Grand National Grouse & Woodcock Invitational Championship 2015

 Upper Cove Billie Babe Wins 25th Anniversary Running; Terhaar’s Rogue is Runner-Up

Grand National Grouse and Woodcock Invitational

By Michael Spotts | May 21, 2015

Championship Winners. From left: Marc Forman, Dillon Terhaar, Judge Joe Cammisa, John Capocci, Scott Forman with Upper Cove Billie Babe, Howard Kerr, Dave Terhaar with Terhaar’s Rogue, Colton Terhaar and Judge Mike Spotts.

MARIENVILLE, PA. — The 25th running of the Grand National Grouse and Woodcock Invitational was held over three days on the historic grounds in Marienville, Pa. The trial was scheduled to be run a week earlier, but record cold and snow through much of February and March had nearly a foot of hard packed snow and ice over the courses. The decision was made to push the trial back.

The grounds are located in the Allegheny National Forest near the town of Marienville. The Pennsylvania Grouse Dog Club holds a special permit that allows the running of field trials during certain times of the year. The Pennsylvania clubs maintain eight championship courses; the seven courses with traditionally the highest bird counts were used for this event.

The cover is dominated by open hardwoods, mainly cherry and beech, with pockets of cover that generally hold the birds. A dog must run to the limits in this type of country and reach for the pockets of bird cover along the way to have a chance at connecting on game. Although birds were not abundant, there was enough action to support this class event.

Fourteen dogs are invited to compete. Three slots are an automatic invitation: the previous year’s champion and runner-up, and the reigning Grand National Grouse Champion. The other eleven invitations are based on points earned at multiple course grouse and woodcock trials from the previous year.

Invitational Secretary and Treasurer George Johnson tabulates all of the points, sends the invitations, coordinates and conducts the drawing, hosts the judges, etc. He does it all! George is a true asset to the Invitational and has elevated it to the premier event in the woods. This trial is a big deal and George promotes it that way.

The format calls for all dogs to run one hour on two consecutive days. The judges, at their discretion, determine which dogs they’d like to see on the third day. The champion and runner-up must run three consecutive days for an hour each day. Also, each day a “day dog” is named based on the best overall performance of that day. Handler of the “day dog” wins a purse for the day dog.

The three consecutive days are judged as one continuous trial. Dogs are judged based on the consistency they display over the three consecutive days. Dogs are not picked up for infractions (chasing birds, not backing, etc.) and are only picked up if they are interfering with their bracemate.

Judges for this 25th running were Joe Cammisa of Butler, Pa., and Mike Spotts of Bloomsburg, Pa. Judges are nominated and voted on by the directors of the Grand National Grouse Club. Joe Cammisa is a true outdoorsman. He has hunted waterfowl and upland birds all across the country and Canada, fished in nearly as many places, and campaigned some topnotch bird dogs on the cover dog, walking, and horseback circuits. Joe is also a fantastic cook and a great host. He opened his beautiful cabin to the trial party and hosted us there for the three days. Joe is a pillar of our sport and gives as much time, support, and encouragement as anyone.

The elected reporter for the trial was Lloyd Murray of Stark, N. H. Unfortunately, due to the week delay, Lloyd could not attend due to business obligations. Lloyd is as passionate about grouse dogs as anyone I’ve met and has a great ability to convey that in his reports. It is a daunting task to be asked to fill in for him!

Purina again graciously sponsored much of this event. They hosted an open dinner at Betina’s Italian restaurant in Marienville on Wednesday evening. All participants and spectators were invited and welcomed by Purina representative Dean Reinke who does so much for our cover dog events; we appreciate his support. In addition to the dinner, Purina dog food was given to all participants with additional amounts being supplied to the champion and runner-up.

Garmin also sponsored the event and provided training collars to both of the winners. We also appreciate their continued support.

The trial was hosted by the Pennsylvania Grouse Trial Club. Honorary stake manager was Howard Kerr who started in bird dogs and field trials in 1967 and over the years has contributed much to the sport. He judged many important stakes, including the Grand National Grouse Championship. Howard served on the board of directors of the Pennsylvania Grouse Trial Club and the Grand National Club. A plaque was presented to Howard at the drawing commemorating his years of service. We thank Howard for helping us this year.


Upper Cove Billie Babe, tricolor setter female, ran in the third brace on day No. 1 on the M&M course. She was braced with Richard Brenneman’s multiple champion Full Blast. Both dogs broke away hard and fast and hunted excitingly the first few minutes. At 10, just as we came into the first swamp, Billie Babe’s bell stopped abruptly left of the course. Handler Scott Forman and Judge Spotts began searching in the thick blueberry brush eventually locating her pointing with stunning posture toward a small spruce thicket. She was up on her toes with intensity and held the pose as the grouse rumbled out just a few feet off her nose.

Full Blast was running but hard to turn for handler Dave Hughes. His bell was very light and it made handling difficult. He got hung up at the road where the course makes the first sharp turn and again at the second sharp turn. Overall his race was driving but too rough. He had an unproductive on the course at 30.

Billie Babe ran a fancy, hard hunting race after her grouse find. The M&M course requires a dog to hunt and handle the multiple sharp turns. She did it beautifully and showed superb running style. She finished strong and forward capping off an excellent hour. Billie Babe was named “day dog” after the first day’s running.

On the second day Billie Babe was braced with a young setter female with a very bright future, Rockland Ridge McGraw. The gallery flushed a grouse at 2, just right of the course while both dogs were well forward and hunting. Billie crossed in front a few times as we made our way across the stream and then made a big move up the hill and through the pole timber. With temperatures rising and the sun beating down, Billie drove through the meadow in the back of the course.

Ridge McGraw is extremely fast and handled kindly for Robert Ecker. She looped a few times early on and was sticky in the cutting along the back of the course but otherwise ran a good race. Both dogs hunted nicely through the bottom and across the stream crossing. At 50 McGraw pointed with exemplary style left of the course in a brushy area. Billie Babe backed neatly. No bird was produced.

At 58, as we made our way out of the blueberry bottom and up the hill, Billie was making game near a blown down tree. Her bell stopped sharply moments before grouse lifted 50 yards above her on the hill. Judge and handler could not see the dog from the course and when we found her she was pointing, very intense, under the large trunk of the blown down tree. Scott Forman fired and collared her back to the course. As this was happening a shot rang out from just above us on the hillside. McGraw had a grouse find of her own very near where the first bird flew. Billie Babe’s second day effort was again the best of the day and she was named “day dog” for the second consecutive day.

Upper Cove Billie Babe was braced with the runner-up, Terhaar’s Rogue, on the third day in the finals. We had a few dogs in reserve if needed but these two dogs performed considerably better than the rest of the field and we were only going to look at the other dogs if these two “crashed”! For this reason we chose course No. 1 on the Loleta side. We did not see many birds on this course the previous two days and it is generally open with very few sharp turns. We wanted the dogs to run a strong hour and finish clean!

Mother Nature had different plans and shortly after breaking away a downpour began. This didn’t affect the dogs as both were driving hard and to the limits. This combination made hearing the bells nearly impossible. Billie Babe ran a big, forward race which was stronger than that of her previous two days. Rogue was also strong but made some wide casts that caused her to come from behind on several occasions. Her ground race was not as fluid or consistent as the champion’s.

Upper Cove Billie Babe was bred by Bryan Wood of Michigan out of noted producer and multiple champion Shady Hills Billy. She was previously owned by the late Bob Grassi and is now owned by John Capocci of Katonah, N. Y. John was on hand to witness her convincing win. Billie has been with Scott Forman since she was a puppy and he has guided her to multiple championships and wins in other important stakes.

Runner-up Terhaar’s Rogue is owned and handled by highly successful amateur Dave Terhaar of Allegan, Mich. Rogue is also a multiple champion, was runner-up in the Grand National this fall, and has won important stakes her entire career.

Rogue was braced with the reigning Grand National Grouse Champion, Long Gone Buckwheat, on the first day. Both dogs started strong as they broke away on course No. 4 on the Loleta side. Rogue made a big cast to the left as we entered a blueberry swamp and got hung up for a minute or two but Terhaar sung her forward and she laid to the front and hunted nicely through the middle. Buckwheat was not as wide as his bracemate but hunted thoroughly at a moderate pace. Both dogs made a big move through the meadow at the back of the course. At 35 both bells were silent in a cut over area that often holds birds. Both handlers and judges started searching the thick cover and Buckwheat was spotted on point. As handler Dave Hughes approached the handsome white and black setter, he found Rogue backing him. Both dogs displayed exceptional posture. Hughes flushed far and wide but could not produce a bird. He sent Buckwheat on with a tap on the head and he raced down the hill in search of the bird. After a few minutes Hughes, Judge Spotts and Buckwheat were back on the course and heading away from the area. Suddenly, a shot rang out from near where the dogs were initially standing. Judge Cammisa reported that Rogue swung up the hill, maybe 75 yards, and slammed on point, her posture and composure stunning. The grouse glided out through the opening and Terhaar shot. This was a nice piece of bird work.

Rogue hunted well the last half, stopping occasionally to locate her handler, but always starting up on her own. She stopped at 50 in an area littered with fresh porcupine sign. No flushing attempt was made.

Day No. 2 found Terhaar’s Rogue braced with Long Gone Studly. Rogue was big and forward off the breakaway. We had her bell but didn’t see much of her the first 15 minutes. Studly checked in with handler Dave Hughes often the first ten and then had a stop near a blow down at 12. He never tightened up and Hughes sent him on without flushing.

Rogue hunted hard and made some impressive moves through the middle. She was in sync with her handler and hitting all the right places. Studly suffered unproductives at 29 and 31. At 50 a grouse flushed wild just right of the course while both dogs were working deep to our left. Studly came across the front and pointed at 53 with Rogue backing nicely. Hughes elected not to flush and Rogue was heeled back to the course as Studly was sent on. Rogue made another big move to close out her hour but did not connect on a bird.


Hunter’s Pale Face (Lance Bressler) and Grouse Ridge Force (Hughes) broke away at 8:00 a. m. sharp in a light drizzle. Both were rough and hung out to the left the first five minutes. Both handlers struggled to get the dogs forward but eventually did. At 10 Pale Face stopped deep and forward where the course turns back into the swamp. We searched for a few minutes but his bell eventually started up on its own. They showed well in the open timber through the middle, Force wider. At 35 Force stood along the back road pointing in a deadfall. His posture was good and Hughes flushed but nothing flew. The dogs slowed some the last few minutes and the brace ended uneventfully. A grouse flushed from the course a few minutes after pickup as we rode out.

Meredith’s El Deguello (Marc Forman) and Long Gone Studly (Hughes) came out swinging for the fences. They looked great as we went up the hill and came down into the bottom, both showing great style and speed. Studly slammed on point on the edge of an old cutting but loosened up and was sent forward. He shot forward with speed and purpose and stopped again, this time for sure. He was extremely intense as Hughes flushed the running grouse right in front of him. This was a really nice piece of work on a running bird. Both dogs were wide and rough as we made the turn in the back of the course. Studly was scouted at 44 but his bell came on from the front. He continued to get wider and Hughes eventually lost him at 50. Deguello pointed at 45 just right of the course. His head was low and he was sucking scent. We were all expecting a woodcock but a big grouse rumbled out a good 20 yards in front of the dog. He took a few steps at the shot. Deguello looped quite a bit the last 15 minutes.

The next two braces, Upper Cove Billie Babe and Full Blast, and Terhaar’s Rogue and Long Gone Buckwheat, were already covered.

After lunch Phillips Half Moon (Hughes) and Fricke N Coco (Ecker) broke away strongly. A pair of grouse rumbled out right on the course at 2 but both dogs were deep to the front hunting and not involved. Half Moon was wild the first half and paid little attention to her handler. She had an unproductive at 40. Coco had a stop to flush on a woodcock near the beaver dam and then made a nice move through the field. Two more grouse were seen at 35 but again no dogs were involved. Coco finished well, making some big casts but responding well to her handler.

Centerfold Bette (M. Forman) and Rockland Ridge McGraw (Ecker) started well with both of their owners in the gallery. Bette looped quite a bit and never really settled in. McGraw was an eyeful; very fast over the ground with good animation. She had an unproductive at 30. She stopped again at 40 when a grouse was heard flushing near the course. McGraw moved on in the direction of where the bird flew and pointed briefly but we never found that bird.

Chip’s A One Hundred (S. Forman) and Suemac’s Coventry (Hughes) were away on the Lamonaville No. 3 course. One Hundred was big and rough and gave Scott Forman a workout trying to keep him forward. Covey was doing a really fine job on the ground and had our attention. She was flowing, forward and hitting all the right places. At 40 we did not have her bell and Hughes started looking left of the course in some conifers. A grouse flushed as he searched but Covey’s bell started on its own, deep and well ahead. At 50 she made a pretty move through a clear cut and in front of the gallery, stopping suddenly in a cluster of spruce. As we made our way to her a grouse lifted and she gave chase. Hughes had a hard time rounding her up but finally got her back and moving forward. She had an unproductive at 58.


The day started with heavy fog, Meredith’s El Deguello (Forman) and Suemac’s Coventry (Mark Hughes) first up. Mark Hughes was handling Covey instead of Dave. Both dogs had their running shoes on, looked good moving, but had little desire to handle. Covey came from behind several times but finished. Deguello was not seen or heard for some time and Forman eventually threw in the towel.

Two veteran grouse dogs, Long Gone Buckwheat (Hughes) and Fricke N Coco (Ecker), started with good pace. Coco took the wider route and laid to the front the first half. Buckwheat crossed right in front several times and was much shorter than his bracemate. Their pace slowed considerably the second half but they were still hunting. At 50 a grouse flushed in a freshly cut area, wide open, as Coco came across from the left. She saw the bird leaving and gave it a short chase; Ecker picked up.

Phillips Half Moon (M. Hughes) and Centerfold Bette (Harold Holmes) dashed away on the M&M course. Both dogs had new handlers for this day as Dr. Holmes and Mark Hughes took the reins. At 20 Bette stopped right of the course in the pines and had an unproductive. She stopped again at 40 but started on her own as we searched. She had a final stand at 55, an unproductive, and Holmes put the leash on her. Moon ran a good race, handled much better on day No. 2, and finished the hour well.

Rockland Ridge McGraw (Ecker) and Upper Cove Billie Babe (Forman) were previously covered.

Grouse Ridge Force (Hughes) and Hunter’s Pale Face (Bressler) broke away after lunch on Lamonaville No. 1. Pale Face was much wider through the cover before the beaver dam. At 46 we heard Force’s bell stop and then Pale Face’s bell stop a few seconds later. We found Force pointing in the pines with Pale Face pointing to the left of him about fifteen yards away. It looked like Pale Face was backing but Bressler flushed as well. No bird was produced and both dogs were given an unproductive. Both dogs were solid for the entire hour but neither could connect on a bird.

Long Gone Studly (Hughes) and Terhaar’s Rogue (Terhaar) were previously covered.

Chip’s A One Hundred (Forman) and Full Blast (Hughes) broke away in the rain. Full Blast was running hard but having a hard time staying with handler. One Hundred was running a moderate race but the hard rain made hearing the bells very difficult. At 30 both handlers elected to pick up near the road as neither dog was getting the job done.

Marienville, Pa., April 8

Judges: Joe Cammisa and Michael Spotts


One-Hour Finals] — 1 Pointer and 13 Setters

Winner—UPPER COVE BILLIE BABE, 1591856, setter female, by Shady Hills Billy—Grouse River Princess. John Capocci, owner; Scott Forman, handler.

Runner-Up—TERHAAR’S ROGUE, 1614696, setter female, by The Insider—Grouse Ridge Paris. Dave Terhaar, owner and handler.