On January 24 Straight Forward whelped two males and two female pup sired by 5X Ch. Pennstar. This was a frozen semen litter. This is our first venture with frozen semen and we are excited with the looks of the pups to date.
“Roxy” and “Bek”, the females, along with “Fed” and “Man” are now 3 months old and we’ve got them going regularly in the field where they are chasing and pointing butterflies, moths, bugs and most anything that moves. They like to get staked out and then get worked individually on fun thing like learning to come, pointing pigeons in a sock and standing on the board/barrel.
As with all our matings, we have high hopes for the pups. This is especially so this time around as the mom, Straight Forward, has now won the Seminatore Award (top setter all-age, cover dog) 3 times. No other dog has done this and she clearly ranks her as the best female in our 36 year partnership. The sire, Pennstar, is arguably, along with his son Full Blast, our best male dog to date. Pennstar’s 5 championship performances on wild birds stands our in our minds and his production record (30-74-449) to date certainly ranks him among the all-time best coverdog producers.
So, the stage is set genetically. Now time, work and the individual developmental paths the pups take will determine if they can help cover dog setters take another step forward.
Angel’s Envy, daughter of Full Blast, continues to prove out the potential many judges saw in her last year as a puppy. Owned by Diane Wheelock and often handled by her, Angel’s Envy jumped seemlessly from puppy to top quality derby performances and her continued development and winning led her being named the Michigan Coverdog Derby of the Year. Strong performance over the Gladwin grounds at the Michigan Amateur and Ruffed Grouse FTC last fall and then the Michigan Amateur in the spring capped by her winning the spring Beaverton Derby Classic were the basis for her earning this recognition.
The judges at the Grand National Grouse Puppy Classic placed Angel’s Envy 1st in the spring of 2016 and she has proven them right in that she has continued to show exceptional and consistent potential to be a great grouse dog. Under the direction of her owners, she has added wild bird handling skills and a willingness to accept training in reaching excellence at this next level.
All In, son ex our Grand National Grouse Champion Full Tilt won the Regional 2 Amateur Walking Shooting Dog Championship with owner Thor Kain at the controls.
The Championship event featured a strong field of 26 contenders including many of the top coverdog circuit winners along with a number of dogs bred from and winning as horseback shooting dogs in professional strings. Most all of the entrants had multiple finds. The grounds at the Oak Ridge Pointing Dog Club, Harrisville, PA, demand that a hunting dog reach for objectives and know how to hunt fence rows and field edges. “Chance” registered 9 finds and a back. His finds had the birds well located and his style on point during and after the flush was arresting–high and tight. He was still going forward with drive and jump in his step at the end.
This is an especially sweet win for all of us as “Chance” realized the full potential we expected from this planned mating 6 years ago and that we saw in “Chance” as a pup. Originally, “Chance” was our “pick of the litter,” sired by Ch. Lilley Hills Secret Stash ex Ch. Full Tilt. We looked after the early development of “Chance” and I can recall telling folks that at 5 months of age, “Chance” was the best looking male prospect I could recall working with. We won with him a few times and Mike Spotts took him to the North American Woodcock Futurity and won as Bob Little, a judge at this event, recalled in his recent CoverDog post. However, dogs with great potential don’t always develop in a straight line from pup, derby to all-age. With other dogs like future Grand National Grouse Champions Straight Forward and Full Blast of the approximate same age, when “Chance’s” development took a dip, opportunity and luck fortuitously came together.
At this time we were coming to know a young enthusiast who was working with our buddy, gun dog pro Tom Gingher. Tom kept telling us this young guy needed and deserved a quality prospect to work with and once we met Thor Kain, he seemed to be a perfect match for “Chance”. Even though we were pretty attached to “Chance” who was our house dog, Dick and I gave “Chance” to Thor. This turned out to be one of the best moves we’ve ever made. Thor took on the challenge of “Chance’s” continued development with both owner and dog working extremely hard and learning a lot as they went along.
It’s easy now to understand why this is such a ‘sweet’ win, not only for Thor and “Chance” but for Dick, my wife Janet (who loved our house dog and was along for most of his workouts) and me. This is the first Championship for both Thor and Chance. At this point we can say unequivocally that the Championship win by Thor and “Chance” is much more fulfilling than if we’d have won the event ourselves. Full Tilt, too, has a smile on her face as her boy “Chance” joins his littermate Ghost Train Cody, owned by Tom Fruchey, as pups ex hers who have won Championship laurels.
Potential. Having a young dog with the potentialto develop into a bird dog that can win at the top of the game. This is what most of us are seeking and it’s the reason we have “junior” stakes at field trials. Puppy and Derby stakes feature youngsters from a variety of matings and lineages. The placements in these stakes sort out which pup/derbies have the desired traits to go on to win as all-age/championships and which sires and dams are producing offspring with the potential to win in the best of company.
Particularly the Grand National Grouse Club standards have been the goal of our breeding program and the dogs that we campaign. These standards emphasize hunting intelligence, bird finding, drive and desire, speed, running and pointing style and class. This is what we are aiming for.
In the last weeks, again, youngsters sired by Grand National Grouse Champion Full Blast have been judged to have this sought after potential reflected in the Grand National Grouse Club standards. At the 2017 Grand National Grouse Puppy Classic, Full Blast sired Full Breeze, Asper Hill Pippi and Knob Mountain Mayhem were placed 1, 2, 3. Previously in the 2016 and 2015 Grand National Puppy Classics, Full Blast pups were 1st and 3rd and 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively. Eight of the 12 pups placed at The Grand in the last three years were sired by Full Blast. No setter has ever come close to this record.
And it doesn’t end there. In just the last couple weeks, other Full Blast offspring have scored in classic events throughout the various cover dog regions. Youngster, Game Winner, scored in the Jan Zabericki Puppy Classic. Diane Wheelock’s female, Angel’s Envy, won the Beaverton Derby Classic in a field of 26. Recall Danny Nein’s Parachenee Flight won the 2016 National Derby Classic and White Mountain Derby Classic last year.
In 2015 Blast Off won the Grand National Grouse Futurity and this spring, 2017, his potential was realized as he entered the championship circle for his owner, Justin Evans, at the Ontario Grouse Championship.
There are numerous good setter males available that have done well in competition. In deciding what dog to breed to, I have learned two lessons in 50 years of breeding setters. George Eckdahl taught me the first lesson. You are breeding to a dogfor what he produces, not what he has accomplished. Yeah, Full Blast is the only setter in history to win both setter awards (Flanagan and Seminatore), the Purina Top Cover Dog Derby and Purina Top Cover Dog All-Age and the Grand National Grouse Championship. This gets him on your radar as a sire. But you’re obviously getting his progeny, not the sire. And Full Blast progeny have proven to have the potential we all seek–the ability to win at the top as described in The Grand National Standards. The second lesson I learned from trial and error and from observing which dogs succeed. That lesson is to go with the best, the proven, the winner. Be this in selecting a trainer, a pup or a stud dog–go with the proven best. At this point, based on the record and keeping these two breeding principles in mind, Full Blast must be considered as a worthy stud dog who produces offspring with the potential you’ve been dreaming of.
Full Breeze, our daughter of Grand National Grouse Ch. Full Blast ex Grand National Grouse and Woodcock Invitational Ch. Straight Forward, rambled over the thirty minute hunting course in southern NY to best a field of 21 of the nation’s top cover dog pups, April 15, 2017, to win the 70th Grand National Grouse Puppy Classic. “Bree” was handled by Thor Kain. The course at Flanagan Farm was an excellent venue featuring a mix of dense hunting cover, field edges, pole timber and open fields. This variety of cover gave handlers a chance to show off their young charges’ ability to apply themselves, hunt objectives and reach forward when opportunities presented themselves. Throughout, Bree was forward, very hard driving, determined with no let down to the end. “Bree” is a 44 lb. powerhouse who has the smoothness of gait as well as the crack and pop that our dogs have become known for and that we have specifically striven to breed into our dogs for generations. Throughout the fall and winter, “Bree” has had the benefit of access to good woodcock numbers and then a trip to TX in January with Dick gave her plenty of opportunity to learn how to hunt, find birds and get them pointed. She’s become as exceptional in handling birds as she is in running and hunting for them. We’re excited about her future.
Those who follow coverdogs recognize that “Bree” is the product of line breeding to our 5xCh. Pennstar. Pennstar is the sire of Full Blast and Pennstar appears on the dam’s side as well, being the sire of Straight Forward’s mom. A dose of Keystone’s Red Rage, him being the sire of Straight Forward, was also a key ingredient in giving “Bree” the talents to win at this level.
Blast Off, young setter male owned by Justin Evans of Duncannon, PA, and handled by Mark Forman, was named RU Ch. at the Ontario Grouse Championship on April 9, 2016. He is sired by Grand National Grouse Ch. Full Blast ex Ken Moss’s daughter of Grand National Grouse Ch. Ch. Moss Meadow Traveler. Justin used our pick-of-the-litter stud fee pup to select “Sam” and he made a smart choice. This was “Sam’s” first championship entry in his first year as an all-age. In running over the Marienville, PA, courses, a dog is challenged to run hard, big and reach for objectives in order to locate woodcock and grouse. “Sam” is a hard charger and his searching was rewarded with a woodcock handled with the high, tight and intense pointing style that he has exhibited in earlier wins. Earlier at the Nittany Valley Grouse Trial he placed with a piece of bird work that had the gallery and judges impressed. Being so young and in such capable hands, we are sure to see more of Blast Off in the winners’ circle.
Knob Mountain Mayhem, Mike Spotts’ male pup bred from two Grand National Grouse champions added some impressive wins to his young resume. He is sired by Full Blast ex Straight Forward. This spring “Jax” was first at the Acadia FTC Open Puppy stake after a week earlier putting on what I saw as a ‘near perfect’ performance to win the prestigious Pennsylvania Grouse Trial Open Puppy. In April, at the Grand National Grouse and Puppy Classic, “Jax” ran a strong, mature, attractive forward hunt for the full thirty minutes, finishing strong. What Mike likes best about “Jax” isn’t able to be judged in puppy stakes. “Jax” is magnificent on his birds pointing with extreme intensity with a high head and straight tail. He literally blows up while he stands with this posture before, during and after the flush. No question, we’ll be hearing more from “Jax” and Mike.
Game Winner, our male pup, sired by Full Blast ex Springtime Showgirl got his competitive bird dog career off in fine fashion by placing 3rd in the Jan Zabericki Puppy Classic, held in western PA in early April, 2016. Thor Kain handled “Finn” to his first win. Born in May, “Finn” is a relatively young pup and was up against a strong field of horseback-bred pointers and setters. Exceptionally snappy and hard driving pup, “Finn” is the kind of dog our kennel has been focused on producing and campaigning. In Texas this winter, “Finn” really got his teeth cut on wild quail after a fall of being introduced to woodcock and grouse. On the last workout in TX, he pointed four covies in thirty minutes, each with straight up style. “Finn” was bred by Dave D’Hulster at his Springfield Kennel. This is the third mating of Full Blast to Springtime Showgirl and this mating has proven to be a real niche with pups from the previous litters winning the Grand National Grouse Puppy Classic in 2015 and 2016.
(l-r) Dave Hughes, George Johnson, Dick Brenneman, Bob Watts
At the awards ceremony held in Milan, NH, during the running of the Grand National Grouse Championship, our 7-year old female, Straight Forward, received recognition as the top English setter all-age cover dog for 2015- 2016. This is the second time that “Cracker” has won the Seminatore Award which is named after Massachusetts native Mike Seminatore who trained and handled many famous cover dogs over a period of decades throughout New England. “Cracker” previously won the Seminatore Award for her successes during the 2012-2013 cover dog season.
This is the fourth time our kennel has won the Seminatore Award. Grand National Grouse Champion Body Guard won it for the 1997-1998 season and our multiple champion Full Blast won it for the 2013-2014 cover dog season. All our Award winners have been handled by Dave Hughes.
While earning this award caused us to reflect on “Cracker’s” performances last year, we are currently thrilled with her performances during this new season with her being named the current New England Grouse Champion and earning RU Championships in the New York and Pennsylvania Grouse Championships as well as RU Champion in the MI Woodcock Championship. These wins have “Cracker” leading the present Seminatore Award competition by a wide margin.
What a blessing to have owned and enjoyed a great dog like “Cracker”.
In her fourth start of the 2016 fall cover dog season, Straight Forward won her fourth straight championship placement by being named RU Ch. at the Pennsylvania Grouse Championship, October 26,2016. “Cracker” ran a hard driving, forward hour in which she recorded two finds of grouse. Dave Hughes was at the helm. “Cracker’s” proven herself to be a relentless hunter and a skilled grouse finder. Congratulations to John McKellops and his pointer female, Grouse Trails Pride, named Champion.
These championship grounds are known to demand that a dog reach out to objectives. It takes serious dog power to get over the relatively open territory on which this championship is run. Birds are not plentiful as in some other cover dog venues. A dog has to have great desire, speed and determination to be successful her in the Allegheny National Forest. “Cracker’s” win this season adds to her record here at the PA Grouse Championship as she was named Champion in 2012 and she was RU Ch. just last year in 2015.
We are amazed with “Cracker’s” remarkable fall campaign. We cannot recall any dog winning in four consecutive grouse trials, ever. This win lifts Straight Forward to her tenth open cover dog championship placement.