Result: 128th Continental All-Age Championship
Location: Greenville, Florida
Post Date: Mar 28, 2023
Submitted By: Andrew Campbell
The 128th running of the Continental Open All-Age Championship commenced immediately following the Derby Championship and ran between January 18-23. Happily, the heavy rain came immediately after the conclusion of the one-hour qualifying series giving all the handlers, horses, and dogs a well-needed rest. From a field of 42 starters, 36 pointers and six setters, the judges, Kirk Law of Dawson, Ga., and Kent Patterson of Franklin, Tenn., named Lester's Storm Surge, owned by Tommy and Bonnie Hamilton of Springfield, Ky., and handled by Gary Lester, champion. (Storm Surge had taken runner-up in this championship in 2020; this year, there was absolute unanimity between the judges as to the worthiness of his winning performance.) The judges also felt compelled to name Erin's High Note, owned by Mike Moses of Lake City, Fla., and handled by Judd Carlton as a worthy runner-up.
It was evident from the onset that the plantation had taken full advantage of the dry summer and fall to clear out several major portions of understory and brush, allowing for clearer lines of sight all over the grounds. And while birds were miserly in their appearance last year, they were more prominent this year. Last year, relying on radio tracking information from resident Tall Timbers wildlife biologist Alex Jackson, I noted the tendency of the birds to run rather than flush, doubtlessly contributing to a very low percentage of successful relocation efforts. With only one successful relocation effort in 23 attempts last year, there were still only 3 in 27 this year. Nevertheless, we also saw some masterly finds this year - with birds being almost literally pinned without means of egress, some flushing easily ahead of the dogs, others holding en masse till almost stepped upon by handler, dog, or horse. This degree of unpredictability is another reason that makes the Continental Championship stand out against its companions, the birds offering dogs and handlers a degree of challenge rarely found elsewhere.
The Continental Field Trial Club is extremely grateful for support from its old and new families, the Livingston Family and Tall Timbers, as well as the following companies and individuals: Nestl Purina for its perennial support of this event in particular, and the great sport of field trialing in general; AgPro for both their monetary donation and the loan of a John Deere Gator for use during the trial; the numerous lunch and supper sponsors--Nestl -Purina, AgPro, Hunter Drew, Gary Lester, and Julie Livingston Miller; and the following donors for their sponsorship of the water tanks distributed regularly around the course: Kent Cantrell, Larron & Laura Copeland, Dr. Ron Deal, Dixie Hunting Properties, Dixie Trace Field Trial Association, Jim Hamilton, Hancock Construction, John Mathys, Karen and Bruce Norton, Alex Rickert, and Mike and Laura Shea; and the inimitable Miss Gloria Hagen for her ongoing hospitality and administrative support.
The trial could not have gone smoothly without the help of the entire Livingston Place staff, especially Shannon Braden and Ben Melvin, for their course marshaling skills; John Michael McCormick could only join us for one day due to the arrival of his newborn son.
Lester's Storm Surge had originally run on the final morning of the qualifiers in the 17th brace, drawn with Mauck's Wyeast Owhyee Jack, owned by S. B. Croy and handled by Alex Mauck. Turned loose on a nice, cool morning from the regular morning breakaway, the conditions seemed well suited for running and scenting. The action looked as though it would start early, with Mauck initially calling point for Jack in the southeasterly-most corner of the very first field, but he would take himself on after the gallery's initial flush of adrenaline had worn off. Jack would nonetheless redeem himself just a couple of minutes later at 0:06 in the corridor of pines between the first and second fields on the right side of the course. He would be asked to relocate immediately upon his handler's arrival, move forward perhaps 10', and set up rigid for his handler to flush a covey of birds out ahead of him. Storm Surge would also come to a stop up in the Phantom Covey woods at 0:09, perhaps 50 yards west of the prominent treeline; even with an extended relocation, the birds would live up to their nickname and reputation. While Jack would prove to be a handful for both handler and scout, Storm Surge began to establish a strong, reaching race ahead of his handler. For example, he would be seen coming off Pike's Peak, turning west ahead of his handler, rimming the #4 Field, and then disappearing into the woods along the swampy edge. Shortly thereafter, erudite scouting would locate him at 0:47 buried in a tall oaky thicket down in the lefthand pocket before the crossing at the western end of the Cadillac Pond. Happily, the judge and reporter caught the single bird flushing out behind the dog and were able to alert the handler to fire his gun. Coming over the crossing, this would be the last time we would see either dog. However, Lester would set his charge up along the southern edge of the Cadillac Field and then turn him successfully north up its eastern edge, leaving the gallery with no doubt of his strength, speed, and biddability in the final 10 minutes or so of the brace. He would drop out of sight, moving through the woods below the Hay Field, with the judges having seen enough to call him back for the championship.
He would be drawn with the runner-up, Erin's High Note, in the second brace of the Championship. With the first brace ending prematurely, the two dogs would be turned loose at the base of Gene's Field (or put differently, a little over three-quarters of a mile east of the 'Y'), Lester sending his dog up over the hill directly ahead, Carlton sending his out into the wooded shoulder on the left. Coming past the Turkey Field, both dogs would swing out into the pocket to the east as the course turned south towards the Boy Scout House, the call of point coming at 0:16 for Storm Surge some 150 yards out into the piney woods, birds successfully sent skyward ahead of him. Both dogs would be navigated successfully through the dogleg turns at the By Scout House and then at the head of the Long Pond, High Note moving powerfully out into the Emma May Block woods to the east, Storm Surge along the lower edge of the pond. He would come to a stop roughly 150 yards along that edge near a long-fallen, bleached-out tree, having turned back to look into the bright, flaxen perimeter of broomsedge from which Lester would be able to produce a single bird. Coming up into the Big Woods, he would come to a stop at 0:38, standing down in a hollow to the right of where the Brown Jug had once hung, and as before, having turned back up into the northeasterly breeze, another single once more pushed out ahead of him. Down into the Brown Field Loop, with High Note still moving powerfully out to the right, Storm Surge would drop down into the woods to the left and come to a stop at 0:57. Lester would call birds running through the low, oaky tangle, and to his credit, match them for speed, prompting the covey into flight ahead of his dog. After almost an hour to this point, two remarkable things began to happen: fruitless until now, and despite his obvious effort on the ground, High Note would begin to locate birds, and Stormy Surge's style would appear to rise for his successive finds. With Stormy Surge coming back to the front from his last find, High Note would come to an abrupt stop at 0:59 up on the very top, right corner of the woods before entering the two crop fields, the birds rising out of the mess of stalks at the animated call of point and the initial clatter of hoofs on the hard, red dirt of the path. Both dogs would swing wide through this northbound turn, both seen crossing the face of the hayfield below the Hagen House as the handlers angled northeast towards the Double Pond Gap. Storm Surge would make contact at 1:09 down on the shoulder to the right above the South Pond, another covey sent into the air ahead of him. Approaching the Cypress Field, both dogs would swing down into the planted pines to the left, where they would be found at 1:15, High Note pointing, Storm Surge morning, both with high style and the birds easily boosted out of the broomsedge ahead. With the course now beginning to turn counterclockwise, both dogs would be out of sight for some significant time; High Note last seen pushing out over Paul's Hill to the west, and Storm Surge sent out to the south along the edge of the Peanut Field. As the course turned southwest towards China Berry Hill, brilliant scouting would locate Storm Surge on the southern edge of the Horseshoe Field at 1:33, some 200 yards north of the water tank named in honor of Notorious Dominator's Heir, the dog's bearing leaving no doubt of the birds' presence ahead of him. (Carlton would be able to reel his dog back in to water him up in this tank shortly thereafter.) Storm Surge would experience his first and only non-productive at 1:38 down towards China Berry Hill, setting up on the right side of the path near a right angle in the powerlines, but despite a relocation, this would prove fruitless. If Storm Surge's sixth find had been his most remarkable, High Note's third would be his pi ce de r sistance. With the course heading southwest to cross Livingston Road and Carlton's original scout nowhere to be found, Mark McLean would be drafted into the role, which he would serve impeccably, calling point at 1:44 way out to the left.
On the conventional third one-hour course, if time is required, the final few minutes are spent turning off the powerline trail a quarter mile below the corrals and angling into a triangular hay field whose short side borders Livingston Road. High Note would be found at a bend in the trail at the sharp, pointy end of that triangle, just barely visible around the corner in tall, oaky understory, the birds easily kicked out ahead of the stylish dog. What followed can best be described as a frenzied, three-quarter mile canter back to the west across the northern base of Kudzu Hill, High Note seen against the eastern edge of the Oil Drum Field, Storm Surge readily returned from the southern end of Kudzu Hill.
Erin's High Note had originally run in the 21st and final brace of the qualifiers, his bid for the championship no less dramatic. Turned loose with Touch's Dancing Nancies, owned and handled by Dr. Kent Cantrell, both dogs would break away from the top of the Horseshoe Loop, with Gene's and the former gin trash field out in front and below them. Both dogs would take a little to orient themselves before punching west up the rise towards the road. Coming up over the road crossing, High Note would be sent out left to the hay field edge, where he would come to a stop at 0:18, looking taut as he carried his head up into the southeasterly breeze. Sadly, neither the flushing nor extensive relocation efforts could produce anything from the ground around the trio of charred-trunk oaks he had directed his initial gaze towards. He would downshift briefly around the half-hour mark coming underneath the Hay Field, but upon turning back to the southeast, he would kick back into high gear. With Dancing Nancies last seen moving out along the roadside edge and High Note climbing out of the Cadillac Pond bowl to the left, it was perhaps no surprise for the call of point to come for both dogs from way out yonder at 0:37. With a ride of several hundred yards back out and over Livingston Road, it was perhaps also no surprise to arrive and have both scouts declare that birds had left in the course of the high-speed trek. Doubtless frustrated, both handlers sensibly elected to merely take their dogs on. Back on course and approaching the prominent live oak at the northern end of the Oil Drum Field, Carlton and Cantrell would point out their dogs climbing up the opposite face of Pike's Peak. While Dancing Nancies would power over the shoulder out of sight (and ultimately be declared lost at 0:54), High Note would turn on his handler's call and come along the lower, wooded edge of the ridge in a powerful, picturesque arc. To finish, and in what can only be described as a 'Hail Flutie' type scenario, Carlton would take his dog forward along the eastern edge of the Garrett Field towards the Moccasin Creek crossing. With the judges still only midway down the field edge at 0:58, the strident call of point would come from the other side, prompting a frenetic pounding of hooves. The call of birds in the air would come less than a minute later, the judge acknowledging their flight as he cantered into first sight of the dog standing tall down on the lower swamp edge to the left. Like Flutie's decision in November 1984 to heave the football further than anyone imagined, Carlton made a final-moment tactical decision that paid off dividends for a dog that had also shown more than enough on the ground.
A dense fog delayed the start of the championship, and turning loose a little after 10:30 a.m., the judges elected to run a single brace before lunch. That first brace brought Shadow's Lord Magic, owned by Carl Bowman and handled by Luke Eisenhart, to the line with Touch's Breakaway Fred, handled by Mark McLean, with all of his owners--Karen & Bruce Norton and Becky & Gary Futch--in attendance to watch their dog. The action would begin fairly quickly with the call of point coming for Fred out in the woods high on the left shoulder at 0:07, the dog standing some 250 yards southeast of the cow barn, pointed mid-slope, and looking high-headed uphill. The handler would flush ahead of his dog, and as he appeared to be coming back to relocate, the respectfully distant gallery would flush a covey some 50 yards behind him. The judge would instruct him to fire the gun. Crossing the entrance road, the scouts would call point at 0:19 for both dogs down in the oaky pocket to the left, Lord Magic pointing, Fred honoring. An extensive flushing and relocation effort would nonetheless produce naught. With Lord Magic moving smoothly out ahead through the big fields and then up onto Pike's Peak, Fred would get a little hung up on the shoulder and come up behind his handler but then appear to redeem himself by spinning to a stop in the main feed trial at 0:43, head high into the southwesterly breeze. Sadly, the flushing and abbreviated relocation efforts would fail to produce anything. Both dogs would finish their hour coursing out into the woods towards the Acorn Hill water tank, this year generously sponsored by Dr. Kent Cantrell and Ocala Equine Hospital.
With the weather delay in the morning, the second brace would turn loose after lunch from the conventional afternoon breakaway behind the corrals, eastbound in the general direction of the Hagen House. That second brace featured Erin's Wild Atlantic Way, owned by Sean Derrig and handled by Luke Eisenhart, alongside Redeemed, owned and handled by Shannon Nygard. While Wild Atlantic Way appeared to embrace the challenge from the get-go, Redeemed would seem initially less certain about how to tackle the terrain ahead of him, nevertheless consistently ahead of his handler and making a nice sweeping move to the crossing into the Big Woods and the Boyd Corner water tank, sponsored in honor of Dominator's Rebel Heir. Into the Big Woods, both dogs would push out into the wire grass, and neither would be seen for an extended period. Redeemed would be successfully watered before the northerly descent towards the Long Pond. In search of his dog, Eisenhart would call point for Redeemed at 0:33 out on the left side beyond a dried-out pond hollow, the dog almost hidden in a tall cover strip of faded stalks. After an initial flushing effort, Redeemed lost focus and relocated himself ending his bid. At that point, Eisenhart also conceded defeat and asked for his tracker.
The third brace brought Erin's Code of Honor, owned by Allen Lindner and handled by Luke Eisenhart, to the line with Lester's Shockwave, owned by Tommy and Bonnie Hamilton and handled by Gary Lester. Turned loose heading north towards the western edge of the Long Pond, both dogs would breakaway into the woods with gusto, intermittent glimpses seen of both in the corrugated terrain ahead. Coming over the 11 O'Clock Crossing past the water tank dedicated to Flush's Wrangler, through the Horseshoe Loop passing Esquire's Pine, and up around the crest of the hill, the call of point would come from deep out on the right side for Code of Honor at 0:19. He would be found down in the piney hollow below Gene's Field. However, all efforts to produce birds would prove fruitless. Nevertheless, on the way back to the front, he would stop again in the northern wooded edge of the Long Field at 0:24. The initial flushing effort would be unsuccessful, but a confident, intelligent relocation some 75 yards further down the strip would pin a covey in the oaky bushes. With Shockwave absent for some time by this point, Eisenhart would bring Code of Honor across the neck of the Long Field and send him out to the south, where he would stop some 150 yards parallel to the head of the field at 0:31, another covey successfully prompted out of an oaky thicket. At the road crossing, Lester would come for his tracker at 0:34, acknowledging that he had lost touch with his charge and vice versa. Swinging around under the hay field along the red clay path, Code of Honor would stop at 0:42, roughly parallel with the Big House, in the woods to the right, a single bird produced ahead of him. The increasing heat of the afternoon appeared to take its toll on the dog; while he would finish his hour out front, he had lost a significant degree of the punch he had started with.
The fourth brace featured Erin's Perfect Storm, owned by Brad Woodie and handled by Luke Eisenhart, along with Miller's Blindsider, handled by Jamie Daniels, with owner Nick Berrong riding in the gallery to watch his dog. Turned loose near the beginning of the Oil Drum Field, both dogs would punch out along the obvious field edge ahead of them. As he has proven numerous times before, the heat would not prove too great a hurdle for Blindsider, and not much would be seen of Blindsider from the breakaway. Climbing up Kudzu Hill, Perfect Storm would spin to a stop at 0:26 just before its crest, head up into the westerly breeze; despite an extensive relocation effort, this would prove barren. At that point, Daniels would concede defeat and ask for his tracker. Moving purposefully through the next section of woods and over the main road, Perfect Storm would come to a stop at 0:41, roughly a quarter mile east of the road, almost hidden by the embankment of a significant drainage ditch, a single bird easily pitched skyward ahead of the stylish dog, the remainder flushing in pairs and triplets as the gallery approached. Swinging north along the edge of Windom Lake, he would stop at 0:49 beneath a prominent live oak on the edge of the feed trail, but with the flight of birds unseen by the judge, as he rode forward, the dog would be taken on. Moving northbound again, Perfect Storm would swing out across the right shoulder, stopping midslope at 0:52, looking up into the breeze and towards a morass of tall stalks, a single bird kicked out from the mass. He would finish moving out towards Hickory Hill, his consistent forward effort in the thick, warm air enough to earn him an invitation to the championship.
The second morning saw clear weather, and the fifth brace was brought to the line composed of Notorious Front Range, owned and handled by John Mathys, and Dominator's Wild Bill, owned by Jack & Sarah Schwartz, and Nick Berrong, handled by Jamie Daniels. The action would begin quickly with Front Range coming to a stop in the piney median between the first and second fields at 0:04, some 75 yards west of the main cut-through, with a nice covey of birds pinned ahead of him. Both dogs would be unseen for a good period until the gallery began dropping down towards the Moccasin Creek crossing towards the Big Garrett Field. Front Range would then come forward along the swamp edge to the left, while Wild Bill would appear to get a little hung up trying to come around the swamp edge from the right. He would next be seen coming over from the Oil Drum Field to swing up onto the shoulder of Pike's Peak, Front Range having moved down through the woods to the west and re-emerged from the #4 Field on the ridge's left side. Both dogs would move out over its left shoulder, the scouts calling point for the two dogs at 0:42 down towards the dark, swampy edge, Will Bill honoring Front Range standing tall looking downslope into a dense oaky cover square. Sadly, this would prove a fruitless stand despite a thorough relocation effort. Both dogs would finish up moving purposefully out front through the woods below the Big House, and time called roughly 400 yards before Acorn Hill.
The sixth brace drew Mauck's Wyeast Owyhee Dallee, owned and handled by Alex Mauck, alongside Dominator's Rebel Queen, handled by Jamie Daniels, with owner Nick Berrong riding along to watch his dog. Turned loose from the water tank atop Acorn Hill, both dogs would move well through the first third of the course, Rebel Queen perhaps the slightly slower dog but more consistently forward than her bracemate. Up over and past Gene's Field and eastbound down the avenue towards the Turkey Field, Rebel Queen would stop at 0:29 in the piney cover midway between the main path and the swampy edge, a covey readily ahead of her. Taken on, she would stop perhaps 250 yards further forward at 0:31, parallel with the Turkey Field, the bird seen rising ahead of the taut dog. Dallee had been moving smoothly to this point, intermittently more laterally than forward. Around the head of the Long Pond, past the Emma May Block on the left, Daniels would call point once more at 0:55 at the top of the downhill slope to the right, another covey of birds located ahead of the mannerly dog. With Dallee now slightly depleted in the heat and still proving somewhat laterally minded, Rebel Queen would finish having given a more economic and more consistently forward race in the afternoon heat.
The seventh brace brought Miller's Heat Advisory, owned by Terry Graunke and handled by Judd Carlton, to the line with Lester's Boss Man, owned by David Thompson and handled by Gary Lester. Turned loose at the start of the Big Woods, Heat Advisory would appear to make several wide moves down through the wiregrass, Boss Man seen more frequently over on the right moving parallel to the South Pond edge. Through Boyd Corner, Heat Advisory would stop at 0:13 some 75 yards out to the right of the main track, but despite a thorough relocation effort, this would prove a barren stand. Down into the Brown Field Loop, Boss Man would swing in from the left side into the main, red-dirt path and immediately spin into a stop at 0:19, the birds immediately ahead of him. As it had been from the outset, Heat Advisory would appear to tackle larger chunks of territory as the course turned north towards the Double Pound Gap, but by the time the gallery reached the Cypress Field water tank named in honor of Showtime Sam Houston, Carlton would come for his tracker at 0:51. Boss Man, in the meantime, had worked consistently ahead of his handler and would be last seen moving out into the piney woods to the west of the Research Field.
The eighth brace drew two setters together, Chief's Rising Sun, handled by Judd Carlton, with owner John Mathys riding in support of his dog, alongside Woodville's Saddle Tramp, owned by Carl Owens and handled by Mark McLean. Turned loose on the regular afternoon breakaway below the corrals, both dogs would head out into the woods south of the Hagen House, Rising Sun preferring the lower left edge, Saddle Tramp the upper shoulder on the right. McLean would call point at 0:08 for the dog some 250 yards up on that right slope in the feed trial but looking up into some shady oaky cover, choosing to almost immediately relocate him as his demeanor seemed to indicate that birds might have left. The relocation would sadly prove fruitless. Temperatures had risen dramatically since the morning, the gallery shucking layers as quickly as they could as the brace went on. With Rising Sun moving well but requiring significant management, Saddle Tramp would push out consistently ahead of his handler through the Double Pond Gap, seemingly unaffected by the heat. Moving past the Long Pond and angling roughly northwest towards the 11 O'Clock Crossing, the call of point would come at 0:31, some 200 yards out to the north, the dog found standing near the edge of a crop field, a single bird kicked out of the understory. (This is one of those few fields for which no one has ever told me a name, but it is usually encountered from the north, shortly after leaving the Boy Scout House and where the dogs are turned eastward towards the head of Long Pond.) Through the crossing and swinging up around Esquire's Pine, the marshal would see Saddle Tramp at 0:45, some 75 yards to the northeast, the ticking acting as an effective camouflage in the dappled light beneath the trees. With McLean over the hill looking for his dog along the field edges, Luke Eisenhart would take care of the flushing responsibilities. He would flush around the dog, concluding as McLean arrived on the scene, adding to the congregation of horses immediately in the vicinity. McLean would give his benediction to Eisenhart to relocate the dog, who would head up into the tall, oaky thicket ahead of him; Eisenhart then stepped out to the side, the covey exploding from beneath his feet! The dog, clearly at no fault, would then be whoa'ed, a shot fired, and then taken on.
In the meantime, Rising Sun had never reconnected with the course after the turn north from Cypress Pond. With Livingston Road in sight, Carlton would concede defeat and ask for his tracker at 0:58. Saddle Tramp would put his stamp on claiming top qualifier with his finish down the Long Field before time. Once over the road, McLean would send the dog out on the long, green avenue that runs up the hill roughly southwest towards the Big House. After an initial flirtation with scent, Saddle Tramp would continue his quest and power out of sight; his effort in the afternoon heat seemingly undiminished. And in addition to being asked back to compete for the Championship, Saddle Tramp would be awarded Top Qualifier.
The ninth brace featured Rester's Powered Up, owned by Dr. Reuben Richardson and Cecil Rester and handled by Luke Eisenhart, head-to-head with Touch's Gallatin Fire, owned by Alex and Bryanna Rickert, and handled by Mark McLean. Turned loose from the water tank on top of Livingston Road, both dogs would make bold initial casts into the woods to the west before swinging south along the swamp edge towards the Cadillac Field. With Gallatin Fire swinging up through the woods on the right to gain the front, he would come to a stop up at 0:13 on the right shoulder shortly before the course turned down away from the road; McLean would call the flight of birds, seen by the judge as he approached in haste. Sent on down the slope, his scout would call him stopped at 0:18 near the Cadillac Pond edge. After an initial flushing effort through the low, oaky understory, he would be asked to relocate. He would execute masterfully, setting up taut some 50 yards further downwind, the birds directly ahead of him. In the meantime, Powered Up had swung wide around the outside of the westward turn, coming to a stop up on the slope to the left, some 50 yards off the main trail at 0:23; the birds readily flushed skyward ahead of him. Coming off Kudzu Hill, both dogs would disappear into the woods beyond the trident of long, going-away fields, Powered Up out in the woods to the west, Gallatin Fire disappearing over the shoulder to the northeast. After his find, Powered Up would find himself caught out to the side on a couple of occasions, and while certainly more consistently forward, Gallatin Fire had given the impression of modest competence in the heat of the afternoon, leaving them both to be eclipsed by others coming out of this qualifying series.
The tenth brace featured Touch's Blue Knight, owned and handled by Woodie Watson, on the line with Bonner's Hot Rize, handled by Gary Lester, with owner Jannie Chapman riding along in support of her young dog. Turned loose eastward after the road crossing, both dogs would swing wide out to the right before arcing back around to the left to meet their handler as they climbed the rise above Windom Lake. Lester would call point for his dog on top of that rise at 0:10 but promptly call the departure of an armadillo before simply taking his dog on. Swinging north, the call of point would come for Blue Knight way out to the right, the dog found standing tall down on the western edge of Ben's Hog Pond, looking up into a low, oaky thicket. The birds would flush as the handler's feet hit the ground, one of the highest-quality finds of the entire trial. Swinging around to the east parallel to the dirt road and Hot Rize had been gone for some time, and as the course turned south along Hickory Hill and then angled southeast towards Paul's Hill, the anxiety would begin to mount. With Blue Knight working consistently forward in and out of sight, Lester would come in for his tracker at 0:36, just beyond the Dixie Hunting Properties water tank below the summit of Paul's Hill. Blue Knight would handle consistently forward through the remainder of the brace, not affected by the heat, making a solid move south along the swamp edge on the left before being gathered up to go across the triangular hayfield below the corrals immediately before Livingston Road. He would disappear out of sight into the woods across the road, his effort meriting an invitation to run in the championship.
The 11th brace brought Supreme Confidence, handled by Luke Eisenhart, with his owner Claudia McNamee riding along to watch her dog, to the line with Touch's Shadow Rider, handled by Mark McLean, also eagerly accompanied by one of his co-owners, Karen Norton, in the gallery. Turned loose on the first morning course, with fingers of fog still lingering in the lee of the field edges, the action would begin quickly with the call of point coming at 0:09 for Shadow Rider, found standing roughly 50 yards further downslope from the cow barn than Breakaway Fred had been found in the first brace. Despite an extensive relocation effort, the stand would prove non-productive. Approaching the road crossing, Eisenhart would alert McLean to Shadow Rider standing down in the southern pocket of woods just before the road crossing at 0:18, the judge happily seeing a single bird rise as he rode to the dog. Crossing the road and sending Shadow Rider out along the right shoulder, he would call point at 0:23, but with the judge missing the flight of birds as he cantered forward, McLean would take his dog on. Into the Big Garrett Field, Supreme Confidence would be sent out wide to the right into the piney shoulder and having made the counterclockwise sweep back in towards his handler, he would be found 100 yards east of the course, looking northbound towards the Oil Drum Field, the birds still there to be flushed against that open skyline. Bringing him across the field, Eisenhart would send him west into the #4 Field, from which the dog would punch northbound parallel to the swamp edge. He would be found at 0:39, out in those woods to the left, looking up towards the oaky vines as the base of a single pine. Sadly, despite an extensive relocation effort, this would prove fruitless. Coming down off Pike's Peak, Shadow Rider would stop once more at 0:46, to the right of the Cadillac Pond crossing. This would be where Andy Daugherty and Westfall's Castaway had performed one of the most accomplished, sustained relocation efforts in 2020, ultimately pinning the rearguard of a large, running covey well over 100 yards further southeast. Sadly, it would not be a repeat performance for Shadow Rider, ending his bid. Supreme Confidence would end his hour moving out front through the woods before Acorn Hill, his effort showing both independence and handle in his consistently forward race and earning him an invitation to the championship proper.
The 12th brace brought Rebel Cause, owned by David Williams and handled by Jamie Daniels, head-to-head with Boumeester's Duramax, owned and handled by John Mathys. Turned loose from the base of Acorn Hill, the call of point would come for Duramax at 0:04, roughly three-quarters of the way up the climb towards the 'Y' and down over on the left shoulder. He looked magnificent, turned back into the southwesterly breeze, looking downslope towards the swamp, head so high as if to peer over the chest-high oaky bush immediately ahead of him. Sadly, as picturesque as the scene, not even the relocation effort could locate birds for his handler. Crossing over the shoulder past Gene's and dropping down to the northeast, Duramax would be found stopped in the main track at 0:23, Rebel Cause honoring nicely, birds kicked out of the roadside oak bush ahead of him. He would point again at 0:26, some 25 yards down on the rise to the right, birds easily flown out of the tangled undergrowth. With the gallery now swinging along the avenue towards the Turkey Field on the right (and the turn down towards the Boy Scout House), the call of point would ring out from the left side out towards the state line at 0:29. Rebel Cause would be found out towards the northwest corner of the large crop field to the north, but with birds unseen leaving by the judge as he cantered to the stand, the dog was merely taken on. Both dogs were carefully handled through the Boy Scout section before being turned loose at the dirt road, the dogs almost immediately ducking right on a feed trail. Rebel Cause would be found standing there at 0:39, with Duramax honoring and a covey of birds successfully flushed ahead of them. Rebel Cause would then be sent eastwards, where he would come to a stop in the hollow at 0:42, looking at the base of a live oak. Sadly, the relocation would prove nonproductive, leading to speculation that the dog had stopped on the flightpath scent from the immediately flushed covey. Time would be called climbing up into the Big Woods, both dogs having disappeared over the shoulder to the right, and while consistent in terms of effort, both needing to demonstrate a little more obvious focus out front to merit a callback.
The 13th brace drew Showtime Game Changer, owned and handled by Larron Copeland, alongside Rentz's Hijacked, handled by Luke Eisenhart, with owners Joe & Trish Rentz and Claudia McNamee riding in support of their dog. Both dogs would push out hard to the left into the Big Woods, Game Changer in particular, establishing a bold, powerful race, but coming around the bottom of the South Pond, it would be Hijacked reaching out around the pond edge and coming to a stop at 0:09. With the dog looking up into a tall, oaky thicket, Eisenhart had his work cut out to bully his way into the undergrowth, which he did, successfully ousting a covey ahead of the dog. Turning northeast, Eisenhart would be the first to successfully thread his dog through the Double Pond Gap, the commotion prompting a large congregation of wood storks feeding in the South Pond into flight, the black trailing edges of their wings in stark contrast to the bright white of their bodies. Game Changer would follow shortly thereafter, both dogs then seen initially arcing over the right shoulder before crossing the front to reunite with their handlers. By the time the gallery passed Joe's Oak, Game Changer had not been seen in some time; his handler was concerned he had punched out far enough to the west not to make the upcoming counterclockwise sweep towards the Research Field. Hijacked would be successfully gathered up and watered in the Notorious Dominator's Heir tank at the Horseshoe Field at 0:56, Copeland electing to come in for his tracker at this point too. Sent on, Hijacked would disappear into the woods to the west of China Berry Hill at the expiration of his hour, a competent hour on the ground but needing just a little more to be invited back.
The 14th brace brought Knight's Little John, owned by Scott Griffin and handled by Gary Lester, to the line with Confident Nation, owned by Scott Jordan and handled by Luke Eisenhart. Both dogs set off at a blistering pace, so much so that both were hardly seen for the first 20 minutes as the course passed under the Hagen House in the direction of Boyd Corner. And, not long after entering the Big Woods, Eisenhart would come back for his tracker at 0:25. Through the Double Pond Gap and the chicane between the Long Pond and the dried-out pond bowl on the left, Lester would initially call point for Little John at 0:34 out to the northeast but upon reaching him immediately bring him on without even dismounting. He would continue to work powerfully out front through the 11 O'Clock Crossing and up around the Horseshoe Loop, but sadly despite a strong, sweeping, final move off the hill into the wooded bowl below Gene's at 0:54, this would be the last sight we would have of him before the call of time.
The fifteenth brace featured Erin's Lost Creek, owned and handled by Sean Derrig, and Dominator's Queen Bee, handled by Jamie Daniels, with two of her co-owners, Jim Hamilton and Nick Berrong, riding in support. Turned loose from the foot of the Long Field, headed west to the road crossing, both dogs would move out nicely. Upon crossing the road, Derrig would send Lost Creek to the edge of the hay field, where he would turn forward to match his handler. He would stop shortly thereafter at 0:10 underneath a pair of live oaks, and the birds readily flushed around him. Moving smoothly around the remainder of the Hay Field, both dogs would be consistently forward, Lost Creek showing an additional degree of reach. Off the roadside edge and past the bottom of the Cadillac Pond, Lost Creek would be up on the high side of the slope and stop at 0:32, perhaps 100 yards east of the prominent live oak that marks the turn south down the Oil Drum Field. Derrig would call the flight of birds, but they would be unseen by the judge. Both dogs would still be reaching out by the time they dove in the water tank at the Moccasin Creek crossing; Queen Bee, having descended out of the woods to the right, hit the front of the Garret Field and swung around its left edge, Lost Creek having stayed up higher in those woods, then punched across the gap to the next wooded spur on the right, and then punched down to the water tank gap. Down through the woods on the left as the course passed under the Main Office, Queen Bee would stop mid-slope near a large live oak at 0:53, the birds seen leaving by the judge. Lost Creek would stop on the right side of the main path down to the Roger's Pond crossing at 0:56, but the flush and extended relocation effort would prove fruitless, bringing the brace to an end.
The 16th brace drew Erin's Grey Justice, owned by Sean Derrig and handled by Luke Eisenhart, head-to-head with Touch's Malcolm Story, owned by Alex and Bryanna Rickert and handled by Mark McLean. Turned loose at the base of Kudzu Hill, both dogs would soar out over the rise; one of the judges spying Malcolm Story pointed at 0:03 out on the left side as the gallery descended off the summit, the birds readily ahead of him. Both dogs would punch out into the piney woods at the head of the triumvirate of long-cover crop fields. As the course turned east across the main road, there would be confusion over whose dog had appeared to turn along the woodline to the left before abruptly doubling back and disappearing. It would turn out to be Malcolm Story, found on point at 0:16. However, with the delay in identifying the dog and alerting the correct handler, by the time McLean arrived to flush, not even an extended relocation effort could produce birds. The course would wind up over the hill to the northeast before turning north at the little Tall Timbers weather station above the Horseshoe Field, Malcolm Story seen once more pointed at 0:23 some 100 yards downslope. Sadly, this too would prove non-productive, at which point Eisenhart would also concede that his dog had not turned with him across the road and come for his tracker.
The 17th brace would bring Lester's Storm Surge and Mauck's Wyeast Owhyee Jack to the morning breakaway and is already covered in the placements.
The 18th brace featured Rester's Cajun Justice, owned by Dr. Reuben Richardson and Cecil Rester (with Cecil riding in support of his dog), alongside Touch's Midnight Rider, handled by Mark McLean, with his owner John Milton riding in support. Turned loose from the base of Acorn Hill, both dogs would power out on the left side. The call of point would come for Cajun Justice at 0:06, so deep in the woods pocket to the north that he was actually in the perimeter firebreak, the birds effectively pinned in the last of the oaky cover before the swamp and boosted into the air with ease by his handler. Shortly after the crossing at the Y at 0:09, McLean would call point for Midnight Rider roughly 100 yards off the left side of the cover crop field with the prominent live oak at its head, but neither flushing nor relocation effort could produce anything. Climbing over the hill past Gene's and dropping down towards the northeast, both dogs appeared evenly matched on the ground. The call of point would come for them both at 0:26, some 200 yards north of the course and within sight of the large cover crop field to the east, where they would be found standing together, the birds readily ahead of them, both handlers firing. Past the Boy Scout house and both dogs would punch up over the rise, Cajun Justice coming around smoothly to the east at his handler's call, Midnight Rider getting hung up in the woods to the south before ultimately battling his way through the mud and water at the head of the Long Pond to rejoin his handler on the pond's eastern side. Both dogs would be last seen at the call of time as they dropped southwest off the head of rise above the Emma May Block, Cajun Justice's bird work and consistently forward race earning him an invitation to the championship.
The 19th brace brought Touch's Lone Dominator, owned and handled by Kent Cantrell, to the line with Woodville's Yukon Cornelius, handled by Mark McLean, with proud owner Carl Owens in the gallery to watch his dog. Turned loose into the Big Woods, both dogs would move out over the right shoulder and be largely unseen for several minutes, Lone Dominator reappearing at the woods' conclusion and then swinging out to the right at the Boyd Corner, where he would be found midslope at 0:13 approximately 100 yards east of the water tank. However, sadly it would prove a barren stand. Coming into the Brown Field Loop, Yukon Cornelius would swing out into the woods and climb the spur to the left, where he would come to a stop at 0:19. (Not only was this the same location, but it was also recorded as the same exact time in the brace that Chinquapin Bill stopped to point birds for Ray Warren in the 2020 running of the championship.) The birds would be flown off the ridge ahead of the mannerly dog, easily seen by the gallery on the red clay trail. Swinging north across the cover crop field, both dogs would swing out along the bottom edge to the left, Yukon Cornelius disappearing at the front corner. With the call of point coming at 0:25 from his scout, the birds would be seen leaving by the incoming judge, the dog standing just tucked around the corner of the cover block. Lone Dominator would also stop in the dried hollow to the north at 0:28; despite an extensive relocation effort, this would also prove unsuccessful for him, ending his bid. Yukon Cornelius would work ahead of his handler through the Double Pond Gap and past the Cypress Pond, taking large swings of territory before reconnecting and moving out. Turning west at the head of the Research Field, he would come to a stop out in the woods to the north at 0:59. Sadly, neither judge saw birds leaving as they approached, prompting McLean to gather him up to water him before the expiration of time. Nevertheless, his effort on the ground would earn him an invitation to the championship.
The 20th brace drew Beeler's Prime Design, owned by Allen Lindner and handled by Judd Carlton, alongside Notorious Dominator's Heir, owned and handled by John Mathys. Both dogs would move out powerfully from the regular afternoon breakaway, Heir seen pushing out through the dried-out bowl towards the Hagen House hayfields before being gathered up and sent down the powerlines on the lower, left side, Prime Design opting for the right side where he would appear to make game, and then move forward out onto the far slope only to reappear at the Boyd Corner water tank several minutes later. Into the Big Woods and Heir would remain on the lower left side, while Prime Design would initially swing up into the heart of the pines before sweeping across the front and down towards the South Pond. Just before the course angles up to the northeast, there is a prominent drainage ditch that runs down to the pond, and the call of point would come midway down that ditch at 0:23. Upon arrival, Prime Design appears to be honoring Prime Design two cover blocks ahead, birds readily flushed ahead of Heir, while others would also rise from the block nearer Prime Design. With Prime Design spending a little more time out to the sides than punching forward, Carlton would elect to pick up his dog beside the Long Pond at 0:32. This would also be roughly the time that Heir would choose to disappear and, despite some energetic scouting, Mathys would be forced to ask for his tracker at the top of the Horseshoe Loop at 0:52.
The 21st and final brace of the qualifiers featured Erin's High Note (Carlton) and Touch's Dancing Nancies (Cantrell) and is already covered in the placements.
From this initial field of 42, the judges elected to call back eight dogs with bird work, consistent effort, and forward races to compete over one hour and 50 minutes. While attention was given to avoid, as much as possible, dogs competing on the same course and one scouting conflict, the dogs were otherwise braced by the judging team. (As a reminder, with the loss of a day due to heavy rain immediately after the running of the qualifiers, every dog had had at least a full day's rest.) The braces were as follows:
1) Woodville's Saddle Tramp (McLean) and Erin's Perfect Storm (Eisenhart)
2) Lester's Storm Surge (Lester) and Erin's High Note (Carlton)
3) Touch's Blue Knight (Watson) and Rester's Cajun Justice (Eisenhart)
4) Woodville's Yukon Cornelius (McLean) and Supreme Confidence (Eisenhart)
The first brace featuring Woodville's Saddle Tramp (McLean) with owner Carl Owens along to watch his fine dog and Erin's Perfect Storm (Eisenhart) turned loose from the regular morning breakaway, lingering fingers of fog still gripping the various piney field edges. A speck of white could be seen above the dried-out bowl of the Preacher's Hog Pond through the first corridor of trees and into the second field, with Perfect Storm up in the woods to the left. No one could say what it was until the handler got parallel with him as he climbed the low rise to the Phantom Covey hill. As it had above Esquire's Pine in the qualifiers, Saddle Tramp's ticking had disguised him in the low-angle light; nevertheless, at 0:09, birds would be easily flushed directly ahead of him. In the meantime, Perfect Storm had also come to a stop at 0:09 up on top of the low hill. Despite an extended relocation, the Phantom Covey would entangle and deceive another bird dog (although somewhat to the dog's credit, a significant clump of feathers was found ahead of him in the thicket). Entering the Big Garrett Field, Perfect Storm would be seen moving out on the wooded shoulder on its far side, Saddle Tramp moving up through the woods to the left. Both dogs would be invisible for several minutes, although both would appear independently from the right as the gallery descended off the Pike's Peak ridge towards the Cadillac Pond crossing. Now gathered up, both dogs would punch through the crossing and then slip out of sight into the woods to the left, Saddle Tramp getting hung up and coming back to the gallery as it passed underneath the Big House hayfield. Turning largely east after reaching the water tank at the start of the Acord Hill, Saddle Tramp would spin to a stop at 1:01, roughly 100 yards east of the brick chimney, but when the birds were declared unseen by the judges, McLean would take him on. Reaching the head of the crop field immediately east of the water tank at the 'Y,' Eisenhart would come looking for his tracker at 1:08. By this time, Saddle Tramp had moved out along the wooded high side of the course and disappeared. In fact, by the time the gallery reached Gene's Field at the top of the rise, McLean would concede defeat and come in for his tracker at 1:28.
The second brace would star Lester's Storm Surge (Lester) and Erin's High Note (Carlton), already featured in the placements.
The third brace brought Touch's Blue Knight (Watson) to the line with Rester's Cajun Justice (Eisenhart), with his owner Cecil Rester riding to support his dog. Turned loose from the regular afternoon breakaway, both dogs would move out to the right side and then forward along the piney slope, only to reappear coming down off the hill to meet their handlers at the Boyd Corner water tank. Up into the Big Woods, both dogs would initially sweep out into their heart on the right side before swinging back across the front as the gallery began to swing northeast. As the course angled northwest to set itself up for a northbound shot to the 11 O'Clock Crossing, both dogs would go on point at 0:31, Blue Knight roughly 75 yards to the left, Cajun Justice in the main trail looking up to his left. Watson would call the departure of an armadillo before he even reached his dog and then take him on, while Eisenhart would flush birds from the roadside ahead of his dog. Both dogs would sweep into the Horseshoe Loop and across the piney shoulder near Esquire's Pine, still showing grace and intelligence in their cast. Coming over the knob above Gene's, there would be some confusion and amusement as both handlers claimed the dog moving out deep in the woods to the right as their own. It would prove to be Cajun Justice, and sadly, by the time the gallery had reached the road crossing above the Long Field at 1:00, Watson would come in for his tracker. Cajun Justice would then swing through the woods to the right as the course moved underneath the hay fields before swinging up along the inside edge of the Cadillac Field. He would stay consistently ahead of his handler through the various small turns around the Cadillac Pond before punching down the pineline on the left side of the Oil Drum Field. With the afternoon heat beginning to mount, he would be watered up at the water tank midway down; Eisenhart would then send Cajun Justice out along the far edge of the Oil Drum Field, at which point he would punch into the woods to reemerge at the front corner of the Big Garrett Field. He would finish his time at the base of Kudzu Hill, still moving respectably despite the warm conditions but just needing more to challenge the two dogs from the brace before.
The fourth and final brace of the championship brought Woodville's Yukon Cornelius (McLean), with his owner Carl Owens riding along in support, to the line with Supreme Confidence (Eisenhart), with his owner Claudia McNamee riding to watch her dog. Turned loose from the base of Kudzu Hill, both dogs moving out around the rise to the left and out into the trident of slim, going-away fields, Supreme Confidence initially working his way through the finger of woods to the left before crossing the front, leaving Yukon Cornelius to work the woods to the right of the center field. He would be found standing near the far end of that wooded corridor at 0:08, unusually just a single bird flushed out of the understory ahead of him. Crossing the road and turning east, Supreme Confidence would come to a stop in the first hollow on the right at 0:11, looking northeast up into the oaky thicket. Eisenhart would carefully work around him to flush, only to have the birds flush 25 yards ahead of him from the middle of the main trail, barely ahead of the gallery's horses. After moving parallel to Windom Lake and turning east towards Hickory Hill, Yukon Cornelius would come in from the right side only to swing forward with his handler and move out along the left side of the trail parallel to the main dirt road. He would then stop roughly 200 yards before Hickory Hill at 0:31, with birds successfully flushed ahead of him. Supreme Confidence had last been seen heading north parallel to Windom Lake but had turned east at his handler's call to be found standing at 0:32, parallel with Yukon Cornelius but 200 yards north, standing on the far edge of a small, skinny cover crop field just over the dirt road. Sadly, despite a thorough relocation effort, this would prove non-productive. Turning along the Hickory Hill ridge and angling southeast towards the summit of Paul's Hill, neither dog would be seen for several minutes. Although as the gallery dropped off the hill and past the Dixie Hunting Properties water tank, Eisenhart would call point at 0:43 for Supreme Confidence some 150 yards south down in the woods to the right, once again looking up into the northeasterly breeze. Sadly, despite another thorough relocation effort, this would also prove to be a barren stand, bringing his bid for the title to an end. Moving south between the two large cover crop fields, Yukon Cornelius would come to a stop in the wooded edge at 0:51, but this would prove non-productive. With a stop-to-flush at 0:53 near the head of the easterly field, a brief conversation with the judges about his relative performance would see McLean opt to pick up his dog, bringing the championship to a conclusion.
Greenville, Fla., January 18
Judges: Kirk Law and Kent Patterson
CONTINENTAL OPEN ALL-AGE CHAMPIONSHIP [One-Hour and Fifty Minutes Heats] - 36 Pointers and 6 Setters
Winner--LESTER'S STORM SURGE, 1681624, pointer male, by Ransom-Bene's Line Dancer. Tommy & Bonnie Hamilton, owners; Gary Lester, handler.
Runner-Up--ERIN'S HIGH NOTE, 1696464, pointer male, by Dominator's Rebel Heir-Erin's Quickmarksman's Mae. Mike Moses, owner; Judd Carlton, handler.
Continental Open All-Age Championship Winners (from left): Woody Watson with Lester's Storm Surge, Luke Eisenhart with Erin's High Note, Billy Henley, Shannon Nygard, Maria Bassham, Kate Morton, Gary and Joy Lester, Andrew Campbell, Judge Kent Patterson, Judd Carlton, Claudia McNamee, Patty Ewer, and Julie Livingston Ripley. (Back row): L. J. Lundstrom, Alex Mauck, Kristina Wall, Lee Phillips, Ronnie and Theresa Kunkle, Ben Melvin, Ben Stringer, Shannon Braden, Candus Knapp, Randy Floyd, and John Mathys. [Photo by Chris Mathan].