The morning of March 18, 2016 was frosty and clear when judges Brian Ralph and Chad Wheeler signaled for the first brace of the ABHA Midwest Regional Championship to be turned loose on the farm of Will Dunn in Lebanon, KY. Mr. Dunn is well known in field trial circles for his winning all-age dogs and was gracious enough to allow the Kentucky ABHA clubs to host a weekend of club trials and this championship to run on his training grounds. Mr. Dunn has obviously gone to considerable effort to turn his farm into a place that allows one to show a dog to advantage. The course was laid out in such a way that dogs could often be spotted working the edges well to the front while at times requiring them to handle as we moved from big field to big field through a variety of gaps and one creek crossing.
Great grounds make for top performances, but you can’t put on a trial without a hard working group of people. Adam Thomas, Jim Duncan, and Mike Branscum all provided support. Jim drove the dog truck throughout the trial except for the brace he was in and provided one of the judge’s horses, Mike Branscum provided horses for the other judge and the reporter as well as riding most braces as a scout and helping all in need. As reporter I rode and scouted as well. Adam’s own dog came into heat just before the draw and he could not run her but that didn’t keep him from helping throughout the trial. He was tasked with playing host to the judges, making sure they had rooms and meals as well as getting them to the grounds the first morning. He was also the main bird planter throughout the trial and made the run to town to get lunch on Friday. Thanks to these three, the trial went off without a hitch and all seemed satisfied with the opportunity presented to their dogs. Entries included dogs on the string of Scott Chaffee from Michigan as well as dogs from Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire.
Winners and Others
At the conclusion of the trial on Saturday, Craig Doherty’s pointer male Wild Apple Spot On was named champion and Ronnie Roger’s male setter Guard’s Two Dollar Bill (call name Luke) was named runner-up, both owners handled their own dogs. Doherty now spends the winters in Kentucky training dogs and attending local trials, and Wild Apple Spot On is no stranger to the field trial scene there. Last year as a puppy he was the Kentucky ABHA runner-up Puppy and Derby of the Year and had already placed in a number of shooting dog stakes this winter while still a derby. Last fall he was second in the Woodcock Futurity and first in the Miss Leslie Derby Classic on wild birds in New Brunswick. Spot has roots here in Kentucky as he was bred by Derek Caudill of West Liberty, Kentucky. Derek is a grouse hunter with an interest in cover dog trials who wanted to try and produce a litter that had the potential to compete. He chose to breed his bitch, Diamond Straight Flush, to Chase Hill’s Little Bud. Diamond is Derek’s personal grouse dog of Elhew breeding and Bud should need little introduction as he has amassed over 30 championship placements that have ranged from the coverts of New Brunswick to the piney woods of the South. Bud has succeeded in every aspect of field trials from cover dogs to horseback all-age and shooting dog.
Wild Apple Spot On ran in the first brace ironically with another dog from New Hampshire – Bog Brook Okie Dokie (setter female) owned by Thom Richardson and handled by Michigan pro Scott Chaffee. Spot started off filling the course and was soon spotted off to the right on a hillside in an adjacent field on point. Shortly thereafter Okie pointed in the middle of the first big field on a covey of Mr. Dunn’s training birds that flushed like wild birds. Spot went on to have two more finds in the first field and continued to test the limits of the course racking up seven finds before he finished the hour as he began running hard with power and style to the front. Okie finished her hour with another find and a few backs.
Over the course of the trial, many dogs had trouble handling the birds and in a couple of cases required the tracking collar to be called for. Dogs that finished the hour and may have been carried or considered by the judges along the way included HyPointe Left Turn (Chaffee) a setter male who will be running in the Grand National Grouse and Woodcock Invitational in April and Nelson’s Van Max (Chaffee) a pointer male with a number of championship placements both in the woods and single course quail trials. Lefty had a good race and four finds on Friday and was most likely being carried at the end of the day. However, on Saturday morning Max pushed the eventual winner with a good race and a half dozen finds most memorable of which was one where he was way up a hollow and I was sent to scout for him. He had been gone for a few minutes and I had turned to head back when I just caught sight of him up in the woods pointed on the hillside. It took Scott and the judges awhile to get to him. A bird was eventually flushed and all was in order.
Long Gone Wallace (setter male) yet another dog with New Hampshire roots ran in the second brace with his co-owner Kelly Sheppard from Ohio handling and had a strong race with a number of well handled finds. However, the proverbial fat lady had yet to sing as we broke away the last brace with the setter male Guard’s Two Dollar Bill (Rogers) and Wild Apple Samantha (Doherty). Ronnie Rogers is a long time field trailer from Tennessee and is as likely to be found at a horseback trial as a walking one and Luke is from his own breeding program. Samantha was on the lead early after a couple of non-productives in the woods and a race that was not up to what was probably being carried at that time. Luke on the other hand went around the course on a mission filling up the course and accurately pointing a number of birds. At time, the dog was missing and Mike Branscum was sent to scout. The call of point came from the left and the dog had been found out on the limb with a bird accurately pointed in front of him. This was the exclamation point on a fine hour that found Luke in the money.
The ABHA clubs of Kentucky want to thank everyone who entered a dog or came to watch a few braces. It was a successful event that will hopefully be back on the same grounds next year.