MARIENVILLE, PA. — The 76th running of the Grand National Grouse Championship in the Allegheny National Forest near Marienville, Pa., came with considerable anticipation and optimism. The week prior, during the Pennsylvania Grouse Championship and Grand National Grouse Futurity, there were good amounts of grouse found and good cover on all seven of the one-hour courses.
The 2018 renewal had 53 dogs — 38 setters and 15 pointers — drawn the Friday prior in Michigan by Grand National Secretary Tom Fruchey.
Judges for this assignment were two veterans of bird dog and cover dog trials, Tim Tufts of Orono, Ontario and Carl McRae of Holt, Mich. Grand National Grouse Futurity Secretary Thor Kain of Carbondale, Pa., was stake manager.
Named champion of the 76th Grand National Grouse Championship was Ponderosa Mac, six-year-old setter male owned by Steve Snyder of Ellendale, Minn., and handled by Scott Chaffee. Mac was the winner of the Grand National Grouse and Woodcock Invitational and runner-up in last year’s Grand National Grouse Championship. Mac earlier in 2018 won the Wisconsin Grouse Championship. Mac had a huge win in the 72-dog Michigan Woodcock Championship to start out 2017 and a runner-up in the 2015 Northern Michigan Cover Dog Championship.
Mac was whelped and raised at Scott and Tammy Chaffee’s Pioneer Kennel for original owner Bruce Cartwright. Mac was sold to owner Steve Snyder and has garnered a couple of Michigan Cover Dog of the Year awards along with the 2018 Seminatore Setter Award.
I earlier alluded to the optimism that we would have a good amount of bird work. The ground cover provided by the stands of beech and pines was holding birds and all signs looked good for that pattern to hold up.
Tuesday morning started out to a steady rain with a heavy wind that at times was a downpour. The heavy rain and wind were knocking down the beech leaves at a very fast rate and it was quickly appearing we were losing our cover.
Brace No. 3 brought us our champion, Ponderosa Mac (Chaffee) and Pistol Grip (Dave Hughes). Mac went right to work with a big forward cast at breakaway and was streaking through the course at a moderate range. Pistol Grip was running a little too much for handler Hughes and the weather made it difficult to keep him in the pocket. Hughes leashed Pistol Grip at 15.
Mac stayed to the front working back and forth across the course and reaching into some of the pine stands searching. The course had a lot of water on it and that made the walking slower for handler Chaffee and his scout Tammy Chaffee. We were going through a tight area above a big swamp when Mac stopped at 47. We came out into a more clear meadow area to find Mac standing to the left of the course. Chaffee went to Mac’s left and got into a small thick patch. A large adult grouse went out the backside and Chaffee shot. Mac was led away from the find and released ahead into the large stands of pines that finish out this course. Mac hunted hard and had a few stop and go moments that had us anticipating another stand as we heard a bird drumming in the pines.
River’s Edge Bailey (Scott Forman) and Double Deuce Dexter (Hughes) ran entertaining braces that afternoon.
The second day began with more rain and an even stronger wind blowing.
Weather conditions did not stop Glenrae’s Wango Tango and handler Ann Naus from turning in an eye-catching effort that stood out all week. “June”, a young pointer female, ran on course No. 1; she reached out and covered the countryside looking really good doing it.
Day No. 3 brought blue skies with a gusty heavy wind. To the locals and experienced trialers most know that a blue sky and wind are not a favorable combination at Marienville, coupled with days of rain and wind. The vast cover was now almost non-existent other than the blueberry swamps and big pine stands.
The 19th brace paired two young setters that ran a very nice fluid brace. Upper Ammonoosuc Violet (Robert Ecker) and Flycast Rollie Fingers (Chaffee) each made some big searching casts and worked hard for their handlers.
The 21st brace brought another standout performance by Titanium’s Jacksin, a very fast strong running pointer male for handler Bruce Minard. Jacksin, coming off his runner-up win at the Pennsylvania Grouse Championship, moves quickly and powerfully through the cover and shows when needed. There were birds seen budding on the end of the course but no contacts.
The last day started with whiteout snow conditions that eventually turned to a very cold 34° rain. There were birds spotted on course No. 4 without any dog contacts.
The final brace provided a standout performance by Shady Hills Whiskey Bonfire (S. Forman) which ran in the rain and cold in a brace you just wanted to be over because of the conditions. He ran an always forward, searching race that showed the skill and drive this setter male has. He went through all the areas that visually said “grouse” and just kept moving at a strong pace.
The four days of running showed how tough these dogs are after a season on the truck and running in other states.
We did see and hear a fair amount of birds over the days’ runnings but just had our one bird find of the week by a fine champion, setter Ponderosa Mac.
We ended the trial with the announcements inside the clubhouse on Loleta Road. There was a heavy downpour while the winner was announced so we brought our champion inside to do the presentation and for photos.
We want to say a big thank you to Purina and Dean Reinke for their gracious and generous sponsorship, also to Garmin and Lion Country Supply for being our sponsors.
Judges and reporter were mounted on horses provided by R. B. Powell from Nittany Mountain Trail Rides. The horses and wrangler were out in some very nasty conditions all week and we say a big thank you.
We thank all the handlers and owners who came from areas all over the Midwest, Northeast and Canada to compete for this prestigious title, and everyone who came out to take in some braces and to help out wherever needed.
Marienville, Pa., November 9
Judges: Tim Tufts and Carl McRae
Grand National Grouse Championship [One-Hour Heats] — 15 pointers and
Winner—PONDEROSA MAC, setter male, by Jetwood—Cooper Mountain Pepsi. Steve Snyder, owner; Scott Chaffee, handler.
SOME SIDELIGHTS AND HIGHLIGHTS
THE Pennsylvania Grouse Trial Club, along with other clubs, banded together to make things go smoothly and without a hitch. Big thanks to Dick and Helen Brenneman, Joe and Suzie Cammisa, Dave Duell, Deb Nihart and Giancarlo and staff from Bettina’s Italian Restaurant.
The festivities kicked off Monday evening with the Purina and English Setter Awards. A fine catered meal by Bettina’s Italian Restaurant and a very informative presentation by Bruce Mueller, DVM started things off.
Dean Reinke of Purina sponsored the dinner and award ceremony. Dean Reinke, Thor Kain and Joe Cammisa presented the awards. Scott Chaffee was Handler of the Year—2017-2018.
John Stolgitis received the Cover Dog of the Year Award for Daddy’s Little Boy Butch and owner Paul Scott of Wallingford, Conn.
Thor Kain’s pointer female All On was the recipient of the Cover Dog Derby of the Year.
Scott Chaffee received the Michael Seminatore Setter Award for the top Cover Dog setter, Ponderosa Mac, and owner Steve Snyder.
Bob Watts and Richard Brenneman were the recipients of the Dr. Thomas M. Flanagan Award for the top Cover Dog Setter Derby, Game Winner.
The Grand National Grouse Trial Club had their general meeting at the Monroe Heights Inn and Suites on Tuesday night after the day’s running.
The Grand National Grouse Trial Club board of directors met Wednesday evening at the Cammisa Cabin for dinner and a meeting hosted by Joe Cammisa with the help of Helen Brenneman.
Two new directors were voted in and we would like to congratulate Dave Duell and John Stolgitis for their new positions. We thank Peter Flanagan and Mike Spotts for their terms on the board.
Dick Brenneman, Thor Kain, Marc Forman, Scott Chaffee, Bryan Wood, Dave Hughes, Joe Cammisa, Justin Evans, Doug McMillen, and Roger Johnson were on hand for the
meeting. J. E.