Owned by Justin Evans, Blast Off, son of our Grand National Grouse Champion Full Blast, scored a bigtime win in mid-October by claiming the Northern Michigan Coverdog Championship. Facing a high quality field of 54 of the best coverdogs in the country, Blast Off waited his turn until Day 2 in the 9th brace. It was worth the wait as “Sam”, under the whistle of Mark Forman and DunRoven’s Drifter handled by Rich Hollister attacked the hour hunting course. Drifter was eventually named the RU Ch. in this event so the judges had a one-on-one direct comparison of the two eventual winners. Blast Off scorched the course, running hard and going to not just the nearby objectives but reaching when needed to check out likely coverts. First “Sam” scored a beautiful grouse find with the quarry accurately located and Blast Off demonstrating his high and intense pointing posture. This was followed later with a sharp woodcock find. This is the second trip to the Championship circle for Blast Off as he earlier had earned a RU Championship.
As with all dogs, there is a back story to “Sam’s” outstanding win. Four years ago, Justin was just getting into competing grouse dogs. It’s challenging to get a dog who can compete against the best dogs, who are often campaigned by folks who’ve been dedicated to this sport for decades. They’ve got the lines and individuals who can produce winners and understandably they are keeping the best for themselves. As Dick Brenneman and I have each been trialing for more than 50 years, at this point we recognize we can’t keep doing this forever and that bringing young folks into the game is critical to its survival. When Michigander Ken Moss bred our Full Blast to a daughter of his Grand National Grouse Ch. Moss Meadow Traveler, we decided to offer Justin the pick-of-the-litter, stud fee pup. The dam’s side of the female was from our Ch. Pennstar and we were confident that there would be pups in the litter who could compete with the best. I recall Justin and his son driving out to get their pup. While on his way, we were texting about my similar drive to pick out our first English setter pup. I recall on the way home how my 8 year old son whispered, “Dad, look at his tail”. The pup was laid out, sleeping on the front seat between us. His tail was straight up, at 12 o’clock! That pup, Wire, became a Grouse Dog of the Year and a foundation dog for our kennel with his genes contributing today to bird dog performances across America.
September 5 was another scorcher in the southern New York State. 89 degree temperatures and high humidity faced the 5th brace cut loose at 3pm on Day 1 of the New York State Grouse Championship. Blast Zone, our 4-year old male setter, under the whistle of handler Thor Kain was more than up to the challenge. “Strike” fired around the course demonstrating his high at both ends carriage. Watered at 10, he didn’t stop for anything until 35 when his bell went dead in a thicket to the left of the course. Thor and scout John Stolgitis along with Judge Ann Naus went in to look for “Strike”. After 5 minutes they found him and handler elected immediately to send him on. On command “Strike” dashed forward 30 yards and pointed solidly. Thor got in front of the dog but couldn’t raise a bird. He again touched “Strike” on the shoulder and told him to go on. “Strike” went directly forward another 50 yards and slammed onto point. As Thor approached, “Strike” was a statue with his tail at 12 o’clock and his head nearly as high. The pinned grouse rose from immediately in front of where he stood, “Strike” composed through the shot. This display of bird dog intelligence, instinct and experience was the key to “Strike” win of this prestigious and high quality championship competition. From here he continued with strength, not water stops, determination and enthusiasm. Going strong at the end, the judges cautioned Thor “don’t lose him” as at this point all realized they’d seen what would be deemed a very special performance under any circumstances, but made especially memorable given the extreme conditions.
57 contenders towed the line with scores of fine contenders, many champions, over the next four days. The extreme weather conditions abated. Some of the days the temperature never got out of the 60s. 14 of the contenders finished their heat and had clean work on grouse which were not overly abundant, but more than sufficient to have a fair test of grouse dog hunting skill. The Partridge Run Field Trial Area, Berne, NY is perhaps the best area in the east for competing cover dogs who hunt mainly in the woods for grouse and woodcock.
Blast Zone, the current National Amateur Grouse Champion, is sired by our Grand National Grouse Champion Full Blast. The dam, multiple winner Hard Core, is by noted performer/producer Ch. Long Gone Boston ex 24-time winner Electra who is from generations of our winning individuals.
While “Strike” is the best dog we have owned at finding and pointing steady on wild birds, full credit goes to amateur Thor Kain who has presented “Strike” with numerous opportunities on wild birds in his northeast PA covers that few dogs would ever get. In many ways, “Strike” has become Thor’s dog and Thor treats him that way giving “Strike” the best of care and development. “Strike” took full advantage of his environment and proved to be a smart, easy-to-train dog that Thor had essentially finished on wild birds of every wild game species before he was 18 months old. Trips to Texas with co-owner Dick Brenneman also sharpened “Strike’s” skills. For the past two seasons “Strike” has been used on guided quail hunts on the Texas ranch where Dick trains and guides in the winter. If you are having trouble finding birds or getting them pointed due to the hot, windy, dry conditions, then its time to get “Strike” out and run him.
Game Winner, earlier Winner of the Grand National Grouse Futurity, continued his progression to the shooting dog level by winning 2nd at the DuBois-Beaver Meadows Open Shooting Dog, August 24, 2018. “Finn” was handled by Dave Hughes. “Finn” scored 4 eye-popping finds which he coupled with a searching, forward, well-handled hunting effort. Known for his drive, running style, speed and determination, “Finn” showed that he can dig up birds even in hot August conditions. His four finds were pointed in front where he said they were and his straight up pointing style and composure after the shot were exciting exclamations to his bird work. He’s a special dog who Dave Hughes is developing and bring out his best.
Off to a fast start in the early fall ’18 trial season, Deciding Point, our female daughter of Pennstar ex Straight Forward, won the Open Derby at the DuBois-Beaver Meadows Field Trial Club, August 24, 2018. “Bek” was guided to this win by amateur enthusiast Thor Kain who has been working with her over the summer. “Bek” took a short time to get her trial legs under her and then she laid out a big forward and hard driving hunting effort. It was another warm August day but “Bek” was oblivious to the heat. She drove through the open fields and swung through the woods. Her efforts were rewarded at the 26 minute mark as she slammed on point in front of the clubhouse. Thor was able to flush the bird and “Bek” stayed true to her training and was steady-to-wing and shot. Over the summer “Bek” has handled scores of woodcock as well a a good number of pheasants with adult manners. She along with our other young dogs from our generations of focused breeding are developing much earlier than previous generations in terms of finding, handling and being steady to wing and shot on game. We’re encouraged with “Bek’s” development and thankful for all the work Thor has put into her.
Grand National Grouse Ch. Full Blast was bred to 4X RU Ch. Herbie’s Asta LaVista and she whelped a litter in March. A few weeks ago we trekked to the beautiful countryside just outside Columbus, Ohio, to breeder Shannon Humphries’ home. We were there to choose our stud fee, pick-of-the-litter pup. Fortunately for us another pup buyer had just dropped out and we were able to buy a second pup from this excellent dam. While the pups are just 3-4 months old, we are excited to see excellent potential in both the male and female we chose. The male, “Spur” and the female, “Fern” have boldness, energy, calmness when handled and standing on the board, independence, quickness to point and high straight tails running and on point. These are the traits we look for in pups and these two both qualify. It will be fun to see them develop in the months ahead. We are going to pay extra close attention to these two as their dam, “Asta” died tragically just a week after we picked up the pups. “Asta’s” blood must carry forward as she has a lot to contribute to the English Setter bird dog breed and her pups show it.
In mid-August 2017 our multiple Ch. Straight Forward whelped just two pups sired by our National Amateur Grouse Champion Blast Zone. These are the first Blast Zone pups we have had. Straight Forward was 8 years old and this was her third litter–accounting for the small litter size. No matter how accomplished the parents, the odds aren’t good that you’ll get a top grade pup when you have only two in the litter. Nevertheless, puppy owner Bob Watts and Thor Kain were keen to see what these two outstanding individuals would produce, especially considering how impressive Straight Forward’s earlier pups have been Uniquely, the pups are owned by Bob and Thor as Bob’s partner, Dick Brenneman, has decided to focus on campaigning the partnership’s older dogs, no longer developing pups. Lo and behold, despite the small sized litter, it looks like we got lucky and may have hit the jackpot as throughout the spring we have seen the female pup, Power Forward, impress us with her hunting desire, class and bird handling ability. Dozens of times we have had the GPS tell us she is stopped 150-200+yards ahead. Every time, yes, every time she would still be standing there pointing solidly when we’d arrive on the scene. Invariably she’d stand for us to do the flushing.
Blast Zone, handled by our amateur friend Thor Kain, hunted with power and serious application, going strong the entire hour at the Ontario Grouse Championship, April 8, 2018. “Strike’s” efforts were rewarded at the 40-minute mark with a scouted woodcock find handled with arresting style and intensity. Conditions during the Championship were challenging for both dogs and handlers. Winter would not let go of its grip as snow flew over and laid on the courses at Marienville, PA–home of the Ontario Grouse Ch. for the last several years. “Strike” was impervious to the conditions. When he did not return from a cast and his bell could not be heard, a scout was dispatched. Several minutes were required to locate him standing on an edge facing out into a weedy field. It then took nearly ten minutes total for the judge to arrive on the scene to witness the find. “Strike” still standing, looking like a bull, on his bird that was flushed with all in order. From here “Strike” continued hunting with application and desire through a variety of pole timber and regrowth to a forward finish. While the spring trial season was abbreviated, “Strike” exhibited consistent excellence winning the Nittany Valley Grouse Trial, being the first call-back in the Grand National Grouse Invitational and then capping the season in the Championship circle at the Ontario. In all these events he was handled by Thor Kain who has worked with “Strike” since he was a pup.
Deciding Point, our female puppy from the frozen semen litter sired by Pennstar ex Straight Forward, wound up her puppy competitive career with a fine performance in the Venango Puppy Classic, April 7, 2018. The Venango Puppy Classic has been regarded for decades as the premier puppy event in the east. In her 20 minute run, “Bek” hunted with drive and determination right from the start. She flashed through the woods with lots of crack in her tail and jump in her steps. She’s a classy youngster. Her pattern was forward and when her hunting brought her near the handler, she was quick to turn into the cover and resume the search. She finished ahead and going strong, handling in a most responsive manner, a trait inherited from her famous parents. It’s exciting for us to have a high quality female from what may well be the two best dogs of our 36 year partnership. “Bek’s” got a lot to live up to, but so far she has not disappointed.
Super Storm, owned by Thor Kain and bred in our kennel, won 2nd place in the 71st Grand National Grouse Puppy Classic. “Fed” (originally named by Bob after his tennis idol Roger Federer) got right to business and he stayed right at it throughout his heat held March 31 at the Black Ash Club grounds, Guys Mills, PA. Staying forward, occasionally drifting out of sight then showing to the front, “Fed” flowed through the course from objective to objective–clearly hunting his way for the thirty minutes. He finished like he started. “Fed” showed his promise in trials last fall by winning the Nittany Valley Grouse Trial Open Puppy. However, it is in workouts on Thor’s training grounds where “Fed” really won over believers. He’s surely pointed more than 100 wild birds in his first year, standing nearly all until the flush. He has a remarkable knack for sticking woodcock and showing just enough respect for grouse to get them pointed without bumping them. He is magnificent on point. Planning goes into any winner of the Grand National Puppy Classic as their mating must be nominated into the Grouse Futurity for which fees are paid at the time of mating and after whelping. Planning even farther in advance occurred in “Fed’s” case as his sire is 5x wild bird Ch. Pennstar. We froze Pennstar’s semen and this is the first time that we have used it for ourselves. Precious as this semen is to us, we were quick to employ it in mating to our 9x Ch/RU Ch. and 3x Seminatore Award winner Straight Forward. While there were only 4 pups in the litter, we have kept two, “Fed” and his sister Deciding Point who won the 27 dog Nittany Valley Open Puppy a few weeks earlier. We are thrilled to get these two quality pups to hopefully carry on some of our most productive bloodlines and individuals.
Straight Forward celebrated her 9th birthday this month by winning 1st at the Pennsylvania Grouse Trial Club Open All-Age competition. “Cracker” has been an exceptional bird finder all of her life. It’s in her genes, it’s in her brain, it’s in her heart. In this event birds were very scarce. Some were flushed wild, but “Cracker” was the only dog who got grouse pointed and she did it twice. 25 dogs competed. “Cracker’s” brace featured her consistent application and her consistent determination. She went to the places grouse live based on her 9 years of hunting for them in training and in competition. She has been in training with Dave Hughes all spring. Dave was scheduled to handle her, but with multiple derbies to run on other courses, it was decided that co-owner Dick Brenneman would handle her. When Dick had a last minute conflict with running our derby, Thor Kain was deputized to handle “Cracker”. “Cracker” had spent the winter with Thor while Dick went to Texas with younger dogs. Thor did a great job in pointing out “Cracker” standing off to the side at 20 and then she was standing again at 35 ahead. On the first find, a single grouse got up ahead as Thor approached her stand. On the second, one grouse left and then another erupted from underneath Thor’s feet, “Cracker” steady as a rock throughout. She went on to finish swinging through the cover and searching ahead.