American Field

A Long Time Ago

Random Notes . . .

By David Grubb | Jul 07, 2017

Lake Orion, Mich. — It seems like it was a long time ago, but then it feels like it was just yesterday.

I was only sixteen years old and wanted a bird dog so bad. I had a paper route and made an unbelievable $14 a week. I saved my money and bought a young pointer pup from Burr-Shell Kennels in Waterford, Mich. I paid $75 for him, which was a great deal of money to me. What I didn’t know was that the pup was half show dog, and that Mr. Burret, who owned the kennels, was father-in-law to the famous Er Shelley.

Well, I couldn’t get the dog to point, so under the guidance of Mr. Burret I sent him to Er Shelley. The cost was $75 per month, which I had a hard time coming up with, since I had him there for three months.

Mr. Shelley finally wrote and said he couldn’t get him to point either. I got him home and must have shot over 100 pheasants over him, and then broke him to wing and shot, and didn’t really know what I was doing.

When I won the Greater Detroit Amateur Shooting Dog with 32 dogs entered, it was like winning the National Championship. I immediately retired “Rab the Hunter” at five years of age.

About that time I met Dick Wilson and Elroy “Al” Juntti. We became immediate friends, and through all these years are still the best of friends.

Al passed away several years ago, but Dick and I still work dogs and hunt together. Dick has an exceptional young dog with me now, Blackhawk’s Diana. Dick has been a lot of fun.

I remember one time when we were grouse hunting in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and we lost a good dog, Memory Maker. We hunted for her for a day and a half, but no luck. The third morning we went out early, and I spotted her about a quarter of a mile away hunting across the prairie. We were on a two-track, and I was driving a pick-up with a large dog box on top. I took off flying, and when we got pretty close the two-track ended on a mound. Well, we went airborne, much like the Dukes of Hazard, and when we landed the dog box went up in the air and came right back down on the truck, and we got the dog. It put a big scare into both Dick and me.

I could go on forever telling stories about what Dick and I have done.

I started training dogs in 1961 and my first few dogs were good ones.

We scored 76 wins with Ch. Skylight Doctor, The Prairie Breeze, and The Unchained Melody, which Dick campaigned.

Then Al Juntti came up with a dog he called The Arkansas Violater. I got my first all-age championship win in 1962 when Violater won runner-up in the International (All-Age) Pheasant Championship at Baldwinsville, N. Y., behind Fred Arant’s Homerun Johnny.

There were some great trainers then, as there are now. Fred Arant, Bill Rayl, George and Fred Bevan, Bill Conlin, and of course John S. Gates, Jack Harper, and my good friend, Roy Jines, Gene Lunsford. Yet, my first exposure to the major circuit was at the famed Killdeer Plains, Ohio, when Barney Mosley ran his great bitch, Natty Netty. I could not believe how big she ran and yet handled. That initiated my love for the all-age dog.

I remember well the first time I ran in the National Championship (at Ames). The Prairie Breeze and the setter bitch, The Unchained Melody. I had worked them exclusively in Michigan all winter, the temperatures in the low 20s much of the time. I worked them on foot, and had them “ready”.

I drove to Grand Junction by myself with the two dogs. And the week the dogs ran it was close to 80°, too much of a climate change, but they pointed some birds, and I was not embarrassed. Breeze was braced with John S. Gates, and for a 21-year-old amateur, my stomach was churning when we turned loose, but John S. was helpful, and a complete gentleman, much like his sons, John Rex and Robin Gates.

Down through the years, I have run with many different handlers and have respected most of them for their talents and their sportsmanship.

When I went to the West Coast to compete, most of the handlers were congenial, and true sportsmen. I think of it now, and wonder how I did it. I would take twenty dogs and five horses by myself and drive the 7,200 miles round trip for seventeen years. Yet, I had many fond memories with Gerry MacKenzie, Clyde Queen, Dr. Charles Hjerpe, Ron Bader, Max Holland, Rich Robertson, Ed Harrison. All great dog men in their own way.

I remember 1975, the year that my good friend Collier Smith came out there and ran several good dogs. In the National Chukar Championship Collier ran a great dog that had three finds, and I had three finds with Fast Astro Boy so they had a second series and we battled it out for an hour. Fortunately I won it with Boy and Collier got runner-up. Like the gentleman he is, he came over and congratulated me, as I did him.

Randy Downs always said, “David, bird dogs is about all you know.” I often tell the black boys that worked for me, that I was so young, I was sucking my thumb, and blowing a whistle at the same time.

My wife, Henrietta, got up one morning and said, “Look at all of these wrinkles I have. Just overnight.” She had cataract surgery the week before, and my granddaughter said, “Granma, you got your eyes fixed, and now you can see them!”

Thus, I look back a long time ago, and smile with all the memories and the great men I have known in this sport.

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