Event: Miller's Blindsider Named Champion; Shadow's Lord Magic, Runner-Up
Result: Masters Quail Championship
Location: Albany, Georgia
Post Date: May 20, 2023
Submitted By: Andrew Campbell
Masters Open Quail Championship Winners: Judd Carlton with Miller's Blindsider, Mark McLean with Shadow's Lord Magic, Steve Wiley, Shon Powell, Cody McLean, Eddie Sholar, Mike Lemons (judge), Dr. Fred Corder (judge), Ray Pearce, Tim Moore, Tierra Hadley, Allison and Jamie Daniels, Nick Berrong, Woody Watson, John Mathys, L. J. Lundstrom, Luke Eisenhart, Shannon Nygard, Tommy Davis, Claudia McNamee, Jim Hamilton, David Rains, and unidentified [Photo by Chris Mathan].
The 54th running of the Masters Quail Championship was held March 6-8 on the south side of Albany on the legendary properties of Nilo Plantation and Nonami Plantation. From a field of 37 starters--33 pointers and four setters-- the judges, Dr. Fred Corder of Corinth, Miss., and Mike Lemons of Conway, Ark., awarded the Norman J. Ellis Memorial Trophy to Miller's Blindsider, owned by Nick Berrong, and handled by Jamie Daniels, with Shadow's Lord Magic, owned by Carl Bowman and handled by Luke Eisenhart, as runner-up. It was a year of remarkable record-setting. Firstly, to acknowledge the outstanding stewardship of both properties, bird numbers were exceptional. While both properties maintain extensive records for their hunting parties, and both documented remarkable years in terms of birds seen and harvested, in particular, Hall of Famer Tommy Davis, now hunting program manager at Nilo, reported that 2022-2023 was the best since 1961, while the property was still under John Olin's ownership. (Put in direct terms for this trial: 24 coveys would be successfully pointed on the first morning at Nilo, 23 on the first afternoon at Nonami.)
The Southern Field Trial Club is extremely grateful to the Williams Family and Mr. Ted Turner for their kindness in offering their grounds for what remains one of the premier wild bird trials in the country. Also, thanks to Garrett Jones and Ray Pearce, the respective managers, for their superb stewardship of these remarkable properties. Once again, the by-line common in the trial's American Field ads from the 1980s rang true: "Enjoy running your dogs over the beautiful grounds of South Georgia Plantations, where the conditions for Field Trials are definitely unexcelled."
In the former category of record-setting, Miller's Blindsider crossed two significant thresholds: firstly, he became the first dog to win this Championship three times, having previously done it in 2020, 2022, and now 2023, passing White Knight's Button (1973, 1975), Mississippi Kid (2002, 2003), Dominator's Rebel Heir (2015, 2017) and Touch's White Knight (2016, 2019) in the process; secondly, he became the first National Champion to win this prestigious wild bird event. Native Tango had won the Masters in 1983 and would then go on to win the National the following winter. It has perhaps never been done precisely because it requires the dog to run for three hours in cold, muddy conditions in west Tennessee, often less than three weeks before coming to run in the spring heat of South Georgia. While Blindsider had been fortunate to run at Ames on Valentine's Day with temperatures in the 50s, his run for this particular win came in the heat of an oppressive afternoon with the temperatures in the mid-80s.
The Club is also deeply grateful to Flint Equipment for loaning the tractor to pull the gallery wagon and to the ensemble staffs at Nilo and Nonami for marshaling in the mornings. A heartfelt thanks also go to Nestle Purina for their ongoing support of this event.
Besides the two winners, the judges also held their bracemates' performances in high regard: Erin's High Note (Carlton) from the very first brace and Touch's Breakaway Fred (McLean) from the sixth and final brace of the first day.
Miller's Blindsider had run in the sixth brace with his owner, Nick Berrong riding up front, drawn against another exciting young dog just coming into his own, Touch's Breakaway Fred, with his owners, Becky and Gary Futch and Karen and Bruce Norton, also riding in attendance. With the second brace of the afternoon picking up early due to the heat, and to avoid a lot of deadhead time, the two dogs would be sent almost directly due south from below the trio of large rotator fields on the northern edge of the grounds. After both dogs had established a strong race out front, the call of point would first come for Fred at 0:07 on the southwestern corner of a rectangular cover crop field that opens up to a larger field, standing in the shade and looking up into an oaky thicket. In the meantime, Blindsider had come in from the shoulder on the left and established a point of his own on the eastern side of that good-sized cover crop field at 0:08. Daniels would easily produce the birds ahead of his dog, leaving McLean with an extended flushing attempt that would ultimately produce not one, but two coveys of birds surrounding the mannerly dog. As the course began to angle southeast in the general direction of the Nonami stable and kennels, the call of point would come for Blindsider out to the left at 0:13. Standing in the shade of a live oak, he would have birds pinned immediately ahead of him. Crossing the main access road, Blindsider would stop again at 0:21 perhaps 100 yards north and west of the kennels. After an extensive flushing effort ahead of the dog and a relocation effort out front, the handler would collar his dog to water him and take him on, only to have birds flush from directly behind where the dog had been standing. (It should be noted that, while fairly consistent, the breeze had been arcing from northwest to southwest all afternoon and that the humidity had dropped over the course of the afternoon, producing ephemeral scenting conditions especially in open ground.) In the meantime, at 0:22, down in a hollow to the left, McLean would call point for Fred, but with the flight of birds unseen by the judge he would elect to simply water his dog and take him on. As the course crested over the slow rise, Daniels would then alert McLean to Fred standing once more at 0:27, standing in the shade, the birds clearly seeking the relief as much as the humans. Blindsider, in particular, had been able to establish a strong forward race for a solid quarter-hour but after his bracemate had carded another find at 0:34, both he and Fred would be taken off to the solitary water tank at the apex of the turn west. Turned loose once more, albeit into the relatively shady pine woods paralleling Wildfair Road, both dogs would come to a stop soon thereafter: Blindsider directly to the front at 0:38, the birds immediately ahead of him; Fred, too, had come to a stop at 0:39 down in the hollow to the left, the birds seen rising by the oncoming judge. As the dogs pushed westward with no seeming loss of pace, Blindsider directly out front, Fred working through the woods to the south, the call of point would come from McLean's scout at 0:43, albeit for Daniels. Birds would be seen rising by the reporter as he, the oncoming judge, and finally Daniels came in, only for Daniels to declare that this was not in fact his dog, but Fred, the scout having mistaken one white, orange, and ticked male pointer standing in mottled shade for the other. Daniels would race back to the front where he would successfully reconnect with his dog and successfully handle another find at 0:48 on the edge of one of the east-west cover crop fields. McLean would then ask his scout to bring Fred forward to try and regain the front, but arguably it was this point of mild confusion and the subsequent loss of momentum that would cost Fred the runner-up slot on the podium.
As the course angled slightly northwest to come around the bowl shortly after the afternoon breakaway, Blindsider would stop for a final time at 0:51, roughly 100 yards below the rotator field, a relocation effort successfully pinning the birds for Daniels to flush. By contrast, some 200 yards further south, Fred would come to a stop at 0:52, but after an initial flushing effort, the dog would choose to take himself on when asked to relocate. As the gallery came around the western end of the bowl and climbed up towards the imminent afternoon breakaway, Fred would swing up the left side (and ultimately finish his hour arcing back to the east) while Blindsider would be seen climbing out on the shoulder to the right parallel to Hardup Road. Both dogs had moved exceptionally well, but Blindsider had weathered the hot, dry conditions with not only four immaculate finds but also the confusion of the misidentified dog.
Shadow's Lord Magic (Eisenhart) had come out of the first brace drawn against another young dog also coming off an impressive spring season, Erin's High Note (Carlton). Since High Note's impressive showing to claim runner-up at the Continental, he had been purchased by Mike Sweet, now riding in the gallery to watch his dog. As it had been two years ago at Nilo, although now with Hall of Famer Tommy Davis marshaling, the course broke away just over the main access road from the parking area and proceeded due north for over a mile and a half before turning east below the pecan orchards. The action would begin quickly, barely 400 yards off the breakaway, with High Note successfully pinning birds at 0:02, then Lord Magic at 0:03 some 300 yards further on. With Lord Magic staying out on the left side, he would then be found again at 0:05 some 150 yards out from the gallery, although it would take three relocation efforts and about 25 yards to successfully pin the covey in the broomsedge ahead of him (and with two others then rising in the immediate vicinity). After another successful find down in an oaky bottom on the left at 0:10 for High Note, both dogs were able to show a degree of range and race for an extended period. With Lord Magic moving consistently forward and then around into the turn below the pecan grove, High Note would be found standing in the broomsedge on the other edge of the turn at 0:21, although the relocation would prove fruitless. He would then swing powerfully through the woods parallel to the grove and come to a stop at 0:26; the birds then called in the air but unseen by the oncoming judge, and the dog then taken on.
After roughly three-quarters of a mile east, both dogs would make the turn south, Lord Magic staying ahead of his handler in the central wooded corridor between two long, skinny cover crop fields, High Note taking the inside of the turn and staying out to the east. With Lord Magic then carding a find roughly two-thirds of the way down that piney corridor at 0:38, High Note would then have a find way out on the far side of the large pond in the center of the first course. This was that kind of find that a complete novice could appreciate and could have appreciated from several hundred yards away, the dog clearly visible from across the pond, framed by tall pines, the tight silhouette standing out against the grassy slope as the entourage of handler, scout, judge, and owner loped around the pond to him, the birds still there and rising in such numbers to be readily seen even from the other side. With Carlton then bringing his dog back around and to the front, High Note would then honor his bracemate from easily 75 yards away at 0:43, Lord Magic standing on the edge of the large, key-shaped cover crop field on the inside of the turn west, the birds seen rising by the judge as he rode up. High Note would come to a stop on the woods edge on the outside of the turn at 0:46, birds called rising but unseen by the judge, another covey rising after the handler took the dog by the collar to take him on. Luck would stay with Lord Magic at 0:49, stopped for a fifth and final time down in a live oak bottom, the birds again seen rising by the approaching judge. Both dogs would finish up moving well out front, Lord Magic the model of skill and consistency and the recipient of some good fortune with the vicissitudes of wild birds.
The first brace featuring Shadow's Lord Magic (Eisenhart) and Erin's High Note (Carlton) has just been narrated in the placements.
The second brace brought Dominator's Wild Bill (Daniels), with owners Sarah and Jack Schwarz and Nick Berrong riding in support, to the line with Lester's Shockwave (Lester). Angling southwest, the action would also begin quickly with both dogs coming to a stop at 0:06 near the powerlines, Wild Bill some 300 yards west of Shockwave, he just under the powerlines, standing in the broomsedge, looking up into the southeasterly breeze. Both handlers would successfully flush birds, although two other coveys would rise within 25 yards of Shockwave at Lester's shot. Shockwave would stop again at 0:09, perhaps a quarter mile further south, this time standing in a firebreak, but birds aplenty rising directly ahead of him; 300 yards out to the west, he would be taken on at 0:11 after the birds rose ahead of him unseen by the oncoming judge. As the course followed a prominent feed trail largely southbound, both dogs would stop again at 0:16 near where the trail makes an obvious cant east. Shockwave would be tucked under a pine tree in the shade some 75 yards off the trail to the right, a momentous covey of birds rising from the two broomsedge blocks ahead of him; Wild Bill would be out in the piney woods some 200 yards further southeast, birds easily produced ahead of the stylish dog. As the course took a westward turn past one of the hunting course hitching posts, Storm Surge would be out to the south and come to a stop near a prominent woodpile at 0:21, the birds again directly ahead of him. With the course now turning south parallel to Cooleewahee Creek, Wild Bill would come to a stop in the northeast corner of the field at the apex of the turn at 0:27, Shockwave establishing an honor, although sadly, despite a solid relocation effort, this would prove to be a barren stand. Sent on south and Shockwave would come to a stop out to the right down in a shady, oaky bottom at 0:32, birds still plentiful ahead of him. Sadly, though, at 0:35, a covey of birds would get up around him on the way past, and his handler elected to pick him up without giving him the benefit of the doubt. In the process of this, the call of point would come from out on the right side at 0:35 for Wild Bill, up on a rise some 250 yards out to the northwest, birds immediately ahead of him. He would still be moving well as the gallery passed the old stone picnic shed and began to angle northeast, and while he had not shown quite the same degree of consistency in his pattern as the winners. For example, he would finish up moving out front out on the right side.
The third brace featured Touch's Malcolm Story (McLean) alongside Erin's Perfect Storm (Eisenhart). Turned loose to the north, the first call of point would come early at 0:02 for Gallatin Fire out to the left, some 100 yards east of a dried-out cypress swamp, the birds plentiful ahead of the stylish dog. Shortly after crossing the prominent access road at 0:07, the call of point would come for Perfect Storm standing tall in a stand of young pines on the left. The birds easily produced ahead of him, their flight prompting another two into the air as well; turned loose on the same trajectory north, he would come to a stop shortly afterward at 0:10, another covey sent skyward. As the first view of the main buildings came into view, Perfect Storm had certainly been seen moving out into the woods immediately south of the Big Richardson Pond, and indeed, the distant call from the scout at 0:18 would confirm that Perfect Storm had located game on the southwestern edge of the pond. Standing in a shady spot just above the depleted pond's normal watermark, a solitary bird would be produced ahead of him. In the meantime, Gallatin Fire had been absent for some time, and McLean would opt to ask for his tracker at 0:24. Angling northwest after crossing the main access road, Perfect Storm would be found tucked into an oaky thicket on the edge of a cover crop field some 200 yards south of the skeet field, although the judge was unable to see the flight birds called in the air and the dog taken on. Three hundred yards further on, due east of the lodge on the north side of the pond, he would come to a stop at 0:38 in the shade of a prominent live oak, the birds readily ahead of him. The numbers of subsequent birds would disincline the belief that these were refugees from the previous find; nevertheless, the dog would point once more at 0:39 and then be forced into a stop to flush at 0:40 as the gallery came back to the main trail headed north. After a strong move out into the woods to the right and an absence of several minutes, he would be found on the nearside corner of a roughly triangular cover crop field at 0:50, the birds easily produced ahead of him. He would have a final find at 0:54 as the course finished its clockwise turn around to the south, just off the course to the left. He would finish up his hour moving out front ahead of his handler.
The fourth brace brought Rester's Powered Up (Eisenhart), with his owner Cecil Rester in the gallery, to the line with Miller's King Poast (Lester). As it had been all morning over on Nilo, there was no shortage of birds to be located here on Nonami. Past the bowl and into the first section of cover crop fields to the right, Powered Up would be the first to stop on the left side of the course at 0:06, with King Poast honoring with both integrity and intensity. After an initial unsuccessful flushing effort, King Poast would be taken on, while Powered Up would be asked to relocate, although he would be forced to stop to flush in the process. King Poast would then come to a stop of his own in a hollow some 200 yards north on the left side of the course at 0:18. After an unsuccessful initial flushing effort, he would move up some 50 yards into the southwesterly breeze before finally pinning the birds that had initially stopped him. Very soon after the turn north parallel with the Blue Springs equipment shed, after working through several patches of scent, King Poast would firm up emphatically once more at 0:26, the birds readily flushed out of the scrubby cover block. Birds were clearly moving through this section of the course as King Poast would twice initially set himself up and then take himself on without incident before coming to a resolute stop towards the end of the skinny cover crop field that runs parallel to the road once more at 0:32, the birds easily located ahead of him. Shortly afterward, he would stop once more at 0:34. After an initially unsuccessful flushing effort, he would be asked to relocate, birds lifting from the area in the process, but without the dog directly responsible. At the same time, over on the left side of the course, Powered Up would have a straightforward find of his own at 0:34. After sending King Poast up into the reclaimed and pine-planted rotator field as the course passed the site of the old Baptist church and turned north, the call of point would come for him once more at 0:49, some 250 yards west of the course and some 200 yards south of the dirt road. Sadly, this time, the extended flushing and relocation effort would yield nothing, while a shot would ring out at 0:50 for Powered Up on the edge of the trail directly ahead of his handler. The action would not be over, though, with King Poast stopping again near the dirt road at 0:55, Powered Up demonstrating a stylish honor. After successfully flushing the birds, both dogs would be sent north, only for each to stop very shortly thereafter. Where King Poast would successfully locate birds at 0:57, Silver Lining would be unable to produce any more at 0:58, despite a thorough relocation.
The fifth brace drew Touch's Malcolm Story (McLean) to the line with Miller's Heat Advisory (Carlton). Turning loose from the base of the long cover crop fields, Malcolm Story would be the first to make contact at 0:03 out on the right side, barely 75 yards due west of the house out towards the road, the dog maintaining his composure despite a mixed bag of deer and quail flushing out ahead of him. As the course climbed up over the first major rise and out into the far more open country, Malcolm Story would stop once more at 0:07 on the edge of the prominent east-west cover crop field, this time with just birds immediately ahead of him; he would stop successfully once more barely 300 yards further on at 0:09. In the meantime, Heat Advisory could be seen moving out through the rippling woods down to the left. The course would begin to turn west under the first of the rotator fields, and Heat Advisory's last-seen move would generate one of the outstanding limb finds of the trial, the call of point at 0:15 from behind the gallery leading to a several-minute canter to locate the dog on the edge of a cover crop field. With his handler still making his way back, Lee Phillips was on the verge of flushing for the taut dog to minimize the possibility that birds might otherwise slip away. (This degree of sportsmanship and collegiality has always struck me as a refreshing hallmark of the southern trials.) His services would not be needed, and the birds still pinned ahead of the dog. With Malcolm Story now absent for some time, Heat Advisory would move through the thinned woods of Nonami's north end, thinned because they are still in recovery from the hurricane of 2018, and while tremendous work has since been done to re-seed and replant, this section of the courses lacks the same degree of shade as the rest. Coming to a stop roughly parallel with the center of the pivot and some 150 yards out to the south, Heat Advisory would successfully point again at 0:23. He would then be sent down into the live oak hollow to the right and would come to a stop barely 300 yards further on at 0:25, although this time neither flushing nor relocation efforts would prove productive. Pushing through the final wooded section below the second rotator field, Heat Advisory would stop once more out on the left side, standing in the shade of a woody tongue at 0:31, the birds once more securely ahead of him. At this point, though, the shade cover disappeared leaving dogs, horses, and humans exposed to the full heat of the afternoon, and while Heat Advisory was still moving well, he had also diminished, and after a brief conversation with the judges at 0:45, he would elect to pick up his dog. Simultaneously McLean, too, had come for his tracker with no desire to leave his dog in the Nonami outback for too long.
The sixth brace featuring Miller's Blindsider (Daniels) and Touch's Breakaway Fred (McLean) is already covered in the placements.
Due to a scratch, the seventh brace brought Knight's Little John (Lester) to the line with Erin's Silver Lining (Eisenhart) for the second morning at Nilo. As expected, the action began early, with Little John stopping barely 300 yards north of the breakaway on the left side of the course under a large live oak at 0:03, the birds flushing as Lester's feet hit the ground. Silver Lining would be found roughly 200 yards further ahead out in a stand of young, planted pines to the northeast at 0:04, although sadly, despite a thorough relocation, nothing could be produced ahead of him. Little John would stop again at 0:07, perhaps another quarter mile further north in a checkerboard of broomsedge blocks, although this, too, would prove to be a barren stand despite a solid relocation effort. He would redeem himself at 0:13, still on the left side of the course, standing tall in the broomsedge between two cover crop fields, the birds easily flushed ahead of him. Eisenhart would be the next to call point at 0:21, Silver Lining just on the outside edge of the turn to the east below the pecan orchards, the birds seen rising from the broomsedge ahead of him as the judge arrived on scene. Little John would make the turn east successfully and then stop on the western edge of the skinny, east-west cover crop field immediately below the orchard at 0:24, although, despite an extended relocation, this would prove fruitless ending his bid. Silver Lining appeared to be moving well ahead of his handler and would stop at the apex of the turn south at 0:30. He would have birds successfully pointed, but his handler had seen something he didn't care for and elected to pick him up.
The eighth brace brought Game Ice (Eisenhart) to the line with Sioux Bull Run (Lundstrom). Midway through the first morning course, the two dogs turned loose to the south parallel to the long skinny cover crop field. Game Ice would be the first to stop at 0:03 in the woods to the right, the birds seen rising by the oncoming judge. After a long cast down the corridor of pines on the left, Bull Run would be found standing at 0:06, although after birds flushed directly over his head, he would exhibit acrobatic behavior to excess. Game Ice would then crisscross the cover crop field and stop once more at 0:07, the birds easily flushed ahead of him. As the course began to angle to the southwest, Game Ice would work up in the woods at the bottom of the cover crop field behind a small screen of young pines. Eisenhart would call point at 0:15 and ask the judges if they had seen birds rise (which they had not); he would still dismount and spring out ahead, managing to flush a single into the air. At which point, sadly, the dog would ease out of its stance and begin to nose the ground once more, ending its bid.
The ninth brace featuring Erin's Code of Honor (Eisenhart) and Aucilla Jim (McLean) would not last much longer. Jim would be the first to point at 0:07, 75 yards east of the red dirt road and roughly 100 yards south of the planted pines, the birds seen rising ahead of the stylish dog. Code of Honor would stop at 0:16 in the woody corridor between two roughly square cover crop fields, the Nilo kennels visible out to the southeast, perhaps three-quarters of a mile away, the birds readily ahead of him after he set himself up tight. As the course headed resolutely south, Jim would stop once more just above a little dried-out bowl at 0:22, the birds easily flushed by his handler. Neither dog had shown the degree of punch that all four named dogs had shown. Soon thereafter, Jim stopped immediately before the power lines at 0:26 and then Code of Honor just south of them at 0:27, both with birds ahead of them, only to have Jim leapfrog and then stop another 200 yards southwest of Code of Honor down in the hollow. But with Jim's stand and relocation proving fruitless, both handlers would elect to pick up their dogs.
To minimize the likelihood of the trial running into four days, the judges had asked for four braces of dogs to be ready to run for the morning. And so, with the three previous braces ending early, the tenth brace brought Erin's Primetime (Eisenhart) to the line with Touch's Shadow Rider (McLean) to be turned loose for the fourth and final brace of the morning. Turned loose heading west on the prominent sandy two-track, Primetime would stop early on at 0:02, just off the track on the right as it began to angle southwest, the birds seen leaving as the judge approached. Shadow Rider would strike next at 0:05 out in some young pines on the northeast corner of the dried-out pond to the east, while Primetime would be obligated to stop-to-flush on the right side of the two-track shortly thereafter. Both dogs would be taken on and then found together barely 200 yards further south at 0:07, Shadow Rider honoring Primetime, the birds easily produced ahead of him. Happily, both dogs would be able to demonstrate some range and speed as the course headed almost due south down the Cooleewahee Way. Shortly after the course turned east, down in a dry, grassy hollow on the inside of the turn, Primetime would be found standing tall and tight at 0:23. Nevertheless after a thorough flushing effort through the sparse grass, Eisenhart would pronounce it 'a very pretty non-productive' and take his dog on without further ado (if for no other reason than it looked like premier snake territory). After passing the old stone picnic shed and angling northeast again, the dogs would be found together once more at 0:31, Primetime pointing off on the right side near a prominent live oak, Shadow Rider honoring from at least 50 yards away, his integrity rewarded with the flight of birds from in front of his bracemate. Both dogs would stop again at 0:35, on the northside of the obvious skinny, east-west cover crop field, Shadow Rider in the shade of a live oak roughly 100 yards further northwest of Primetime out in the broomsedge, both dogs with coveys in front of them. Very soon thereafter, Primetime would stop once more at 0:37, although he would be taken on after the judge had been unable to see the birds leaving before he arrived; Shadow Rider had also recognized the stop and come to an honor at 0:37. As the course re-crossed the prominent two-track, Shadow Rider would come to a stop in the stand of young, planted pines on the left at 0:42, the birds easily produced ahead of him. Nevertheless, with a good sense of what was already in the judges' books, McLean would elect to pick up his dog at 0:48 as the gallery approached the Big Richardson Pond on the right. Leaving the pond behind but after a brief conversation with the judges, Eisenhart would follow suit at 0:52.
The afternoon over at Nonami would not fare much better. The eleventh brace would bring Erin's Wild Atlantic Way (Eisenhart) to the line with Lester's Storm Surge (Lester). An initial stop out on the left side in the shade of a live oak at 0:05 for Wild Atlantic Way would prove fruitless despite a thorough relocation effort, only to have the dog then fail to stop in a sufficiently mannerly fashion for a flushing bird at 0:12. Approximately three-quarters of a mile east of the breakaway, Storm Surge would start with a solid find at 0:08 out to the north of the first two prominent and parallel north-south cover crop fields. Punching out to the north, he would stop once more at 0:12, roughly 100 yards south of the large rectangular cover crop field out on the left side, the birds easily produced ahead of him. After a strong cast east towards the Blue Springs headquarters and then readily turning north with his handler, what happened next can perhaps best be described as one of the odder occurrences in field trialing. As the course moved parallel to Blue Springs Road, the call of point would come from the scout way out to the right at 0:33 at the foot of the two skinny cover crop fields. After an enthusiastic canter to the spot (and a covey of birds ridden up on the way to the scout), when asked where the dog was standing, the scout turned his head only to realize that the dog was not there. He would be found standing some 600 yards further up the corridor of woods between the two fields at 0:35, but nothing could be produced ahead of him despite a relocation effort. With the significant heat appearing to take its toll, Lester elected to pick up his dog at 0:52, just south of the sinkhole.
The twelfth brace, featuring Chief's Rising Sun (Carlton) and Touch's Blue Knight (Watson), would sadly end prematurely. Turned loose just north of the sinkhole, Chief would break out to the west and stop in the cover between two cover crop fields some 250 yards out at 0:01, although this would prove non-productive despite a relocation. Crossing the dirt road, he would stop once more on the southwest corner of the long going-away field at 0:08, but this, too, proved to be a barren stand despite an extensive relocation effort. Blue Knight, in the meantime, had crossed the course from right to left, to be then found pointed out on the edge of the next westerly cover crop field. This, too, proved to be nonproductive despite a thorough relocation. He would come to a successful and stylish stop at 0:15, just south of the home on the Nonami side of Blue Springs Road, in the same general vicinity that Crown's Black Ice had been found at time to win the 2021 edition of the Masters. Nevertheless, as the course angled westward underneath the pivot field, Watson would come in for his tracker at 0:32.
The thirteenth brace, Johnny Ringo (Eisenhart) and Woodville's Yukon Cornelius (McLean), was, perhaps unsurprisingly, no more fortunate. Turned loose roughly parallel with the center of the pivot, Johnny Ringo would go barely 200 yards out to the left before stopping at 0:01 on the southwest corner of a cover crop field, the birds readily flushed ahead of him. As had been the case the day before, with the two previous braces ending early, the course would make a southbound turn towards the edge of the golf course almost a mile away. Erudite scouting would locate Yukon Cornelius some 400 yards out to the southwest, standing in bright sunshine, the birds nevertheless still there for his handler to flush. While the course angled south and would then curve west around the 14th green, Johnny Ringo would push out to the southeast around 0:11, never to return. Yukon Cornelius would stop out in the shady woods some 150 yards west of the course at 0:12, only to have the initial flushing effort and extended relocation prove nothing. Sadly, as the dog was being gathered up to be watered, birds would pop out of the scrubby cover, and after a brief conversation with the judges, McLean would opt to pick up his dog.
The fourteenth brace drew Notorious Front Range (Mathys) head-to-head with Rester's Cajun Justice (Eisenhart) for another abbreviated brace. While the temperature was pleasantly cool, the wind had picked up and was coming stiff out of the east. Point would be called for Cajun Justice by his scout at 0:06 out on the left, but by the time the handler had reached him, he had already taken himself on. Front Range would then be found down in the oaky bowl to the left at 0:12, the birds readily in front of him, but when Eisenhart verified that his dog was not also standing there, he came for his tracker, concerned he had left the dog standing back behind. Front Range would finish the remainder of the northbound leg moving nicely out on the left side, and after coming around with his handler at the turn east, would come to another stop at 0:30, 25 yards south of the edge of the woods almost directly below where the old and new pecan groves meet. The judge would ride up a bird on the way to the taut dog, albeit at some distance, alert Mathys, who would nevertheless show absolute faith in his dog standing tall, head up into the stiff breeze, and then flush a covey immediately ahead of him. He would stop once more at the apex of the turn south at 0:36, more birds flushed ahead of him, but after seeking a conversation with the judges, Mathys elected to pick up his dog.
Due to a scratch, the fifteenth brace saw Dominator's Queen Bee (Daniels) run by herself, avidly supported by her collegium of owners, 'The Morning Brace.' Turned loose for the southbound leg parallel to the long, slender cover crop fields. After taking a few minutes to get herself oriented to the terrain, she would punch out for the far end of the field and come to an initial stop at 0:11 behind the cluster of small pines where Game Ice had stopped in the eighth brace, but after an initial call of point, she would take herself on without incident. Almost at the end of the three-quarter mile westward arc, very soon after the dirt road crossing on the right, Queen Bee would come to a stop at 0:19, although the birds called rising ahead of her would be unseen by the oncoming judges. She would keep moving well despite what was now warm, dry, and gusty conditions as the course headed southwest, but by the time the gallery reached the prominent sandy road that heads up towards the skeet field at 0:27, Daniels elected to save his dog any further struggle in the conditions.
The sixteenth brace brought Dogwood Bill (Stringer) to the line with Rentz's Hijacked (Eisenhart), with owner Claudia McNamee riding in the gallery. The excitement would begin with six finds between the two dogs in the first quarter-hour. Bill would strike first at 0:04, roughly 400 yards north of the powerlines, tucked in the corner of a cover crop field in the shade, the bird easily produced ahead of him. Then Hijacked would make successful contact at 0:06 in the same piney corner immediately before the power lines that Aucilla Jim had located birds in the ninth brace. Coming under the powerlines, both dogs would stop with independent finds near the prominent live oak at 0:07, Hijacked roughly 75 yards west, Bill 75 yards to the southwest, Hijacked with a covey, Bill with perhaps a solitary sentry bird well ahead of him, too. Punching south, Bill would score again at 0:13, just off the sandy road to the right and out in a flat glade some 75 yards north of a large live oak, Hijacked honoring in high style. Taken on, he would stop almost immediately again at 0:15, now some 25 yards east of that live oak, Hijacked again obligated to honor, and while birds would be seen leaving as the gallery approached, more would flush immediately ahead of the mannerly pair. Bill would barely get moving again before stopping at 0:17, although despite a thorough flushing and relocation effort, this would prove non-productive. As this relocation attempt was taking place, Eisenhart would elect to pick up his dog at 0:18. Bill would stop for a final time at 0:22 on the edge of the large cover crop field on the right of the trail, but despite his best efforts, he would be thwarted again ending his bid.
The final afternoon on Nonami would prove no less challenging, especially now that in addition to temperatures in the 70s, the humidity had dropped into the teens, there was a strong smell of smoke, presumably from plantations getting an early start on their burning, and the wind coming primarily from the east at around 10 mph. With 'east being least (and west being best),' it is perhaps no wonder how few birds were successfully pinned.
The seventeenth brace nevertheless came to the line with Rester's Cajun Spirit (Carlton) and Boumeester's Duramax (Mathys). Turned loose into the wind, both dogs would break out smartly, Duramax carving out around the bowl to the north. Mathys would call point twice for him out on that shoulder, at 0:05 and then 0:06, but the dog would take himself on both times without incident. Cajun Spirit would come to a stop at 0:08 midway down the eastern edge of the first north-south cover crop field on the right, looking up into an oaky thicket. Sadly though, despite a thorough relocation effort, this would prove non-productive. In the meantime, Duramax had been moving out hard on the left side. Coming over the rise for the first view of the Blue Springs headquarters at 0:18, Cajun Spirit would once again be sighted, stopped near the eastern edge of that north-south cover crop field. Sadly, he would also be seen moving after the flight of birds ahead of him, ending his day. In the meantime, Duramax
had come in towards his handler and come to a stop at 0:20 in the next hollow, looking up into the shade of a live oak, the birds readily flushed ahead of him. Sent on, he would go perhaps 200 yards before stopping once more, although this time, neither flush nor relocation could produce anything ahead of him. He would point successfully twice more, the first shortly after sighting the Blue Springs headquarters at 0:27, the second a solid quarter-mile out to the north in the center of the course at 0:38. A false alarm at 0:49 (where the dog would be called pointed, but he would take himself on before the handler reached him) would lead to a final stop at 0:52 on the corner of the cover crop where the course cuts northeast in the direction of the now-gone Baptist Church. Sadly, this would prove non-productive, ending the otherwise strong dog's bid.
The eighteenth brace would bring Notorious Dominator's Heir (Carlton) head-to-head with Erin's Three Leaf Shamrock (Eisenhart). Past the sinkhole, Dominator's Heir would swing up through the woods between the skinny cover crop field and the roadside edge of Blue Springs Road and come to a stop at 0:06, roughly 25 yards south of the head of the field. The initial flush would prove unsuccessful, and the dog extremely reluctant to move up into the stiff, easterly breeze. He would move up, but whatever had stopped him was no longer there. As this was taking place, Three Leaf Shamrock stopped at 0:08, perhaps 250 yards north, just off the edge of the trail as it curves to the northwest, the birds seen leaving by the judge as he approached. Crossing the main access road, Shamrock would stop again roughly 250 yards north of the road at 0:14, but after the flushing and relocation efforts proved fruitless, Eisenhart elected to pick up his dog. Dominator's Heir had also punched into those woods parallel to the long goingaway field and come to a stop of his own another 250 yards to the north at 0:15, but when this too failed to produce birds, his bid came to an end.
The nineteenth and final brace saw Supreme Confidence (Eisenhart) with owner Claudia McNamee riding in support, and Touch's Midnight Rider (McLean) turned loose northbound. As the course passed the house near which Blue Knight had pointed in the 12th brace, and then crossed the dirt access path and entered the key-shaped, east-west cover crop field, Supreme Confidence would be found standing in the shaded firebreak on its northwest corner at 0:05, high, tight, and accurate in his location of birds. At that point, the course began to turn west, only for Midnight Rider to stop at 0:07 midway down the southern edge of the next long east-west field. Sadly, despite a solid relocation effort, this would prove to be a fruitless stand. Supreme Confidence had come around with his handler but had stayed out to the north, and the call of point would come for him a quarter mile out to the right, just over the prominent north-south access road at 0:10. This, too, would prove to be a fruitless stand, despite a relocation effort. Soon after regaining the front, Supreme Confidence would stop at 0:14, buried deep in an oaky thicket on the left side, the judge seeing the birds rise as he approached. As the course turned east above the golf course, Supreme Confidence would come to a stop approximately 250 yards due north of the 14th green at 0:18, standing in the shade of a pine looking up into an oaky thicket, Midnight Rider honoring with the fullest integrity. Unfortunately, despite a thorough relocation, this would prove fruitless, bringing his time on the ground to an end. Midnight Rider would continue to swing around the edge of the golf course, still moving well despite the heat, and would come to a stop roughly parallel with the clubhouse at 0:25 out towards a cover crop field on the left; the birds easily produced ahead of him. He would then punch out southbound once more and, to his credit, be largely out of sight until he was sighted stopped at 0:41, standing in the broomsedge on the eastern shoulder of the live oak valley descending ahead of him. Despite a thorough relocation effort, he, too, would be stymied, bringing this year's championship to an end.
Albany, Ga., March 6
Judges: Dr. Fred Corder and Mike Lemons
MASTERS QUAIL CHAMPIONSHIP [One-Hour Heats] - 33 Pointers and 4 Setters
Winner--MILLER'S BLINDSIDER, 1674983, pointer male, by Just Irresistible-Miller's Bring The Heat. Nick Berrong, owner; Jamie Daniels, handler.
Runner-Up--SHADOW'S LORD MAGIC, 1668301, pointer male, by In The Shadow-Hello Kitty. Carl Bowman, owner; Luke Eisenhart, handler.