Grand National Grouse Futurity 2014

2014 Grand National Grouse Futurity

GLADWIN, MICH. — The 70th Grand National Grouse Futurity was held on Sunday, November 2, at Michigan’s Gladwin Field Trial Grounds in Meredith, Mich. The Gladwin Field Trial Area is an extraordinary tract of land within the Gladwin State Forest. This piece of heaven is made up of 4,940 acres of some of the most beautiful land in northern Michigan. Within the venue we enjoy two trout streams, four lakes and rolling hills making up some of the best wild bird habitat in the country. We currently have 15 half-hour courses for competition. It takes time and commitment by our volunteers to each year clean the courses and make ready for the fall competition. With the expert management of these grounds by the DNR (Forest Resources, Parks and Recreation and Wildlife), we move our courses as needed. Our many kudos to Bruce Barlow (our resident biologist) and his team for keeping the roads in shape for our trials, and managing the wildlife with an emphasis on grouse and woodcock. Their excellent management will continue to help make this area thrive and our game survive.

The drawing was held publicly on October 29 at The Lodge at Glen Dorn. This year’s Futurity drew 17 contenders, 16 setters and one pointer.

For this event judges and reporter are nominated and voted upon by the Grand National board of elected directors.

Chosen to judge the trial this year were Ken Moss of Mount Pleasant, Mich., and Craig Merlington of Cedar Springs, Mich. Both judges have experience at breeding and handling cover dogs and have both bred and owned champion cover dogs. The reporter is from Battle Creek, Mich.

Roger Johnson of Beaverton, Mich., presided as stake manager. I cannot begin to expound on the experience that this man brings to the table. His kind manner and constant banter is welcomed by all. George (secretary for the Futurity) and Shirley Johnson were also on hand working at their usual best to organize the stake. It is evident that they both have a great passion for this stake and its success.

The Futurity, being a breeders’ stake, awards a $1,500 shared split 60/40 between the winning owners and breeders, respectively. The winning owner receives a silver grouse feather hat pin made by the famous Laviano Jewelers of New Jersey. The winner also receives the stewardship of the historic Grouse Futurity Bowl trophy for the year. This beautiful bowl is a masterpiece in itself and hosts the names of the many winners of this great stake.

We kicked off this event Saturday evening with a tasty steak fry, courtesy of Nestlé Purina. Ken Moss was on hand to cook the steaks, with lots of help from Roger Johnson and Wayne Fruchey. Everyone enjoyed a good meal and some good conversation. Purina not only provided for the great steak fry but also provided their product for the winners and participants. Being a major sponsor, Purina provides quality dog food, which many of us field trialers use. Another huge perk of Purina is their “Purina Club”, in which many of us participate.

Tri-Tronics, which also sponsors this trial each year, provided a Garmin to the winner (their equipment is topnotch). Many of us use their product and have had great success in doing so. Thank you to Warner Smith, Tri-Tronics representative, for your support of this stake and this game.

This year at the Gladwin Field Trial Grounds we experienced the largest number of pointed birds (grouse and woodcock) that anyone could remember during our regular fall trial season. The elders (Roger Johnson and Wayne Fruchey) noted that they could not remember seeing the likes. Who would have thought that after one week of rest that the bird sightings would change so drastically. An early cold snap on Halloween brought temperatures plummeting to the 20s. The flight birds seemed to have surely gone south for the winter in an all-out effort to escape the cold. With the flight birds leaving and the grouse moving to their winter cover, these young dogs were in for a challenge.

The judges noted that it was a difficult stake to judge without the bird work we would have expected. They were looking for that championship run, where the dogs went to the cover and hunted with intensity and purpose. With the field being even, and without notable bird work during the running, the judges called back four dogs to the birdfield so that they could observe their manners on birds and their ability to be shot over (as the bylaws recommend).

Called back were: Tony’s High Roller Lombardo, setter male for Marc Forman; Full Throttle, setter female, Mike Spotts; Dun Rovens Drifter, setter male, Richard Hollister, Jr.; Shady Hills Colt, pointer male, Marc Forman. These dogs were allowed the opportunity to find a planted quail and be shot over.


First place went to Shady Hills Colt, pointer male owned by Shady Hills Kennel and handled by Marc Forman. Colt was bred by Robert Kays, Jr. of Saylorsburg, Pa., the litter whelped January 6, 2013. Colt comes from some impeccable stock, Dew Sweeper (a multiple champion), and Starlite’s Rose (also out of championship stock — Elhew Fibber McGee and Ace High Kaylee).

At the birdfield Colt went on point and showed mature manners, holding through the wing and shot, like no other. This win makes the second Grand National win for Colt; he previously placed second at the Grand National Puppy Classic at Grouse Ridge Kennels and was awarded Puppy of the Year in Kentucky, along with a few other wins. Much potential can be seen in this one.

Second was awarded to Full Throttle, setter female owned and handled by Mike Spotts of Bloomsburg, Pa. Full Throttle came to a point on his bird, and when flushed showed Derby-like manners and went with his bird while Mike shot. Full Throttle is bred, owned and handled by Mike Spotts; her early development was with his friend and hunting pal Thor Kain of Carbondale, Pa. Full Throttle earlier won the prestigious Venango Puppy Classic for Thor and she has placed as a fall Derby prior to the Futurity running.

Full Throttle is line bred Ch. Pennstar, as both sire Full Blast and dam Jumpstart are direct offspring of the five-time grouse and woodcock champion. We are looking forward to watching more of this dog in the future.

Third was Tony’s High Roller Lombardo, setter male owned by Tony and John Lombardo of McKees Rocks, Pa., and handled by Marc Forman. The white and orange setter is pleasing to the eye and very nice to watch going. At the birdfield Lombardo took a couple of steps at the flush, then stopped again, holding hard through the shot.

Lombardo was bred by William C. Forman, sired by 2x Ch. Chip’s Uncle Buzzie (Grand National Champion (2012) and Ontario Grouse Champion) and the dam, Shady Hills Girlie (out of multiple champion Shady Hills Billie and Shady Hills Romee). This up and comer has won puppy stakes in both Kentucky and New York. The Futurity was his first Derby win!

Fourth place was awarded to Dun Rovens Drifter, setter male handled by Richard Hollister, Jr. and owned by Richard Hollister, Jr. and Jack Harang. Drifter came to a point, then moved on, circled and came to a point again. Richard whoaed his dog and flushed. Drifter, with Derby-like manners, went with his bird as Ricky shot. Dun Rovens Drifter (Luke the Drifter named after the famed country singer Hank Williams) is a repeat breeding out of (two-time John Hadaway Classic winner and RU Michigan Cover Dog of the Year winner) Dun Rovens Gary and Dun Rovens Boofay (famed Ch. Chip’s Little Spark ex Platinum out of famed Ch.  Pioneer Will). Drifter was whelped August 16, 2013 and has showed great potential as a contender, running against dogs, for the most part, older than he is. Drifter is primarily run by Richard Hollister, Jr. who, at seven years of age, won the Michigan Walking Puppy of the Year Award. Drifter also was handled to a first place win by Ricky’s sister Randi in the Lakes States Open Derby this fall and won the Wolverine Derby Classic under the handle of Richard Sr. We will undoubtedly be seeing more of this handsome dog.

All of these young dogs did a great job and have brought great pride to their owners and handlers. We wish you all much luck in the future with this bunch!


Sunday morning dawned with a hard frost brought on by cold temperatures and overcast skies. The first brace commenced at 8:12 a. m. on course No. 1 with Full Rage (Thor Kain) and Chip’s Peppachini (Scott Forman). Both dogs took to the ground with the expected Derby enthusiasm. Full Rage ran full out on the edge and in the beginning was a little sticky for his handler as he hung along the bottom edges for a long time. Not a bad place with all the grouse pointed in those bottoms this fall. Peppachini went on point at 5 but before the handler and judge connected he moved himself on. Peppachini ran a good moderate race and handled well for Scott. Both handlers were able to get both dogs in hand before the black forest and were both handled out over the bridge to finish. The first brace ended with no countable bird work.

Course No. 2. River’s Edge D J (Marc Forman) and Dun Rovens Drifter (Richard Hollister, Jr.) hunted the first cut hard as they drove up the hill. D J’s bell slowed to a short stop a couple times along the way but the dog kept moving forward. Both dogs took a foray along the edge of the hardwoods after the first cut and were both in hand to hunt the cover in the second cut. This course was rerouted this year and proved to be a honey-hole earlier this fall, for both grouse and woodcock. At 21 Drifter had been hunting hard when his bell stopped at the end of the third cut. Judge, handler and scout went in to search for Drifter. An extensive search progressed through cover still thick from the summer growth, when Drifter’s bell started up again. Ricky sang to Drifter and brought him through to the end with a well-handled race. D J also hunted hard and handled well for Marc. Both dogs finished well but with no countable bird work.

Blue Sky Studebaker (Mike Groy) and Tony’s High Roller Lombardo (M. Forman) met at the line on course No. 3a as the sky continued to be overcast. Temperature was rising a bit and conditions continued to be good. During the first minute, as the dogs were both working up front, the gallery saw a woodcock go up well behind the area where the dogs were working. Both dogs hit the cover well on the way toward the big ravine in the middle of the course. As we went up the hill, both dogs made a foray back to get some water. Up the hill and out into the scrub oaks, Lombardo hunted with intensity. Studebaker worked hard through the cover and handled well for Mike. Both dogs, working closer to their handlers near time, were unable to come up with a bird.

The fourth brace used course 3b at the north boundary road. We continued to be blessed with overcast skies. Scott Forman came to the line with Grouse Hill Pepper Ann, and Mike Spotts with Full Throttle. At 8 Pepper Ann stopped, looking great with a high head and tail. Scott went in to flush but was unable to produce a bird. He moved Pepper Ann on for a possible relocation but Pepper Ann just moved on forward. Full Throttle took to hunting the edges, coming in to show when needed by her handler. Her energy and purpose showing well in her effort.

We moved on up the road to course No. 5 for the 5th brace. As we walked up to the line a grouse took flight out of the sumac at the bottom of the hill, flying low up over the hill toward the course. We hoped that this would prove to be a good omen for this brace. Grouse River Woodcock Annie (S. Forman) and Mission Point Man (Del Johnson) began their race hunting the swamp edges to our left. Both dogs were managed to the road crossing and into the first cut. The dogs were birdy but still the birds eluded them. Annie, with her snappy tail and quick feet, hunted hard through the cover. She handled well and kept up a fast pace. Mission worked forward and back for his handler, going in and out of bell range. The birds again eluded the efforts of the dogs.

Course No. 6 was another that we rerouted this year. It now starts up the same hill on which we start course No. 2. It follows a nice cut along the stream and ends now at the beginning of course No. 7. Dun Rovens Lazy River (Tim Riley) and Shady Hills Colt (M. Forman) hit the ground with high energy. During the first 10 minutes both worked a nice forward running race, handling reasonably well, scouring the cover. The sun started peeking through and before the end of the brace turned to “bluebird skies”. With the cover not as thick here, and the fast pace of the dogs in this brace, we did a little maneuvering at the end to give the dogs a bit more time and ground to cover. Colt handled well, working the cover forward, nicely showing when needed. Rio (Lazy River) had a fast paced race and showed good hunting skills.

We broke for lunch (a great meal of chicken and biscuits) served by none other than Tom Fruchey. The Beaverton Club volunteered to host the lunch, with their usual good assortment of sweets for dessert.

Bluebird skies and 45° for the afternoon.

We skipped courses No. 7 and 8 as planned, in an effort to try to give the dogs the best chance of finding birds. Brace No. 7 commenced on course No. 9 with Most Happy Fella (Richard Hollister, Sr.) and Black Rock (Kain). This course, with a new start point, goes up through some new cover for the first 10 minutes. With everyone hoping that this brace would finally realize some bird work, both handlers worked their dogs through the cover with purpose. We made it up through the new cut without incident and moved through to the hardwoods. The last part of this course comprising a lot of scrub oak (and notable grouse finds this fall) brought on a new enthusiasm. Both dogs worked a forward race, hunting hard. But again we were skunked. No notable bird work to tally up.

Brace No. 8, course No. 10 had River’s Edge Pepper (M. Forman) and Jac’s Easy Does It (Josh Campbell). We made it through to the road with no events. Easy Does It was being a little sticky for his handler but came around after crossing the road. Pepper was being a bit more difficult and also was in hand to cross the road. Both dogs were hard at work in search of the elusive wild birds. Pepper worked the cover well out front through the aspen stands. Again we were unable to produce game.

The last brace of the day on course No. 11 was the bye dog River’s Edge Bailey (S. Forman) which was forward and always hunting. At the end we were out of course so went up the road with Bailey. At 29 her bell stopped and we were all hoping that she would put up a bird before the end. She stopped and went several times, being motivated by her handler, to no avail. We ended the day with not one countable bird find. Who would have thought?

Gladwin, Mich., November 2

Judges: Craig Merlington and Ken Moss


1st—SHADY HILLS COLT, 1651712, pointer male, by Dew Sweeper—Starlite’s Rose. Shady Hills Kennel, owner; Marc Forman, handler.

2d—FULL THROTTLE, 1651768, setter female, by Full Blast—Jumpstart. Mike Spotts, owner and handler.

3d—TONY’S HIGH ROLLER LOMBARDO, 1650075, setter male, by Chip’s Uncle Buzzie—Shady Hills Girlie. Tony & John Lombardo, owners; Marc Forman, handler.

4th—DUN ROVENS DRIFTER, 1655062, setter male, by Dun Rovens Gary—Dun Rovens Boofay. Richard Hollister, Jr., owner and handler.


A Postscript

A successful trial could not happen without the many who come to help make it happen. Our thanks to George and Shirley Johnson for their efforts toward organizing this event and helping throughout; the Beaverton Club which hosted the trial, put on the lunches and organized the help; Roger Johnson for his great hand as stakes manager; and to the many who helped move people and cars, and walked braces marshalling: Wayne Fruchey, Bryan Wood, Mike Singleton, Mike Spotts, Thor Kain, Rich Hollister, Scott and Marc Forman, Deb Nihart, Tim Riley, Del Johnson and Mike Groy.

Apologies if I missed anyone. Thank you also to the judges, Ken Moss and Craig Merlington, and most of all to our sponsors: Nestlé Purina and Tri-Tronics. Thank you all for a successful event.

D. P.