Event: Sharptail Open Shooting Dog Classic
Result: Big Sky Field Trial Club
Location: Winnett, Montana
Post Date: Jun 23, 2023
Submitted By: David Huffine
Sharptail Open Shooting Dog Classic Winners (l-r): Sophie Robbins with Costas, Gordy Jones, Mike Robbins with Edelman, Sonny Clark with Touch's Micro Dot, Alex Rickert, Shannon Nygard, Dave Noell, John McIltrot, Taylor Todd, and Marcos Puiggari, joined by spectators.
Costas, a 2-year-old pointer male owned and handled by Gordy Jones, bested a field of 37 dogs to take first place in the Sharptail Open Shooting Dog Classic. The precocious, white and orange pointer is sired by Dominator's Rebel Heir. His dam is Searchin' For A Rainbow. Mike Robbins scouted for Gordy.
Second place was awarded to Edelman, a 6-year-old pointer male, also handled and owned by Jones. Edelman dominated last year's Winnett competition, but this year was edged out by his young kennel mate. Edelman is out of Miller's Light Cruizer and Heard Hill's Queen Mary. Mike Robbins also scouted Edelman.
Third place went to Touch's Micro Dot, a pointer female owned by Klaus Schmidt and handled by R. J. "Sonny" Todd of Kechi, Kan. Dot is out of Touch's Diamante and Seranoa's On Guard Annie, both Montana dogs. Austin Turley scouted Dot.
The Classic began on April 27 at the Joe C. King & Sons Ranch, a fifth-generation cattle operation about 10 miles east of Winnett, Mont. The ranch is particularly scenic with approximately 11,000 rugged and undulating acres of sage, cactus, and native grasses, which supports pheasants, Hungarian partridge, and sharptail grouse and also presents the thrill of a sizeable population of sage grouse. The Classic was run on six separate courses, most of which are unmarked except for the occasional two-track.
The trial featured Alex Rickert of Bozeman, Mont., and John McIltrot of Roundup, Mont., as judges. Alex is an irreplaceable fixture on the Big Sky field trial scene and graciously gives his time and expertise. He and his family are generous with a nearby family ranch that is home to several horseback and walking trials each year. Outside of Montana, Alex is known for his dogs that compete successfully at the all-age level, including Touch's Malcolm Story, who was the Purina Dog of the Year in 2021.
John is a well-respected pro trainer who also carried the laboring oar in hosting the trial and served as trial chairman. John has vast experience in training and handling dogs at a high level of competition but has also judged many trials and championships, both within and outside Montana.
Birds were surprisingly scarce this year. Reports from other parts of Montana indicated good holdover bird populations but weather conditions were not conducive to significant bird work at this trial.
Costas' winning performance came in brace No. 10, which began on Course 4 on Friday. His big, forward race produced a sage hen find at 21, all in order. Jones pushed him on as he headed west through the sage until the road crossing. He slowed a bit in the middle of his hour but recovered for a strong finish. Like most of the dogs run by Gordy, Costas is on the edge between a prairie shooting dog and an all-age dog, and his race suited him well in this trial. His bracemate was C K Guy's Light My Fire, a Vizsla female handled by Brian Gingrich. She also had a huge race but did not have any bird work to show for her efforts. She evened things up in a subsequent stake by taking the Big Sky Open Shooting Dog Championship, with Costas placing second.
Edelman secured his second-place award in brace No. 13. He broke away on Course 1 on Saturday morning. After an irregular early race, he had a find at 20. Thereafter, he settled into a very admirable forward race and a great finish. He had a second find less than a minute after time. His bracemate was Live Action's Gus McRae (GSPM/Gingrich). Brian's dog wasn't pleasing him, and he picked him up at 40.
Touch's Micro Dot drew brace No. 6 on Thursday amid cold, wind, and rain. She had an unproductive early but followed with a find at 19 which was expertly flushed by scout Austin Turley. She maintained a good shooting dog race thereafter, requiring little handling or scouting to secure third. Dot was braced with Rebeluna, a pointer female handled by young, up-and-coming pro Taylor Todd. She finished her hour with a modest race but produced no birds.
The Classic began on Thursday in miserable weather conditions of 42 degrees, rain, and wind gusting from the northwest at up to 45 mph. Edge's Hidden Canyon (PM/Mike Robbins) and Carbonado's Rodeo (PM/Austin Turley) broke away at 8:15 on Course 1 into a crossing wind. Mike's dog had an unproductive at 5. He then crossed the next rise at 10 and was not seen again until Mike picked him up on course several miles to the front. Rod had a back on the unproductive. He then settled into a moderate race that shortened as he turned into the wind. His handler picked him up at 40.
Seranoa's Valley Below, a pointer male owned and handled by Nick Schade, ran as a bye dog in brace No. 2. Nick's young dog had the most bird contact of any dog in the stake with a clean find on paired huns at 5 and another solid find on more huns at 10. His last find was at 30, but he moved too much on the flush to suit the judges and was up.
Carbonado's Silver Sage (PF/Turley) ran as a bye dog in brace No. 3 due to a late scratch by her bracemate. Sage had a nice performance with a good, solid shooting dog race but failed to find birds. She finished her allocated hour.
Brace No. 4 pitted Touch's Katrina (PF/Turley) with Tower Hill's Deep Wonder (PF/Todd) in the last brace of the morning. Kate had a nice race and an early find on a sage hen. She was found standing again but moved during Austin's flushing attempt. Taylor's dog ran a good race into the wind and rain, but two unproductives ended her day.
Sweet Grass Skipper (ESM/David Huffine) and Ramblin Rivers Unplugged (PF/Gingrich) broke away for the first brace of the afternoon on Course 5. Skipper showed his youth when he met his first sage grouse at 10. It was not a good experience. He pointed and then put the bird up, making for a short trip. Brian's charge had a really stylish, long race and appeared unaffected by the weather. Brian suffered through the wind and rain to finish his dog but with no bird work.
Brace No. 6 is described in the placements.
Friday morning, braces began in moderate conditions. Prometheus Fireball (ESF/Dave Noell) and Burr Oak's Barney (VM/Gingrich) met in brace No. 7. Dave's dog had a nice forward race and was stylish on the ground. She had bird contact at 27 and was picked up. Barney was long and saw a lot of country. He was missing a bit but showed up to the front and finished his hour.
Railhew's Ruby (PF/Lillian Favor) was matched with Ramblin Rivers Natural (PM/Gingrich) on Course 2 for brace No. 8. Ruby had bird contact at 22 but continued. Brian's dog moved on a flushing attempt at 40 and was called up. Lillian's dog failed to back and was also up.
Brace No. 9 consisted of Caladen's Struttin Bode (PM/Todd) and S T's Locked N Loaded (VF/Gingrich). Both dogs had good stylish races on Course 3, which had produced winners the past few years, but no birds were found by either dog.
Brace No. 10 is included in the placements.
Friday afternoon began in warming conditions for dogs and handlers. B K Spot On (PF/Darrell Curtis) and Wiggins Miss Fernie (PF/Marcos Puiggari) were on Course 5. Both dogs ran strong races, verging on all-age, and kept their handlers busy. Fernie had a stop to flush at 10. Thereafter, both dogs ran well and hunted hard but found no birds.
The last brace on Friday paired Rebel Stoke (PM/Puiggari) and Sweet Grass Slim (ESM/Huffine). Marcos's dog had a nice find on a sage hen at 12, followed by an unproductive at 15. He had another find on a pair of huns at 22 but marked and moved on the flush. Slim had an unproductive at 10 and a back on his bracemate's unproductive at 15. However, his erratic race unnerved his handler, and he was up at 35.
Brace No. 13 is included in the placements.
Sweet Grass Skeeter (ESM/Huffine) and Redeemed (PM/Shannon Nygard) were on Course 2 for brace No. 14. Both dogs broke away well before going right as they came down into the creek bottom. Shannon recovered her dog, and he produced a nice, forward race and finish but with no birds. Skeeter had a good race also but had an unproductive at 40. He, too, was birdless.
Nick Schade and Gordy Jones lost Carbonado's La Flama Blanca (PF) and Daisy (PF) on Course 3 for brace No. 15. Nick's dog had two unproductives to mar a nice race. Gordy's dog had nice ground application and a back on one of the unproductives but produced no birds.
The noon heat was increasing as Burr Oak's Born Again (VM/Gingrich) ran as a bye dog on Course 4 after a scratch by his bracemate. Brian's dog ran a nice race but had only an unproductive at 40 to show for his work.
Brace No. 17 matched Touch's Whitewater (PM/Puiggari) and C K Post Route Scout (VM/Gingrich). Marcos lost his dog right early. A long ride with the tracker found the dog a mile away standing bird. Scout provided a good performance for Brian but went birdless.
Mike Robbins put his namesake, Name Like Mike (PM), down to run with Burr Oak's Tommy (VM/Gingrich) in brace No. 18. Mike had a nice forward race. A find at 30 moved him into contention, but he moved on flush. Brian's dog took a hard left at breakaway. He ran big but was a tough handle and produced no birds.
The final brace of the Classic matched H B V's Lambeau Leap (GSPF/Favor) with Ramblin Rivers BGK Firewoman (VF/Gingrich). Both handlers were convinced that their dogs were not in contention with the dogs likely being carried and picked up at 35.
Winnett, Mont., April 27
Judges: John McIltrot and Alex Rickert
SHARPTAIL OPEN SHOOTING DOG CLASSIC [One-Hour Heats] - 37 Entries
1st--COSTAS, 1698042, pointer male, by Dominator's Rebel Heir-Searchin For A Rainbow. Gordon Jones, owner and handler.
2d--EDELMAN, 1682222, pointer male, by Miller's Light Cruizer-Heard Hill's Queen Mary. Gordon Jones, owner and handler.
3d--TOUCH'S MICRO DOT, 1692164, pointer female, by Touch's Diamante-Seranoa's On Guard Annie. Klaus Schmidt, owner; R. J. Clark, handler.
The Open All-Age Derby was won handily by Tower Hill's Bright Star (ESF/Todd), who showed a promising all-age race. Second place went to LBF Up In Smoke (PM/Brad McCardle) with a solid, forward race. The third spot went to Bridgers Open For Business (PM/Todd). Judges for the All-Age Derby were Dave Noell of Billings, Mont., and Darrell Curtis of High River, Alberta.
Darrell Curtis and Shannon Nygard judged the Open Shooting Dog Derby. The stake produced good bird contact for 30-minute stakes. Marcos Puiggari handled Pongo (PM) to first place with a strong race and two finds. Sweet Grass Skeeter (ESM/Huffine) took second with two finds also. Third place went to Seranoa's Valley Below (PM/Schade), who had one find and a very impressive race.
Judges: Darrell Curtis and Dave Noell
SHARPTAIL OPEN ALL-AGE DERBY - 11 Pointers and 3 Setters
1st--TOWER HILL'S BRIGHT STAR, 1698424, setter female, by Sweet Grass Slim-Tower Hill Zoey Zee. Taylor Todd, owner and handler.
2d--LBF UP IN SMOKE, 1702242, pointer male, by Touch's Diamante-Empire On Line. Brad McCardle, owner and handler.
3d--BRIDGERS OPEN FOR BUSINESS, 1702420, pointer male, by Miller Unfinished Business-Phantom's Santo Sun. John H. Holt, owner; Taylor Todd, handler.
Sharptail Open All-Age Derby Winners (l-r): Shannon Nygard, Taylor Todd with Tower Hill's Bright Star, Brad McCardle with LBF Up In Smoke, John McIltrot with Bridgers Open For Business, Dave Noell, and Trevor Walz.
Judges: Darrell Curtis and Shannon Nygard
SHARPTAIL OPEN SHOOTING DOG DERBY - 17 Entries
1st--PONGO, 1702632, pointer male, by Touch's Whitewater-Wiggins Miss Fernie. Zenas F. Bliss, Jr., owner; Marcos Puiggari, handler.
2d--SWEET GRASS SKIPPER, 1698209, setter male, by Sweet Grass Slim-Tower Hill Zoey Zee. David Huffine, owner and handler.
3d--SERANOA'S VALLEY BELOW, 1700479, pointer male, by Touch's Malcolm Story-Seranoa's On Guard Annie. Nicholas Schade, owner and handler.
Sharptail Open Shooting Dog Derby Winners (l-r): Shannon Nygard (judge), Marcos Puiggari with Pongo, Darrell Curtis (judge), David Huffine with Sweet Grass Skipper, Brad McCardle, Taylor Todd with Seranoa's Valley Below, Nick Schade, and Trevor Walz.
Field trials in remote locations take excessive work and effort by those in charge. Toilets have to be hauled to the camp. There is no water, so four huge water containers must be transported on a flatbed from Roundup, Mont., and must be replenished in Winnett. John McIltrot and Taylor Todd deserve special recognition for their ground efforts at this trial. Darrell Curtis and Austin Turley masterfully negotiated supplemental water supply with the proprietor of the Winnett Bar, the only restaurant in town, and then transported it to camp. The Big Sky Field Trial Club and the entrants appreciate their efforts.
Bryan Rickert took on the thankless job of driving the dog truck. Communication with the judges and the truck was by radios that worked when they felt like it and then didn't. There are no marked courses, multi-directional two tracks to choose from, and no visible contact with the dogs, handlers, or gallery. His efforts are commended and appreciated.
We thank the judges named above for taking their time and using their talents to ensure that all handlers and dogs were given a chance to show their talents.
This trial would not be possible without the sharing spirit of the King Family, who allow us to use their wonderful land.
This reporter apologizes for any errors or omissions in the descriptions of the dogs and the braces. Horses were in short supply, and the reporter shared dog wagon responsibilities. Many of the dogs were only seen at 400 yards or more, and the reporting was based upon some visual observation but mostly from notes and comments from the judges. If an owner has a different report from the handler, believe the handler. And if a handler has a different recollection, they are likely correct.