Game Winner, our first year all-age winner, came to us from the kennel of professional Dave D’Hulster. The first two times Dave did this mating of his Springfield Showgirl to our Grand National Grouse Champion Full Blast we watched the offspring win 1st, 2nd and 4th in the Grand National Grouse Puppy Classic. The second time the mating was done we were late in asking for a stud fee pup so others took pups and again won 1st as well as other placements in this Grand National ultimate puppy competition. Additionally, the pups from this mating were winning in all parts of the coverdog competitive world and were reported to be doing fine work hunting. Danny Nein’s female from this mating won the National Derby Classic! Finally, with the third mating we elected to take a stud fee pup instead of the stud fee and it was Dick who traveled to the kennel to pick out the male, “Finn”. Born later in the year, “Finn” didn’t continue the record skein of successes at the Grand National Puppy that his brothers and sisters had accomplished, but as “Finn” grew into his own we found ourselves with a thrilling youngster with lots of potential.
“Finn’s” early development followed the pattern of recent years. He started with co-owner Bob Watts’ puppy program that involves lots of time walking through fields and woods where forward patterns and wanting to go with the handler are emphasized. Time standing on the bench and barrel and being stroked up is also a part of the program which results in a young dog willing and enjoying to stand intensely and with style, just like when they will stand points until their handler arrives and staying styled up through the flush and shot later. “Finn” proved a cooperative and eager learner.
From this early start, “Finn” went to Thor Kain. Thor got “Finn” into wild birds that first spring/summer of his life. This exposure got “Finn” fired up about finding game. Before long he was pointing woodcock and standing until you found him and flushed. “Finn’s” ground speed and application were gaining fast and in the spring Thor took him to his first trial and he placed in the Jan Zebaricki Puppy Classic. After turning one year old, “Finn” got a lot of wild bird work under his belt with Thor that summer. He then he transitioned to Dick Brenneman who took him to the fall slate of open derby grouse trials. “Finn” won them all! Nittany Valley, the Pennsylvania Grouse Trial Club, the Venango Grouse Trial Club were all first place wins for “Finn” on the east coast. All the stakes had large entries. As the season winded down, Dick took “Finn” to Michigan where the Grand National events were being held. “Finn” was eligible for the Grand National Grouse Futurity. Another sizeable entry and all the pros were represented with their best derby-aged dogs. “Finn” put on a thrilling performance. Running and hunting hard had become “Finn’s” trademark. Smooth over the ground with arresting running style, he’s hard to take your eyes off. As the thirty minute heat wore on Dick called point. There he was ahead, standing with straight up style, head high. A grouse flew as handler approached, “Finn” immovable for the flush and shot. Overall, a clear first-place winning performance in the 73rd Grouse Futurity.
After a winter trip to Texas for wild quail work, “Finn” began to limp. The diagnosis was a strained shoulder. This kept “Finn” sidelined and off his stride in the spring and his derby winning ended. Eventually, in the summer a large piece of wood worked its way out of “Finn’s” paw and this was then determined to be the culprit that impeded his hunting the past months. Nevertheless, based on his skein of first place wins in the fall and the win of the Grouse Futurity, Game Winner was declared the winner of the Setter Award for derbies–the Thomas Flanagan Award!
At this point with “Finn” coming of shooting dog age, we placed him with Dave Hughes, the pro we have been affiliated with with the past 125+ years. Dave took “Finn” to the season opening DuBois-Beaver Meadows Trial and put an open shooting dog placement on him in his first shooting dog start. With this win, “Finn” is qualified for all the grouse championship events.