In her first year as an all-age, Straight Forward stepped up to win 1st at the Nittany Valley Open All-Age. A grouse find handled with manners during a blistering hour of hunting positioned “Cracker” to surpass a field ladened with veterans and Champion pointers and setters. The next week in the West Branch Grouse Trial (34entries) Cracker was 3rd. At West Branch, 2 woodcock finds helped her earn the placement. In both trials she was handled by Dick Brenneman, Cracker continued her steady climb from a youngster who won the Venango Puppy Classic, to a derby who was 3rd in the Flanagan Award, to a top-level performer as an all-age grouse dog.
Peter Casgrain’s amazing bird finding female, Star’s Misty Willow, won Runner-Up in the Rich Tuttle All-Age Classic held at Marienville, PA, November 14, 2011. Willow, daughter of Pennstar x Rachael’s Chase Smith, ran her usual well-applied race which earned her two grouse finds. Birds where hard to come by and the field of approximately 50 dogs struggled to locate grouse….not Willow. Bird finding has been Willow’s forte over the past years as she has rung up a quality string of all-age wins for her owner, many of them in grouse-rich Michigan. Willow’s genes were on display not only in the all-age stake but also in the open puppy stake at Venango where one of her pups placed for Pete in a competitive stake. Congratulations to Pete on both these nice wins.
I’ve had two bird dog lives. From 1968 to 1979 I was a horseback red setter man. I was fortunate to work closely with Ned LeGrande, the person who brought the red setter back from bird dog obscurity by concentrating on improving the genes of the dogs through creative breeding. Through Ned I became more than fascinated with trying to breed better red setter bird dogs.
During this period I was fortunate to be the breeder of three first place winners of the National Red Setter Futurity. Double P Rae and Double P Mike were owned by Conrad and Meta Plevnic and my own male Red Hot. There were a number of other red setters we bred who placed in this event. I was also honored to serve as the Futurity Secretary. I came to believe that futurity-aged dogs are at a point in their development and training where one can see the natural qualities that arise from breeding most clearly.
In 1980 when I moved to the woods of PA, I switched from red setters to cover dog English setters. My first dog was Wire. I knew that breeding counted in getting a winner and I went to what I considered the best female of the day, 3x Ch. Ghost’s Star. When Dick Brenneman and I formed our cover dog partnership in 1981, he took Wire and won consistently, eventually winning PA Grouse Dog of the Year. I had two careers at the time–professor of Marketing at Bloomsburg U. and owner of a medium-sized evergreeen nursery and large tree farm. Having to stick relatively close to home (also two elementary-aged kids), I gravitated naturally to the breeding and young dog development side of the partnership. This fit right in with my experience in searching the country to creatively breed better red setters.
At this point I secretly set a goal to match the record I’d set as a red setter breeder by breeding three first place cover dog futurity winners. In the 1980s a son of Wire x Meteor’s Express Train, Harmony Hills Duke owned by Everett Skehan, won the Grouse Futurity. Then in the early 90’s another offpsring of Wire x Buffalo Run Kate, Star’s Misty Ghost, won the Grouse Futurity for Rob Frame. I thought the three 1st as cover dog breeder goal was in reach but it took years later and a number of near misses (Full Tilt–2nd the Grouse Futurity, Hard Call–2nd the Grouse Futurity, and Aim High–second the International Cover Dog Futurity). Finally in October, 2011–31 years after the start–Mike Spotts took our setter male, All In, sired by Ch. Lilley Hills’ Secret Stash x our Ch. Full Tilt, to Canada and won the North American Woodcock Futurity.
Of course many others share in most anything accomplished in bird dogs. Dick and Helen Brenneman are the best partners one could hope for. Dick is listed as the co-breeder of most of these winners we have bred. Their input into breeding has been invaluable–they know more about cover dog setters from witnessing their hunting than any amateurs in the history of the breed. Mike Spotts for taking All In along to Canada. Dave Hughes and Ryan Frame for giving us solid breeding advice for years. We always ask and often act directly on their advice. Dave and Ryan need also to be thanked for their assistance in developing our winning dogs. Finally the other owners of futurity winners, Conrad and Meta Plevnic, Everett Skehan (deceased) and Rob Frame.
It’s fascinating to decide on breedings. Scanning through the list of available winning stud dogs, both living and deceased. Finding out as much as possible about their key genetic qualities. There’s no substitute for seeing the potential sires hunting first hand. Objectively figuring out the strength and weaknesses of the potential dam and then matching her with the best choice stud. And then working with the pups and giving them every favorable opportunity to develop to their fullest. Nothing is more fun for me than working pups and seeing in the exeptional few their gene combinations work together to create a thrilling bird dog performance.
Mike Spotts’ daughter of Pennstar, Jumpstart, continued putting forth quality performances over the course of the fall grouse trial season after winning the Nittany Valley Grouse Trial Club’s Open All-Age stake on October 23, 2011. “Woodie” laid out in front and hunted the cover that was presented to her in serious fashion. Some parts of the course are very dense and others are open after being recently cut. A top dog makes the adjustments to these varied covers. Woodie had a sharply executed woodcock find in the first half of her hour and then capped the effort with another woodcock find (not considered by the judges) just after pickup was announced. “Woodie” also caused a stir on the grouse trial circuit throughout the fall with what the judges reported as the top hour hunt in the Region 2 Amateur Championship held in the woods of New York State. The judiciary reported that she only needed a bird to surpass the field. She also put on a display of classy running at the Venango Grouse Trial Club’s Open All-Age. Woodie has perfected the knack of laying forward and consistently driving to covers. Woodie is blessed with (it’s in the genes) being fast and light-footed over the ground.
Michter’s Rock N’ Rye, Jared Specht’s son of Lilley Hill’s Secret Stash ex our Ch. Full Tilt, won the Nittany Valley Grouse Trial Club’s Open Derby on October 23, 2011. Riley, while still puppy eligible, has been running in derby competition throughout the fall grouse trial season in which he has won several times. Riley is a long-legged and classy pup who runs with his tail carried very high. He makes an impressive image when he flows through the woods in search of game. This win came on a warm day on a course with some heavy cover. Riley pushed through these areas with enthusiasm. When he was called back in the birdfield Riley was most impressive, standing tall and straight tailed. He was steady at the flush…..again impressive.
Full Blast won the 34 dog entry David Blakely Derby Classic at Marienville, PA., November 5, 2011. “Jeb” is a 52 lb. son of Ch. Pennstar ex Walnut Hills Cracklin Patch. The David Blakely Classic is a companion stake to the Pennsylvania Grouse Championship. As a classic and with grouse dog pros gathered with their derby strings from across the country, the Blakely Classic is arguably the top derby competition in the east this season.
After spending some time this summer with pro Dave Hughes and his assistant Ryan Frame, Jeb came on fast showing finished manners on three finds in winning the early-season DuBois-Beaver Meadows Open Derby. In late September Jeb made the trip to northern Maine with amateur Mike Spotts. Joe Dahl, Mike’s host, took Mike and Jeb to a variety of covers and Jeb pointed more than a dozen grouse and woodcock in the several days they hunted together. In October at the Grouse Futurity it was said that he only needed a bird to be in contention. It’s been a good year for birds on our training grounds and Jeb gets birds nailed in most every workout. He is one of the best derby birdfinders we have owned. It seems that Jeb continues to get stronger and harder driving each week and at the Classic he gave a strong effort on the ground. Jeb showed a penchant for being forward and coming to the front on all the turns. His class on the ground is exceptional for a big dog. As Jeb continues to develop into a better and better grouse dog, our hopes for his field trial career grow.
All In, our 15-month-old male, won the North American Woodcock Futurity in Canada on October 1, 2011. “Chance” is sired by Ch. Lilley Hill’s Secret Stash ex our Grand National Grouse Champion Full Tilt. “Chance” was handled by amateur Mike Spotts of Bloomsburg, PA who was in New England on a judging assignment and took “Chance” along for some hunting and a crack at this futurity.
“Chance” is a thrilling dog to watch operate. He’s fast, very quick and light on his feet and he’s exceptionally stylish and intense on point. We have high hopes that “Chance” will be a difference maker and have a positive impact on the breed.
Carry On, owned by Roger Marin, Michter’s Rock ‘N Rye owned by Jared Specht and Ghost Train Cody owned by Tom Fruchey are littermates to “Chance” who have already won in open derby competition despite their still being eligible for puppy stakes. Each has the class of their mother and the strength of their father, Stash.
Wintergreen Max, Mickey Fancher’s son of Pennstar, won the Minnesota Grouse Dog Championship, October 2011. “Max” continued right where he left off last spring when he claimed the coveted Grouse and Woodcock Invitational Championship. This is Max’s third championship title. Handled by his amateur owner, Max reinforced his reputation as a strong dog on the ground as well as a consummate bird finder in this event.
Photo taken 10/2011. Both photo and “Rock” are untouched.
5X Ch. Pennstar is still in great shape and going strong at 11 years of age. As in the very recent photo above, “Rock” continues to exhibit the straight high-tailed look on point that he and his offspring are known for. You can almost feel the extreme intensity coming through the picture that “Rock” displayed throughout his 8 year competitive career that included 5 wild bird Championships and 1 Runner-Up Championship title. “Rock” continues to sire pups and build his leading living sire production record. His latest litter was whelped in September 2011 to a Grouse Ridge bred female in NY. “Rock” remains available to the public at stud.
Pepper Upper, son of Pennstar ex George Johnson’s Stella Doro, won 1st at the West Branch Grouse Trial Club, Open Derby on October 9, 2011. The cover on much of the course was very heavy and the 80 degree day challenged all the dogs but “Pepper” dug into the cover and kept hard at it. When the course opened up, “Pepper” took advantage and moved over the ground with speed, lightness-of-foot and crack. “Pepper” is a big dog who looks good on the move. He was steady-to-wing and shot on his birdwork.