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Event: Upfront's Southern Star Named Champion of 35th Running
Result: United States Shooting Dog Invitational Championship

Location: Conway, Arkansas

Post Date: Apr 25, 2023

Submitted By: Joyce Taylor

us shooting dog inv chs23

United States Shooting Dog Invitational Champion Upfront's Southern Star with Bob Barker (judge), Steve Messick (judge), Shawn Kinkelaar (handler), Tommy Rice (scout), and Lance and Marci Schulz (owners).

As the formal mailed invitations stated, this was "The 35th Proud, Annual Running" of the United States Shooting Dog Invitational Championship, held February 18-20, 2023, at the Camp Robinson Wildlife Management Area near Conway, Ark. This premier event was perceived and started by Hall of Famer John Seawright of Arkansas to honor the top 12 shooting dogs in the nation, perhaps in the world, and pit them against each other in a three-day competitive format. Each dog runs for 60 minutes on the first two days, and then finalists,
chosen at the judges' discretion, return for a rigorous third-day 90-minute stand-off. This is a true endurance trial, the proven best-against-the-best, determined by the Purina Top Shooting Dog Awards points system from the previous season. All luck is removed when contestants compete three days in a row, are drawn out in the afternoon if in the morning the day before, on a different course, and with a different bracemate each time at the line. It's the trial to qualify for and certainly to win!

After some years of running the trial, Seawright handed the leadership reins over to Robby Robinson of Dardanelle, Ark. Robinson later moved trial management to Joyce and Johnny Taylor of Little Rock, Ark. The Taylors, joined later by Connie Crowell, have run the Invitational Championship for 27 years.

The Winner
Earning the coveted 2023 Invitational Championship title this year was Upfront's Southern Star ("Roo"), a white and liver, 7-year-old pointer female owned by Lance Schulz of Bismarck, N. D., and handled by Shawn Kinkelaar of Effingham, Ill. The judges were looking for a three-day consistent performance, and Roo delivered. Each day she dug hard, forward, busting the cover and hunting. She took advantage of the country offered, rimming the edges. She was the best dog with remarkable performance, befitting a quality championship win.

[Lance Schulz is quite proud of "Roo." A post-trial interview with Lance may be found with the Invitational Championship results at]

The VIPs (Judges, Owners, Sponsors)
Judges for the Invitational Championship were well-known and beloved retired Purina representative Bob Barker from Inola, Okla., and filling in for Mike Griffin, who suffered a horse wreck just the week before, was Steve Messick of Greenbrier, Ark. We were most grateful to have both these fine men arbitrate the 2023 Invitational Championship.

The Invitational begins with a welcoming reception and dinner, followed by a program of introductions of handlers and owners, and each of the dogs' wins warranting their invitation to compete, a Calcutta and the trial drawing for order of running.

We are honored and delighted to have owners present for the trial. To all the owners who have the passion and appreciation of the well-trained, thrilling, hard-driving bird dog and are willing to help support the handlers and their string of dogs to keep this exciting sport possible, we salute you!

Owners traveling to be with us this year were Eugene Spiotta of Germantown, Tenn., Lance Schultz with wife Marcie of Bismarck, N. D., Ron Prewitt of Hudson, Ill., Dr. Richard Steckley of Wichita, Kan., and Bjorn Peterson of Delano, Minn. Dr. Jeffery Hale and his beautiful family, of Russellville, Ark., Rick Thone with his wife Harriett and granddaughter Rayne of Russellville, Ark., Michael Plate of Alma, Neb., Brian Williams, and his significant other, Dacia Teeman, of Haskell, Okla., also attended.

Kind and generous sponsors make the Invitational Championship what it is. Purina sponsors the beautiful and treasured Ross B. Young painting that goes to the winning owner and provides dog food to the winning handler. Garmin provides an Advanced Training System with Tracking to the handler, and Tri-Tronics Pro 550 Electronic Training Collar. A beautiful commemorative Montana Silversmith belt buckle donated by Dr. Debbie Ozner and George Hickox goes to the winning owner. Leather Brothers provides trophy leather collars with name tags on each to the handlers and multiple prizes that are distributed through the evening programs. SportDOG also generously provides prizes for handlers and owners, as does Circle Y Saddlery, Collar Clinic, and Jack Haggis Saddlery. World Class Bird Dogs sponsors the bar all three evenings. Melanie and Dr. Jeff Hale sponsored the Friday night dinner. Carol and Witt Stephens sponsored the Saturday evening meal, and Sunday night's steak dinner was sponsored by Dr. Tom Jackson, owner of 2022 Invitational Champion Chelsea's Thunder Bolt. Maria Woody and Mike Taylor sponsored a large custom cake with Chelsea's Thunder Bolt's likeness.

Invitational benefactors who make the $8,000 purse possible are Lee Cruse, Charlie and Linda Jackson, Randy and Lynn Potter, Ron Prewitt, Jack, Audrey and Brian Sanchez, and Johnny and Joyce Taylor. Our most sincere gratitude goes out to each sponsor.

The Championship Running
Saturday morning

After the customary group photo of dogs, handlers, owners, and judges, we rode for the Saturday morning breakaway on what could not have been a more beautiful field trial day. The sun was shining gloriously, and the temperature was nice and cold. A jovial, nice size gallery was riding for the first day with all handlers and several owners present. Hoodies were pulled tight over heads and ears and caps were pulled low to shield the sunshine. A brisk 27 degrees burned away to mid-30s as we turned loose Tug O'War ("Tug"), handled by Shawn Kinkelaar of Effingham, Ill., and Doc's Second Wind ("Willie"), the only setter of the 12 dogs, handled by Eddie Taylor of Red Banks, Miss. Owner Bjorn Peterson had traveled from Minnesota and was riding in support of Tug, and one of Willie's owners, Michael Plate of Alma, Neb., was riding in support of Willie.

In the first half of the first-morning course, the cover was low due to a late fall Game & Fish burn, and we could view the dogs fly along edges and to the forefront. Tug had a nice race and an excellent finish, circling the big dove field to conclusion. Willie also had a good race, sometimes spending time out of range and view and again at pick-up.

In the second morning brace was Hale's High Flyer ("Betty"), handled by E. Taylor. His owner, Dr. Jeffery Hale of Russellville, Ark., was on hand for the entire trial as well as several family members. Also down was Touch's Shameless ("Lip"), handled by Chuck Stretz of Blackwater, Mo., and owned by Dr. Richard Steckley, Wichita, Kan. Betty put down a good race for her full hour. She had a rabbit find at 31 and an unproductive at 57 while Lip stylishly backed. Powerful Lip had a nice race; he thrilled us as he cast deep through the big bottoms--no birds for their hours.

Dogs in the third brace of the morning were Sun's Out Gun's Out ("Pete"), handled by E. Taylor and owned by Rick Thone of Russellville, Ark., and Chelsea's Mae West ("Mae"), handled by Kinkelaar, co-owned by Ron Prewitt of Hudson, Ill., who rode the dog wagon each day with dog wagon master Roger Martin, past area manager. Pete was a powerful, front-running dog for his hour brace. Mae hunted forward without the reach of bracemate. Pete turned with the course and for the handler to show on front impressively. From the mountain crossing, both dogs dug deep on the left, and handlers were dispatched, but both dogs swung on their own and showed
as we turned toward the dead horse curve. No birds.

Saturday Afternoon
For the fourth brace Wind Ridge Sugar Plum ("Sugar"), handled by E. Taylor and owned by and present for her performance by dog wagon Eugene J. Spiotta of Germantown, Tenn., and Touch's Big Whiskey ("Big") handled by co-owner Stretz, and co-owner Dr. Richard Steckley riding, were released from the ridge top. Sugar had a nice big race. She had a little absence then showed to the far front on ridge edge--out big, then gone some--to return on front. Big also had a nice race with an unproductive at 30.

Upfront's Southern Star ("Roo") is handled by Kinkelaar and owned by Lance Schulz of Bismarck, N. D. Lance rode each brace, and was accompanied by his wife, Marcie. Roo showed off with a nice find in the field beyond the road and pine trees toward the lake, great composure and style on point, and impeccable style after wing and shot. She finished with a nice front race. With Roo was Hale's Kickstarter ("Bud"), handled by E. Taylor and owned by Dr. Jeffrey Hale, his second dog in the trial. Bud's race was a more moderate but adequate shooting dog race. He had an unproductive just after the nursery pond.

The final brace of the first day of running paired Oahe Buck ("Buck"), handled by Tommy Rice of Pavo, Ga., and owned by Mac Stidham of Rembert, S. C., with Highwall To Rebel Hell ("Bill"), handled by Matt Cochran of Reydon, Okla., and owned by Brian Williams of Haskell, Okla. Brian and his significant other, Dacia Teeman, were with us for the drawing and the morning running but had to return home for obligations. Both dogs had very fluid nice running performances. Bill had a bit of a long absence. Nice moving Buck had a nice race, hit objectives, and needed birds.

Sunday morning
Another beautiful cold, overcast morning greeted us for the Sunday morning running. Upfront's Southern Star ("Roo") had a nice race, running big and hard, out and away twice, once with the handler bringing her back on course. She finished strong with Kinkelaar pointing her out to the front. Highwall To Rebel Hell ("Bill") had a reportedly decent race. Cochran called point for him outside bird alley but dismounted and took the dog on. The dog came from behind a couple of times, regaining the front. The handler again called point for Bill, deep in the finger toward the lake, yet no gunfire, no birds. Wind Ridge Sugar Plum ("Sugar") and Oahe Buck ("Buck") were released in the woods past Dove Field and into Big Horseshoe, where Sugar quickly established point at 3 in the road at the beginning of Big Horseshoe, all good. Here, Buck took advantage of the open country and reached the road first to check left, then right. Pretty Sugar caught the front, and both dogs drove forward with nice races. Sugar had an unproductive at 55.

Touch's Big Whiskey ("Big") had a nice race, slowing a bit at the end of the big fields behind the clubhouse as we turned into the wind and handler hunted him in heavy grass for the evasive Camp Robinson quail. Hale's Kickstarter ("Bud") had a driving but sometimes erratic race; he made some nice forward casts yet was behind a couple of times--no birds for the brace.

Sunday Afternoon
Sunday afternoon, the temperature warmed to the 60s for Hale's High Flyer ("Betty,") and Chelsea's Mae West ("Mae"). Both dogs ran big races, Mae, much bigger than the previous day, yet with a couple of absences. Betty had a good find just off the road edge as we passed
the pine trees toward the Big Horseshoe with Mae backing mannerly.

Tug O'War ("Tug") and Sun's Out Gun's Out ("Pete") put down nice, big, showy, comparable races. Pete came from the back a couple of times. Point was called for Pete past the lake, deep to the left at 50. When we arrived here, we also discovered Tug even deeper along the tree edge pointed. Birds were promptly raised for staunch Pete, but none would show for Tug on flush or relocation.

Doc's Second Wind ("Willie") is a showy, handsome setter. He was powerful to the front, impressing the judges and the gallery with his willing turns as urged by his handler from afar. He had two unproductives, one at 39 in the pines beyond Rabbit Patch Ridge and one at 45. Touch's Shameless ("Lip") had his own unproductive with Willie backing him in big country toward the fire station. Both were hard, front-running dogs, with lots of go and speed, Lip with some exuberant voice--good races for both.

Sunday evening, after a well-received steak dinner hosted by Dr. Tom Jackson, and cocktails from World Class Bird Dogs, the anticipated finalists were announced. The judges called back Upfront's Southern Star and Sun's Out Gun's Out. On standby were Wind Ridge Sugar Plum and Touch's Big Whiskey.

The Finals
Upfront's Southern Star had a glorious race throughout her 90-minute final heat, maintaining her strength, taking in the front and beyond. She demonstrated a good rapport with her handler, pausing for directional commands and turning on the front from afar. At approximately the one-hour mark, point was called for both dogs in heavy grass as the course turned to the right and back toward Dead Horse Curve. Both dogs stood majestically as both handlers flushed for a nice covey rise. Likewise, both dogs exhibited excellent manners. A bit more biddable on the ground than her bracemate, Roo finished going away just past Nursery Pond. The handler rode in pursuit, returning with Roo proudly riding the saddle with Kinkelaar. Owner Lance Schulz rode every brace of the trial and enjoyed Roo's championship performance and win.

Sun's Out Gun's Out, was seriously busy from the start of his 90-minute final. He scored a steadfast find off the breakaway on a nice covey, all in order. He did an excellent job on the ground, yet was to the side or behind some. The handler brought him through the woods from the right and Seawright Cut. At one hour, Pete scored his second find, the duel find with Roo at 60. He, too, finished his hour strong and to the front. Proud owner Rick Thone and granddaughter Rayne were also in the gallery riding and enjoying their fine dog.

The standby dogs were not called.

Conway, Ark., February 18
Judges: Bob Barker and Steve Messick
UNITED STATES SHOOTING DOG INVITATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP [Sixty-Minute Heats; Ninety-Minute Finals] - 11 Pointers and 1 Setter

Winner--UPFRONT'S SOUTHERN STAR, 1662579, pointer female, by Ransom-Double Wild. Lance Schulz, owner; Shawn Kinkelaar, handler.

us sd invitational chs23

United States Shooting Dog Invitational Participants (front, from left): Wind Ridge Sugar Plum with Eddy Taylor (handler), Upfront's Southern Star with Shawn Kinkelaar (handler), Chelsea's Mae West with Zack Hilton, Touch's Shameless with Dr. Richard Steckley (owner), Touch's Big Whiskey with Chuck Stretz (handler), and Tug O'War with Virgil Moore. (Back, from left): Hale's High Flyer with Eli Taylor, Sun's Out Gun's Out with Rick Thone (owner), Hale's Kickstarter with Dr. Jeff Hale (owner), Doc's Second Wind with Michael Plate (owner), Highwall To Rebel Hell with Matt Cochran (handler), and Oahe Buck with Tommy Rice (handler).