American Field

Field Trial Report

Region 14 Amateur Shooting Dog Championship

By Tyler Stiens, DVM | Jun 08, 2018
Championship Winners. From left: Nard Bailey, David Huffine, judge; Pat Lockhart with Rocky Knoll Jackson, Marilyn Lockhart, John McIltrot, judge; Lou Qualtiere, Glenn Conover, Dennis Hidalgo with Guilty Filthy Soul and Austin Turley.

Winnett, Mont. — The Big Sky Field Trial Club hosted the Region 14 Amateur Shooting Dog Championship commencing on May 11 at the Joe King and Sons Ranch in Winnett, Mont. This is the first year for the Championship at this location.

The Region 14 Championship has been running since 1967, with various clubs in the Region hosting it at various locations in Alberta (Youngstown and Coronation), Saskatchewan (Stoughton and Pennant), and Montana (Malta, Circle, and now Winnett).

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . . it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us . . . ” Charles Dickens (1859).

Held in the high semiarid plains sage country in Petroleum County, Mont., on a working family cattle ranch along Elk Creek, this is the premier trial to attend if you want the opportunity to test your dogs on sage grouse, sharptailed grouse, Hungarian partridge and ring-necked pheasant, with the non-game mixture of waterfowl, antelope, mule deer, angus beef cattle, white-tailed jackrabbits, porcupines, and rattlesnakes to be encountered as well.

The setting is spectacular, with captivating views reaching for the sage-covered hills, rocky buttes, ponderosa lined rimrocks, cottonwood lined creek bottoms, and the snow-covered Crazy Woman Mountains to the west.

The Joe King and Sons Ranch is owned by ranching descendants Chris and Gari King. They have a son who helps on the ranch, having returned after attending college, a daughter and two grandchildren who live nearby in Grass Range where her husband is a teacher.

The initial ranch was homesteaded in the 1890s and Chris’ grandfather leased the ranch in 1939 before purchasing it in 1941. The Kings run angus beef cattle on the rolling hills and valleys of the ranch, utilizing sections of private, BLM and state lands for grazing and growing hay. The State of Montana has recognized the Kings stewards of the land, working collaboratively on water rights and land exchanges with neighbors, agreeing to conservation easements to keep land development down, taking steps to improve wildlife habitat, and have generously allowed public access to their ranch for waterfowl, upland game, deer, and antelope hunting, plus bird watching, and field trialing. In addition, the Kings were recently selected by the BLM as one of eleven ranches in the West to test a ten-year pilot program, whereas the ranch is given more control over the utilization of the land year-round as opposed to specific time frames, with the hope that by having year-round access, the federal lands will be managed more effectively by the lease-holder, similar as if it were privately owned.

Chris feels that the game bird numbers are stable overall, with the exception of the Hungarian partridge. Huns seemed to have peaked about 20 years ago and have declined considerably in the past 10 years, for no obvious reason.

We are in debt to the King family for providing this location to host this Championship, and all the previous trials/stakes the past six years. We hope to continue to nurture this relationship for years to come.

The Championship was initially scheduled to commence on April 13, with the companion Derby and Open Shooting Dog Classic Stakes to follow; however, due to below average temperatures and continual accumulation of snow over the winter, the melt was slow to come, and when it did, it came on quickly, with flooding widespread in the area. At the landowner’s request, the trial was postponed to a later date, if weather permitted.

Fortunately, Mother Nature coo perated and the companion stakes were rescheduled to start May 9, with the Championship commencing at their conclusion on May 11.

One week before the trial was to begin, forecasts predicted dry, hot conditions with 80°+ temperatures in the area; yet just a few days later, everything changed. On May 9 it started raining that evening and went through the night and into the following morning, delaying the conclusion of the Open Shooting Dog Classic, and the Derbies scheduled to complete by end of the May 10, thus forcing four Derby braces to be run on the morning of May 11 before starting the Championship.

The  trial was now underway and temperatures were going to be in the 40s and 50s instead of the 80s.

Headquarters for this trial is in a pasture carved out of the sage brush, salt brush, and cactus alongside the meandering Elk Creek two miles down a two- track clay road. Rainfall of this magnitude would not have impacted most trials held in other locales; however, handlers fortunate enough to drive in while it was dry were not able to leave with their trailers once the rain started, while handlers arriving after the rain were forced to park farther away or risk getting stuck hauling trailers on rain-soaked clay. Only a couple trailers got stuck, and all participants seemed in good spirits.

Twenty-seven of the thirty dogs drawn for the trial competed, with 19 of those coming from outside Region 14.

At the Championship were AFTCA Region 14 Trustee Lou Qualtiere and Region 14 Secretary Jeanette Heise, both from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Others attending were from California (Nard Bailey); Colorado (Dennis Hildalgo, Bill Joyner, John Mahoney); Idaho (Chris Perkins); Kansas (Greg Sands); Montana (Glenn Conover, Amanda Drysdale, David Huffine, Clark and Rita Lundgren, Pat and Marilyn Lockhart, John McIltrot, Dave Noell, Shannon Nygard, Austin Turley); Utah (Mike Robbins, Sophie Robbins, Tyler Stiens); Wisconsin (Bill Stapleton); Wyoming (Chad Hanson).

No championship can be run without individuals and sponsors willing to donate time and expenses. We would like to acknowledge and thank Purina for promoting our sport through their support of the Amateur Field Trial Clubs of America, and NutriSource for sponsoring this trial and donating premium dog food to the winners.

Chairman John McIltrot and his wife Michelle were the heavy lifters. Michelle was unfortunately unable to attend the Championship as the couple had a litter of setters due to whelp. Nevertheless, Michelle was instrumental to the success of the trial and attended to all the details behind the scene. John developed the courses, placed course markers, marshalled, judged, provided the food trailer, hay trailer and sanitation stations. Nard Bailey, Amanda Drysdale, and Sophie Robbins drove/attended the UTV which carried the dogs, snacks, and refreshments during the braces, while Dennis Hidalgo provided morning coffee.

The Big Sky Club hosted Saturday night dinner at the Kozy Corner in Winnett. Tom Nygard was able to obtain embroidered Orvis jackets for the judges and the reporter.

The judges were John McIltrot of Broadview, Mont., and David Huffine of Wilmington, N. C. John is a professional dog trainer originally hailing from Florida. He has considerable experience in horseback field trials and breeds English setters and pointers. His office consists of the open prairie out his front door in central Montana, where he and his wife Michelle train and develop dogs for bird hunters and field trialers on native game birds. He has a strong appreciation for wild game bird behavior around pointing dogs.

David is an attorney and splits his time between North Carolina and Melville, Mont. He is an officer in two clubs back East which host the Atlantic Coast Open Shooting Dog Championship and the Southeast Regional Championship for the U. S. Complete Shooting Dog Association. He grew up hunting alongside his grandfather and father, both avid bird hunters, and for the past several years has been chasing birds behind English setters in Montana.

The Winners

Named champion was setter male Rocky Knoll Jackson, owned and handled by Pat Lockhart of Bozeman, Mont. Jack had three solid contacts with sage grouse, including two stops to flush and a find at the finish. His effort is detailed in the 8th brace.

Runner-up was setter female Guilty Filthy Soul, owned and handled by John Mahoney of Arvada, Colo. “Stig” had a solid shooting dog performance and was credited with two finds and a back, all on sage grouse. Her effort is detailed in the 9th brace.

Other dogs with notable performances, in order of running: Mike Robbins’ pointer male Upland Elhew Dakota, Tyler Stiens’ pointer male Chalk Creek’s Lil Cedarbug, and Austin Turley’s pointer female Rebellita.

The Championship was initially slated to run on seven courses, but due to the rain-soaked conditions, a course was dropped, so six courses were utilized. All courses have some cactus, just normal and expected for this type of country. Some dogs are definitely bothered by encounters with the cactus, while others are better at avoiding them, or perhaps just roll with it. Courses No. 1, 2 and 3 are south of Elk Creek and to the west. Most would agree these were the favored courses consisting of sage and native grass with gentle terrain and the heavier population of birds.

Courses No. 4 and 5 are north of headquarters and make a partial loop back to camp, with each course crossing the graveled Elk Creek Road. Both courses have sage, grass and open fields with more hills to traverse than the other four courses. Bird numbers are ample but less than the previous courses. Course No. 6 has the same starting point as course No. 1 but runs a loop around south mountain ending just to the southeast of the starting point.

The south side of the mountain consists of a barren, cactus ridden region with limited chance for game bird contact. All courses this year had pockets of water for the dogs to cool off in, consisting of ponds and seasonal streams.

In general, fewer birds were encountered on the courses compared to previous years. The consensus was it was more likely due to bird scent loss associated with the later starting date of the Championship, as opposed to actual lower bird numbers in the area.

The Running

The first braced kicked off late Friday morning, May 11, at 11:00 a. m. after the conclusion of the All-Age Derby which started earlier that morning. The morning started with a heavy fog but by the time the stake began the fog had lifted and left us with an overcast, cool day and a steady breeze from the north; ideal for those interested in running dogs in May.

Erin’s Ramblin River (Stapleton) made a nice move from the start and ran the base of south mountain very well, swinging to the west and hitting the gate at 15. Jocko (Lundgren) had a more direct forward approach, hitting the gate at the same time. Proceeding through the gate, both dogs worked the left side of the valley while the gallery rode up sage grouse on the right at 23. Jocko, still working the left side, had a stop to flush on a single sage grouse at 25. “Smoke”, slightly forward, crossed to the right and was found standing as we topped a hill at 30, Jocko coming in to back. Handler attempted to flush and as he was walking back located a porcupine directly in front of the pointer male. Sent forward, Jocko crossed the big drainage. Smoke headed up the drainage to the west and Stapleton had to go after him. Sage grouse were ridden up by the gallery at 49. At 50 Smoke was standing about 100 yards directly ahead. Handler was unable to produce any birds. Both dogs finished the hour without birds.

Gin’n Tonic Live Wire was standing at 5. Dave Noell was unable to produce a bird for the setter female and she was sent on. Olfactor (Mahoney) covered the ground toward the large pond where the course turns back to the south. Swinging from the south back to the west, Olfactor swung into the wind and slammed to a stop. Handler rode back and produced a sage grouse, with perfect manners by the setter male. After starting short, the setter female opened up and began to cover the ground in her more usual form and at 41 was standing. No birds were produced initially or on a relocation and “Lola” was picked up. Meanwhile, sharptails were ridden up at 45 as “Bob” continued forward having made the last turn to the north. At 46 he disappeared into a small gully looking like he had scent and was stopped, but then proceeded and was temporarily out of view. Seconds later a single boomer came up and Bob was going with it. Handler tried to stop him but Bob had other plans and was found standing at 51, handling this boomer just fine, but harnessed for the previous infraction.

Ten Oaks Annie (Heise) was having difficulty getting going as she was overly interested in pointing non-game birds. Traveler’s Blackthorn (Sand), crossing out in front, backed her from about 80 yards away. Annie released and both dogs stayed together. Unfortunately Annie continued to point non-game and the setter female failed to respond to the pointer’s repeated stops as she passed by her standing at 3. She was ordered up for failing to honor. Getting the course to herself, the pointer female continued on with more focus than initially exhibited. At 7 sharptails were observed on course and again at 15. At 26 point was called for Annie. A single sage grouse got up, Annie taking a couple steps forward at flush. Going on, she was standing at 42; no birds could be produced. At 48 point was called, no birds here, but a porcupine was located while walking back. Annie finished the hour crossing the basin, shorter than desired, but did have the one find.

Brace No. 4 ran north out of camp after a late lunch. Conditions remained similar, only the north wind became a bit snappy. Gin’n Tonic Hot Wire (Noell) and Kindle (Hidalgo) passed through the gate and point was called for “Zoe” at 6 with Kindle backing after being halted by handler. No birds were produce on the initial flush or relocation attempt and both dogs continued around the bend to the northwest. Running along the fenceline, point was called again for Zoe at 17. In past years Hungarian partridge called this area home, but this time no birds could be produced, thus ending the setter’s bid. Just before hitting Elk Creek Road, sage grouse were ridden up by the gallery at 33. The Irish setter continued across the road up the western ridge where point was called at 45, resulting in an unproductive. At 47 a boomer was in the air in Kindle’s vicinity but she was out of sight. She continued forward and finished the hour going with handler.

Upland Elhew Dakota (Robbins) and Wamsutter (Mahoney) were released to the north and promptly hit a fenceline where the course abruptly turned easterly. Both dogs crossed the fence heading north while handlers turned to the right. Dakota was able to make the turn and stay on course. Unfortunately, Sam did not and the retrieval unit was requested at 14. Dakota continued running a nice line on the opposite ridge to the right. At 18, while Dakota was forward and slightly left, the course turned hard to the right heading south. Despite the hard course changes, handler was able to bring the pointer male around and made the bend. At 30, popping out of a small gully, the pointer was found standing about 200 yards ahead facing into the wind. A single sage grouse lifted, all in order as handler fired. Sent forward the pointer continued strong and point was called at 35, resulting in an unproductive. Dakota finished the hour as he started; strong and forward, going with the handler, requiring little scouting.

Day No. 2 conditions were cool, overcast, but without the wind or fog.

Touch’s Katrina (Turley) had an unproductive at 4 while going toward south mountain. The pointer female ran a big sweeping race to the west, rounding the mountain and heading back to the east. Running the base of the mountain on the south face, she was found standing staunchly. Handler slowly approached her and waited before dismounting. Dismounting, handler got hung up, and a single hen sage grouse took flight just in front of Kate, proving too much for the pointer female as she leapt in the air nearly catching the hen. Firefly’s Power Play (Hidalgo) made the turn around the mountain and was found standing at 18. Handler rode lateral to the Irish setter and dismounted, at which point Power Play released and continued on and ran the south face of the mountain nicely. Coming off, he proceeded into the flats and was standing at 33. After attempting to flush, Power Play released as handler was walking back to him. Continuing on, the handler picked up at 41 for showing too much interest in non-game birds.

Emmalita (Turley) and Northern Prairie Addition (Conover) showed they were contenders by covering the basin independently, both with a lot of range. The gallery split the difference and rode up 15 boomers at 3 directly to the front. At 15 both dogs passed through the gate and stayed to the left, while boomers flew again on the right at 23. At 25 Conover called point for “Shirley”, with Emma backing. No birds could be produced and both were sent on. Heading northwest in a low valley toward the flat-top bench, Emma was standing at 33. Unable to produce birds, Turley sent the pointer female on where she worked the sage-covered bench coming to a stop at 42 near the northwestern extent. Shirley, having been gone for over 10 minutes off to the left, came from behind and backed Emma. Turley claimed to have seen birds leave the area; however, neither the judge nor the gallery had seen any. Turley did not attempt to flush, did not fire, and both dogs were sent forward. Coming out of the large drainage at 51, sharptails were seen leaving a hill toward the front. Turley called point for Emma at 52 on that same hill, while Shirley was creeping below and to the left of the hill coming to a stop. Conover elected to send Shirley on without a flushing attempt and finished the hour without bird contact. Turley relocated Emma multiple times on the hill before thanking the judge and grabbing the harness.

Touch’s Diamante (Turley) and Rocky Knoll Jackson (Lockhart) started on course No. 3 heading to the northeast primarily running the fenceline to the far pond where the course bends to the south. Making the bend to the right, Diamante showed his all-age potential and struck out to the front left becoming a speck, while the setter worked much closer. At 43, after swinging to the west, the pointer having swung also, was out front standing on a small rise while the setter backed from a lateral position. Unable to produce birds on the initial flush, Turley relocated “Sam”, while “Jack” continued on. On the relocation a sage grouse got up just in front of the pointer while he was moving, but he immediately stopped. Turley fired and sent Sam on. At 48 birds were in the air and Jack was seen stopped in the sage, barely visible. Handler rode up, fired and sent the setter on. Moments later, a hen sage grouse took flight in front of the setter, with Jack having a mannerly stop to flush at 50. At 51 Turley called point off to the left near the northern ridge line of the big drainage. As he was riding over, sage grouse lifted in front of the pointer, and Sam went with them ending his exciting hour. Riding to the north, nearing the end of the hour, the setter had been absent since the stop to flush. At 59 the scout, having hung back and riding the western fenceline, called point for Jack on the opposite side of the fence. Riding back to the scout, Jack could be seen about 100 yards west of the fenceline creeping into the wind. As handler approached Jack styled up and a single boomer lifted.

Chalk Creek’s Lil Cedarbug (Stiens) and Guilty Filthy Soul (Mahoney) started late morning with a dying northwest breeze. Headed southeast passing the pond and coming over a hilltop at 15, Stiens called point for the pointer male ahead. “Stig”, coming in from the right, was pointing seconds later about 60 yards uphill. Both handlers dismounted and made flushing attempts. A single boomer got up, much closer to the setter; both handlers fired and sent their dogs forward. Making a turn to the east at 20, Cedar was seen to the south and working scent when a single hen sage grouse flushed. The pointer immediately stopped, handler rode over, shot and sent him on. Continuing to the east into the basin, both dogs made searching moves, the pointer on the right and forward, while the setter was lateral and to the left. At 30, coming out of a small drainage, crossing right to left, the pointer locked up and moments later the setter coming left to right honored with about 20 yards separating them. Handlers rode up, Stiens flushed a boomer between the dogs, and both exhibited excellent manners at flush and shot. Crossing a small gully, the pointer and setter both made a huge forward move to the right, covering the south bench, with Stig staying to the right, disappearing for a short time. Cedar crossed to the left and at 48, about 400 yards directly to the front, stood solid. A single sage grouse was produced, with the pointer exhibiting fine style as handler fired. The pointer continued forward going over the lip on the front right and was out of sight for a few minutes before crossing back to the center and was again standing at 55. Riding to the pointer, a large group of boomers erupted around Cedar; handler dismounted, fired and sent him on, all in order. Near the same time, Mahoney was riding to Stig to the northwest where the setter was standing. Handler dismounted and fired as a single grouse took flight, with the group of boomers flushed by Stiens also flying past. Both dogs filled up the country, finishing the hour, with the setter crossing in front, and the pointer several hundred yards to the front, concluding an exciting shooting dog brace.

Prairie Tank (Conover) and Circle Masquerade (Nygard) started the afternoon out of camp to the north. Both dogs had some difficulty making the corner at the fence, with handlers acting as their own scouts, but got back on track and crossed Elk Creek Road at 25. At 27 Tank was seen chasing sage grouse, ending his hour. Nygard called point for the pointer female at 28, producing a porcupine. Sent on, she started to run independent of the handler and after not being seen for over 25 minutes the retrieval unit was called for at 57.

Sawtooth Sam’s Cooper (Stiens) and Traveler’s Split Rail (Sand) started on course No. 5 and ran a more sweeping route to avoid the fenceline compared to the previous day’s brace. Cooper was going with the handler, hitting likely spots but at a shorter than desired distance. Split Rail was a bit lateral but staying on course. Bending to the south at 27, in an open area with a single sage brush, a single sage grouse got up in front of Cooper, which took several steps before stopping. As Stiens was riding over, Split Rail, coming from behind, ran by and circled the Brittany, which was still standing solid in the open. The setter was ordered up and Stiens ended Cooper’s bid as well.

The last morning started calm, partly cloudy and just a bit warmer than the previous day, but still requiring a jacket for most of us.

Rebellita (Turley) and Upland Elhew Wildrose (Robbins) started to the south on course No. 6. Wildrose’s owner Sophie Robbins was in attendance. Both pointers headed directly to south mountain, where Wildrose ran the base and Rebellita swung out a bit as we rounded the mountain to the west. Making the bend back to the east Wildrose had gotten behind on the turn but came to the front when called upon. At 27 Robbins called point. While attempting to flush, Wildrose relaxed as the gallery passed and released on her own to catch the front. Robbins stopped her and ended her hour. Rebellita ran a good race the first 40 minutes but shortened for the remainder. At 47, making the bend to the north up a small drainage, a single sharptail got up on the east face. Rebellita, running the west face at the time, was called across the drainage, responding well to the handler. Continuing north, just below the saddle, the pointer was observed standing at 51. Turley was able to produce a sharptail, all in order. The pointer female finished the hour on a challenging course with the single find.

Wild Child (Perkins) and Dawson’s High Chaparral (Hildalgo) were down on course No. 1. Both dogs had similar races going with their handlers with limited scouting. No birds were encountered until the large drainage was crossed to the north. At 44, after coming over a small rise, Wild Child was stalking a sage grouse that was walking in the open. Watching the sage grouse proved too much for the young pointer, which chased once it took flight. At 46 Chaparral was moving with birds as they flushed, ending his hour.

Skipping course No. 2 on the last brace of the day, Rocky Knoll Peaches (Lockhart) ran as a bye on course No. 3. The setter female was found standing downwind at 11 with handler calling point. As handler rode in from upwind, the setter moved on and handler waved off point. Continuing to the southeast, point was called at 17. Handler produced a sage grouse with all in order. Sent forward, the setter was again standing at 21. Handler rode up very close to Peaches, dismounted, and she released and continued on. No further bird work was encountered in the remaining time as Peaches worked in a shorter than desired pattern through the great basin.

Winnett, Mont., May 11

Judges: David Huffine and John McIltrot


[One-Hour Heats] — 30 Entries

Winner—ROCKY KNOLL JACKSON, 1613537, setter male, by Hytest Sky Hawk—Rocky Knoll Rose. Patrick & Marilyn Lockhart, owners; Patrick Lockhart, handler.

Runner-Up—GUILTY FILTHY SOUL, 1659108, setter female, by Ridge Creek Cody—Skydancer Ground Terror. John Mahoney, owner and handler.

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