Super Storm, our derby sired by Pennstar ex Straight Forward, scored a nice win in May at DuBois-Beaver Meadows Field Trial Club. “Fed” had two dug up finds to go with a hard hunting 30 minute effort. In the opening minutes “Fed” rimmed the big field, then dug into the woods ahead searching intelligently for game. He also backed his bracemate on two occasions. Both the finds and the backs were executed with shooting dog manners. Down the stretch “Fed” seemed as fresh as he started, busy ahead, hunting. We look forward to his first shooting dog season in the fall. Also, we have been very pleased with the first litter of pups sired by Super Storm. Dr. Roger Clark, Illinois veterinarian, known for his commitment to hunting dogs of the highest quality built on cover dog bloodlines, bred his Keystone Red Rage female to “Fed”. The pups are just a few months old but they already show real potential: busy, enthusiastic (but can be calm when you pick them up or put them on the board), snappy, bold, straight-tailed, quick to point are qualities we see in these youngsters whose owners who send us videos of their development.
After 38 years there has been a shift in the partnership between Dick Brenneman and Bob Watts. We are still partners in coverdogs. Our active coverdogs for competition or breeding are Full Blast, Blast Zone, Full Breeze, Game Winner and Deciding Point. In 2019 Dick decided not to start any more pups together with Bob. Dick and Bob will play out the careers of the winning dogs we work with together, although the dogs will remain in Dick’s name.
Enter Thor Kain. Several years ago, my friend pro trainer Tom Gingher told me that he’d found a young man who was vitally interested in competing bird dogs. Tom was highly impressed and encouraged me to meet the guy and see if I could help him, mentor him as he got involved in competing bird dogs. That young man was Thor Kain and Tom was exactly right in seeing a highly competitive person with outdoor skills, dog training skill potential, sincerity, open-to-learning fast, respectful of dogs and people and enthusiastic to work with. Add to these traits the hard work ethic of Thor’s (up at 5 am daily–I’ve never seen anyone work as hard or put in as much time with his dogs at Thor) and you’ve got the ingredients for success.
It wasn’t long until Dick and I gave Thor a prospect of ours with high potential but whose training had gone off the rails–All In, call name “Chance”. Eventually, with both Chance and Thor learning, Chance’s 9-find performance won the Region 2 Amateur Shooting Dog Championship. Dick and I gave Thor more dogs and he made winners of them as well. Thor kept learning and growing in his dog training/handling skills. He got involved in the leadership of the Pennsylvania Grouse Trial Club and the Grand National Grouse Trial Club, becoming Grouse Futurity Secretary. At times we asked Thor, as an amateur, to handle some of our dogs in trials. He won more than his share including impressive wins with Straight Forward (1st PA Open All-Age, 2018) and Blast Zone (Champion, New York Grouse Dog Championship, 2018). As an amateur handler, Thor could not collect the purses at these events. Following the New York Grouse Ch., Dick and Bob transferred ownership of Blast Zone to Thor.
With Dick having decided not to start any more pups and with Bob still wanting to retain his role as the one who starts and develops young dogs, Bob decided to team with Thor moving forward. As young dogs come along through stud fee litter picks and matings, the partnership of Bob and Thor will take ownership and work the same winning formula that Bob and Dick have used for 38 years. Bob will be the “Minor League Manager, starting and developing the pups and youngsters. The pups who don’e have top flight potential are sold as started dogs to serious hunters who offer a great home. Those youngsters who have the proven potential will move to the “Major League Manager”, Thor, usually at derby-age. Thor has access to several outstanding wild bird covers which have aided his training regimen.
Currently Thor and Bob’s active dogs are Super Storm, Power Forward and 2019 pups “Lila” (Blast Zone ex Claremont Lucky Brynn), “Hawk” (Super Storm ex ) and “Nelly” (Blast Zone ex Bridgeware Mt Pemi).
There you have it. Change happens. Dick and Bob’s dogs and their winning bloodlines are continuing. Dick and Bob are not done winning. We have some fine dogs for campaigning with the continued use of the skills of professional Hall-of-Famer Dave Hughes.
The new amateur partnership between Thor and Bob represents a new generation with an ongoing commitment to bird dog excellence, building on lines and strategies that have proven themselves in the Dick and Bob era when they historically became the only kennel to win the “Grand Slam of Grouse Dogs”–winning the Grand National Grouse Championship (3X), The Grand National Grouse and Woodcock Invitational, The Grand National Grouse Futurity and the Grand National Puppy Classic (2x).
Many thrills with our dogs in training and trialing lie ahead.
Dick, Bob and Thor
Blast Zone, handled throughout the year by Thor Kain, has been officially announced as the winner of the Mike Seminatore Award as the top all-age English setter cover dog for 2018-2019. Shortly after this announcement in early May, the Nestle company proclaimed that Blast Zone had won the 2018-19 Purina Cover Dog of the Year award which goes to the top cover dog irrespective of breed.
These awards are the highest competitive honor that a dog competing in the woods, hunting for grouse and woodcock, can received. We are honored by this recognition.
“Strike” earned these awards based on his strong performance during the fall when over 90% of cover dog championships are contested. Named the Champion at both the New York Grouse Dog Championship and the Pennsylvania Grouse Championship provided the points “Strike” needed to lead a field of outstanding grouse dogs who challenged for these overall season recognitions.
“Strike’s” win of the New York Grouse Dog Championship will be recalled as hotly contested as 57 pointers and setters vied for this coveted title with more than a dozen contenders having well handled grouse finds. Held in first half of September, this championship kicks off the fall schedule and the expectation is that the dogs could face some warm weather running conditions. This year the temperatures were hot, brutally hot. When “Strike” ran near the early afternoon the thermometer read 90-degrees, according to the judge. “Strike’s” relocation of a running grouse at the midway point of his hour hunt will be recalled for years to come. After a 5-minute search he was found on point. Sizing up the situation Thor sent “Strike” on. He raced 30 yards and repointed. Thor flushed but no bird lifted. He sent “Strike” on with a tap on his shoulder and he went directly 50 yards forward this time and stacked up, high on both ends, sucking in air with his nostrils flaring. This time, as Thor flushed, the grouse was pinned right in front of “Strike” and the bird roared out–Strike immobile. He finished strong to cap a memorable hour.
At the conclusion of the NY Grouse Championship, Dick Brenneman and Bob Watts transferred ownership of Blast Zone to Thor Kain.
On the back of the New York win, “Strike” went to the other big-time east coast grouse championships in Pennsylvania with Thor at the controls. 54 of the best cover dogs competed. “Strike” ran a powerful, forward hour over rugged conditions. His ‘to-the-limits’ of the cover effort showed his desire and the confidence that Thor has in him. At the halfway mark Thor realized he did not have “Strike’s” bell. He dispatched scout John Stolgitis and after a 10-minute search the call of point rang out. Buried in a thicket, Strike had a grouse pinned in front when the handler and judge arrived. Standing tall and tight for the flush and shot completed a thrilling grouse find. From here Strike continued hitting the objectives down the stretch in a forward, driving effort for the entire hour.
Receiving these awards confirms what we have known about “Strike” since he was a pup–this is an exceptional wild-bird finding, wild bird-handling setter. All the talent we witnessed in “Strike’s” early development carried through in his performances in competition. We kept saying that “we’ve never had a dog who at such a young age could find and handle wild birds so efficiently”. Now “Strike” has proven it to the bird dog world. As many know, “Strike” began his life with Bob Watts and his puppy program. “Strike” has also been with early life co-owner Dick Brenneman, especially benefiting from Dick’s winter Texas quail hunting trips where “Strike’s” been the #1 guide dog for years. These periods aside, “Strike” has been and continues to be Thor’s dog. He got him into hundreds of wild birds as a mature pup and derby–“Strike” handling most all of these with adult manners at the shot! Like we said, we haven’t seen a dog with these kinds of bird skills before. Thor’s the one who finished “Strike” and campaigned him to his wins including the National Amateur Grouse Championship in his first season of all-age competition. Thor and “Strike”, a combination who have earned the highest recognitions in the cover dog realm–the Purina Cover Dog of the Year Award and the Mike Seminatore English Setter Award.
Full Blast, retired from competition, is still going strong. Still hunting. Still mating. Still producing large, vibrant litters of offspring that win in the field and in the woods–be that hunting upland birds or competing in cover dog field trials.
The quality of “Jeb’s” offspring continues to be proven in cover dog competitions with two of his son’s earning their way to the 2019 Grand National Grouse and Woodcock Invitational held at Gladwin, MI. “Jeb” is the only setter sire with multiple offspring entered in the GNGW Invitational, 2019.
Jeb’s son, Blast Zone. won both the 2018 New York Grouse Championship and the 2018 Pennsylvania Grouse Championship this past fall. They were events with large 50 dog+ entries. Followers of championship quality dogs recall that the temperature was reported to be 90 degrees when Blast Zone thrilled the gallery with his relocation on a running grouse, then going on to finish strong in the unprecedented heat. Reaching back to his sire’s 2013 win of the Lost Pond Shooting Dog (44 entries) in the spring of 2013, followers recall that the temperatures were in the mid-80s when “Jeb” thrilled the gallery with his hunting and multiple bird finds. The judge called me on his way home after the running to tell me how impressed he was with “Jeb’s” hunting in the scorching conditions. “Jeb” and his offspring have heat tolerance. Heat tolerance has become more important as field trial seasons are extended into late spring and summer and global warming has made for many hot days during the fall.
Jeb’s son, Blast Off, owned by Justin Evans won the Northern Michigan Cover Dog Championship, fall 2018. This win over a large field was one of the most prestigious wins of that recent season. He added a 1st at the Pennsylvania Open All-Age this spring to his strong record. The Northern MI win propelled him into the 2019 GNGW Invitational.
“Jeb’s” production record stands at 40 winners produced to date. These winners have placed 155 times in field trial competition. What other living cover dog has a stronger record of producing offspring that epitomize the standards of the Grand National Grouse Club? Recall, “Jeb’s” youngsters have won the Grand National Grouse Puppy Classic three (3) times and our Game Winner won the 2017 Grand National Grouse Futurity.
In choosing a sire for your cover dog female, ask yourself, “What other setter sire standing at stud today has a proven record of quality production as exceptional as Full Blast?” Pick your sire based on facts, not fantasy.
3-TIME WINNER OF THE SEMINATORE AWARD
Regarded as one of the all-time great performing setters, Straight Forward has retired. From the fall of 2009 through the spring of 2018, “Cracker” scored 29 wins including 9 Championship placements. A highlight of “Cracker’s” career was her win of the Grand National Grouse and Woodcock Championship in 2013 at Gladwin, MI. Her 4-find performance on Day 1 stands out as a classic performance in the history of that event. Pro Dave Hughes trained and handled “Cracker” throughout her championship career.
“Cracker’s” championship wins were earned across the coverdog geographic spectrum and include the Northern New England Grouse Ch., the NY Grouse Ch., the PA Grouse Ch., the New England Grouse Ch. and the MI Woodcock Ch. “Cracker” earned her reputation as a versatile dog whose strength was bird-finding coupled with incredible determination in hunting.
“Cracker’s” consistent, high level winning garnered her the top English setter cover dog award, the Mike Seminatore Award, three times. No dog has surpassed this record of hers. Her consistency was typified in the fall of 2016 when she was in the championship circle at the New England Grouse, NY Grouse, MI Woodcock and PA Grouse in consecutive starts. No one can recall another coverdog scoring this many grouse/woodcock championship placements consecutively.
With all this campaigning, it was hard to fit in any litters and when we did get her bred, the litters were relatively small. She was bred first to Grand National Grouse Ch. Full Blast and in that litter Full Breeze emerged and went on to win among her placements, the Grand National Grouse Puppy Classic in the spring of 2017. 5X wild bird Champion Pennstar sired “Cracker’s” second litter using frozen semen. Super Storm (Thor Kain, owner) and Deciding Point (Dick Brenneman/Bob Watts, owners) are two winning dogs that we have kept from that mating. We hold them both in high regard. “Cracker’s” final litter of just two pups was sired by multiple champion Blast Zone. From that litter we have kept a winning female, Power Forward (Thor Kain, owner).
Today, “Cracker” spends her days relaxing in the kennels at Bob Watts’ home where she considers herself, rightfully, the queen. She roams the acre dog pasture during the day with her daughter, Power Forward, and looks forward to getting roaded with the “youngsters” 3x a week. She always loved to go and get to work and we still accommodate her. Come summer there will be quail and pheasants on the farm to hunt and in the fall she’ll return to the woods where her big heart has always been.
Blast Zone did it again this fall. In late October, 2018 as Blast Zone stacked winning The Pennsylvania Grouse Championship on top of his September win of The New York State Grouse Championship. These are the two biggest championships run in the east and the entries in both championships were 57 and 54 respectively with dogs representing all the cover dog territory vying for the titles.
“Strike” gave a thrilling performance to top the field. While in New York it was “Strike’s” remarkable skill pinning a running grouse that gave him the edge, in the Pennsylvania it was his powerful, to-the-limits hunting effort that distinguished his performance. “Strike” kept his trainer and amateur handler Thor Kain and his scout, John Stolgitis on high alert as he reached as far a he needed to in checking out inviting covers. He was on the edge throughout. It is the bond between a a dog and his trainer, the bond between “Strike” and Thor, that made it possible to have such a strong, searching hunt go smoothly.
Near the halfway mark, Thor realized he no longer had “Strike’s” bell. He asked scout, John Stolgitis, to check in the area where his bell was last heard ringing. After a long search, “Strike” was found in a dense thicket. Were it not for the savvy of Stolgitis’ scouting Strike would likely not have been found in time. When Thor and the judge arrived at the scene Strike was still standing tall and looking like a bull with his head high and his tail straight up. He’d been there nearly 10 minutes and looked like he’s just hit scent. A thrilling find to go with a thrilling race was the combination it took to withstand the competition offered over the following days by the 53 other competitors and to then be named Pennsylvania Grouse Champion, 2018.
“Strike” has been with his original owners Bob Watts and Dick Brenneman at key times in his life. However, “Strike” has spent the vast majority of time living and training with Thor Kain of Carbondale, PA. Following “Strike’s” win of the New York State Grouse Ch. his ownership was transferred to Thor.
At the Setter Awards banquet held November 5, 2018, in the town social hall, Marienville, PA, our young setter, Game Winner, officially received recognition for being the top English Setter Cover
Dog Derby for 2017-2018. “Finn” earned this prestigious award named after the founder of Grouse Ridge Kennels, Dr. James Flanagan, by winning 1sts in a series of important cover dog open derby trials. These wins included the Nittany Valley Open Derby, the Venango Grouse Trial Club Open Derby, the Pennsylvania Grouse Trial Club Open Derby. The topper to “Finn’s” skein of wins was going to Michigan and grabbing 1st in the 73rd Grouse Futurity. In this event, “Finn” demonstrated again his remarkable speed, drive and hard cracking running style. He is breathtaking to watch hunt! Point was called and “Finn” had a grouse pointed with straight up style and his training held as he was steady-to-wing-and-shot on this find to clinch 1st.
The Flanagan Award recognition means a lot to us. We have been fortunate enough to win the Flanagan Award 4 times. Our setter winners in historical order are: Topseed, 2000-20001; Full Tilt, 2005-2006; Full Blast, 2011-2012; and now–Game Winner, 2017-2018.
Steve Madearos’s setter male, Ozzie’s Crazy Train, under the direction of pro Mark Forman earned 2nd in the 74th Grouse Futurity run over the Allegheny Forest, PA grounds, November 4-5, 2018. Steve was on hand to scout as Ozzie ran a strong race featuring a forward pattern in the 4th brace on Day 1. A quality field of 41 challengers from all over the cover dog world vied for honors and Ozzie was judged the top setter in the field. The pointer, Chasehill I’m Oscar, won for John Stolgitis. The course Ozzie drew featured a variety of cover from heavy broom grass, open timber and thickets of brush and aspen. Ozzie adjusted to each of these conditions without missing a beat. Moving through the bogs and reaching out when opportunities at more distant objectives presented themselves, he demonstrated his intelligence and the training that the Forman team has put into him. Near the halfway mark of his 30 minute heat, Ozzie pointed a grouse solidly with a high straight tail. He had the bird accurately pinpointed and as it got up he was poised. Inspired by this find, Ozzie continued to drive and reach as needed going down the stretch of his heat. At the pickup, all who were on hand knew they had a performance that would be remembered.
Futurities are breeder’s stakes. Dams are nominated at the time they are bred. Those who pay the nomination fees are betting that their breeding will win nearly two years later at the Futurity event. Jim Chambers of Uniontown, PA, bet that his Walnut Hills Rocket On Point, producing littermate to our Grand National Grouse Champion Full Blast (he also produced by Jim) when bred to Ch. Blast Zone would bring home the ribbon and prize money to his kennel. Two years ago, Blast Zone was just a derby but Jim had gotten the text reports for months from Thor Kain who was developing “Strike” and Jim had seen the videos of “Strike” handling wild birds of every variety a multitude of times. He was sold on Blast Zone as a sire. The mating would be a close linebred affair. “Strike” is a son of Grand National Grouse Ch. Full Blast–so this amounted to breeding a son to his sire’s sister. We have had success with line breeding in general over the decades and we felt that we had two individuals of high quality and we advised Jim to go forward with this mating. Today that confidence paid off.
Power Forward, handled by owner Thor Kain, stepped up a level from her official puppy-age status and was rewarded with 2nd in the Open Derby, November 2, 2018. This open derby stake accompanied the PA Grouse Championship, thus the 28 derby-aged contenders came from across the cover dog geographic spectrum to compete. They represented the virtually all the best that cover dog country has to offer. “Abby” is sired by multiple Ch. Blast Zone (who a few days later won the 2018 PA Grouse Championship) ex Straight Forward, herself appearing 9 times in the championship circle. A royally bred female to be sure, Abby was part of just a two pup litter born in August, 2017. Although born late ion the year and conceding a lot of age to the other individual competitors, Abby verified our confidence in her and replicated what she has been doing in workouts all summer and fall….running hard, hunting hard and nailing her birds with style and intensity.
Power Forward, 13 month old female by champions Blast Zone ex Straight Forward, went to Michigan to start her competitive career and came back home after winning 1st at the Chuck Pagano Puppy Classic sponsored by the Michigan Amateur Grouse Trial Club. “Abby” is owned by Bob Watts and Thor Kain and Thor handled her. This puppy competition was run in conjunction with the National Amateur Grouse Championship in late September, 2018. “Abby” was born in August, 2017 in a litter of just two pups whelped from 9x championship winner Straight Forward and sired by 2x Ch. Blast Zone. While “Abby” showed that she can get out and go hunting at this stake, the thing we like best about her is her bird finding and bird handling ability. Throughout this summer, “Abby” was with Thor and by mid-summer she was pointing wild birds, handling with with steady-to-wing and shot manners the vast majority of the time. It’s not our intention to bring dogs along so far and fast this early in their life but “Abby” wanted, almost right from the start, to stand staunchly on her birds. In the spring while with Bob, she pointed many birds 100+ yards ahead and stayed their until Bob found her and then she’d invariably let Bob flush her birds. It was only natural for her to respond to Thor’s training to make her steady and she’s stayed that way while keeping her desire to go hard and fast and wherever need be to find ’em.