Competed in the Northern New England Woodcock Championship this past weekend with Jack and ran LJ in the derby. The championship drew 44 dogs and ran into yesterday. Judges Bobby Phillips and Jimmy Wade named True Patriot (Kellie Short) champion and Straight Forward (Hughes) runner-up. I didn’t see either but I’m sure they were worthy performances. Jack ran in the 20th brace and I thought he might get a piece of it. He made some big moves early rounding a big swamp off the breakaway and then crossing a lot of water to get back to us on another occasion. He carded two nice woodcock finds and a back then late in the hour he pinned a grouse. He received mention as closest to the winners from the judges but did fade a little towards the end. He had some sort of stomach infection early in the month and isn’t 100 percent yet. He’s getting stronger each day and should be peaking just in time for next weekend at Mid-Coast and to defend at the Amateur the first weekend in October.
The Derby ran yesterday and Frankie set the bar pretty high as he looked the best I’ve seen him since he ran into a stump in a work out in late August. He’s a knockout on point and is getting his speed and confidence back as he’s attacking the cover once again. Bob Lang’s John Dillinger dog had a nice race again and received an honorable mention (he was third in McAdam Labor Day weekend) for his ground effort in the second brace. LJ ran in the third brace to once again knock one out of the park. He drew the first half of the number one course that is the densest cover on the grounds with head (dog head that is) high ferns and patches of alders and other brush with an over story of mature hardwoods. It was also very wet as the grounds had received a couple of inches of rain just before the trial last week. LJ spent a little time in the path but was soon attacking the cover with his usual abandon and power. This was rewarded first with a stop-to-flush on a grouse. He then dug in on the left side of the course which borders a huge swamp. He stopped in there and judge Cal Robinson and I went in looking for him. He moved up a couple steps as we were trying to find him and when we got to him he was high and tight. I flushed thoroughly to no avail and went back and tapped him on the head. The high ferns make it easy for both grouse and woodcock to escape on foot. He moved up and I flushed again. On his third try he stopped to flush on a grouse that had run about 20 yards out directly in fron of him. Before we made it all the way back to the course, he stopped again to a similar situation with another running grouse that he pointed and then bumped on the relocation — more then acceptable birdwork for a fall derby. He finished going away. His bracemate, a setter named Studley run by Hughes, put a woodcock in the book.
The Little Thudster ran in the fourth brace and really had the race of the stake laying out to the front and responding to Tony when called upon, but he failed to handle a bird adequately in three chances and was left out of the money again.
In the end, Studley was placed third, Frankie was second, and LJ was first for the third time in row. Now, these have not been big stakes. McAdam had nine derbies, the Woodcock Futurity had 11, and there were nine in derby yesterday. That said, you still have to be impressed with what LJ has done this fall. It’s like a kid coming into the minor leagues and hitting a homerun his first three times at bat. He’s not facing major league pitching but he’s still getting the job done. The other part of this is how he’s done it — it’s been all on wild birds and all with multiple finds on grounds where the shooting dogs are not finding a comparable number of birds. In Maine Jack had three birds in his hour which I think only a couple other dogs equalled. The winner and runner-up had two each. LJ found three in half hour. In Nakawic at the woodcock Futurity he had two grouse finds and in McAdam he had two woodcock. It’s a long way from winning a few derby stakes to amassing the kind of record that his father has but when I try to compare LJ to Jack as a derby it’s hard not to be hopeful. Having a great dog like Jack has been thrilling, seeing him pass on those traits to LJ adds to the expectations for future litters. I see some attributes in LJ, the ability to take training and the consistency day-to-day and trial-to-trial that have got me really excited about breeding him. Tommy’s bitch Veronica is by Wynot Ace out of a bitch on the hunting string in Texas that is especially nice and a great bird finder. Bob Whele always bred his top males early, we’re planning a Veronica and LJ breeding this winter as well as a repeat breeding of Jack and Trip. I’ll try to get a picture of Veronica in the birdfield to post later this week.
Bird season opens Monday and then I’m going back to Canada for the Leslie Anderson Derby Classic and the Amateur Woodcock Championship. That will be Jack’s last trial of the fall. I’m still debating the possibility of taking LJ to the Grouse Futurity in Pennsylvania.