American Field

Field Trial Report

National Amateur Chicken Championship

By Louis Qualtiere | Oct 12, 2018
The Winners. From left: Ruthann Epp with Erin’s Full Throttle and Larry Smith with Worsham’s Silver Comet. Standing: Judges Andy Daugherty and Sean Kelly; John Ivester, John Raymond, Linda Smith, Joe Worsham, Doug Meyer and Lou Qualtiere.

Mortlach, Sask. — The Region 14 Amateur All-Age and National Amateur Chicken Championships (NACC) were held in early September at Mortlach, Saskatchewan. These two Championships have been conjointly held at Mortlach at the end of August beginning of September for over thirty years. In fact, this was the 52nd running of these dual All-Age Championships on the Canadian prairies.

Prior to the early 1980s the Championships were held at the Gleichen, Alberta grounds. During the early 1980s the trials moved back and forth between Gleichen and Mortlach before settling at Mortlach in 1983.

Placements from 1967-1980 for the NACC were dominated by Pete Frierson, Jack Fiveash and Dr. J. D. Huffman. From 1980-1992 Pete Frierson and Ferrel Miller.

The Mortlach grounds are the jewel of the Northern prairies and offer one of the strongest tests of a true all-age dog. Only those dogs that reach out to the limit and still handle and find birds will be counted in the end.

Brad Harter, the reporter for the NACC in 2005 gave a remarkably accurate description of these grounds. For those who missed his commentary here it is:

“Put together more than 16,000 acres of gently rolling prairie terrain, more than ample numbers of Sharptail grouse and Hungarian partridge, perfect weather, great dogs and the best people you could ever meet and you have every single ingredient for a successful field trial. The National Amateur Chicken Championship, held in early September at Mortlach, Sask., was exactly that type of field trial. A portion of the grounds are owned by a half-dozen local ranchers. The largest section is called ‘Crown Land’. It is owned by the Canadian government and is leased to the local ranchers. The trial headquarters is a modern clubhouse that sits on the site of Leon Covington’s old training camp.

“With nearly 16,000 acres available for four one-hour courses, there is more than ample room for a bird dog to show heels and perform the true prairie, all-age race. Each course is about five miles in length. Each offers plenty of objectives and a perfect cover mix with massive hay fields intermixed with rotational crop land. There are bluffs (tree-covered islands) and long sandy ridges covered with chokecherry and other indigenous shrubs. Mix in a few rough pastures, home to large herds of beef cattle, and you have Mortlach, a field trial paradise. Somewhere on about every 160 acres you will find the remains of abandoned home sites. These old farm sites are often home to the Sharptail grouse and Huns, just like they are favorite haunts to the Bobwhite quail of the South. Put this all together and it completes a mosaic pattern that is just about perfect as far as bird dogs and field trials are concerned.

“With this mix of cover conditions, birds can be anywhere and everywhere on any given day . . .

“There is absolutely no question that it takes a good dog to figure this all out. Throw into this mix the prairie wind. It almost always plays a big factor in a dog’s performance and it seems to blow most all the time. The days can also be sunny and hot or cool and rainy and these conditions may push the birds into the brush-covered bluffs. On the cloudy days, there is no real predicting where the birds will be. Your best bet may just be to turn your dog loose and trust his judgment. The good ones just seem to go to birds. That’s why the old timers like John Gardner always said the prairie does the separating, making all the great ones stand out over the rest. The truly great prairie dogs experiment, they try every form of cover that exists until something starts to work. In short, this is what really makes these grounds a bird dog trainer’s paradise. For a dog to have success up here, the nose and brains must be connected all the time. The massive size of the country can’t intimidate the dog; instead it must be the lure that pulls him forward to each distant horizon. If someone assigned you to draw plans for the perfect venue for an all-age dog; you would want to use Mortlach as your prototype. It’s just that simple!”

These two Amateur Championships mark one of the earliest tests of the new 2018-2019 trial season. Many handlers leave their training grounds in Saskatchewan, Alberta or the Dakotas to test the summer’s training on these challenging grounds.

Unlike last year when temperatures reached the low 90s in the afternoon, this year the temperature consistently reached only the high 70s. This year a summer drought brought on an early harvest, reducing regrowth of the alfalfa on the hay grounds. The bird population was the highest of the last seven years with many coveys of Hungerian partridge scattered over the grounds .

We were honored to have as judges for this 52th renewal two seasoned veterans of the prairies, Sean Kelly of Cardston Alberta and Andy Daugherty who has trained in Jansen, Saskatchewan for many many years and who lives in the winter in Grovespring, Mo. Both men gave the dogs their full attention and the placements were well received.

Larry Smith, Doug Meyer and Joe Worsham came up from their training grounds in the Dakotas to test their dogs on the Mortlach venue. Ruthann Epp came from her Piapot, Sask., grounds. Mike Small (Indiana) returned this year; last year was his first experience at Mortlach.

Region 14 participants included Dave Noell, from Montana, Paul Falkowsky and Gerry McLarney from Alberta, with Sheldon Rogers, Ron Bender and Lou Qualtiere from Saskatchewan.

Responsibility for running the two Championships rested with the Region 14 executive and Saskatchewan Field Trial Club (SAFTA) members who supplied the labor to ensure the trials ran smoothly, and the meals were special.

Ron Bender, as usual marshaled the five days. The dog wagon was driven by John Raymond with help of Linda Bender. Jeanette Heise organized the lunches, as usual, with the help of Linda Henderson and Brenda Ochosky. They supplied lunches for the judges, reporters and guests for the five days of the two Championships. In addition, Jeanette made sure that there was a full meal in the evening of each day of the running.

The Purina-sponsored fall banquet for the NACC was catered by the SAFTA group the second night. This was augmented the next night by a winners’ night, where last year’s owners of the winner of the 2017 NACC (Paul Falkowsky) and Region 14 (Lou Qualtiere) hosted barbecued ribs and spicy meat balls supper. SAFTA sponsored a $10 steak night Saturday evening with baked potato and several outstanding salads.

Mortlach is a special place for field trialers and should not be missed.

Above all, we thank the great cast of landowners led by Donna, Lee and Les Eastmond (who also supply hay and oats for the trial), and including the Ellingsons, Campbells, Crosbies, Goslings, Adamses and other landowners. We all owe them a great deal of thanks for the many years of support for these two all –age championships and were congratulated at the Purina banquet by everyone.

The Winners

Named winner was Erin’s Full Throttle. No stranger to this grounds, the white and liver pointer male owned and handled by John Ivester of  Huntersville, N. C., was runner-up champion in Region 14 last year.

Full Throttle was in the third brace starting at the top of Chicken Alley. He pushed hard to the front the whole 60 minutes, often not in sight but eventually showing far to the front.

Scout Ruthann Epp had to round him up in the Rough pasture and returned to the gate and water tank (entrance to the North end) where John cast him north along the grass boarding the lake. Full Throttle took that edge, disappearing, with Ruthann finding him on point three-quarters of a mile north of where he was released. John flushed a large covey of Huns. The pointer finished strong at the top the hedgerows at time. A prairie all-age race capped by a prairie all- age find.

The runner-up, Worsham’s Silver Comet, appeared in the 7th brace starting at the top the North hedgerows south of Chicken Alley.

Owned and handled by Joe Worsham of Easton., Mo., the white and orange Silver Comet started strong, casting forward towards the lake and disappearing into the unharvested 80-acre wheat field south of Chicken Alley. Everyone, including Joe, assumed the dog had traveled to the end of Chicken Alley but Larry Smith found Comet at the southern end of the center hedgerow at 30. Since Joe was not in sight, the judges instructed Larry to flush. He put up a large covey of young sharptail.

Joe regained control of the dog and finished him strong for the remainder of the hour.

The Running

The running of the NACC began after the large Open Derby Saturday afternoon, September 9.

Worsham’s Super Sport (Joe Worsham) ran as a bye when Sargeant Chili Pepper (Jerry McLarney) became ill. Super Sport started fast but failed to turn south as the course changed and headed North instead towards the Lake. Joe requested the retrieval device at 30.

Small’s White Striker (Mike Small) began slowly having an unproductive at 8, then a good find on chicken at 18 after which he ran a strong race to the front. Poncho’s Monte Carlo (Jerry McLarney). started strong for the first 15 then cast far to the North and was finally returned to the front but was unable to continue the race. Consequently, after an unproductive at 30 was picked up.

In No. 3, Greypointe Luminoso (Doug Meyer) was braced with the winner Erin’s Full Throttle. They began at the top of Chicken Alley. Luminoso had a nice find on a single Hun at 7 and continued to run all-age with lapses when the wind picked up and he began to run lateral. He finished at the North end at time with a very nice find at the end of the hedgerows on a flock of Huns. Race inconsistency surely hurt his chances for a placement.

Greypointe Islamorada (D. Meyer) and Manteo’s Ace of Spades (Paul Falkowsky) started on the regular first course north of camp the next morning, both dogs pushing the horizon. Islamorada was lost at 20 and Ace at 50 after a huge race but no birds.

S F Bandwagon (Larry Smith ) and Marque’s Armed Robber (J. Ivester). Bandwagon ran a controlled all-age race but suffered unproductive at 29 and 45. Robber backed Larry’s dog at 45 following a find at 35 along a hedgerow.

Greypointe Kilogramo (D. Meyer) and Phillips Offline (M. Small). Offline had a strong all-age race, backing Kilo’s find at 43. Kilo wasn’t showing an all-age race for the majority of the hour.

Runner-up Worsham’s Silver Comet was down with Marques Lucky Star (J. Ivester). Star was picked up failing to complete the pass through the 80-acre wheat field.

In  No. 8, both Ten Oaks Elkland’s Delight (Lou Qualtiere) and Jurnee’s Callaway (Sheldon Rogers) handled the ridge east of camp in all-age style, Delight continuing to push forward until the course turned east and decided to stop paying attention and was picked up at 45. Calli suffered a injury to her tongue and was picked up at 30.

Marques Peaches N Cream (Ruthann Epp), as a bye, ran a good race and found the same covey of birds that runner-up Worsham’s Silver Comet had found the day before but went with the birds at flush.

Mortlach, Sask., September 8

Judges: Andy Daugherty and Sean Kelly


17 Pointers

Winner—ERIN’S FULL THROTTLE, 1643472, pointer male, by Erin’s Stoney River—Erin’s Pretty Penny. John Ivester, owner and handler.

Runner-Up—WORSHAM’S SILVER COMET, 1666143, pointer male, by Touch’s Knight Rider—Touch’s Silver Scar. Joe Worsham, owner and handler.

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