MARIENVILLE, PA. — Forty-One contenders were drawn for this prestigious event at the home of Futurity Secretary Thor Kain in Carbondale, Pa. The entrants were a culmination of the numerous litters and individual forfeitures that Thor had been tracking for over two years. The starting field had already been through the proofing grounds of the Puppy Classic and now awaited their fate and destiny at the hands of the Allegheny Mountain courses in Marienville, Pa.
The 2018 Grand National Grouse Futurity was stake managed by Thor Kain, secretary of the Futurity, and the venue was the Allegheny National Forest in Marienville. Grouse trialing has been a steep tradition in Pennsylvania for over one hundred years, and the Futurity rotates there every three years and on opposite years, to the Lake States Region at Gladwin Field Trial Grounds and to the Northeast Region to the Kilkenny Field Trial Grounds in New Hampshire State. The trial this year was held November 4-5.
In the judicial saddles were two longtime patriarchs of field trialing who are no strangers to the National Forest as they are both from Pennsylvania. Judges for the trial are vetted through a process where the Grand National Grouse and Woodcock directors submit two names each and then vote for the nominees. Brian Ralph of Sandy Lake, Pa., and Joe Cammisa of Butler, Pa., were selected and were handed over the trial on Sunday morning. Brian and Joe are long time field trialers and know potential when they see it.
The weather was no surprise to anyone when after almost two weeks of rain previous, the forecast was for more of the same. It’s a funny thing here in Marienville, overcast and raining is a good combination that spells seeing grouse.
The hopefuls were standing by, either at the line, in the trucks or waiting in the wings for the two days to unfold. The first brace was off on time and it was no surprise that they were as the celebrity announcer for each of the braces was Bryan Wood; there is no time for socialization when he is at the helm.
The courses selected were the half hour multiple courses and a huge thanks to the Pennsylvania Grouse Trial Clubs who clean and maintain them; the trails were well marked and easy to follow.
The first brace was off at 8:08 a. m. on the Lolita No. 1 course. The Lolita side contained seven courses; the Lamona- ville side held the remaining six. The plan was to go as far as possible on the first day and then start over on Lolita No. 1 the very next morning.
The first three braces of the trial held good ground races, but it was brace No. 4 that provided more excitement. Ozzies Crazy Train (SM/Marc Forman) and Chasehill Bewitched (PF/Stolgitis) were loosed and at 25 became the entertainment. Coming into the heavy pines area on the first return leg of the M and M course, in heavy blueberry and pine thicket area, both became birdy and a grouse flushed wild to the right. Both handlers intervened, and another bird left the scene. As both dogs started up again they became interested once more and immediately stopped, Bewitched to the right, and Crazy Train, which dug in a little further to the right. Two grouse were flushed and then an additional two more. Great brood find and a lot of action.
Brace No. 5 — Ripstone (SM/Estep) and Grouse Trails Miss America (PF/ McKellop) — seemed to also like the number 25 as that was when the action started for them. Ripstone’s bell fell silent just after crossing the stream and heading east. While looking for Ripstone, Miss America’s bell fell silent down the hill and deep left toward the stream. Both handlers and judges went after the respective dogs and as John McKellop and Judge Cammisa spotted Miss America, Ripstone released from where he was to relocate, a bird was called far to the front with neither dog interfering.
No. 6 — Chasehill I’m Oscar (PM/Stolgitis) and Wild Apple Siri (PF/Rizza). Siri handled the course well, but it was Oscar that took things into hand, digging deeper and forward. On a return trip to stay in tune with his handler, Oscar made a move across the front from left to right and hit scent, stopping like he’d run into a brick wall. Moments later a grouse flushed from off his keen nose and all was in order as a mature Derby find. Oscar continued to apply himself very well and finished strong.
The first day unfolded and ended with an additional number of grouse being flushed or walked up but none falling prey to the contestants. Thirteen braces were in the book.
Day No. 2 started with same type weather — rain, rain and more rain.
First up for Monday morning in the 14th brace was, as announced by Bryan Wood, Fox Brook Kid Rock (SM/Chad Wheeler) and Phillips Cassanova Cowboy (SM/Dave Hughes). While navigating the swamp at 24 Kid Rock stopped deep to the right and forward in the flooded high blueberry field and a grouse lifted after having been pointed by the savvy youngster.
The rest of the day brought everything from hearing grouse drumming to a dog almost catching one in low flight. All and all there were plenty of birds moved and available, along with plenty of great performances witnessed.
A callback ensued with Long Gone Hatfield (SF/Kennedy) and Panola Bacon (PM/Stolgitis) brought to the clubhouse field to show their prowess on game. Both dogs displayed well rounded ground races and showed the potential to go on in the shooting dog world.
Four additional dogs were placed in reserve in no particular order; Anna Lake Sophie (Dave Hughes), Super Storm (Thor Kain), Caliber Peak Gunslinger (Mark Hughes) and Magic Mist Carolina (Joe Dahl). With both of the first forementioned called back dogs completing their tasks, all were retired to the clubhouse to await the announcements.
When the dust was cleared, Chasehill I’m Oscar, owned by Elias Richardson and Erin Stolgitis and handled by John Stolgitis, was named the winner. Second went to Ozzies Crazy Train, owned by Steve Madeiros and handled by Marc Forman. Third was Long Gone Hatfield with owner-handler Deb Kennedy. Panola Bacon, owned by Mac Stidham and handled by John Stolgitis, was fourth.
A special thanks to Dean Reinke and Nestlé Purina for their continuous and overwhelming support. Throughout the three regions, Dean and Purina sponsor grouse trials and support each and every one of them. Thank you immensely Dean.
The people in the background are the bread and butter of the trial and we would like to thank Grand National Director from Michigan, Bryan Wood, for announcing and keeping each brace ready and waiting on the line. The first day was a big task and was touch and go to get it in. The show went on as it always does, but having Bryan is a big reason that we finished on time.
A special thanks to other directors of the Grand National who helped where they could, moving cars, keeping things going, shuffling dogs and handlers; Joe Dahl, Dave Hughes, John Stolgitis, Roger Johnson, Dave Duell, Doug McMillen, Justin Evans, Marc Forman and Dick Brenneman.
A special thank you to George Tinkerhoff for keeping the fire going in the clubhouse both days, moving cars, running and completing any tasks asked of him.
Other notables include Giancarlo and Bettina’s Restaurant, Sharon’s Horse Heaven, Helen Brenneman, Deb Nihard, and last but certainly not least, for all of the work he does, Norm Meeder, Lunches were sponsored in behalf of last year’s winner, Game Winner, setter male owned by Dick Brenneman and Bob Watts. A huge thank you to both gentlemen for their generosity and dedication to the sport and in the breeding betterment of grouse dogs.
While speaking of breeding better dogs, let us not forget that this gathering is really first and foremost a breeders’ stake. The thanks go out to all the breeders who nominated litters and followed up with their clients to pursue the forfeitures.
Thirty-one litters were nominated for this year’s Futurity.
The first place dog was bred by John Stolgitis; the second place dog was bred by Jim Chambers; the third place dog was bred by Rob Matson and the fourth place dog was bred by Rich Giuliano.
All breeders are to be congratulated for their own part of advancement and improvement to grouse dogs and to the breeds.
Marienville, Pa., November 4
Judges: Joe Cammisa and Brian Ralph
GRAND NATIONAL GROUSE FUTURITY — 17 Pointers and 24 Setters
1st—CHASHILL I’M OSCAR, pointer male, by Daddy’s Little Butch Boy—Porter Meadow Bette. Elias Richardson & Erin Stolgitis, owners; John Stolgitis, handler.
2d—OZZIES CRAZY TRAIN, setter male by Blast Zone—Walnut Hills Rocket Onpoint. Steven Madeiros, owner; Marc Forman, handler.
3d—LONG GONE HATFIELD, setter female, by Long Gone Studly—Anna Lake Kiah. Deborah Kennedy, owner and handler.
4th—PANOLA BACON, pointer male, by Daddy’s Little Butch Boy. Mac Stidham, owner; John Stolgitis, handler.