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Worsham’s Silver Comet Claims 2019 Title; Greypointe Islamorada is Runner-Up

National Amateur Chicken Championship

By Louis Qualtiere | Oct 11, 2019
The Winners. In foreground, from left: Scouts Larry Smith with Worsham’s Silver Comet and Ron Bender with Greypointe Islamorada. Middle: Ruthann Epp, Joe Worsham, Judges Harold Chadwick and Sean Kelly; Doug Meyer and Marilyn Lockhart. Back: John Ivester, Shannon Nygard, Lou Qualtiere and Brenda Ochosky.

Mortlach, Sask. — The Region 14 All-Age and National Amateur Chicken Championships (NACC) were held September 7-11 at Mortlach, Sask. These two championships have been conjointly held at Mortlach at the end of August, the 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. Jack 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, filmographer for the NACC, in 2005 gave a remarkably accurate description of these ground and 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 course 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. The locals say these birds are where you find them; they don’t attempt to predict their location. They like to say: ‘that’s the reason for the dog.’

“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 2019-20 trial season. Many handlers leave their training grounds in Saskatchewan, Alberta or the Dakotas to test the summers’ training on these challenging grounds.

Unlike many years when the temperatures reached the low 90s in the afternoon, this year the temperature consistently reached only the high 70s.

In addition the last day of the Region 14 and the complete NACC was marked by a steady rain, temperatures in the high 50s with high winds most mornings and afternoons. Truly a nasty three days.

This year a spring drought brought on a late harvest of hay and almost no crops being harvested before the trials. The bird population was high with many coveys of Hungarian partridge scattered over the grounds. But the presence of standing crops prevented many of them from being found by the dogs. The amount of crops being planted at the Mortlach grounds is beginning to erode the quality of the grounds as a test of prairie all-age dogs.

We were honored to have judge for us for this 53th renewal two seasoned veterans of the prairies, Sean Kelly of Cardsten, Alberta and Harold Chadwick of Salt Lake City, Utah. Both gave the dogs their full attention and the placements were well received. Both should be saluted for extraordinary service under nasty conditions.

Once again 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 with John Ivester. Mike Small (Indiana) returned this year up from his Montana training grounds. Bill Owen (California), after spending the late summer at Travis Gellhaus’ grounds, came over to run his dogs.

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

Responsibility for conducting the two All-Age 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, marshalled the five days. The dog wagon was driven by John Raymond with help from Lou Qualtiere. 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 championships.

Purina sponsored the fall banquet for the NACC which 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 2018 NACC and Region 14 Championships sponsored a kabobs night with Joe Worsham making his famous Dutch Oven peach cobbler.

SAFTA sponsored a $10 steak dinner Saturday night with baked potato and several outstanding salads.

Mortlach is a special place for field trialers and should not be missed. Following the success of last year’s selling tickets for several nice donated gifts including an original painting of your favorite pet donated by Marty Stoots Todd. She does great work and I would encourage anyone who wishes a portrait of their dog or even cat to contact her at mmstoots@hotmail.com.

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 they were congratulated at the Purina banquet by everyone.

The Winners

The winner, Worsham’s Silver Comet, owned and handled by Joe Worsham of Easton, Mo., is no stranger to these grounds. The four-year-old white and orange pointer male was the runner-up last fall here. Earlier he’d also won runner-up in the Region 8 Amateur All-Age Championship in the spring of 2018.

Comet appeared in the 8th brace with this year’s runner-up champion, Greypointe Islamorada, eight-year-old white and orange pointer male owned and hanled by Doug Meyer of Tonganoxie, Kan.

Both dogs had two finds and large forward prairie all-age races, the difference being a very strong finish by Silver Comet the likely determining factor between the two.

The Running

The running began next morning after an Open Derby on Monday, September 9, in high winds and driving rain. The rain returned many times along with the wind over two days, making life miserable for the trialers and dogs. Strangely the birds were pointed with about the same frequency we observed in the just completed Region 14 All-Age.

Although 25 dogs were drawn for this Championship, only 20 dogs ran due to accidents, illness and a very poor performance in the previous trial.

Rocky Knoll Annie (Pat Lockhart) and S F Stetson (Larry Smith) were cast off into a light rain and good breeze south of camp with both dogs pushing forward. Stetson scored a find at 20 on two chicken in a small bush just before we reached the hedgerows. Annie took the west hedgerow and disappeared to the front and wasn’t found until several hours later. Stetson continued for the rest of the hour with no further bird contact and a shortened race into the wind and rain.

Ten Oaks Annie A (Lou Qualtiere) and Erin’s Full Throttle (John Ivester) started into the wind and rain on the sand ridge east. Annie pointed at 11 at the beginning of horseback ridge but the birds left before either of the judges could reach the point. Annie, running well and hunting with a purpose, finished the hour with no further bird contacts. Full Throttle ran his usual strong race but likewise was unable to produce a find.

Phillips Off Line (Mike Small) cast off toward the lake at the end of the south hedgerows running well and having finds at 30 and 42, finishing strong at the hedgerows at the north end. [A strong performance I don’t believe was challenged until the 8th brace.]

Small’s White Striker (Small) and Marques Armed Robber (Ivester) broke away south of camp. Both dogs ran strong races with each having a back but unfortunately no birds were pointed. Robber was lost at 40.

Knight’s White Lady (Bill Owen) and Worsham’s Super Sport (Worsham) were loosed on the sand road east of camp with White Lady pointing a covey of young chicken north of horseback ridge at 11. She continued strong but got in the large canola crop south of the hedgerows at 42. Super Sport ran a large race, also disappearing in the canola crops at 45 and never making the turn to the north.

No. 6 had S F Bandwagon (Smith) and Greypointe Oso (Meyer). Bandwagon was picked up after two unproductives at 10 and 48 and a moderate race. Oso had a bad day when he pointed Huns at 50.

Walden Ridge Playboy (Ruthann Epp) was picked up shortly after breakaway. Northwoods Charles (Owen), running a shooting dog race, was retired at 20.

Worsham’s Silver Comet (Worsham) and Greypointe Islamorada (Meyer) were previously covered.

Marques Dixie Darling (Epp)  quickly found the large canola field which was the demise of several of the dogs earlier and was not returned. Greypointe Kilogramo pointed at 15 but then decided to help Doug Meyer flush.

Chipper Jones (Epp) had a good find at 6 but proved to be too much to handle and was picked up at 38 south of the north end. Greypointe Oeste (Meyer) backed at 6 and finished with a strong ground performance but was unable to produce a bird for his handler.

Mortlach, Sask., September 10

Judges: Harold Chadwick and Sean Kelly

NATIONAL AMATEUR CHICKEN CHAMPIONSHIP [One-Hour Heats] —

21 Pointers and 4 Setters

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

Runner-Up—GREYPOINTE ISLAMORADA, 1627476, pointer male, by S F McKenzie—Greypointe Gloriosa. Doug Meyer, owner and handler.

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