On Monday, March 28, 2016, field trialers and their dogs from Kentucky, Michigan, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire assembled at the Miller Welch Central Kentucky Wildlife Management Area for the running of the American Bird Hunters Association National Championship and its companion Kentucky Derby Classic. Miller-Welch is located between Richmond and Berea, Kentucky and comprises 1847 acres. It is a multi-use area with shooting ranges, fishing ponds, dove fields, and other amenities but it is also groomed for field trials and many walking and horseback field trials are held there. Just prior to the running of this event the Kentucky Open (All-Age) Championship was held on the grounds. The big fields with numerous objectives also make it a great venue to show walking shooting dogs.
The ABHA National Championship is generously supported by Sportman’s Pride dog food company and SportDog. It also requires a dedicated group of local people to make arrangements for and put on the trial. Mike Branscum and Adam Thomas did most of the heavy lifting for this trial with Jim Duncan helping out as well with the bird planting and dog vehicle. All that attended appreciated their efforts. Judges for the championship were Rich Hollister from Michigan and Craig Doherty from New Hampshire.
Winners and others
There were 16 dogs entered in the championship which started at the conclusion of the Derby Classic on Monday afternoon. After the last brace on Tuesday the judges named Jetwood as the 2016 NBHA National Championship repeating his performance in this event in 2015. Jetwood was handled by Scott Chaffee from Michigan and is owned by Steve Snyder of Ellendale, Minnesota. Jetwood is just 5 years old and Scott first saw him as a 7-month-old puppy in South Dakota. He was bred by Jim Michaletz and was by his highly accomplished all-age dog Jetsetter. At 7 months the pup was running 2 – 300 yards on the prairies and holding sharptails until Jim and Scott could get to him. Scott bought him and then sold him to Michael Cooper who left him in Scott’s capable hands. Steve Snyder bought him last year. In addition to winning the championship again this year Jetwood was runner-up in the Minnesota Grouse Championship last fall.
He ran in the second brace and went around the Miller-Welch course with an easy ground-eating stride that had him showing in the right places with a high and happy tail. His bird work was flawless as one would expect from a champion. Jetwood became the measure which the dogs that followed were held up to and none exceeded the standard he had set.
Runner-up was Nobody’s Shadow (Mickey) a setter male owned and handled by Robert Wheelock of Michigan. Mickey came from a litter raised by Dave Hawk of Ohio out of his 4X champion, 4X R/U champion Quail Trap Sadie. Mickey’s sire is 2X National Champion Shadow Oak Bo. Hawk bred to Bo shortly before he won his first National Championship and the litter produced a number of quality bird dogs. Mickey ran in the 6th brace and showed to advantage especially in the second half of his hour. On the first two finds both dogs in the brace were in the area and were found standing close to each other. On the second find the brace mate moved and was leashed. Mickey’s next find was ahead on the course and all was in order. The next two were the ones that put the dog in the money. Mickey made a big cast to the right side of the course and when he did not show to the front Branscum was dispatched to scout. The call of point came shortly there after and Rich and I road over to find Mickey pointed on the edge of and island of trees and Wheelock flushed a covey of birds that were probably left over from the previous trial. The next find also added to the effort. When we left the big dove field behind the burned out tobacco barn, Mickey dove into the woods on the right and was lost to sight. The bottom is a known woodcock spot and Wheelock dispatched his wife Diane into the woods to look for the dog. When she did not find him we moved forward on the course and found the dog dead ahead pointed into a clump of cover. Mickey finished going away with the same speed and appealing style he had begun with.
The dog that Mickey edged out of the second spot was First Morning Star a setter female owned and handled by Tennessean Ronnie Rogers. Ronnie is a regular fixture in the Kentucky ABHA trials and was fresh off a runner-up placement with his male setter Guard’s Two Dollar Bill in the ABHA Midwest Regional Championship. Ronnie breeds his own dogs and is more likely to be found running them from horseback and on this day Star’s performance might have been better suited to the pace of a horseback trial especially in the first half of the hour when little was seen of her although she did show to the front. She had four nice finds spaced evenly throughout the hour and looks great going through the country. The same can be said of all four dogs that Ronnie showed us in the trial. There were other dogs that finished the hour with good bird work but did not come close to the winners in there application and race. Especially in a walking trial these grounds require two almost contradictory aspects to a dog’s performance. The dog needs to run big enough to fill up the big edges at Miller Welch, while still staying in the pocket for a walking handler – a difficult knife-edge for many dogs to travel. Some were two close or checked back in too often while others were just too rough and required excessive hacking to get around the course. And for a few others, the liberal supply of birds was more than they could handle.
Kentucky Derby Classic
The Kentucky Derby Classic has been the companion stake for the ABHA National Championship for a number of years and is generously supported by Jim Humphrey’s with a $1,000 guaranteed purse. The entry was rather light this year but it was still a quality event with two dogs placing that showed advanced manners on birds and the ability to handle the long edges and big fields of Miller Welch. Judges Jim Fisher and Ronnie Rogers named pointer male Branscum’s Cash Delivery that is owned and was handled by Mike Branscum winner and this reporter’s pointer male Wild Apple Spot On as runner-up. I scouted for Mike and Banker as he’s called and found him multiple times out on the limb with birds accurately pointed and shooting dog manners. The most memorable of his finds was after the cement creek crossing where he was seen headed up the left edge. I was sent to look for him when he disappeared into the creek bottom. I eventually had to go out on the road and back up the other side of the creek before I spotted him standing in a ticket along the creek. It took Branscum and Fischer a while to get to him and by then the birds had moved off. Banker was sent on and quickly located and pointed a large covey. When they flushed a woodcock was heard to depart as well.
Wild Apple Spot On had, 10 days earlier, won the ABHA Midwest Regional Championship and had I not agreed last spring to judge the National would have been entered in that. Spot is a big going dog that loves the wide-open spaces of Miller Welch where he has run regularly in training for the last two winters. This makes him a bit of a handful to hang onto but with the help of Mike Branscum’s scouting we found him five times with birds accurately handled. On a sixth occasion his brace mate came in and failed to back causing Spot to act more like a derby and although a bird was not seen in the air this incident kept him out of the top spot.
The other derbies ran well but did not display the manners on birds of the winner and runner-up.