Straight Forward

Straight Forward, Dick and Bob’s 9-time cover dog championship title winner, has died. “Cracker” was an all-time favorite of ours and of her handler to all her championship wins, Dave Hughes.

“Cracker”, as all the dogs in Dick and Bob’s 40-year old partnership, started and spent the first year of her life with Bob (the minor league manager). It was clear from the start that “Cracker” was something special. Her dam Quixstar was from a niche that produced nine winners (Pennstar x Barnburner). Barnburner, a terrific bird dog and competitor, passed on her bird finding and attitude on point to Quixstar, multiple classic winner as a young dog. Quixstar, was given to my hunting pal, Jim Smythe, and we marveled at her beautiful running gate, drive and skill on game on many grouse hunts in PA and trips to Kansas and North Dakota. When Jim took her to breed to Craig Peter’s, athletic and thrilling Ch. Keystone Red Rage, I told Craig that this was the best dog her would ever breed to Rage. Maybe that is true or maybe not, but I meant it and the results proved that there was something going on.

A personal memory of “Cracker” comes to mind when I think of her. In the fall of 2004, “Cracker” was still a relatively young pup. She was so precocious in training for me that I entered her in the Open Derby at the Nittany Valley grouse trial. Dick was traveling and I didn’t mention that I’d entered her to him. He got home just before the trial and I’m sure he thought I was nuts putting a 9 month old pup in the derby stake against dogs who were twice her age. On the heavy cover dominating the course, I had a tough time keeping her to the front. Helen, Dick’s wife, was scouting for me. I was glad Dick was busy elsewhere at the trial as “Cracker” needed to get out front more. I knew he’d roast me for entering her at such a young age. On we went and I kept calling to her, “Cracker…get ahead, Crack….head, Crack….head” Later, Rob Boos who was judging, asked me if I knew what a “crackhead” was! In the final minutes the course came to a 40 acre open overgrown meadow. At this point, “Cracker” found energy enough to rim the field and finished out front, still running hard. She got third after a sharp find in the bird field. I was smiling like a Cheshire cat when they called the winners. Probably this was “Cracker’s” least significant win, but the memory sticks with me today.

At this point, Bob the minor league manager, passed responsibility for “Cracker’s” development over to Dick and almost immediately Helen was handling her in training. Dick and Helen went together to almost every training session and “Cracker” was such a natural that Helen loved being in charge of her. It was never a struggle. “Cracker” was Helen’s dog. When “Cracker” won the Seminatore for the first time, Dick was proud and made a special point of giving Helen credit for “Cracker’s” accomplishments. Remember, “Cracker” won the Seminatore (top cover dog setter award) 3 times!

“Cracker” traveled as an all-age with Dave Hughes to all the regions where cover dog championships were hosted. We ran her only in championships, as has been our policy with all-age dogs for decades. No matter where Dave put her down, she won. From Maine/NH (New England Grouse Ch.) to New York (3 times RU NY Grouse Championship), to PA (PA Grouse champion) to Michigan (RU CH. MI Woodcock Ch.) . In all these places “Cracker” found the elusive grouse. Somehow, she had the brains to figure out where they would be and the instincts to get them pointed. The old cliche was true with her, the trial wasn’t over until “Cracker” ran. Dave continued to win with her until she was 8 years old. At this point, our friendly competitors would, in jest, beg us to retire “Cracker” so that they could get some placements. ‘

Perhaps the most important recorded win of “Cracker’s” career was winning the Grand National Grouse and Woodcock Invitational in 2013. Not only was this her biggest recorded win but it was her finest performance. On the afternoon of Day 1 over the famed Gladwin, Michigan grounds, “Cracker” in her prime, hunted with speed, great eye appeal, determination and intelligence to rack up 4 well-spaced woodcock finds topped it off with a grouse find in the closing minutes of her hour. All the finds required scouting and each time there she stood, straight up style, intensity and mannerly as Dave flushed and shot. To this day it brings a chill to recall “Cracker’s” performance on that afternoon. The rest of the Invitational turned out to be mostly a formality as the judge later recounted that “Cracker” had won the three-day event on that special first afternoon.

“Cracker” managed to fit in 3 littters of pups along with her field trial career. She was first bred to our Grand National Grouse Ch. Full Blast, In that litter we got our currently campaigned bird finder, Full Breeze, winner of the Grand National Grouse Puppy Classic. In the second breeding we matched “Cracker” with 5x Ch. Pennstar using frozen semen. From that litter we got both multiple winners, Super Storm (Bob Watts’ and Thor Kain’s producer/winner of the Peter Ecker Amateur Shooting Dog Classic) and Deciding Point (Dick Brenneman’s and Bob Watts’ winning grouse dog competitor in Dave Hughes string). Incidentally, Deciding Point now has pups sired by Maximum Resisitance. The winning genes carry on. Finally, “Cracker” had a litter of just two pups when bred to our National Amateur Grouse Champion Blast Zone, handled by Thor Kain and now owned by Thor. From this we got an outstanding shooting dog winner, female Power Forward. Unfortunately, Power Forward died this fall.

Upon “Cracker’s” retirement we gave her to Evangelos Aposporis . He’s an avid hunter and she got a lot of opportunity to do what she did best–find birds, especially grouse. We enjoyed the field reports and photos of “Cracker” standing proudly with her latest quarry in the bag.

Since 1981, Dick and Bob’s partnership has been focused in a determined fashion on producing, developing and campaigning cover dogs for these 40 years. We bred to the best, no matter who owned the dog or where they were located. We both took our dogs afield for training three times a week without fail. We worked with the best trainer/handler, Dave Hughes. There were no pauses, no let ups in our efforts . In return, we were rewarded with dogs who had the goods to get the hunting job done with class and win consistently at the highest level. “Cracker” life and career epitomizes what we have sought to accomplish and we are humbly thankful to have had such a great dog.

Power Forward Passes

Power Forward

Power Forward, our 3 year old multiple winner, died November 7, 2020. “Abby” was a favorite of our kennel who earned her place in our string with her strong bird dog instincts which were harnessed to make her a formidable competitor by Thor Kain.

Abby came into this world by accident. In 50 years of bird dogs Bob and DIck never had an unplanned litter until the late summer of 2017. Straight Forward, who we never could get mated naturally had earlier in the year given birth to a frozen semen litter sired by Pennstar. That summer “Cracker” was on vacation at Bob’s where she enjoyed running in the dog pasture she shared with 3x Ch. Blast Zone. Since she had an erratic menstrual pattern and refused to stand still for a natural mating throughout her life, we never gave any thought to her mating naturally and unplanned with “Strike”. We were roading her and the other competition dogs regularly thoughout the summer. Late one Sunday evening after returning from roading, “Cracker” looked a little heavy around her flanks. Upon closer inspection, her teats seemed swollen and even a bit of milk could be extracted! A quick trip to the Emergency Vet confirmed that she was pregnant and was carrying two pups. Bob went directly from the Emergency Vet to the whelper helper we have used for several years and two days later the two pups were on the ground. That’s how “Abby” got her start.

Both of “Abby’s” parents had won the prestigious Purina Cover Dog-of-the-Year Award. We had high hopes for the pups and “Abby” did not let us down. What we liked best about her was her ability to find birds and get them pointed. In sight or out of sight, she then would stand on point until you found her and flushed. She was like this at less than a year of age. This trait made finishing her training and getting her to be steady-to-wing-and shot a relatively easy job for Thor Kain.

While “Abby” had wins as a puppy, derby and shooting dog with her last placement just weeks before her death (attributed to a sepsis infection of her uterus), we remember the win that got away from her. At the Pennsylvania Grouse Championship “Abby” was braced with her kennelmate, Deciding Point. Deciding Point was handled by Dave Hughes and Thor Kain had “Abby”. Grouse finds were scarce, as usual. Both dogs gave a championship effort on the ground. At 35, “Abby” pointed and “Bek” (Deciding Point) backed. A postcard picture with both intense and stylish. Bob has this photo in his living room. Thor flushed for “Abby” and way out front a grouse lifted low getting away unseen by the judiciary. This happens in wild bird trials.

There are lots of heartaches and heartbreaks in bird dogs. “Abby’s” early death is certain one of these heartbreaking events that we have learned to absorb, deal with, and then move on to work and love other good bird dogs we are fortunate to won.

Super Storm Liz, 1st in derby–AGAIN.

Super Storm Liz

Super Storm Liz finished the fall 2020 campaign the way she started by earning 1st in the Amateur Derby at the USCSDA Northeast Region event held November 1, 2020. The Flaherty Field Trial Association grounds, in East Windsor, CT, are an historic venue where bird dogs need to reach for objectives if they are going to be efficient in their hunting. Liz did just that right from the start. Her first find was 175 yards to the front. The succeeding finds were also well ahead and in each instance Liz stood until her handler, Thor Kain, arrived and dispatched the birds. At the flush Liz stayed high and tight and displayed shooting dog manners in each find.

This is Liz’s fifth 1st place derby win this fall. We don’t recall owning a dog who recorded five 1st place wins in one season.

Super Storm 2nd at Mountain View Amateur Shooting Dog

Super Storm

Super Storm, Ch. Pennstar ex Ch. Straight Forward, won his 4th shooting dog placement of the fall season by earning second in the Amateur Shooting Dog stake at the Mountain View Bird Dog Club trial, October 10, 2020. “Fed”, running in the heat of the day, powered his way through the rather heavy cover of the Murphy Farm in a forward searching effort. Plenty of goldenrod and weedy cover is found in some of the fields. Other fields feature switchgrass, corn and other grain feed plots/strips. To hold wild pheasants and covies of prereleased quail, it takes cover and feed. The Murphy Farm is managed successfully in this regard. A dog needs to be one that attacks the cover to win here. You have to get into the hedgerows and woods edges in search of game. “Fed” did just that and located quail twice. On both finds “Fed” showed his first class style and intensity on point. He’s got a perfectly straight, short tail when posed on point. His intensity holds throughout the flush and shot. His first find was on the woods edge at the half way mark with bracemate backing and then across the dirt road he registered his last find in the closing minutes of the 30-minute stake. He finished ahead deep in a island of cover.

Super Storm Liz, 1st at Mountain View Am. Derby

Super Storm Liz

Super Storm Liz, with Thor Kain at the controls, added to her more than impressive list of wins this fall as she outpaced the field to win the Amateur Derby at the Mountain View Bird Dog Club, October 10, 2020. The Mountain View venue is the grounds of the Murphy Farm near Lake Ariel, PA. Developed specifically for bird dog training and trialing by now-deceased Dave Murphy, a pharmacist by training, the grounds feature fields and woods edges lined by hedgerows with rock walls, fields of switchgrass, corn and small grains. A pond is found on the back half of the course. On this day, “Liz” did her thing by moving with speed and style over the ground. Especially light on her feet, yet strongly built, “Liz” charged ahead examining the fencerows thoroughly. “Flashy” describes the impression “Liz” makes in action. She put two finds in the books this day, both handled with steady-to-wing and shot manners to earn her top placement.

Super Storm Cliff, 1st place Puppy at Northern Bucks FTC

Super Storm Cliff

Super Storm Cliff, our 2020 pup sired by Blast Zone, won the Amateur Puppy stake at the inaugural Moutain View Bird Dog Club event. Held on October 10, 2020 at the Murphy Farm, the 10 dog stake featured several competitors who’ve recorded wins this fall. “Cliff”, handled by Bob Watts, showed his continued development as he hunted with serious application from start to finish. There’s plenty of thick, heavy cover to challenge and any dog, much less a pup. “Cliff” ran the edges and then ducked into the fencerows and woods edges when there was a chance. Forward throughout, he handled easily and at the halfway mark he feathered into point just inside the woods. He stood tall and with his arresting 12 o’clock tail, he was a picture. As handler went to him a woodcock got up with the gallery calling the flush. This was the second trial in a row where “Cliff” found game that was not released for the trial-a rarity. This encounter with game created more enthusiasm and “Cliff” finished strong, going away.

Power Forward places in the ADS at Northern Bucks FTC

Power Forward

Power Forward got her fall campaign off and running with a fine effort at the Northern Bucks FTC event held October 3, 2020 at Clear Springs, MD. “Abby” had been on injured reserve status with a deep juncture wound in her paw. She’s recovered after weeks of not being able to train or trial. At Northern Bucks, “Abby” racked up 3 quail finds to go along with a sharp stop-to-flush on a covey and 2 backs of her bracemate. The 20-dog stake was loaded with quality contenders and “Abby’s” 3rd place win was well earned. It’s good to have her back in action as she’s been running hard and fast and showing a lot of desire since returning from her injury.

Super Storm Liz, 1st, Northern Bucks FTC

Super Storm Liz

Super Storm Liz continued her remarkable string of first place derby wins at the Northern Bucks FTC, held at Clear Springs, MD, October 3, 2020. The Amateur Derby was not a big stake but “Liz” put on a show that those who saw it will long remember. She hunted the 30 minute course with drive and a clear desire to find game. She was found standing, sometimes hundreds of yards ahead, in fencerows with quail accurately located. Four times Thor declared that he could no longer hear “Liz’s” bell and that she must be on point. Four times his or scouts search was rewarded finding her buried in cover. On each occasion “Liz” demonstrated shooting dog manners as birds were produced. She finished going away. Some who had ridden all the stakes, including the horseback open stakes the previous day, remarked that hers was the finest performance they’d witnessed in the entire trial.

No Limit exciting performance wins at Sandy Valley ASD

No Limit

No Limit, Thor’s setter female, got herself rolling in the Amateur Shooting Dog stake at the Sandy Valley FTC Amateur Shooting Dog stake, Falls, PA, September 26, 2020 placing 3rd. “Zoey” had herself a hayday over the well-maintained grounds at DeCoverly Kennels. Flying from one objective to another the classy girl found birds on five occasions. Her 3 stand tall finds were mixed in with a stop to flush on a running pheasant and a stop-on-the-dime stf on a large quail covey that got up on their own as “Zoey” screeched to a halt. Speedy, flashy and hard driving “Zoey” kept Thor busy fully engaged up with her and going to her birdwork. From here “Zoey’ headed home to her other and most favorite job as babysitter for Thor’s 1 year old son, Jackson.

Super Storm extends his Fall, ’20 winning streak

Super Storm

Super Storm, Thor and Bob’s male setter, continued his Fall ’20 win streak at the Sandy Valley Field Trial Club Shooting Dog stake, September 26, 2020. The event was held on a cloudy, drizzly day at the headquarters of DeCoverly Kennels, Falls, PA. Thor handled “Fed” who fired over the course, driving hard from one objective to another. At 12 “Fed’s” bell stopped on a fencerow 75 yards ahead. As Thor went to him his bell started up briefly and then stopped. A running covey was now pinned in the fencerow–a masterful job. On across the open fields and through the woods section of the course, “Fed” could be seen ahead, flashing the running style he’s become known for. Another sharp find on the back course was followed by a ‘going away’ finish which propelled him to 2nd place in the 20 dog stake. It’s “Fed’s” third win this fall.