American Field

Field Trial Report

Michigan Woodcock Championship

By Kenny DeLong | Nov 21, 2020
Championship Winners. From left: Stake Manager Brian Wood, Judge Kenny DeLong, Marc Forman with Grouse Hill Smokey, Judge Russ Richardson, Bruce Minard with Hifive's Power Lline.

Meredith, Mich. — The fabled Gladwin Game Refuge in Meredith, Mich., has been the regular site for this prestigious Championship and was hosted by the Ruffed Grouse Field Trial Club the first full week of October during what turned out to be something of an Indian Summer.

Fifty-seven dogs were drawn, and subject to the watchful eyes, quick dismounts, fleet feet, strict scrutiny and thoughtful, thorough consideration and judgment of Ramblin’ Russ Richardson from Pennsylvania and Old Man Kenny DeLong of Greenville and Meredith, Mich.

Weather was near perfect, with rain having graced the grounds in the couple days before the first brace broke away Tuesday morning, October 6, and again Tuesday evening.

Each day began in the mid-30s to low-50s, topping out in the mid- to high 60s by the time the 6th brace had run about 4 p.m. Windy conditions were a factor every day, so while grouse were plentiful, they were flighty and skittish, with very few being pointed. BUT…this is a Woodcock Championship, and the mudbats were abundant. More than 75% of the Doodles were pointed and handled by a stellar class of canine competitors.

In all, over the five-day trial, 40 grouse were moved, but only seven pointed. In contrast, 39 woodcock were scattered throughout the Refuge, and fully 30 of those were nailed by eager bird dogs. Plenty of opportunity for every dog, and plenty for the judges to talk about.

The contributions of so many were critical to the success of this trial. As always, we are perennially grateful for the generous support of the folks at Purina!

It should be noted that the pros in attendance stepped up to help in many different ways and this was much appreciated. Great thanks to wranglers Rich and Jenny Hollister, Ricky Hollister, Bill Nelson, Craig Merlington, Greg Hilla, Chuck and Theda Langstaff, Brian Wood, Brent and Denise Peters, Christy Helmes, Shane Baxter, and countless others who helped provide vittles, move vehicles, marshal braces, and in general move the stake along.

Delicious, savory, hot lunches were available outdoors near Alibi Hall, with proper social distancing protocol observed…which did not detract at all from the enjoyment of all. It was a long week, not finishing up until the 30+ entry Open Derby completed late Sunday afternoon.

We were blessed with good weather, great competition, camaraderie, and fine fellowship throughout. Congrats not only to the winners, but to all the participants for a successful trial.


This year’s winner and runner-up both ran on day No. 4. This Friday began with temperatures at 35° and overcast.  A total of 13 woodcock were moved, nine of them pointed.

Grouse Hill Smokey, two-year-old white and liver pointer male owned by John Capocci of Katonah, N.Y., and handled by Marc Forman, was named the winner.

“Smokey” ran in the first brace on courses 1-2, always forward and pushing the limits from the very beginning. He backed his bracemate twice; once at 12, and again, at 35 near the end of course 1, far forward of his handler, and not moving a muscle until after his handler arrived and an unsuccessful flushing attempt had ensued.

Several minutes later, just on to course 2, the bell went silent and he was found standing proudly halfway up a hill looking intently into a deadfall. Not much of a flushing attempt was required to rouse Ruff, who exploded out the other side. Four minutes later at 48, bells quiet, both Zeke and Smokey were found standing where the pines and scrub oak intermingle. Both were pointing in the same direction, well separated, each visible to the judges, but not to one another. A large, noisy woodcock was put to wing and both handlers fired, judges acknowledging a divided find.

Smokey continued the last ten minutes to stretch forward and scour the terrain for Timberdoodles, handling well, never letting down, and finishing as strong as he started. Judges were in immediate concurrence that they had witnessed a contending performance.

Runner-up Hifive's Power Line ran in the very next brace on courses 3-4. This fine white and liver pointer male, handled by Bruce Minard, was smooth, forward, and consistent throughout his hour, occasionally stretching to the limits of bell range.

He scored his first doodle at 35 on course 4, followed by a very attractive, quality find at 38 in thick cover. Powerline then hunted hard, reaching out in his search, and scored again twice at 45 and 47. A steady, strong, purposeful, and intelligent race and quality bird work impressed both judges.


Tuesday. Game Winner (D. Hughes) and Melville Sure Shot Buck (Forman). Hughes’ charge tested the handler somewhat, had a nice long stand on a first woodcock, then had to take an unproductive after being unable to relocate on a second stand. Sureshot worked hard but ended his bid after one too many non-productive stands. Both dogs were up at the half.

Wayward Flying Tomato (M. Hughes) and Bo of Piney Wood (R. Ecker) worked hard and ran wide, pushing the limits and challenging handlers. They shared a divided find on grouse at 35.

Calamity Cinder (Ecker) and Flash Forward (Merlington). Cinder was running a nice moderate race for Robert, but followed a grouse at 20. Merlington’s setter ran nicely and pointed at 30, deciding to move forward on her own and was leashed at 30.

Grouse Trail Tuscarora (M. Hughes) and Grouse Hill Bulletproof (S. Forman). Mark’s pointer ran forward and covered the ground nicely with a stylish grouse find at 26.  Scott’s Bullet ran hard and smart, always forward and never letting up, sticking a woodcock at 30, but suffering an unproductive near the end of the hour. Judges both liked this setter.

Rebellious Fearless Fred (M. Luebke) and Angel’s Envy (B. Wheelock). Fred ran well but often wide and somewhat unevenly, often moving back out again on the path. Two woodcock finds at 11 and 35 nicely punctuated his effort. Charlie appeared to have her own agenda and finished without bird contact.

Lasombra (D. Hughes) and Rebellious Boistrous Bart (Luebke). Dave called for the Garmin device at 20; his pointer was never seen after the breakaway. Bart was running a tad on the rough side and had a barren stand at 36, then pointed where a grouse had flushed wild at 45.

Wednesday. Highbanks Back 'N' Black (B. Nelson) and Kendall Hills Dawson Creek (M. Hughes). Mark’s pointer was inspired and gone from judgment by 25. Jack was running strong and very forward when at 40 the bell went quiet and a long search ensued. The pointer started and stopped a couple times before we arrived ending his bid at 45.

Upper Ammonoosuc Violet (Ecker) and DunRoven’s Soozee (R. Hollister). This pair of setters launched forward and were across the cedar swamp charting their own course within minutes. Handlers both called for Garmins before we reached the berm at 10.

Boston (Ecker) and Braggabull (M. Hughes): Mark and his pointer had the course to themselves. The resident “Breakaway Doodle” was home and pointed nicely at 30 seconds. Bull ran at moderate range, handling pleasantly for the rest of his hour without further bird work.

Texas Elhew Bodie (M. Forman) and Full Breeze (D. Hughes). Bodie was running very nicely when he stumbled face-first into a Porky coming out of the cedar swamp at 15. Breeze ran hard, often hanging quite wide and rarely seen. Dave elected to leash him after a second unproductive at 54.

Leslie’s Jiggster (S. Forman) and Pete (Hollister). Jiggs was running strong then turned away going into the cut near the end of course 9 and Scott called for the retrieval device at the half. The hot, dry conditions impacted Pete’s effort, and Rich elected to pick up before crossing the road to course 10.

Sumac's Sashay (M. Hughes) and Wild Apple Siri (B. Minard). Sashay ran a moderate, somewhat lateral race, stopping to a grouse flushing at 49. Siri was strong and predominantly forward, with occasional wide lateral moves that had her making up ground. Two very nice woodcock finds at 11 and 33 impressed both judges.

Thursday. Setters Anna Lake Sophie (D. Hughes) and Blast Off (M. Forman) ran nice moderate races, sharing a divided find on woodcock at 26. Blast Off suffered an unproductive at 43, backed by Sophie, and another at 55.

Grouse Ridge Larry (Hollister) and Phillips Moonlight Lilly (D. Hughes). Lilly was uber strong out of the chute and Dave called for the retrieval unit at 12. Larry took advantage of going solo after an unproductive at 10, and worked carefully, often closely and laterally, but carded woodcock finds in the loaded cut on course 4 at 32, 37, 39, and 46. A second unproductive was recorded at 42. Larry finished impressively strong.

Attitude’s True Grit (Ecker) and Stokely’s B Jack (B. Ralph). Robert’s charge pointed at 3 with no bird produced, then began to stretch out, but followed a grouse at 22. Jack had a barren stand at 5 and later, not satisfying his handler, was picked up at 28 .

Pointers Hifives Top Shelf (Minard) and  Distance Spec (M. Hughes) were running well. Bruce’s dog had a nice woodcock find at 38, then shortened somewhat as he completed his hour. Spec spent her hour at moderate range, searching for birds that never materialized.

Sterlingworth Jack (Ecker) and Thornapple Cody (Minard). Jack was putting down a decent race and handled a doodle well at 26. He pointed again to no avail at 55. Cody was off to the races and Bruce grabbed the retrieval unit at 23.

Jars Way Leroy (M. Hughes) and Rowlings Star (Forman). Star was impressing the judges when she eagerly chased a woodcock at 11. Leroy battled the heat valiantly the whole hour, but Mark could not produce a bird on the setter’s only stand.

Friday. Warrior Zeke (M. Hughes) and Grouse Hill Smokey (M. Forman). Smokey’s winning performance has already been detailed. Zeke’s race was strong and mostly forward, with woodcock at 25 and 48, and a stop to flush on grouse at 55. The otherwise stylish pointer had unproductives at 12, 17, and 35.

Hifive's Powerline (Minard) and I’ll Be Back (M. Hughes): Powerline’s bird-finding  earned runner-up honors. Mark’s setter could not live up to his name, and the Garmin was needed before the halfway point.

Dun Rovens Drifter (Hollister) and  Deciding Point After (D. Hughes). Drifter started out nicely and pointed a pair of woodcock at 28, all in order. He backed his bracemate at 38 and had another woodcock at 54. The warmest afternoon of the stake took a toll on his second half efforts. Dave’s setter had a nice grouse find at 37, an unproductive at 38, and was leashed after a second barren stand at 41.

Shady Hill Zena (M. Forman) and Rockland Ridge McGraw (Ecker). Marc’s pointer and the setter shared a birdless stand at 3. Ecker’s charge surged far forward from that point and Bobby called for the retrieval device at 16. Marc elected to pick up at 40 during the hottest part of the afternoon.

Ghost Train Sassy (T. Fruchey) and Thunderhills Pale Ride. In the heat of mid-afternoon, both dogs were somewhat moderate in range throughout the brace. Pale Rider pointed woodcock at 23 and 44. Sassy finished her hour without bird contact.

Ralphy’s Reclaimed (Ralph) and  Maximum Resistance (Ecker). Brian’s setter started very nicely, hunting hard, but demonstrated his intensity chasing a fast and straight flying timberdoodle at 11. Robert elected to pick up after one too many unproductves.

Saturday. Double Deuce Dexter (D. Hughes) and Shady Hills Whiskey Bonfire (S. Forman). The bonfire was indeed lit under Whiskey, causing Scott to employ the Garmin by 27. Dexter was somewhat lateral and moderate in his range. Dave elected to pick up at 44.

Ash Creek Domino (Ecker) and Bax Star's Doc Holliday (Baxter). The setter pointed to no avail at 24. He was working nicely forward, found pointing at 42. A couple steps as the woodcock took flight ended his hour. Shane Baxter's nice German shorthair had a powerful first thirty minutes but shortened somewhat in his second half. His bird work nonetheless impressed both the judges as he pointed woodcock staunchly at 41, 49and 52.

Double Deuce Zeke (D. Hughes) and Hellswood Stormy (M. Forman). Zeke pointed a breakaway big grey grouse at 1. Running forward after that early bird, a woodcock was pointed at 22. Unproductives at 30 and 54 took away from an otherwise strong performance. Stormy pointed at 3 and Marc was not able to put anything to flight. A grouse was pointed at 5. Stormy took a small step as Marc flushed the chicken, but he stayed down to finish his hour without further bird contact.

Titanium Hammer (Minard) and Conneaut Creek Roisin Dubh). This brace absolutely flew off the starting blocks and were still not responding to handlers by 8 when electronics were produced to both show dogs at near the half-mile range.

Meredith, Mich., October 6

Judges: Ken DeLong and Russ Richardson


[One-Hour Heats] — 57 Entries

Winner—GROUSE HILL SMOKEY, 1683013, pointer male, by Silver Ko Kane Ty—Smoke’m Up Jill. John Capocci, owner; Mark Forman, handler.

Runner-Up—HIFIVE’S POWER LINE, 1683486, pointer male, by Arizona’s Six Gun Syd—Hifive’s Sin Again. Robert B. Minard, owner; Bruce Minard, handler.


Saturday morning.  Eleven puppies vied for the judges’ attention in the humid, overcast morning. Some great races were witnessed.

Judges elected to award Bill Nelson’s young pointer HIghbank's Diamond Lucy the top spot, with well known pro Bruce Minard’s pointer male, Hifive's Ruff Runner close behind for the red ribbon. Rounding out the placements was the setter Dun Roven Briar, handled by professional Rich Hollister.

Judges: Mike Goulet and Deb Nihart


1st—HIGHBANKS DIAMOND LUCY, 1691443, pointer female, by Chippoke’s Bud—Chasehill Mighty May. William Nelson, owner and handler.

2d—HIFIVE’S RUFF RUNNER, 1692129, pointer male, by Titanium’s Hammer—Hifive’s Allisin. Robert Minard, owner and handler.

3d—DUN ROVEN BRIAR, 1692202, setter female, by Dun Rovens Drifter—Waymaker Terrific Daisy. Richard Hollister, owner and handler.


Saturday/Sunday. The large entry in the Derby necessitated a Saturday afternoon start, with the 16th brace not finishing until Sunday afternoon. Those lucky dogs that ran on Sunday morning were rewarded with plenty of opportunities on birds, and they made the most of it.

The three winners came from the second and third braces that day, and each of the setters had multiple finds in the cuts of courses two and four.

Judges loved the performance of Craig Merlington’s Speck, and duly awarded the blue. Brent Peters’ promising Bash Brother was very near the winner. Third place went to the esteemed Robert Ecker’s setter female Dot Sero.

Judges: Mike Bentley and Scott Hershner


1st—SPECK, unreg., setter female, by Herschner’s Grouse Gunner—Call Me Maggie. Craig Merlington, owner and handler.

2d—BAXTER’S BASH BROTHER, 1686719, setter male, by Baxter’s Apache John—Baxter’s Mary Katherine. Brent & Denise Peters, owners; Brent Peters, handler.

3d—KING CREEK DOT SERO, 1690590, setter female, by Hershner’s Grouse Gunner—Call Me Maggie. Dr. Peter Millett, owner; R. J. Ecker, Jr., handler.


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