Now accepting Hall of Fame nominations! See news section for more details.

I Accept

United Kennel Club (UKC) is an international dog registry celebrating bonds, rewarding ability, and preserving the value of a pedigree. We use cookies to capture information such as IP addresses and tailor the website to our clients' needs. We also use this information to target and measure promotional material. Please see our Privacy Policy for more information.

Skip to main content
Facebook Instagram YouTube

Result: Michigan Open Shooting Dog Championship

Location: Ionia, Michigan

Post Date: May 15, 2024

Submitted By: Joe Guzman

Michigan SD ChS24

Michigan Open Shooting Dog Championship (front, l-r): Billy Stewart with Thunderbolt's Storm (champion), Blake Rizzo with Thunder Bolt's Wild Agin (runner-up), and Jim Cipponeri. (Behind): Mark Johnson (judge), Ron Williams, Shawn Kinkelaar, Joe Guzman (judge), Diane Vater (hiding), and Chuck Cooper.

The 2024 running of the Michigan Open Shooting Dog Championship was held as scheduled upon the conclusion of the Region 13 Amateur Shooting Dog Championship on April 15. This followed the club taking a one-year hiatus from hosting the year's final Purina points championship of the season. The traditional entry numbers have declined over the past several years due to a variety of reasons (I will offer an opinion on some of those in the postscript), but the tradition of hosting on a great venue with ample bird counts, great camaraderie, and good quality judges provided a great opportunity for all to show their dogs. Thirty starters were drawn for the Championship and 10 for the 45-minute Derby Classic. The trial ran smoothly, as expected from trial chairman and club president Jim Cipponeri. Jim is an original founding member and has been in attendance for every running under the banner of the Michigan Open Shooting Dog Championship Club. He is supported by your scribe, Joe Guzman, as club secretary and treasurer (20+ years), and club members Ron Williams, dog truck driver, cook, and all-around support, and Richard Lipski, bird planter and on-course dog box driver. Many other usual suspects were on hand to help where needed, including Blake Rizzo, Kelsey Hajek, Paul Renius, Kathryn Lipski, and Tom Winters. Without everyone's help, it would be impossible to run this caliber trial.

This was the 45th running of this prestigious event on these grounds and was supported by a wide cast of professionals and amateurs from six different states and Ontario. Dr. Allen Dunbar provided a great spaghetti dinner in the clubhouse on Saturday. It was attended by all from the Region 13 and Michigan Championships and enjoyed by all. The traditional "Derby Winner" pizza dinner at Olivera's and a night out at the local Mexican place were well attended, and the evening highlights during the trial. Everyone had a really good time.

The weather held up well for the entire running, but all the participants kept an eye on the forecast and helped expedite things for the impending storm. Temps ranged from the upper 30s to the upper 60s with mixed clouds and sun. The Championship started Monday afternoon following the Derby and concluded within a couple of hours of the skies opening on Wednesday afternoon with high winds, horizontal rains, and lightning. One benefit of the 'gulley washer' was that it cleaned the parking lot and camping places. For the balance of the clean-up, we owe credit to Blake Rizzo for the barn and tractor work, as well as Jim and Connie Cipponeri for the clubhouse and all the other tasks around the grounds. It's a thankless job but always necessary.

The stake began as always with the running of the 45-minute Derby Classic and was judged this year by Blake Rizzo and Tom Vanecek, both from Michigan and with years of experience on these grounds from the judicial saddle. The winner emerged from the final brace, Glenmere's Silver Roo, capably handled by his owner, Jeff Haggis of Ontario, Canada. Roo's ground application was fast, forward, well-mannered, and in contact with his handler. This maturity is what set him apart from the runner-up. Roo had one find on the gravel pit portion of the course with applicable derby manners to seal his title and the opportunity for his owner to buy the traditional pizza dinner. Many thanks to Jeff for continuing the tradition and being a good sport!
The runner-up, Windfall Mackinaw Straights, ran as a bye-dog in the fourth brace; he was handled by his owner, Joe Guzman. "Mac" was a handful right from the start as he took the line to the north and west and cut through to Logan's lookout, where he was found by scout on point. After producing the bird with all in order, he was gathered up and started back to the south. He had four more finds with a derby bobble on the fourth but regained perfect form on the last. His race was big and on the edge of the lunatic fringe. Birds were the only thing stopping him and allowing his handler to hang on, which separated him from the winner.
The birds for this stake, mixed with holdovers from previous trials this season, made it difficult for all the dogs. Young, well-flight-conditioned birds are hard to come by at this time of the year, and not all fly well. This made flushing difficult for the handlers, and the temptation on their charges was high!

The Championship was judged this year by Mark Johnson from Winnebago, Illinois (for the third time!) and Joe Guzman from Millersburg, Michigan. The Club feels very fortunate to secure a judge with Mark's experience and quality reputation; he is a true gentleman and ambassador of the sport. I stepped in this year at the last moment when our advertised judge, Bill Branham of Carleton, Michigan, was hospitalized. Bill is out and doing well now and hopes to be "back in the saddle" this summer. Bill was scheduled to be the first native judge from our state this year, but by default, that honor fell to your scribe.

We saw several dogs finish their hour on the ground with acceptable birdwork, but two clearly separated themselves from the pack. They both had impeccable shooting dog applications of the grounds, high and tight presence on multiple finds, and stamina that held with style for their full hour. This led to the coined phrase of the article's title, "Thunderbolt Strikes Again." Both the winner, Thunder Bolt's Storm, and runner-up, Thunder's Wild Agin, were sired by three-time Michigan champion Chelsea's Thunder Bolt, and all were handled by Shawn Kinkelaar. This was the fifth consecutive running of the Championship that Bolt or one of his progeny won--quite a feat. Over many years, both judges have watched, judged, and/or scouted for hundreds of championship braces in which Shawn has been a handler. Yet both agreed that the winner's brace, the first on Tuesday morning, was the finest start to finish they had seen him in. Storm had finds at 2, 6, 8, 39, 48, and 51. She was always forward with no backcasting, smooth and stylish with high head and tail, an effortless gait, and always swinging with the handler in a true shooting dog race. There were no holes, and the find at 48 was a true limb find. It was a pleasure to watch, and as Mark commented, "This would have made a great educational video to show new field trialers how to put down a super shooting dog race, dog and handler!" Even the scout, Billy Stewart, enjoyed the ride on this brace. Owner Dr. Tom Jackson has another good one here.

When Storm ran, we were already carrying Thunder's Wild Agin, who ran in the first brace following the Derby on Monday afternoon. She also ran a very nice race for her full hour. She was forward and applied herself to the course with few exceptions, always in contact with her handler. Wild had finds at 6, 12, and 42, all high and tight with precise location of her game. At 20, she had a stop with all the style of the previous, but after an unsuccessful flush, she was relocated and didn't establish point again in the area. Handler elected to move on, and things picked up as before until she had her final find at 42. She finished as strong, smooth, and fancy as she had been the whole hour, a very good shooting dog performance. Her owner, Doug Swingley from Lincoln, Montana, needs to get comfortable in the winners' circle with this one as well.

Others of note that completed their hour in the order they ran are as follows:
Shockwave, pointer male, in brace 2, finds 35 and 48, a little tough on the ground to stay where handler Kinkelaar wanted him but finished strong.
Wicked Quick, pointer female, in brace 5, had clean finds at 10, 33, 35, 41, and 56 and finished her hour going away. Quick did a nice job for her handler, Kelsey Hajek, and it was clear they are a good team and on the same page. Not quite enough with the two performances above.
Grouse Feather Witcher, setter male, in brace 7, had three finds, a UP early on and another find at 33. He has had a lot of success lately and is a strong dog. Even as things warmed up, he continued to take a lot of work by his handler, Dr. Allen Dunbar, and scout to get around.
Wyatt, pointer male, brace 8, had finds at 12 and 42, made some periodic nice moves, and finished going away at the oak tree for Diane Vater.
Thor, pointer male, brace 12, had two finds before we exited Hires field for Diane Vater. He is a big, strong dog that stayed on his lines and found birds again at 31, 45, and 56. He required little scouting and handled kindly.

As always, the entire Michigan Open Shooting Dog Championship Club crew expresses their gratitude to Purina for their continued support. The new championship sponsorship program through the AFTCA online store and application process was simple and expedient.
We look forward to our continued partnership and sponsorship in the ever-evolving sport.

Ionia, Mich., April 15 - One Course
Judges: Joe Guzman and Mark Johnson

Winner-THUNDER BOLT'S STORM, 1684304, pointer female, by Chelsea's Thunder Bolt-Lacey Underall. Thomas Jackson, owner; Shawn Kinkelaar, handler.
Runner-Up-THUNDER'S WILD AGIN, 1691314, pointer female, by Chelsea's Thunder Bolt-Double Wild. Doug Swingley & Brett Bruggeman, owners; Shawn Kinkelaar, handler.

Judges: Blake Mizzou and Thomas Vanecek
OPEN DERBY CLASSIC - 9 Pointers and 1 Setter

1st-GLENMERE'S SILVER ROO, 1702832, pointer female, by Mac's Silver Chief-Mac's Silver Shadow. Jeff & Mat Haggis, owners; Jeff Haggis, handler.
2d-WINDFALL MACKINAW STRAIGHTS, 1701992, pointer male, by Knight's Last Chipster-Windfall Queen of Soul. Joe Guzman, owner and handler.

Michigan ODS24

Michigan Derby Classic (front, l-r): Kelsey Hajek with Windfall Mackinaw Straights (2nd place) and Jeff Haggis with Glenmere's Silver Roo (winner). (Behind): Joe Guzman, Blake Rizzo (judge), Jim Cipponeri, and Layne Hodges.

Postscript / Opinion of Author
As noted, this was the 45th running of the Michigan Championship in Ionia! Over the years, thousands of memories have been made. Hundreds of great dogs have competed under the whistles of dozens of professional and amateur handlers in about every kind of condition that Mother Nature can dish out. In the "hay day," there were sometimes over 100 entries, and the norm was in the 80s-90s, which took up to 10 days to complete. Many factors have influenced the reduction in these numbers over the past several years. Some include factors on which we have a more direct influence, and some we are just affected by because of the changing demographics of our society. Everyone today has more varied opportunities and obligations to spend their time and with whom. Couple this with the sheer monetary investment that it takes to own all the required equipment, additional veterinary care, feed, farriers, trucks, trailers, fuel, etc., that it takes to "go horseback," and it impacts just the potential number of those able to participate. All these factors have affected the ranks of professionals, their clients, and amateurs alike. We are the last generation who grew up "outside" with chores and outside activities, which were all we knew. We hunted and fished and explored the woods and fields as our entertainment. We camped and swam in lakes, rivers, and ponds. Most of our children and grandchildren have done these things only as the exception--not the norm but as one of many choices. This is not a criticism, just an observation that has had a long-term effect on the pool of "wannabe" participants for the sport we all love. This is not to say there isn't an interest in sporting dogs or field trials--look at the walking dog trial entries, which have record highs! The horseback community is specifically what I am speaking of, and it's shrinking at an alarming rate. We all need to do our part to address this in any way we can for the future of the sport.

Supporting the Youth Field Trial Alliance is a great way, as is supporting any horse and kid activity like 4H, FFA, or just trail riding. Invite a friend, neighbor, interested family member, high school equine team, or any others that may have an interest or think "it's cool." When they come, put them on your best horse and look after them. Do your best to ensure they have a safe and enjoyable experience. All of these are good things to help cultivate the future, but there is one even simpler thing that all of us can do at any time. When you see that new or interested-looking person at the trial, go out of your way to welcome them and extend a sincere hand in helping them get acquainted and feel welcome. Be the first--remember who that person was for you and its impact!

Now, you may still be asking (or should be), what else can I do to enjoy this sport I love while it is still available to me? The short-term answer is just as simple as the long-term is complicated. Just ATTEND and PARTICIPATE! It's what we all want to do and is the one thing we control! Life deals us enough complications these days without the need to manufacture excuses about why we can't or shouldn't. Amateurs and professionals alike need to address what they can and do control before the choice will be made for us and there are no longer events to attend. We in Michigan have been wrestling with a solution to this problem for years (as I'm sure many others have). How can you plan and prepare for a first-class trial when you don't know who and how many are coming and from what direction the "wind is blowing?" Forget about the points or who you might draw against! Wouldn't you rather say you beat the best at all the trials and took on all instead of sitting on the tailgate and counting what-ifs and maybes?

We in Michigan are now running the Region 13 Amateur Shooting Dog Championship and the Michigan Open Shooting Dog Championship back-to-back to help encourage amateurs to stay and run in both. We have even reduced the entry fee to help as well. As an amateur, I should have no fear of running a dog or two that I rub on and feed every day in my kennel. I know what kind of condition he is in and where he is in his training. If I've done my job well enough to run him in the weekend trial or the Amateur Championship, then there is no reason I shouldn't run against today's limited number of pros. In many respects, I feel there is an advantage with our rapport and the fact that our bracemate is a professional. The judging standards are the same for all.

We used to take a week's vacation to run this Championship. Now, most of us are retired and have a limited window of years to run in this or any event. Let's not waste any of them and support the trials and their future in any way we can, as much as we can.