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Result: Quail Championship Invitational

Location: Paducah, Kentucky

Post Date: Dec 18, 2020

Submitted By: Cluadia McNamee

PADUCAH, KY. -- The 57th running of the Quail Championship Invitational on the West Kentucky Wildlife Management Area played out as scheduled from Saturday until Monday, November 28-30. There were no weather delays this year, but the usual mixture of sunshine, rain, snow, wind, frigid temperatures, and muddy conditions still presented the contestants with this annual ultimate test of endurance, ability, and desire.

Quail Championship Invitational

The Invitational standard serves to identity the "best of the best" from a field of champions. It continues to be viewed by many as the all-star event for the open all-age class. Since its infancy more than fifty years ago, this contest is the supreme test of fortitude and persistence, seeking to identify the epitome of the open all-age class of dogs -- an athlete with stamina, courage, style, intelligence, and character at the highest quality level.

Quail Championship Invitational 2

Preparation for this event is a year-long endeavor falling mostly on the shoulders of Chairwoman Mary Sue Schalk. This year COVID-19 presented additional considerations and planning. Mary Sue handled it all in stride and everything was superbly executed, as always!

The customary silent auction was held online this year from November 14-21 to raise funds for the West Kentucky Field Trial Club. The drawing on November 25 was conducted virtually. Led by Mary Sue and assisted by her husband, Matt, there were some minor technical difficulties but successful.

Snack and beverage containers were placed in every barn, and lunches consisting of hot soup and sandwiches were delivered daily to contestants -- all in compliance with state requirements with regard to public gatherings.

This year's guaranteed purse was $6,000 ($4,000 to the champion; $2,000 to the runner-up). Our boundless appreciation to all who supported this event including our longtime and generous sponsor Greg Blair and the Purina team, John Rex Gates and TriTronics, and our silent auction donators. The twelve contestants received a bag of Purina ProPlan, the champion received eight bags, and the runner-up took home four. Named champion received a TriTronics collar and judges were gifted Kentucky Bourbon and copies of "The Invitational Champions," by John Russell.

It can't be overstated how important these sponsors and supporters are to our beloved sport, ensuring the success of this annual event and so many others!

Judging this prestigious and historic event were Chuck Stretz of Blackwater, Mo., (returning judge from 2019), Joe Worsham of Easton, Mo., and Tim Hammons of Berea, Ky. These fine bird dog men have broad field trial and bird hunting experience and are highly qualified to preside over this level of competition. Between them there's over 100 years worth of insight, knowledge, and perspective on what is required for a top-rated champion and runner-up performance. Their attention and focus never waivered over the course of the trial and we thank them for their professionalism, time, and commitment in the saddle.

Assisting the judges were Mike Crouse as front marshal, and Alan Benson, B.J. Wright, and Dennis Sneed as gallery marshals. Greg Veatch manned the dog wagon and his lovely wife, Martha Veatch, captured the running with magnificent photographs.

Each year the field is made up of the defending champion plus eleven top contenders from the previous year's major circuit trials. The top point-earners are invited in order of their ranking until the field of twelve contestants is finalized. This year, three of the advertised starters withdrew for various reasons requiring that three substitutions be identified. The three dogs withdrawn were True Confidence, Coldwater Thunder, and Marques Armed Robber. The three dogs added as a result of these withdrawals were Dogwood Bill, Hendrix's Touch Up, and Miller's Justifiable.

Final Field of Twelve -- Dogs/Handlers/Owners:

(Order as listed in The American Field ad/substitutions added.)

1) Valiant, PM, (2019 Champion) /Randy Anderson Jay McKenzie.

2) Miller's Speed Dial, PM/Gary Lester/Gary Lester.

3) Lester's Shockwave, PM/Gary Lester/ ommy & Bonnie Hamilton.

Quail Championship Invitational 5

4) Dunn's Tried'n True, PM/Luke Eisenhart/Will & Rita Dunn.

5) Miller's Blindsider, PM/Jamie Daniels/Nick Berrong.

6) Lester's Storm Surge PM/Gary Lester/Tommy & Bonnie Hamilton.

7) Game Wardon, PM/Luke Eisenhart/Dr. Fred Corder.

8) Chinquapin Legacy, PM/Slade Sikes/E. L. "Ted" Baker.

9) Touch's Red Rider, PM/Luke Eisenhart/S. Tucker Johnson.

10) Dogwood Bill, PM/Jamie Daniels/George & Cindy Watkins, Ben Stringer.

11) Hendrix's Touch Up, PM/Burke Hendrix/Burke Hendrix.

12) Miller's Justifiable, PM / Randy Anderson/Jay McKenzie.

Two-Day Running Order (Six one-hour heats each day)

Day 1 - Saturday: Lester's Storm Sturge with Valiant. Game Wardon with Dogwood Bill. Touch's Red Rider with Lester's Shockwave. Chinquapin Legacy with Dunn's Tried'n True. Miller's Justifiable with Miller's Blindsider. Hendrix's Touch Up with Miller's Speed Dial.

Day 2 - Sunday: Dunn's Tried'n True with Hendrix's Touch Up. Miller's Blindsider with Miller's Speed Dial. Miller's Justifiable with Chinquapin Legacy. Dogwood Bill with Lester's Shockwave. Touch's Red Rider with Lester's Storm Surge. Game Wardon with Valiant.

Final Callbacks and Standby Dogs (two-hour heats).

Day 3 - Monday: Lester's Shockwave (top qualifier) with Dunn's Tried'n True. Miller's Speed Dial with Dogwood Bil.

Standby: Lester's Storm Surge with Game Wardon. (Standby dogs were not called to run.)

This year a total of 49 bird contacts were made over the course of the trial with these finds evenly distributed across all three days. Courses 3 and 1 featured 14 and 11 finds, respectively, Course 4 produced eight, Courses 2 and 6 each had six, and Course 5, four. Champion and runner-up dogs hunted on all courses except Course 5.


The first day of running on Saturday, November 28, started under clear, sunny skies with temperatures in the low 30s. The air was crisp and excitement palpable . . . contestants, judges, and the gallery were all ready for the games to begin and eager to get underway!

First to the line were Lester's Storm Surge (Lester) and reigning champion Valiant (Anderson). After brief announcements by Marshal Mike Crouse, the dogs were released from the usual first course starting place behind the clubhouse at 7:30 a.m.

Soon in the hour, Storm Surge was staunchly on point and carded his first find at 5, birds flushing easily for his handler. Valiant was up ahead and was found standing at 11 but didn't appear completely certain. Anderson wasn't able to produce birds even with relocation and so moved on with his charge. A minute later, Lester called point and Storm Surge was credited with his second find at 12. Both dogs continued forward in their pursuit but Valiant wasn't running his usual bold race. He was found standing for the second time at 30; again Anderson's attempted flush was unsuccessful and he decided to pickup Valiant taking him out of this year's competition. Come to find out Valiant had not been feeling well leading up to this event. We hope for his quick recovery.

In the meantime, Storm Surge was out of sight for awhile and finally caught up with his handler around 35 minutes requiring some additional handling and then staying forward for the remainder of the hour. At 53 he was standing for the third time; however, it was a dead quail that had gotten his attention. Storm Surge finished his first day in good form, stylish and intense on his game, having put down a strong all-age race.

The second brace featured Game Wardon (Eisenhart) and Dogwood Bill (Daniels). After being loosed up the hill and bearing left to meet the first field on this course, the two contenders approached the required horseshoe turn differently. Dogwood Bill continued left instead of veering right around the bottom of the field and handler Daniels exercised a successful effort to correct his direction. Game Wardon crossed the field instead of completing the horseshoe maneuver and so Eisenhart had him ahead and on course a bit sooner than his bracemate. At 14 Game Wardon scored his only find this hour, two birds lifted easily as Eisenhart flushed. Both dogs ran strong, forward races but birds were elusive and handlers worked to ensure their charges stayed on course. At 39 Dogwood Bill's scout called point from way across the power line field along a thick wooded edge. A long haul to reach him ensued and by the time we arrived, Daniels decided the birds had left and we needed to catch the front. Bill's one find this hour occurred at 58 in top form.

The third morning brace showcased Touch's Red Rider (Eisenhart) and Lester's Shockwave (Lester). Right off the release, Red Rider established a big race with only a couple of sightings in the first half hour. At around 30 minutes as we were crossing the small pond area, the gallery hollered from behind that Red Rider was on point . . . and he was a long way from where we were. Eisenhart and Judge Stretz took off to where he was standing but by the time they reached Red, he was moving forward. The judge urged Eisenhart to catch the front where he eventually arrived at around 43 minutes. Meanwhile, Shockwave had three beautiful finds at 16, 24 and 41 with a race to match. As we were coming through the large power line field, Eisenhart spotted Red standing along right side of the field, statuesquely facing the wooded edge. Red never moved as his handler approached and successfully flushed a quail covey. Neither dog had any additional bird work in the remainder of the hour and both finished in good form.

Following the lunch break, the fourth brace began at 12:30 p.m. Squaring off were Chinquapin Legacy (Sikes) and Dunn's Tried'n True (Eisenhart) under bluebird skies. Tried'n True was first to score at 5, followed by Legacy at 16. These were the only two pieces of bird work during this brace. Tried'n True was running the limits of the course and was not seen often during the hour but finished with a strong showing around the bottom of the large final field. Legacy finished his hour with an overall good race.

The fifth brace paired Miller's Justifiable (Anderson) and Miller's Blindsider (Daniels). Justifiable was standing at 6 with his head high and a stylish twelve o'clock tail. Anderson successfully flushed game and continued the forward hunt. Although this was Justifiable's only bird contact in the hour, he patterned through the cover like a pro, never choosing the easy path and finished in good form. Blindsider pushed the course limits most of the hour, finally reconnecting with Daniels the first time at about 35 minutes but not from a strong forward position. His first find was at 44; he stood proudly intense as his handler flushed a nice size covey. Eleven minutes later, at 55, Blindsider was standing again along the gravel road facing the woods on the other side. With an impressive relocation, Daniels put up Blindsider's second and final covey of the day.

The final and sixth brace of the day featured Hendrix's Touch Up (Hendrix) and Miller's Speed Dial (Lester). During the first 30 minutes, neither dog had bird work in spite of their determined and strong hunting patterns. Lester's hat was in the air at 32 for Speed Dial which scored after a smart three-part relocation in some thick cover beneath a tree grove. Speed Dial's apparent certainty never waivered and was intense on every stand as Lester continued to flush after each relocation. The covey was on the other side of the trees and finally lifted -- nice job! He had his second find at 41 and backed Touch Up at 50 which was buried in a thicket alongside the gravel road. Both contenders had strong finishes down the long field at the end of the course.

The second day, Sunday, November 29, brought slightly lower temperatures, overcast skies moving in and a chance of rain in the afternoon. The field was tight and every contender needed to step up their game.

Dunn's Tried'n True and Hendrix's Touch Up were geared up to go and boldly took the first field upon release. Touch Up had his first and only find of this hour at 3 minutes, standing intensely as his handler flushed several birds. He then backed his bracemate at 9 but then wasn't seen for sometime and Hendrix asked for his retrieval device at 40, taking him out of the contest. Tried'n True went on to prove he could improve his bid for title with a total of five finds at 9, 13, 22, 24, and 34. His one unproductive was noted at 16 and he finished by standing a seventh time just as time was called but judges had him already in their sights. This had been the performance needed to carry him into the finals.

Sunday's second brace featured Miller's Blindsider and Miller's Speed Dial. As we crested the hill and looked upon the first field, instead of veering left both dogs were across the field rimming its far edge (right to left) without making use of the horseshoe turn -- eventually getting turned around by their handlers to put them on the next part of course. Both contenders took to the front and neither was seen until Blindsider appeared from behind at 20 minutes and Speed Dial was sighted by one of the judges around 27 minutes. Bird hunting was on their minds but it wouldn't be until the end of the hour that they made contact. At 57 Blindsider was found standing with certainty, Speed Dial backing in close proximity. Both handlers shot but Blindsider was credited with the find. Then, at 59, both dogs went on point but in two different locations. Blindsider seemed certain but handler Daniels was unsuccessful in producing game and an unproductive was noted. Speed Dial and Lester had more luck on their final stand, Speed Dial credited with a find at 59.

Next to the line were Miller's Justifiable and Chinquapin Legacy. Justifiable was standing early in the hour at 11 as Legacy came in for the back. Anderson successfully flushed several birds and both teams moved forward on the course. Anderson again called point at 29 but the birds were edgy and got up before the judges arrived, no find was credited here. Legacy stood intense and certain at 24 but a relocation was unsuccessful and an unproductive noted. For the remainder of the hour, both contestants ran good races but were not able to pin down any additional game. Both finished down along the final field edge in good form.

The fourth brace showcased Dogwood Bill and Lester's Shockwave. Although birds weren't that much more plentiful during this brace, these two contenders put on an exciting performance. Dogwood Bill and Shockwave seemed to be in tandem much of the hour and we were moving at a slightly faster pace overall. Bill had his first and only find of the hour at 3 with Daniels easily putting quail into the air. Catching up to his bracemate, the twosome hunting forward and hard for the next 20 minutes with their handlers keeping them on course. Lester's hat was in the air at 24 as he galloped towards Shockwave but then waved it off as his dog moved on. Then Lester's hat was back in the air at 25 -- this time Shockwave was certain and Dogwood Bill backed. A successful find was credited here. Again at 43 Lester hollered point with his hat raised and shouted "Birds up!" but the judges didn't see them. From Shockwave's intense stance and unflinching tail, Lester made the calculated decision that there would be more birds there to flush and so there were! His second successful find of the hour noted. These two competitors then took to the upcoming fields on fire, crossing through the woods out of sight, both handlers singing loudly hoping they'd both emerge in the next field and so they did! As the hour was nearing its end, we made an acute U-turn in the final field before reaching the main road as the dogs finished safely and in top form.

Touch's Red Rider and Lester's Storm Surge followed. Red Rider again ran the limits of his course but today didn't have any bird work and Eisenhart asked judges for his retrieval unit at 30 minutes. Red was officially out of the contest. Meanwhile Storm Surge ran a strong all-age race throughout the hour with a memorable find at 55 where the birds kept getting up well after Lester finished flushing. Surge held his composure and intensity, seemingly enjoying the moment with the rest of us! At 23 and 57 unproductives were also noted but Storm Surge finished his hour bid in strong fashion.

The final and sixth brace on Day 2 brought to the line Game Wardon running as a bye. Hs drawn bracemate, Valiant, had left the contest on Day 1. The forecasted rain had held off so far this afternoon. Boldly applying himself the entire hour, Game Wardon scored three times, at 16, 39, and 47 -- nicely spaced finds and a strong forward race. At 50 minutes, freezing rain arrived and he stood again but even with a firm relocation, handler Eisenhart wasn't able to produce birds. Game Wardon finished in good form.


Miller's Speed Dial had an almost impossible act to follow after Dunn's Tried'n True put down his second performance Monday morning, but he indeed followed and did so triumphantly! Both of these National Champions (Speed Dial, 2020, and Tried'n True, 2019) have proven themselves time and again on the major all-age circuit and it seemed appropriate that they battled it out for the 2020 Invitational title.

The morning of the callbacks, temperatures were in the low 30s with overcast skies and chance of snow flurries -- perfect conditions to test and exemplify the endurance all-age performer. Coming into the final two-hour heats, these two competitors both had impressive runs over the course of their first two days. Speed Dial on his first day had two covey contacts, one with a strong three-part relocation effort, and one back. On his second day, he dug up a covey at the very end of the hour. He consistently hunted boldly and independently and always exhibited intensity and style on his game.

Tried'n True on his first day had a single covey find early in the hour and reached the limits of the course much of the time but finished with a strong showing. On his second day, he tallied up five finds, one unproductive, and was found standing at pick-up. Tried'n True exhibited strength and courage, finding game regardless of the cover or conditions and was poised and polished on his birds. He needed that second day's performance to get him to the finals.

On Monday morning, Tried'n True was braced with top qualifier, Lester's Shockwave, in the first brace of the callbacks and sent away at 7:30 a.m at the usual first course starting point -- both undeterred by frost-covered ground and eager to begin their final bids for the coveted title.

At 8 minutes both handlers had their hats in the air and a divided find was noted. The dogs took to the front once again until at 12, Tried N True stood alone at a tree base where birds were often found. But Eisenhart didn't easily flush them out this time, noting a single bird in a hole and with the judge's nod, he shot his gun. Tried'n True was let loose from here and never backed off his forward hunt. Shockwave up ahead as well was found standing at 15 but unfortunately even with a relocation attempt, Lester was unable to produce birds.

For the next 30 minutes, both dogs ran strong all-age races with Tried'n True out of sight much of that time. And then almost on cue at 45, Eisenhart's song cadence changed and his trusty steed started loping ahead, hat in the air, Lester right there beside him -- to find Tried'n True on point with impeccable style and Shockwave backing with equal intensity. A covey easily rose to Eisenhart's flush and his charge rewarded with a gun shot. There were no more bird contacts in the remainder of the first hour. Both handlers and dogs made it in good form to where the second brace normally breaks away and the second hour for this callback duo began as they took the left side of the first big field.

No stranger to these grounds and this contest, Tried'n True seemed to pick up his stride, staying ahead of Shockwave in his pursuit of the elusive quail covey. At 1:20 he was rewarded as his bracemate backed with unflinching manners, Eisenhart flushed out his fourth score. Tried'n True's fifth and final find came at 1:50 amidst thick briar bushes, demonstrating his desire to find game regardless of the cover. This impressive score came after a relocation and stop to flush -- well done! With a quintessential all-age finish and nail-biting showing in the final minutes, it was quite clear his performance would be extremely difficult to beat.

Enter Miller's Speed Dial with bracemate Dogwood Bill in their bid for top accolades. The second brace contenders were away at the customary starting point for the third course. Both dogs were forward and eager to hunt yet again for the third day in a row -- a task not for the soft or apprehensive. Dogwood Bill's scout called point at 3 whilst Bill stood with his signature intensity. As it turned out, there was a cock pheasant buried up under the brush, the first and only pheasant find of the trial! Seven minutes later, at 10, Speed Dial appeared regal and poised as his handler flushed out the first of six finds in the first hour -- he scored a total of nine times in his two hours with a race that made it all look easy! Dogwood Bill went on to pin a quail covey at 13 and backed Speed Dial twice after that (32 and 52) but on this day he was no match for his bracemate. Handler Daniels picked up Dogwood Bill at 52.

The stars had aligned for Speed Dial and his handler and there was no denying the quality performance they put down. Quail lifted easily for Lester at each of Speed Dial's finds (10, 17, 24, 32, 46, 52, 60, 1:06, and 1:30). Speed Dial was consistently forward, showing just enough and in the right places, with very little scouting or handling necessary. He hunted confidently and handled his game correctly each and every time.

As noted earlier, the weather presented typical challenges with the wind picking up and temperatures dropping throughout the morning -- but Speed Dial's stamina only seemed to grow in strength. Tried'n True had met his match on this day as Speed Dial put it all on the line. Their mutual sire, Miller's Dialing In, would be doubly proud!

Paducah, Ky., November 28

Judges: Tim Hammons, Chuck Stretz and Joe Worsham

QUAIL CHAMPIONSHIP INVITATIONAL [One-Hour Heats on Two Consecutive Days; Third Day Two-Hour Finals] -- 12 Pointers

Winner--MILLER'S SPEED DIAL, 1666636, pointer male, by Miller's Dialing In--Old Road Lou. Gary Lester and handler.

Quail Championship Invitational 3

Runner-Up--DUNN'S TRIED'N TRUE, 1655258, pointer male, by Miller's Dialing In--White Royal Pain. Will & Rita Dunn, owners; Luke Eisenhart, handler.

Quail Championship Invitational 4