ammonoosuc Sadie (SF/Ecker) would be a lively brace. Both setters charged into it, Gunner applying himself to swamp covers and Sadie using all of her bell. At 14 Gunner’s bell stopped, nothing with the flush or relocation. He moved on, determined to pin something. Course No. 4 would get the job done, with finds at 34, 39 and 42. Sadie carded a woodcock at 33 after a quick relocation. She continued a forward pace through thick cover, stopped twice more, but without results she was done at 45.

Double Deuce Dexter (PM/Hughes) ran with a nice tail set, staying in contact with his handler. He had a mannerly woodcock find at 54 to finish on a good note. Bo of Piney Woods (PM/Ecker) was quick to the front for the majority of the brace; however, he did not make contact with the intended targets.

Single Shot Bailey (SF/Hughes) and Pioneer Scout (SM/Chaffee) dueled it out. Barley moved nicely through the courses, going to the right spots but finding no birds. Scout’s youth driven start gave him a couple unproductives but he soon found his focus and forward finds at 44 and 49 resulting in more than one woodcock lifting. He finished his run hunting the cover hard.

Highbank’s Back’N’Black (PM/Chaffee) was moving fast into the cover to the right along course No. 9. His first find was quick, at 3, with another woody at 6 and 14. He continued to move forward along the ridge to add one woodcock to his total just before the half. With enough finds he just needed to sail through the second half . . . which he did, finishing to the front and still moving fast. Blast Off (SM/Forman) had a well paced run with a snappy tail. He added a stylish woodcock find early but was reluctant to leave covers to keep moving forward. His bid ended at 41.

Philips Half Moon (SF/Hughes) finished as strong as she started, always in the pocket. She had stylish stops at 22, 34 and 55 but lacked the bird contact needed. Thornapple Cody (SM/Minard) had a forward race, always on the edge of his bell. He looked very crisp on point early in the brace; however, the flush was unproductive.

Warrior’s Zeke (PM/Hughes) had the course to himself as River’s Edge Molly (SF/Cook) was unable to attend. Zeke steadily moved through the cover of course No. 13. The bell stopped at 10. With no bird flushed, he was relocated and moved on to stop again. This time a big grouse blew out. Zeke went with it, ending his chance in the first half.

Day No. 4 would be the day a new bar was set. Shady Hills Whiskey Bonfire (SM/Forman) and Bud of Piney Woods (PM/Ecker) put on a great show, giving the judges exactly what they were looking for. Whiskey made excellent use of the cover, carding his first find at 19. He was found standing deep to the right. After a quick relocation, he had it pinned, well mannered through the flush and shot. He moved forward, stopping again at 25. Another strong stance carded him a woodcock. Then again at 30 and 43. Throughout the hour he was forward, reaching for cover fluid and steady, hunting hard between the edges and moving strongly start to finish. Bud needed minimal handling, settling into the pocket, carding a woodcock at 16, found standing on the edge of a scrub oak patch. All good, he was sent on coming into a strong back at 21. His finished forward, adding a final woody at 52.

Titanium’s Jacksin (PM/Minard) ran with purpose. His bell stopped very early; several relocation attempts ensued and he moved on without a bird. At 40 his bell stopped, found stylishly on point. A big flushing woodcock enticed movement from Jacksin. Suemac’s Sashay (PM/Hughes) had a very nice run, hunting hard. He stayed connected to handler and finished to the front.

Centerfold Sioux (SF/Merlington) quickly dug into the aspen, her bell stopping at 1, carding a quick woodcock find. She stopped short, now 4 minutes. During the flush, the bird flew over her head. Deciding to go with, she ended her day too early. Full Rage (SF/Chaffee) had a good start, hunting at a good pace. With an unproductive at 6, she started to turn it around, having a solid woodcock find at 16. At the half the handler opted to pick up, wasn’t seeing the “punch” needed to continue the hour.

Quail Trap Will (SM/Chaffee) was unphased by the thick briars at the start of No. 7, diving right in. His bell stopped quick. After no bird lifted, he was sent on to continue the search. His bell stopped at 25. When found at 30, Will was relocated but no luck re-establishing point, his run ended at the half. Willowood’s Squig Tone (SM/Hughes) hunted the edges of the patch and pine bogs. After crossing the half, his bell stopped hard, carding a woodcock. He continued on a very forward run, reaching far aspen edges out of bell range. At 53 the retrieval unit was requested, ending “Lenny’s” pursuit.

Glenrae’s Mr. Finnigan (SM/Naus) and Boston (PM/Ecker) hit the aspen ridge to the right and got to work, one on the top edge, the other along the slope. “Finn’s” bell stopped at 8, Boston’s at 9. During the flush for Finn, three woodcocks popped up for flight. He stood sharp for all and the shot, carding a nice find. With no shot heard after locating Boston, he was sent on to seek out the next opportunity. After some forward casts he found it at 42 in good cover, adding a woodcock to a strong finish.

Titanium’s Hammer (PM/Minard) and Double Deuce Molly (PF/Hughes) were headed for the scrub oaks, Hammer going big to the right, his powerful run taking him too far. The retrieval device was requested during the first half. Molly continued to show energy and desire throughout the hour, striking out to bell edge. She responded well to her handler, settled in and worked hard in the various covers, but finished birdless.

Final brace of the fourth day. Shady Hills Colt (PM/Forman) and Sunrise Star (SM/Ecker) dove into the cover ready to hunt. Both ran with ease, always forward and determined. At 54 Colt’s bell stopped, with Star stopping a moment later in the same spot. It was unfortunate a bird was not produced. These two were putting forth a decent effort, finishing the hour still searching.

Everyone headed back to Alibi Hall to warm up after a long day plus a big chicken dinner was on the menu!

[I always enjoy seeing and being apart of people who come together at the end of the day to share a meal and lift a glass to those gone, never forgotten. To share stories and experiences, to laugh at ourselves and with others. Being connected to this dedicated group of individuals is something I hold dear.]

The final brace would give one more shot at glory to a couple of young setters. Game Winner (SM/Hughes) and Flycast Rollie Fingers (SM/Chaffee) put in valiant effort with a forward race while making good of the right spots. Game Winner was the first to card a woodcock at 18, followed by a stop to flush for Rollie at 28 along the path. At the half judges let the handlers know that even though a stylish and promising effort was there, these two were not “beating what we got.”Handlers leashed up.

There it was, successful completion, another year on the books. Everyone loaded up and headed back to the Hall for the much anticipated announcements. A great round of applause, congratulatory hugs and handshakes to the owners, handlers and scouts.

Many thanks to Johnathon and Brent for remaining focused in tough weather. It was cold, windy and wet sometimes. They never waivered and were always smiling at the end of the day.

Gladwin, Mich., October 10

Judges: Johnathon Fricke and Brent Peters


21 Pointers and 35 Setters

Winner—SHADY HILLS WHISKEY BONFIRE, 1662697, setter male, by Shady Hills Billie Too—Shady Hills Beanie. Shady Hills Kennel, owner; Scott Forman, handler.

Runner-Up—HIGHBANK’S BACK’N’BLACK, 1664098, pointer male, by Nelson’s Van Max—Hifive’s Peddle Pusher. William Nelson, owner; Scott Chafee, handler.


The Bill Wendt Memorial Open Derby was adjudicated by Tom Fruchey of Beaverton, Mich., and Eric Naus of Petrolia, Ont. Sunday morning was overcast with cool temperatures for the day.

Getting birds flash pointed seemed to be the ultimate challenge for this group of Derbies. There were three races that stood out above the rest. Star, setter handled by Scott Forman, had a superior race that was mature and forward. Second was Bones, setter male handled by Bruce Minard, for a great run, finding water near the end to finish strong. Tank, setter male handled by Marc Forman, earned third with good application and an adequate run.

The Kimme Kinne Open Puppy judging assignment was accepted by Bill Nelson of Michigan and Mike Goulet, parts unknown! Sunny skies and cool breezes made for great conditions to watch a youngster’s potential shine and dazzle. It would be a setter sweep this day. First was a flashy male named Chase, handled by Scott Chaffee. Second came to Max, male handled by Ricky Hollister. Rounding out the top three was Ott, male handled by Marc Forman. We will be watching for these and all the pups placed this fall in their spring Derby attempts.

Judges: Mike Goulet and Bill Nelson

KIMME KINNE OPEN PUPPY — 2 Pointers and 4 Setters

1st—SHADY HILLS CHASE, 1681886, setter male, by Shady Hills Whiskey Bonfire—Moss Meadow Lady. Shady Hills Kennel, owner; Scott Forman, handler.

2d—DUN ROVEN MADD MAX, 1679673, setter male, by Waymaker Super Sam—Centerfold Teacup. Richard Hollister, Jr., owner and handler.

3d—OVER THE TOP TIGER, 1679006, setter female, by Grouse River Jimmy—Grouse River Woodcock Annie. Terry Jones III & Hayward Simmons, Jr., owners; Marc Forman, handler.

Judges: Tom Fruchey and Eric Naus

BILL WENDT MEMORIAL OPEN DERBY — 8 Pointers and 17 Setters

1st—ROWLING’S STAR, 1675772, setter female, by Long Gone Studly—Rowling’s Nike. Chuck Rowling, owner; Scott Forman, handler.

2d—FIRETHORN BONES, 1681658, setter male, by Northwoods Nirvana—Great Lakes Lucille. Mike Shanly, owner; Bruce Minard, handler.

3d—HERSHNER’S TWO TRACK TANK, 1678065, setter male, by Hershner’s Grouse Gunner—Moss Meadow Pepper. Scott Hershner, owner; Marc Forman, handler.


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