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Field Trial Report

Region 1 Amateur Shooting Dog Championship

Calico's Guns N Roses and Little Miss Bella Earn Honors
By Jim Hathaway | Nov 20, 2020
Fall foliage in "full bloom" at Flaherty Area.

East Windsor, Conn. — When we were in the planning stages in mid-July for the New England Fall trials at our summer associations' meetings, we were still pretty much up in the air.

The Flaherty Field Trial Area in East Windsor Conn., is overseen by the State, field trials were still not being allowed. As a result, at the Summer meeting, the New England Futurity, the Northeastern Open Championship, the New England Open Championship and this Region 1 Amateur Championship were put on hold, listed as TBD (to be determined). Only after the Northeastern Open cancelled and the New England Futurity was rescheduled for the Spring did the State open the trial grounds, with restrictions, protocols, three pages of them.

At that point, it was felt that the protocols were too restrictive to properly hold a proper open championship. Also, travel restrictions were changing weekly. A big consideration in July and August when we could have planned, there had been no other trials run at Flaherty to test the new restrictions and as such, there was still a chance that the grounds could be shut down for other club’s violations. Too many questions, so the New England Open was canceled.

The first trials at Flaherty were held the first weekend in September. Two AKC hunt tests ran the first weekend and Central Connecticut Bird Dog Club ran the second weekend with no problems. It looked like the coast was clear for the ATFCA Region 1 Championship to be held. So we kicked ourselves into high gear and got most every detail taken care of in less than a month. The 2020 Region 1 Amateur (Horseback) Championship was on.

The John Flaherty Field Trial area, for any of you who haven’t been there, can be muddy in areas and truly sloppy under normal conditions. In the last few years under the directions of the Flaherty Association’s president Dick Frawley, drainage has been improved and culverts added where drainage needed to flow. All this work done for water and the New England area suffered the driest, drought conditions in decades.

These grounds were dust dry. Now you might think that a bad thing BUT, the quail loved it. Normally, any quail released for trials would succumb to the elements or predation in a day or two. Usually rain would do them in, in a heartbeat. But once the trial season started and quail were released, there might have been only two light rains in the month leading up to this Championship. There were naturalized coveys everywhere.

There were hundreds of hard flying birds in coveys from five to fifty almost anywhere.

THE RUNNING

Saturday, October 1, at six in the morning when I left my motel room, the weather was seasonably cool. There still hadn’t been a frost yet in this part of Connecticut. Just before the entrance to the trial grounds, one of the remaining tobacco barns in this area was filled with drying leaves. As I made the turn into the grounds, the temperature on the dash read 47°. The sun was bright on the horizon, perfect field trial weather.

Saddled up and good to go, I was headed to the breakaway line. There were only eleven braces in the stake  so we weren’t pressed for time. A scheduled 8:00 a.m. breakaway was the plan. I had to make my way from the horse trailer, about 200 yards to the north. I had my eye on the chairman as I made my way. I figured as long as he was still here, we were good.

I was wrong. I heard a gun go off. Seems the judges took the liberty of deciding to breakaway at 8:00, straight up, without the customary announcements. I had to put it in high gear to catch up to the first brace, already five minutes up the road.

I had to ride fast and cut over Fox Hill to catch up to the brace. Hard Tellin, pointer female with Dave O’Brien handling, had the find at the "Tobacco Barn", with the shot I had heard earlier. I caught up at the first culvert, Dave and Hard Tellin were getting on up the course as quickly as Dave could drive her on ahead. Kevin Joyce had his pointer female Hightailing Penny by the collar in a likely quail cover just over and to the left of the culvert. Something happened there that didn’t please Kevin or the judge. From there at about 8 minutes, Hard Tellin was well to the front It wasn’t until 18 minutes that she was seen ahead and another ten minutes that Dave was able to get her in to give her water. I think we were coming down the flat side of the Dearborn section when Dave decided Hard Tellin had had enough. She was in her harness only three minutes past halfway.

The breakaway of the second brace kicked up some dust. It was still early in the morning and cool. These dogs were charged up and ready to find birds. Five minutes in up a long sandy hill at the "apple tree", Alex Smith’s Calico’s Mr. Wonderful, pointer male, was on point. Backing Alex’s dog was Backcountry Bruiser, pointer male handled by Chris Catanzarite. This was one for the judges to sort out. Alex flushed the cover under the apple tree and two other spots before flushing a single quail behind the backing dog. The second find was easier to figure. Just down the hill 5 minutes later, both dogs were standing in cover just over the culvert. Alex went in to flush. Chris was still beside his dog when the bird got up. Both handlers fired their guns. From there it became a game of catch up for Chris and Bruiser. Both dogs were moving nicely and showing to the front when it counted. However, Bruiser was the only dog finding birds now.

Bruiser had two more nice locations and a nonproductive point before the top of dearborn. Chris had to ride hard to catch the front with both Alex and his scout riding hard to dig up Mr. Wonderful. Shortly After Bruiser’s find at Dearborn, Alex hadn’t seen Mr. Wonderful for long enough and he got his retrieval unit from the judge and headed off.

Bruiser was on a roll now. He had another good find at about forty five minutes. Then with six minutes left and plenty of gas left in his tank, Bruiser went on point just down the hill to the left of the clubhouse. Chris made a long flushing attempt and gave Bruiser as many relocations as time would allow. Unfortunately, no bird was produced.

The third brace got off at 10:05 a.m. Everything is flowing smoothly. We are planning to get in seven braces today. So far so good.

Last year’s Region 1 Champion, Guard Rail’s Little Annie, pointer female, had the first bird contact at the apple tree. John Malone’s pointer female Ain’t My Fault had the back. Annie’s handler Gene Casale flushed and shot. All in order. The dogs were watered and sent on. Over the culvert and up a ways up on the left is "The Islands" its a spot with several tree and cover clumps. Since neither dog had been seen after crossing the culvert, both handlers left the course line in search of their dogs possibly standing in the islands  where John found his dog standing. Annie was spotted still moving along the left edge to the front. John’s dog’s bird work was all good.

John and Ain’t My Fault caught up with the gallery and Gene, just before the down hill to ‘The Pines". We could see Annie on point in the pines on our way downhill. She stood nicely for Gene. Annie picked up another find at the end of Dearborn then twice again before the end of her hour. In all she has a nice clean run. John Malone’s Ain’t My Fault had her problems. She seemed to shorten her run on Dearborn. Then must have caught fire and just went over the hill. John requested his retrieval unit with fifteen minutes left in the brace.

Tim Cavanaugh was filling in to handle pointer male Harwich Indian Creek Buck in brace four. Buck's owner, John Olfson, was called away  just before the draw due to a family illness.

This didn’t help Buck. Right off the breakaway, Buck had a find and happy feet on the flush and shot. That left the entire course wide open for Alex Smith and his dog. Five minutes into  the brace, Calico’s Guns N Roses had her first bird contact in the area of the apple tree. Guns N Roses used every inch of the course during her run. This was a great brace to follow. The sun was bright and shirt sleeve warm. The ground was dust dry, making scenting conditions difficult. Despite this, Guns N Roses never let down. She scored  three finds, all perfect bird work. With a few minutes left in the hour Guns N Roses stopped a fourth time. No bird was produced for the judges even through two relocations. With time running down, Alex got her out of there, watered her and sent her on. She finished the hour as if she had just started to run.

Somehow, now there are quail, seconds off the breakaway. We don’t know where they came from. Certainly none are being released there. This didn’t help Kevin Joyce. His pointer female Hightailing Maggie stopped in the first ten seconds, too soon for Maggie to settle into her race. Her motor was still running when the birds flushed and her hour, as short as it was, was over. Springflow's Backcountry, pointer male handled by Chris Catanzarite, was well to the front and like Alex’s dog in the last brace, Springflow had the course to himself. He had a nice race, not the big forward race of Chris’ other dog Bruiser, though. In the hour Springflow handled four separate finds just fine.

The longer the day goes the dryer the conditions seem to become. No. 6 started at 2:45 p.m.

This was a mad race from the breakaway. Both dogs were hardly if ever seen for the first 10 minutes. There, Pete LaBella found his poiner female Kissimmee Grousewood Tea on point. Pointer male Miller's Unbridled Forever took 26 minutes before he settled down on point. His handler Brian Sanchez just kept riding to the front for those 26 minutes. We may have seen his pointer once or twice, may have. But he was found standing to the front three times during the hour.

I’d report that the first find of the 7th brace was in one minute to keep it in round numbers but actually it was closer to fifteen seconds. Hog Hill Katie, pointer female, was standing beside a tangle below a tree or two. Her handler Tim Cavanaugh chased the birds around in the tangle long enough for the judges to ask him to fire his gun. All in order, Tim and Katie were off to the front.

When we caught up at the apple tree, Tom Tracy’s pointer male Mindcraft was on point. Katie must have caught up before we did. She was standing too. Both handlers flushed and shot. Katie racked up two more finds in the next 15 minutes. Mindcraft was at odds with his handler. The course went left and Mindcraft didn’t. Tom left the course to harness him. Katie had two more points on the second half of the course. Her last find was with less than a minute left. Tim opted not to flush and took Katie on to time.

Day No. 2 started warmer than the day before. It was in the mid-50s by the start of the first breakaway, brace No. 8. We were down to shirtsleeves by the second.

Overnight those quail at the breakaway had increased in number. Gene Casale’s pointer female Railway Jill made it about forty yards from the breakaway. Backcountry Missy, pointer female made it a good twenty yards farther before their own quail encounters. Gene’s scout broke Jill away again after that first find. I swear she didn’t take five steps before she locked up again. Both dogs survived, handling this early surprise nicely. From here the action never slowed. There were coveys of quail everywhere. Missy started it with a find at the apple tree. These pointers were too evenly matched, most of the bird work was on divided finds, but in their case, split finds. Usually the dogs were standing separate coveys yards apart. The one time Missy did take the back with nine minutes left in the brace. This time the flush was too much for her to keep herself in check. Railway Jill continued on to time.

Now it’s really warm for a mid-October morning. You would think after the first brace, there would still be those quail at the breakaway to slow the second brace down. Nope. The next time we saw setter male Islander after the breakaway of the ninth brace was when he was standing at the apple tree. Aiden Malone got there looking for his pointer Moonshine Magic but he was up the road still on the run. Islander handled the flush by handler Dave O’Brien like the champion he is.

Aiden was up front still looking for Magic. We caught up with Aidan and Islander at the Islands. Islander was on point and Aiden was sweeping the left edge for Magic. Out of the islands and up the road, Islander put in a decent run to the top of Dearborn. He had another find but there just wasn’t that spark in him today. By the end of Dearborn, Dave decided to harness Islander. Moonshine Magic didn’t make it that far. Aiden finally corralled Magic back behind us at the top of Dearborn and harnessed him too.

We are getting down to the nitty now. Brace No. 10 was away at 9:58. One disadvantage of this course is that the dogs can leave sight in seconds after the breakaway and not be seen for five minutes, a hard ride uphill to the apple tree. And here’s where we found both pointer females, Little Miss Bella and Kevin Joyce’s third dog,  Hightailing Pearl. Bella’s handler, Tim Cavanaugh, was closer to the covey and flushed for both dogs. From here both dogs lined out down hill along the central tree line. At the bottom, before the culvert, both dogs were standing, a mannerly divided find again.

To this point both dogs were evenly matched covering ground to the left and forward. There is a bit of a pinch, after a long wide stretch. Both dogs went through the pinch and swung left out of sight and over into the islands. Both handlers went over to the islands looking for their dogs. Bella was still moving forward beyond the islands. Kevin didn't come out of the islands. Pearl found a nice covey of quail on the move and she just kept on going. From here Bella laid down a consistent forward race covering the edges.

Just before the halfway mark Bella had a find at the top of Dearborn. That consistent race continued with no letdown. After the end of Dearborn and under the power lines, Bella was forward and wide right of the course line. Tim sent his scout out that way to keep an eye. When Tim got ahead and around to a point where Bella should have popped out to the front, she wasn’t there and neither was the scout. Long story short, horses got swapped during the brace, then the scout's horse broke down and had to be walked in. So Tim was getting no scout help. One judge urged Tim to keep to the front for his dog. Tim thought Bella was standing again at a point about 100 yards right. But without the scout to confirm his suspicions Tim rode on. Another quarter mile up the hill, Tim stopped and back tracked to where he thought Bella might be. Sure enough, Tim found Bella on point and now had to wait for the judge to arrive. Well, he and Bella got through all that and had one more find before the end of the hour.

That brace done, all that’s left is the gritty. I don’t know what the judges are carrying for placements but I have three dogs that have turned in worthy performances. The eleventh and last brace is set to go. The previous two braces have had no trouble with those pesky quail hanging out at the breakaway. Spoke too soon. No more than fifteen seconds in, Waybetter Faith stopped to point quail just walking around in a rose and bittersweet tangle at the base of a couple trees. Alex Smith’s pointer Calico’s Country Strong must have caught scent and circled back around to point on the opposite side of the tangle. All in order the dogs were sent on, up the course. Up at the apple trees five minutes later, both dogs were standing again.

This time they were pointing their own trees with tangles. The story is the same here. Though Amilcar Pereiera’s Faith tallied five more finds, We needed some dog to shine and show us something special. Both dogs did finish their hour.

On the ride back to the trailers, the judges handed me the placement sheet. This is the part I like. It is also the part that can be disappointing. While I was setting up, getting out the trophies, the Purina banner, etc., handlers' trucks and trailers are pulling out and leaving.

Every awards ceremony seems to follow a pattern and this one will be no different. We, Region 1 of the AFTCA would like to thank the handlers who attended. Thank you to Purina and Greg Blair for your continued support of amateur field trials.

Thank you to the judges John Stolgitis and Judith Hamilton. With little more than a month’s notice you graciously accepted this job and followed each brace to its conclusion.

Before I announce the Champion, I, we, Region 1 wish to thank Eugene Casale and the Casale family for the donation of our new rotating Trophy. Also thank you to Dick Bembenek who donated a nice boxed presentation folding knife for the winner.

The Champion of the AFTCA’s Region 1 for 2020 is Calico’s Guns  N Roses, Alex Smith handler, owned by Calico Kennels and Bill and Muriel Primm The Runner-up Champion, Little Miss Bella, owned and handled by Tim Cavanaugh.

And now, thank you all for reading this far, if you didn’t first see the winner’s picture and just scan all those words in between. We do plan to be back in the Fall of 2021 with the New England Open, the Northeastern Open and the 2021 New England Futurity.

A note about the 2020 New England Futurity. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, it was postponed pending a reschedule date this coming Spring. Here’s hoping we will see you all there with your Derbies. If you have any New England Futurity questions or entries, Please call or email Margaret Drew at (901) 206-0079 or bmdrew@windstream,net

In the meantime: Trust your dog, keep the stock tight to your shoulder, your cheek down on the comb and bring home the birds this fall.

East Windsor, Conn., October 10 — One Course

Judges: Judith Hamilton and John Stolgitis

REGION 1 AMATEUR SHOOTING DOG CHAMPIONSHIP

[One-Hour Heats] — 23 Pointers and 1 Setter

Winner—CALICO’S GUNS N ROSES, 1682136, pointer female, by Dominator’s Rebel Heir—Calico’s Touch of Class. Calico Kennels & Bill & Muriel Primm, owners; Alex Smith, handler.

Runner-Up—LITTLE MISS BELLA, 1664328, pointer female, by Chasehill Little Bud—Shaula. Tim Cavanaugh, owner and handler.

 

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