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Result: Pennsylvania Grouse Championship

Location: Marienville, Pennsylvania

Post Date: Dec 8, 2020

Submitted By: Joe Cammisa

MARIENVILLE, PA. -- In 1952, Sam A. Magee wrote the following in his description of the Pennsylvania Grouse Championship for that year:

Pennsylvania Grouse Championship

"The Pennsylvania Grouse Trial Club, which sponsors the Pennsylvania Open Grouse Championship--which before the advent of the Grand National Grouse Championship was known as the National Grouse Trial Championship--bears the name in field trial annals, having instituted the first grouse championship in 1913. Since, trials have been conducted by this club annually--for the past decade or so, semi-annually--with the exception a lapse of one year in the early thirties.

"The standards have been kept high and the judges are always instructed that if they do not find a dog worthy of the crown, that the title shall be withheld, and many a year this has been done. It naturally follows, then, that to win this championship is the goal of all true grouse trailers.

"The club has had its share of vicissitudes of fortune over the years, due to gradually decreasing grouse population and the fact that for many years it had no permanent grounds to run over, changing the location of the trial almost yearly. However, in 1939 steps were taken to secure permanent grounds and the first courses were laid out on the Dr. Kahle preserve and adjacent State Game lands a few miles south of Marienville. Later the local of the trial had been moved to the newer courses in the Buzzard Swamp and Loleta area to the east of Marienville, and the commodious clubhouse erected.

"Pages have been written describing the Buzzard Swamp championship courses, so we will not go into a lengthy description here. Suffice it to say that two hours over this rocky terrain is a grueling test for any dog. For the most part the courses are through pole-timber, which makes for good visibility but is not the kind of cover that a grouse hunter would select for a day's shooting."

So, has nothing changed or is it true that history repeats itself? At the very least an hour today is still a grueling test in this National Forest, and as for "not the kind of cover that a grouse hunter would select for a day's shooting" Oh so true... Marienville, according to the history books, has never been an easy place to find birds.

I have often said to win here requires a dog that runs deep, forward and could search fast to the far corners of the courses and beyond to find grouse. It must be able to get birds pointed and hold them under the lightest of conditions. That is as difficult today as it was then.

Each of the venues in the Grand National Grouse trial regions has its own value. The Northeast has rocky river bottoms of mud and thick alders requiring a hardened and tough dog, while the Lake States require a disciplined animal that may have to point and handle three or more birds in an hour. The Mid-Atlantic has been accused of putting too much emphasis on the run and, yes, that is absolutely true; it's a grouse trial dog that we are looking for and not a cover dog out for a day's shooting.

What it takes to win in Marienville, once more, is a dog that can run big, find the deep edges, stay far forward, point a bird, and hold it under those lightest of conditions.

The real winner and the one we are all looking for is the dog that can do it in all three regions. That would declare a dog noteworthy for the betterment of the breed. A number of former champions come to mind when thinking of dogs that could win in more than one region and as much as in all three and have been chosen as the betterment of the breeds: Houston's Belle, Class Train, Long Gone George, Long Gone Madison, Wrongway, Ponderosa Mac, Northern Alibi, Shady Hills Billy, Springfield Orvis, Straight Forward, Stillmeadow's Jim, Pennstar, Grouse Ridge Storm, Grouse Ridge Reroy and Centerfold Rose, to name a few.

Judging the Pennsylvania Grouse Championship is demanding and requires complete attention. The judicial saddles were occupied by two outstanding sportsman and dog men who could handle the rigors of this trial. Brent Peters of Michigan and Nick Mellon of Pennsylvania.

Brent has judged several Championships over the years, the Michigan Woodcock Championship, the New York Grouse Championship, the Northern Michigan Cover Dog Championship, and several Brittany championships. He began working field trials fifteen years ago, traveling back and forth between Battle Creek, Mich., and the Gladwin Area, retiring in the Gladwin area in 2017. Brent trains and handles his own dogs and is heavily invested in the Gladwin Field Trial Area, being vice-president of the grounds committee and a director of both the Lake States Field Trial Club and the Beaverton Grouse Dog Club.

Nick Mellon has been training bird dogs for over thirty years. He is at the top of the game as a Gold Level trainer for Team Huntsmith with Ronnie and Rick Smith and has also judged at every level of the AKC as a Senior Judge. He is no stranger to Marienville and the grouse woods and runs his own family business at Hypointe Kennels in Murrysville, Pa.

Nick trains sporting dogs for hunting, Field Dog Stud Book/American Field trials, AKC pointing trials and hunt tests from April until October and then heads to his winter training grounds in South Carolina, Railway Kennels, from November to March. Additionally, he does several seminars each year with the proceeds going to the National Canine Cancer Foundation.

Both judges are well known for their experiences, good sportsmanship, and integrity.

Dawing for the Championship took place at the home of the secretary, Helen Brenneman, on Thursday, October 22. Forty-two dogs were drawn to start.

Helen Brenneman has been a stalwart of the Pennsylvania Grouse Trial Club for years. Her term as secretary is coming to an end this year with Dave Duell of Sheffield, Pa., taking the helm next season. She has graciously decided to stay on with Dave, if necessary, to provide a smooth transition. The Pennsylvania group of clubs cannot begin to thank her enough for her hard work and dedication, and wishes her the absolute best. Thank you, Helen, for so many great years of service.

The Marienville grounds had been prepared over the summer and were well groomed for the week's events. There are several persons responsible for putting together and working to see the trial a success by marshaling, moving vehicles, working the radios, watching the roads for the safety of the dogs, etc. The Pennsylvania Club greatly appreciates Norm Meeder the new president of the club, Dave Duell, Tom Mains, V-P, Dick Brenneman, Dave Hughes, and all others who aided during the trial.

Special thanks go out to Dave Powell of Nittany Trail Rides who with his father R. B. Powell have wrangled judges' horses for the past twenty years and more.

As always, Greg Blair and Nestle Purina sponsored the event and are considered the lifeblood of this sport we love. Thank you so very much, Greg for, helping us to enjoy field trialing and ensuring its preservation for generations to come.


Pistol Grip, a liver marked male pointer is owned by Mike Husenits of West Lebanon, Pa. He is trained and handled by Dave and Mark Hughes and is the newly crowned Pennsylvania Grouse Champion.

The seven-year-old male is one of a litter of six, four males and two females, whelped January 15, 2013. The breeder was John Stolgitis. Pistol's litter was the last litter sired by grouse woods champion Beaver Meadow Benjamin; his dam is the good producer Richfield Stella.

John Stolgitis raised the litter and through private arrangements with Dave Hughes, three of the males came to Hughesview Kennels in Pennsylvania. All three of these males have left their mark in horseback, walking and cover dog stakes with litter brothers Champion Kendall Hills Dawson Creek and shooting dog winner Suemac's Roll Tide both amassing significant placements during their competitive careers.

Pistol was offered to Mike Husenits as a puppy after another young prospect that Dave Hughes was developing for Mike passed unexpectedly.

His competitive career began with appearances in a few puppy stakes then advanced to Derby competition where Pistol began to prove himself a worthy contender by making the hour callback in the United States Quail Shooting Dog Futurity at Hoffman, N.C., and winning the White Mountain Derby Classic in New Hampshire, the Venango in Pennsylvania, plus several other Derby wins.

As a shooting dog, Pistol won several placements early-on and was competitive in several championship events, after which he experienced a streak of bad luck, suffering from bouts of limber tail for three years and losing out on many opportunities to compete. Pistol never fails to give 100 percent effort while hunting, going with a powerful stride and merry cracking tail.

Mike credits and is thankful for the efforts of Dave and Mark Hughes in the development of the newly crowned Pennsylvania Grouse Champion. As we all know who have been in this game for long, it takes countless hours to develop a field trial champion.

The Runner-up Champion. Six years ago, when Shadow Oak Bo won the National Championship, Jim Millett called Robert Ecker of Midnight Kennels and said, "We should get a Bo pup."

Robert went right to work and found one near his winter training grounds in South Carolina. He picked up a five-month-old puppy that was bred by Bill Lenz of Hunter Run Farms in Chesterfield, S.C. Arrangements were made to get Jack and he has been a big part of the Midnight Kennel program ever since.

Luck has not always been on Stirlingworth Jack's side, especially when a woodcock is pointed in a grouse championship and vice versa, and we all know what that feels like. He has had several near big wins before, but that seemed to be the M.O. up until this Pennsylvania Grouse Championship.

Jim Millett of Dalton, Pa., is an avid outdoorsman and knows a good dog when he sees one. Jim has been an ardent supporter of bird dog trials for many, many years, having campaigned dogs on both the shooting dog and cover dog circuits. An interesting note is that Jim is the longest tenured client of Robert Ecker's and Midnight Kennels to date. Jim has seen his dogs in the limelight before when Field Stone Farm Clyde and a favorite red setter named Rosie were titled.

When asked about Jack, Robert said, "Jack is one of my all-time favorite dogs." You can see that when they are together.

This win marks the 100th championship placement for Robert Ecker. His first was in 1991 with a setter named Midnight Light which won the Pennsylvania Championship that very year. He has won the Pennsylvania Championship four times, once with Midnight Light, Concord Mike, Keystone's Red Rose and with Pinehill Bonnie.

This is his first runner-up win in the Pennsylvania.


The trial began Tuesday, October 22, at 7:30 a.m. with pointer males Daddy's Little Boy Butch, John Stolgitis at the helm, and Warrior Zeke with Mark Hughes steering the rudder. The trial itself battled its way through cold and rainy weather throughout with only a couple of clearing skies developing.

Panola Bacon and Anna Lake Sophie were looked at on that first day, standing out amongst the crowd showing class, strength, running ability and the application skills the judges were looking for. They were carried in the books until the 11th brace on day No. 2, when Pistol Grip and Stirlingworth Jack were unleashed on the Lamonaville No. 4 course.

Please enjoy the following: Robert Ecker with Stirlingworth Jack and Mark Hughes with Pistol Grip broke away Thursday afternoon in a quiet steady, and misting rain. Down the hill from the breakaway they raced, hitting the bottom near the creek bed, and turned right starting on the side face and uphill paralleling the service tramroad. Jack secured and scoured the left side of the course and Pistol the high right. Both handlers quietly guided their dogs up the hill all the while both dogs at bell range.

At 18 Pistol came sweeping in from the front right and slammed a point twenty yards from the old clear-cut cover. Jack came intensely up the hill, caught scent from deep on the left hill side and established point. Both dogs unbeknownst to the other having come to a stop and standing, Hughes and Ecker began their task of putting a bird to flight. While handlers were flushing, a grouse lifted and soared over the tops of the cover. For some distance, his beating wings were seen going up the misty valley to the next hilltop. Blank pistols in hand and firing, the shots rang out while both charges stood tall with impeccable manners.

Moving the dogs up the hill, Stirlingworth Jack with Ecker cast out big to the right and the handler worked him back into the forward pocket. Pistol Grip, thinking another bird waited for him in the quiet rain-drenched woods, ran with that purpose in mind. Both dogs traded punches back and forth applying well to their surroundings and finished the hour strong to the front. They both showed their championship colors and desire.

Marienville, Pa., October 27

Judges: Nick Mellon and Brent Peters

PENNSYLVANIA GROUSE DOG CHAMPIONSHIP [One-Hour Heats] -- 25 Pointers, 14 Setters and 1 Irish Setter

Winner--PISTOL GRIP, 1649107, pointer male, by Beaver Meadow Benjamin--Richfield Stella. Mike Husenits, owner; Mark Hughes, handler.

Pennsylvania Grouse Championship 2

Runner-Up--STERLINGWORTH JACK, 1655602, setter male, by Shadow Oak Bo--Hunter Run's Dawn. Jim Millett, owner; R. J. Ecker, Jr., handler.

Pennsylvania Grouse Championship 3


With the Championship in the books, the Derby was next on the agenda. Judges for the Derby were Dick Brenneman of Port Matilda, Pa., and John Capocci of Katonah N.Y.

Catching the judges' eyes and named first place was multiple winner pointer male West Wind Big Jake owned by Gerry Mercatoris of Brookville, Pa., and handled by Mark Hughes. Jake is a fancy pointer that ran forward and with purpose. Certainly, a dog to watch for in the future.

Second place brought Super Hawk, setter male owned and handled by Rob Boos of Williamsport, Pa., into the limelight. Super Hawk is no stranger to the winners' circle this season. Hawk also a fancy setter, worked the Derby hilltop in fine fashion.

Justin Evans came in with his also proven winning setter male Thanos for third, which he owns, trains and handled. Thanos proved to be a front-runner with plenty of drive.

The Pennsylvania Open Puppy rounded out the events when Judges John McKellop of Guys Mills, Pa., and Rob Boos of Williamsport called for the first brace to report to the line on Wednesday.

Garnering the blue was Chasehill Poison Ivy, pointer female owned by Alan Raino of Newton, Conn., and handled by John Stolgitis. Ivy was hard charging and proved to be easy handling, reaching out when need be, making all the right moves, putting a twinkle in the judges' eyes.

Bringing home a close second place was Baby Beth, pointer female owned by Erin Stolgitis and handled by John Stolgitis. An interesting note is that Ivy and Beth are both bred in the purple out of John's breeding program from outstanding lineage with Panola Bacon and Chasehill Little Lizzy. Beth was forward running and displayed the same qualities of the first place Ivy with just slightly less range.

Rounding out the placements was Chippewa's My Way Gracie, Llewellin setter female, owned by Zachary and Andrew Erne handled by Zachary Erne. Gracie was easy handling with extraordinarily little coaching needed. She put on a nice hunting display.

With turkey quill in hand, this trial is retired to the books, trusting that history will remember this 2020 Pennsylvania Championship as a pleasant moment extracted from an otherwise tumultuous year.

Judges: Richard Brenneman and John Capocci

OPEN DERBY -- 10 Pointers and 9 Setters

1st--WEST WIND BIG JAKE, 1685412, pointer male, by Erin's Redrum--Brave Heart Cassie. Gerry & Jane Mercatoris, owner; Mark Hughes, handler.

2d--SUPER HAWK, 1685947, setter male, by Super Storm--Hometown Queen. Robert Boos, owner and handler.

3d--END GAME, 1687260, setter male, by Blast Off--Power On. Justin Evans, owner and handler.

Judges: Rob Boos and John McKellop III

OPEN PUPPY -- 5 Pointers and 2 Setters

1st--CHASEHILL POISON IVY, unreg., pointer female, by Panola Bacon--Chasehill Little Izzy. Alan Raino, owner; John Stolgitis, handler.

2d--BABY BETH, unreg., setter female, by Panola Bacon--Chasehill Little Izzy. Erin Stolgitis, owner; John Stolgitis, handler.

3d--CHIPPEWA'S MY WAY GRACIE, 1690283, setter female, by Quail Call Buck--Harper My Way. Zachary & Andrew Erne, owners; Zachary Erne, handler.