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Field Trial Report

Missouri Open Shooting Dog Championship

By Tony King | Aug 09, 2018
Championship Winners. From front left: Eddy Taylor with Hale’s Southern Touch and Harold Gearhart with Lancelot’s Tall Knight. Behind: Tony King, Dr. Jeff Hale, Justin Crook, Ronnie Miller, Judges Greg Gibson and Bob Lais; Marla Stretz, Jerry Hailey and Chuck Stretz.

Grovespring, Mo. — A relaxed attitude, plenty of bird work, some outstanding performances coupled with favorable weather set the stage for a pleasurable week of running at this year’s Missouri Open Shooting Dog Championship. Professional handlers Stacy Perkins, Chuck Stretz, Eddy Taylor, Virgil Moore, Harold Gearhart and Justin Crook, along with the amateur competitors such as Jeff Hale, Ronnie Miller and Johnny and Rita Ornsby, enjoyed the all around competiveness and camaraderie the popular event provided. As always it was a joy to see the old gang back at the grounds running dogs and competing for this year’s titular honors.

Field trials would not survive without the help of their sponsors. The Missouri Shooting Dog Association is fortunate to have two of the industry’s best. For several years now, Purina and SportDog collars have graciously provided product and support to this championship event. As always, Purina provided Pro Plan Performance to be given to the handlers and/or owners of the champion and runner-up. SportDog provided e-collars to the champion and the runner-up. As always it was great to see Jim Morehouse at this trial. Jim’s schedule is so hectic he had limited time to stay and visit but we love having Jim stop by to visit with everyone about the latest SportDog products. The Missouri Shooting Dog Association would like to thank its sponsors and looks forward to their renewed support and continued relationship of this time honored event.

A heartfelt thank you to Jerry Hailey as he stepped up big time to help out with this event. Limited vacation time and family commitments prevented the normal team of MWSD Futurity and MOSD Board members from attending and working this trial. Without Jerry’s help and many of the participants such Laura Perkins, Ronnie Miller, Stacy Perkins and Harold Gearhart this event would not have run as smoothly as it did. Along with Jerry, these individuals assumed the roles of marshals, dog wagon drivers, snack purchasers and sometimes bird planters. Their help was invaluable and much appreciated. Thanks again everyone!

Judges Greg Gibson of Goddard, Kan., and Bob Lais of Wichita, Kan., manned the judicial saddles to evaluate 34 shooting dogs and name a champion and runner-up for the 39th Missouri Open Shooting Dog Championship. Both of these gentlemen have judged many significant championships over the past several years and their judging talents are highly sought after. Greg and Bob are not only great judges but they are lifelong friends and well respected individuals in the sport of field trialing. Their cheerful attitudes and willingness to look at every dog the same way was contagious both among the handlers and trial participants at this stake. These two gentlemen are truly passionate about the sport of field trialing and work very hard to improve it by filling many leadership roles. The Missouri Shooting Dog Association greatly appreciates their services and their dedication to the sport of field trialing! I truly appreciate their honesty, integrity and friendship!

THE WINNERS

This year’s Missouri Open Shooting Dog Champion was Hale’s Southern Touch (Bess), seven-year-old white and liver pointer female owned and handled by Dr. Jeff Hale of Russellville, Ark.

Bess is no stranger to winning on these grounds. In 2013, under the whistle of Ryan Westfall, Bess garnered first place honors at the 26th Midwestern States Shooting Dog Futurity with a stellar three-find performance and beautiful back in the callback series to separate herself from a strong field of 29 of the country’s best Derbies.

Since then, and after overcoming a few injuries, Bess’ career has been nothing short of amazing. In the spring of 2017, Bess won again at Grovespring, earning runner-up honors at the Region 5 Amateur Shooting Dog Championship, and if memory serves correctly the exact same course. At this year’s championship running, she not only showcased her talents but put on a performance that will be talked about by all who were lucky enough to witness it.

In the 6th brace, over course No. 2 on the second morning of running, Hale’s Southern Touch was turned loose with Rebel’s Stormy Rye, owned by Marty Meyer and handled by Harold Gearhart. Relatively cool temperatures and a fairly strong headwind provided what many thought would be a challenging day. Bess proved us all wrong!

Breaking away shortly after 9:15 a. m., Rye and Bess were to the front with enthusiasm. Gathered up in the bottom and sent toward the corn field, both dogs were applying themselves nicely. At 15 Bess scored first on the right side of the course before the fence gap and creek crossing. All was in order for flush and shot. From there, through the corn field and into sycamore bottom, Bess was on the board again. This was a nice piece of bird work on the left edge of the bottom just around the corner before the bottom opened up. Again her manners were impeccable.

With a short blast of the whistle and a powerful cast along the left edge, Bess soared deep to the front. Shortly thereafter Jeff had his hat in the air and was calling point. Across the creek and before going up hill above Andy’s, Bess notched her third find at 23 toward the left corner. Away again, Jeff guided Bess up hill above Andy’s house. At this point in the brace the gallery pace quickened and idle conversation ceased. All in attendance knew that Bess was putting on a show but were wondering could she keep this up for another 30 minutes. Shortly thereafter Bess was found standing again at the end of the wooded draw on the left hand side of the course. Jeff was quickly off his horse and the birds were put to  flight for Bess’ fourth find.

Away again, the hard charging white and liver female grabbed the left side of the course toward the twin barns. With every find her charge strengthened as she seemed to be on cruise control, searching every known covey haunt and not wasting a step. I know Jeff had to be nervous as the brace progressed but it seemed as if he and Bess were in complete control. Rebel’s Stormy Rye was not pleasing Gearhart and was picked up.

Just before entering the twin pasture, Bess notched find No. 5 on the left hand side of the third hour chute entrance below the barns. Loosed again, Bess charged toward the pond, taking the far left fenceline toward the bull pasture. Near the blue house along the fenceline, Bess scored No. 6, her manners and style still impeccable. From there, Bess was not done. She carded two more beautiful finds in the bull pasture, the final one coming near the pond in the far corner before turning toward Klimer’s at 55.

Bess’ performance was powerful throughout as she punched the front end but handled with ease for Hale. Her finds were spread out evenly as she finished just as strong as she started on course No. 2. Her style was enjoyable and her manners impeccable. Bess’ overall strength throughout, coupled with eight stellar pieces of bird work and a strong finish not only set the standard but shut the door for the remaining field.

I have witnessed many champion shooting dog performances at the Sportmen’s Association grounds but I don’t know if I will ever witness one as complete, intelligent, and as smooth as this year’s winner ran. It was an amazing and enjoyable hour! Congratulations to Dr. Jeff Hale and Hale’s Southern Touch.

This year’s runner-up was Lancelot’s Tall Knight for owner Dr. Richard Steckley of Wichita, Kan., and handler Chuck Stretz. Knight’s four find performance on the afternoon of day No. 2, in brace No. 9, challenged the champion and would have earned champion laurels at many other stakes. This smooth running, powerfully built, primarily white pointer male aptly applied himself on course No. 2 with an authoritative, smooth running, edge driven application in which he had four evenly spaced pieces of bird work at 12, 18, 27 and 60. His gait was fluid and his bird work was impeccable. Knight also demonstrated a beautiful back. Throughout his hour Knight was biddable and worked with Stretz to earn the runner-up laurels.

I apologize for not being able to produce a detailed account of Knight’s performance as I was scouting the other dog. This commitment restricted me from witnessing what the judges described as an “exhilarating” hour. I do know the judges were fascinated by this performance and stated that Knight’s bid was championship worthy. They noted  his powerful yet controlled race and crisp bird work. His finish was strong and forward demonstrating his athleticism and grit. Congratulations Dr. Steckely and Chuck Stretz.

The 2018 running of the Missouri Open Shooting Dog Championship ended quietly and successfully. Good- byes were said, trailers loaded and the boys headed up the road to another field trial destination. Each year presents itself with different obstacles and more memories. Hopefully the dogs, handlers, and horses return to celebrate its history and tradition next year.

Grovespring, Mo., March 5

Judges: Greg Gibson and Bob Lais

MISSOURI OPEN SHOOTING DOG CHAMPIONSHIP [One-Hour Heats] —

28 Pointers and 6 Setters

Winner—HALE’S SOUTHERN TOUCH, 1644260, pointer female, by Whippoorwill War Dance—Whippoorwill G M A. Dr. Jeffrey Hale, owner and handler.

Runner-Up—LANCELOT’S TALL KNIGHT, 1625124, pointer male, by Sir Eaton—Katrina Wind. Dr. Richard Steckley, owner; Chuck Stretz, handler.

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