American Field

S F Bandwagon Wins 2018 Renewal; Highground Tonka is Runner-Up

Western Open Championship

By Doug Favor | Jun 08, 2018
S F Bandwagon Winner of the Western Open All-Age Championship

Reno, Nev. — April 27 dawned with the Bay Area Bird Dog Club welcoming competitors from multiple western and midwestern states to the challenging Red Rock BLM grounds near Reno, Nev., to contest the 2018 running of the Western Open Championship.

Graciously sponsored by Purina and SportDog, the Western Open Championship is a National Championship qualifier as well as Purina All-Age Dog of the Year and Handler of the Year Awards points trial.

Sixteen dogs with eight handlers were drawn in the open format drawing April 20 at Bonanza Casino in Reno in conjunction with drawings for the preceding Region 11 Amateur All-Age, Pacific Coast Derby, and the Western Open Shooting Dog Championships.

The preceding week had been one of progressively escalating temperatures that, combined with high, dry desert dust, were becoming downright tough conditions for running bird dogs. Friday morning saw a change in the weather and dawned with a stiff cold wind that made for significantly cooler running conditions but still very dry and dusty.

Bradley Laverne of Rancho Cordova, Cal., had the first brace of dogs, their respective handlers on the line and the dog truck loaded for another day of trialing.

Judges Jarry Walton of Reno and Doug Favor of Pocatello, Ida., were saddled up and bundled up for the oft changing high desert weather. The first brace was turned loose on time as advertised and drawn.

The Winners

Named champion from the fourth brace was the handsome five-year-old white and orange pointer male S F Bandwagon, handled by Larry Smith of Altoona, Ia. Bandwagon had previously been named runner-up in this stake in 2016 as well as earning the 2015-2016 Purina Amateur All-Age Dog of the Year Award. The win completes Bandwagon’s qualification requirements to compete in the National Championship.

Highground Tonka, white and orange setter male owned by Charles and Kara Kunde of Fossil, Ore., and handled by co-owner Lori Steinshouer, was named runner-up for his efforts in the fifth brace. Charles Kunde, no stranger to high performing setters, was noted to be front and center in the gallery throughout the brace to enjoy the performance.

The Running

Rikki’s Rapid Rav (SM/Sheldon Twer) and Bangert’s Red Baron (VM/ Brian Gingrich) both made promising, searching casts across the low sage to gain the low hills and thick cedars. Both dogs were collected on the open hillsides above to regain the front as the course turned up to the higher valley. Baron pressed on quickly to the high fence and was not returned to judgment, handler asking for retrieval device at 45. Rav shortened his efforts around the rocky outcroppings then gained some steam up the high valley. A stand at 50 was unproductive. Rav completed the hour to the high springs at moderate range without bird contact.

With a sharp wind directly in their faces, T’s Nickleback (SM/Talmage Smedley) and Sleepless in Sacramento (PF/Twer) were turned loose back down the high valley. “Nick” sharply broke to course left with “Meg” going directly down course at moderate range. At 15 Nick returned up through the gallery to waiting handler then was rapidly shown powering deep down course through the valley at base of Petersen’s. Meg made attractive, forward casts onto the flanks of the Petersen’s then worked down through the draws to make the corner and through the gate. She continued around the low rock outcroppings at moderate range then opened it up down the low ridges above camp to finish her hour. No bird contacts. Nick took some time to make the corner then regained the front at moderate range through the gate then on around the corner above camp. Found standing at 55 by scout in shallow draw before final corner, Nick, initially appearing uncertain, firmed up on handler’s arrival and had a pair of chukar produced with all in order. He finished powering forward down the low ridges flanking camp.

Saddle Up Butler (PM/Sean Kelly) and C K Post Route Scout (VM/Gingrich) were cast off into now frankly high winds. Scout was shown rapidly through the opening low sage and quickly gained the high bench above camp. He was not returned to judgment and handler called for the retrieval unit at 20. Butler consistently worked the front at moderate range with the occasional cast taking in more country. No birds were produced for his efforts that ended with the hour at the high springs.

Bucking high winds and blowing dust, S F Bandwagon (PM/Smith) drove down course right along the base of the Petersen’s. Booneville Bullet (PM/Twer) had more difficulty holding the front and showed sporadically down the valley with handler working hard in the wind. Bullet made the corner and around course above camp but not often forward in the tough conditions to complete his hour without bird contact. Bandwagon was found by handler standing tall in scattered boulders at mid valley, a single chukar produced at 15. At 30 a chukar was noted in the air by judges, handler for Bandwagon hustling down the hill, jumping off and firing. Dog was not seen by judges prior to being collared. Onward down around the rocky draws Bandwagon located a few chukar in rocks just past the gate with all in order at 35. Again found standing in low rocks below trail at 40, handler elected not to flush and collared dog on. At 45 Bandwagon was found by handler pointed with good style in cluster of rocks with a few chukar produced on flush. Birds firmly on his mind, Bandwagon hunted the remaining likely outcroppings around hill above camp then opened up the throttle to finish, pointed out by handler driving down the low ridges toward camp to finish a determined bird-finding effort in high winds and blowing dust.

Highground Tonka (SM/Steinshouer) and Kelly’s Rocket Man (PM/Kelly) were turned loose from camp after lunch into the continued heavy winds. Tonka rapidly gained the cedars then the hills above. Rocket was off at a more moderate pace but showing well to the front. Rocket continued at moderate range through the first low rock outcroppings and around to gate then was picked up by handler. Tonka was gathered after his big opening cast then showed well around to fence. At fence Tonka reversed direction to return to the high bowl above the trail and struck a nice point at 24, handler flushing chukars with fine manners. After gate Tonka took handler’s direction well, powered deeply forward across the valley to tackle the low boulder fields of the Petersen’s, showing impressively through first half of the valley. Coming off the mountain to valley floor Tonka scored a find on a pair of valley quail at 45. Sent on, working just below the fire break Tonka was credited with a stop to flush on chukar at 47. After a brief cast back down the valley that slightly deterred his outing, Tonka finished the hour working above the high springs.

Seahawk’s Percy (PM/Smedley) had the return course to himself after scratch of bracemate. Percy was moderate through the upper valley then, bucking high winds, made a deep cast to base of Petersen’s showing very well. Returned to the front just past the gate, Percy had an encounter with a chukar that had him in harness at 35.

Significantly cooler temperature and light breeze greeted this brace on Saturday morning. B M B’s Free Ride (GSPM/Brandon Blum) and Kelly’s Rebel Louie (PM/Kelly) lined out at high speed off the breakaway to course right. Both dogs were rapidly noted going up the low ridges that end course No. 2. Louie was ridden after hard by handler and scout but never returned to judgment. Also taking some riding by handler, Free Ride was returned to front at 15. At 20 Free Ride scored on chukar in low rock outcroppings demonstrating good style and manners. With the course to himself, Free Ride started to make impressive, powerful casts up into the high rocks and basins around and through the fence showing well. Just past fence Free Ride was noted standing in a distant rock pile. As handler approached a wandering chukar proved too tempting and Free Ride was harnessed at 30.

Touch’s J Class (PF/Twer) and Highground Chalk (SM/Kunde) were turned loose just past gate at road crossing. Class was moderate up through the valley to the high springs. Just past springs, handler was off, firing his gun but no birds seen by judges. Class continued at moderate range and pace above the low springs, crossed road to head down valley, then picked up by handler at 50, not on her game this day. Chalk showed forward sparingly up through the valley. Making the turn at the spring, Chalk found the front and made an attractive, very deep move around the base of the high rock cliffs to above low springs. Above the springs Chalk hung up for moderate time requiring scout to dig him out and return to front. Chalk continued down valley to complete the hour without bird contact.

Reno, Nev., April 27

Judges: Doug Favor and Jarry Walton


8 Pointers, 5 Setters, 1 German Shorthair and 2 Vizslas

Winner—S F BANDWAGON, 1656543, pointer male, by Funseeker’s Rebel—Deep Creek Rose. Larry Smith, owner and handler.

Runner-Up—HIGHGROUND TONKA, 1654121, setter male, by Highground Jax Jabba—Highground Abra Ca Dabra. Kara & Charles Kunde, Lori & Doug Steinshouer, owners; Lori Steinshouer, handler.

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