American Field

La Sombra Crowned Champion; Shady Hills Whiskey Bonfire is Runner-Up

Pennsylvania Grouse Championship

By Joe Cammisa | Dec 06, 2017
Upper Ammonoosuc Violet Second in the Open Derby

Marienville, Pa. — Formerly known as the National Grouse Championship, the trial is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Field Trial Club.

In 1952, Sam A. Magee, the reporter for the Championship, wrote that the stake “bears an ancient and honored name in field trial annals, having instituted the first grouse championship in 1913. Since trials have been conducted by this club annually — for the past decade or so, semi-annually — with the exception of a lapse of one year in the early thirties. The standards have been kept high and the judges are always instructed that if they do not find a dog worthy of the crown, that the title should be withheld, and many years that has been done. It naturally follows, then, that to win this Championship is the goal of all true grouse trial followers.”

With the courses ready and all of the prerequisites completed, Secretary Helen Brenneman held the drawing and 60 hopefuls were marked to the brace sheet.

The trial was slated to start on Monday, October 30, on course No. 1 Loleta. Sam Magee also wrote about the courses being moved to the Loleta and Buzzard Swamp side of Marienville sometime shortly after 1939. He did not go into detail about the courses but did overall describe them as rocky terrain, for the most part going through pole timber and that it was a grueling, at that time, a two hour test for any dog.

The judges selected for the Championship were Steve Swauger of Dubois, Pa., and Tim Tufts of Orono, Ontario, Canada. Steve is long time field trialer, with many championships entered, won and judged. Steve and his family reside in Dubois where they raise and train fine bird dogs and Tennessee walking horses.

The club was fortunate to have a legend of the game, Tim Tufts, come down from Orono, Ontario, Canada to judge this renewal. I am also fortunate to have him as a personal friend and able to interview him for this short recap of Pennsylvania Grouse Trial history.

Tim grew up on the shores of Lake Erie where the woodcock piled up each fall where his Father and him would pound the swamps with all manner of bird dogs. Everything from cockers to setters to water spaniels. Not to mention the beagles hunting cottontails with his Goshawk Thor. One of his earliest memories is of “Kitty” stopping and his dad handing him his double saying, “Keep your head down and swing past ’em son.”

It was in 1964 when he finally got the pointing dog plague. They had moved to Denver on a diplomatic posting and their neighbor Mr. True had pointers who they combed the prairies with in search of pheasants.

That was it. They returned to Ottawa, Ontario in 1967 and there he met his forever partner Frances.

They were married in 1971 and along with the usual forgettable gifts they were given “Tober”, a Brittany Spaniel. He had all the fire and sense Tim could ask for. The gentleman who gave him to Tim suggested attending the University of New Brunswick would be a good choice, if for no other reason than the woodcock hunting was the best in North America.

He was right and before you could say get ’em scout Tim met several bird dog people that pretty much ended life as he knew it. They took him to a field trial and Tober won the Derby.

The hook was set and he never looked back. Although I’m sure Frances has peered over her shoulder occasionally.

His first setter was Kay (Ghost’s Ginger Cahill). He judged her in a puppy stake in 1983 and told the owner’s father that if they wanted to sell her he’d be interested.

Two weeks later they called and Tim owned her.

That fall she placed in the Woodcock Futurity followed by several high-end shooting dog placements.

Her real talent was producing terrific pups. Those youngsters and their decedants went on to win Futurities, championships, and have wonderful careers producing some great dogs.

After several career changes Tim and Frances ended up at their current  Kendal Hills Game Farm where he trained for field trial customers as well as gun dog owners, ran a shooting preserve, bred and trained winning carriage horses, and raised their family to appreciate the beauty of a fine bird dog.

Tim has gone on over the years to manage, chair, judge and assist at many championships, classics and weekend trials, not only in Canada but across the United States.

Tim is a true friend of the field trial world and mentor to many.

The Pennsylvania Grouse Trial Club is headed by President Thor Kain and the trials’ stake manager was Dick Brenneman who ensured that dogs were on the line and that the trial was started and ran timely.

The club would like to thank Dr. Tom Mains, Dave Duell, Thor Kain, John McKellop and Dick Brenneman. A special thank you goes to Helen Brenneman for preparing all of the coffee breaks and lunches. To the road crew, especially George Tinkerhoff who comes and helps wherever needed.

John McKellop sponsored a dinner on Tuesday night at Bettina’s Italian Restaurant in honor of his last year’s winner, pointer female Grouse Trails Pride. Thanks to John for a first-class celebration.

Special gratitude  to Dean Reinke and Nestlé Purina for their more than generous support to this game we call field trialing. His backing has long been unconditional to the clubs in our sport. Similarly, our support for Purina products must be given complete allegiance and should be unconditionally promoted. Thank you very much Dean for all that you do.


La Sombra  (translation The Shadow), pointer male under the whistle of Hall-of-Famer Dave Hughes, ran in the 15th  brace with Grouse Trails Sharptail, pointer female with John McKellop.

They broke away on course No. 3 Lamonaville as the clock was nearing 4:00 p. m. Both fancy and classy, they were off without issue and began hunting fairly quickly. The breakaway dash set the pace with Sharptail and “Trico” evenly paced and hunting throughout. Sharptail took the initial big cut, then it was Trico’s turn. Trico hunted the first part of the course as evenly as Sharptail and became evermore stronger as the hour went on. Trico connected on a grouse at 20, holding the bird while high and tight. He finished the hour much stronger than he started and hunted to the corners with passion. He was nearing the service road at the top of the hill where the course ended and the judges were ready to put him in the book, crossing the T and dotting the I.

Trico is owned by Carlos Escalante of Pittsburgh, Pa., and the breeding goes back through Jack Shadow and dam Covey Rise’s Abbie. Trico is a very heavy Joe’s Shadow breeding. Trico is a product of  Circle B Kennels, owned and managed by Blake Kukar in Tennessee, and as you can see a grouse dog is a result of its breeding and training. Carlos had waited out Trico. He is a five-year-old that has come of age; we should see him in the future knocking on more doors.

Runner-up Shady Hills Whiskey Bonfire,  fancy, easy moving setter male, went out in the 26th brace loaded for bear  (grouse). The top of the card had pointer Daddy’s Little Boy Butch, handled by John Stolgitis, Shady Hill’s Whiskey at the bottom.

This fearsome duo was braced on the famous M and M course off of Loleta Road. The twosome broke away at 10:35 a. m. and the morning erupted with the sounds of pounding feet. Butch had his running shoes on and immediately took the lead. Butch continued to run big for the first 15 to 20 minutes and was reaching far forward at the road crossing. Butch was determined to go forward and the retrieval device was called for ending his bid.

Whiskey handled very well throughout the M and M, giving Scott that great sense of teamwork. Whiskey negotiated the constant turning of the course well in advance and stayed in the pocket where he needed to be.

Whiskey is owned by Shady Hills Kennel and is double bred Shady Hills Billy and is the strongest holder of that gene pool. Whiskey suffered an unproductive at 20 in a likely spot and his grouse came at 50 after crossing the stream in the pines. Whiskey pointed with great style, all in order at the shot. With just eight minutes to go, he went on to finish the hour.

The Running

Pointer female Brave Heart Cassie and pointer male Grouse Trails Pride  were off at 7:43 a. m.,  both dogs fairly evenly handled, described by the judges as a very nice brace to watch. Cassie was the wider runner of the two and Pride being in the pocket working diligently.

Wayward Flying Tomato  (SM/ Hughes) and Autumn Rain  (PF/Ralph)  applied themselves deep after breaking away at 8:53, hunting course No. 2 Loleta in depth. They appeared to be a matched pair finishing the hour at the last cut.

Grouse Hill Pepper Ann (SF/Forman) and All In (SM/Kain). The M&M saw these two duking it out to get to the front. The fancy All In and the nice moving Pepper Ann vied constantly with both hunting hard and front running.

Chip’s A One Hundred (SM/Forman) and Willow Woods Squitone (SM/ Hughes) hunted well finishing the hour. A grouse was seen but not pointed in the beech thicket serpentine.

Sterlingworth Jack (SM/Ecker) and No Limit (SF/Kain) broke away on Lamonaville No. 1 at 1:43 but it was short lived. After a great breakaway, some hard hunting and fast running, both were seen to the limits and forward. Jack was picked up by the half. No Limit was additionally being beamed up with the retrieval unit.

Thunderhills Pale Rider (PM/Hughes) and Vitali’s Grouseringer Tony (SM/Forman). Pale Rider  (Ben) is owned by Harry Tsepelias and covered most of the course with abandonment, searching deep into every corner for the quarry. Ben knew what he was loking for but just couldn’t find it. Tony, a fancy and easy moving charge, is owned by Gary Vitali and was the more biddable, running a nice consistently forward race.

Boston (SM/Forman) and Sutter’s Country Race (Hughes) broke away in stylish fashion at 3:50. Both were forward on course No. 3 Lamonaville and a grouse was seen during the bid. Both finished the hour well.

Beaver Meadow Rose  (PF/Hughes) and Walnut Hills Anniversary (PF/Stolgitis). These girls were loosed at 5:20 fighting the end of day. Down the hill and to the first turn up the other side, moving briskly and forward. Rose took a right turn at the top of the hill cut and ended her bid early with a deep cast. John Stolgitis took his charge on through the cut and into the bottom and picked up a while later in the hour. Sunrise Star was a scratch and Walnut Hills Anniversary filled the slot.

Dew Sweeper (PM/Hughes), hot off his recent win at the Pennsylvania Amateur, was at the starting blocks and ready to go as he and Guardian  (PM/Stolgitis) were off at 7:41 a. m. Both dogs carded good races by the judges, but came up short of the mark when no grouse were seen.

Suemac’s Coventry (PF/Hughes)  hunted the cover well with a nice forward race. Grouse River Rocken Roll (SM/Forman) was well aware of his surroundings and spent no time dilly dallying, kicking in strongly the afterburners. At 45 the retrieval unit was called for.

Double Deuce Dexter (PM/Hughes) and Grouse Trails Cracker Jack  (PM/ McKellop). Both dogs running well were not the problem as they hustled with plenty of style. The problem developed when Jack pointed where a bird had just left from. Dexter came in for a back and with all in order they both went on to finish the hour.

Upper Cove Billie Babe (SF/Forman) and Grouse Hill Belle (PF/Stolgitis). With a breakaway of 11:33, both dogs were off in a roar. Hunting hard and staying forward, they were described by the judges as fancy, forward and evenly matched.

No. 13: Hunter’s Pale Face (SM/ Bressler) and Pleasant Valley Copper (PM/Stiteler) shared a good clean breakaway, digging deep right off the bat. Pale Face was the wider of the two initially with Copper hunting in the pocket. Copper suffered an unproductive at 50 and both dogs finished the hour.

Parmachene Flight (SF/Hughes) and River’s Edge D J (SM/Forman). Course No. 2 Lamonaville was the scene at 2:50 when DJ and “Red” took to flight. The duo was off immediately and running down the hill and into the bottomland hardwoods. They crossed paths a few times but both were on a mission. Traveling deep into the micro burst blowdown area and beyond the retrieval unit was called for to bring D J to rest, with Red also gone at time.

Grouse Trails Sharptail and La Sombra were previously described.

High Rilo (PF/Stolgitis) and Blast Off (SM/Forman). The morning started off with two raring to go competitors. Both ran good races and were fancy, forward and biddable. As described by the judges only a few times before, this was a nice brace of dogs to watch.

River’s Edge Bailey (SF/Forman) and Suemac’s Sashay (PF/Hughes) broke away with speed and front forward races. “Sass” ran into some problems with a snow clogged bell and Bailey ended her bid early. Sass finished the hour well and a grouse was seen sailing out of the treetops. Neither dog was involved.

Blast Zone (SM/Hughes) and Rockland Ridge McGraw (SF/Ecker). With plenty of room to run, these two were off to the races. Each staking out their own territory, they began to hunt. McGraw stopped first and no one was home. A second stop by McGraw before the road turn was cause for her to end her bid. Zone continued on and at 48 stopped for his crack at some wild wings. After a lengthy flush, as Zone was being moved on, the judge flushed the bird from its place of refuge. The incident was unfortunate and caused there to be a no score for the book. Zone finished his hour.

No. 19 had Glenrae’s Mr. Finnegan  (SM/Forman) and Walnut Hills Anniversary (PF/Stolgitis). Mr. Finnegan was a scratch. Walnut Hills Anniversary was moved up to the eighth brace to fill a scratch.

Wicked Thunder Alley (PF/Ecker) and Chip’s Peppachini (SF/Forman). Pep ended up running as as a bye. Pep broke away briskly at 12:08 and had the course to herself. She opened up at the firebreak, ran down through the blueberries and up the other side hunting her way to the service road at the top. She continued hunting in the pocket and finished the hour.

Single Shot Barley (SF/Hughes) and Bud of Piney Woods (PM/Ecker) ran well in the first half with Barley backing Bud twice. The pair was fancy and forward. At each stop no birds were produced and ended both of the dogs’ bids.

Shady Hills Colt (PM/Forman) and Wild Run Kat (SF/Ecker). Breaking away at 3:20, there was nothing going right for these dogs as they immediately got into rain, snow and sleet. The cold front pushed through and the temperature was 35° and falling. Both dogs gave it the old college try by running hard and hunting hard, but the weather overtook them before the brace was over.

Phillips Half Moon (SF/Hughes) ran well during the hour hunting in all the likely places. Her efforts somewhat paid off in the form of two unproductives for being in what were local haunts. Grouse Ringer Razzle (SF/Forman) had her tennis shoes on today, burning up the track. A very fast on the ground race was put down by her, but she hit back on the road early in the brace.

Cover Charge Search Engine (PM/ Hughes) and Attitude’s True Grit (SM/ Ecker). “Google” ran as a bye at 7:47 on a cold morning. He ran the course well, showing off fancy style. He hunted hard and suffered an unproductive, where a woodcock was later produced. Google finished the hour with style.

No. 25. Herbie’s Asta La Vista  (SM/ Forman) and Double Deuce Molly  (PF/ Hughes) covered the course showing they were no one to mess with, but could not come up with feathered friends. Neither gave up and both finished the hour hard running.

Daddy’s Little Boy Butch  and Shady Hills Whiskey Bonfire were noted earlier.

Full Blast (SM/Hughes) and Henry of Ferguson (SM/Bressler). Off at 11:58, both dogs took to the front, battling back and forth to find a grouse. Both hunted in likely haunts but could not come up with a payday. Both finished the hour.

Pistol Grip (PM/Hughes) and Nic of Time (PM/Forman) took to the ground and started hunting immediately. Both hunted hard and ran good races. Coming into the end of the course, deer were seen and may have caused some disturbance. Both were in hand at the end.

Straight Forward (SF/Hughes) and Young Grouse Freddie (SM/Forman)  were off the starting blocks at the whistles and began to show their running styles. Freddie’s was the wider of the two and “Cracker” showed off her hard driving and fancy way. Cracker’s bell fell silent a couple times and no one answered the call. A third stop produced a grouse that led her on a merry chase. Freddie kept up a rigorous pace that eventually got him in trouble. The retrieval unit was called for before the hour ended.

Miss Penn Star  (SF/Ecker) and Long Gone Studly (SM/Hughes) are no strangers to the winners’ circle. There wasn’t a better draw for the last brace of the Pennsylvania Grouse Championship. They started with a bang. Studly was digging deep and Miss was fighting her way forward. With neither giving up an inch and no birds pointed, the trial came to an end. A grouse was flushed on the walk out, after they were leashed.

Both judges commented on the overall good quality of the dogs entered and a good number of fine performances.

Marienville, Pa., October 28

Judges: Steve Swauger and Tim Tufts


26 Pointers and 34 Setters

Winner—LA SOMBRA, 1648321, pointer male, by Jack Shadow—Covey Rise’s Abbie. Carlos Escalante, owner; Dave Hughes, handler.

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


The companion stakes were run over the weekend, starting with the Puppy on Saturday. Dave Duell of Sheffield, Pa., and Russ Richardson of Guys Mills, Pa., were judiciously in place to watch the youngsters. Taking home the bacon was Riverhill Nellie, classy setter female owned and handled by Denny Alston. Nellie showed off her skills at being forward and flashy to the judges and that was all she wrote. Coming up just short of the blue and taking the second ribbon was Hunter Run Jake, setter male owned by Bill Lenz and piloted by Art Bruno of Midnight Kennels. Jake, also fancy and flashy, was bumping the first place dog all the way. Garnering the yellow was Grouse Trails Mighty Mouse, pointer female with plenty of run and excitement. The little classy pointer was owned and expertly handled by Patricia McKellop and showed that she may be little but that she has a big heart.

The Derby rounded out the week-long celebration with Greg Fried of Millerstown, Pa., and Dr. Tom Mains of Homer City, Pa., tasked with determining what each prospect had to offer that day.

Game Winner, a product of Full Blast and Springfield’s Showgirl, gave the judges a front row seat to what the future holds for this fine setter male. Game Winner took to the forward edge and never gave it up. He was classy and biddable, but rimmed the Derby course like he owned it. He is owned and handled by Richard Brenneman. Robert Ecker guided Ammonoosuc Violet to second place for owner Edward Marquis. Violet is a classy even moving setter female which showed the “right stuff” when it was time to demonstrate what she had. Dick Straub’s hammer came down and struck gold (the yellow ribbon) when Duck Hook (Mark Hughes), stylish pointer male, worked the crowd showing all he has plenty of style and applied running abilities.

Judges: Dave Duell and Russ Richardson

OPEN PUPPY — 12 Entries

1st—RIVERHILL NELLIE, 1675329, setter female, by Berg Brothers Big Easy—Valpo Silver Chic. Denny Alston, owner and handler.

2d—HUNTER RUN'S JAKE, 1676525, setter male, by Shag Time Bobo—Black Cloud’s Angel. Bill Lenz, owner; Art Bruno, handler.

3d—GROUSE TRAILS MIGHTY MOUSE, 1674643, pointer female, by Grouse Trails Cracker Jack—Grouse Trails Pride. Patricia McKellop, owner and handler.

Judges: Greg Fried and Dr. Tom Mains

OPEN DERBY — 4 Pointers and 6 Setters

1st—GAME WINNER, 1672473, setter male, by Full Blast—Springfield’s Showgirl. Richard Brenneman, owner and handler.

2d—UPPER AMMONOOSUC VIOLET, 1668393, setter female, by Islander—Fricke N Coco. Edward Marquis, owner; R. J. Ecker, Jr., handler.

3d—DUCK HOOK, 1668288, pointer male, by Erin’s War Creek—Brave Heart Cassie. Richard Straub, owner; Mark Hughes, handler


Once more the week-long trial ended at the Allegheny National Forest near Marienville. The woods fell silent to the ringing of bells, the sounds of the handlers calling, the groups of sportsmen gathered around their vehicles and the camaraderie of the many who enjoy this fine sport. It is a time-honored tradition here in Pennsylvania and traditions are hard to break. So, we hope to see you here next year when the leaves start to turn, the beechnuts lie open on the ground, the mornings are frosty and the souls of the past are resurrected in “The Big Woods”.

J. C.

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