Result: Region 16 Amateur All-Age Championship
Location: Union Spring, Alabama
Post Date: Feb 14, 2022
Submitted By: Darron Hendley
The Winners. From left: Rebel Survivor with Darron Hendley, Judges Ross Leonard and Scott Little; Southern Shadows T Rex with Brian Peterson, and Lance Servais.
UNION SPRINGS, ALA. -- The Region 16 of the Amateur Field Trial Clubs of America was privileged to hold its annual all-age horseback bird dog championship in the Field Trial Capital of the World, Union Springs, Ala., on the prestigious grounds of Conecuh Station Plantation.
Region 16 consists of Alabama, Georgia and Florida; however, 34 different handlers from as far away as California, Oregon, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois came to compete. A total of 55 dogs were entered, 52 pointers and 3 setters, presently believed to be the largest drawing in an amateur field trial stake this year.
Large entries generally result from good grounds, good judges and the promise of a good time. We had all three!
Conecuh Station is a sprawling quail and timber plantation owned and operated by Bullock Countian's Tony and Becky Gibson. They have spared no expense in making their property one of the premier venues in the country to show big running, wide ranging bird dogs. The hunting courses meander smoothly through 4,000+ acres of gently rolling hills. Towering loblolly pines spread as far as the eye can see. Sandy creek bottoms fed by crystal clear spring water drain the high ground. Golden sage carpets the landscape. Magnificent old oak trees are scattered about making for easy landmarks through the courses.
The Conecuh Station crew, led by Bo Brewer, spent last spring and summer thinning timber, burning, mowing, plowing, and planting feed strips. Miles of brown-top millet, partridge peas, teosinte and love grass rows provide excellent cover for quail. A network of roads have been expertly graded to make getting around a breeze.
There are wild birds on the property, but thousands of quail are pre-released throughout the season which accounted for a lot of bird work. The released birds were hatched and raised right on the property. Coveys were large and flew strong when flushed. Every brace featured bird work. Nearly the entire plantation had been blocked-out with bush hogs to make for easy hunting.
Judging for several days in a row is hard work and not for sissies. The judges get up before daylight every morning, feeding and saddling horses. They must ride all day, stopping only for lunch and short breaks between braces. They have to make tough decisions. For every handler that is happy with the decision, there are usually several others that are unhappy. But that is just the way it is.
We were pleased to have experienced and qualified judges. Two very capable and astute judges, Ross Leonard from Chatsworth, Ga., and Scott Little from Woodlawn, Tenn., served. Both men have been in the field trial game for years, breeding, training and competing with their own dogs. They knew what to look for in an all-age Champion, where to look for it and when to look for it They rode hard and were very attentive to every dog that hit the ground.
To put it mildly, weather was mixed for the four-and-a-half days of running.
The first day consisted of scattered showers and small storms, but warm temperatures. Overnight five inches of rain fell in a torrential downpour, raising creeks and flooding low-lying bottoms. A cold rain continued off and on all day the second. The third day broke with chilly temperatures, but wall to wall sunshine. Cool but pleasant weather blessed us the rest of the trial.
The champion ran on the second day of the trial in less-than-ideal conditions. Coming five-year-old Rebel Survivor, a handsome orange and white male pointer scoured the countryside for owner-handler David Williams tallying perfectly handled finds at the one-minute mark, at 12 minutes, 27 and 47 minutes. Rebel handled well while laying down a strong, steady, consistent front running race that required very little scouting.
Particularly impressive was Rebel's ability to use the wind to his advantage to find game in the rain, when other dogs were having no luck. I've always said, "Birds start moving when you turn loose a good bird dog!" Rebel proved me right again!
Southern Shadows T Rex was named runner-up for his sterling all-age performance with three deep limb finds at 36, 45 and 56. His strong forward finish in Bird Alley going toward the Chicken House gate put the icing on the cake. "Rex" is an athletic, white and liver ticked male pointer that just turned four years old.
He is owned by Lance Servais and was handled by Brian Peterson, both of Cecil, Ala.
Any successful field trial takes a team of dedicated sponsors and volunteers. We are so very blessed to have the continued support of two local Union Springs, Ala., business. Phillips Feed and Seed, owned and operated by Craig Phillips. Craig donated hay and horse feed for the judges. Gibson's Home Center, owned and operated by Tony and Becky Gibson provided trophies for the winners and beautiful gifts for the judges and reporter. Please patronize these stores and thank them for their continued support of field trials in the Field Trial Capital of the World.
Greg Blair, our regional representative for Purina Nestle donated Purina ProPlan Sport 30/20 dog food for the winners. Good dog food is always a welcomed bonus! We can't thank them enough for their generosity!
Nobody does field trials like Bullock County, Alabama! Our volunteers make it fun and keeps them running like a top! Conecuh Station's award-winning breakfast crew, George Cole and Faye Duncan, served a delicious hot breakfast every day. George fell under the weather for a couple of mornings, so Renee Peek came to rescue. Thankfully, George recovered quickly and was back for the last day.
Local Scott Hasson was Johnny-on-the-Spot with the dog wagon. Anthony Martino, Robert Moorer and Brian Peterson marshalled. Renee Peek with help from Connie Hicks prepared hot and scrumptious lunches every day. Renee also treated participants to appetizers and cocktails in the clubhouse every afternoon after the day's running.
Our nightly social events were held in conjunction with the National Open Shooting Dog Championship which was being simultaneously contested on the other side of town at Sedgefields Plantation. On Saturday night everyone enjoyed a taco bar and Sunday night a Low County Shrimp Boil was served up.
Union Springs epitomizes the best of what field trials in the south has to offer, the friendly competition, the camaraderie, the fellowship, the enjoyment of seeing old friends while making new ones, and of course, the southern hospitality. The excitement of having two different bird dog championships, one professional and one amateur, in the same town running simultaneously creates an atmosphere that is seen nowhere else.
The nine days of running bird dogs culminated with Bullock Countian Michael Martino winning the National Open Shooting Dog Championship with Bo Bunda, owned by ninety-year-old Jack Arlington from neighboring Russell County, Alabama. Bullock County native Murphy Renfro scouted the champion.
As a side note, Michael Martino competed in Alabama Youth Field Trials over twenty years ago. After training and handling the 2022 National Open Shooting Dog Champion, Martino is now at the pinnacle of his profession! He is believed to be the second youngest handler to ever win this prestigious title.
Congratulations Michael, Jack, Murphy and Bo!
Union Spring, Ala., February 3
Judges: Rose Leonard and Scott Little
REGION 16 AMATEUR ALL-AGE CHAMPIONSHIP
[One-Hour Heats] -- 52 Pointers and 3 Setters
Winner--REBEL SURVIVOR, 1680246, pointer male, by Rebel Pride--In Swami's Shadow. David E. Williams, owner and handler.
Runner-Up--SOUTHERN SHADOWS T REX, 1682853, pointer male, by Skyfall--Miller's White Wall. Lance Servais, owner; Brian Peterson, handler.