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Field Trial Report

Saskatchewan Open Chicken Championship

By Sheldon Rogers | Oct 04, 2018
Championship Winners. In foreground, from left: Justin Rogers and Mark McLean with Westfall’s Black Thunder and Dave Tinsley with Shadow’s Next Exit. Standing: Judge Jeff Haggis, Andy Daugherty, Dawn Feist, Judge Lou Qualtiere, Robin Gates, Martha Neely, John Neely and Joe Worsham.

Mortlach, Sask. — Westfall’s Black Thunder, five-year-old white and black pointer male owned by William P. “Bill” Westfall of Liberty, Mo., and handled by Andy Daugherty, topped the field of 36 contenders gathered for the 2018 Saskatchewan Open Chicken Championship, held on one of our sport’s best and best-known venues located north of Mortlach, Sask. Black Thunder followed up his runner-up in last year’s Championship, this time taking top honors.

Runner-up was Shadow’s Next Exit, four-year-old white and orange pointer male owned by N. G. “Butch” Houston of Nashville, Ga., and handled by Robin Gates. Next Exit too had success on the prairies last year, coming to the line as the reigning 2017 Saskatchewan Open Champion.

Judging this year’s renewal were two well respected men, Lou Qualtiere of Saskatoon, Sask., and Jeff Haggis of Glencoe, Ont. Both have years of dedication to our sport as judge and competitor and both trustees for their regions. They rode at an even pace for each brace allowing all those in competition a chance to show their dogs and giving each their undivided attention for the duration.

The venue. Mortlach, Saskatchewan. From the small town, you drive five miles north and you start to see the grounds take shape. From there, hay land begins to replace crop land and for miles you see large hay bales of brome alfalfa lying in wait to eventually be picked up and hauled away before winter sets in.

It is here the courses start to take shape; they are outlined by sand ridges from years of drought dating back to the 1920s. Strong winds during that time lifted up and carried the light, sandy soil, depositing it along fencelines and shrub bushes. The first clump of bushes and sand blow you come to is known as “Miller’s hole” and further down the road in the distance you see “horseback ridge” that runs east of camp, named from the well defined trail down the center, and carved out from sixty years of field trials.

To the south of that you have “chicken alley”. A set of 8 to 10 hedgerows, some well established and others only a ghost of what they used to be when planted in an attempt to put an end to the erosion of the land. It is these slight changes in terrain that hold birds in the heat of the day or as we call it “bluffed up”. If you talk to anyone who trains on the prairies these are a crucial training tool to get a dog just right on birds. The right covey of young sharptail on one of these rows of carrigana and you could have that young Derby prospect almost broke in an afternoon.

To the west you weave past Leon Covington’s old headquarters as you make your way up to “chokecherry lane”, turning south and across to Miller’s hole as you come full circle, making up four one-hour championship quality courses that could be stretched into 5-6 if needed.

You can drive ten miles in either direction and it’s all back to cropland and fences. A truly special place carved out of the natural prairie landscape, allowing for those who want to see the true prairie all-age dog at their finest.

To win here you need to utilize these vast areas, not only in range but intelligence. Birds need to be hunted.

Although bird population has seen a rebound in the last 2-3 years, dogs still need to hunt the full hour and after every big move they need to reach again up to a half-mile to the next objective. Adding endurance to the list of attributes needed to be crowned champion.

Mother Nature can also throw a curve ball to the perfect draw. Wind can be in your face seemingly for the full hour with little shelter for both handler and dog. Cool mornings giving way to heat in a matter of hours; that being said, you need to be tough too. When everything comes together for the complete hour it can be fun to watch, and leave a lasting impression.

These trials would not be run without the hard work of the SAFTA group.

Although shrinking in numbers, taking time out of their lives to continue the tradition — Ron and Linda Bender, Sheldon and Justin Rogers, Lou Qualtiere and Jeanette Heise.

Special thanks to Dawn Feist for the remarkable job of organizing these trials. She handles just about everything from judges’ itineraries to dog wagon as well as lunches and suppers. Over the last ten plus years since taking on these trials she has it running smoothly.

Thanks to our sponsors: Garmin provided an electronic collar to the winner and Purina generously provided dog food to all winners as well as hosting a banquet on Sunday night, which gives us the opportunity to thank the landowners and participants.

In attendance were Les and Donna Eastmond along with Lee and Ashley Eastmond who provide the hay and oats and on whose land the clubhouse sits along with Cam and Colleen Campbell who allow us to run on their land to the west of camp. Adams and McLarens both have land to the east.

This relationship with the landowners to allow these trials to continue, a relationship that was not developed overnight as the history shows it going back eighty-plus years.

Thanks to all who have made the trip to Mortlach and help build such a strong connection.

It is an honor to be able to have the chance to compete and win on the prairies. Let’s hope it continues for another eighty years.

THE WINNERS AND OTHERS

Westfall’s Black Thunder, the champion, came out of the 16th brace, the last brace of the morning on the second day. Clear skies with a light wind out of the southwest.

Black Thunder was braced with Manteo’s Ace of Spades (Anderson). They took advantage of chicken alley, each grabbing the hedgerows and both eventually found on birds. Thunder’s was at 11 standing tall in the open with a single Hun leaving as judge and handler approached, with 8-9 leaving upon dismount. He showed style and manners through the shot. At 14 Anderson, in search of Ace, crested the small ridge at the end of chicken alley. As birds lifted Ace was found pointed on the other side in the tall grass. For the next 10 minutes both showed sparingly in the heavy cover as they made their way along the lake disappearing in Eastmond’s pasture. Each handler showed patience and trusting they were heading forward. Each quick to take credit as they crossed the fence far to the front, eyes set on the lone tree perched at the top hill on the horizon. Ace, finishing his big cast first, crossed into the alfalfa and was rewarded with a good find on a large covey of sharptail at 34, standing intensely as birds began lifting all around him. Thunder crested the hill and grabbed the fenceline heading west but eventually turned north as Daugherty called on him. Upon exiting the rough pasture Thunder used the cut hay fields and hedgerows to create space but stayed connected enough to make the turn as the course turned south at 52. Ace hunted the hedgerows more diligently with birds in the air at time, Ace standing as judges arrived. After completing his cast down the rows Thunder never looked back, finishing strong and forward at time. Both judges felt his finish was what they were looking for, solidifying his spot on top.

Runner-up Shadow’s Next Exit (Gates) was in the first brace of the afternoon, light wind out of the southwest and a temperature of 84°. With dry conditions leading into the trial it was going to be a test for dogs.

Next Exit was braced with Touch’s Adams County (Anderson). Adams County showed heels early, being the wider and deeper of this match-up, sticking to the open alfalfa fields to the south. Shadow’s Next Exit elected to hunt east from camp along the cover on the way to horseback ridge. Both dogs chose different paths and made it to the north end of Ira’s pasture at 15 where they were gathered up and watered. Both were sent on in an attempt to make the fenceline, as birds lifted on the wrong side of the wind at 18 stopping them in their tracks standing tall as each handler shot. Adams County continued his big race as he made his way up chicken alley but was not seen from 50 minutes with the retrieval unit employed at 1:10.

Exit used the cover and was not seen to make the turn until scout raised his hat at 37 where he was found standing exactly where he was last seen 10 minutes earlier. It was evident he was standing there for awhile but the birds, sitting tight, flushed exactly where he said they were. All was in order. Next Exit continued his strong forward race as we turned north. His performance was slightly marred in the last 10 minutes, likely separating him from the eventual champion, when a field of standing crop, only 80 acres, but enough to send the big running dog wide and to the west. Both handler and scout worked hard and eventually were able to get him turned. He finished his hour in style, reaching for the hedgerows to the front at time.

Two other dogs in the stake put pressure on the eventual winners. In the 6th brace, Touch’s Blackout (Anderson) and in the 16th braced with the eventual champion, Manteo’s Ace of Spades (Anderson). Both dogs showed well on the prairies and their manners on birds also worthy of being named champion.

The judges deliberated for some time after each brace to get it right.

THE RUNNING

The first brace broke away at 8:00 a. m. sharp. A strong breeze out of the northwest and a clear sky.

Hailey’s Wild Again (Anderson) and Shadow’s Full Throttle (Gates), although big at times, did not put together consistent races. Both ended their bids at 30.

The second brace began in the north end of chokecherry lane where a tight turn was created this year as crops were still standing leaving us 80 acres to run down to get to Campbell’s pasture.

Executive Action (Anderson) and Touch’s Gallatin Fire (McLean) started strong and put together a good first 30 but began to fade at the start of the second half. Gallatin’s Fire ended his day at 45. Executive Action pointed at 48 halfway down one of the long hedgerows with Anderson calling flight of the birds before the judges arrived. He would go on to finish his hour.

Salem’s Annie Oakley (Daugherty) and Power Play (Gates). With the wind picking up and being almost directly in their faces, Annie Oakley faded from sight at the breakaway heading west as the course headed north. Power Play, although trying to run into the wind, could not push through enough to please his handler and was in the harness at 30.

Valiant (Anderson) and House’s Buckwheat Hawk (McLean) started at the ridge road east of camp. Valiant suffered an unproductive at 22 where he was found standing by his scout deep to the east and was picked up shortly after. Hawk was a handful and showed enough for McLean to continue but eventually was lost to the front with the retrieval unit called for at 55.

The 5th brace was reported earlier.

Touch’s Blackout (Anderson) started with a find early at 4 along the hedgerows. A big covey of sharptail, reluctant to leave the trees, pitched twenty yards up the treerow. Blackout was steady through the shot. Lester’s Georgia Time showed heels heading to the lake but was not pleasing Gates by 30 and was harnessed. Blackout quickly gave his handler more space. As they turned up the road by the bin he appeared to be finding his legs and looked good doing it, cresting the big hill and heading to the north end. By 45 he was last seen disappearing behind a small bluff and did not reappear. Upon inspection, point was called by Anderson when he found him half buried in the trees. Classic porcupine find if I ever saw one but no game birds. After watering and release, Huns flew from a bare patch of ground 30 yards from where he was pointing, stopping him in his tracks. He finished his hour strong going away as the course swings south.

The second day started under an overcast sky with wind out of the southwest.

The next three braces were short. Hush Money (Anderson) had a good start but shortened at the half. Touch’s White Knight (McLean) never made the turn from the breakaway.

Westfall’s True Grit (Daugherty) was putting down a big race until found standing with a porcupine at 28. He pointed again at 32. This time the flush and relocation ended with birds up and dog in the harness. T’s Wild Man (Gates) was in and out for the first 20 with a tough turn that resulted in pickup at 30.

Touch’s Spaceman (Anderson) pointed at 10 and 42. Both times birds were reported leaving before the judges arrived. The relocation later came up empty, with Anderson electing to pick up. Shadow’s Lord Magic (Gates) was stopped in Miller’s hole at 29; the long flush and relocation combined with a shortening race ended his bid.

Westfall’s River Ice (Daugherty) and Big Sky Pete (Gates) could not reverse the trend established at the start of the day. Both dogs started strong but by the half both handlers elected to save them for the next Championship.

Afternoon temperatures were on the rise, hitting 85° with a light breeze. Add that to the dry, dusty conditions and it had the makings for a tough two braces.

Both Touch’s Mega Mike (McLean) and Erin’s Muddy River (Gates) ran big and forward. Mega Mike was the stronger of the two to start but both swapped out far to the front in the open with the type of range that had the judges having to take the handlers’ word as they were dots on the horizon. By the dugout it was Mega Mike back first; Muddy River took the long way around. Both kept up the pace they started with and as far as race goes were doing a great job. Mega Mike finished his hour but could not get birds pointed. Muddy River ran out the front with the retrieval device called for at time.

Lester’s Jazz Man (Anderson) and Ace’s R Wild (McLean) stopped at 22 in the tall grass along the lake with Jazz Man in for the back. No birds could be flushed and a lengthy relocation came up empty. Shortening after that Wild never made the turn up to the north end. Jazz Man finished the hour with an unproductive at time.

The third morning was cool and not a lot of wind but the little we had was coming out of the north.

Miller’s Happy Jack (Anderson) and Lester’s Shut Out (Gates) started on the first course, running it to the best of the stake, both handlers showing big forward races. For Happy Jack, the turn at chokecherry lane was too much with the retrieval unit called for at 40. Shut Out got pointed at 35 and 52 but no birds could be produced.

Phillips Field Line (Anderson) and Lester’s Private Chapter (McLean) continued the morning’s fast starts and both put on a good race. Field Line was charged with an unproductive at 25, and slowed a bit by the end. Private Chapter was a handful for the second half and was well to the front heading for horseback ridge at time but could not get pointed.

No. 15 — Shadow’s White Cross (Gates) and Touch’s Game Point (McLean) — started at the Eastmond grid. White Cross was in the harness by 35. Game Point had an in and out race for the first 30 but found his stride for the next 20. With no bird contact along the start of chicken alley and the dog wagon close by, McLean elected to save him for the next trial with pickup at 55.

The 16th brace was detailed earlier.

Osceola’s Black Dial (Gates) and Touch’s Malcolm Story applied themselves well showing plenty of range but could not get stopped on game. Handlers called for their retrieval devices at time.

No. 18: Erin’s Longmire (Gates) and Westfall’s Black Ace (Daugherty) ended the hour early. Longmire recorded an unproductive at 11. Pointing in the tall grass along the lake, Black Ace, in for the back, was in the harness after the flush. Longmire went on to get pointed in the hay flat shortly after. Unsure of himself, movement resulted in nervous birds lifting 15-20 yards up ending his bid at 21.

Mortlach, Sask., August 22

Judges: Dr. Louis Qualtiere and Jeff Haggis

SASKATCHEWAN OPEN CHICKEN CHAMPIONSHIP [One-Hour Heats] — 36 Entries

Winner—WESTFALL’S BLACK THUNDER, 1653039, pointer male, by Westfall’s Black Ice—Westfall’s Quick Gold. William P. Westfall, owner; Andy Daugherty, handler.

Runner-Up—SHADOW’S NEXT EXIT, 1656238, pointer male, by Exit Lane—Weber’s Little Snowball. N. G. (Butch) Houston III, owner; Robin Gates, handler.

OPEN DERBY

By Jason Lafrance

The Derby was run on nearly a perfect day for running bird dogs; it had rained some the night before and the morning was cool and moist with a light wind.

Westfall’s Red Man (Daugherty) broke away with a big move to the right through the alfalfa and came back to the front deep along the edge toward the gate. He settled into a forward hunting race for the remaining 20 minutes with a near broke find on a single sharptail at 27. S F Saltwater (Smith) started shorter but got stronger throughout, hunting forward throughout the 30 minutes.

Miller’s Hot Rod (Anderson) and S F Flagship (Smith). This was the brace of the Derby with both dogs making beautiful moves throughout and always ahead. Hot Rod hung forward and nearly out of sight for the first 15 minutes, handling perfectly and never leaving the pocket. At 15 he entered some heavy cover and shortened for 2-3 minutes. He remained forward the entire time after. Making the left hand turn into the alfalfa, he roared forward showing as a white speck in the distance and finishing his 30 minutes 700 yards plus out the front. Flagship moved forward through the light hay on the breakaway and got stronger through the half hour. He never left the pocket. Although his race was not quite as large as his bracemate’s, it was clearly what was expected of an all-age prospect.

Dream Chaser (Daugherty) left the line showing speed and class, both dogs hunting together for the first few minutes with Dream Chaser leaving his bracemate to the left and handling perfectly for Daugherty. His race was forward and big for the first 15 minutes. At 16 Terry’s Third Chance (Anderson) turned for the treeline to the right and disappeared. Dream Chaser was making a move from the left to the right and disappeared toward the same treeline. Neither dog was seen for a few minutes. As the handlers rode toward the treeline point was called by Daugherty signaling to Anderson that both dogs were in the area. Upon arrival, Chance was buried in the cover with Dream Chaser backing. Anderson picked up at this point. When released, Dream Chaser moved straight to the front and ran forward and deep. With three minutes left Daugherty gathered his prospect to cross the road, watered and turned him loose. The dog ran straight toward a distant ridge and was seen running the ridge from left to right when time was called.

Neely’s Third Chance (Gates) left the line with speed and class and ran toward the lake with purpose. S F Fullcolor (Smith) was classy and forward but running a little bit shorter race. The first 10 minutes of Chance’s race was exactly what you would expect and he was surely challenging the leaders. When the course turned to the south away from the lake, Chance had difficulty making the turn. Full Color continued forward. After a lengthy effort by the scout, Chance was eventually rounded up and finished well to the front.

Both Miller’s Captivator (Anderson) and Summerlin’s Harvest Time (McLean) were shorter than their handlers may have preferred. Both dogs hunted, hanging up together at times. Captivator’s handler called point at 16 near chicken alley with a giant covey of Huns erupting very shortly after. McLean picked up at the road north of chicken alley at 20. Anderson continued on with a forward hunting race.

Neely’s Party Girl (Gates) left the line on a mission and showed extreme speed. She was running into the wind which didn’t seem to slow her down. S F Benchmark (Smith) hunted forward but never did make the kind of moves that the judges were looking for on the open prairie. Party Girl continued to show speed and class but was out of pocket at times. At 20 she was seen deep but out of pocket and birds were in the air. After her bird contact she settled into a hunting race.

The day had heated up after lunch and it was apparent in the young dogs of the afternoon. Sun’s Out Guns Out (Anderson) and S F Stetson (Smith) were classy and forward but short. Both handlers, realizing the work of previous dogs, picked up at 25.

Both Touch’s Justified (Mclean) and Neely’s Autumn Affair (Gates) moved forward through the country showing all-age potential but were also short at times. The heat and wind direction were not in the favor of the dogs during this brace. Autumn Affair looked very good at times but was often dragged sideways while she tried to use the wind. Both these dogs were very nice but weren’t challenging the leaders.

Worsham’s Super Sport (Worsham), as a bye, started with exuberance as we broke away toward the lake from the field north of chicken alley. Sport made what was perhaps the best breakaway move of the stake and hung out there for the first 10 minutes. As we turned west the wind shortened the dog significantly and this combined with the afternoon heat made him unable to continue his brilliant start. The remaining race was forward and easy but was not the type of race necessary to displace the winners.

Judges: Jeff Haggis and Jason LaFrance

OPEN DERBY — 17 Entries

1st—MILLER’S HOT ROD, 1680644, pointer male, by Miller’s Speed Dial—Jackson’s Silver Arrow. Greg Reed, owner; Randy Anderson, handler.

2d—DREAM CHASER, 1680227, pointer male, by Pleasant Run Bob—House’s Wild Bess Again. Kipp Linard, owner; Andy Daugherty, handler.

3d—S F FLAGSHIP, 1674394, pointer male, by S F Bandwagon—S F Rushhour. Larry Smith, owner and handler.

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