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Result: Michigan Open Shooting Dog Championship

Location: Ionia, Michigan

Post Date: May 29, 2019

Submitted By: Al Mannes


Championship Winners. From left: Mike Cook, Jim Cipponeri, Dr. Tom Jackson, Matt Basilone with Chelsea's Thunder Bolt, Brent Masengale, Shawn Kinkelaar, George Tracy, Muriel Primm, Ron Williams, Mike Tracy with Cheyenne Jack, Dan Battistella, Kelsey Hajek, Steve Smith, Joe Guzman, Richard Lipski, and Judges Ken Chenoweth and Sean Melvin.

IONIA, MICH. -- A trifecta for Chelsea's Thunder Bolt as the seven-year-old white and liver pointer male showed again for the third straight year he is still the master of the Ionia Recreation Field Trial Grounds.

This was Bolt's sixteenth overall championship, besting a field of 47 of the best shooting dogs in the country. Bolt becomes the first dog in the 41-year history of this Championship to win three straight; in fact, no dog has even won two in a row.

Bolt was handled again by Shawn Kinkelaar for co-owners Dr. Tom Jackson of Columbus, Ind., and George Hickox of Thomasville, Ga.

First-year shooting dog Cheyenne Jack, white and orange ticked pointer male under the whistle of Mike Tracy for owner Saverio Morelli of White Plains, N. Y., took runner-up.

On a chilly Friday April morning with light rain falling, Bolt put together an hour that had to be exceptional because of the surfeit of stellar performances all week long. He had nine finds and ran a strong, forward race.

For Kinkelaar it was his seventh Michigan Open Shooting Dog Championship. This once again was pure Bolt, because of the consistent and methodical effort he's now put forth three years running. "All championships are special," noted Kinkelaar, "but Bolt's performance on this course is amazing. His pace never lets up and he never lets me down."

Co-owner Dr. Tom Jackson comes up each year from his home in Indiana to see his favorite four-legged friend in action. "He just seems to love these grounds, and he allows me to keep living the dream. I know I'll probably never come this way again. He's just very special." Kinkelaar never hesitates to thank all-age handler Steve Hurdle who dropped a dime on Shawn a number of years back suggesting a dog he didn't believe would succeed in all-age, but might work as a shooting dog. Shawn took the hint, and now Chelsea's Thunder Bolt is a super-star.

Cheyenne Jack was the big surprise to many of us, not only because of his age, but the fact he's never run here before. Winning on these grounds is usually the sole purview of older and more course savvy competitors.

"I wasn't really surprised," said handler Mike Tracy. "He's placed in Futurities and Derbies and won a classic so I was confident he could do well." Jack carded six perfect finds, but what really caught the eye of everyone was the way he ran and handled the country. He just doesn't act like a first-year dog.

Judges Ken Chenoweth of Fairgrove, Mo., and Sean Melvin of Garland, N. C., thought both dogs were worthy of No. 1 and that the difference was slight but notable. "Both had great bird-finding ability and exquisite style in their run and points," noted Melvin. "Bolt was more of an independent bird-finder with little handler direction." Added Chenoweth, "Bolt was the strongest dog in the field and had more reach and more discipline than any other dog in the field, but Jack was sure impressive."

Both men made a long journey to deliver their best judgment. Ken Chenoweth has been a professional bird dog trainer since 1982, and has judged some twenty championships. Melvin started training dogs in 2003 and develops dogs for both walking and horseback trials. He says he tries to limit his judging assignments to four or five a year.

Besides the trial itself the big story of the week was weather. When it wasn't wet and warm, it was wet and cold. Some downpours were a severe handicap for the dogs drawn for certain braces, and there was some grousing about delaying braces until the weather cleared. That in itself was a little dicey, because the rain would no sooner stop and 30-minutes later it would be pouring again. Mid-Michigan weather in April is at best a crap shoot. On Monday the Derby was scheduled for 8:30 a. m. Two inches of snow fell and it made the parking and assembly area a slush field when temperatures climbed above freezing. The Derby start was then delayed until 12:30.

Tuesday was the opening day of the Championship, and the morning quickly became an episodic adventure. The rain fell all night and at 8:00 a. m. all power was lost in the clubhouse, across the entire parking lot, also barns and the assembly area. But that soon became a minor concern when Ron Williams, the dog wagon commander, reported the tractor pulling the wagon was kaput. During a steady drizzle a cadre of club volunteers, handlers and owners stared stoically at the tractor engine divining a way to make it operational.

Then came a real eureka moment when handler Travis Gellhaus volunteered how he had hauled an ATV along that might hold two dog crates. With that revelation a creative dog delivery system was instituted. Richard Lipski would follow behind the first brace on the ATV. Ron and I loaded up the second and third braces in a pickup truck; kept in cell contact with the marshal so a rendezvous point and dog swap could be arranged. Deep on the course along Riverside Drive the switches were made -- the morning braces were saved.

The plight of the tractor pulling dog wagon, and its eventual reincarnation for the remainder of the trial, was the most serious, but not the only problem encountered on opening day. An afternoon brace ran into a road block when the Sessions Lake dike path crossing to another course was blocked by a felled tree. The weather had struck again, but the problem was soon dispatched when the handlers -- turned wranglers -- threw ropes, leads and anything else on their saddle around the dead ash to pull it free of harm's way. Ron Williams, aboard the recently repaired tractor, did the final coup de gras to the blockage. It sure was a morning to remember.

This was the 41st running of the Championship, and conspicuous for his absence was Hall of Fame handler Dave Grubb. This was the first time without the recently retired Michigan native.

Dave was the inaugural winner of this trial back in 1978 and won many times thereafter. Prior to 1978 it was the John Hadaway Classic courtesy of the Genesee and Farmer Sportsmen's Club, and was held at the Highland, Mich., field trial grounds. In 1976 the name was changed to the Michigan Open Shooting Dog Classic and then to a championship two years hence.

Those who gave hundreds of hours of their own time to make this happen reads like the Who's Who of Michigan field trials. The late Jack Hires, who passed away April 28 at age of 93, became so besotted with field trials and this venue that, I'm told by Dave Fletcher, he built a home on the south edge of the Ionia field trial area on David Highway. That provided him the opportunity to be close at hand for course and bridge maintenance. He was also instrumental in getting the clubhouse and barns built. I would refer to Jack Hires as an "extreme volunteer" who spent a large portion of his life working without remuneration to improve the sport he loved.

Today a new generation of dedicated sportsmen is steering this Championship. Jim Cipponeri, Joe Guzman, Ron Williams and Richard Lipski are a quartet of quality stewards who work tirelessly year-round to make this Championship work. Cipponeri and Guzman, as vice-president and secretary-treasurer, are the majordomos of the enterprise; their work and responsibility know no season. Their tasks include, but are not limited to, securing the grounds for the trial, finalizing schedules, paying the bills, getting ads into The American Field, securing judges and reporter, as well as performing course maintenance, overseeing the drawing along with wives, Connie and Tracey, ordering sufficient amounts of hay, and instituting a thorough cleanup of the paddocks, barns, parking lot and staging area.

In this latest regard, the management can never underestimate the importance of preparedness. After driving a large trailer full of dogs and horses ten or more hours, the last thing the field trial pro needs to deal with is a mess of a parking lot, paddock, barn, and a shortage of hay. When that does happen trial management can usually expect well-deserved cri de coeur whenever the highway hassled handlers arrive to find the area unsuitable.

Dave Grubb related the story of his arrival at a trial in Louisiana at 1:00 a. m. in the morning. With flashlight in hand, he patrolled the paddock; all seemed to be in order as the trial president had indicated. He proceeded to put his five horses in the paddock, only to discover the next morning they were all gone. A small opening at the far end of the paddock, not visible at night, gave the horses an easy way out. All were eventually rounded up -- not a good way for the trial management to impress a weary traveler.

Long before daylight Ron Williams becomes an instrumental part of the trial mechanics. He makes his predawn rounds purchasing coffee and donuts for a mid-morning break, and loads dogs into the wagon for the morning braces. Williams then demonstrates great piloting acumen positioning the dog wagon so those without available horses can get an up-close view of the proceedings. In this role he also doubles as field trial raconteur, never hesitating to share his vast dog knowledge, often served with a sprinkling of entertaining insults.

Once the day's trial is over, and the dogs delivered to the appropriate handlers, Ron steps off the wagon and with game day face still in place moves to the clubhouse kitchen where he immediately appropriates the mien of the great chefs. He slices and dices his way to three culinary delights from Wednesday through Friday. But he is no lone ranger; he was aided this year by Tom Winters, who along with his late wife Lori, have had dogs with the Tracys for years. Tom rode every brace, and was a great assist in getting the meals prepared, as was Brent Masengale from nearby Ionia.

Wednesday was the Purina sponsored handlers' dinner. Jim Smith of Purina came down from Minnesota to enjoy the meals and ride almost every brace. This was Jim's twentieth trial of the season; a great ambassador for the company.

Where would field trials be without Purina? Over time they have successfully, through their due diligence to quality and service, woven themselves into the very fabric of our sport. The word Purina is now to field trials what Hershey is to chocolate -- with one you get the other. Purina Pro Plan was on every dog's supper table.

The Thursday dinner is sponsored by the Michigan Open Shooting Dig Championship, and Friday is the champion's dinner where everyone toasts the winner -- Chelsea's Thunder Bolt and handler Shawn Kinkelaar.

Richard Lipski is an ubiquitous presence all week long on his bird hauling ATV. Richard is on the course well before breakaway salting hedgerows and woodslines with bobwhite quail. He then follows the braces diligently making sure each and every dog has an equal chance at putting on the best show.

The Ionia Recreation Area is comprised of 4,500 acres of rolling terrain and a mixture of open fields, mature hardwoods and large conifer clusters. The field trial grounds and courses are great places to show your dog, but they also possess many tight spots where the handler and his charge have to have great communication. From wide open show fields, the course will often dump down, in and around stream beds, bridges and wooded areas that sport many indigenous distractions such as deer, coyotes, turkeys and more. The faster the handler can move his dog through these natural chicanes the better. The show fields this year were in good condition, and most enjoyable was the equitable distribution of quail; we were treated to great dog work during both morning and afternoon braces. Over the past few years an afternoon draw put handler and dog behind the eight ball -- an excellent job this year by Mr. Lipski.

Even though the state of Michigan owns the grounds the courses are maintained by the Michigan Field Trial Clubs. This is no easy task since the mowing, in itself, takes long hours; bridges can be their own nightmare when high water and wind take aim. This is all done by volunteers who are as essential as a saddle at making these field trials grounds functional, as well as field trials across the country. Mostly it comes down to a love of seeing great bird dogs in action, and the shared passion enjoyed by fellow travelers.


Chelsea's Thunder Bolt and his bracemate Waybetter Rocky were first up on Friday morning and faced a big challenge because of the many outstanding performances that had gone before. The brace broke from the clubhouse heading into a strong northwest wind at 15 mph. The temperature was favorable at 38 and there was only a light mist of rain.

Bolt rolled up the hedgerow edge and hit a woodsline heading into Hires field. He had his first find at 6 with a stylish back by Rocky. This would be the first of Bolt's nine finds on the morning, and although there was a long way to go, handler Shawn Kinkelaar was feeling quite optimistic, "He looked strong and rested, and I felt he would just keep pushing the limits." From there the brace entered Hires field. Bolt was rapidly rimming the woodslines when he hit the brakes at 10, nailing another quail. Rocky added some beautiful pastels to the picture by spinning into a classic back. Now, Bolt was headed down a hedgerow that runs north out of Hires field and looked marvelous as he slammed into a point at 16. The handler flushed, the gun barked, and No. 3 was on the board. From that point the hedgerow doglegs into a woodsline heading east for two hundred yards and then turns north -- that's where Bolt found wild game. The point was executed perfectly, and the handler jumped a woodcock at 21 into the fun. Bolt then crested a small hill and rose up onto Logan's Lookout, almost immediately turning on a point along a short treerow. The wing and shot went well and Bolt had his fifth under his collar at 24.

He continued his high-test descent rimming likely cover down and across to a small open meadow where he found what he was smelling for on an edge of dense briars and fallen birch at 27. The handler did the flushing honors with Bolt as solid as a bank vault. No. 6 was in the books, but Bolt's bird hunger had not been satiated. The powerful pointer then moved with alacrity down the hill and across a horse path into a small opening on the edge of a woodsline. He had his seventh find at 37. Bolt then broke along a nearby woodsline and within two minutes had his eighth find at 39. This was Bolt's penultimate point of the morning and gave the handler a chance to concentrate on showing his dog. "I felt he had already done enough in the first half-hour," observed Kinkelaar. "At this point I didn't want to gamble; I just let him run out his hour."

The defending champion did not disappoint; he showed he was not just a bird-finding machine, but a great shooting dog. He finished out the Christmas tree field, crossed the Sessions Creek bridge where he opened up again to some big country. He put on the afterburners, showing well with head and tail high. He rimmed a woodsline and brush bordering Sessions Lake and moved across a small dike. He then recorded his ninth and final find at 53.

"Bolt was the strongest dog in the field," noted Judge Chenoweth. "He had more reach than any dog in the trial and a lot of self-discipline, and was just as strong at the end as he was at breakaway."

Cheyenne Jack was in the first brace in the afternoon on Tuesday. The morning rain had let up, but a light drizzle persisted. The breakaway came at the clubhouse hill heading west along a hedgerow toward Hires field. The young pointer showed within minutes he was all business at 5 when he recorded the first of his six finds. Handler flushed the bird and his young charge held perfect for wing and shot. Jack then rimmed Hires field. His second bird was nailed in a brush cluster that made the handler work hard. The bird eventually flushed at 11. At this point Jack barrelled across the horse staging area and down a hedgerow coming north out of Hires field in some great open show country. He made a brief cast and spun majestically into an eye-catching find at 23.

The precocious pointer then rolled up a slight incline to Logan's Lookout where he had a picture-perfect limb find at 27. This dog is a joy to watch run, as well as point, with head and tail high and birds on his brain. "He's high on both ends and the judges love to see that," handler Tracy opined. "His great style carries even into his points."

Jack then crisply moved beyond the Boy Scout bridge up into the Christmas tree field where he had a sharp looking hedgerow find at 41, which turned out to be a hawk-kill. He continued to impress with a dash across the huge field and nailed a quail at 44. Jack then proceeded to have a big-time finish that really impressed the judges. "Jack set the bar high," said Judge Melvin, "and would have been the winner, if it wasn't for Thunder Bolt."

Not a bad day for a son of Great River Ice.

The difference between the winner and runner-up could have come down to experience. Thunder Bolt has been on this course for at least four years, and champion the last three. For Cheyenne Jack this was his first year. "Jack didn't push the edges as strong as Bolt," said Judge Chenoweth, "but both dogs ran the course as well as it can be run."

The judges also gave honorable mention to three other outstanding performers: Waybetter Billy and Deerfield Game under the whistle of Matt Basilone and Backcountry Tornado, the winner of the 2016 Michigan Open Shooting Dog Championship, handled by Mike Tracy.


The first brace of the Championship was scheduled for break away on Tuesday 8:30 a. m. The heavy rain, which was a factor all week long, let up overnight. The course was a quagmire in places, but it never seriously affected the dogs, horses or bird planting -- the incessant rain did, as you'll see. What caused a major re-shuffle, and a slight morning delay for the opening of the Championship, was the loss of the dog wagon pulling tractor to mechanical issues that I mentioned earlier.

Tuesday, 9:16 a. m., 41 , west wind 5 mph, rain.

Tug of War (Kinkelaar) and Erin's War Creek (G. Tracy) broke west into the wind up a long hedgerow heading toward Hires field. Erin's War Creek, a dog carrying a lot of bling with 14 championships and a bucket of runners-up, first struck game at 6. The flush went well and the multiple champion was off to a great start. As he rimmed Hires field he slammed on point at 11. Again, all was in order as War Creek kept on the treeline and crossed to a hedgerow running north out of Hires field where he spun swiftly into No. 3. With that one in the book he continued along this usually productive hedgerow and within a minute at 16 had a dead bird find. The rain started to come down and across a steel gray sky there wasn't much hope for a letup. War Creek sucked it up, moved to the crest of Logan's Lookout, down the long hill, covered a lot of ground before nailing a bird on a treeline at 28 atop Cardiac Hill. After crossing the Boy Scout bridge, and moving up to the Christmas tree field, the old warrior pocketed two finds at 40 and 45 to finish his wet morning. Tug of War was Shawn's top Derby last year, but on this wet morning showed a lot of immaturity. He had an unproductive at 11 and was picked up later for a failure to back.

Candy Crush (T. Gellhaus) and Gun Runner Carli (M. Tracy) were released in a steady rain. Both dogs tended to get out of pocket for short periods. Candy Crush is a big running dog the handler feels might be better suited for western trials. On this day he had one find, ran over a bird, and eventually got outside the fence on the far end of the course and was picked up. It took Carli 48 minutes to find her first bird. She has real speed and style. At 54 the rain-soaked pointer recorded a second find and finished the hour.

Touch's Mae Mobley (G. Tracy) and Hale's Southern Touch (Kinkelaar). It was not hard to see the Keith Wright influence in this brace. Both dogs were released on the back end of the course. Mae Mobley had a great showing at this trial last year. In this brace she broke fast and took the edges, but over time had trouble making bird contact. The weather was a factor. She didn't have her first quail find until 42 along a hedgerow leading to an extended treeline. She then had a dead bird find at 50, and finished the hour. Southern Touch, the newly crowned Purina Shooting Dog of the Year, but in this weather she also experienced bird contact problems. Her first find along an edge entering a show field came at 21. The young pointer then covered every edge in sight, and moved quickly to other treelines. At 43 she had a dead bird find. Then another point, but this time a flush at 50. She went on to finish the hour.

An entertaining moment in this brace came between the 11 and 14-minute marks, respectively. Mae Mobley slammed into a beautiful point at 11. The handler dismounted for the flush, but then came the blush when an errant turkey took off on foot. Not to be outdone along came Southern Touch at the 14-minute mark. Another great piece of dog work. The handler excitedly moved in and another, possibly the same, turkey moved out. I'm told the book says a turkey doesn't count, but no one ever seems to take the time to tell the dogs.

Cheyenne Jack (M. Tracy) and Born on Fourth July (Gellhaus) opened Tuesday afternoon and it had stopped raining. The afternoon braces were of special interest to many because they have become known for their lack of bird contact in previous years. The breakaway came at the clubhouse hill looking west. Cheyenne Jack's performance has already been covered. Born on Fourth July actually was born on Independence Day, and showed it immediately. The two-year-old ran strong and long, which seems befitting two runners-up in Saskatchewan trials last fall. Born had an eye-catching find at 8 in Hires field, but then put his running shoes on. That's when the retrieval unit came out.

Backcountry Tornado (M. Tracy) and Deerfield Game (Basilone). This was probably the most competitive brace of the trial. Both dogs acquitted themselves well, hardly surprising considering their history. Tornado has won six open championships including this one in 2016, and on this day she showed why. From breakaway in open country she immediately moved to birdy objectives until 7 when she had a calendar-like back of her bracemate. It was from here on that Tornado was most impressive. While not finding game she never let up; covering the edges, treelines and cutting across open areas as quickly as possible to get to her next objective. She didn't make contact again until 53, but then stood tall at 54 and 58 and finished her hour. Deerfield Game was likewise noteworthy. Most recently a winner of the Southeastern Open Shooting Dog Championship, she had a beautiful hedgerow find at 7. The pointer then proceeded to widen out to other objectives, but suddenly hit the brakes at 11 for a well executed wing and shot. From here the dog hunted hard, took in vast amounts of acreage, but stayed on her edges to the delight of handler and judges. She never discouraged, and her pace never slowed for the 39-minutes it took to make bird contact again. At 50 she slammed on point; all went as planned and she finished the hour as strong as she started. A great brace for both competitors.

Ridge Creek Kate (Kinkelaar) and Bail Me Out (M. Tracy). One of only three setters to compete in this Championship, Kate showed a lot of legs early. She rimmed a hedgerow east of the Sessions Creek bridge and looked spectacular doing it. At 10 along a hedgerow there she had a solid find and the flush went well. Within a minute Kate had another find at 11. The setter continued heading east, crossing a dirt road that doglegs at the dike. More open area bounded by treelines and hedgerows awaited her arrival. At 23 she nailed a quail in perfect style, but was starting to shorten her game. She crossed the dike which is one of those geographical distractions I referenced earlier. The handler here has to keep close tabs on his charge. In this case all went well. The brace headed for the show field, the apple orchard and Christmas tree field where Kate had backs at 41 and 51 and finished the hour. Bail Me Out is another top prospect out of Great River Ice and only a second-year shooting dog. He immediately showed some wheels rimming hedgerows and holding his edges as instructed. He showed immaturity at times getting off those edges, but soon was back doing it the right way. As he moved east of the Sessions Creek bridge he took a hard right to the far east end where the dike usually turns south for about ten yards and then opens east to more hedgerow country. The pointer crossed the dike without incident and ran big across the show field now heading west. He didn't make his first contact until 41, a classy looking dog on his game. He then continued up into the apple orchard where he recorded his second find at 51 and finished the hour.

Wednesday, 8:33 a. m., 41 , west wind 15 mph, light rain.

Sand Mountain Icy (M. Tracy) and Jayhawk's Thunder (Basilone) broke west toward Hires field right into the teeth of a cold west wind. Sand Mountain is a young dog with an impressive approach. She was all business as she topped the hill, and slammed into the first of her seven finds. She did all the right things there, and then started into Hires field. Sand Mountain immediately swung sharply to a point at 11. As she made her rounds rimming a treeline she suddenly nailed down No. 3, all in just 15 minutes. Everything was in order as she headed north along a usually productive hedgerow, and pointed again at 23. Here she showed some youth when moving off her lines and had to be re-directed. Soon she was back in stride and at 36 had it all together with a solid stand on a hedgerow. The handler did the flushing honors, and couldn't help feeling great about another youngster out of Great River Ice. The young pointer continued sailing across the Christmas tree field and recorded her sixth and seventh finds at 39 and 46 and finished her hour. Thunder is seven years old and is coming off an impressive effort winning the Kentucky Shooting Dog Championship. On this cold morning he had a solid find in Hires field but then after just 20 minutes the handler had to call for the retrieval unit.

Knight's White Lady (Gellhaus) and Miller's Vanilla Snow (G. Tracy) broke into a show field parenthetically referred to as the shotgun range, which features numerous birdy objectives and a great place for the judges to view a dog. White Lady is a big running dog, garnering three amateur all-age and shooting dog championships in her career. Within two minutes the pointer female had her first find on a woodsline. She then moved quickly west toward the apple orchard and struck game again at 10. Within minutes she was out and beyond that venue, streaking past the posse house headed toward the Christmas tree field where she pointed at 30. That's when trouble arrived. She soon outran her coverage. The retrieval unit was activated. Vanilla Snow is accustomed to the winners' circle, having won six championships and four runners-up. Her excellence was on display again today. With the rain now our constant companion she would proffer no excuses. She bolted west securing the first of her eight finds at 6 entering the apple orchard. At 9 Snow slammed into No. 2. All went well with the flush, but Snow was nowhere near done with her trip through the orchard. At 12 another find, and then another at 18 and then, just for good measure, the sharpest of them all. At 22 a point where the handler had to battle some stubborn plum thickets and briars to move the recalcitrant quail to air. Snow never moved a muscle. She then crossed before the posse house heading over and up to the Christmas tree field where she had flawless finds at 45 and 49 and at 57. She completed the hour.

Osceola's Seminole Wind (M. Tracy) and Steel City Alabama (Basilone) opened heading east from the Christmas tree field in a steady rain. Seminole Wind is just a Derby and she worked hard under the conditions covering woodslines and hedgerows leading toward the gravel pit and beyond. Bird contact was at a premium, but she did have a find at 15 and a little later an unproductive at 18. The retrieval unit came out at 39. Steel City Alabama wished he was in the Deep South on this day. He fought the rain, but had a breach of manners and was picked up. I personally thought while watching the young dog being kenneled that his breach of manners was pre-planned.

Cory's Easy Holy Water (G. Tracy) and Ridge Creek Lou (Kinkelaar), the last brace of the morning, continued to battle the elements breaking strong across the show field and up toward the shotgun range. Holy Water had a find at 8, soon after entering the apple orchard. She then had another at 11 exiting the orchard, just before the posse house. The pointer then moved east rapidly crossing an open field, a deep creek and then up into the Christmas tree field where she recorded a find at 19. The dog continued to push hard, but the retrieval unit was brought out at 49. She got mixed up with some of the gallery heading back to the clubhouse. Ridge Creek Lou had some real wheels starting strong, but fading fast, perhaps because of the conditions. The young setter had a good looking find at 22 in an open grassy area. That led the dog to continue hunting such areas and was subsequently picked up.

Zumbro Stinky Pete (Gellhaus) and The Slight Edge (M. Tracy). The first brace of the afternoon saw a pause in the rain, but still a cold northwest wind. Pete is a five-year-old that just captured a runner-up at the Egyptian Championship. On this day he ran hard, and did have a strong showing on a bird at 6. The flush and shot went well, but that was the high-water mark for this pointer on this day. Just east of the Boy Scout bridge the retrieval unit was requested at 33. The Slight Edge needed it today with the weather conditions. He hunted hard but soon after breakaway found himself on the wrong side of a fence and could not get back. He was picked up at 14.

In Swami's Shadow (Kinkelaar) and Miller's Just Plain Rowdy (G. Tracy) ran shoulder to shoulder through much of the brace. Shadow just a few days earlier won the DeLuca Classic on these same grounds. Today she showed some real power and class. Both dogs shared a divided find at 6 in the Christmas tree field; a thing of beauty to be sure. Shadow then rimmed the hedgerows here and looked really sharp at 19 with a perfect wing and shot exhibition. The brace then moved a little west beyond the Sessions Creek bridge where Shadow recorded a find at 33. Another hedgerow point with all in order at 40; then a back at 49 and a hawk kill point at 50. As the handler went to flush he could see there were only feathers. The dog relocated and pointed more feathers, and that's when Shadow moved and was picked up. A disappointing end to an otherwise outstanding performance. Just Plain Rowdy moved with great energy and had a very strong race. Rowdy rimmed the hedgerows and woodslines on the large Christmas tree field, and shared a divided find at 6 that was eye-catching. He then opened up and recorded a great looking find at 15.

The wing and shot went perfectly and the pointer moved to treerows and hedgerows west of the Sessions Creek bridge where he recorded a back at 33 and then ran out the clock with points at 44, 49, 50 and finally at 56. It was a great brace to end the day.

Thursday, 8:11 a. m., 60 , southwest wind 10 mph, light rain.

Lone Tree's Showbiz (Gellhaus) and Miller's Heat Seeker (G. Tracy) broke from the clubhouse. Showbiz is a big running dog that headed toward Hires field and kept on running. The retrieval unit was called out at 30. Heat Seeker is a two-year-old that won the Georgia Open Championship. He ran strong along the hedgerow leading to Hires field, and then rimmed a woodsline there and had a find at 7. He had another in Hires field at 30, but was picked up three minutes later.

R J's Deicer (Kinkelaar) and Reedy Creek Dial Tone (M. Tracy). As the rain came down a little harder both dogs reacted accordingly. Deicer is an accomplished bird dog with four championships, but as they hunted the back part of the course they struggled. Deicer did have two tough and very wet finds near the dike at the west end of Sessions Creek. But at 45 the handler picked him up. As he entered the dog wagon I think I heard Deicer say, "I'm sure glad that's over." Dial Tone is a first-year dog that hunted hard during the downpour and did have a solid find at 7, but that was about it. He was picked up at 47.

Sugarknoll War Paint (G. Tracy) and Waybetter Billy (Basilone). War Paint is another George Tracy dog with a long resum sporting 14 championships, but on this wet day not much was happening for the multiple champion. The brace broke on the tail end of the course which can be challenging, especially with what was happening weather-wise. War Paint did a good job of rimming woodslines heading toward the gravel pit, and did secure a find at 13, and later a back at 22. As they crossed the bridge, the brace rose up to a show field referred to as gobblers' knob. War Paint had a solid point here at 30. This is also where the gallery was treated to one of the many sights that make a field trial so appealing. The bracemate, Waybetter Billy, had a back more than a hundred feet from War Paint . . . the pair stood as soldiers; not a muscle moving despite the tight proximity of gallery horses and the dog wagon closing within feet of Billy. It was a joy to watch despite the fact the point was an unproductive and War Paint was soon picked up. Waybetter Billy had a noteworthy performance. He is a brother to Rocky, and showed why genes are so important. He had a back at 13, and then proceeded to find birds in areas other dogs had struggled with all week. The terrain here is very hilly and hedgerows branch off the horse path both right and left. At 22 he spun into a picture point along one of those hedgerows. Within five minutes another find at 27 where flush and shot went perfectly. He then moved with power and speed down and across a creek then up to gobblers' knob where he had the back discussed above at 30. He proceeded to push the hedgerows there, recording finds at 33, also at 36 and finished strong. He never let up during the entire hour.

Hoos English Ivy (Basilone) and Sassy Creek (J. McHugh) broke away west of the Sessions Creek bridge with English Ivy coming off a runner-up placement at an amateur all-age classic in New Jersey. The classy three-year old setter looked good in her casts. At 5 she nailed a bird along a treeline; the wing and shot went as planned and Ivy was off again. After moving east and passing a dirt dike road she moved over and up into some hedgerows and had a find at 12 which went well. Within two minutes she had another find. The setter must have been feeling her Purina because at this point she went real long and at 23 the retrieval unit came out. Sassy Creek was handled in this brace by her owner Joe McHugh from South Georgia, while Mike Tracy did the scouting honors. The dog runs big and with purpose, but probably deserved a better weather day. The brace, like so many others, was challenged by cold and steady rain. Sassy Creek hustled to birdy objectives and had a find at 7. The young pointer looked good when it moved up into the apple orchard where she produced an unproductive at 20. Sassy Creek then crossed the lower end of the orchard, and moved toward a hedgerow south of the posse house. Here the young pointer had a beautiful find in a dense plum thicket. The handler put the bird to flight; the gun barked and all was in order. The dog from there crossed in front of the posse house headed west to the Christmas tree field, but the weather had spoken and the handler chose to pick her up.

Bully Rock (M. Tracy) and Miller's Miss Calamity Jane (G. Tracy). This was the first brace of the afternoon and breakaway came at the clubhouse hill. Bully Rock is a grandson of Our Big Bully, a former Shooting Dog of the Year winner. This precocious pointer was a bird-finding machine on this wet afternoon, putting on quite a show covering the hedgerows and woodslines like a much older competitor. He had no sooner gotten his legs heading up the first hedgerow when he slammed into a point at 5 heading toward Hires field. From there he hit the gas rimming the woodsline and nailing quail at 12 and 14; in all cases holding for a perfect wing and shot performance. As he left Hires field he needed some handling as he got off his lines, but was turned nicely by the scout. He responded with a superb back at 22 and then again at 24. He moved up and over Logan's Lookout and into a valley of branching hedge-rows spinning neatly into a perfect point at 34. It turned out to be an unproductive, but the style was there for all to see. As Rock moved from there he continued to show off his 5-star nose with points at 35, 42, 44, 47 and at the one-hour mark. It was a bird-finding festival, courtesy of a dog we will no doubt be hearing from in the coming years. Calamity Jane is a three-year-old pointer with a championship and runner-up already recorded. On this afternoon she broke strong from the clubhouse hill heading west to Hires field. At 15 along a treeline she had a classy find. She nailed another bird at 21. From there Calamity Jane went long and got out of pocket. The retrieval unit was requested at 35.

Touch's Rocketman (Kinkelaar) is a first year shooting dog and it showed on this afternoon. Just seven minutes after breakaway he came on the solid point along a hedgerow. As the handler moved in for the flush, the youngster moved as well and was picked up. Pack'n A Punch is another in Mike Tracy's string out of Great River Ice. This young male did a splendid job of covering the country. He moved beyond the Christmas tree field, crossing Sessions Creek, and then up into some higher ground where he had three quick and impressive finds. At this juncture bad luck stepped in when the dog found himself in deep water while fording one of the many rising streams on the course. The handler moved quickly to get him back on dry land. He continued for a little while longer, but was then picked up for precautionary reasons, plus the handler knew at this stage of the week he wasn't beating what was already down.

Friday, 8:45 a. m., 38 , 15 mph northwest wind; light rain.

Chelsea's Thunder Bolt (Kinkelaar) and Waybetter Rocky (M. Tracy) was the most anticipated brace of the week featuring two dogs with multiple championships, and last year's winner and runner-up. Thunder Bolt has already been covered. Rocky held the edge tight as he broke from the clubhouse hill and headed up a hedgerow toward Hires field. Thunder Bolt pointed along that hedgerow at 6 and Rocky had a perfect back. Rocky then moved into Hires field and had a second back at 10. Heading north out of Hires field he had stylish finds at 17 and 24 where the hedgerow doglegs to a woodsline. When the brace moved to Logan's Lookout Bolt had a point at 27. Rocky failed to back. A disappointing and surprising mistake from the ten-time champion.

Zorra (Kinkelaar) and North Country Girl (M. Tracy). This brace opened into a show field where both dogs broke big. Zorra had an excellent point, but when the handler flushed the bird it flew back over the dog's head creating movement. Zorra was then picked up. Country Girl was another of the many dogs this week that impressed with her bird-finding ability. She broke across the show field and rimmed the woodsline heading toward the apple orchard. At 8 she recorded the first of her seven beautiful finds. She struck again in the apple orchard numerous times with a staunch demeanor on every point. Here she picked up finds at 19, 21, 28, 30 and 33. She then moved west beyond the posse house heading across open country, a creek and up to the Christmas tree field where she nailed her final bird at 59. It was a great effort in a sea of great efforts all week long.

Hale's Kickstarter (Kinkelaar) has two runner-up championships and three in amateur championships. Kickstarter put the running shoes on immediately and had a find within 4 minutes. He then ran his edges perfectly and had a second find at 13. He moved to a woodsline where he had a point along some heavy briars and tag alders at 18. The handler fought through to get the bird successfully airborne and all was in order. Kickstarter then rolled across an open meadow and nailed a quail on a hedgerow at 21. He proceeded to move toward where hedgerows dead end into woodslines and upon arrival struck another point at 40. It was a great hour until 44 when he had a quail nailed but moved on the flush and was picked up. Unbridled Forever (G. Tracy) had a similar fate as his bracemate. He started strong and had his first solid find on a hedgerow at 7. He then rimmed a long woodsline that resulted in perfect executions at 14 and 18. The dog was flawless on his game, but then came his brace ending mistake when he chased a bird at 24 and was picked up.

Urban Fantasy (Basilone) and Miller's Lock and Loaded (G. Tracy) are used to showing well with Fantasy having just secured runner-up in the Atlantic Coast Shooting Dog Championship, while Lock and Loaded is our Derby winner from a year ago. The breakaway came at the show field leading to the shotgun range, and the usually fertile grounds of the apple orchard. Both pointer males broke shoulder to shoulder toward likely objectives -- hedgerows and treeline that rim the south edge of the large field. It's a great place to show your dog, and there was contact almost immediately at 3 where the brace shared a divided find. This was to become the standard operating procedure for this duo. They moved into the Christmas tree field where they had another divided find at 30 and then two separate but identical finds at 38. Then at 42 both dogs pointed a wooded edge. The bird jumped. The dogs moved and were picked up.

Coosawhatchie Smooth Ride (M. Tracy) is another Great River Ice dog that moves with style and grace. Today he ran well in a tough part of the course heading east toward the gravel pit. The area is lined with hedgerows and woodslines coming off hills that produced a nice limb find by Smooth Ride at 5. He handled the bird flawlessly with flush and shot in order. He then proceeded to cover the edges thoroughly and had an unproductive at 25. From there he had a find at 28, and then bumped a bird at 32 and was picked up. Smuggler's Society Buck (Kinkelaar) is a first-year dog that was sure feeling his Pro Plan on this day. The retrieval unit was out for Buck at 20.

Ionia, Mich., April 16

Judges: Ken Chenoweth and Sean Melvin

MICHIGAN OPEN SHOOTING DOG CHAMPIONSHIP [One-Hour Heats] -- 44 Pointers and 3 Setters

Winner--CHELSEA'S THUNDER BOLT, 1649213, pointer male, by Whippoorwill Wild Agin--Butler's Jill. Dr. Tom Jackson & George Hickox, owners; Shawn Kinkelaar, handler.

Runner-Up--CHEYENNE JACK, 1668503, pointer male, by Great River Ice--Blaze's Isis. Saverio Morelli, owner; Mike Tracy, handler.


The Monday Derby had to be delayed because of two inches of snow that fell overnight. A blanket of mush developed as temperatures started rising. The first breakaway didn't occur until 12:35 p. m. Twenty-two dogs went at it, but two young ladies stood out. The winner, Silver W Jill Z, handled by Shawn Kinkelaar, and runner-up Hightailing Penny under the guidance of Mike Tracy. Both dogs produced three finds and ran a strong forward half-hour race.

Kinkelaar said Jill Z has been a consistent winner all year with a win in the U. S. Quail Shooting Dog Futurity and a half dozen other trials. "This was a great way to end the season," said Shawn. "We got Silver W Jill Z from the Chelsea Plantation last summer, and have been impressed with her athleticism."

The runner-up had a solid showing and a great year as well. "She's won three Derby classics, a Futurity and about five other Derbies," Tracy explained.

From the judges' point of view the two top dogs were the class of the field.

"The difference in the two dogs was not great," noted Judge Melvin. "The winner stayed on her lines better, and the runner-up showed less consistency." The dogs were drawn in the same brace, and seemed to feed off one another. "But as the half-hour wore on the winning dog later moved with more independence," stated Judge Chenoweth. The judges also praised the performance of Silver W Joe Z, also handled by Kinkelaar.

Because of the late start, the Derby ran well past dinnertime. The next evening Shawn Kinkelaar treated everyone to a delicious pizza feast at Olivero's, which is a long-standing tradition for the winning Derby handler or owner. Many thanks Shawn!


Winner--SILVER W JILL Z, 1682062, female, by Ransom--Double Wild. Debbie Ozner, owner; Shawn Kinkelaar, handler.

Runner-Up--HIGHTAILING PENNY, 1674285, female, by Bail Me Out--Calico's Redhot Ember Annie. Kevin Joyce, owner; Mike Tracy, handler.


The great many Hall of Fame careers of all handlers and others in this sport are made possible every year by the dedication of what I refer to as the "extreme volunteer". They have become the standard of the field trial world since the sport's inception; persons prepared twelve months a year to answer the call, and meet the needs of each and every field trial club. They can function as president, secretary or treasurer of a club or, for that matter, go untitled; rarely do they get a thank you, or even a cup of coffee. I mentioned the late Jack Hires earlier, but let us not overlook others who fit the above definition.

Oliver DeLuca has devoted hundreds of hours of his time for decades to keep this Championship alive, and to this day remains the president. He has dedicated his life to the sport, and his eponymous classic precedes this Championship. The DeLuca Classic is also a Purina Top Shooting Dog Award and Handler of the Year points trial, won this year by In Swami's Shadow, handled by Shawn Kinkelaar.

My good friend Dave Fletcher is another of the breed who, at the age of 84, is still burning the midnight oil recording the minutes of the latest club meetings. He, along with Jim Logan, Jack Hires, Chuck Langstaff and Oliver DeLuca and others, worked with the Michigan United Conservation Club to put the Ionia grounds on the map.

The "extreme volunteer" net covers a lot more than just this Championship. Ron Gulembo is the Ionia grounds coordinator; in this capacity he coordinates the tilling, tree removal, fence and bridge repairs. He also wears the buyer and maintenance supervisor hat for three brush hogs, and as many tractors, plows and spreaders. He does all of this while campaigning Brittanys along with his lovely wife Kathy. Ron also works hand in glove with Trevor McGinn, the Ionia Recreation Area Unit Supervisor, and one of the leading state cheerleaders for field trials.

A number of owners made the trip to the Wolverine State for this Championship, as well as our editor Bernie Matthys joined by friends Guy Calhoun and Chip Worthley and my old friends Dave Fletcher, Dave Grubb and Dick Wilson. It was great to see them.

Most impressive over the course of the week was Casey Hollander from South Carolina, who had three dogs in the trial handled by Mike Tracy. She not only rode most of the braces, but scouted for Mike in heavy rain with hood and slicker intact -- that young lady knows no quit.

On hand again this year was Muriel Primm from New Jersey. She has a number of dogs with George and Mike Tracy, and rides practically every brace, whether one of her dogs is entered or not. She, likewise, came prepared for April in Michigan, and was in the saddle rain or not. Carl Bishop of Pennsylvania was also on hand to see Waybetter Rocky, a dog he co-owns with Muriel Primm.

Dr. Tom Jackson, as I noted earlier, was there to see Chelsea's Thunder Bolt, and another dog he has with Shawn Kinkelaar. Other friends and supporters of Shawn were on hand including Mike Duvall from Wisconsin and Tim Dasenbrock from Illinois. It was great to see so many in the gallery!

Terry Debar is the clubhouse coordinator, who campaigns various continental breeds. There are some 30 acres in and around the facility. Keeping it maintained can be extremely time consuming, especially when one considers the electric and plumbing that is often in need of repair. She does an exceptional job of trouble shooting, paying the bills, having the barn and kitchen supplied. A conservative estimate would suggest Terry donates a minimum of 200-hours a year to the task and stays on call around the clock.

Another member of this distinguished class is Dennis DeLuca who hauls the dog wagon pulling tractor on a five-hour round trip at no charge to the club. Dennis is always there whenever we need him, and deserves our sincere appreciation.

Every one of our "extreme volunteers" will have a different reason for their giving spirit. It translates not just here at Ionia, but in their private lives as well. Enjoying field trials can never be the full explanation; there is something else that drives these individuals.

It just may be what Winston Churchill observed many years ago, "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."

A. M.