Result: NGSPA Open All-Age Invitational Championship
Location: Blue Mountain, Mississippi
Post Date: Jan 27, 2021
Submitted By: Keith Richardson
BLUE MOUNTAIN, MISS. -- The third NGSPA Open All-Age Invitational was held on January 4-6 at the Hell Creek WMA, Blue Mountain, Miss. It is the only NGSPA event held on these grounds. Many field trialers believe these are the best all-age grounds in the country, and we agree that it is the best place to hold this prestigious event.
Hell Creek WMA is owned by the state of Mississippi and managed by the Department of Wildlife, Fish and Parks. They have been very helpful to work with, allowing us to keep the same dates as last year, and allowing two extra days in case of bad weather.
These grounds were opened in 1999 and include dog kennels, a horse barn with 38 stalls, outside paddocks, a spacious and comfortable clubhouse, and a hard pack area and a few hook-ups for trailers.
Jack Griffin retired in 2020 and he was the man responsible for maintaining the grounds and providing other field trial support. The State did not replace him, but the grounds appeared to be in excellent shape thanks to the oversight of Nathan Blount, regional biologist. Thanks also to Jeremy Taylor and the other Hell Creek Field Clubs that have all pitched in to keep the area clean and in good shape.
The grounds present a number of long bottoms and some piney woods providing a variety of cover to challenge and test our dogs. There is plenty of dense cover to hold quail. The venue demands a powerful all-age dog that stays to the front, carries a line to the end, and seeks timely guidance from its handler. Absences of five to ten minutes are common. The courses flow nicely but penalize dogs that get behind, won't carry a line, are seen too often, or won't respond to their handler.
For the first time in our three years of running we were able to use course three, which requires crossings of Hell Creek that may be dangerous if the creek is swollen from recent rains. All three courses are quite similar in most regards.
Previously, Jack Griffin planted all of our 330 birds the afternoon before the trial was to begin. This year birds were planted by Nick Thompson and Korry Rinehart who, arguably, know the courses better than just about anybody. They did a great job and our finds were all in strategic locations. We put out 500 birds this year and they planted them in strategic spots with lots of feed; 300 for day one, 100 for day two, and 100 for day three. Divided evenly between the courses. We had more finds than ever. Perhaps too many, but next year we plan to refine our program by planting more birds per location with fewer release sites.
We were honored to have two outstanding judges: Bubba Spencer, Bolivar, Tenn., and Chris Sellers, Selmer, Tenn. Both are amateurs and well-respected judges in the American Field world. They handle and train their own dogs and have a consistently positive, informed and focused evaluation of the competing dogs.
Our field of dogs was reduced at the last minute by COVID related issues, the cancellation of qualifying trials, and injuries. Regardless of the size of the entry the field of six dogs was very competitive and the dog named champion put on a performance that would have shone brightly even in a much larger field of entrants.
A talented crew came together to put on this quality event. The caterer, Me & My Tea Room, prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner each day. We missed Edie and Rere from prior years, but the owner, Catherine Bowling-Dean, sent her manager, Travis and his wife, Hattie. They drove about 90 miles each way and provided coffee at 6:00 a.m., and dinner lasted until around 8:00 p.m.
Joe Frauendienst oversaw tons of details, and also drove the dog wagon. Sarah Messer helped with organization details. We could not have put the event on without the oversight, attention to details, and hard work of Bobbi Richardson. Our executive assistant, Brittiny Habercorn was also essential and helped Bobbi in many ways, coordinated itineraries with the judges, prepared brochures, organized gifts, etc. We were fortunate that Korry Rinehart marshalled for us again with his many years of experience on these grounds.
Our incredible sponsors made this trial possible. Greg Blair and Purina supports all three of our NGSPA Invitationals, which showcase the excellence of their product which is currently being fed to all dogs competing in this challenging endurance event. They provided important financial assistance, including 12 bags of product for the champion, twelve (12) bags to auction, and a Ross Young original oil painting of the champion and direct financial help.
SportDog provided a top-of-line GPS/training collar, and a second training collar. Garmin provided their excellent GPS tracking collar. Ed Moody and Costa provided two best-in-class, stylish, polarized, sunglasses for auction. Ross Young donated much of his time because he is not charging full value for his truly fabulous works of art.
The winning handler earned a $5,000 purse, the aforementioned painting, and received a $500 gift certificate from a major retailer (not a sponsor).
All attendees received an exceptional package of gifts including a set of rainwear with logo, Haggis saddle bag, dog vest with logo by Ruff Wear, Yeti thermos with logo, and other items.
The guidelines and philosophy are essentially the same as the NGSPA Shooting Dog Invitationals, other than the application of the new NGSPA All-Age Standard. The top winning twelve All-Age dogs from the past year are invited. There are three continuous days of running. The first two are hour stakes and the third day is a 90- minute callback, which tests the endurance and stamina of the top dogs like no other trial in the NGSPA world.
The judges called back two dogs and named two in reserve. The judges stated that our Invitational format enabled the champion to "show himself" as standing out above the other contestants over the three day's of running. The judges maintained a pace of 12-minute miles (5 mph), and closely monitored their pace to ensure every brace, every day was consistent. Chris used his Garmin watch to determine the pace and distance traveled, plus the time of each find and the distance between finds. This information proved to be very useful as an evaluation tool. The judges expected the handler to "show them their dogs", and they wanted handlers to quickly gain the front after bird work. They were both very experienced and their depth of knowledge and "bird-dog sense" was apparent in their evaluations.
Rummel's Augie Doggie, owned by Jim Yates and Frank Mucci, handled by Dan DiMambro, and scouted by James Messer, was named the 2020 NGSPA All-Age Invitational Champion.
The first day, Augie was in brace No. 3. Augie had six finds at 9, 14, 18, 30, 46, and 57. He had one unproductive and one back. The brace covered 5.3 "horse miles". Every find was consistently "best in class". Statuesque and intense, not moving a muscle at the flight or flush of birds. On his one back, the pointing dog aggressively took out the birds; Augie stood like a statue. It was very impressive. He was biddable with good range.
The second day, Augie was in the second brace. Augie had finds at 1, 6, 26, 39 and 41; a back at 32 and an unproductive at 58. He covered 5.2 horse miles. As with the first day, his bird work was faultless.
His range was good, but his handling at range was a bit "looser" than day one, said one judge. His third find was after a long absence, and handler kept riding and calling. All were excited when Augie was found standing way to the front. His fourth find was also a surprise. Everyone rode hard upon entering a new field trying to get a view of Augie.
A gallery rider looking for a better vantage point was left behind and happened to glance deep into the woods barely catching sight of Augie's butt and tail. Upon the call of "Point" everyone rode back with a mixture of relief and near disbelief that he could have been seen. Augie then went on to his fifth find. Afterwards he was seen from time to time and eventually was found standing on what eventuated to be an unproductive at 58. After an unsuccessful relocation, time was soon called.
In the ninety-minute callback, Augie had finds at 3, 36, and 43 with an unproductive at 65. He covered 7.0 horse miles.
Augie's bird work was flawless as with days one and two, but his "handle" was rough. After his first find he soon disappeared with two "flash" sightings and a long absence when to everyone's surprise and relief he was found standing on point. One judge commented it was the best find he had seen in the stake. Augie hunted the edges nicely to the front and had another find at 43.
After his unproductive at 65, Augie again disappeared. Scout and handler searched in vain as time passed. It was announced that handler had 13 minutes left to produce his dog. Augie miraculously appeared to the front with ten minutes to spare and to the relief of all, with Dan's heart soaring.
It was an exciting brace with plenty of drama, and sealed Augie's bid as Invitational Champion.
Over all three days, Augie demonstrated consistently impeccable bird work. One judge rated his bird work as A+, stating that he rarely assigns such a high score. His overall range was excellent and his stamina was superb. The quality and exceptionalism of Augie's win was not diminished by the size of the entry.
Of special note: Augie also ran in the 2019 All-Age Invitational and was called back. At the time he was owned by Carl Checklick who suddenly passed away in 2019. He loved his dog and gave him the best opportunities of training and competing. He would have been proud of his performance in this renewal.
OTHER DOGS CALLED BACK
P W Bert's Joke on Us (Bart), owned by Keith and Bobbi Richardson, handled by Rich Robertson, Jr., and scouted by Nick Thompson.
Day 1. Bart covered 5.7 horse miles and had five finds, at 11, 16, 20, 37 and 48. His race was excellent and he responded well for the handler, but his bird work had some holes. One judge rated his ground race a rare A+, saying he took every line to completion and never cut a corner.
Day 2. Bart had finds at: 15, 17, 24, and 54 with a back at 13. His ground race was his strong suit, and his bird work was good. He was very intense on game, and he handled well for Rich.
Third day finals. Bart was following his own agenda which did not include finding birds or looking up his handler. The scout helped him find the front, but it mattered little as he soon disappeared again. Handler called for his retrieval device at 55.
Bart demonstrated a load of potential despite an abundance of youthful exuberance. His day will come.
Two dogs were held in reserve.
P W B D K's Dot On The Horizon (Dot), owned by Keith and Bobbi Richardson, and handled by Rich Robertson, Jr. On Day 1, Dot ran in the first brace. She had a strong All-Age race, handling nicely, and two finds overshadowed by three unproductives at release sites with deep, dense cover. Worthy of note her bracemate had two unproductives and no finds. There was a hard frost during this first brace of the morning and some believed this may have affected scenting conditions. On Day 2, she had four finds, with the last being an impressive limb find way to the front at 59. She had no unproductives. Her race was strong and she never broke off of a line. She handled nicely.
B M B's Free Ride (Lewey), owned by Brandon and Jennifer Blum, and handled by Josh Nieman. On Day 1, Lewey covered 5.3 horse miles and had four finds at 11, 14, 25, and 58 with a back at 30. His bird work had holes, but his ground speed and all-age range were excellent. He was "out of pocket" much of Day 2.
Two other contenders (in order of qualifying points).
Lambourn's Slick Shot (Buckshot), owned by Robin and Hayley Lambourn, and handled by Josh Nieman. Day 1, brace 1: Buckshot had a good ground game but the heavy frost seemed to affect scenting conditions and he had two unproductives and no finds. Day 2 he disappeared to the front on breakaway and was not seen again. Handler called for retrieval unit at 27.
M S R's Storm's End (Renley), owned by James and Sarah Messer, and handled by James Messer. Day 1 Renley had a find at 11 and a moderate race. Day 2 he had finds at 22 and 58, but it was apparent that a recent injury was taking a toll on his run and stamina. He gave it his best.
Blue Mountain, Miss., January 4
Judges: Chris Sellers and Bubba Spencer
NGSPA OPEN ALL-AGE INVITATIONAL
[One-Hour Heats on Two Consecutive Days; Ninety-Minute Finals] --
Winner--RUMEL'S AUGIE DOGGIE, 1666390, male, by Hi N's Feed Jake--Chicoree's What A Hoodlum. Jim Yates & Frank Mucci, owners; Dan DiMambro, handler.
CLOSING THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS
We had great weather for all three days and Hell Creek was low enough to cross safely. The judges commented on how much they appreciated the camaraderie and sportsmanship that was exhibited on and off field. They commented that they really enjoyed themselves.
Both judges were impressed with our German shorthaired pointers, saying that they met the all-age standard for range and race and many could compete with pointers and setters. On the other hand, they commented that many of our dogs would benefit if the handler was able to exert more control especially at crucial times such as sharp changes in course direction. They also felt that in general the handlers did not exhibit the same intensity and desire to "grab and hold the front" as most American Field handlers.
They were very happy with the number of birds and they participated in a discussion of how we might improve next year. We all agreed that putting out the larger number of birds (500 vs 330) might be a good thing, but we will disperse them as larger coveys with fewer release sites per course in the future.
In light of these observations the writer believes it is worth repeating this admonition based upon the comments of our first-year judges:
"The challenge of the Hell Creek grounds, and the performance demands of two days running followed by a 90-minute callback have indeed raised the bar for the All-Age German shorthaired pointer. It has also raised the bar for the All-Age GSP trainer and handler, indicating a need for more aggressive handling to show the dogs better, and more work on getting the dogs to go with the handler without diminishing power, range and enthusiasm.
"The future of the All-Age German shorthaired pointer has never been brighter, and their impact on the genetics of the GSP shooting dog bodes well for the future of our breed."