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New Season — 2018-2019 — Has Begun Up North

The Prairies — The Reason

By Mazie Davis | Aug 31, 2018

A seasoned trainer/handler of all-age dogs who has been most successful north and south of the Canadian border wrote to a younger fellow who had acquired a young dog that was proving to be a good ’un. Following a conversation about the upcoming Canadian prairie championships, the younger man told him his dog would be competing on the prairies and also “south of the border”, as it was all the same.

One of the upper echelons of field trial wins by men and dogs has always been those on the Canadian prairies.

Has this somehow changed in  today’s way of thinking? Is it not the names of dogs that proved their worth on these prairies that are noted in pedigrees of today’s champions? The answer to the second question is an easy one: for sure, yes.

However, to the first question it is not that easy.

Why dog trainers don’t cross into Canada is an individual choice. Why owners don’t encourage that their dogs compete on these prairies is beyond understanding.

Is it not now as it has always been, to win a Canadian Championship is such a significant accomplishment? Of course it is, at least to those who still value the canine qualities it takes to deliver a prairie performance. The prairie chicken, sharptailed grouse, and Hungarian partridge are challenging for the best of noses. To pinpoint them correctly is a challenging feat. It is in true amazement one looks on at a dog that has accomplished this, and after all these years I never grow tired of it.

The prairie country is vast but objectives are plentiful or there would be none of these wild birds. The lay of the land in most cases allows the eye to see a performer for great distances. The grit and heart it takes to deliver there is above average and to do this cast after cast becomes something that truly separates that individual from his fellow canine contenders.

Seeing a dog do it right across those prairies, well it just doesn’t get better than that in field trials. The thrill of seeing a dog with the easiest of gaits seemingly glide for miles and then whirl to a rigid pose is never taken for granted but is damn near a miracle! Catching that scent from the ever-present wind, pinpointing the flighty chickens or running Huns takes a good nose and a dog that has his mind on his business. The lift of noisy wings in the openness of the prairie tempts even the most polished to give chase. When it is done right what a thrill for the onlookers!

 

THE lead-up to these events was the start of the all-age field trial season in early fall. The Canadian Championships have been billed first on the circuit since 1902 with the inaugural running of the Manitoba, then the All-America Chicken in 1912, followed by the Saskatchewan in 1934, the Dominion in 1936, the Great Northern in 1945, and the Border International and Elkhorn in 1951.

The circuit then continues through the United States until late March or so to finish the season. It should be noted in 1902 the Manitoba became the fourth all-age championship and when the All-America Chicken made its debut in 1912 there were five and it remained as such until 1916 with the National Free-for-All Championship’s inaugural running.

Stateside were the National (1896), Pacific Coast (1899) and Alabama Championships (1901).

Four of the treasured Canadian championships continue on their homeland prairies: the Saskatchewan, Dominion, Border International, and Manitoba. Winning of a Canadian prairie championship is the coveted feather in the cap of any owner and handler.

The titles and notable performances follow a canine competitor from the north through the circuit. Even after a dog is gone THAT win on the Canadian prairies is recalled, written about, and retains that signifciant aspect of a canine’s career.

A Derby that shines on the prairies crosses the border south in the fall as a rising star, a “keep your eye on” contender. Youngsters worked on the prairies have a step up on others. This has been proven year after year.

Thinking of Senator P, Mohawk II, Alford’s John, Comanche Frank, John Proctor, Mary Montrose, Candy Kid, Muscle Shoals’ Jake, Becky Broomhill, Air Pilot’s Sam, Algonquin, Doctor Blue Willing, Ariel, Saturn, Satilla Wahoo Pete, Susan Peters, Wayriel, Lone Survivor, Warhoop Jake, War Storm, Safari, Flaming Star, Red Water Rex, Flush’s Country Squire, The Hurricane, Miss One Dot, Oklahoma Flush, White Knight’s Button, Monte Bello Peggy, Texas Fight, Evolution, The Texas Squire, Buckboard, Bisco Tat, Barshoe Buzzsaw, Michael’s Express Babe, Rebel Wrangler, Condo, Native Tango, Whippoorwill’s Rebel, Tekoa Mountain Sunrise, Addition’s Go Boy, Mac’s Reelfoot Chief, Quicksilver Pink, Silverwood, Bear Creek Bess, Lehar’s Main Tech, House’s Rain Cloud, Condo’s Rebel, House’s Snake Bite, Lester’s Absolute, Law’s High Noon, Broadway’s Silver Belle, Miller’s Southern Pride; all are familiar names for good reasons. They are among the winners of Canadian prairie championships.

Most of these dogs were multiple champions in Canada and the United States, including the National Championship and Quail Championship Invitational; many are also Purina Award winners and/or inductees in the Field Trial Hall of Fame and shown in bloodlines that are prominent in today’s winners.

The marks earned on the Canadian prairies are indelible, well worth the efforts by owners and trainers to give their dogs such opportunities.

It appears there are excuses made to avoid the test of the northern prairies, from economics to paperwork involved in the border crossings. They go on and on.

Near the end of the 1800s the early dog trainers made the trip north without the luxury of dually trucks, aluminum trailers, cell phones, or interstate highways. Remarkably, they made it. Taking at least a week to arrive. Those early trainers had the dogs shipped by rail, and their journey was not over when the border was crossed.

Depending on road conditions (all dirt) they might or might not arrive at camp that day. The farmers would transport the weary travelers with their dogs by horse and wagon; in later years tractors were used. Knowing the benefits would be well worth all the efforts, those trainers and many more after them have and are still heading to those same prairies. There must be a reason!

An article titled “How Bird Dog Champions Are Made” by Henry P. Davis appeared in Sports Afield in 1951.

He wrote: “Once a year, on the Canadian prairies, the finest American dog trainers, and the most promising canines come together to lay the groundwork for future field trial miracles.”

Mr. Davis was not wrong about that then and the same holds true today.

Duncan Barnes penned an article published in the August, 1968 edition of Sports Illustrated after visiting with Capt’n John S. Gates at his summer training camp in Broomhill, Manitoba.

The article titled “Summer Schooling On The Canadian Prairies” is self-explanatory of the content. A summary of it lies within a quote by Capt’n John while watching a Derby sail across the prairie . . .  muscles rippling, tail lashing, head held high as it takes scent off the wind: “That dog was a good one before we brought him up, but he’ll go home a lot better because he’s prairiewise. And a dog has to be prairiewise to be a major field trial contender.”

The jewels in the crowns worn by the proven ones on these prairies are coveted; their worth is significant.

And the men who paved the road for these jewels to be obtained deserve respect for their efforts for without them where would this world of field trials be? J. M. Avent, Ches Harris, Jack Harper, Ed Farrior, Ed Mack Farrior, Gene and Tom Lunsford, Prather Robinson, Red Weddle, Lee Worstell, Fred Bevin, Howard Kirk, Carl E. Duffield, Mack Pritchette, J. W. Flynn, John S. Gates, Leon Covington, Clyde Morton, Fred Arant, Gene Lunsford, John Gardner, Herman Smith, George Moreland, Bud Daugherty, Bill Rayl, Herman Smith, Jack Harper, Stub Poyner, Phil Brousseau. And in later years: Andy Daughtery, Hoyle Eaton, John Rex Gates, Colvin Davis, Robin Gates, Hunter Gates, Fred Rayl, Collier Smith, Freddie Epp, Ted Gardner, Tommy Davis, Bill Hunt, Rick Furney, Garland Priddy, and more, did not shy from the prairies. They relished the challenge for challenges exist to be conquered!

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