Our first-year shooting dog, Super Storm Cliff, won the US Complete Region 2 Amateur Shooting Dog Championship May 13, 2023. Warrior’s Mark Wingshooting Preserve, Houtzdale, PA, was the site of this late spring season event. The Preserve has hundreds of acres of reclaimed strip mine grounds that have been groomed with switchgrass strips and islands of various woody plants–it’s an inviting and challenging venue as a dog must run hard and hunt hard to get from one distant objective to another. These are some of the most challenging grounds in the northeast/mid-altantic region.
“Cliff” was more than up to the challenge. In the second brace, he broke forward and was spotted pointing with his trademark high style and intensity some 200 yards to the front. He remained intense, cool and collected as handler, Thor Kain, traversed the distance to flush “Cliff’s” quarry. From here “Cliff” drove forward, reaching for the next objective. In total, he delivered 7 finds, all pointed with the style and demeanor that is demanded of a champion setter this decade. “Cliff” hustled the entire hour and at the halfway point when the gallery topped a lookout you could see “Cliff” and his bracemate, Backcountry Bruiser, swinging through the country more than a half mile ahead. After this, on the back half of the course, there is a need to hunt at a more measured range as more objectives present themselves. “Cliff” adjusted his range and his smarts paid off as he registered find after find for a total of seven (7) total quail flushed over his points. “Cliff” was the bird finding star of the event and the judges noted that no other dog out ran or out hunted him.
For a first-year shooting dog “Cliff’s” effort here was rewarding, especially for his handler and trainer Thor Kain. Thor took over “Cliff’s” development from Bob Watts after “Cliff” had won several puppy competitions. From here Thor guided him to the US Complete Shooting Dog Association “Puppy of the Year” award. As a derby “Cliff” was not run a lot but he won most every time down, including first in a horseback derby stake and a shooting dog win. He’s been a precocious young dog. This spring “Cliff” won the Ridgerunner’s Amateur Shooting Dog stake and at that point we could see that he was ready for championship competition-even though being a first-year shooting dog.
Seeing a young dog take on the best regional bird dogs and come out on top is rewarding and gives us hope going forward that Super Storm Cliff can be a top notch winner that we can enjoy hunting, in workouts and at trials for years to come.
The historic Freeland Kennel Club grounds was the host of the spring Ridgerunner’s FTC events, April 29, 2023. When I, Bob Watts, moved back to eastern PA in the late 1960s, Freeland was a regular and popular stop for pros and amateurs on the field trial circuit. Now, more than 50 years later our 3-year old, Super Storm Cliff, also returned to these improved grounds after winning here in the fall of 2022. While “Cliff” only had one find here in the fall of 2022 to win the stake, here in the spring he scored five well-spaced finds. Each encounter with quail bore witness to his high style and pointing intensity. All finds were steady-to-wing and shot executed without moving virtually a hair. Not only was “Cliff” the bird finding star of the day, he put down a strong ground hunting pattern exhibiting plenty of drive. Classy moving and hard driving, “Cliff” won a lot of admirers this day.
Super Storm continues to build his record. On top of his RU title at the USC National Amateur Shooting Dog Championship this spring, “Fed” went out at the Region 1 Amateur Shooting Dog Championship and put on a strong 5-find performance to be named RU Champion at this event as well. Held over the John Stolgitis Wildlife Area at Arcadia, Rhode Island, the dogs all faced blistering heat in the days leading up to the trial–extremely uncommon for April in New England. Temperatures were pushing into the upper-80s as the “Fed” traveled first to the USC National Open Shooting Dog trial and then to the Region 1. There was nowhere to hide from the heat as it was unsafe to lay up in crates in the truck cap. Staked out in woods for a few days was the best that could be had. It wasn’t until after dark that it was safe to put the dogs back in their crates on the truck and leave to get food and drink.. After several days of this devastating weather, we wondered how “Fed” would perform for an hour. Fortunately temperatures did ease back into the 70s for his brace-no exactly ideal bird hunting weather. In the face of this “Fed” rendered a sharp 5-find performance. The judges elevated “Fed”‘s effort to championship status stating that it was his “crisp birdwork” that really stood out. As the clock wound down toward the 60 minute mark the course emerged from a woody section and a long open field lie ahead. The judges told handler, Thor Kain, that they wanted to see something special once they got to this open field. As the party emerged from the woods, “Fed” was spotted as a white dot cruising out more than 200 yards ahead, going with plenty of jump, crack and determination along the edge of the field taking it to the end without any coaxing from his handler. This was just what the judges were looking for and they elevated “Fed” to the championship circle in this talent-laden 20 dog field. Congratulations to Tim Cavanaugh and Little Miss Bella, pointer female, the champion
Full Breeze, Dick and Bob’s 7-year old female, was named champion at the Ontario Grouse Championship, April 13, 2023. “Bree”, now a veteran of the grouse trial circuit, came off a solid performance in previous days at the Grouse and Woodcock Invitational to defend her 2022 title at this important spring event. 32 of the country’s top cover dogs went to the line over a three day period at these historic Allegheny National Forest, Marienville, PA grounds. Courses covering more than a dozen square miles were designed to weave through traditional grouse and woodcock cover. “Bree’s” winning effort came in the afternoon of day 1 of the event . Temperatures were in the upper 70s when she was cut loose. At the breakaway “Bree” was flying. Moving with a lot of crack in her tail, she made the class impression that Dick’s and Bob’s dogs have become known for over their plus forty-year partnership. Running on the same course that she hunted on in 2022 when she won this event, “Bree” went to the same area she had scored on game the previous year. At 10, as she drove into inviting cover on the right side of the course, her bell suddenly stopped ringing. Handler, Dave Hughes, went to this strip of cover and found her standing with 12 o’clock style. She was so intense that her body was trembling with excitement. Dave flushed for quite a while finally putting up a woodcock 20 yards in front of her stance. From here “Bree” hunted through course 1 on the Loleta side of the grounds. At 35 she pointed in very heavy cover but no bird could be produced by Hughes who emerged with bloody arms from the effort to get a bird up. Perhaps “Bree” hunted too much, for at times she got lateral in her pattern, but each time she came to the front and went on gamely. Fortunately there was some water in the small streams that intersect this course so “Bree” could refresh herself occasionally. She was able to sustain her championship effort until the 60 minute mark where the ending found her 150 yards ahead still driving, still searching.
Full Breeze hunted the required first and second days of the Invitational with serious application. Despite unseasonably hot conditions which all the dogs faced, “Bree” fought through the conditions and hunted hard and with intelligence. On day one she was credited with a sharp, stylish find on a woodcock. The judges said they were impressed with how hard she stuck the bird and her composure through the flush and shot. On day two she continued to hunt and on occasion she reached out to some rather distant objectives/cuts where she was found pointing by her scout. Before he could call point, the woodcock lifted disturbed by the scout. She was taken on without getting credit for this find as it was not seen under judgment. These two days of good effort done in a classy fashion led the judges to ask for her to be among the four dogs they wanted to compete on day 3 for the title. Making the cut onto the day 3 roster is an accomplishment and honor in itself. On day 3 she again went about her business with surprising determination given the two previous consecutive days of hunting in the heat. Day 3 was more temperate. At 15 minutes on day 3 on a sharp turn on the course “Bree” got disconnected from her handler, Dave Hughes. About 15 minutes later as we came over a rise, there was “Bree” standing tall with an 11 o’clock, intense pointing pose. Since Dave was not on hand, Mark Hughes took over and flushed a woodcock well off “Bree’s” nose. Since she was not beating the eventual champion Chase Hill Poison Ivy, she was picked up ending her bid.
After partnering for over forty years Bob and Dick should be allowed a moment to look back and reflect on some of the fine dogs we have been fortunate enough to have produced and campaigned. As the date for the 2023 Grouse and Woodcock Invitational approaches we wondered out loud what dogs of ours had received an invitation based on their performances over the previous year?
We owned, at one point, champions Body Guard, Northern Anndee, Pennstar, Full Tilt, Full Blast, Straight Forward, Blast Zone (in Thor Kain’s name) and in 2023, Full Breeze. Each of these grouse dog champions earned an invitation based on their wins during the previous year. The top fourteen dogs each year, based on their winning record, receive the honor of an invitation to compete in the Grand National Grouse and Woodcock Championship event.
We regard it as an honor to the dog and to all the hard work and talent that went into developing these dogs to be invited. Of course credit goes to Hall-of-Fame Pro Dave Hughes for training and campaigning these dogs so successfully. Thor Kain had a big role in the successes of Blast Zone after we transferred ownership to him.
Winning the Invitational is a challenge for any dog. All the invitees compete two consecutive days for an hour. Then the judges select any dogs they want to see for the third consecutive day of hunting before determining a champion. We will be on hand April 4, 2023 at Black Moshannon State Game Lands when our latest champion Full Breeze is taken to the line for her shot at this coveted championship.
20 dogs vied for the National Amateur Championship held at the Flaherty Field Trial Area, Windsor, CT, March 25-26, 2023. The respected, experienced pair of John Stolgitis, from RI and Dave McKay, PA, were the judicial panel.
Hunting began in quest of the national amateur title in the early morning of March 25, 2023 with Super Storm handled by his owner and trainer Thor Kain striking out boldly in search of game. “Fed” (think GOAT tennis star), charged to the front and kept his focus on the search throughout the 60 minutes he was allotted to show his hunting skills. From start to finish “Fed’s” efforts took him to appropriate objectives no matter how nearby or far. Fast over the ground, “Fed” is true to the line of high class dogs from which he descends. He’s quick and light on his feet but still powerful when that is needed. At several points through the hunt there are edges that call to be hunted and they go on for hundreds of yards. “Fed” reached in these places showing his drive, determination and power. At other places there are woody thickets that invite exploration and “Fed” maturely adjusted to hunt these objectives as well. His smart hunting was rewarded 4 times with finds. On each find (including the first find where his bracemate ran in front of him while he was pointing) “Fed” demonstrated the intense style and high-headed pointing style that is a trademark which earlier helped bring him the recognition of US Complete National Amateur Dog of the Year twice.
Going down the stretch “Fed” showed he had plenty of fuel left in his tank and at pickup he was well ahead, going strong and requiring a few minutes to round him up.
Little Miss Margaret delivered a very special performance to be named Champion for owner/handler TIm Cavanaugh. There were several impressive performances among the eighteen other bird dogs featuring multiple finds in this competitive championship. We were especially happy with our Super Storm Cliff who had a four-find performance with Thor handling.
Full Breeze, our now 7-year-old female owned by Bob and Dick, has received an invitation to compete against the top 13 other cover dogs at the Grand National Grouse and Woodcock Invitational. Held April 3-5, 2023 at the Black Moshannon State Park, near Phillipsburg, PA, she will run a one hour hunt on the first day of the event and another hour on the second day under the watch of judges Bruce Mueller and Mark Forman. On day three the judges will determine what dogs they want to see on the final day of running.
In order to gain access to the Invitational, “Bree” scored a big win when she was named Champion at the Ontario Grouse Championship in the spring of 2022. Other highlight wins for her were RU Champion at the PA Grouse Championship and 1st in the PA Grouse Open All-Age.
“Bree” is sired by Grand National Grouse Champion Full Blast ex Ch. Straight Forward (she with 9 wins in grouse championships). Both of “Bree’s” parents qualified to run in the Invitational. Straight Forward won the Invitational in her first appearance when the event was held in Michigan.
Known as an extraordinary bird finder throughout her life, “Bree” will be handled by Dave Hughes who has guided “Bree” throughout her career and was at the controls for her championship wins.
The historic Freeland Kennel Club was the site of the fall 2022 Sandy Valley Bird Dog Club field trial, October 2. A perfect fall bird dog day greeted the entrants of the three-stake program. Emerging the 1st place winner of the 13 dogs Amateur Shooting Dog stake was Super Storm Cliff.
Cliff’s performance on this day stood out for the quality of his hunting. From start until the judge ordered pickup at the end of the 30 minute heat, Cliff ran forward to objectives no matter where on the vastly improved Freeland grounds he needed to go. He ran, not only to the limits. but forward on the edge of bell range. At 17 his bell went silent ahead and he was found by handler Thor Kain standing tall with straight-up tail ahead. After the trek to his stand a quail was dispatched with Cliff maintained his composure throughout the fight and shot. While several other competitors had multiple finds, the quality of Cliff’s hunting and bird work elevated him to the blue ribbon on this day.
Cliff has been a favorite of ours right out of the gate as a pup for in trial competitions, he dug up finds including wild game that he pointed and held until flush. His numerous wins at this level earned him the US Complete Amateur Puppy of the Year. As a derby we generally entered Cliff in shooting dog and championship stakes as his training advanced quickly for a derby-aged dog.
Super Storm (Ch Pennstar ex Ch. Straight Forward) placed 3rd at the Mountain View BDC Amateur Shooting Dog stake held as part of the horseback Southern Bird Hunters circuit. “Fed” had a sharp, 3-find performance that left us highly satisfied with his complete effort. As the two-time US Complete Amateur Shooting Dog of the Year, we feel that “Fed” is actually getting better as he moves into the sixth year of his bird dog life. He’s giving us plenty of thrills and his performance here was no exception.