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Result: National Open Pheasant Championship

Location: Hoffman, North Carolina

Post Date: Dec 5, 2023

Submitted By: William S. Smith

natl open pheasant chf23

National Open Pheasant Championship Winners (front, l-r): Calvin Curnutte with Game Surge, Judd Carlton, and Luke Eisenhart with Erin's Perfect Storm. (Second row): Fred Corder, William Smith (judge), and Tommi Smith. (Third row): Earl Drew, Claudia McNamee, and Michael Shears (judge). (Back row): Fred Potts, Barbara Youngs, Bob Youngs, Mrs. Paul Gadd, Paul Gadd, and Greg Robinson.

The first recorded field trial took place in May 1866 at Cannock Chase near Stafford, England. This was not the first field trial ever held; it was the first recorded trial. In the previous year, it is believed that the very first field trial had taken place, but no reliable account was ever published to verify the event. From these modest beginnings, field trials began to grow in popularity and, eight years later, would cross the Atlantic Ocean to America. The first recognized field trial in America was held in 1874, just east of Memphis, Tennessee, along with the renewals in 1875 and 1876.

"Those early competitions in England stimulated much interest and spurred determination in the desire to improve the bird dog breeds. From the very start, field trials fired the imagination and took a firm hold on the fancy of sportsmen, though the growth and expansion of the sport were slow during the early years. However, the love of this new form of bird dog competition was deep-rooted in the hearts of devotees of sports afield and the spirit of the thing crept into their very souls. With such followers, charmed by the colorful, fascinating sport, and the generous encouragement and cooperation of the sporting press, field trials were sure to survive, and as the train of years sped swiftly by, more and more sportsmen became inoculated with the 'field trial bug.'

"The decade following World War I may well be characterized as a most flourishing era of bird dog trials, for the widespreading of its influence, the growth of clubs, and the increased number of events staged proved phenomenal. The rapid strides the sport has made to more general popularity are owing to a recognition of its intrinsic merits. Even during the critical years of World War II, field trials carried on, but it has been in the decades since that the pastime has reached new heights. Sports afield with bird dogs are no longer confined to certain sections of the country. In every part of our fair, favored land, major bird dog trials now hold forth, and a new trend toward stakes for shooting dogs has gained great numerical strength for the sport." (Field Trials, W.F. Brown, pgs. 18-19)

You could say that what Mr. Brown described could be called the golden age of field trials. Sadly, today, the brilliance has faded. Field trial grounds have vanished. Subdivisions, gas stations, schools, and stores now adorn the venues where some of the greatest field trials were conducted. Crab Orchard, Kildeer Plains, Como field trial grounds, Canton, Mississippi, and Baldwinsville, New York, are only five of many that no longer exist for field trials. The historic Canadian prairie trials once contested at Broomhill, Gainsborough, Stoughton, Mortlach, etc., are now only memories. For the most part, wild bird hunting is only available on shooting preserves and is not financially available to the majority of the youth in America. The younger generations have not grown up hunting and are not interested in field trials. With more youth trials being held today, they could possibly enhance the probability of longevity for field trials.

What is the purpose of field trials? W. F. Brown identified field trials as "The object of field trials is the promotion and development of the high-class bird dog. It is a means of enjoying the great out-of-door sport of bird hunting in the most aesthetic fashion. It aims to provide competition of the highest kind among bird dogs, to stimulate enthusiasm among owners, and to act as a practical guide for breeders by setting a high standard of performance."

Whatever sport one is involved in, the goal is to be the best, to be a champion. Whether it is in amateur or professional sports, the goal is the same. It is no different when dogs are in competition, whether in the show ring or afield. Seven words were the catalyst for the formation of field trials--My dog is better than your dog. Field trials became a sure way to judge the merits of one dog versus another. Initially, all field trials were local competitions between resident dogs. The question was then asked if these local trials were offering the best of the breed to contend. In 1895, Mr. W. W. Titus authored an article published in the American Field magazine in which he proposed what would become the Field Trial Champion Association. Pointing dog trials were being contested at the time, but a championship trial had yet to be established, and therefore, the best of the best could not be settled. The Championship Association was formed, and the first meeting took place in Newton, North Carolina, in November 1895. A plan was quickly adopted to form a championship trial that would be known as the National Championship. The following year, 1896, on February 10, the first National was run at West Point, Mississippi. Other championships would follow, and 30 years later, the National Open Pheasant Championship's inaugural running was held on October 17, 1926, in Boise, Idaho. This year marks the 66th running of this time-honored event.

The following appeared in the American Field Magazine on November 21, 1925: "Much has been published of late in the columns of the American Field, coming from various sections of the United States, advocating a National Pheasant Championship Stake and Idaho, which abounds with these birds, took the reins in hand and came to the front, being the first to go on record to make such a stake a reality."

The National Pheasant Championship Club of Boise, Idaho, did run the stake on October 26, 1925, at Boise. The club named a champion, but the trial was not recognized by the American Field until the 1926 running, and it was not without some criticism, as noted in the report.

"While on the subject of owners and handlers, it is opportune to refer to a matter that was much in evidence during these trials, and we hope by calling attention to it that the practice may be modified in the future. There were countless instances of too much handling displayed by the handlers in the All-Age and Championship stakes. It does not seem, and we feel that the majority felt likewise, that an All-Age dog should need the prompting that was so freely extended in many cases. A far better impression would have been made by these dogs had they been allowed to rely more upon their own resources and ability rather than on that of their handlers--independence, not dependence, is what appeals to a judge. He does not become greatly impressed over what a handler is able to do for the dog but is particularly interested in what the dog is really capable of doing himself without being urged. Exceptions, of course, may be registered in cases where wide-going dogs get out of control or where a dog becomes unruly, but when a dog is working the course, incessant whistling and yelling is absurd and uncalled for." (American Field, Nov. 25, 1925, pg.651)

The Boise club continued to recognize their champion, and the ad for the 1927 trial referred to the trial as the 3rd running of the championship. Whereas the American Field recognized it as the 2nd renewal. From 1926, the trial continued for 48 consecutive years through the 1974 running. The 1974 event was held in Bernville, Pennsylvania, and the club was making elaborate plans to host the 50th anniversary running in 1975, but the trial was canceled, and it would be 32 years before the trial would be resurrected.

The trial moved from the west to the east during its years of operation. The trial was held in Boise 1926 -1929. In 1930, it was held in Dansville, New York. The trial found a new home in Buffalo, New York, from 1931 through 1950. For the next 21 years, from 1951 through 1971, Baldwinsville, New York, became the headquarters for the trial, and these 21 years would be the longest the trial would remain in one place. In 1972, 1973, and 1974, Bernville, Pennsylvania hosted the trial. The trial was dormant after the 1974 running for over three decades.

William H. Foster extolled the grounds at Buffalo when he said, "Long before ever going to Buffalo, I had heard of the remarkable if not unique grounds of the Buffalo Trap and Field Club. But one can only appreciate the extraordinary value of these grounds after judging them. There, in the suburbs of a big city, are courses big enough to accommodate dogs fresh from the prairies, uniform enough to offer equitable competition, and with an abundance of game everywhere. I doubt if they could be duplicated anywhere else in the country." The legendary reporter, A. F. Hochwalt, reported the Pheasant Championship for the first time in 1932 when it was contested on the Buffalo grounds.

For many years, the International Pheasant Championship and the National Open Pheasant Championship were contested at Baldwinsville, New York, and advertised as twin championships. They were run back-to-back and sponsored by the two clubs, the International Club and the National Club. At some point, there became differences of opinion between the two clubs. The dispute could not be resolved, and the International Club withdrew from the Baldwinsville grounds. The officers of the International Club believed to be Tate Kline, James Soda, and Curtis Miles, relocated the International Pheasant Championship to Kildeer Plains near Harpster, Ohio, in the mid-1960s. The International remained at Kildeer Plains through the 2009 running. As already stated, the National Open Pheasant was dormant after the 1974 running at Bernville, Pennsylvania.

In 2005, two men had a wish to restore the National Open Pheasant Championship. Tom Honecker of Harpster, Ohio, and Dr. Fred Corder of Corinth, Mississippi, were instrumental in the resurrection of the trial in 2006, where it was held at Kildeer Plains, Ohio. The International and the National were reunited in 2006 when they were once again run on the same venue as championship stakes. The trials ran there through the 2009 running. After the 2009 running, the Ohio Wildlife Department ruled that horseback field trials were "detrimental to the grounds," and all horseback trials were prohibited from using the grounds. The clubhouse, barns, and corrals were bulldozed down before the ink dried on the termination paper, ensuring that field trials would never be allowed there again.
Mr. Honecker's untimely death vacated a leadership role in the clubs, and Dr. Fred Corder assumed the presidency of the National and International clubs and relocated both trials to Dresden, Ohio, where they operated from 2010 through 2019. The trial was held on reclaimed strip-mined grounds. Dresden was a challenging venue with little mowing done to the courses and high, dense vegetation. The steep hills were a test of stamina for dog, horse, and man. With little amenities from the Ohio Wildlife Department, entries declined to the point that it was not feasible to continue in Dresden. The National Open was not conducted in 2020 but was resurrected in 2021 in Berea, Kentucky, at the Central Kentucky W.M.A. near Berea, where it was also contested in 2022.
There have been 54 different dogs to win the title of National Open Pheasant Champion. Only two have been setters--Rumson Farm Loch, ESM, in 1941 and Handicap Mike, ESM, in 1970. Seven pointer females have won the title, and 37 pointer males have been named champion. The title was withheld eight times, all being pointer males. Three of the winners also won the National Championship. Shore's Brownie Doone won the Pheasant title in 1948 and the National in 1953. He was handled by George Evans. Home Again Mike, handled by Fred Arant, was the Pheasant Champion in 1956 and the National Champion in 1960. The last to accomplish the feat was Lester's Shockwave, who captured both titles in 2022. Gary Lester handled.
There have been six dogs to be named Pheasant Open Champion in successive years. Village Boy, PM, handled by Glenn Davis, was the first in 1931 and 1932. Little Frenchman, PM, handled by P. A. Brousseau, accomplished the deed in 1961 and 1962. Tom Honecker piloted his pointer female, Cedaroak Bee Sting, to the titles in 2007 and 2008, the only female to be named in successive years. Handler Ray Warren joined the club when he guided Quester, PM, to the titles in 2011 and 2012. The only time that back-to-back double winners occurred was in 2013 and 2014 when White's Solid Reward, PM, handled by Lefty Henry, earned the titles. Sean Derrig made his mark with Erin's Redrum, PM, in 2018 and 2019 to become the last to date to be crowned in consecutive years. Two-time winner Tarheelia's Lucky Strike, PM, handled by Earl Crangle, won the gold in 1940 and 1943. Kilsyth Rusty Doone, PM, was named first in 1951 when the title was withheld and came back in 1952 to claim the crown. He was handled by George Evans. The only three-time winner of this event is Rumson Farm Hayride, PM, handled by Earl Crangle in 1953, 1957, and 1958. The only other female to win on two occasions is the pointer Sugarshack, handled by Bob Lamb in 1966 and 1968. The last of the two-time winners to date is True Confidence, PM, handled by Luke Eisenhart in 2015 and 2017.

When the National Open Pheasant was run at Berea, Kentucky, the entries were low, barely qualifying as a Purina Points trial. Dr. Corder began to look for a different venue. He had visited Hoffman the year before, and he was impressed with the grounds and the facilities. One problem would be releasing pheasants in a location where pheasants were not native. Dr. Corder approached a local sportsman and a member of the clubs sponsoring trials at Hoffman, John Ivester, with the proposition of running the National there. John contacted the North Carolina Fish and Game authorities, and with his assistance, an agreement was reached to allow pheasants to be released for the trial. With that understanding in hand, the move to Hoffman was activated.

The National Open Pheasant Championship's new home is in the 60,000-acre Sandhills Wildlife Management Area near Hoffman, North Carolina. The trial grounds are identified as the Robert Gordon Field Trial Grounds. The venue is simply known as Hoffman to the field trial community. It is the club's 9th location. Not only were these grounds a new venue, but pheasants were also released for the first time on these grounds. The Hoffman venue is surely one of the finest facilities for field trials nationwide. The amenities include a clubhouse that can easily accommodate 60 people with a full kitchen, a 54-stall barn, and an ample supply of outdoor horse pens. There are water hydrants located in strategic places where hoses do not have to be coupled together in order to reach every pen. There are even hydrants along the hallways in the barn! The dog pens are made in a circular pattern where a person can stand in one place and service the nine pens of each kennel. The six one-hour courses are equal in the places where a dog must handle and places the handler can show his dog on some of the long fields adjacent to and between the towering pine groves. Field trials and field trialers are welcomed at Hoffman. John Ivester hosted the third annual owners, handlers, and scouts' dinner at Beefeaters restaurant in Aberdeen. It was not only a delicious meal, but it was also a statement that Hoffman encourages people to enjoy Hoffman. Hopefully, the championship will remain here for many years.

The trial is a Purina Points trial for handler and top dog of the year and a National Championship qualifying stake. Purina stepped up again and sponsored the ad for the trial, and they also furnished Pro Plan for the winner and runner-up. Purina is an irreplaceable asset for field trials all across America. The trial is part of the All-Age and Derby Jamboree and was run on pre-released quail and pheasants. The Jamboree had an extra purse where the top points handler received a $5,000 bonus, and the top points dog's handler received the top dog trophy.
The drawing was held on October 20 at 6 p.m. at the Hoffman clubhouse on the grounds. The trial is sponsored by the National Open Pheasant Championship Club. The directors of the club are Dr. Fred Corder, Andy Cline, Mike Jackson, and William Smith. Thirty-six were drawn to compete--32 pointers and four setters. The competition started on Monday, October 30, and concluded on Wednesday, November 1.

The National Open Championship Clubs wishes to express our sincere thanks to the Richmond County Tourism Development Authority, North Carolina Game and Fish Authority, John Ivester, Carl Owens, Lee Crisco, manager of the field trial grounds, and all those who worked to make this venture a success. This scribe would also like to thank Bob Youngs for his help in replacing a bent axle on my trailer.
Michael Shears from Franklin, Tennessee, accepted the invitation to officiate. Michael and his Boxwood dogs have trialed extensively in the south and southeast. He has retired from his profession as a building contractor and now has more time to devote to field trials. He has judged many of the major trials in the U. S. and Canada. His decisions are always readily accepted. The next time you see Michael, ask him about the flagpole. It was my pleasure to fill the second judicial saddle to work with Michael.
Local resident Greg Robinson drove the dog wagon and supplied the treats between the braces. He also offered coffee, water, or carbonated drinks for the choosing. Greg knows all the shortcuts and byways to navigate the grounds, and he was always punctual. Marshaling duties were performed by Gary Miller, Lefty Henry, Bob Youngs, and Carl Owens. Carl was drafted early in the stake to marshal, and he "took right to it." All the marshals were very much appreciated for their service. Because Carl was drafted, he received an authentic marshal's badge, and he wore it with a smile. Rita Corder was the roustabout for the trial. She rode colts in the mornings and afternoons and prepared hot lunches at night to be served the next day. Everyone looked forward to the lunch hour. Tommi Smith helped organize lunch, warm the pre-prepared fare, and clean-up afterward.

Historically, the Canadian Prairie trials signaled the opening of the field trial season. Tragically, the Canadian trials have ceased to exist. Their history will be lost in only a very few years. Many field trialers today never had the opportunity to experience the prairies. What once was such a huge part of field trials is now only memories. In October, four qualifying trials were held back-to-back at Hoffman--the Tar Heel Championship, the Central Carolina Championship, the International Pheasant Championship, and the National Open Championship. With the demise of the Canadian trials, these four championships have been designated to herald the start of the field trial season. Four trials in succession would mean that the handlers would have to stay for an extended period of time. With this in mind, the idea of a Jamboree came into being. There were points awarded to the winning handlers and dogs. The handler with the most points, Luke Eisenhart, was awarded the $5,000 purse, and Haney's All In received the top dog trophy.

To finance the Jamboree, Carl Owens took the bull by the horns and solicited sponsors. Eighteen promoters answered the call: Mule City Delivers, Four M of Doerun, Georgia, Chad Adams & Son Stables, Daniels Kennels, Trachaven Kennels, Ike and Marty Todd, Claudia McNamee in memory of Bill McNamee, The Company White Dogs, Purina, Carl Owens Contracting, Red Hill Kennel, Crosscountry Kennels, High Tailin' It Setters, Robyn Branch Design, Quail Woods Farm, Camp Hatteras, Hog Slat, and Long Leaf Dry-Mix products. Thanks to these donors and Carl's efforts, the Jamboree was well-financed and successful.

The Running
Brace No. 1
Game Heir, handled by his owner, Dr. Fred Corder, was scouted by Calvin Curnutte. Bonner's Bulletproof, handled by Randy Anderson and scouted by Bridgett Ledington, began the action at 8:03 a.m. The temperature stood at 61 degrees when the call to "let 'em go" was heard. Both dogs started at a fast pace, going away through the pines. Both handlers rode at a canter to get to their dog before the sand road crossing. Corder's cap was in the air at 14, with Heir standing in the sage grass at the edge of the pines. Corder put a large quail covey to flight with Heir's manners unquestioned. Proof was far to the front when Heir caught up. Both handlers pointed out their dogs as they roamed through the hills. Curnutte found Heir standing at 46, looking into a dense thicket. Corder could not put anything in the air after a searching relocation failed, and Heir was credited with an unproductive stand. Anderson called point for Proof at the 59-minute mark. Heir was backing. Proof's stand was barren, and the brace ended.

Brace No. 2
Luke Eisenhart piloted Rentz's Hijacked, and Judd Carlton assisted. The bottom dog was Painted Owyhee Toad, handled by his owner, Bridgett Ledington, with help from Randy Anderson. Hijacked's race was short, and he was harnessed at 24. Toad had a nice find at 21 and stood mannerly when the covey exploded out of the thicket. He began to quarter after his find, and he was picked up at 34.

Brace No. 3
Lefty Henry handled Southern Nation for owner John Ivester, who was riding in the dog wagon to watch the action. Nation was scouted by Jerry Raynor. Erin's Perfect Storm was scouted by Judd Carlton, with Luke Eisenhart handling. Nation started strong and had Henry riding high in the saddle to keep him in sight. Henry called point at 13, but Nation indicated he was not sure he had them located, and Henry whistled him up. Nation made a short cast in the area and then went on ahead. He was absent for some time, and Henry took the tracker at 50. Storm was standing at the 5-minute mark, and Eisenhart put the first pheasant of the day into the air. Storm was running hard as he was pointed out, going over the next hills and through the lowland, always to the front. He was styled up again at 23. Henry saw Storm standing in a feed patch and alerted Eisenhart. Storm had hit the scent hard as he evidently passed it. His head was turned around as far as he could, with his body solid. Eisenhart finally put a running pheasant to flight. After that find, he seemed to quicken his pace, and when he was seen, he was always at a far distance to the front. He made a huge swing at about the 50-minute mark, and the scout was sent into the thick pines where Storm was last seen. Eisenhart had confidence that Storm would make the turn, and he kept riding and calling. His faith was rewarded when Storm crossed ahead of Eisenhart, and time was called to end the brace. Storm was the first dog with two pheasant finds.

Brace No. 4
Judd and Luke traded positions, with Judd handling Miller's Heat Advisory and Luke scouting. Touch's Breakaway Fred was handled by Mark McLean with help from Jerry Raynor. It was hot--83 degrees--when the brace began. Advisory stayed to the front at a good range, with Judd riding to keep him in sight. He was standing at 43 in the path, looking ahead to the edge of a small thicket. The quail were running, and Judd put them to wing with Advisory staunch at wing and shot. He was standing again at 49, and Judd flushed a single quail. Advisory stood unmoving at the shot. Judd continued to work hard to keep in touch with Advisory, but Advisory was out of pocket at pick up. His finish did not meet all-age standards. Fred was out of pocket from the breakaway; McLean took the tracker at 34 when Fred came in from the side and was extremely hot.

Brace No. 5
One of the Louisiana entries was Rester's Johnny Ringo, piloted by Luke Eisenhart and assisted by Judd Carlton. Ringo's bracemate was the setter Woodville's Yukon Cornelius, handled by Mark McLean with help from Jerry Raynor. Ringo suffered a breach of manners at 29, and he was picked up. Cornelius started strong, going away to the front. McLean continued to show Cornelius at true all-age distance. Raynor found Cornelius standing at the edge of a food patch at 19. McLean flew the large covey, and Cornelius remained staunch at wing and shot. McLean called point for Cornelius at 29 and called flight of the birds as the judiciary approached. The quail were seen officially. Cornelius continued to impress with his speed and distance until the brace ended, but he was not credited with any other bird work.

Brace No. 6
Rester's Cajun Spirit was the top dog, and he was handled by Judd Carlton and scouted by Luke Eisenhart. Randy Anderson scratched Valiant Sunrise because of a health concern. Spirit made a courageous effort, but the heat took a toll on him, and Judd humanely picked him up at 34.

Brace No. 7
Randy Anderson was back to handle Miller's White Out, and Bridgett Ledington was back in action as the scout. Woodville's Saddle Tramp completed the brace, with Mark McLean handling with help from Jerry Raynor. White Out was on the board at 8 with a nice find. He kept Anderson and Ledington busy as he roamed over the vast course. He was standing at 40, and a rabbit was seen leaving the vicinity after White Out attempted a relocation. He didn't want to quit when time was called, and it took about 11 minutes before he was corralled. Tramp was quickly out of sight and was not spotted until the 24-minute mark. He was standing facing a large food patch. When McLean went in to flush, Tramp indicated he didn't have them located exactly. He was asked to relocate, and in his zeal, he got too close to a large quail covey.

Brace No. 8
Mark McLean handled Aucilla Jim and Jerry Raynor scouted. Game Surge, handled by his owner, Dr. Fred Corder, completed the pairing with help from Calvin Curnutte when needed. Aucilla Jim didn't want to play today, and after an extended absence, McLean took the tracker at 6. Surge made his presence known early when he scored a pheasant find at 16 in a sage grass plot near a sand road. Surge continued to run to the front at the all-age range, and Corder let him go. He was seen where he needed to be when he needed to be seen. He was scouted very little, and he impressed with his speed and his range. He was standing again at 45, looking into a small thicket, and Corder put another pheasant to wing with no exception taken to Surge's manners. He finished his bid going away when time was called, and he was seen by both judges at that time. Corder went into the pines to retrieve Surge, and the call of point was heard. The judges sent word that Surge had been seen when time was called and to pick the dog up. He was the second dog with two pheasant finds.

Brace No. 9
The top dog, I'm Gallant, was directed by Randy Anderson with help from Bridgett Ledington when needed. Lester's Storm Chaser was handled by Lefty Henry for owner John Ivester, who rode to support his entry. Judd Carlton scouted. Gallant scored a back at 14 and another at 38. Anderson decided he wasn't making any money and put Gallant in a harness at 40. Chaser was standing at 5, and after an extended relocation Henry decided to take a barren stand and go ahead. He scored a nice quail covey find at 14 in a feed patch with Gallant backing. He was credited with his second unproductive stand at 38 that ended his bid.

Brace No. 10
The setter male, Erin's Wild Atlantic Way, was handled by Luke Eisenhart, with Judd Carlton performing the scouting duties. Mark McLean handled Touch's Midnight Rider and was assisted by Jerry Raynor. Way got down to business quickly with a covey find at 3. Two minutes later, he scored a find on a single quail. After his second find, he disappeared, and Eisenhart took the tracker at 29. Rider backed Way at 3, and then he, too, decided to go his separate way. McLean took the tracker at 44.

Brace No. 11 kicked off with Touch's Fire Away, handled by Randy Anderson, braced with Supreme Confidence, handled by Luke Eisenhart. Bridgett Ledington scouted Fire Away, and Judd Carlton scouted Confidence. Away scored a pheasant find at two minutes into the brace. He was standing at 30, and when Anderson shot, Away broke, ending his chances. Confidence had a nice covey find at 30. He was running to the front, handling easily for Eisenhart. He was standing at 50, but the relocation failed to find any feathers, and he was taken up.

Brace No. 12
Sweet Grass Skipper, handled by Jerry Raynor with help from Mark McLean, and No Strings Attached, handled by Randy Anderson, were paired. Bridgett Ledington scouted Attached. Skipper had a covey find at 7, but the temptation was too much when the covey left, and Skipper went with them. A brisk wind was blowing, and a light rain was falling, with temperatures also falling when Attached pointed at 22. The stand was barren, and Anderson decided to get Attached out of the weather.

Brace No. 13
Randy Anderson was back with Touch's Cocaine Blues, and Bridgett Ledington again scouting. Rester's Cajun Justice was handled by Luke Eisenhart and scouted by Judd Carlton. The mercury stood at 41 degrees at kick-off time, and there were no short-sleeved shirts visible this morning. Blues hunted the likely places, but Lady Luck was not with him today. Anderson threw in the towel at 44. Justice was not in the mood to run today, and he was harnessed at 24.

Brace No. 14
Erin's High Note was directed by Judd Carlton, and Luke Eisenhart assisted. Haney's All In was handled by Mark McLean with help from Jerry Raynor. Carlton had his hands full with the wide-ranging Note. Note's race was powerful as he hunted over the chilly venue. He was standing at 45 in high sage grass. When Carlton flew the large covey, Note could not resist the temptation to go with them. All In covered a lot of territory in his quest to find the elusive game this morning. McLean rode the front, exhibiting the faith he had in All In. He gave it a valiant effort, but he was not successful in finding game. He finished the hour with no bird work, and McLean had to ride for him at pick up.

Brace No. 15
Nighthawk's Rebel, handled by Luke Eisenhart with assistance from Judd Carlton, and Touch's Gallatin Fire, handled by Mark McLean with help from Jerry Raynor, comprised the 15th brace. Rebel was quick off the mark as he ranged ahead out of sight over the next hill. He was seen at 30 as he entered the big loop on course 6. He was not seen again until 42, and Eisenhart decided to pick him up at that point. Fire started to the left tree line edge, and Eisenhart alerted McLean that Fire was standing in the wood's edge at 3. Fire was solid when the covey flew, and the shot was fired. Fire's range was markedly shorter than his normal race. McLean tried to get him to run but without success. Fire was collared at 14.

Brace No. 16
Eisenhart handled Erin's Code of Honor and was assisted again by Judd Carlton. Mark McLean handled Touch's Shadow Rider with assistance when needed by Jerry Raynor. Honor was picked up at 30 when his race began to shorten. Rider suffered a barren stand at 3 and was taken up.

Brace No. 17
Slick Water Frac was scouted by Bridgett Ledington and handled by Randy Anderson. The second dog was Notorious Dominator's Heir, handled by Judd Carlton and scouted by Luke Eisenhart. Frac was harnessed at 19 when his race was not suiting. Heir had been absent for some time, and Carlton took the tracker at 47. When Carlton found Heir, he had been struck by a highway vehicle and was killed. It is always a tragic occurrence when something like this happens. Our condolences went out to Judd Carlton and Heir's owner, John Mathys, for this heartbreaking incident.

Brace No. 18 was the concluding brace of the trial. The veteran, Touch's Malcolm Story, was handled by Mark McLean with help from Jerry Raynor, and Knight Moon was handled by Luke Eisenhart and scouted by Fred Corder. Story was standing at 10. A relocation was called for, but Story went on ahead and then was picked up. Moon was absent, and Eisenhart took the tracker at 30.

The Winner
When the dust had settled, 3-year-old Game Surge, handled by his owner, Fred Corder, was named the 2023 National Open Pheasant champion. His race was powerful, and to the front for the entire 60 minutes, he was lightly scouted. His two pheasant finds were textbook and, without any exception, taken to his manners.

Luke Eisenhart handled the coming 4-year-old Erin's Perfect Storm for owner Brad Woodie of Waxhaw, North Carolina, to the runner-up champion spot. His race was also a front-running power display. He connected on two pheasants with style and manners impeachable.

The merits of each dog's performance were discussed at length by the judges. There was very little that separated these two, but a decision had to be made, and the nod went to Game Surge. There were three other dogs that deserve to be mentioned. Miller's Heat Advisory, handled by Judd Carlton, carded two finds and ran an all-age race. His finish did not meet the all-age standards. Mark McLean handled two setters belonging to Carl Owens. Woodville's Yukon Cornelius also carded two finds, and his performance would have placed him first in another trial on another day. Woodville's Saddle Tramp was not seen after the breakaway until the 24-minute mark. He was dead to the front, standing on the edge of a feed patch. His style was a picture book. When McLean was flushing, he asked Tramp to relocate. Tramp went a little too fast and got a little too close and put the birds to wing, ending the possibility of a promising performance.

Hoffman, N. C., October 30
Judges: Michael Shears and William Smith
NATIONAL OPEN PHEASANT CHAMPIONSHIP [One-Hour Heats] - 32 Pointers and 4 Setters

Winner-GAME SURGE, 1700091, pointer male, by Lester's Storm Surge-Game Maggie. Fred Corder, owner and handler.
Runner-Up-ERIN'S PERFECT STORM, 1692323, pointer male, by Chelsea's Thunder Bolt-Erin's Bet On Me. Brad Woodie, owner; Luke Eisenhart, handler.