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Result: National Amateur Free-for-All Championship

Location: Union Springs, Alabama

Post Date: May 17, 2024

Submitted By: Morgan Brewer

National Ama FFA ChS24-

National Amateur Free-for-All Championship (l-r): Roger Key, Frank Rutland, Colleen Rutland, One Day Queen Bee with Lane Hodges, Jeff Gibbons (judge), Darcy Hodges, Morgan Brewer (reporter), Lawton Huggins, Reynolds Party Starter with Hunter McDuffie, Brian Spear (judge), Mindy McDuffie, Darron Hendley, April Sanderson, and Tony Reynolds.

The National Amateur Free-For-All Championship set in motion its highly acclaimed field trial on February 22 on the magnificent Sedgefields Plantation in Union Springs, Alabama. Amateurs from around the country anticipate this championship year after year in hopes of capturing the most sought-after title in the history of amateur field trials. Mr. Raymond and Kathryn Harbert offer their grounds annually to host this famed trial, and this event would not take place if it weren't for them. Their continued support, as well as the board of directors, keeps the tradition alive. The board of directors plays a vital role in the success of a field trial, and the Free-For-All board is second to none. It takes a village to host and put on a championship of this magnitude. Jason Howard, Bill Lee, Chance Kelley, and the rest of the crew at Sedgefields do a phenomenal job manicuring the grounds to be the best to ever turn a bird dog loose in America.

The running would not go without a hitch if it weren't for an experienced dog wagon driver like Steve Hutto. He and Tommy Hicks kept the running going smoothly, as well as delivered refreshments to the participants. Harrison Lee, Squire Lee, and Chance Kelley served as head marshals, as well as board members Harold Johnson and Hunter McDuffie. They kept the handlers on course, and their efforts were greatly appreciated. Words cannot express the gratitude for Anna Grace Tompkins. She did an excellent job washing the officials' horses. Her smile was a delight at the end of each day.

Brian Spear of Lowndesboro, Alabama, and Jeff Gibbons of Deatsville, Alabama, shared this year's judicial responsibilities. Spear returned for his second consecutive year while Gibbons made his debut. They rode tirelessly and gave each dog a watchful opportunity; there are not enough thanks for their time and commitment!

Purina donated four bags of dog food to the champion, three bags of dog food to the runner-up champion, and two bags of dog food to the Top Qualifying Dog. Purina and Greg Blair are tremendous assets to this championship and the sport. Garmin donated a tracking collar to the champion and the runner-up champion. Union Springs Home Center donated gifts for the judges and the reporter. There can never be enough thanks for the generosity of these sponsors.

A delicious breakfast was served daily, sponsored by the Tourism Council of Bullock County. A surplus of businesses, field trialers, and well-wishers donate to the Tourism Council for all the food, hiring the lovely ladies, and contributing the welcome signs and banners in town.

A dinner and cocktail party honoring the legacy of Bootie Smitherman and Ginger Austin was held at the lovely home of Christy and Van Wadsworth on Thursday night, kicking off the nightly festivities. Hosts for this beautiful event were Ginny and David Allen, Colleen and Ken Buce, Charlotte and Lynn Jinks, Leigh and Jay Moorer, David Padgett, Julie and Patrick Roach, Jane Rutland, Elizabeth and Burt Smithart, Wesley Smithart and Justin Nolen, Allison and Ban Stewart, Vickie and Scott Stewart, Leigh and Josh Taylor, Susan Wells, Christy and Van Wadsworth, and Kara Williamson. The hospitality was true to southern fashion, and all patrons had a grand time! Everyone was invited to the Union Springs Country Club Friday night to participate in the Draw Down and Dance. Raymond and Kathryn Harbert hosted a dinner and dance at the Field House on Saturday night. Sunday night, the Owners' and Handlers' Party was held at the Field House, sponsored by AmeriFirst Bank. The anticipated "Friends' Party" was held on Monday night at the home of Hunter and Addie Smith. Hunter and Addie graciously opened up their beautiful home and hosted the event along with Catherine and Jimmy Bassett, Beverly and Andy Calloway, Linda, and Jay Clark, Lisa, and Justin Clark, Amy and Stan Connally, Chris and Pete Del Collo, Becky and Tony Gibson, Darlene Hixon, Frank Moorer, Maureen and Kevin Joyce, Heather and Charles Klink, Jane and Jim Klinger, Sue Ellen and Tom Lanier, Renita and Tommy Main, Lynn and Brian Peterson, Colleen and Frank Rutland, Brooke and Brian Sanchez, Sandra and Jim Smith, Shirley and Joe Varner, and Laura and Winston Way. The food was exceptional, and all had a glorious time.

Day One
There is no greater thrill than to hear "turn 'em loose" at the breakaway on the first day. It was 46 degrees and bluebird skies for the first brace when Southern Ritz Lane, handled by Brian Peterson, and Piney Creek Mae, handled by Woody Woodruff, came to the line. Peterson asked for the tracker at 26. Mae, a classy Pointer female, finished the brace without birdwork.

Miller's Automatic Upgrade, handled by Madison McDonald, and Late Hit, handled by Hunter McDuffie, turned loose for the second brace. Upgrade had a nice find at 10, and McDonald asked for the tracker at 39. Late Hit honored with a back at 10, had an unproductive at 39, and finished the 45-minute brace.

Getaway Driver, handled by Jeff Gilbertson, and One Day La Bandita, handled by Lane Hodges, approached the line for the third brace. Both dogs went out of pocket at breakaway. Gilbertson was handed his tracker at 23, and Hodges asked for his tracker at 21.

Alan Atkins' Erin's Young Offender and Joey McAlexander's Misty Morn Masked Man were in the fourth brace. Offender, a stylish Pointer male, had a divided find at 4, a clean find at 25, honored with a back at 40, and finished the brace. Man had a divided find at 4, a back at 25, two perfect finds at 32 and 40, and finished the brace.

It was 76 degrees at the afternoon breakaway for the fifth brace when C S Rester's Speculation, handled by Pat Varner and Southern Shadows T Rex (Peterson), came to the line. Speculation had a find at 5, and Varner asked for the tracker at 35. Peterson asked for the tracker at 35.

Dragonfly, handled by Jim Hughes, and Erin's Mason Man, handled by Roger Key, were in the sixth brace. Dragonfly finished the brace without birdwork. Man, a stout orange and white Pointer male, ran a strong front-running race, finished without birdwork, and was asked back in the callbacks by the judges.

Day Two
Springflow's Backcountry P, handled by Chris Catanzarite, and Miller's Concealed Weapon, handled by Bill Owen, began the seventh brace at 62 degrees under sunny skies. P had unproductives at 14 and 43. Weapon had an unproductive at 14 and was ordered up at 36 for a breach of manners.

Calico's Sky's The Limit (McDonald) and Panther Creek Rosie, handled by Frank Rutland, turned loose for the eighth brace. Sky finished the brace without any bird contacts. Rosie had a good race, a find at 11, an unproductive at 43, and was asked back in the callbacks by the judges.

Rentz's Hijacked, handled by Joe Rentz, and Miller's Strolling For Gold (McDonald) turned loose at the Coke Barn for the ninth brace. Hijacked ran a strong race but was unable to produce any birdwork. Gold had a nice, stylish front running ground race, was not able to point any birds, but was asked to run in the callbacks.

Ted Roach's Erin's Ty Breaker and C S Dirty Harry (P. Varner) turned loose for the 10th brace. Ty had three perfect finds at 11, 29, and 40. He ran a smooth front-running race and was asked to return for the callbacks. Harry ended his bid at 7 after a breach of manners.

It was 69 degrees on the first afternoon course behind the barn when Great River Yellowstone, handled by Brian Sanchez, and Check It Out (Gilbertson) turned loose for the 11th brace. Yellowstone, a classy orange and white Pointer male, had a great race with picture-perfect finds at 29 and 37, and the judges asked him back in the callbacks. Check It Out finished the brace without any bird contacts.

Bobby Dubose's Dubose's Wonder Dog ran as a bye in the 12th brace. He was handed the retrieval unit at 19.

Day Three
It was 49 degrees at breakaway on the first morning course for the 13th brace when Lester's Top Recruit, handled by Lance Servais, and Miller's Heat Wave, handled by Fran Miller, approached the line. Recruit scored a clean find at 43. Miller recorded a find at 6, and Miller asked for the tracker art 35.

Competing in the 14th brace were Hightailing Maggie, handled by Kevin Joyce, and Pineywoods Showstopper, handled by Darron Hendley. Maggie was unsuccessful at 20. Showstopper had an unproductive at 25 and a classy find at 45, earning her a spot in the callbacks.

Releasing from the Coke Barn for the 15th brace as a bye was Pineywood's Legacy (Hendley). Hendley asked for the retrieval unit at 20.

Drawn in the 16th brace was Crouch's Reddirt Girl, handled by Jeff Crouch and Miller's Newest Version (Owen). Girl, a classy Pointer female, had a find at 19 and was ordered up at 39 for a breach of manners. Version had a clean bird contact at 18.

In the 17th brace, turning loose behind the barn were Twin Willow Ice (McDuffie) and Charlie's Zip Line (Owen). It was a warm 79 degrees when the Pointer female and Setter male took off from the breakaway; they finished without any birdwork.

Competing in the 18th brace turning loose at the "Woman's Bathroom" was CS Amazing Grace, handled by Joe Varner, and Reynolds Party Starter (McDuffie). The race was on for these exceptional Pointers; they ran a stellar front-running race for the duration of the brace. Both were unsuccessful at producing a bird but were rewarded spots in the callbacks.

Day Four
It was the coldest morning of the trial, turning loose at 42 degrees for the 19th brace when Miller's Little Duce Coupe (McDonald) and Erin's Primetime (Sanchez) came to the line. Coupe had a nice find at 35. Time finished the brace but was unable to produce a bird.

Competing in the 20th brace were C S Snapdragon (J. Varner) and Dakota Nation (Roach). Snapdragon had a find at 16. Nation was unsuccessful at 16.

Turning loose from the Coke Barn for the 21st brace were Smokin Joe's Rock, handled by George Brown, and Electronic Warfare, handled by Bill Goodwin. Rock, an orange and white Setter male, finished the brace without birdwork. Warfare, known for his ability to point a lot of birds, recorded finds at 10, 36, and 44 and was asked to return for the callbacks.

Drawn in the 22nd brace were One Day Lucky Strike (Hodges) and Rentz's Tipped Up (Rentz). Strike ran an exceptional ground race, locked down two perfect finds at 5 and 40, and earned him a spot in the callbacks. Tipped Up ran a good race and had a back at 40.

It soon warmed to 70 degrees for the 23rd brace when Tee's Sweet Emotion (Sanchez) and Smokin Joe's Mathew (Brown) came to the line. Neither dog was suiting their handler, and Sanchez asked for the tracker at 12, with Brown soon to follow at 14.

Turning loose for the 24th brace were Miller's Upgraded Design (Miller) and Just Sayin, handled by Mike Moses. Design finished without birdwork but was asked to return for the callbacks for his strong front running race. Just Sayin finished the brace without birdwork.

Day Five
It was 48 degrees at breakaway for the final day of qualifying. Competing in the 25th brace were S B Always Dreamin (Owen) and Southern Shadows Wave (Servais). Dreamin and Wave had a divided find at 37.

Drawn for the 26th brace were Smokin Joe's John (Brown) and Neely's Business Man, handled by John Neely. John was not suiting his handler, and the retrieval unit was given at 18. Man, a big orange and white Pointer male, had a picture-perfect find at 7.

Turning loose in the 27th brace were Miller's Southern Gossip (McDonald) and Awakened, handled by Jade Todd. Gossip scored a find at 2, and Awakened soon followed with a bird contact at 19.

Releasing in the 28th brace were Miller's Upgraded Version (Miller) and Backcountry Pure Gold (Catanzarite). Miller was handed the tracker at 40. Gold had a clean find at 4, and his handler was handed the tracker at 40.

Competing in the 29th brace, the last brace of the qualifying stakes, were Erins' Johnny Walker (Roach) and Backcountry Bruiser (Catanzarite). John wasn't suiting his handler, and the retrieval unit was asked for at 29. Bruiser had an unproductive at 34 and a clean find at 40, earning him a spot in the callbacks.

The Callbacks
It was 68 degrees with temperatures steadily increasing when last year's champion, One Day Queen Bee, owned and handled by Lane Hodges, and the Top Qualifying Dog, Reynolds Party Starter, owned by Will Wilson and handled by Hunter McDuffie, came to the line. These exceptional athletes laid it all out on the line and, by far, were the best brace of the championship and one to remember.

One Day Queen Bee was named champion for her outstanding performance; she ran a strong front-running race, recording finds at 18 and 80. This petite Pointer female knocked it out of the park with her husband-and-wife team, Lane and Darcy Hodges.

Reynolds Party Starter ("Rex") was named Top Qualifying Dog and runner-up champion. This accomplishment was especially bittersweet, with Rex's previous owner, Brian Sanderson, passing on November 6, 2023. Brian, or "B" as most called him, loved the sport of field trials. He always had a smile on his face, always lent a helping hand, and was an amazing friend. Brian's professional handler, Tony Reynolds, rode in support when Rex ran. There wasn't a dry eye when Hunter McDuffie blew his whistle at breakaway. Rex ran a scalding dog race, and when McDuffie threw his hat up at 70, Brian was shining down, smiling his bright smile.

Turning loose for the second brace was CS Amazing Grace (J. Varner) and Panther Creek Rosie (Rutland). Grace had a nice find at 3. Rosie ran a good race, recording four finds at 17, 25, 69 and 83.

Releasing for the third brace were Miller's Strolling For Gold (McDonald) and Erin's Ty Breaker (Roach). McDonald was handed the retrieval unit at 49. Ty went out of pocket at 8, and Roach asked for the tracker at 17.

Erin's Young Offender (Atkins) and One Day Lucky Strike (Hodges) came to the line for the fourth brace. Atkins asked for the tracker at 62. Stike had an unproductive at 2, and Hodges asked for the tracker at 25.

It was 70 degrees at breakaway for the last day of the callbacks for the fifth brace when Great River Yellowstone (Sanchez) and Backcountry Bruiser (Catanzarite) came to the line. Yellowstone had a find at 56 and was picked up. Catanzarite asked for the retrieval unit at 47.

Drawn for the sixth brace were Pineywoods Showstopper (Hendley) and Miller's Upgraded Design (Miller). Showstopper was ordered up after a breach of manners at 49. Design had an unproductive at 35.

Erin's Mason Man (Key) and Electronic Warfare (Goodwin) were in the seventh brace, the last brace of the callbacks. Man was ordered up at 23 after a breach of manners. Warfare had finds at 7, 14, and 26, and Goodwin was handed the tracker at 62.

Union Springs, Ala., February 22
Judges: Jeff Gibbons and Brian Spear
NATIONAL AMATEUR FREE-FOR-ALL CHAMPIONSHIP [Forty-Five Minute Qualifying Heats; One-and-One Half Hour Finals] - 51 Pointers and 7 Setters

Winner-ONE DAY QUEEN BEE, 1684579, pointer female, by Heard Hill's Memory Lane-DuBose's Snow White. Lane & Darcy Hodges, owners; Lane Hodges, handler.
Runner-Up-REYNOLDS PARTY STARTER, 1695316, pointer male, by L V's Western Express-L V's Silver Lining. Will Wilson, owner; Hunter McDuffie, handler.