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Event: Reedy Creek Dial Tone Dials Up A Championship; Bolt's Baby Storms for Runner-Up
Result: Michigan Open Shooting Dog Championship

Location: Ionia, Michigan

Post Date: Jul 19, 2022

Submitted By: Al Mannes


Michigan Open Shooting Dog Winners. Front - Joe Guzman, Kelsey Hajek with Reedy Creek Dial Tone, Dr. Tom Jackson with Thunderbolt's Storm, Jim Cipponeri, back left - Blake Rizzo, Paul Renius, Mike Tracy, Ron Williams, Brent Masengale, Tim McClurg and Jeff Haggis - judges, Richard Lipski, Gerry Moisson, Shawn Kinkelaar.

Reedy Creek Dial Tone's patience and hard work was finally rewarded with a formidable final day flourish to win the 42nd running of the Michigan Open Shooting Dog Championship. A strong runner-up performance was turned in by Thunderbolt's Storm, a first-year shooting dog out of the incomparable Chelsea's Thunder Bolt. The five-year old champion was masterfully handled by Mike Tracy of Glenville Pa., and owned by Joe McHugh of Boston, Ga. Runner-up Storm is owned by Dr. Tom Jackson of Columbus Indiana who is also co-owner of Thunderbolt. The maestro for the runner-up was Shawn Kinkelaar of Effingham, Ill.

"He's a five-year old out of all-age National Champion Miller's Dialing In", noted champion handler Tracy. "This is his first championship, but not for a lack of effort. He's come so close many times with runner-ups. His owner Joe McHugh and I knew it was just a matter of time. Our patience was rewarded today".
Shawn Kinkelaar was pleased his first year shooting dog Storm, "She is a natural and has come on fast. Chris Peek has done a substantial amount of the training on her when I have been on the road. That young female has a bright future." Storm's owner Dr. Tom Jackson also scouted his charge, "She is out of my own breeding. I've got a female out of Sinbad at home and so I've had my hands on that dog since she was born."

What's noteworthy for me about the trial is that after just a two-year hiatus because of COVID; the kennels of these two top handlers have changed so significantly. Dogs I looked forward to seeing are no longer here. Shawn has retired Chelsea's Thunderbolt and another top dog - True Choice suffered heart failure at the age of seven. The Tracy string also consisted of such notables as Backcountry Tornado, North Country Girl, and my all time favorite name - Coosawhatchie Smooth Ride, but no more. It's a constant challenge to keep a stellar string, but these two manage that every year. It's like the old saying when discussing great football coaches, "They don't rebuild, they just reload." So it is with Mike and Shawn.

The trial was run at the Ionia Recreational area with the Derby on Monday April 18th - the Championship started the next morning and ran through Thursday April 21st. The 2022 running was dedicated to our long time patron and friend Oliver DeLuca who passed in 2019. I'll have more on the contributions of that great gentleman a little later.

The trial had an international judging flavor when Jeff Haggis came down from Glencoe Ontario to ride with Judge Tim McClurg from Fowler Ohio. Getting competent judges is half the battle in having a trial respected by all involved; both these gentlemen possess the grit and gravitas to make the tough call with complete conviction. They were on top of every brace and choreographed their coverage to make sure each dog and handler had their full attention. Their decades of judging trials and championships served the handlers and owners at this venue quite well.

It was disappointing to see so few professional handlers at the trial. To be sure, the two that did make the long journey are at the top of almost any shooting dog manifest. Mike Tracy and Shawn Kinkelaar have nineteen handler of the year awards between them - that's Ruth and Gehrig by any measure. But where are the rest? They competed 32-dogs, but there should be a lot more. Dr. Allen Dunbar came over from Wisconsin with two beautiful, well groomed hirsute setters, but he was the only amateur. In reviewing other trials in The Field I notice this is not uncommon, but it needs to be addressed. It could be just a cultural phenomenon. The modern American is choosing gadgets and games over field trials and fresh air. It's a cultural challenge endemic to almost all sports. The future of this sport could face parlous times if a new generation of handlers and owners cannot be found. Let's just hope there is a solution that we can all support.

The weather for the trial was quite predictable for April in mid-Michigan The sun was never seen until Thursday afternoon. It was cold, windy and snowy, but the dogs didn't seem to mind and the trial went off without a hitch despite a few delays.
The field trial grounds at the Ionia Recreation Area are maintained by the Michigan Field Trial Clubs. When the area is inundated, week in and week out by one storm after another, it becomes an almost Sisyphaen task to keep the courses in working condition. Field trials here literally piggyback one another all season long. But somehow they get it done. Vice-President Jim Cipponeri and Secretary/Treasurer Joe Guzman have their feet in the mud constantly reassessing and re-evaluating what needs to be done to make sure this stays a championship venue. Where the course starts and ends, twists and turns, rises and falls is always under their microscope. Again this year they made it happen, albeit with a number of last minute changes and adjustments.

Also again this year, as in every year, there was a paucity of PM quail contacts. Dogs drawn for an afternoon brace struggled to locate birds, while morning draws would turn big point totals. In my opinion, it was a tribute to Reedy Creek Dial Tone, Mike Tracy and the judges that, true to the spirit of the sport and the rules, the dog was judged for more than just points. His ground game took precedence.

It is little wonder that quail numbers are in a constant state of flux, despite the generous seeding of the fields. A parliament of predators can be seen perched in perfect view of every released bird, just waiting for all of us to move through. Perhaps an examination of a more efficacious way to distribute the birds will be undertaken by the committee before next year.
The quality of the flight birds was again excellent. That has always been a top priority going back to the days of the late leaders of this event...Oliver DeLuca, Jack Hires and Jim Logan. Again, Cipponeri and Guzman along with some others, do a thorough job of insuring the championship designation is maintained. Good flight birds is just one of a number of issues that have to be examined every year.

It's also essential to mention our great friends and supporters at Purina. No matter where I go, the Purina banner flies and the brand is found in every trailer. Due to their due diligence in research and marketing, they've successfully woven themselves into the fabric of field trials and animal nutrition. That's quite a formidable achievement. The Purina dinner was held on Wednesday evening, and prepared expertly by dog wagon wrangler Ron Williams and Tom Winters. It's always great to sit around and talk dogs while enjoying a fine meal.
Reedy Creek Dial Tone - Handler-Mike Tracy - Scout-Kelsey Hajek
The champion was released as a bye dog on Thursday afternoon just as the sun came out - temperatures warming. The first dog up in the afternoon was impressive from first whistle. The five-year old pointer released at the top of the hill on course one, shined in the afternoon sun for one solid hour.
Immediately, he laid out to the front and hung his lines and made big bold moves. His first being at the 12-minute mark when the handler turned an edge coming out of Hires field and saw Dial Tone dialed in - solid on point - muscle and sinew frozen in place. "He had good style and polish on his points", explained Judge McClurg, "but his most impressive quality was his range, style and ability to hang his lines perfectly, right to the shooting dog limits." After a textbook flush and fire in a mass of tangled plum thickets and hawthorn, Dial Tone rolled smartly out of Hires field, through the horse staging area to a long hedgerow running north. This is where he was found locked in again - as solid as a bank vault. "In all three of his finds we actually found him on point each time", noted Tracy, "and each time he handled the shot and flush perfectly". From this point the hedgerow continues north for a short time and then dog legs east for a few hundred yards and then back north again. This is where Dial Tone slams into his third and final find - coming in just the first 30-minutes. "He was flawless on his birds," Judge Haggis opined, "There was no mistake in this dog once he locked in on point". From here it was as if Dial Tone said, "OK, you've seen my points, now watch me cover this course". The dog on this day eat up real estate faster then Patton's 3rd Army. After rolling to the top of Logan's Lookout he barreled down a gentle escarpment that features vertical hedgerows and a bending horse path that leads across the Boy Scout bridge and eventually to some open country. Dial Tone was up to the challenge, covering all of it in an afternoon atmosphere renowned for lack of game contact. "He rimmed every field and left no birdie section uncovered," concluded Tracy. It was obvious during the hour that this was a dog connected to his handler, but hunted independently. "The dog was as strong at the finish as it was at breakaway", noted McClurg, "he covered it all and seemed mistake free - an impressive performance".

Thunder Bolt's Storm - Handler - Shawn Kinkelaar - Scout/Owner - Dr. Tom Jackson. The runner-up was released in the second brace at the back end of the course on Wednesday morning in 29-degree weather, and light northerly winds. The first-year shooting dog showed a lot of maturity with her range and her honest application to her edges - good training was in evidence. But this dog was also on a bird hunt; she came up big with seven finds and a back in her hour. She rolled with great style and energy across the show field to the rock pile and then through the apple orchard and then to the show bottom and up to the Christmas tree field and beyond. Her first three finds came in the first half hour; she had four more in the second and finished with plenty of gas in the tank. The young dog covered all objectives and found birds everywhere. What was also notable was the extreme distances at times she pointed the birds with stone cold certitude. The judges admitted there was just a gossamer thin difference between the runner-up and champion. "She did not have quite as mature of demeanor as the overall winner", Judge McClurg analyzed. Scout and owner Dr. Tom Jackson saw the difference as well. "Storm on some occasions wanted to mark flight on her birds, and I think that left the door open for judgment. "This dog has a big future" Judge Haggis explained, "It's not often you see such style, range and bird finding ability in a first year dog." Shawn Kinkelaar was gratified to see Storm do this well, but was most impressed when, "I had to relocate her twice, and it worked perfectly, that is not always the case with a young dog".

The judges gave honorable mention kudos to three other performers:
Miller's Heat Seeker, Answered Prayers, and Miller's High Heat Index. All were handled by Mike Tracy.
The championship started on a cold, windy and snow driven Tuesday morning. The freezing overnight temperatures put a thin rime across the mane of a number of the horses - riders were bundled and braced for a gelid gallop.

Tuesday: 8:15am , 30 degrees, with 15/20 mph north wind - snow showers.
Bully Rock (Tracy) and Silver W Jill Z (Kinkelaar) broke away at the top of the hill in course number one heading west. Both dogs were a beautiful sight crossing a snow driven landscape. Bully Rock won the Georgia Open Shooting Dog Championship last year and knows how to gobble up ground. That caused the big running pointer to be a little hard to handle at first but settled into a nice pattern as the hour went on. He was textbook on his points registering four finds and executed the wing and shot perfectly on each. He also had an unproductive, but finished strong. Silver W Jill Z won the Derby here two years ago and has been winning big ever since counting an impressive win in the Tennessee Open Shooting Dog Championship. She and her bracemate executed a powerful opening burst with Jill Z recording one perfect find and then an uncharacteristic mistake at the 16-minute mark when she failed to back. Kinkelaar was disappointed, but simply lamented, "It was just not her day".

Faithful (Tracy) and Up Front McQuade (Kinkelaar) - These two young pointers are part of the rebuilding program I mentioned earlier for both handlers. Faithful is out of Waybetter Rocky and McQuade is a first year dog out of Chelsea's Thunderbolt. Both dogs bolted out of the gate and immediately impressed with their running style across the show field. Faithful ended up recording four finds, an unproductive, but finished in a flurry. McQuade was doing well also with with two finds and a stylish back and then went to terra incognita at the 45-minute mark and was picked up.

Grouse Feather Witcher (Dunbar) and Cheyenne Jack (Tracy) - this was an unusual and disappointing encounter for both dogs and handlers. Witcher just came off a second place in the DeLuca Classic this past weekend and Cheyenne was our runner-up two years ago. Both were impressive competitors until they weren't. Coming out of Hires field both had a breech of manners on the same nervous flighty quail at exactly the same moment and were picked up.
Afternoon Tuesday
Chelsea's Mae West (Kinkelaar) and Miller's Heat Seeker - Mae West is the first champion out of Thunderbolt having won the Mississippi Championship just two months ago. Heat Seeker, on the other hand, is a multiple champion. Both dogs ran in tandem down some long hedgerows with Mae West backing Heat Seeker on one find and showed her youth when she failed to back on a second and was picked up. Heat Seeker was on fire despite the cold. This dog covers ground better than Sherwin Williams covers the earth. He boiled down one hedgerow and up the other with head and tail high. He seemed to be campaigning for an all-age designation as he rimmed the Christmas tree field, the show field and beyond. He recorded a total of two finds and an unproductive. He finished the hour and was in the money with a honorable mention judgment.

Sargent of Arms (Kinkelaar) and Miller's Braveheart (Tracy) - this was one of those, "I should have stayed in the kennel" moments for both dogs. Released at the dam Sargent of Arms actually showed well for 45-minutes even though he had no bird contact. It was at this point that Sargent went AWOL and had the handler and scout in fits searching and screaming. Eventually the Sargent was located and immediately demoted to private. Miller's Braveheart was an even greater conundrum. He went to terra incognita almost immediately. The handler called for the collar and was eventually located somewhere in the mid-west.
Waybetter Rocky (Tracy) and Tug of War (Kinkelaar) - Rocky was runner-up here in 2018 and has been a big winner all of his life. On this day he was picked up at the 52-minute mark after a breech of manners. Tug of War has had a great year with a win in the International Endurance Championship last November and started this brace off strong with an impressive dug up find coming out of Hires field. He later also suffered a breech of manners and was picked up.
Wednesday: 8:40 a.m. 29 degrees wind west 5 mph.
Less wind and no snow greeted this morning's ride.
Grouse Feather Texas Ranger (Dunbar) and Answered Prayers (Tracy) - Texas Ranger is a stylish setter out of Hytest Paladin. The breakaway went well at the top of the hill heading west and within moments Ranger had a solid point. As the handler rode up the bird flushed wild, the dog moved and his day was over. Answered Prayers is another one of those young studs in the Tracy string. He's had some runner-ups and on this morning had an impressive hour as he rolled up the fence line heading toward Hires field .

The young dog held an impressive pattern throughout the hour and executed three finds - held solid for the flush and fire and finished in the money with an honorable mention.

Osceola's Seminole Wind (Tracy) and Thunderbolt's Storm (Kinkelaar) -
Seminole Wind has been impressive this year with a win at the Northeastern Championship. On this morning she was put down in the second hour near the dam and was having a day to remember with 5-finds and a powerful performance. Always to the front and holding her edges and then a train wreck with ten minutes to go. "This was a heart breaker", mused handler Tracy. The dog seemed lost - the collar called for - and then found moments later on point and on the course. Thunderbolt's Storm was covered earlier.

Miller's War Bonnet (Tracy) and Big Man on Campus (Kinkelaar) - War Bonnet has secured a number of classic winds including an impressive effort winning the Conecuh Station Classic in Union Springs last fall. The young pointer is still looking for her first championship. It was not to be on this day as she did have one find, but was picked up after an unproductive at the 40-minute mark. Big Man on Campus did not fare much better. He nailed a bird along some plum thickets rimming the Christmas tree field, but then moved on the flush and was picked up.
Afternoon Wednesday

Raag's Rich and Rare (Tracy) and Oak Ridge Thor (Kinkelaar) - first brace of the afternoon found Raag's not holding his edges. He did nail three birds in the process and held well for the wing and shot. A little later the handler did not like his pattern and he was soon watching the trial from the dog wagon at the 31-minute mark. Oak Ridge Thor finished second in the Lone Star and Fleetwood Classic and is coming on strong. On this afternoon he made a youthful mistake when he failed to back and was picked up.
Thunderbolt's Wild Again (Kinkelaar) and Miller's Extreme Heat (Tracy)
Everyone felt sorry for these two young ladies. Dropped in the afternoon they rolled over every hedgerow, treeline and show field they could find. Their handlers gave them plenty of space and time, but they could produce no birds. Being merciful handlers, the girls were relieved of duty with about 15 minutes left. An especially disappointing hour for Extreme Heat just coming off an impressive win at the Carolina Classic last month.

JN Bolt Action (Kinkelaar) and Miller's Record Heat (Tracy) - Bolt Action just came off an impressive derby win here on Monday. He's out of Chelsea's Thunderbolt but still has a lot to learn. He looked great on the breakaway and was soon found on point with his bracemate. A breech of manners on the flush had him back in the dog wagon at the 15-minute mark.
Record Heat is another one of those ubiquitous Jack and Fran Miller products
in demand across the country. This little female was impressive in her pattern and gait. She ran a big race and had three solid finds and two unproductives and finished the hour. This was an excellent showing for an afternoon draw.
Thursday: 9:14a.m. 49 degrees -light rain and wind from the east.
Preceding breakaway: a moment of silent prayer by the writer that somewhere, someday the sun would again somehow appear.

Erin's Big Casino (Tracy) and Hale's Smooth Touch (Kinkelaar) - There was much anticipation to see Big Casino run. A Hidden Shamrock product, this setter comes by its name naturally - about 60 pounds and long legs. Both dogs broke from the top of breakaway hill and showed strong heading west along the fence row. The big setter ran faster then you could say Tomoka. He had a great bounding, attractive gait and produced two finds and a perfect back within 20-minutes. But then, coming off an edge in Hires field, he ran over a bird. The handler knew he couldn't unring that bell - Big Casino went to his big kennel for the morning. Hale's Smooth Touch was equally impressive with a perfect back, but then came an unproductive followed by a breech of manners on a back which took her out of the running.

Erin's Thunder Backus (Kinkelaar) and Iron Bully (Tracy) - Thunder Backus is an impressive young derby co-owned by Gerry Moisson and Dr. Tom Jackson. They were both in the saddle to watch their charge. A couple days earlier he won the DeLuca Classic which is also run here at Ionia. The dog broke strong at the huge show field on the back end of the course. He held his edges nicely, producing a back and then three finds as he moved across and up to the Christmas tree field. It was here that he had an excellent point, but when the recalcitrant quail couldn't be located, the handler went for a relocation. Backus bumped the bird and was picked up at the 40-minute mark. Iron Bully has had some eye popping efforts this past season but no major wins. This was another example today as this dog went on a serious bird hunt. Starting at the show field this dog found quail wherever he journeyed. He had eight solid finds, looking calendar like on everyone. His range was a little short so we got a good look at his effort. His Waterloo moment came in the Christmas tree field where on a relocation he swung swiftly to point, but not before the quail flush. His day was over.

Miller's High Heat Index (Tracy) -Bye Dog- Heat Index was the first of four consecutive Tracy bye dogs. He has a number of championships on his resume. To the eye he has everything you'd want in a one-hour shooting dog. He showed great intelligence from breakaway to finish, covering the country with a high-styling gait and a bright red-light reaction when suddenly slamming on point. He had two perfect finds and seemed to need very little handling. A real joy to watch and finished in the money with an honorable mention designation.
Afternoon Thursday
Something quite strange happened at 1:30 pm this day. A bright ball appeared directly overhead. We were in stunned silence until suddenly someone exclaimed, "Its the sun!" A truly hard to believe moment; our spirits rose faster than the temperature. It was therapeutic! It was also the first sun of the tournament.

Reedy Creek Dial Tone (Tract) -Bye Dog - Dial Tone was inspired. Afternoon brace or not, he was basking in the sunlight and feeling his Purina. His championship effort was about to commence: the performance documented earlier.

Bittersweet War Cry (Tracy) -Bye Dog -released on the back end of the course with a sun dappled sky overhead everyone was feeling good. War Cry did show some flash with two classy finds, but his ground game was not pleasing the handler and he was picked up.
Miller's Lock and Loaded - (Tracy) - Bye Dog - This pointer had a powerful forward race with good range and had one find, but the handler picked him up after a 26-minute absence.
Ionia, Mich., April 18 - One Course
Judges: Jeff Haggis and Tim McClurg
MICHIGAN OPEN SHOOTING DOG CHAMPIONSHIP [One-Hour Heats] - 29 Pointers and 3 Setters

Winner-REEDY CREEK DIAL TONE, 1673570, pointer male, by Miller's Dialing In-Diamond Sally. Joe McHugh, owner; Mike Tracy, handler.
Runner-Up-THUNDER BOLT'S STORM, 1684304, pointer female, by Chelsea's Thunder Bolt-Lacey Underall. Thomas L. Jackson, owner; Shawn Kinkelaar, handler.
The Derby got underway on Monday, but the first brace had to be delayed until the afternoon because of an anticipated overnight snow storm that never developed.
Winner ---- JN Bolt Action -Handler -Shawn Kinkelaar
Runner-up - Waybetter Rebel -Handler - Mike Tracy
The winner and runner-up were braced together and both broke away with an elan and dash that belied their derby status. They rolled west along the fence line leading to Hires field. Both dogs managed a plethora of points but the ground game of JN Bolt Action was more judge pleasing. Bolt Action had four finds, and handled all with error free efficiency. "Bolt Action showed well on the ground", observed Judge Haggis, "He ran a strong, forward race and ran the edges well and finished strong in the half-hour". Waybetter Rebel bettered Bolt's point numbers with 6 finds - all handled textbook style. "We were not so much counting points as we were looking at the whole picture", noted Judge Dunbar. "We felt Bolt's ground game was a little better".

The winning handler was not surprised by this son of Bolt moment, "I knew he could handle the bird work, but I was more pleased with his ground game and discipline," observed Kinkelaar. "This is his fourth win this year so I think the future's bright".
Runner-up handler Mike Tracy was likewise sanguine about his pupil's prospects. "I was really impressed the the young derby. This placement gives that dog a great shot at Derby Dog of the Year honors"
There seems to be little debate that we'll be hearing a lot more from these precocious pointers in the near future. With Bolt being out of champion Chelsea's Thunderbolt and Waybetter Rebel down from champion Waybetter Rocky; an outsider can only bear witness to the certitude of the old bird dog axiom----------------- BLOOD RULES!


Open Derby Classic. From left: Shawn Kinkelaar, Dr. Allen Dunbar - judge, Blake Rizzo with J N Bolt Action, Ron Williams, Mike Tracy with Waybetter Rebel, Jeff Haggis - judge, Jim Cipponeri, Richard Lipski, Joe Guzman.

Judges: Dr. Allen Dunbar and Jeff Haggis
OPEN DERBY CLASSIC - 10 Pointers and 1 Setter

Winner-J N BOLT ACTION, 1697302, pointer male, by Chelsea's Thunder Bolt-Double Wild. Joe Stokley, owner; Shawn Kinkelaar, handler.
Runner-Up-WAYBETTER REBEL, 1689139, pointer male, by Dominator's Rebel Heir-Calico's Country Strong. Carl Bishop & Bill & Muriel Primm, owners; Mike Tracy, handler.

Tradition has it that the Derby winning handler treats to pizza on derby night. That's usually Monday. We all had a great night at Olivera's. It was fun getting back together with folks I hadn't seen since the last trial two years ago. Thanks again Shawn!


Shawn and Dr. Tom Jackson holding up a cake in tribute to Chelsea's Thunder Bolt.


It is highly unusual indeed when a retirement announcement brings tears. Tradition has it as a moment of unfettered felicity; a time to rejoice, a time to say, "I'm sure glad that's over." That sentiment would in no way, shape or form, capture the empty feeling felt by both Shawn Kinkelaar and Dr. Tom Jackson back in February when, after Chelsea's Thunderbolt won the U.S Invitational Championship, they decided to hang up his competitive collar at the age of ten.
"We wanted him to go out on top, and there is no greater way to go out than to finish with another Invitational Championship," explained handler Kinkelaar. "He won it for the third time to tie Great River Ice. It's, in my opinion, the hardest shooting dog trial to win." And win is all Bolt's ever done: 23 championships and four dog of the year honors with three of those championships coming in succession right here at the Michigan venue in Ionia. I also found it close to impossible to believe when I looked it up that Bolt won every Michigan Championship on his birthday which is April 21st. How amazing is that?

"I knew almost from the beginning that I had something special," noted co-owner Dr. Tom Jackson. "But my partner and I, George Hickok, agreed with Shawn that it was the right time".
Kinkelaar readily admits the absence of Bolt in his truck creates a new calculus at every trial. It was always comforting to know The Dog was there if things got dicey. "When Bolt was in the truck everyone always knew the trial wasn't over until he had his say." To be sure, Shawn is not driving an empty truck. His outstanding young string is, in large measure, a Bolt born product. Just this week a daughter of Bolt took runner-up here at the Michigan Championship. I guess you could say his string is still running on full.

Dr. Tom Jackson is also looking to the future, but as he admits, it's impossible not to look in the rear view mirror. "When I look back on Bolt's career, what impressed me the most was his consistency and his unique ability to win in any venue. He won on the prairies in North Dakota, then won in the piney woods down south, then on to Conway Arkansas where he wins the Invitational and up to the mid-west and hedgerow country where he wins multiple times here in Michigan."

Bolt's success often puts Shawn in the cross-hairs of a spirited debate. Which dog was his greatest? Shawn has already handled four into the Hall of Fame. That is a tall order by any standard. "I get asked almost every day who was the best. Quite honestly he has to rank right up there with any of them. Numerically, with 23 championships, he would be hard to argue against".

I really enjoyed Dr Jackson's long view when he observed, "I caught lightning in a bottle with Bolt. I was very lucky since he was my first dog. I have other good dogs with Shawn and I am optimistic, but I also know I've already experienced life at the top." I couldn't agree more with the good doctor. A star that bright may never be seen again.

This brief notation would not be complete without thanking Dr Tom and Shawn for a great evening dinner at Olivera's topped by some delicious Thunderbolt cake. The entire Michigan Open Shooting Dog community appreciates your generosity.

I was extremely pleased to meet Todd Kellam, the Vice President of the United Kennel Club when he came up from his home office in nearby Kalamazoo to view the trial. Todd was accompanied by two good friends of mine - former managing editor of the American Field, Bernie Matthys and Hall of Fame reporter for The Field, Dave Fletcher. Bernie looks great. I told him that at the age of 84 it was time to sit back and enjoy the view. He countered that he's slowly learning how to retire, but it's not easy. Dave Fletcher at 88, on the other hand, will never retire from his febrile devotion to the field trial sport. He's in good health and still reporting trials - they are two amazing young men.

Todd, as you probably know, now has the keys to the American Field's future. Both Bernie and Dave wanted some time to get acquainted and share their priorities. One in particular, that Dave mentioned to me, was the continued stewardship of perhaps William F. Brown's greatest achievement -The Field Trial Hall of Fame he created in 1953 and 54. "He was very kind and receptive to what we had to say", observed Fletcher. "He wanted us to know his intention was to expand and improve the American Field brand wherever possible, and that would definitely include the Hall of Fame" Later I spoke with Todd about the new Field magazine which is now a monthly. I told him how thrilled we all are that a printed version is back. "Our number one challenge right now is making sure American Field followers realize the magazine is back. At all events we go to I distribute copies so folks can become familiar with it. Our intention is to make it larger. I want the American Field community to know they have a pointing dog man on their side and that's me". Todd is 59-years old and has had bird dogs most of his life. He presently has two English Setters and hunts Michigan grouse religiously.

* * *

Two years have passed since my last report on this Michigan Championship. It's the only reason the life of this trial's greatest patron has not been noted. I am about to make that correction.

Oliver deluca22=

Oliver DeLuca

When Oliver DeLuca passed in the Fall of 2019 the Michigan field trial community knew what they lost. As poignantly reported in his obituary for the November 2nd, 2019 issue Dave Fletcher noted, "He stepped in and supported the Michigan Open Shooting Dog Championship, took the reins and took that club to new and higher places". Oliver not only loved bird dogs and field trials, but had some great winners like Visa. That dog won a placement in the Open Derby at the International Pheasant Championship, handled by Randy Downs. In 1999 he won the Michigan Championship with The Prosecutor. But his greatest contribution to the sport came probably as a mover and shaker. The word was, "If you wanted a trial and wanted it run properly - call Oliver". He became President of the Michigan Championship in 1986 and still holds that position posthumously. Oliver was a generous benefactor as well, always working with his wife Almerinda to supply the greatest Italian dinners this side of Rome. If horses were needed, he was there, and how about if you need a tractor to pull the dog wagon, no problem - call Oliver. Believe me, this is only scratching the surface of what he's meant to this sport in this state. I have to think that with his departure and that of Jack Hires and Jim Logan the field trial community will be forever mourning that greatest generation.



Joe Guzman and Jim Cipponeri with their horses.

Jim Cipponeri and Joe Guzman now stand on the prow of this Championship. In their positions as Vice President and Secretary/Treasurer there is no limit to what needs to be done to keep this ship afloat. For example: arranging the dates for the grounds, maintaining the grounds, contacting judges, ads in the American Field and then contacting volunteers, who are as essential as a saddle in this endeavor, is just the beginning. I think it's akin to trying to drink from a fire hose; something has to spill out somewhere, but they manage to keep it under control. As Jim and Joe would emphasize, they couldn't do it without lifesavers also known as "volunteers". Paul Renius comes to mind. He puts in a huge number of hours maintaining the grounds and not just for this trial. He can also be seen getting the horse areas clean before the new horse and dog trailers pull in for the next trial. This task can be daunting depending on the number of horses for any given event. Granted, it's not Hercules and the Augean Stables, but it is substantial with grazing areas, paddocks and barns that must be kept clean. Ron Williams is one of the many Cipponeri players who makes it a point to do a lot and do it well. He's most renown as the dog wagon pilot who does his yearly Dale Earnhardt impression maneuvering the 30-foot canine carrier over ground sometimes barely passable by pack mule, and he does it safely. He's also very knowledgeable about field trials in general and this course in particular. Amazingly, he is also quite gifted at insulting total strangers, and even old friends like me, on just a moment's notice. Everyone enjoys Ron's banter and insight. We were all very lucky to have Ron with us. Last year he underwent triple-bypass surgery, and is now doing extremely well. Good Luck Ron! I also had the pleasure of riding all week with Brent Masengale from nearby Ionia. Brent's had field trial dogs for years and was, along with Ron, instrumental in keeping this scribe fully detailed on every dog.

This trial owes a lot of its success to the hard work of Richard Lipski. He's up well before dawn catching quail, riding the courses, ensuring they are well sprinkled with bobwhites. He repeats the long journey later in the morning for the afternoon braces.
After a two year absence, I'd have to say the trial went exceedingly well. But make no mistake - there are daunting challenges ahead - some of which have been detailed here. Let us hope they can all be overcome so the joy of a championship trial here in Michigan survives.