MARIENVILLE, PA. — A wide variety of cover dog enthusiasts gathered at the storied grounds near Marienville, Pa., for the 71st renewal of the Grand National Grouse Futurity. This is one of the oldest Futuries and perhaps the gold standard for Derbies in the woods. A long line of venerable future champions began their careers with a placement in this stake. As a breeders’ stake, this one is considered the one to win for those who continue to try and improve the breed.
Great names like newly inducted Field Trial Hall of Fame member David Hughes, pro trainers including the Forman brothers and Ryan Frame, as well as many of the top amateurs, brought their young stars to compete. The competition was guided along by well-known field trial aficionado George Johnson, with the always helpful hand of his wife Shirley. George and Shirley, after 30 years in the game, finally got their first championship this past fall with Grouse Ridge Sarge. Dick Brenneman kept the trial moving along and provided his steady hand to keep everything in precision.
This year’s stake was judged by Jeff Crum of McDonald, Pa., and Dave Bogle of Dubois, Pa. These judges are elected by vote of the Grand National Board of Directors. Both men are veterans in the saddle, with numerous championships and Futurities to their credit. Each has also owned and handled multiple championship winners.
Dean Reinke of Purina once again was present for the event. The entire field trial community owes a debt to this fine gentleman and the company he represents. Purina is the largest sponsor of field trials by a wide margin and without their help the sport would be in jeopardy. Advertising, hats, food and other items were donated by our favorite dog food company.
Like many areas across the country, Marienville is suffering from the lack of cutting. The little timbering that has been done appears to be only selective cutting, which leaves tall trees blocking the sun from the necessary undergrowth birds need for habitat. These factors, combined with bluebird skies and lack of rain, made the going tough for the young pups.
Willowood’s Squig Tone (Chris DeMattio) and Double Deuce Peter (Dave Hughes). Lean and fast on the ground, Squig began to eat up ground. Unfortunately after a fast start he had sporadic episodes of departure from the premises and was lost to judgment at 20. Pete was snappy and fancy but could not come up with a bird.
Mitchner’s Mad Cary (Ryan Frame) and Blast Zone (Thor Kain) reached into the woods and dove into cover. Each dog had the judges’ attention. Blast Zone was the author’s favorite, but alas the reporter has no vote.
Long Gone Mersadies (D. Hughes) had a near find when at 15 a bird went out ahead to the right; seconds later she ran into the area and went into the same cover and stopped on a dime, high and tight. Hughes went in hoping for a second bird but no one was home. Shady Hills Whiskey Bonfire (Scott Forman) rambled all over and had a shooting dog ground performance.
Rambunctious (D. Hughes) and Single Shot Barley (Larry Sutter) were fancy and snappy. Each hit the objectives and hunted the probable cover but no birds were found.
Dave Hughes and Dave Duell, with Parmachenee Flight and Austin Hill Luke, lined up for brace No. 5. Both dogs roared off the start and went on a search for avian targets. Each showed well but no birds were found.
Blast Off (Marc Forman) and All Out (Kain) was another exciting brace wherein both dogs were high tailed and full of energy. Long casts and good ground speed caused all to take notice.
Wayward Flyin Tomato (Mark Hughes) and Sassy (Tom Fruchey). This was a classic battle between two sons of cover dog handler legends. Sassy was quick and fast and showed that she will be a future force to be reckoned with in the woods. Tomato was a gallery favorite with his forward race and classy gait.
Newcomer Paul Christopher was reining in Ruff Grouse Lilly and Ryan Frame had Gretna Crest Flashback. This was another exciting brace with two dogs showing youthful enthusiasm and good bird sense. Both dogs gave rock solid performances. Paul provided a little touch of class by wearing a snazzy blazer and wool dress slacks during his brace.
Hypointe Rexy Rides Again (Dave Watson), a bye dog, showed exuberance throughout the brace All points of interest were explored and several nice casts completed the half hour.
With so many nice ground performances and no birds the judges called back the top four dogs. Each pointed their birds without incident.
Earning first was Blast Off, owned by Justin Evans and handled by Marc Forman. Blast Off was bred by Ken Moss of Michigan. Second place was awarded to Long Gone Mersadies, owned by Lloyd Murray and handled by Dave Hughes. Mersadies was bred by Long Gone Kennels. Placed third was All Out, owned and handled by Thor Kain. All Out was bred by James Chambers. Fourth place Shady Hills Whiskey Bonfire, owned by Steve Chiappini and handled by Scott Forman, was bred by the Forman brothers.
Marienville, Pa., November 1
Judges: Dave Bogle and Jeff Crum
GRAND NATIONAL GROUSE FUTURITY — 1 Pointer and 16 Setters
1st—BLAST OFF, setter male, by Full Blast—Moss Meadow Rose. Justin Evans, owner; Marc Forman, handler.
2d—LONG GONE MERSADIES, setter female, by Lone Gone Boston—Grouse Ridge Comet. Lloyd Murray, owner; Dave Hughes, handler.
3d—ALL OUT, setter male, by All In—Walnut Hills Rocket Onpoint. Thor Kain, owner and handler.
4th—SHADY HILLS WHISKEY BONFIRE, setter male, by Shady Hills Billie Too—Shady Hills Beanie. Steve Chiappini, owner; Scott Forman, handler.