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Event: Dick Brenneman's Full Breeze Captures Her Second Ontario Grouse Championship
Result: Ontario Grouse Championship

Location: Marienville, Pennsylvania

Post Date: Jun 12, 2023

Submitted By: David A. Fletcher

ontario grouse chs23

Ontario Grouse Championship Winner (front): Mark Hughes with Full Breeze and the Ontario Grouse Championship trophy. (Behind, l-r): Scott Forman, Christy Helms, Patti Chelednik, John Capocci, Dave Fletcher, Steve Chiappini, Dr. Tim Perschke, Bob Wheelock (judge), Dave Duell, Eric Munden (judge), Norm Meeder, Dave Hughes (handler) with the winner's plaque, Joe Cammisa, Bob Smith, Deb Nihart, Bob Smith, Jr., and Marc Forman.

The 29th running of the Ontario Grouse Championship was completed on April 13 over historic courses at the Allegheny National Forest near Marienville, Pa., handled by veteran cover dog trainer and handler Dave Hughes of Grampian, Pa. Full Breeze, the 2023 champion, is owned by Dick Brenneman of Port Matilda, Pa. No runner-up was named. The event most certainly was conducted in perhaps the most devastating conditions ever experienced in the nearly three decades of running this Championship.

The Ontario Grouse Championship started in Ontario, Canada, when Jack Clark, Dan Mansell, Tim Tufts, and Bill McClure wanted to begin wild bird grouse and woodcock events on their home turf. This would be in addition to the Ontario Bird Dog and Conservation one-course liberated bird events in London, Toronto, Oshawa, and Ottawa, some of those clubs in existence since the late '40s. The initial events were held near Norwood, Ontario. Scribe was born and raised in Ontario, field trialed there beginning in 1957, and joined the Ontario Grouse Dog Club
in 1987. On behalf of the Club, to petition for a wild bird Championship, I met with William F. Brown, American Field editor, at his office in Chicago, and with good documentation of club history in writing, came home with the Ontario Grouse Championship approval, coming into effect after three years of running classics. The Club had moved to the Copeland Forest grounds near Barrie, Ontario, but after several years of successful Championship running there, factors hindered the Club's efforts. Many of the original supporters faded from membership. Additionally, the grounds were open to public hunting, even during the trial dates, and there was no cutting program to bring aspen or any cover areas into regrowth habitat. Secretary Tim Tufts was virtually left alone with Club management, and for nearly half a century, he put on the Championships enlisting Directors in the persons of Joe Cammisa, Dr. Tim Perschke along with himself; Dave Fletcher was involved at the beginning and was re-enlisted as president when after working for The Field was able to rejoin the group.

The weather was a huge factor at the Championship, with temperatures over 80 in the middle portion of the day, every day of the running. Although there were puddles here and there on every course, the dry leafscattered woods floor where dogs were using their noses to find scent was terribly dry. No rain fell, and winds may have helped disperse any scent that may have been available.

The lack of birds in the Ontario Championship and its 16 hours of running puzzled everyone in attendance. Were there no birds left on the courses? That seemed impossible. All the spring trials here expect lower bird contact in the spring because there is no new cover, just a layer of dead leaves on the ground. Was there anything on the grounds for them to eat, as the spring plant growth had likely not started? Grouse winter on aspen buds and the buds of many trees and shrubs. Were they flying up into the branches to feed on buds already opening to the spring warmth and not walking to feed, leaving scent trails? Because of the many 70 degrees or better days in early April, were woodcock and grouse hens on nests incubating eggs, giving off very little scent, and not walking anywhere on the woods floor? Likely the primary reason was the extremely dry woods floor, with no moisture in the leaves and ground covers, severely limiting scenting. As hard as almost every dog was hunting and not finding birds, bird scarcity was a huge question. Were we into another population cycle of ruffed grouse numbers, which this sport has experienced several times over the years?

Tim Tufts, of Orono, Ontario, carried this Club on his back dedicatedly and willingly for a half-century until his death from cancer on July 17, 2022. It was a great blow to the Club, and this year the Ontario Championship was an opportunity to remember and voice what Tim had done for his favorite Grouse Championship. Tim Tufts's plaques were hung during the Club dinner on Wednesday evening at the clubhouse. President Fletcher composed and read a written presentation of the history of Tufts and the Ontario Grouse Club. After day two, on Tim's favorite spot of all the courses at Marienville, club officials performed a ceremony. Joe Cammisa and Dr. Tim Perschke read a wonderful testimony written by Tim's wife, Frances, and Dave Fletcher scattered Tim's ashes as he had requested. Everyone at the trial was solemnly present.

Every club currently staging a championship has a roster of club officers and helpers that virtually make the event happen. Club Secretary/Treasurer Joe Cammisa is the key man in the Ontario Grouse Championship. In addition to the tasks such as the club ad, trophies, awards, securing the judges, lodging arrangements, evening dinners, and noontime lunches on the grounds, he also directs the movement of the road gallery from course to course. Giving their time and effort were the likes of Dick Brenneman, Dave Duell, Norm Meeder, George Tickerhoof, club officials Perschke and Fletcher, and others that attended, marshaling and using the twoway radios to keep tab with the progress out on the courses. Providing tailgate delicious food items were Suzie Cammisa's tarts and cookies, Helen Brenneman's whoopie pies, the Powell's Amish pies, and the Tim Perschke and Joe Cammisa salads. The mainstay of the tailgate noon luncheons was the excellent subs from Bettina's eatery in Marienville. A further thank you goes to Purina for their product donations and to Greg Blair for his help. Lion Country Supply helped with judges' gifts, and Sharon and Tim Perschke hosted your scribe at Sharon's Horse Haven facility, great lodging near the clubhouse.

Judges for the 29th running were Bob Wheelock of Michigan and Eric Munden of Pennsylvania. Both are experienced pointing dog men and were attentive to the dogs' performances. Eric Munden is the business manager for Lion Country Supply in Port Matilda, Pa. As a boy, he began hunting small game and deer, read about bird dogs and acquired a Gordon setter as his first bird dog. Later, he and pro Dave D'Hulster met, field trials were discovered and attended, and Eric began to compete in trials. He has owned and handled his dogs to many field trial wins.

Bob Wheelock has been a field trialer for 23 years and has owned, trained, and handled his setters to 90 placements. It all began when Bob purchased a puppy when Dave Hawk bred his great female Quail Trap Sadie to Shadow Oak Bo, who had just won the National Championship at Grand Junction, Tenn., two years running; a remarkable feat. Out of this, the Wheelock string started. In the ensuing years, two notable winners emerged in Nobody's Shadow and Out of the Shadows, accumulating four championships and four runner-up championships in cover dog events.

The Winner and Others
Full Breeze, a 7-year-old setter female, captured the Ontario Grouse Championship for owner Dick Brenneman and handler Dave Hughes for the second successive time. Breeze had a remarkable hunting effort capped by a superb woodcock find. Her overall performance also overcame a pair of unproductives. This hard-hunting female has previously stood in the winners' circle and recently earned a callback berth in the Grouse and Woodcock Invitational Championship. Some of her other wins include runner-up at the Pennsylvania Grouse Championship and a first at the Pennsylvania Grouse Open All-Age. Full Breeze is a stylish moving dog, reaching over the courses and standing on point. She is very focused on finding birds and visits all the likely places on her course. A product of the 40-year partnership of Bob Watts and Dick Brenneman, she takes her place among the likes of Body Guard, Northern Anndee, Pennstar, Full Tilt, Full Blast, Straight Forward, and Blast Zone, which this pair have developed, campaigned and won with. Were there other dogs in the stake that challenged for a placement? There were several that had superb hunting efforts without bird contact. The top dog among those was Ken Moss's Moss Meadow Seeker, perhaps the finest hunting effort in the entire stake without a bird.

The Running
The initial breakaway came Tuesday morning at 7:15 on the Lamonaville side of the extensive grounds. It was a totally clear sky, with the thermometer reaching the 70s at midday. The wind stirred a bit in the afternoon. The forest floor was extremely dry.

Rowling's Star (Scott Forman) and Braggabull (Mark Hughes). Star wanted the far places and hit the front with speed and determination, edging every good-looking cover as she hunted. Braggabull, on the other hand, seemed to have a touch of indecision about where to hunt. Both dogs failed to find birds. One grouse was heard leaving the course route; neither dog in the vicinity.

Blast Off (Mark Forman) and Doodle Ridge Elroy (Mark Hughes). The former's effort was solidly applied. Always forward, and there was never a letup. Elroy also put great effort into his hunting, getting behind briefly a time or two. The tracking collar was called for at 50 for Elroy. No birds moved.

Grouse Trails Warrior Cat (McKellop) and Miller's Hopped Up Version (Mark Hughes). Cat was handled by her owner John McKellop. Cat was stylish in motion, and she had a very strong gait. She hunted hard and went deep in the course, all without the reward of a bird. Hopped Up was also very wide from the breakaway, and the tracking collar came into use at 28. No birds.

Game Winner (Mark Hughes) and Moss Meadow Seeker (Moss). Handled by owner Ken Moss, Seeker ran surely the best race of the first day of the stake and, in review, perhaps the best hunting in the entire stake. She was always forward, hitting the good cover with purpose. No letup, but no birds. It was getting warm, and the heat was beginning to affect performances slightly. The winner was let loose in 82-degree heat, and it showed in his speed and drive. No birds.

Double Deuce Sage (Dave Hughes) and Grouse Ridge Mags (Scott Forman). Sage had some lateral hunting early, and both dogs were heated near halftime. It appeared they got to some water at that juncture, and both rallied for some far-forward hunting near the close of the hour.

Thunderhills Back In Black (Mark Hughes) and Full Breeze (Dave Hughes). Black went hard and out of sight from the breakaway, and the tracking collar was used at 21. From the time she was released, Breeze hunted with good purpose and pointed woodcock at 5, in the edge of the breakaway field. Stylish and mannerly throughout, the judiciary saw another woodcock take wing on the far side of the opening in good cover; Breeze recorded unproductives at 25 and 48. She was still hunting hard at pickup.

A Distant Spec (Mark Hughes) and Pistol Patch Bullet (Scott Forman). They were both strong afoot and well forward most of the hour, all without birds. Wednesday was a repeat of Tuesday, very sunny, hot, and over 80 degrees from mid-morning on, and the dry cover was not yielding any scent.

Suemac's Sashay (Mark Hughes) and Caliber Peak Storm Warning (Gomes). Owner Sarah Gomes handled the latter. Sashay hunted moderately to begin, backed her bracemate, making more reaching casts later, but was taken up near time. Storm Warming hunted and handled well but logged two unproductives.

Grouse Hill Bullet Proof (Scott Forman) and Double Deuce Zeke (Mark Hughes). Both dogs hunted hard and chose good places up front but were birdless for the hour.

I'll Be Back (Mark Hughes) and Deciding Point (Dave Hughes). Both dogs hunted steadily, making nice forward casts, the former a little bit here, there, and everywhere on the course, but neither found birds for their effort. Gallery flushed a Grouse at 54, with no dog in the vicinity.

Wayward Flyin Tomato (Dave Hughes) and Cal Peak Hundredth Meridian (Gomes). Tomato hunted strongly, hitting the good places, a bit lateral at times, but a good effort overall. Meridian reached into the far places, all over the course route. No birds for either.

Warrior Zeke (Mark Hughes) and Baker River's Mountain Man (Mark Forman). The temperature had reached 82 degrees. Both dogs were having a bit of a hard time in the heat, yet they kept hunting. Man was gone 15 minutes late in the hour and was found lying in a big mud puddle. As we neared, he rose, dug himself a deeper place, and laid down again in the cooling water.

Double Deuce Oscar (Mark Hughes) and Thunderhills Storm Rider (Dave Hughes). Great hunting from the breakaway for Oscar, but he was gone from judgment at 50. Rider was leashed early in the hour, handler's choice.

Miller's Special Upgrade (Mark Hughes) and Grouse Ringer Pappy (Scott Forman). Both hunted well early in the hour and, despite the heat, got stronger as they went. Pappy logged an unproductive at 52. Nothing with feathers moved.

Thursday was another repeat of sun and heat by mid-morning. The initial morning breakaway, in the 60s, afforded the dogs some relief from the heat.

Pistol Grip (Mark Hughes) and Jar's Way Leroy (Dave Hughes). Grip hunted hard from his first cast, went on well, but suffered an unproductive. Leroy hunted a big pattern, kept to the front, and finished very strong. No bird contact for either dog.

Backwoods Wildfire (Mark Hughes) and French's Grouseringer Woody (Mark Forman). Wildfire hunted his course at medium range, but his attention was certainly on trying to find a bird to point. Woody was fast, wide, and full of go. He hunted hard despite the heat rising and finished well. No bird contact for either dog.

Marienville, Pa. April 11
Judges: Eric Munden and Bob Wheelock
ONTARIO GROUSE CHAMPIONSHIP [One-Hour Heats] - 16 Pointers and 16 Setters

Winner--FULL BREEZE, 1667989, setter female, by Full Blast-Straight Forward. Richard Brenneman, owner; Dave Hughes, handler.