Grand National Grouse Futurity 2013

Futurity Winners. From front left: Blue Sky Lilybelle with Mike Groy, Rockland Ridge McGraw with Robert Ecker and Magic Mist Jack with Joe Dahl. Standing: Judge John Stolgitis and Judge Mike Flewelling.

BERLIN, N. H. — The Sixty-Ninth Grand National Grouse Futurity staged another successful renewal over six half-hour courses in the Kilkenny Area of the scenic White Mountain National Forest near Berlin, N. H. Secretary George Johnson had all his paperwork completed when the call of “turn ’em loose” rang out under sunny skies on Sunday, November 3, on the Moosehorn course.

The Futurity actually begins almost two years prior to the physical running. When bitches are bred they need to be nominated with the secretary (forms are available from him for free) with a forfeit fee of $10. When the litter is born, it must also be nominated with a forfeit fee of $20. Now all the pups from the litter are eligible for both the Grand National Puppy Classic and the Grouse Futurity.

The breeders of these litters send the addresses of all the new puppy owners to the Futurity secretary so he can contact them by mail to keep them updated on schedule of fees, dates, times and locations of the (1) the Puppy Classic and (2) the Grouse Futurity.

Imagine sitting down several times a year addressing and mailing several hundred letters to prospective entries. This is truly the thankless and unseen work of our Grouse Futurity secretary, who amazingly does it all with a smile. (Although I am suspicious that George’s lovely wife Shirley does most of it!)

This year the process had boiled down to 51 eligible Derbies and from this group 16 dogs were duly entered; 15 were actually being turned loose.

The money that accumulates from the nominations and forfeits provides the purse of $1500 which is split 60-40 between the owners and breeders, respectively, of the winning dogs.

This is a breeders’ stake so we give monetary incentives to the breeders who produce the winners. Although the prestige of producing the winners of the Grouse Futurity far outweighs the monetary return. The winning owners and handlers list of awards is substantial.

First, the winning owner receives a gold grouse feather hat pin made by the famed Laviano Jewelers of New Jersey. (Michael J. Laviano owned the great setter champion, Bobby Joe.)

Purina donates some of their great product to the winners. Stewardship of the historic Grouse Futurity Bowl trophy is another great “perk” of winning this stake. Looking over this trophy reads like a veritable who’s who of the luminaries of our sport. Many of our champions and major producers of our sport first showed their promise here in the Grouse Futurity. Indeed, this year’s winner of the National Bird Dog Championship at Ames Plantation, Shadow Oak Bo, has the blood of Grouse Futurity winner (and Grand National winner) Stokely’s Diablo Jake flowing through his veins.

Judges for this renewal, as always, are nominated by the Grand National board of elected directors (who are elected by the general membership). After this list is compiled, it is resent to all directors and officers of the Grand National for the final vote.

This year the board elected Mike Flewelling of Holden, Me., and John Stolgitis of Ashaway, R. I. Both gentle-men are very experienced New England grouse trialers, and also hunt grouse and woodcock with a passion If I documented all their accomplishments as grouse trialers here it would require a novel. Suffice to say, we had two seasoned veterans on “Shanks Mare.” Mike is a serious amateur who operates a very successful transmission shop and gave up time from hunting as well as work to do his “duty”. Mike is also an elected New England Director. John is a lobster boat owner and captain as well as a full time professional bird dog trainer who runs all circuits, walking, wild birds, quail, horseback and all-age. His boat, “The Martha Porter” is very successful also. I like his first boat’s name better, “The Johnny Rotten!”, which is still in his backyard. John, also a New England Director, stayed and gave another four days of work, (as did Mike) marshalling, moving cars, scouting, running dogs and just helping, Thank you, John and Mike, for your service!

Purina again supported us with advertising assistance, product, hats, banners, and most of all Dean Reinke, Purina’s able and affable grouse trial representative. Thank you Nestlé Purina for all you do for us! Of course, we reciprocate by feeding your good food.

Tri-Tronics is also a major sponsor of all four Grand National events, with Warner Smith ably heading up their wild bird division. The winner of the Grouse Futurity wins a brand new Tri-Tronics unit, courtesy of Tri Tronics. No doubt most, if not all, of the trainers in the woods use your good products.

The grounds are typical northern New England cover, comprised of cutover stands of aspen and conifer in different age classes with beech plus white and gray birch scattered throughout. The terrain is tough going, with rocks, mud and roots making walking an adventure. For the dogs it is worse, with thick cover, blow downs and big side hills to run up and down. Yet, it is a true test and the bottom line is, the birds are there, and this is the kind of cover they live in here in the mountains of northern New England. All the dogs were placed on wild birds.

A huge work party was assembled this summer, under the direction of New England director Joe Dahl. Courses were rerouted, cut, cleaned and flagged, getting ready to host the Futurity and Championship. Thank you to all who came on our summer work party! The host club was the Northern New Hampshire Bird Dog Club, which had all the special use permits from the U. S. Forest Service in order. The club also provides all the insurance (two million ) that the USDA requires to actually receive the special use permit. The club also provided car movers, lunch cooks, and course marshals, all under the direction of “super volunteer” Bob Lang of Canterbury, N. H.


Blue Sky Lilybelle ran in the third brace on the back half of the Ammonousac course. The mostly white setter stylist ran a fancy and smart race. Lilybelle’s running style is attractive, her pace fast. In the tight alder bottom, she hunted it all, in a forward flow. Yet when she had a chance to reach in the pole timber on the last 10 minutes of the course, she opened up, looking for more good cover to hunt. Lilybelle scored two very good Derby finds in her half hour. The first was on a woodcock in the alder bottom; the second, a dandy find on a pair of grouse to the left of the course. She had these birds pinned. Lilybelle’s pointing style is attractive. When Mike “Booker” Groy got her back on his lead (she was a tad reluctant to terminate her effort, showing a big reserve of energy) we all knew the bar was set very high.

Lilybelle was braced with Uptown Girl, white and orange setter female bred by Grouse Ridge Kennels out of Grouse Ridge Sarge (2013 Tuttle Grouse Classic Winner) and Ch. Grouse Ridge Luckee. Holly, as she is called, was handled by Dave Hughes. Holly carded two woodcock finds in her half hour, the first being the best with handler going into the dense alders to find her pointing, the bird well located. Holly was named fourth by the judges, but less than 16 entries negates fourth, as per the bylaws and running rules, Futurity, section four.

Blue Sky Lilybelle is by last year’s Grand National Grouse Champion, Steve Chiappini’s handsome Chip’s Uncle Buzzie out of a winning grouse trial female Annibel Blue Sky. “Booker” bred the litter and has another good one for his string. Lilybelle won the Blakley Open Derby Classic the week prior to this event to go along with several other good Derby wins. She is one to watch!

The second place winner was a very strongly built setter female named Rockland Ridge McGraw. This tri-color hard going setter ran on the “Beaver Basin” course in the fourth brace, scoring on both woodcock at 8 on the right of the course in poplars, and grouse at 17 also on the right of the course along the river.

Maggie, as she is called, had her birds well located and her style running and pointing is pleasing. Robert Ecker, proprietor of Midnight Kennels, is her trainer and handler. Robert has done a real nice job developing this bitch.

Maggie runs forward and hard, yet handles. Robert did a masterful job of displaying her half hour, going slow and letting her hunt.

Maggie was bred by the famed Grouse Ridge Kennels of Oxford, N. Y., under the leadership of Hall of Fame setter breeder, Dr. Thomas Flanagan, and managed by the husband and wife team of Peter and Katie Flanagan. Maggie’s sire is runner-up Ch. Grouse Ridge Bruiser, out of Grouse Ridge Paris.

Maggie has already placed three times, including twice in Michigan on wild birds. Maggie is owned by Gary Chlapaty of Phoenixville, Pa., who hunts her hard from Michigan to Pennsylvania. Congratulations to Robert and Gary!

The third place winner, Magic Mist Jack, is owned, trained and handled by professional Joe Dahl out of his successful Magic Mist Kennel operation in Bangor, Me. The white and orange setter male ran in the second brace on the front end of the Ammonousac course. Jack scored on a woodcock deep on the left at 7, had a chance for another at 9 with an opportunity on a grouse at 24 along the river. Once he got going, he went hard with good carriage. His pointing style is attractive.

Jack is by Impact Player, himself a Grouse Futurity placement winner (second in 2010), out of Grand National Grouse Champion Full Tilt. Jack was bred by the successful team of Bob Watts and Richard Brenneman. Jack has placed in several wild bird Derby stakes including the Woodcock Futurity.


Bill Wendt came from Michigan with setter male Springpond’s Crosby which started wide and fancy making some good casts on the very tough “Moosehorn” course. Crosby seemed to show the effects of this tremendous effort after the half and handler elected to pick him up. Mr. Wendt owned the great setter champion Billie Girl. Ecker had setter female Wildcat Runner ready to run in this cover as she hunted it very hard for her 30 minutes but a grouse getting up wild at 22 was the only bird we saw.

Phillips Half Moon (Hughes), powerfully built heavily ticked setter female, ran the race of the stake, according to the judges. Remmi, as she is called, with a good find, would have won it all. Remmi started big and wide, and this approach continued for her full heat. But as popular New England pro Ralph Fitzmaurice used to say, “No chicken. No Soup!” Bracemate was Magic Mist Jack (Dahl).

Uptown Girl (Hughes) and Blue Sky Lilybelle (Groy) followed.

On the Beaver Basin course. Ponderosa Mac, handled by Rich Hollister of Dun Roven Kennels fame, came from Michigan with his beautiful 12-year-old daughter, Jessica, to run two setters. Mac, fancy going setter male, ran a busy and forward half hour. Mac pointed at 7 in front of us at the course turn. Although Rich did not fire his gun here we did put up several woodcock near the course and these could very well have been what he was pointing. Mac pointed three minutes later on the left of the course, the dog somewhat shielded by big white pine blowdowns, woodcock flushing with Rich firing. Three grouse flushed wild at 21 and Mac stopped again deep on the right near time with several more grouse heard to rumble out. Shot was fired, although the judges did not get to see Mac on point. Mac was braced with Rockland Ridge McGraw (Ecker).

No. 5 found us over on the Lonesome Ridge Course. Riviera (Hughes), white and black pointer male, ran a comfortable, forward race. River ran with good carriage. Backstep Rudy (Lahoda), smooth running tricolor setter male, ran high, wide and handsome. I really enjoyed watching him attack the course. The judges really liked him too.

Hightone Left Turn (Watson) was a no-show. Game Changer (Hughes) could have been a placement changer with a bird. The white and orange setter female is a littermate to Magic Mist Jack. Sally, she is called, ran a quality race of good pace and range and was mentioned by the judges as having the second best race without benefit of a bird.

Long Gone Wallace (Murray), tricolor setter male, ran a handy 30 minutes, logged a mannerly stop to flush on a woodcock on the left of the course. Waymaker’s Terrific Tilly (Hollister), classy setter female, rendered a fancy half hour, never extreme in range, but she applied herself well and handled easily.

High Impact, white and orange setter male, is a littermate to Magic Mist Jack and Game Changer, has good foot speed and worked hard for owner-handler Mike Spotts. Impact was generally forward and a bird may have helped his cause. Jar’s Way Shirley (Hughes), or Bailey, as this tricolor setter female is called, ran an industrious 30 minutes and had finds on woodcock at 13 and 17, the second being the best. Scouted then found on point with good style, Bailey allowed handler Hughes to flush. Bailey finished with good pace but was modest in range.

We repaired to the headquarters area where the judges were thanked, the announcements made and photos taken, all again smoothly handled by Secretary Johnson. Thank you to all who pitched in to make this renewal such an enjoyable event.

Berlin, N. H., November 3

Judges: Mike Flewelling and John W. Stolgitis


1st—BLUE SKY LILYBELLE, 1645998, setter female, by Chip’s Uncle Buzzie—Annibel Blue Sky. Mike & Brenda Groy, owners; Mike Groy, handler.

2d—ROCKLAND RIDGE MCGRAW, 1642482, setter female, by Grouse Ridge Bruiser—Grouse Ridge Paris. Gary Chlapaty, owner; Robert Ecker, Jr., handler.

3d—MAGIC MIST JACK, 1646646, setter male, by Full Tilt—Impact Player. Joe Dahl, owner and handler.

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