Event: David Theroux's Setter Neo follows his Northern New England Woodcock R-U Win
Result: New England Open Grouse Championship
Location: Berlin, New Hampshire
Post Date: Dec 20, 2022
Submitted By: Jim Hathaway
Championship Winners. From left: Judge Ed Kostika, Daved Theroux Owner of Neo, Adam Dubriske Handler with Champion Neo, John Stolgitis with Chasehill Poison Ivy R-U, Stakes manager Tony Bly, Judge Jamie Leitch.
The Setter Club of New England's 98th annual Fall event, now the New England Open Grouse Championship, was set to go. There was never a doubt that it was going to happen. But Mother Nature didn't make it easy this year. During the summer, the Championship's co-host, Northern New Hampshire Bird Dog Club holds work party days to cut and clean up courses. It was hoped that they would be able to cut and clear six courses for the championship as we had just a few years ago. The plan was to resurrect courses that had been overgrown or taken off line for other reasons. But as I said, the weather didn't cooperate at all. Most of the summer was bone dry. Which just magnified the heat. Temperatures in the upper 80s made much more than preparing the three championship courses and the Beaver Hole course for the derby, undoable. Some work did get done on other courses. Deer Mountain needed a whole rerouting. A couple years ago, the forest service used our course trail as their guideline for a logging road so they could harvest other parts of the course. I understand that Deer Mountain, and two other courses will be ready for the first of November's start of the Grand National Grouse Championship.
So, with the courses set and good to go, in this order: Goldenrod, Moosehorn and Ammonoosuc, at just minutes past seven AM on the morning of Monday September 19th, Stakes Manager Tony Bly lead the caravan up York Pond Rd. to Loop Rd and the start of the first brace of the New England Open Grouse Championship.
It had rained most of the night, but slowed to less than a drizzle by the time we reached the start of Goldenrod. Even with the rain stopped for now, the prediction was for more at most any time. So most everyone was dressed in full rain gear and rubber boots. Championship Chairman, Lloyd Murray opened the trial welcoming the participants, gallery and introducing the Judges. Back for his second year judging this championship was Jamie Leitch from Essex Junction, Vermont. Into the fray for his first go round of judging here was Ed Costka of Fort Edward, N. Y.
Starting the day on the Goldenrod Course under dense clouds, steady drizzle and 50 degrees, the first brace broke away at 7:14 AM. Both the male setters in this brace sport the same Lightning Flash name. Adam Dubriske handled Lightning Flash Moose and Kelly Hays handled her Setter Lightning Flash Frank. Any grouse hunter or trailer knows that wet weather favors the birds. If they come out of the trees, when they come out of the trees, they don't like getting wet so won't settle long enough or tight enough for the dogs to get a good scent. An hour of running wasn't long enough for either of these dogs to find a bird.
The ride from Goldenrod to Moosehorn takes nearly a half hour once everyone gets turned around and headed back in the same direction. We have to drive back to the start then in the opposite direction on Loop Rd for five or more miles.
Pay attention now, the key to the rest of this trial rests on what we see on this brace, on this Moosehorn course. Me and my dog, Wizard's Cas Dubh (Finley), just a three-year-old male setter, were braced with John Stolgitis and his pointer Chasehill Little Izzy. We couldn't have been more than a hundred yards up the trail when the first grouse left from a tree right along the left side of the path. It hadn't been perched much more than head high. Each dog worked the course well. Izzy kept more to the left and Finley more to the right. About ten minutes in, Izzy was well into the dense cover on the right and must have pressed a bit too hard for the wet conditions. A grouse got up with Izzy too close behind. She was collared and leashed. During all this, Finley was working a sweet spot to the right. He was going one way when a grouse, 20 or so yards away, left a tree going the other. Long about halfway into the brace Finley went on point in a young fir stand. After a flushing attempt he was allowed to relocate. Long story short, that grouse must have been zig zagging around on the ground. Finley put him up on his second pass through. It was a bump, not a stop to flush. With both dogs up, the walk to the take out was long but not un-eventful. We walked up at least another half dozen grouse on the course. It depends on who you talk to, but the best guess was that nine grouse were put up on that brace.
The Ammonoosuc course runs through the same bottom to the river with a similar cover as Moosehore. So, you would kinda expect similar results as far as a dog's bird contact chances would go. Breakaway at 10:10. The weather hadn't changed much. It was up to 53 degrees and still spitting rain occasionally. This was another setter vs pointer brace. Joe Dahl's setter Magic Mist Sidney and Craig Doherty with the pointer Elhew Snakewood. Sydney thought she had a bird right off the breakaway but nothing came of it. Both Craig and Joe's dogs dug into the cover but both came up birdless in their hour. Blame it on the weather. Definitely, not a good hunting day.
The ride back to Goldenrod for the fourth brace included a stop at the staging area for lunch. We didn't take much time. The worse weather was moving in. So, we swallowed our pizza and headed up to the breakaway for Duckhook and Cold Creek Rip.
With the introductions of this pointer vs setter matchup, Duckhook, John Stolgitis, Cold Creek Rip and Adam Dubriske, the dogs hit the course at just after noon. Rips bell stopped a bit less than a quarter way into the hour. Unfortunately, Adam wasn't able to put up a bird for him. At least one grouse was seen on the course. But like a lot of them in this weather, it left from up in a tree. Duckhook was digging deep into the woods at 45. The rain was coming down moderately now. Duckhook's bell had been out of range for a few minutes. I couldn't tell you if he was up on the right or down on the left. John must have had him last on the right, down in the woods on the northeast corner of the goldenrod field cuz that's the way John headed, leaving the course, taking Jamie, the judge, with him. It was starting to rain harder when John found and shot for Duckhook and the woodcock he was on. All in order, John sent Duckhook on. Now the sky opened up. The rain pounded down so hard, handling a dog was impossible. You couldn't see the dog 20 yards in front or hear the bell. So close to the end of the brace, John felt for the safety of the dog, he took his tracking receiver from the judge to find Duckhook. He was found, standing another woodcock in the most gawd awful downpour.
Back on the road for the drive for the last two braces of the day. The caravan stopped back at the staging area. The Chairman, Stakes Manager and Judges consulted in this nasty rain. That was all. The radar didn't show a chance that the rain would even let up enough to allow a dog to run safely. So, the rest of the day was canceled. We will pick up where we ended tomorrow.
It continued raining on and off most of the night. By six in the morning, the temps were in the upper forties and everything was wet, wet, wet. Picking up where we left off on the first day, after the cancellation of the rest of the day, brace five was set to breakaway on the Moosehorn course with Daddy's Little Boy Butch, handled by John Stolgitis and Neo, Handled by Adam Dubriske. Though getting on in years, Butch is still a strong going pointer. He won this championship two years ago and is always a threat and fun to watch. Butch's bracemate Neo had just won runner up honors two days earlier at the Northern New England Open Woodcock Championship. He's a young setter and coming into this season strong under Adam Dubriske's hand. It became obvious, right off the breakaway at 7:26 am, even though the rain was just a drizzle, rubber boots were in order even more today than yesterday. What were puddles on this hillside trail yesterday, were all connected onto a series of streams today and streams crossed in a bounding step yesterday were nearly impassable today. The overnight rain turned the courses into a wet obstacle course. This may explain why both dogs started this brace a bit erratic on the ground. That changed for Neo. Not long into the brace his pattern improved, more forward than lateral. Finding and handling his first grouse perfectly, lit a fire under him. His second point, a textbook limb find, with no time on the clock produced a small brood of four grouse. Proving he could still be a handful, Butch was all over the woods, not making an easy job for John's handling. His wide swings put them behind Adam and Neo for most of the brace.
It takes a little car or truck shuffling to get all the right people and vehicles to the start of Ammonoosuc, brace number six. Another pointer vs. setter setup here. As setters outnumber pointers fourteen to eight, by the luck of the draw, there are no pointer vs. pointer braces to run this week. Elhew Snake Dancer with Craig Doherty handling her, may be one of the last true Elhew pointers on the circuit. The breakaway was at 8:47am and the temperature had climbed to 50 degrees. Stakes Manager Tony Bly's setter B Stokley Max was the first on this course that day to offer hope to his handler. Both dogs had been working hard for nearly the first half of the hour when Max's bell stopped 20 yards in on the left. It's never a good sign when you hear a bell, shot and woah! Max made it back to the course on a leash. Snake Dancer finished her hour strong but there didn't seem to be birds where there should have been, that day.
Now back over to Goldenrod, where we would have started the day under normal conditions. When we took a short break at the staging area before moving on up the road to brace seven, I was elected by a majority of one, Stakes Manager Lloyd, to remain behind for fifteen minutes. Then at the designated time, to go retrieve lunch. As I was waiting, I received a call. One of the handlers in the next brace hadn't shown up yet. He wasn't in the staging area so I was of little help. And I didn't pass him on the way out to pick up more of Gord's Corner Store's famous pizza. So, I was of no help to the proceedings at Goldenrod.
While I was gone on the pizza run, Brace seven got underway. Handler Jack McNaulty and his setter, Mooselook Mac never arrived so brace twelve's bye dog Fern, with Bruce Mueller was moved up to take Mac and Jacks place in the seventh brace with Lloyd Murray and Long Gone Porky. By moving Fern up to fill Mac's spot, this stayed another setter v setter brace. Fern had the only grouse find in the hour. In all, the find wasn't without faults by both dogs, maybe. Fern had established point. Porky moved into the area, crowded Fern who moved and repointed the grouse right in front of him. Well, that's the way one judge saw it. The other thought Porky had the find and Fern the back. From there Fern was not handling for Bruce. Porky didn't seem to have the snap in his run, then somewhere around three quarters of run, he was credited with an unproductive point.
So much time is taken up driving from Goldenrod to Moosehorn/Ammonoosuc and back every day. Fortunately, the line of travel between the courses goes through the staging area and times out perfectly for the lunch break.
Back up to Moosehorn after pizza for a 12:46 breakaway for brace 8. Ten minutes in, Lloyd lost his setter, Dequan's bell, off to the right. He sent His scout Tony off in search hoping to find Dequan on point. John Stolgitis with his pointer Panola Bacon pressed on to the front. I kept pace with John and Bacon to the front. Lloyd and Tony fell behind with judge Ed Kostka. Following John and Bacon to the front, it wasn't long until we were out of earshot of Lloyd calling for Dequan. Even longer after that, Dequan showed up from the front. There was no collaring Dequan and Lloyd was so far back, we couldn't call him to the front. At just about the half hour mark, Bacon was found on point. Dequan was all over the place and threatened to run through Bacon's bird. Somehow it worked out. We were able to get Dequan under control, leashed and Bacon got shot over for his first grouse. Twelve minutes more up the course and fifteen from the end, Bacon had his second grouse find. Unfortunately, this reporter got stuck back in line behind Dequan straining to get out of his restraints so I wasn't in a spot to see Bacon on point. All must have gone well as Bacon finished his hour.
Two more braces to get in today. Another one of the setter v pointer matchups in this championship started seconds after two pm. Known throughout New England for her full mask tricolor setters, Kellie Short had Paucek's Little Tommy Tucker was on the Ammonoosuc course with John Stolgitis' Chasehill Hidden Jewel. Jewel had a good day on the ground but after forty minutes of the hour with no bird work, John opted not to push her for the rest of the course, leashed and walked her out. Kellie, Tucker and a judge got separated from John and Jewel early. Tucker was wide and lateral on the course for the most of the run. Probably in Tucker's mind, he was where the birds were. He had two nice woodcock finds. Then a third point just seconds after the second find. When you're in a woodcock spot that's what you're going to find. As this is a grouse championship, another woodcock find wouldn't benefit Tucker. So Kellie collared him and sent forward hoping to find a grouse in the last minutes of the brace.
It gets repetitive late in the day but we were back in the vehicles for the long drive down this dirt road that was getting drier and dustier, even after all the rain the day before. This would be the last brace of the day and leave only one brace to run tomorrow morning. Toeing the starting line on Goldenrod for brace ten, two male setters. Breakaway at 3:45, Tony Bly's Stokley's B Ricky got Tony's hopes up early when his bell stopped fifteen minutes into the brace. Finding Ricky wasn't easy. He was buried in thick cover, woodcock cover. He handled the bird well. Bruce Mueller's Roy wasn't handling well at all for Bruce today. Roy was all over the course but not finding birds. Just after the half hour Roy went wide left when the course took a right. Bruce decided to end Roy's run at that right hand turn. Ricky had nice cover digging race going and had to be scouted up to be found on point three more times in the hour. Each time, no bird could be produced.
We just have to get in one more championship brace this morning before we move on, to the Bill Kearns Memorial Derby. Seven full braces there, so we gotta go to get it all in today. The derby courses are Beverhole, Moosehorn and Ammonoosuc. Both Moosehorn and Ammonoosuc have been shortened to thirty minutes for the derby and Beverhole is closer to Moosehorn and Ammonoosuc so the travel time is much shorter.
But back to Moosehorn for the eleventh and final brace of the New England Open Grouse Championship. Super Storm Nell wasn't on the ground long. She had a bit of trouble with her woodcock find in the first fifteen minutes of the run. So, she and her handler Adam Dubriske had a short walk out. Last year's champion Chasehill Poison Ivy was on the course with her handler John Stolgitis again this year. Ivy is a smaller liver and white pointer but her size doesn't deter her from hitting the toughest cover. Depending on which judge you talked to, she racked up two quick woodcock finds or a woodcock then a grouse before the halfway mark. With no bracemate to key off of, Ivy was able to cover most every possible grouse covert on the course. Her efforts paid off. With minutes left in the brace she stopped in cover to the left of the course. Flush, shot, all in order, Ivy had a confirmed grouse find then finished her hour hunting hard.
Last brace of the championship, done. The derbies are set to go, waiting at the staging area for the caravan down to the Beaverhole course for the first brace. But before they can run, The championship awards ceremony must happen. Lloyd Murray and a small crew, Kelly Hays and I had set up the awards podium while the last brace was running. Before the winners are announced, thank you's come first.
Judging the New England Open Grouse Championship is an ordeal that requires stamina and commitment. Not only do our judges commit to follow dogs through cover, dense at times and the roughest terrain in all of field trialing, they do it totally on foot. Not one course could accommodate horseback judges here. They also commit to judge for two years. Having judges commit to two years gives an advantage of having a senior judge break in a new judge. It helps the first-year judge get an understanding of each course and their individual quirks. This year's returning judge, Jamie Lietch from Holland, Vermont kept the pace of each brace and the entire championship on point. The Setter Club of New England and the Northern New Hampshire Bird Dog Club Thank you. First year judge Ed Kostka from Fort Edward, New York learned the flow of each course and the needs of following setters and pointers through Kilkenny's particular coverts. Thank you, Ed. We'll see you next September.
The Naming of the Champion and Runner-Up.
From the first braces on the second morning. The judges named Neo, handled By Adam Dubriske, winner and this year's New England Open Grouse Champion. This is Neo's first championship win for his owner David Theroux. This year's Runner Up Champion came from the last brace of this year's running and was last year's champion. Chasehill Poison Ivy, handled by John Stolgitis and owned by Allen Raiano, stood on the podium as this year's runner up. Both dogs had run their braces on the Moosehorn course.
Berlin, N. H., September 19
Judges: Ed Kostka and Jamie Leitch
NEW ENGLAND OPEN GROUSE CHAMPIONSHIP [One-Hour Heats] - 8 Pointers and 14 Setters
Winner-NEO, 1689990, setter male, by Sterlingworth Jack-Sandland Miracle Maggie. David Thereoux, owner; Adam Dubriske, handler.
Runner-Up-CHASEHILL POISON IVY, 1694453, pointer female, by Panola Bacon-Chasehill Little Izzy. Allen Raiano, owner; John Stolgitis, handler.
The Bill Kearns Memorial Derby
The Setter Clubs fall program is not complete until the derbies have run. The first brace is down along the Ammonoosuc river. This course, in the one-hour length, hasn't been run as a championship course for ten or more years. However, it is perfect for a half hour derby course. Rumor has it, it will be restored to its one-hour length and used in the Grand National Grouse Championship this November. Moosehorn and Ammonoosuc courses have been shortened by half for the derby.
I'm going to shorten the report of the derby a bit. My reasoning is that most of the dogs were handled by professional trainers. I am sure these trainers have reported back to their owners how their dogs ran. Ran is the operative word. Yes, as derbies you need bird contact to place. But after that it's all about what the derby did on the ground that separates the winners from the others. For me to speculate why a young dog I don't know ran the way it did or didn't wouldn't serve the owner or the dog. The handler has a better understanding of his charges, their abilities and progress as to their age. So, I leave that part of this report to the trainers and handlers.
The winner of the Bill Kearns Memorial Derby Came off the Ammonoosuc Course, Long Gone Juniper, owned and handled by Lloyd Murray. Juniper had at least one recorded find on a grouse just as time was up. I say recorded because there may have been more than one but the judge Tony Bly was busy ducking to get out of the way of the one that came straight for his head. On the ground, she was what you would want in a coverdog, willing to dig into the thickest cover in search of game and able to stretch her legs and cover ground quickly when the objectives are further from the course line.
Second place was awarded to The Gray Ghost, handled by Adam Dubrisky and owned by W. Smoot Carter. The Ghost put down a nice forward race, found and pointed his bird in the first ten minutes and didn't back off the gas for the next twenty.
Third place went to Chasehills Wango Tango, handled by John Stolgitis and owned by Allen Raiano. Tango is a kennel mate and younger full brother of Allen's Champion Chase hill Poison Ivy. Tango had his grouse find at 20 and finished the thirty going away.
This was the birdiest wild bird derby I have ever seen. In past years we have felt it necessary to have call backs on quail to get bird work in when it was spare to nil on the courses. No need for that this year. There were birds found on every course this year. I counted thirteen mostly woodcock and a couple grouse leave the ground.
By the time the derby awards were given and photos were taken, it was almost 5pm and this reporter had a five-hour drive back home. Though the running is over and the drive done, the report has at least one last paragraph, the Thank You's. I thanked the Championship judges in an earlier paragraph. So, this thank you is for the Derby Judges. Thanks Kelly Hays and Tony Bly. We got it done again in good order. Doesn't get better than that. Thanks. None of this gets done or has gotten done for the nearly 100 years of Setter Club of New England history without the hard work and dedication of a handful of members and our sponsors. Keeping the New England Open Grouse Championship going with the help and cosponsorship of the Northern New Hampshire Bird Dog Club, I want to thank Stakes Manager Tony Bly and Chairman Lloyd Murray. Lloyd and Tony have worked this championship, created, and maintained the courses as well as maintained a relationship with the National Forest Service that keeps the New England Open Grouse Championship going on some of the best wild bird grounds open to trialing. And lastly Thank you to our corporate sponsor, Purina and Greg Blair. Yes, the winners appreciate the bags of Pro Plan for placements but the trial and championship organizers know the depth of commitment Purina puts into our events with their sponsorship. Thank you.
Ninety-eight Runnings of the Setter Club of New England's fall event in the record books. One more to go before the big 100th. Don't miss next year's Championship if you can.
Judges: Tony Bly and Kathy Hays
BILL KEARNS MEMORIAL OPEN DERBY - 7 Pointers and 7 Setters
1st-LONG GONE JUNIPER, 1697884, setter female, by Long Gone DeQuan-Lilleyhill's Dream Come True. Lloyd Murray, owner and handler.
2d-THE GRAY GHOST, 1696927, setter male, by Caladen's Davinci-Woodmont Virginia Shelby. W. Smoot Carter, owner; Adam Dubriske, handler.
3d-CHASEHILLS WANGO TANGO, 1697813, pointer male, by Panola Bacon-Chasehill Little Izzy. Allen Raiano, owner; John Stolgitis, handler.
Bill Kearns Memorial Open Derby. From left: Bill Kearns Memorial Derby winners, Judge Kelly Hays, Lloyd Murray with Kenny standing in for winning kennelmate Long Gone Juniper, Adam Dubriske with Gray Ghost, John Stolgitis with Chasehills Wango Tango, Stakes Manager Tony Bly.