2016 Grand National Grouse Futurity Winners

Futurity Winners. From left: Judge Doug McMillen, Joe Dahl with Magic Mist Sydni, Colleen Murray, Lloyd Murray, Carl McRae with McRae’s Angus, Judge Tony Bly, Greg Yutzey with Clermont Lucky Brynn and Dave Hughes.

BERLIN, N. H. — The Grand National Grouse Futurity held its seventy-second successful renewal in the White Mountain National Forest in Berlin, N. H., on the last Sunday in October. The Grouse Futurity runs under the umbrella of the parent organization, the Grand National Grouse Championship Inc. Which also sponsors and directs the Grouse Puppy Classic and the Grouse and Woodcock Invitational Championship.

The inaugural Grouse Futurity was held in 1945 and has been run every year since, except in 1949 and 1980 (although it ran in the spring of 1981 and the fall of 1981 to get back on track).

During the ensuing 72 years, the Grouse Futurity has developed a great reputation for predicting future winners, and is held up as an organizational example of a well-run operation. Many of our grouse champions of the last seven decades first showed their talents in the Grouse Futurity, which, after all, is its mission!

Mistress Pretty Bones, pointer female, won the 1950 Grouse Futurity and the 1952 Grand National. The great setter female Retina won the seventh Grouse Futurity in 1952 and came back and won the Grand National in 1955 and 1956. Hall of Fame setter four-tine champion Tomoka won the Grouse Futurity in 1970. Doc Stiteler’s great female Pleasant Valley Liz won the 25th Grouse Futurity in 1969 and came back and won the Grand in 1972 and 1973. Ch. Ghost Star, legendary setter female out of Michigan, was second in the 1976 Grouse Futurity and won the 1978 renewal of the Grand National Grouse Championship.

As we proceed through the next few decades that take us to the present, we see an even more pronounced connection to the Grand National winners coming out of the Grouse Futurity. It has a glorious history!

The Grouse Futurity has been under the steady hand of George Johnson (and his wonderful wife Shirley) for the last six years. In those years’ bitch nominations are way up, litter nominations are  up and paid up puppy forfeits are up. George has put the Grouse Futurity on solid financial footing. George also used the Dr. Ken Wong program for the draw. Dr. Wong is a leader in his field of computer science at the University of Pittsburg and this program he developed is pretty much bullet proof and can handle up to 100 dogs. (I suspect it can be made to handle as many as needed). This program can also consider females in season, multiple handlers, and any conflicts we run into. [There was a lively and enthusiastic discussion at the directors’ meeting on Wednesday night at The Chalet about this, and this method of drawing will be seriously considered for the Grand National in the future.]

George Johnson is also secretary of the Grand National Grouse and Woodcock Invitational Championship. At this fall’s annual directors’ meeting Secretary Johnson announced his desire to step down as secretary of the Grouse Futurity. George nominated Thor Kain of Pennsylvania as a possible replacement. After some discussion, but no other nominations, the vote was taken by all elected directors and officers. Thor was elected. As Director Spotts noted twice during the discussion, “You will not find a more capable person than Thor Kain.” So please, all welcome Secretary Kain to his new job, one that requires a lot of direction and time. I am sure Secretary Kain is more than up to this new challenge. We all wish George the best, as well as Thor!

Our elected judges this year were two very experienced bird dog men. Tony Bly of Milan, N. H., and Doug McMillen from Pennsylvania. Both men have spent thousands of hours behind good bird dogs. Both men own champion bird dogs. Both men have won championships. Both men have had their own dogs win Grand National titles. We were blessed to have men of this caliber look over our Derbies this year. Thank you both Tony and Doug. We very much appreciate your efforts!

Of course, the grounds and courses don’t clean themselves. A major effort was organized this past summer spearheaded by Director Joe Dahl along with Director Tony Bly with a big assist from Bob Lang and Thom Richardson. I am loath to try and name all who came and volunteered on that hot day in July, but you know who you are and we thank you. And those who couldn’t find a little time to contribute to the game we love, you know who you are also!

Our entry was down this year due mainly to a scheduling conflict with the Lake States Grouse Championship running so late. Many eligible Derbies were sitting on trucks in Gladwin, Mich., while their handlers and owners were running their all-age dogs. This is not a criticism, simply an observation, but it did hurt the Grouse Futurity.

Nestlé Purina had our back again this year, as they always do. Purina representative Dean Reinke for the wild bird division made sure we had product for the winners and sample bags for the handlers (although it would be hard to find an owner or handler who (1) has not tried Pro Plan and  (2) who does not already feed it). Purina helps greatly with advertising support and put on the Grouse Futurity banquet Sunday night at The White Mountain Chalet (hand carved prime ribs of beef au jus).

Thank you, Dean, and Nestlé Purina. You’re the best.

Garmin also is a major sponsor of the Grouse Futurity and this great company donates some of their units to our winners, which are worth several hundred dollars each. Garmin, of course, is the leader in their field and their collars, both tracking and training, are industry leaders. Thank you, Garmin, for your valuable support of the Grouse Futurity.

The Winners and Others

The winner was Magic Mist Sydni,  speedy tricolor setter female owned and handled by veteran Maine professional Joe Dahl. Sydni was bred by successful setter breeder Jim Humphrey from Kentucky. She is by Star’s Southern Idol out of Black Face Miner.

Sydni started big, wide and forward, and was out of hearing off the breakaway, but handler confidently proceeded down the Ammonousac course and Sydni settled in. She was hunting furiously in her relentless search for game. Her way of running is attractive, very fast and animated; you can tell she loves it! Finally at 26 on the right of the course she stopped. Handler started in, Syd moved a bit, but she was fine. Woodcock was produced and shot was fired, Sydni giving lusty chase as Derbies can do. She pointed again right after time, and although not covered officially there were a pair of woodcock on this nice piece of work also, but it was frosting she did not need.

As an aside, the fact that Sydni was not broke steady to wing and shot, and won this prestigious Futurity, to my mind is a big plus for our Futurity. There is no need for red shirting Derbies and falsifying ages, as we see in some other circuits. Our judges are looking for potential, not finish, as that should come later, with age and training.

I have heard many (especially amateurs) handlers say they cannot compete with a pros string of broke Derbies. I simply tell them in our wild bird game we are pretty much the last bastion that does NOT require a Derby-age dog to be broke steady to wing and shot, and they are pleasantly surprised.

Sydni was braced with an attractive setter female named Twilight’s Echoed Promise, handled by Mark Hughes. Promise looks to have some (promise) but today failed to score on game.

Second went to almost all white setter male McRae’s Angus, owned by affable Michigander Carl McRae, who handled his dog to this placement, but he was bred by Richard Hollister, also from Michigan, out of his Dun Rovens Boofay by Waymaker Super Sam, Bob Kluger’s young winner. Angus had a find on a woodcock at 4 to the left of the course, an unproductive at 16 just to the right of the course along the Ammounsac River, then had Derby finds on woodcock at 22 and 24, and this was not counting what we walked up. Angus was very inspired and animated after this work and was fun to watch. Angus looks to be an outstanding bird-finder which should translate into a bright future for him.

Angus was braced with Thor Kain’s white setter female that can really fly named No Limit which suffered an unproductive at 13, then got sticky deep right, a brood of grouse suspected as she simply did not want to leave the area, and grouse were heard flying.

Third was tricolor setter female Clermont Lucky Brynn, owned by Rick Simpson of the Keystone State and bred by Greg Yutzey, also from Pennsylvania. Brynn is by Mr. Yutzey’s winner Jars Way Shirley by Long Gone Buckwheat. Brynn is trained and handled by Hall-of-Famer Dave Hughes. She ran in brace No. 5 on the second half of the Ammonousac course and rendered an intelligent, forward race but did not score a find. The judges wanted to see her on a bird and put her down again in “The Lucky Corner” which on this day was not so lucky. We proceeded up the Kilkenny Loop road to a big cut on the left. This too was barren so we proceeded to Long Gone Farm several minutes away and flew out some quail, which Brynn pointed nicely to conclude our efforts.

Brynn was braced in the first series with Remington Spencer Rauch, setter female owned and handled by Brad Rauch of Orchard Park, N. Y. Spencer ran a comfortable and forward race, hunting all the time. I think this was Mr. Rauch’s first field trial.

In the second brace Milka, setter female also owned and handled by Brad Rauch, ran a modest but steady forward race. Milka was hunting the alders along the second half of the Ammonousac course when a large hen woodcock flew over our heads at 6, dog involvement undiscernible. A grouse got up wild at 9 on the right of the course. Milka finished hunting nicely. Rivers Edge Molly, setter female owned and handled by successful setter breeder Pat Cooke from New York, ran a race that got wider and stronger the longer she was down. Molly looks to have a future. At the end of brace No. 2 we had moved seven woodcock and a grouse.

The third brace, run on the Beaver Course, had the hard charging setter female Angel’s Envy, owned by Bob and Dianne Wheelock from Michigan and ably handled by Dianne, running a very large race of big dimensions and pace.  Since I was braced with this female I had a front row seat and I liked what I saw. Angel was braced with Long Gone Juicy. “Ju Ju” ran a driving forward race for a half hour, but had no birds. Dianne and I were disappointed that our Derbies did not have a chance on a bird and the natural thing is to blame the course, as holding no birds on this day. However, when McRae’s Angus was back here later in the day, and Carl’s only problem was keeping blanks in his gun, that melted the bad course idea!

No. 4 featured Thunderhills Pale Rider, handsome white and black pointer owned by Harry Tsepelias and run by Mark Hughes. Rider ran an aggressive race but failed to connect on birds.

Walnut Hills Anniversary, white and liver pointer owned by Maine pro Cal Robinson but handled by John Stolgitis, ran a two-part race. Part one was an extremely big first half and a hard hunting sensible second half. Anniversary’s bell stopped deep on the right at 26. John didn’t like the looks of the situation and asked the dog to move; when he did the woodcock popped. John picked up. Ironically, he was told by Judge McMillen later he should have left the dog down. John likes to see it done right!

After the callback was completed we all gathered to hear Secretary Johnson thank all club officials who helped, all volunteers who helped pitch in, thank the judges and reporter and give them all gifts from the Futurity. (The judges were giving custom-made and engraved Case Knives) and announce the winners and breeders.

We hope to see you all at the Invitational and Grand National Grouse Puppy Classic in the spring at Grouse Ridge in Oxford, N. Y.

Berlin, N. H., October 30

Judges: Tony Bly and Doug McMillen

GRAND NATIONAL GROUSE FUTURITY — 10 Setters and 2 Pointers

1st—MAGIC MIST SYDNI, setter female, by Star’s Southern Idol—Black Face Miner. Joe Dahl, owner and handler.

2d—MCRAE’S ANGUS, setter male, by Waymaker Super Sam—Dun Rovens Boofay. Carl McRae, owner and handler.

3d—CLERMONT LUCKY BRYNN, setter female, by Long Gone Buckwheat—Jars Way Shirley. Rick Simpson, owner; Dave Hughes, handler.