MARIENVILLE, PA. — The Allegheny National Forest near Marienville, Pa., was again, in the three-year rotation of this Championship’s sites, the host venue for the Grand National Grouse Championship November 6-10. Good weather, more than enough wild ruffed grouse in residence on the eight one-hour courses, and the historic Championship again unfolded as a great renewal. This 70th running had a 70-dog entry consisting of 49 setters and 21 pointers.
Pennsylvania was the birthplace of grouse trials. The Pennsylvania Field Trial Club held its 1913 program on October 23 at Carmichaels, Pa., offering Derby, All-Age and Free-for-All stakes over Greene County farmland and on quail. On December 3-4 of that same year the club ran a championship in Fayette County’s Killarney Park, Indian Creek Valley, Pa., on ruffed grouse, likely the first trial ever staged specifically on grouse. There was much talk in that era trying to resolve the question: “Can the field trial dogs of the day perform on grouse?” Can a successful trial be held on this wary “King of the Woods” game bird? The results were very positive for grouse trials.
My quotes herein are from The American Field December 13, 1913 issue. Although the headline read “By Our Special Reporter” this scribe feels the great reporter was likely Albert F. Hochwalt.
“Here are several good reasons why a trial on the Ruffed Grouse should be run,” the writer continued, “the two most important being that the grouse is the most wary and most difficult of all our game birds and therefore brings out to the last degree the braininess and the bird sense of the hunting dog, and second that the Ruffed Grouse is the great game bird of the North since the quail have become scarce, and the Prairie Chicken is practically extinct, so far as the former habitat is concerned. In addition there has been a disposition in the quail trials to develop speed and range, with a consequent sacrifice of actual bird handling ability, and as a result the quail trial has fallen into more or less disrepute among amateur dog owners and dog breeders, as an actual test of bird work.
“The Pennsylvania Field Trial Club has been one of the pioneers in insisting that more and better bird dogs can be developed by emphasizing the bird work without sacrificing endurance and range. It was in the hope of demonstrating that class and bird handling ability can be combined and that these qualities can be shown in their highest development in a Grouse trial, that the club inaugurated this event”.
Another caption from that report stated, “It has been done.” Grouse trials were born then and there, and grew in popularity from that moment on.
Grouse trials spread to the Northeast, Middle Atlantic and Lake States regions. Before long there were several grouse championships in place. They were for the most part small and regional in nature. In 1943 three wise and experienced men involved with grouse trials brought many of the grouse trial fraternity together at a meeting in Cleveland, Ohio and the Grand National Grouse Championship was launched. W. Lee White of Connecticut, Sam R. Light of Pennsylvania and John Hadaway of Michigan are considered the founders of the Grand National. It would become the “National Championship” of the grouse trial world and sideline many of the small regional events. It has prospered for 70 years.
The Allegheny National Forest, comprising 739,277 acres, was established by President Calvin Coolidge in 1923 to serve the needs of timber resources, wildlife habitat, public recreation and as a demonstration area for sound timber management. The four one-hour courses are near Marienville, and four at the Loleta and Lamonaville sections.
There are sizeable areas of pole timber but those have an understory of beech and other young growth. The cherry is the most valuable tree, dollarwise, in the area, but plantings of pine, spruce and hemlock, some 20 years old, provide roosting areas for the grouse. Some clearcuts have produced young dense cover of all species which the grouse use for nesting and brooding of each year’s crop of chicks. The thicker young growth and the conifer stands are always areas that produce grouse in early November. Natural food on the courses abounds with beechnuts, hawthorn, blueberry in season; marberry and teaberry are quite common.
It takes much work and planning to launch the Grand National each year. Grand National President Richard Brenneman, with a great assist from his wife Helen and other Grand National members and other grouse trial people, lay out the courses, cut the deadfalls off the course paths after storms and get the courses and the clubhouse ready for the first week in November.
Secretary Fletcher is busy early preparing the ad for The American Field.
There are judges and stake managers to secure, sites for the meetings, and banquet. Other arrangements include noontime lunches, horses for the judges and motel reservations. When the running starts the reporter swings into action and the secretary collects the entry money and pays the bills.
Stake manager and marshalling the courses was the duty of Richard Brenneman and Joe Cammisa, with assists from George and Shirley Johnson, Dr. Roger McPherson and other GNG directors, including John Stolgitis, Joe Dahl, the Forman brothers, et al. Helen Brenneman was missed this year, home nursing a broken ankle.
This crew manages the braces from starting points to course endings, moves the cars up and keeps the daily trial progression functioning smoothly.
The Grand National kicked off its schedule Monday evening with the Purina-sponsored dinner at Bettina’s Restaurant in Marienville; our host was Giancarlo Mendola.
The William Harnden Foster Awards started the evening agenda. Scott Chaffee of Clare, Mich., was the recipient of the Foster Cover Dog Handler of the Year Award. Full Blast, Richard Brenneman’s setter, won both the Foster Derby of the Year and the Flanagan Setter Derby Award, and River’s Edge Sadie, Pat Cooke’s setter, was awarded Cover Dog Shooting Dog of the Year and the Seminatore English Setter Award in the shooting dog category.
R. B. Powell’s bluegrass group entertained before the banquet festivities. Powell’s Nittany Valley Trail Rides furnished horses, and Karen Piwinski at all times trailering them to the various course locations.
Barb and George Kuhl, proprietors of the Bucktail Hotel, hosted the Membership and Board Meetings, opened early for judges’ breakfasts and catered some of the lunches to the clubhouse. Tuesday evening at the Bucktail was the general membership meeting with snack trays furnished by Dave Terhaar in honor of last year’s GNG Champion Terhaar’s Elvis. The board meeting was also at the Bucktail Wednesday evening. Dates were set for the forthcoming year’s four events: the Puppy Classic and Invitational in Michigan next spring, the Futurity and Grand National in New Hampshire in the fall, 2013. Dates have not been finalized at this writing.
Incumbent directors whose terms were expiring were re-elected, and retiring Director Jeff Crum replaced by Mike Spotts.
One of the great assets of the Grand National is the support of its sponsors. Nestlé Purina is a wonderful and generous supporter both financially and with hats and product. Purina also underwrites the majority of awards bestowed upon the cover dog fraternity. Purina Executive Dean Reinke always attends and takes part in all the activities and presenting of awards.
Other sponsors include Tri-Tronics with a donation of a top line training collar to the Grand National winner. Lion Country Supply is used as a source for discounted gift certificates which are gift items to judges and reporter. Our gratitude goes out to all our sponsors.
Judges this season were George Tracy of Glenville, Pa., the well known Hall of Fame horseback shooting dog trainer who has competed his string professionally for decades following in the footsteps of his father Gerald. George’s son Mike and daughter Jeanette are also well known pointing dog trainers in their own right. Simply stated, George has a world of experience.
Paired with George was Russ Richardson of Guy’s Mills, Pa. Russ has judged many classics and championships, all in the grouse woods, and has hunted ruffed grouse since he was a boy. Perhaps the thing he is most proud of, which has shaped his experience level with bird dogs, is guiding of quail hunts on a lease in West Texas each year. He has run his dogs at many grouse woods competitions.
THE WINNERS AND OTHERS
With a starting field of 70 dogs, a lot of great grouse hunting and supreme bird work was turned in during the competition. As the judges put it: “We had 14 dogs with clean bird work.” Add to that several that found birds, got them pointed but did not show proper manners at flush. The Championship was replete with interesting performances, some enthralling.
The judges’ count of birds moved stood at 41 grouse. No woodcock were encountered during the four and one-half days of running. Additionally, and not included in the judges’ count, scouts reported to scribe walking up a dozen or more birds looking for dogs on point.
Chip’s Uncle Buzzie, eight-year-old setter male, was the winner with an outstanding performance. He is owned by Steve and Ginny Chiappini of Butler, Pa., handled by Marc Forman. Buzzie’s hour was strong. It was perhaps the best handling effort of the stake, wise and mature hunting of the available course cover, and the dog was strong all the way. Buzzie’s bird work was supreme, but his outstanding relocation of a pair of grouse convincingly put icing on the cake.
Judges related that the dogs that rose to the top echelon in this titular stake were those that showed the maturity of adapting to what cover the course offered . . . reaching out to outlying edges when it opened and closing to hunt the thicker regrowth cover when it tightened.
The winners, Chip’s Uncle Buzzie and Cas Tiny, were superb at those important ways of working their courses. They also made visual contact with handler as they were coming across the front from a cast, sometimes deeply, and with this communication went on to hunt more objectives always ahead on course.
Chip’s Uncle Buzzie was bred by Steve Chiappini, sired by Dick Stroup’s Needlepoint’s Bigbad Jon; his dam is Chip’s D D. Trainer Steve Groy had Chip during parts of his early career. With the Forman brothers Chip won the Ontario Grouse Championship in 2010 and was named runner-up in the Armstrong-Umbel two-hour classic this past spring, and has also won the one-hour Derby Classic staged by the Pennsylvania Club. Chip has also placed in quail trials as well as other wild bird events.
Runner-up was Cas Tiny, four-year-old pointer female owned by Jim Castagna of Charlotte, N. C., who was also Tiny’s breeder, sired by Calico’s Thrillogy ex Castagna’s Cas Sleep Walker. Rich Waters helped develop the youngster early in her career then Robert Ecker got the dog as a Derby. Tiny won the NBHA Futurity in her Derby season, then won the New England Open Grouse Championship last fall at Kilkenny. Tiny has any number of other placements and has an invitation to the U. S. Complete Invitational Championship coming up later this year.
“Dot” had a very mature hunting effort, two great finds in this Championship, the latter considered divided, and her skill and appeal hunting her course was a superb effort and was recognized by the judiciary.
Other dogs that had noteworthy performances and were carried by the judges until they were narrowly surpassed by the winners include Bloom’s Ole Dollar, pointer male owned by Denny Bloom of Curwensville, Pa., handled by Lance Bressler. Dollar has put down significant performances in the Grand National the past few seasons and he has certainly been a contender in many events. His performance here included a great grouse find and a hunting effort of great maturity and skill.
Richard Brenneman’s Straight Forward was another close contender. With two sterling grouse finds and a great hunting effort, it took a high level contender to set her performance aside. Straight Forward won the Pennsylvania Grouse Championship immediately preceding the Grand National.
Tuesday was clear, sunny and still. Temperature at the 7:45 a. m. breakaway hovered at the freezing mark but rose to over 50° after the luncheon.
Dew Sweeper (Straub) and Moss Meadow Traveler (Chaffee) were away at 7:46 over course No. 1 on the Loleta side of the Forest. Both attacked the course with energy and savvy about where to look for grouse. They were attractive in motion and nicely gaited. Neither dog found a bird for the hour, yet we rode up a grouse at 45.
Terhaar’s Rogue (Hughes) and Chip’s Charlie Brown (Stolgitis) dug in and hunted hard. Rogue had moments of moderate enthusiasm but these did not persist and his overall hunting pattern was a good one. Charlie Brown hunted in great fashion, had forays deep laterally but these were momentary. Both had unproductives late in the hour. No grouse were seen during the hour.
For most part of the hour, Chasehill Little Bud (Stolgitis) and Fieldstone Farm’s Clyde (Ecker) put on a clinic in how to hunt for ruffed grouse. Clyde had a nice grouse find at 45, and both had some shortlived sessions in the sides of course. Little Bud was birdless.
Rocky Point Lilly (Hughes) and Bog Brook Daisy (Holliday) started nicely into the timber and they were looking hard for birds. As the hour went on both became more moderate in their search, Daisy logging an unproductive at 41 after which handler took her up at 50. Lilly hunted until time but was not tearing apart the course in the latter going.
Lucky Luke Star (Ecker) and Sutter’s Real McCoy (Sutter) were off after the luncheon break, away hard on the Lamonaville side of the Forest. Before Star could hit his full stride he logged two unproductives and was leashed at 15. McCoy hunted the course moderately, appeared not to be feeling right and was picked up at 58.
Mains Sunshine Hunter (Mains) gave us a great ground effort. Pleasant to watch and knowledgeable in where to hunt this dog turned in a fine hard going forward race, but it was a birdless hour. Lilleyhill’s Secret Stash (Forman) was wide at times, over the hill and a bit lateral at other times. The dog seemed to wear down a bit after the half and handler picked up at 40.
Upper Cove Desert Devil (Forman) started well, was making a great effort to find birds and kept hard to the front At 36 Devil’s bell went silent. Devil stood well in the course, no bird easily flushed. The flushing attempt took considerable time and during the attempt Devil released himself and moved ahead.
Handler leashed his charge. Sutter’s High Jynx (Sutter) was hunting every minute, a bit moderate in the scope of her hunting, but certainly had birds on her mind. She stood at 37 magnificently on two grouse and at 44 had another pair. Nice bird work. She finished the hour still hunting for birds.
Iron Lady (Stolgitis) started furiously and hit the front of course. At 15 she came to the gallery very bloody in the chest area where an imbedded stick was removed and the skin had to be stapled closed. Handler picked Lady up for the repair work. Celtic’s Signature (Ecker) could not find high gear in the early minutes and handler picked his charge up at the half. Bit of a lean day birdwise.
Wednesday morning was cold and overcast, in the 20s. Puddles had substantial ice on them early. After the luncheon the sun came out and temperatures went slightly above 40°.
Chip’s One In A Hundred (Forman) and Quail Trap Max (Chaffee) hunted hard, handled, stayed in front and did all the right things except find and point a grouse. It was a totally birdless hour, yet the great hunting kept us intently watching the progression.
Both Grouse Hill Dixie (Forman) and Grouse Ridge Sarge (Hughes) roared away nicely when released, attractive in motion and hunting with a passion. Sarge stood nicely at 37 with Dixie coming for the back but she passed up the opportunity and was leashed. Nothing was flushed for Sarge, which went on until 55 when officials saw her under a grouse and she was taken up.
Chasehill Ben Franklin (Stolgitis) hunted the course in great fashion to 40 when he suffered an unproductive. He continued to hunt hard late in the hour, standing at 50 where four grouse were flushed to his point. Three additional grouse were moved, bringing the total for the hour to seven. My Cousin Vinnie (Hughes) was full of go, seeking the far places and running with speed and determination, but gone from judgment at 10 and not returned.
River’s Edge Sadie (Forman) and Spitfire (Spotts) were doing a topnotch job of hunting the course. They were looking for birds with a lot of desire, plenty of style and attraction in motion and they were moving ahead to the likely places. Sadie logged an unproductive at 45. Spitfire ran birdless. But this pair of dogs demanded your attention the full hour.
Mains One Dot (Mains) and Suemac’s Coventry (Hughes) started well, looked good hunting the timber and reaching into the front of course. At 30 Coventry stood to left in a very likely looking spot. The flushing attempt was long and before it could reach a conclusion Dot’s bell went silent ahead on course. One Dot stood nicely through the flushing attempt, made two very appealing relocations and pinned her grouse nicely. Coventry’s stand was unproductive. Dot had a slight edge in ground effort, especially her forward hunting pattern, and they both finished creditably.
Star’s Southern Idol (Forman) turned on the power from the breakaway and was deep and gone from judgment early. Impact Player (Hughes), on this occasion, gave us a birdless hunting dog race, not reaching the far places on course consistently, and although some of his energy faded as the hour went on the dog gamely finished and he was still hunting for birds as the pickup order came.
Chip’s Uncle Buzzie (Forman) and Pinehill Silent Echo (Chaffee). The latter started strongly, set a very wide pattern and was lost to judgment at 10. Chip was determined, and made an outstanding search, showing intelligence and a high level of experience in the woods as he moved forward to all the birdy looking places on course. Chip stood on point near blowdowns at 27 on a nice cast. Nothing could be flushed right in front and he was sent to relocate. He went right to his grouse on a line, pointed and handler flushed two birds right where the dog indicated, and four more got up beyond. Chip was lofty, sure and very mannerly for the shot. It was a great piece of bird work and a superb relocation. Chip finished well.
Wintergreen Max (Fancher) and Terhaar’s Elvis (Hughes). In the early minutes a grouse was ridden up on the course route. It flew over Elvis and he stopped to flush to honor this flight. Six more grouse were reported walked up by the gallery during the brace. Both dogs were mature in their hunting but failed to find birds for the hour. Both were a trifle short of energy in the final minutes.
Thursday was clear and sunny, cold overnight, in the low 20s, but after the luncheon approaching 50°, a very pleasant afternoon to be in the woods.
Sutter’s Grouse Wing Rowdie (Sutter) had a nice hunting effort, moderate for short intervals, but she kept on hunting and finished the hour looking for birds. High Desert Dream (Forman) rendered an excellent hour of grouse hunting, but with an unproductive at 45. No birds were moved this brace.
Dr. Perschke scratched Kendal Hills Sally. It was his scheduled day of surgery in Butler. Pleasant Valley Katie’s owner “Doc” Stiteler was handling. The heat only lasted 5 minutes when Katie took out a pair of grouse and was up.
Hunter’s Clearwater (Bressler) came to hunt and immediately got to the task. The pattern was forward, not extreme in range but Clearwater’s search lasted the full hour. Straight Forward (Hughes) had a fine effort, looking for grouse every minute. The dog was fast, nicely gaited and had a merry tail in motion. The dog stood twice, at 10 and 50, and had grouse in great fashion both times, high and tight on point, birds well located and very mannerly at flush. Straight Forward went ahead without handler working with bracemate a few moments but soon was back with Hughes and back to her normal search, finishing well.
Bloom’s Ole Dollar (Bressler) tore up the course from the breakaway. He knew where to hunt, handled well and worked forward. Dollar pointed nicely at 10, had a grouse pinned and Freezeway (Hughes) backed. Freezeway did not consistently reach the course edge and did not apply himself to the task every minute, but he finished the hour hunting. Dollar got ahead on course in the latter portion where Joe Dahl handled him a few minutes until Bressler came up. At this juncture a marshal called point well behind us where he thought he had heard the call of point but nothing resulted from this situation.
Grouse Woods Reese (Ecker) and L B Horchen (Forman) were away after the luncheon; only one grouse was moved the initial hour. Reese was not exhibiting his best form and handler elected to take him up at 30. Horchen hunted the full hour, perhaps a little less energy in the latter portion and he finished without birds.
Grouse Hills Bell (Forman) hunted but was not showing her best form and was leased near the half. Attractive, hard driving Thunderhills Ghost Rider (Hughes) logged an unproductive in a good looking bit of cover at 45.
Quail Trap Sadie (Chaffee) had her running shoes on. She was wide and tireless, a trifle erratic in pattern, and could be described as out of touch or out of the pocket a major portion of the hour. Sadie had a “limb find” as some describe it at 50. It took a long time to find her deep in the course pointing and a long flushing attempt where she stood nicely almost under a blowdown. It was a mannerly bit of work. Not to overlook Long Gone Buckwheat (Hughes) which had a commendable but birdless race. He worked forward, looked in a great progression of likely looking coverts but could not find a grouse.
Richfield Almond Joy (Stolgitis) and Magic Mist Riley (Dahl) went away hard into the front of course from the breakaway. Almond Joy was wide, deep in the course, not overly responsive to handler and got behind a bit in the early going. Handler elected to pick her up at 25. Riley made a bit of a slow start but picked up the pace as the hour went on. The dog was hunting hard, going to promising places on the course but could not be considered “overly wide” in our field trial vocabulary.
Friday was again sunny and still, the morning temperature in the mid-20s.
Ghost Train Liz (Fruchey) and Upper Cove Billie Babe (Forman) threw it in gear and hunted hard from the breakaway. Neither dog found birds, Liz at times not reaching to the far course edges. Billie Babe was forward, hunted and handled well but was birdless.
Montero’s Rock (Henke) hunted hard every minute down, logging an unproductive in a cutting at 55. Thunderhills Zeus (Hughes) stood at 22 in a cutting on our right side. Handler did not feel his charge had things just right and tooted the dog up 30 yards where Zeus re-established a more intense point to which two grouse were flushed. Zeus hunted hard and finished the hour in great form.
Shady Hills Bean (Forman) was hunting hard, reaching out, then coming back in, and at times working a bit to the rear. Bean pointed nicely at 50, nothing flushed and the dog was charged with an unproductive. When Judge Richardson went back a short distance to remount he disturbed a grouse, perhaps a little too far out to be Bean’s bird, but grouse do run. Jaike (Hughes) was going well from the first whistle, pointing nicely at 22 to which a pair of grouse were flushed. Later Jaike logged a pair of unproductives and was leashed, seemingly a young dog and a good prospect.
Both Fernwood Cove’s Bella (Dahl) and Windstar (Ecker) were off to a good start, classy dogs afield. At 30 in pines Windstar pointed nicely. The flushing attempt failed to produce a bird; Bella came into the pines at this juncture, not close to where Windstar stood but it was reported to scribe that a grouse came up near where Bella worked. This was reported by the gallery. Neither judge saw this grouse. At 45 Bella was found pointing beyond open field, went with her grouse and was leashed. Handler elected to take Windstar up also at 45.
Ten minutes into the hour both at the end of a grassy lane, Grouse Ridge Luckee (Hughes) and Bull Creek (Linn) were found on point in great form. The work was considered a divided find. At the flush of a grouse Bull Creek went with the bird. As handler Linn shot Luckee decided to join the chase. Both were ordered up, judges labeling it a “double breach” of manners.
Elhew Signature did not seem right from the breakaway and Ecker took him up at 15. Kendal Hills Diamond Dawg (Hughes) hunted well early, slowed some in his progression as the hour wore on and logged an unproductive at 20.
Autumn Moon (Chaffee) and Magic Mist Bandit (Dahl). A rather tough course for a dog to show on and hunt, Moon was up to the task and turned in a fine hour of mature hunting, although the dog ran birdless. Bandit’s hunting was impressive the full hour. The dog reached, handled and finished well . . . no birds for the hour.
Cas Tiny (Ecker) and Fire A Way (Mark Hughes) were standing at 20, Fire A Way in the backing position. A grouse was flushed right in front, both dogs very mannerly. Later Fire A Way carded an unproductive. Both were hunting hard and knowledgeable in where to look for grouse. Tiny had an edge in the scope and maturity of the ground effort. Both were out of pocket a bit at time. Found pointing, the find was regarded as divided. A grouse was flushed right where they indicated. A nice brace of dogs to end Friday’s running. Tiny’s search was one of the most mature grouse hunting efforts seen in the stake.
On Saturday three braces remained. It was misting rain at the 7:45 a. m. breakaway and the morning was damp all the way. The temperature was near 40°.
Grouse River Ace (Forman) and Grouse Ridge Force (Hughes) left the breakaway on the tear. At 10 Ace’s bell went silent. Handler went in, was unable to flush and sent Ace to relocate. At this juncture a hen pheasant took wing. Ace went with the ringneck and was leashed. Force turned in some great hunting. The dog handled, worked nicely forward and stayed in touch. After a birdless 50 minutes handler elected to discontinue.
Jumpstart (Spotts) went to the front, had a nice find at 15, an unproductive at 30 and another nice grouse find at 45. All were mannerly with the grouse well located. The dog’s tail was very high standing on point but overly sickled. Grouse Trails Pride (McKellop) was very wide, very forward, attractive in motion but failed to find a bird.
Both Meredith’s El Deguello (Chaffee) and Ridgefield Silver Lining (Stolgitis) hunted hard, reached ahead consistently and were strong afoot for the hour. Silver Lining was birdless. Deguello slammed on point at 50 but went with the grouse at flush and was leashed.
Marienville, Pa., November 6
Judges: George Tracy and Russ Richardson
GRAND NATIONAL GROUSE CHAMPIONSHIP [One-Hour Heats] —
21 Pointers and 49 Setters
Winner—CHIP’S UNCLE BUZZIE, 1568130, setter male by Needlepoint’s Bigbad Jon—Chip’s D D. Steve & Ginny Chiappini, owners; Marc Forman, handler.
Runner-Up—CAS TINY, 1603708, pointer female by Calico’s Thrillogy—Cas Sleep Walker. Jim Castagna, owner; Robert Ecker, handler.