Result: Quail Championship Invitational
Location: Kevil, Kentucky
Post Date: Jan 30, 2024
Submitted By: Alaina Berendzen & Mary Sue Schalk
Quail Championship Invitational Winners (standing, l-r): Alan Benson, Dennis Sneed, Stan Wint (judge), Luke Eisenhart (handler), Michael Kennedy (judge), Mike Crouse (judge), Mary Sue Schalk, Vincent Major (dog wagon drive), Randy Anderson (handler), Jay Lewis, Alaina Berendzen (reporter), and Eddie Berendzen (scout). (Kneeling): Judd Carlton (scout) with Erin's Code of Honor and Bridget Ledington Bonner's Bulletproof.
The history of the Quail Championship Invitational is rich with exceptional dogs and people. With the inaugural running held in December of 1940 in Albany, Georgia, albeit a 22-year break and a change in venue, to the 60th running held in November of 2023 in Kevil, Kentucky, the performances never cease to amaze and excite those who love a good bird dog.
With a points system in place, the club invites the top 12 performers to Paducah, Kentucky, to compete on the West Kentucky Wildlife Area Management grounds. The format would be the same as the '41 and '42 events. The dogs would compete in one-hour heats on successive days in the qualifying series. Then the dogs called back on the third day would run for two hours in the final series. Currently, the Invitational is the only championship that requires a four-hour performance in a three-day period.
The winner of the Quail Championship Invitational must demonstrate the requisite qualities of the all-age class at a high level. The Invitational winner must:
* Hunt boldly and independently throughout--should not require excessive direction from the handler,
* Demonstrate qualities of the finished dog by consistent coursing to logical objectives, responsiveness to the handler, and maintaining a forward pattern,
* Exhibit strength, courage, and an unquenchable desire to find game regardless of cover conditions--not simply choosing the easy path but hunting through habitat likely to hold game,
* Exhibit style, speed, and stamina in action,
* Handle game correctly--locate and point quickly and accurately using body, not ground scent, back without caution, be steady,
* Demonstrate extreme character and finish around game--style, intensity, location, and polish--must not show softness or apprehension.
The Quail Championship Invitational seeks to identify the epitome of the open all-age class of dogs, an individual with strength, courage, intelligence, and character at the highest level. A flawless performance of pedestrian quality should not be favored over one that, although imperfect, thrills with the magnitude of the effort. Above all else, the Invitational seeks to identify the endurance performer. If the judges are, to any extent, uncertain of the ability of an individual to continue at an all-age level of performance, then that dog should not be recognized as the Invitational champion.
(The Invitational Champions, John Russell pg. xii)
The Quail Championship Invitational returned to the West Kentucky Wildlife Management Area at Paducah, Kentucky, on November 25. The West Kentucky Field Trial Club again hosted the running. Mary Sue Schalk, in addition to being the chairwoman of the Invitational, is also the club president. Mike Crouse is the vice president. The father/daughter team keeps the wheels running to ensure the trial runs smoothly. The club roster identifies the remaining members as Alan Benson, Don Wiggins, Michael Kennedy, B. J. Wright, Don Wiggins, Greg Veatch, Vincent Major, Gary Lester, Sarah Clary, Cora Clary, and Joe Hopkins.
The trial is a Purina Handler of the Year and a Top Dog Award points trial. It is also a National Championship qualifier. The drawing was held Friday, November 24, at 6 p.m., at the clubhouse, and the 10 pointer males, one pointer female, and one setter male were paired for the two-qualifying days of running.
Purina has been a consistent sponsor of this prestigious event for many years. Greg Blair coordinates Purina's donation of Pro Plan--eight bags to the new champion and four bags to the runner-up. Purina's generosity is one of the reasons for the longevity of this significant and respected event. Thank you seems too little to say when Purina does so much for field trials.
SportDOG was the exclusive electronic dog trainer device sponsor this year. Our thanks go to Gretchen Goodson of SportDOG for making these trainers available for our use. Both winning handlers were awarded their choice of the products donated.
Vincent Major added a unique touch for the second consecutive year, providing leather works for both the champion and runner-up. Collars and leashes for both dogs and spur straps for the scouts. He once again made judges' and marshals' gifts, which were holsters and water bottle holders. He is a gem to the event and the West Kentucky Field Trial Club.
Tim Khrer manages the West Kentucky Wildlife Management Area. His workforce currently consists of only himself and one tech, and as with other industries, employees are hard to come by. Their efforts to have the courses groomed and ready for the trial were exceptional. They were commended for their hard work.
As president, Mary Sue is responsible for the success of the trial, but she gives credit to all who share in the duties. She makes every effort to ensure the success of the trial. She readily accepts the responsibility that comes with her position. She stated that her objective was to honor and respect everyone who comes to the trial whether as a participant or someone who just rides in the gallery. The Invitational is for people who love horseback field trials, and the Invitational is one of the greatest events in the history of field trials.
Mary Sue Schalk served as the head marshal, keeping us on the correct path. His service was invaluable. Alan Benson, Don Wiggins, and Dennis Sneed helped with marshaling duties. They shadowed judges to make sure he was reunited with the judging panel if he was behind for any reason.
Nathan Berendzen served as the rear marshal. He went with a handler to find a wayward dog to make sure the handler was able to find his way back to headquarters. He also helped ensure that the gallery stayed on pace with the lead.
Vincent Major served as the dog wagon driver for the second consecutive year. Vincent was very popular not only because he was punctual in having the dogs at the right place but also because he had hot coffee and snacks. Punctual and efficient, an excellent dog wagon driver!
Dr. Stan Wint returned from Gardner, Kansas, to complete his term as an arbiter of this event. He has been involved with bird dogs and field trials for over 30 years. He began his career in walking dog stakes and won his first championship in 1992. He has adjudicated in NBHA trials as well as horseback shooting dog and all-age American Field trials. He also served on the judges panel for the National Championship and other prestigious events. His experience and desire to recognize the qualities of an Invitational champion made him highly qualified to fill a judicial saddle.
This year, Mike Crouse of Dixon, Kentucky, was added to the judges' panel. A no-brainer when creating a judges' team, he was a welcome addition. Crouse has over 50 years of bird dog and field trial experience. Competing as an amateur across the country, winning championships, judging championships, hosting events, and marshaling the Quail Championship Invitational year in and year out are only a few of the pieces of his r sum . He continues to give to the sport, adding a National Bird Hunters Association field trial event on his farm this fall, and looks forward to hosting the event annually. His commitment, knowledge, and passion for the sport make him overly qualified to judge this championship.
Michael Kennedy from Opelika, Alabama, rounded out the judicial panel. His introduction to bird dogs was when he began to hunt with his own walking dogs. He has trained his own dogs for over twenty years. His field trial involvement was interrupted to dedicate his time to his wife and three young children. He has since been very active in field trials and has participated in all areas of administration and responsibility. His judging assignments have taken him outside Alabama. Some of the major championships he has judged are the Kentucky Shooting Dog Championship, the Kentucky Quail Classic, the NBHA National Amateur Championship, the ABHA Free-For-All, and many weekend trials. His experience well qualifies him for this assignment.
The dogs that accepted invitations were:
Miller's Blindsider, reigning National Champion, owned by Nick Berrong and handled by Jamie Daniels
Haney's Storm Warning, reigning Invitational Champion, handled by his owner, Chris Cagle
Erin's Code of Honor, owned by Allen Linder, handled by Luke Eisenhart
Touch's Fire Away, owned by Dr. Greg and Carmen Adams, handled by Randy Anderson
Miller's Heat Advisory, owned by John Mathys, handled by Judd Carlton
Game Heir, handled by his owner, Dr. Fred Corder
Erin's High Note, owned by Mike Sweet, handled by Judd Carlton
Barshoe Forget Me Not, owned by Robert Gum, handled by Allen Vincent
Miller's Speed Dial, owned by Mick Marietta, handled by Randy Anderson
Erin's Wild Atlantic Way, owned by Sean Derrig, handled by Luke Eisenhart
Nighthawk's Rebel, owned by Long Pine Plantation, handled by Luke Eisenhart
Bonner's Bulletproof, owned by Chris Cornman, handled by Randy Anderson
Participants, guests, and volunteers were happy to return to the clubhouse on Friday, November 24, for a sumptuous meal, "Southern Style," catered by Byron and Farrah Caldwell. Dinner included greens, ham, beans, cornbread, and bread pudding. The silent auction has become a tradition to offset costs for the three events and would not be possible without contributions from businesses and individuals. This year, we had several contributors, including Dogs Unlimited, Gun Dog Supply, Upland Addiction, Judd Woodward, Vincent Major, Matt Schalk, Bruce Hawkins, Mike Crouse, and SportDOG. The proceeds of the auction provide financial assistance for the operation of the trial. Thank you all for your generosity.
The evening concluded with the drawing for the Quail Championship Invitational conducted by Mary Sue Schalk. Conducted with order and precision, Mary Sue was assisted by Cody Duncan, an attorney from the Nashville area. Cody and his father, Chip, helped prepare for and conduct the drawing, handling the minute details of typing the running order and completing judges' books. A much welcome assistance for a tedious task!
The Running of the Quail Championship Invitational
The 2023 Quail Championship Invitational began Saturday, November 25, 2023, at 7:30 a.m. The wind was sharp, and the temperature cold, but the sun was high in the sky to pour out onto us to keep us warm. The horses were feeling the cool air all around and danced with anticipation for the event of the day. We began at the clubhouse at 7:30 with a reminder of the rules and the introductions of the judges and marshals. We had a moment of silence for the ones who had gone before us as the dogs yapped on the dog wagon. Mary Sue Schalk, the trial chairman, blessed us with a prayer, and then we were off to the starting line. The two dogs were Miller's Speed Dial, run by Randy Anderson, and Barshoe Forget Me Not, run by Allen Vincent. The judges decided they were ready when the handlers were. With a whistle, both dogs shot out of the front, running hard and straight on course. The handlers continued on the mowed path as both scouts mounted their horses and rounded to the right to try and get an advantage to see where the dogs traveled. At 20, Speed Dial was found on point to the left of the course. Speed Dial was buried deep into a brush pile with his tail standing high. Randy dove in to flush the birds. Anticipation grows as Randy tries to navigate through the tightly packed brush. He decides to find his way out and relocate Speed Dial. No birds were found, and Speed Dial was taken on to run a good race, and no more finds. While Speed Dial was on point, Forget Me Not had hit his edges immediately with his nose inches from the ground. Forget Me Not had a find simultaneously to Speed Dial, just before the first creek crossing on the left, and birds were found. Forget Me Not came into the Handicap Lake field and immediately hit the edge, nose to the ground, in search of birds to show off his skills. We hit 3 minutes to go just as we crossed the railroad tracks. Scouts and handlers went right and came back for a successful pick-up time at time.
After coffee and a few far-fetched stories were told, we got back on to start the second brace. This time, we had Bonner's Bulletproof, run by Randy Anderson, and Haney's Storm Warning, run by Chris Cagle, going against one another. Both dogs began the race, running big. Bonner's Bulletproof was gone for 15, came back with a vengeance to find some birds. He ran hard to the front, hitting his edges. He was gone again and was later found hunting the rows of the power line field. He had a find at 56, and he stood as Randy got off, and the birds flew immediately. Storm Warning expressed his all-age abilities. He had been gone for a while, and then the gallery was able to see him back on the powerline field, making a big swing to stay on the course. The judges called time, the dogs were picked up, and the gallery meandered over to hear some more lies and stretch our legs. The sun was getting higher, and the sun was baking down harder, making the cold feel much more bearable.
The third brace before lunch began with Erin's Code of Honor, run by Luke Eisenhart, and Game Heir, run by Fred Corder. Both dogs rolled through the sunflower, making for a beautiful all-age cast. Game Heir had a find, and birds flew. As we all rode through the powerline field, the scout behind the gallery called point. Everyone was shocked; no one had seen him for a while, and we all had ridden by him on point. Luke came back and flushed, and birds flew. You could hear their wings flapping, making a rush of wind. Code of Honor had another find at 17 right off a finger of the woods in the field. He stood beautifully, carefully watching and waiting for the covey to boil out at any minute. He was right, and the covey sure did boil from what seemed right out of the ground. Code of Honor was taken on and had another find at time, and everything was in order. On the third and final day, he will be named champion.
As we got fresh horses and our bellies full, we rode to the line to start the second half of the day. With the sun out, the day was still comfortable. The fresh horses stood at the starting line to soak in the warmth of the sun. The fourth brace of the day consisted of Erin's Wild Atlantic Way, run by Luke Eisenhart, and Miller's Blindsider, run by Jamie Daniels. Atlantic Way had a find before the creek and had his nose pointed at the ground as if showing exactly where the birds were. Birds flew, and he stood. He was taken on but may have shown his all-age genes too well, and Luke ended up picking up the tracker. Blindsider had a big race. He stayed to the front and was seen occasionally on the edges of the next field. He had no birds that the gallery nor judges could see. We concluded the brace and settled in for a break while the next handlers retrieved their dogs from the wagon.
With Touch's Fire Away, run by Randy Anderson, and Miller's Heat Advisory, run by Judd Carlton, on the line, the brace began with a whistle and the faint "beeps" of watches starting their stopwatches. Fire Away had been out hunting and was found on point. Randy went to flush and found a dead quail under Fire Away's nose. Fire Away had another find at time of 40 right into the power line field with his head perpendicular to his body. Randy had a hard time finding the birds, so he relocated Fire Away. He pointed again, but no birds were found to flush. Heat Advisory made big casts in every field. He had a huge race that may have cost him to have been gone too long.
As the sun was getting closer to the tree line, the last brace of the day began with Nighthawk's Rebel, run by Luke Eisenhart, and Erin's High Note, run by Judd Carlton. Rebel had a fast find in the powerline field by a lone tree. Birds were flushed; they flew up and made the trees look as though they were full of leaves again. At the sunflower field, Rebel took a hard left and hit the edge running. High Note ran a big all-age race and hunted the perimeter of every field in hopes of finding hidden birds. He was successful at 55. He stood like a sculpted statue as a quail traveled around his head. This was the end of day one. Everyone went home to begin their speculations on who would be named the champion.
Sunday, November 26, 2023, started with a downpour, and the temperature dropped from the day before. As everyone says, it wouldn't be the Invitational without some kind of weather. Everyone geared up in their warmest and driest rain gear to see the six best dogs perform on day two. With the rain coming down and the harsh wind threatening to make us colder, we started day two with another blessing from Mary Sue over us and Erin's High Note, run by Judd Carlton. High Note had a find at the handicap lake field, which was successful with birds. High Note had a great all-age race and showed just why he was qualified to be there.
Touch's Fire Away, run by Randy Anderson, and Miller's Blindsider, run by Jamie Daniels, started our second brace of the second day. Blindsider had a find with birds that flew straight over his head. After his find, he showed his all-age qualities too well and Jamie was forced to take the tracker. Fire Away had a successful back to Blindsider's find. Fire Away later had a find in the high line field. He stood great as the birds were flushed. He had a good race, ran his edges, and responded when it mattered the most.
Miller's Heat advisory, run by Judd Carlton, ran too big and had to be found via tracker in the third brace before lunch. Nighthawk's Rebel, run by Luke Eisenhart, had a great all-age race but had no luck finding birds.
The rain went away over lunch, and that cool breeze came to stay. The sun never made an appearance, making that cool breeze more vicious. Bonner's Bulletproof, run by Randy Anderson, and Erin's Code of Honor, run by Luke Eisenhart, stood shivering at the starting line. Some say it was the nerves and excitement causing them to shake, while others claim it to be the brutal weather that was bestowed upon us. Code of Honor had a find right after we crossed the road, and the birds were home. He exemplified his all-age qualities with his race. Bulletproof had a successful back to Code of Honor's find. Bulletproof had many big, wide casts, coming back just at the right times.
Up next for the fifth brace of the day was Barshoe Forget Me Not, run by Allen Vincent, and Game Heir, run by Fred Corder. Forget Me Not hit his edges hard and kept running. He had a find at the time of 41, and birds flew as Allen flushed them up. Game Heir had a find at 24 with his eyes fixed on the ground where a dead quail was found. Game Heir ran big, and Corder decided to pick him up early.
The last brace of the day consisted of Haney's Storm Warning, run by Chris Cagle, braced with Miller's Speed Dial, run by Randy Anderson. At the time of 13, Speed Dial had a find. The course goes straight, and Speed Dial was on the left frozen with a flagpole for a tail and facing exactly where the birds were. The birds were flushed, and he stood frozen, watching them fill the sky. As we entered the pond field, Speed Dial was on point, and birds flew. Storm Warning had a successful back to this find, and he stood tall with style. Speed Dial had another find right after the pond field, and he stood as if paralyzed as the birds flew. We finished the day just about frozen. The dogs were loaded, and the gallery went to the barns as the judges discussed their decision for the last and final day.
Everyone gathered at the clubhouse for Mary Sue to receive the official paper from the judges reading who the callback dogs would be. Once everyone was there, she read Barshoe Forget Me Not, run by Allen Vincent, and Code of Honor, run by Luke Eisenhart, for the first brace. For the second brace, it was Erin's High Note, run by Judd Carlton, and Bonner's Bulletproof, run by Randy Anderson. The standby dogs were Nighthawk's Rebel, run by Luke Eisenhart, and Speed Dial, run by Randy Anderson. We all went home that night to try and get some sleep before the final day.
The final day had come. The gallery's breath left hanging in the sky at the starting line as the crowd buzzed with anticipation. Who would be the best of the best? Who would be the champion? At the line was Barshoe Forget Me Not and Code of Honor. They were off at the chirp of a whistle. Both dogs blew out the front end, Forget Me Not showing her all-age abilities too well and cost him. Vincent picked up his tracker and went to find his dog. Code of Honor kept on rolling to the front. He had a find at 33; birds flew, and he stood as they toppled over him. At 1:42, Code of Honor had another find just before the powerplant fields. Quail decided to make an appearance, and Code of Honor welcomed them as he stood with his feet planted. Time was called, and Code of Honor was on point. His tail still standing tall and strong after two hours of a pure all-age race, he was rewarded with a covey of quail flocking over him. He had a great all-age race and the edges in search of quail very well. He stuck to the front and only checking in when necessary. A gutty performance over the course of three days, this is who the 2023 Quail Champion Invitational judges would name champion.
The second brace was run by Erin's High Note and Bonner's Bulletproof. Bulletproof had a nice find at 9 and was backed successfully by High Note; there were birds flushed. Bulletproof took a cut and was unseen for a while; he came back two fields after we had last seen him. He had a find at 1:01, and the birds were far ahead on an edge. At 1:07, the two dogs had a divided find. Birds were found. Bulletproof had a nice race and seemed to be hunting every time he was visible. This is the runner-up champion of the Quail Champion Invitational of 2023.
Chairman Schalk graciously concluded the Invitational for 2023 with appropriate thanks to many and then announced our new champion, Erin's Code of Honor, owned by Allen Linder and handled by Luke Eisenhart, scouted by Judd Carlton. Named runner-up champion was Bonner's Bulletproof, owned by Chris Cornman and handled by Randy Anderson, scouted by Eddie Berendzen.
Another great test on tough grounds produced a memorable field trial. As always, many memories were made, stories told, and connections made.
A field trial is a great game that cannot be permanently won or lost, only played. It is a test...
Until next year.
Kevil, Ky., November 25
Judges: Mike Crouse, Michael Kennedy, and Dr. Stan Wint
QUAIL CHAMPIONSHIP INVITATIONAL [One-Hour Qualifying Heats on Consecutive Days; Two-Hour Finals] -- 12 Pointers
Winner-ERIN'S CODE OF HONOR, 1696057, pointer male, by Erin's Redrum-Erin's Miss Maggie. Allen Linder, owner; Luke Eisenhart, handler.
Runner-Up-BONNER'S BULLETPROOF, 1683585, pointer male, by Miller's Speed Dial-Miller's Martha White. Chris Cornman, owner; Randy Anderson, handler.
Judges (l-r): Mike Crouse, Michael Kennedy, and Stan Wint.