Result: Masters Open Quail Championship
Location: Albany, Georgia
Post Date: Mar 6, 2021
Submitted By: Andrew Campbell
The 52nd running of the Masters Quail Championship was held between March 6-10 just below Albany, Ga., and from a field of 53 starters, 48 pointers and 5 setters, Judges John Hicks of Amelia Island, Fla., and Hoss Early of Richlands, N. C., awarded the Norman J. Ellis Memorial Trophy to Crown's Black Ice, eight-year-old pointer female owned by Tracy Swearingen and Stephens Walker, and handled by Tracy Swearingen, as clear champion, with Touch's Malcolm Story, five-year-old pointer male owned by Alex and Bryanna Rickert, and handled by Mark McLean as a worthy runner-up.
Crown's Black Ice has the unique distinction of having won both Masters Championships -- besting 65 other dogs with a four-find performance to win the Shooting Dog Championship in 2017 at four years of age, and then defeating 52 dogs also with a four-find win to win the 2021 All-Age Championship.
This year was a little different than usual with the morning courses being run on the spectacular Nilo Plantation, barely three miles west from the Potter Center on Wildfair Road, while the afternoon courses were run on the old "North End" at Nonami Plantation. The Southern Field Trial Club is extremely grateful to the Williams Family and to Mr. Ted Turner for their kindness in offering their grounds for what remains one of the premier wild-bird trials in the country. Thanks, too, go to Garrett Jones and Ray Pearce, the respective managers, for their superb stewardship of these remarkable properties.
The Club is also deeply grateful to Flint Equipment for the loan of the tractor to pull the gallery wagon, to Buster Cobb for ably driving the wagon in the afternoons, and to Terry James Chastain and the ensemble staff at Nilo for marshalling in the mornings.
A heartfelt thanks to Purina for their ongoing support of this event.
Crown's Black Ice (Swearingen) ran in the 10th brace, drawn head-to-head with Showtime Game Changer (Larron Copeland) on the first afternoon course on Nonami with the temperatures in the early 60s and a light, variable breeze.
Off the line, Game Changer went wide out to the left, Black Ice the right shoulder parallel to Wildfair Road. Both dogs were largely unseen for several minutes until the call of point came for Black Ice, directly to the front at 10, on the nearside face of the rise before the swampy watering hole, a covey flushed out of the oakey thicket ahead of the dog. As the course began to bend slightly northeast at the first sight of the Blue Springs headquarters, Game Changer appeared on the right side of the course, his handler still anticipating him out to the left, then initially set up at 17, then lose scent, step in, and in doing so crowd a covey into the air in front of the judges, gallery, and God.
In the meantime, Black Ice continued to push out front, reappearing out on the right side of the turn roughly parallel to the Blue Springs equipment shed at 25 when she was promptly watered before being sent north ahead of the course -- where she was seen climbing over the rise out on the left side. The call of point came several minutes later far out on the left side, it taking three minutes at a canter to reach the dog wide out left and forward. A covey was flushed directly ahead of the dog at 34, which while exhibiting a minor mark of the flight, had remained staunch, the birds pinned ahead of her for an extended period of time.
Returning due east to rejoin the gallery, they connected at the turn to the northeast roughly parallel with the Baptist Church, Black Ice punching northbound out over the rise. After an absence long enough no doubt to raise some anxiety, and with the gallery approaching the skinny cover crop field paralleling Blue Springs Road barely 75 yards away and Swearingen riding the high side to the left, Black Ice would actually reconnect with her handler from his right. She flirted with scent briefly on the top of that rise and then moved out into the woods ahead (where the course, proper, follows the feed trail and angles back to the northwest). Point was called shortly thereafter at 54, the birds seen leaving by the arriving judge. Taken on once more, she crossed the dirt road and then disappeared out the front shortly before the call of time. While the gallery could clearly see handler and scout scurrying across the front, she was eventually located a half-mile ahead on point out near the house close to Wildfair Road, the birds once again pinned to the spot but rising for the handler wading through the dried grassy cover -- Black Ice having distinguished herself with her boldness, initiative, and strong, forward race.
This year was also a little different from recent previous years because, for the first time in the two decades of judging together, the judges asked for a callback to run the two candidates for runner-up against each other. There was neither animosity, nor controversy in their decision to do so, merely a mutual desire not to rush to a decision between two very close performances.
The callback featured Dunn's Tried'N True and Touch's Malcolm Story, whose initial runs had generated five and four finds, respectively, and both with a ground race that was both strong, but also consistently forward.
They were turned loose at 2:00 p.m. on the first afternoon course at Nonami for no less than 15 minutes and no longer than an hour, the temperature in the mid-70s, the breeze light and coming out of the southeast.
With both dogs moving smartly out front, the first call of point came for Tried'N True at 9 on the right towards the road, standing in a patch of mottled shade looking south, the covey readily flushed out ahead of him. Malcolm Story had pushed farther down that same right side, and his first opportunity to score came at 17 in the hollow below the final rise before a clear view to the Blue Springs headquarters, Story standing in the shade of a live oak, the birds lifting readily ahead of the mannerly dog.
In the meantime, Tried'N True had punched out to the north in anticipation of the turn, while Malcolm Story would dig forward into the swale below the Blue Springs equipment shed -- and come to a stop once more at 21, the birds once more flushed easily ahead of the upright dog. Sadly, as the course pushed north, the callback would become moot six minutes later as Eisenhart was forced to admit he had lost contact with his dog and came for his unit at 27.
The judges also wished to acknowledge the performances of several other dogs: Miller's Blindsider (Jamie Daniels), Touch's Blue Knight (Woody Watson), Strut Nation (Scott Jordan), and True Reign (Eisenhart).
The first brace featured Swami Riptide (Daniels) with Touch's Red Rider (Eisenhart), with his proud owner Tucker Johnson riding in the gallery, turned loose northbound just over the road from the large, fenced pasture that was now serving as a parking lot for the trial. It should be noted at this point that the combination of the weekend, the weather, and the opportunity to ride on a highly exclusive piece of quail property watching some of the finest bird dogs in the country had generated a gallery of over sixty on horseback.
The full three-hour course would feature an initial northbound trajectory of a mile and three-quarters through the rippling woods, many of the hollows often sodden if not holding standing water, creating a number of small, itinerant ponds from the heavy late-February rains. A turn to the east below Spring Lake for almost three-quarters of a mile would then turn south for a mile paralleling one of the main dirt roads but giving dogs multiple edges and median woods from three, extended, slender cover crop fields. At that point the course would then turn west above one of the major ponds, then begin to angle southwest before dropping south down the Cooleewahee Way for almost three miles, before turning and concluding near the old, stone Picnic Shed. The final hour then angles north and northeast, generally paralleling the main dirt access road on the plantation's eastern boundary before heading almost due north past the Big Richardson Pond and ending up in the vicinity of the original morning breakaway. As credit to the owners and managers at Nilo, the gallery easily witnessed over forty coveys flush in their three-hour tour.
The first brace's excitement began sharply, the call of point coming perhaps a quarter-mile north of the breakaway, Riptide appearing to be backing Red Rider, but with the judges unable to see the flight of birds as they approached, both handlers took their dogs on. Red Rider made contact very soon thereafter at 3, the dog just beyond the edge of a cover crop field to the left, standing under a live oak, the mess of birds not merely directly ahead, but also flushing from his side and behind. Having crossed the course and in fact the red dirt road, too, he would strike again at 8 -- an extensive relocation finally pinning a single straggler from the covey that even members of the gallery could hear moving off ahead of him when they arrived. As this was taking place, Riptide appeared out from the right side to then turn forward again to reconnect with his handler.
Continuing to push north, Red Rider once more stopped at 24, standing in the broomsedge on the crest of low rise to the left, as it would happen at the point the course would make its right-turn east -- this time, however, the flushing and relocation efforts would yield nothing. Making the turn to the east through a shallow valley, Red Rider stayed on the inside of the turn and stopped up on the right shoulder at 31, a covey successfully flushed ahead of him. With the turn back south now completed, convinced his dog had not made the turn, however, Daniels came for his retrieval unit at 36. Red Rider was far from done, coming to a stop beside one of the small flooded ponds at 39, a single initially flushing, several others getting up as Eisenhart collared his dog. He stopped for a final time at 46, visible standing tall well forward in a wooded strip out on the right side, the covey easily flushed ahead of him. With the course pushing west, Red Rider punched out to the north -- but with the call of time, he could not be returned to judgment in time.
The second brace brought Dominator's Rebel Squire (Daniels) to the line with True Confidence (Eisenhart) in what would be his retirement run, his proud owner Frank Lanasa riding in honor of his great dog. The second course angles southwest in the general direction of the Big Cypress Lake and True Confidence cast out to the right for the outside edge of the largely counter-clockwise course. Daniels called point for True Confidence out on the right at 9, the birds seen leaving ahead of him by the judge with all very much in order. Shortly after crossing the red dirt road, with the twin houses of the skeet field off to the right behind the gallery, Daniels called point for Rebel Squire at 16 out on the right side standing in the grassy cover between a cover crop field and a mature live oak, turned back up into the light northeasterly breeze. Sadly, all flushing and relocation efforts proved fruitless, and the dog taken south to rejoin the front. Eisenhart then called point for True Confidence at 29 up on a shoulder to the left, Rebel Squire coming in for an honor, although sadly, this too would prove unproductive. Rebel Squire went perhaps 300 yards south before he stopped in the grassy median between two east-west cover crop fields at 32; the initial flush proving unsuccessful, and his relocation attempt proved too enthusiastic, a single bird popping ahead of him, ending his bid. In the meantime, True Confidence had set up for what would be the first of four finds in the next ten minutes -- at 34, 36, 39, and 44 -- his consummate talent as a bird dog, first and foremost, never in question. His final find came at 48 midway down the southbound ridgeline on the Cooleewahee Way. He finished his hour doing what he had done his entire career, pushing out the front in search of yet more birds.
The third brace brought Aces R Wild (McLean) to the line with Confident Nation (Davis), with owner Scott Jordan riding in support of his dog. After continuing to head south, the call of point would come for Confident Nation at a bend in a feed trail, the dog standing under a young pine with Aces backing in high style at 9, a single initially rising ahead of the dog, the remainder of the multitude rising at the shot. Through the turn east, Confident Nation had continued to punch south, as the gallery climbed towards the old, stone picnic shed. Aces had made the turn successfully and had come to a stop in an oakey thicket some 200 yards southeast of the shed at 19, three distinct coveys rising in the immediate vicinity of the mannerly dog at the flush and shot; a fourth would be sent skyward less than two minutes later as Aces came to another stop barely 100 yards north of the shed.
With the course having turned northeast, roughly paralleling the main dirt road, Aces appeared to initially hook back on the edge of the pond to the left, then snap into a firm stance at 28, birds initially seen leaving by the judge, and then many more skedaddling as the handler arrived and fired. As the course angled north and northeast, Aces was moving speedily out front through the woods. Looking for his own dog, Davis found Aces at 36, underneath a live oak near the southwest corner of a cover crop field out on the left side, the birds flushing easily ahead of him. Approaching a large cypress swamp at 39, Davis elected to come for his retrieval device. Aces would continue to push north as the gallery got its first glimpse of the white paddock fencing surrounding the parking area, but after a last sighting around 51, he would disappear for good, not returning to judgment.
No. 4 had Hirollin Macho Man (Swearingen) with Touch's Joy Ride (McLean). Once again, with the weather ideal for riding, the gallery was substantial to watch the afternoon braces on Nonami. While Joy Ride would take a little time to get himself oriented to the front, swinging wide out on the left side above the bowl, Macho Man would push out along the right side, eventually coming to a point at 6 in a grove of pines about 200 yards north of Wildfair Road. Unfortunately, after an extensive flushing effort, he would be asked to relocate and would blunder into a single immediately ahead of him. Joy Ride had also made contact roughly 250 yards out on the left at 7, birds readily flushed ahead of him. Taken to the swampy pond on the right to cool off, Joy Ride then punched out to the east, the Blue Springs headquarters now just in view. As the course turned northeast, he would disappear from view some 300 yards out at about 11 o'clock, coming to a stop just on the rise. The initial flush proved fruitless, but the masterly relocation some 20 yards upwind to the east near a pair of pines would yield a small covey ahead of him. Making the turn to the north, Joy Ride would come to a stop at 32, roughly 200 yards west of the Blue Springs equipment shed, the flushing and relocation effort proving naught. As the course turned north, he would take the edge of the long cover crop field paralleling the River Road before crossing to the west out front well ahead of the gallery. Angling past the Baptist Church, he would show to the front before being sent north -- where he was found standing after the call of time at the head of the skinny cover crop, one judge unable to see birds rise as McLean approached, the other seeing two separate coveys rising in the general vicinity, prompting the handler to fire, while a third rose directly ahead of the dog as the handler gathered the dog after firing.
The fifth brace drew Rebel Cause (Daniels) with Touch's Mega Mike (McLean). Both dogs broke away hard for the north, Mega Mike in particular establishing a strong forward race through the patchwork of woods and cover crop fields to the northeast. Coming over the last major rise before dropping west, McLean called point at 13 with the dog standing off the northwest corner of the large, transverse cover crop field, the birds seen rising as the judge approached. Rebel Cause also reappeared from the western side as this action was wrapping up, and both dogs would be angled to the west to come under the large rotator field. Nevertheless, as the gallery climbed up out of the hollow below the rotator field and onto the main path, neither dog had been seen for a while. As the gallery entered the wide open, but clearly strongly recovering tornado zone on Nonami's north side, Daniels was the first to admit defeat at 30, and then McLean at 34.
The sixth brace featured Sand Wood Creek (Raynor) and Dunn's Tried'N True (Eisenhart). With the previous brace ending early, the course headed directly south following one of the major dirt paths towards the golf course. The action began early for Tried'N True, his first find coming at 6 out on the right side in the central spine of woods, the dog turned back into the northeasterly breeze, and a single bird flushed directly ahead of him. After punching forward once more, he was found standing looking into an oakey thicket just before the main access road to the gold course at 11, this time a covey immediately ahead of him. Passing the Nonami workshed on the left, Sandwood Creek was still moving nicely through the patchwork of woods and cover fields, although outpaced by Tried'N True, which had two finds in short order at 25 and 28 forward on top of the low swell at the intersection of what had been a figure-eight of rotator fields in the mid-1990s (and which was then reclaimed from agriculture and sewn with pines) -- multiple coveys rising from each location. Soon thereafter, recognizing this was not his dog's strongest day, Raynor elected to pick up at 31. Out beyond the long cover crop field to the east, Eisenhart called point once more at 37, although sadly all flushing and relocation efforts would prove empty. Turned west, he stopped in a broomsedge strip at 44 and luck was on his side. Calling birds in the air as he rode up, neither judge nor reporter saw them, Eisenhart went to collar his dog on and another covey erupted ahead of the mannerly dog. Tried'N True would finish his hour just beyond the bowl -- as he had started, seemingly undiminished, and consistently and powerfully forward, ahead of his handler.
The seventh brace brought Chinaquapin Legacy (Sykes) to the line with Touch's Folsom Blues (McLean), with his owners Bruce and Karen Norton in the gallery. Both dogs moved out together forward on the left side of the course -- and climbing out on a low shoulder, the handlers would both call point at 4, the dogs together partially blocked by a couple of young pines. Riding up, both handlers called the flight of birds, but none of the judging party could see them due to the trees, and so both handlers elected to take their dogs on. Legacy was punching out front along the edge of the first long cover crop field at 10, Folsom Blues seemingly tackling the woods out to the right before crossing back to reunite with his handler. He would punch out hard down the right edge of the half-mile cover crop field, disappearing out of sight roughly halfway down as the edge bent to the northeast. Sykes would come for his retrieval device at 21 as the call of point came for Folsom Blues out in a damp hollow off the northwest corner of that same long field, although the flush and relocation effort would prove unproductive. Turned loose once again, he stopped roughly 300 yards northeast of his previous stop at 27, making a minor turn to mark at the flight of a single immediately in front of him. This would be the first of four finds in the next 10 minutes as Folsom Blues completed the easterly arm of the course under the pecan orchard -- these coming at 30, 37, and 39. He would continue to punch east as the course made its southward turn to parallel the trio of long cover crop fields -- and was found standing out on the outside corner of the turn, looking across the main access road to an oakey thicket. Sadly, though, all the flushing and relocation efforts proved fruitless, ending his bid.
The eighth brace drew Touch's Whitewater (McLean) head-to-head with Sedgefields Legacy (Eisenhart), starting at the northern head of the trio of skinny cover crop fields and heading south. Both dogs punched south through the wooded median on the right, Legacy coming to a stop at 9 out to the southwest, although this would prove to be a barren stand. Whitewater continued to go wide, and with some expert scouting would be found standing on the far side of the big pond at 23, birds flushed ahead of the stylish dog. Having completed the turn west and then south, Legacy would be found just across the red dirt road at 36, underneath a live oak strung with moss, as pretty a picture of a black and white dog standing tall in the dappled sunlight as anyone could have been wanted -- a single initially rising before the remainder cut loose at the shot. As the course began to head south, however, McLean acknowledged that he had lost contact with his dog and came for his retrieval device. Soon after coming under the powerlines, Eisenhart also elected to end his dog's bid at 45.
The ninth brace saw Shadow's Lord Magic (Davis), with his proud owner Carl Bowman riding in support, with Dominator's Rogue Rebel (Daniels), his proud owners, Jack and Sarah Schwarz, also riding in the gallery. The action began early with Lord Magic stopping at 2 on the edge of a feed trail looking into a strip of broomsedge, the covey readily produced ahead of him. Turned loose, he would stop promptly again at 4, turned back up into the northeasterly breeze -- although this time neither flushing nor a relocation would produce anything. Rebel Rogue would come to a stop of his own at 9, across the cover crop field, looking up into the wind from a broad, wooded strip near a snapped pine. Sadly, like Lord Magic, this proved to be a fruitless stand. He then swung over the next grassy rise and out towards the blown-down corner where he would come to a stop near an adolescent pine at 16, but today was not his day and all efforts to produce a bird proved unsuccessful. Coming down the Cooleewahee Way, after an initial hang-up at the top, Lord Magic moved out forcefully through the woods to the south, showing briefly along the edge of a long cover crop field as the course approached its turn east. The call of point came for Lord Magic at 32 standing in broomsedge looking downslope to a medium-sized pond out on the left -- the birds rising off his rear, right side at the flush. He would take a little work coming through the turn northeast past the stone picnic shed, but would power forward up the edge of the long cover crop field ahead. He would strike once again at 58, this time on the far side of a large, rectangular cover crop field, standing in the shade of a large live-oak, an avalanche of birds bursting out of the grass ahead of him. He finished his hour going out hard to the front.
The tenth brace featured Showtime Game Changer (Copeland) and Crown's Black Ice (Swearingen) and is already covered in the winners' section.
No. 11 drew Erin's Wild Atlantic Way (Eisenhart) with Showtime Sam Houston (Copeland). Turned loose to the north, Atlantic Way pushed out to the northwest, Sam Houston out towards the Blue Springs Road. Both dogs were moving out front through the woods before the course began to angle west under the rotator fields. On the outside of the turn, Atlantic Way would be found standing in the grassy cover at 15, a single bird catching his attention and flushed out ahead of him. Sam Houston moved smoothly out wide on the right as the course angled southwest, Atlantic Way stopping once more at 18 on the inside of the turn, birds successfully flushed ahead of him once more. Both dogs continued swinging under the edge of the three crop fields -- and scrupulous scouting would find the two dogs some 350 yards south of the center of the second field at 29. Sam Houston would be standing tall in a patch of brown broomsedge, Atlantic Way honoring with integrity, the birds seen leaving as the judges arrived, another covey rising at the shot. Nevertheless, as the course entered the wide-open section on the northern boundary, Copeland admitted this was not his dog's most fluid day and elected to pick him up at 35. Eisenhart would wait a little longer, but elected to pick up his dog at 42 almost at the end of the course's eastern cast.
The twelfth brace saw James Pond Bull (Watson) with Erin's Silver Lining (Daniels) for the final brace of the afternoon. Silver Lining would strike almost immediately as the course swept south at 1, standing in the broomsedge on the inside of the turn, the birds seen leaving by the judge. Bull appeared to punch up the right shoulder and cross the dirt road before dropping into the woods ahead at the turn. Having crossed the main access road and then roughly paralleling it as it angled southeast, Bull had not been seen for some time, Silver Lining having reappeared out on one of the field edges ahead as the gallery passed the Nonami workshed. Watson conceded defeat at 27 and asked for his retrieval device. As the course climbed the low ridge in the center, Silver Lining could be seen moving smoothly up the oaky swale out on the left. As the gallery climbed the low rise to the west, Silver Lining seen intermittently in the woods ahead, swinging wide out on the right towards Hardup Road as the gallery reached the bowl, Daniels electing to gather up his dog and pick him up at 57.
The third morning saw the thirteenth brace turned loose over on Nilo, bringing Miller's Unfinished Business (Norman) to the line with Touch's Blue Knight (Watson). Three hundred yards off the breakaway, Unfinished Business stopped at 1 on the edge of the cover crop field to the right, a large covey flushed out ahead of him. Coming up over the second rise, Blue Knight would push across the front and out along the long crop field edge ahead. He would then come to a stop at the far end of the long cover crop field at 21, a single bird flushed out of the dun grass. In the meantime, Norman came for his retrieval device at 21, his dog having given him the slip in the rolling piney woods. Blue Knight made the turn east and run the outside shoulder below the pecan orchard and then come to a stop on the corner of a cover crop field at 27, another single bird, this time seen leaving as the entourage arrived. He made the turn south, drop down into a hollow and be found standing at 35, his style not entirely convincing and his handler promptly relocating him -- although this would prove unproductive. He stopped soon after at 37 atop the next low, grassy rise, his style assertive and birds immediately ahead of him. Continuing south and out on the left of the long cover crop field, he stopped once more at 46, the relocation some 25 yards to the south pinning a pair of birds for his handler to flush. While the gallery turned east, the call of point would come at 56 from on top of the final rise to the south, Blue Knight never making the turn because he had stopped to point a large coterie of birds in the broomsedge. Sadly, once sent on eastward, he would jack up once more at 58, a screen of adolescent pines behind him -- but the flush and relocation efforts would prove fruitless.
The fourteenth brace drew Dogwood Bill (Daniels) with Notorious Dominator's Heir (Mathys), the twosome splitting the course as it angled southwest, Heir taking the left side, Bill the right. The other scout would find Heir at 16, out to the left, standing in a patch of broomsedge near a band of adolescent pines, looking to the southeast -- although, sadly, the flushing and relocation efforts produced nothing. Crossing the main dirt road with the skeet range to the right, the course would head due south -- Bill having now been absent for some time. Heir was found on point once more at 7, standing near another band of pines, this time the birds flushing hard ahead of the stylish dog. In the meantime, Daniels acknowledged he had lost contact with his fast-moving dog and came for his retrieval unit. Crossing the red dirt road with the skeet range behind, then dropping south on the left side of the course, Heir came across the cover crop field ahead towards the large pond and come to a point in the broomsedge in the corner at 41, the covey seen leaving as the judge approached. He would come to a stop once more at the far end of the cover crop field at 44, although despite his lofty style and industrious relocation effort, it all proved for naught ending his day.
The fifteenth brace drew Touch's Breakaway Fred (McLean), with owners Karen Norton and Gary Futch riding in support, with Chinquapin Bill (Ray Warren). Heading southwest once more, Fred swung wide out along the cypress swamp edge on the right as the course followed the Cooleewahee Way south. After a significant absence, Bill reappeared from the right at 12 near the blown-out corner to go forward down the lower treeline. Bill would be found on point in a woody strip to the right at 18, and after an initial flushing effort, he would be asked to relocate, coming to a stop just across the fire trail to the left near some fire-scorched pines, to successfully pin the covey. Crossing over cover-crop field to the southeast, Fred was found in its corner at 28 where he had last been seen before dropping out of sight, although sadly an extensive relocation effort produced nothing. Crossing the dirt road and passing the old picnic shed, Fred would come to a stop once more on top of the hill, standing in a broomsedge strip, a large covey of birds would be kicked out ahead of the stylish dog. Moving north into Banny's Woods, paralleling the dirt road to the right, both dogs moved out up over rise on the right as the gallery moved past the pond on the left. Nevertheless, recognizing this was not his dog's best day, McLean opted to pick up his dog at 45, with Warren coming for his retrieval device two minutes later.
The sixteenth brace brought Lester's Georgia Time (McLean) to the line with Notorious King Ransom (Mathys). Off the line, Georgia Time initially moved out on the right side parallel to Wildfair Road, while King Ransom would move forward through the middle of the course. Both dogs crossed over to the left, Georgia Time going wide out to the north, King Ransom a more inside line forward. Both dogs would cut back across the course to the right side, no doubt trying to make use of what little easterly breeze there was -- and both handlers taking their dogs to the damp hole on the right to cool them off as the temperatures broke 70 . As the course turned northeast down into the swale below the Blue Springs headquarters, however, both handlers would acknowledge that their dogs were not having their strongest days -- and would elect to pick up at 36.
No. 17 featured Touch's Gallatin Fire (McLean) and Dominator's Bull Market (Daniels). Headed east towards the Baptist Church, Bull Market punched up through the middle of what had been the three rotator fields 25 years ago. Gallatin Fire stayed more directly ahead of his handler through the turn north, being seen cresting the shoulder out on the right above the long skinny cover crop field paralleling Blue Springs Road. He would be found at 14 in roughly the same area that Black Ice had her penultimate find yesterday -- although this time around, neither flushing nor relocation effort could produce anything in the vicinity. Across the dirt road, and as Bull Market appeared out front; McLean called point once more at 21 in the wooded swale before the house on the west side of the road, his style impeccable, even for a measly single bird ahead of him. Both dogs climbed out together and apparently cross the east-west cover crop field together, and be found standing for a divided find at 25, the birds readily flushed ahead of them. As the course turned east under the rotator fields, the ground was dry enough that dust could be readily seen behind the handlers' horses -- with Gallatin Fire out front, and Bull Market taking the inside of the turn to go forward on the left. Both dogs climbed out of the swale below the first of the rotator fields, and move out into the patchwork of cover crop fields to the left as the gallery passed through the 1 mile-wide, wide-open hurricane recovery zone. Turning north towards the dirt road, Fire appeared to initially set up on the shoulder to the right but would take himself on at the call of time, Bull Market still working forward out on the inside of the turn.
The eighteenth brace drew Dominator's Rebel Heir (Daniels), with proud owner Jim Hamilton along for his fine dog's retirement run, and Chief's Rising Sun (Mathys). Turned loose shortly before the red dirt road, both dogs would punch out north, Rebel Heir coming to a stop some 250 yards beyond it at 5, looking up into an oakey thicket on the sideslope, a large covey of birds exploding out ahead of him. He would swing wide through the eastward turn, while Rising Sun had made the turn smoothly and briefly flirted with scent in the next swale above the cover crop field. As the course angled southeast towards the Nonami equipment shed, Daniels had reconnected with Rebel Heir and had him moving forward up the low rise ahead; Rising Sun had also flirted with scent out on the left before with the equipment shed, but had taken himself on without incident. Mathys acknowledged this was not his dog's strongest day and picked him up at 24 shortly before the main access road. Rebel Heir continued to push up the low shoulder on the left and come to a stop at 34 in a broomsedge square -- but with the temperature rising, and the dog with nothing left to prove to anyone, Daniels elected to end his competitive career there and then.
The nineteenth brace brought Woodville's Yukon Cornelius (McLean) to the line with Miller's Blindsider (Daniels), with his proud owner Nick Berrong in attendance. Across the first cover crop field, after some skillful scouting the call of point would come for Blindsider at 6 out on the left side and camouflaged in the dappled shade of a stand of adolescent pines, a single bird kicked out of the scrubby grass ahead of him. Erudite scouting would locate Cornelius at 12, and good sportsmanship would get Blindsider stopped as he ran into the vicinity of the find, all flushing efforts suspended till Carlton could get complete control of the dog. With that complete, a sizable covey would get motivated into the air ahead of the mannerly setter, standing tall in the broomsedge. Coming into the long, going-away field, Blindsider cruised up the left edge out of sight, and as the gallery reached the midway point, he could still be seen powering up into the woods on the left. As the gallery reached the dirt road to cross and turn east, the call of point came for Blindsider at 27. It was perhaps the scene of the whole trial, and one that could be watched from afar and still appreciate its splendor. Roughly 250 yards off the northwest corner of the turn was a seasonal pond, Blindsider stood on the far, western side of the bowl that contained it, stood tall, the morning light shining on him, the copious covey exploding out in front of him -- all easily visible from 150 yards away, as distinct and composed as any Eldridge Hardie or Ross Young painting. A little wayward through the eastward turn, Cornelius would be found stopped on the outside of the southward turn at 40, the birds rising ahead of him as the judges approached. He would come to another stop on the far side of the main dirt road at the southern end of the cover crop fields at 48, this time sadly all flushing and relocation efforts producing nothing. In the meantime Blindsider had made all the right-angle turns, albeit with some assistance, to fit the course. Time was called as the course began to angle southwest with both dogs moving smoothly through the rolling woods as time would expire, Daniels able to gather up Blindsider from the direct front after a strong, searching race while McLean searched avidly out to the left. Cornelius was found on point perhaps a half-mile to the southwest, atop a small rise near a screen of younger pines, the birds still pinned tight ahead of him.
The twentieth brace featured Touch's Malcom Story (McLean) and Awsum Country Justice (Eisenhart). Action came quickly with Country Justice found out on the right side, standing tall and proud at 3, the birds flushing as the judge arrived. Malcolm Story, in the meantime, could be seen punching country out on the left shoulder. Headed south, at the top of the hill with the powerline in sight, Country Justice would be out on the edge on the left, with Malcolm Story moving hard out on the right. The call of point would come for Malcolm Story wide out on the right at 16 toward Cypress Lake, the birds flushing in two groups, one ahead, one to the left of the stylish dog. He would disappear from view once more behind a live oak, only for the scout to call point soon thereafter at 23, with him hidden by the tree, standing near a patch of young pines, looking to the northeast with the easterly breeze coming across his nose. The initial flush proved fruitless, but the relocation some 25 yards upwind would accurately pin the covey for his handler to flush. Eisenhart would come for his retrieval device at 30 as the course crossed the next major feed trail beyond the drainage pond, his dog having crossed the course sometime before, but never reconnecting with this handler. Approaching the blow-down corner (and the tall pine strapped with multiple ladders for a tree-stand), Malcolm Story stopped at 40 out on the left side of the final rise, a nice covey of birds accurately located in the broomsedge. He stopped again shortly afterwards at 42, perhaps 300 yards farther on, another covey succinctly located and sent skyward. Coming through the logging road corner and heading east, Malcolm Story punched out to the south and then swing wide through the turn before pushing out to the front. Time would be called as the gallery approached the stone picnic shed, McLean gathering up the dog successfully from over the crest of the hill.
No. 21 had Touch's One Night Standard (Haynes) with Sandhill Little Junie (Small). Standard immediately drove left out beyond the stone picnic shed but cross ahead and drop over the road to the right where he would be found standing in the shade of three tall pines, looking into some sparse broomsedge cover at 6. Good sportsmanship would again prevail as Haynes delayed flushing until Junie could be taken forward for her handler with detriment to either dog. Standard then was asked to relocate after an initially unsuccessful flush and a single bird produced. Sent northeast and then north, both dogs appeared to work consistently across the front, Standard rewarded with a pretty, and far less chaotic, covey find to the front at 22. Both dogs would continue to work consistently through the woods as the gallery got its first glimpse of the stables and then came around the west side of the Big Richardson pond. Nevertheless, as the handlers came up alongside the pasture parking lot, a quick conversation with the judges confirmed their own assessments and they elected to pick up their dogs at 37.
No. 22 brought Senah's Back in Business (Norman) to the line with Mayhaw's Perfect Storm (Mills) as the temperatures climbed well into the 70s under a bluebell sky. Both dogs moved out to the left, Storm outpacing Back in Business from the onset. The distant call of point would barely make it to the gallery, it may well have been relayed by the other scout, Perfect Storm standing on the very edge of the rotator field, a solid half-mile north from the course path. He was perhaps fifty yards from one of the few live oaks out on this northern perimeter, and despite the extended time to reach him, the birds would still be there for his handler to flush ahead of him. (This was virtually the same spot where Sims Ramblin Wreck had found birds for Freddie Rayl in 2018.) As the course approached the rise before the Blue Springs headquarters, Norman conceded that this was not his dog's strongest day and elect to pick up at 20. Shortly after, Mills called point for his dog on the rising slope ahead, and then birds in the air, but with cover blocking the judges' view and nothing seen, he would take Storm on once more. The dog broke south into the swale below Blue Springs, but turn promptly and kindly to go north to the front, pushing out towards the Blue Springs road where he would come to a stop at 30, looking into the shade of three pines, the light breeze coming across his nose from the east, a single initially rising ahead of him, the remainder getting up behind him at the shot. Sent north, Storm would initially continue his drive up the right side of the course -- but by the time the gallery climbed up towards the dirt road crossing at 51, Mills came to look for his retrieval unit, a shame after such a strong, first-half performance.
The twenty-third brace brought Miller's Heat Advisory (Daniels) to the line with Erin's Three Leaf Shamrock (Eisenhart). Turned loose from the dirt road crossing, Shamrock initially broke out to the right side to head north, Heat Advisory the low ridge to the left. While Heat Advisory would be largely invisible, Shamrock crossed the front as the course climbed gently in preparation for the turn west under the rotator fields. As the gallery reached the wide cover crop field ahead of them, he was found out on the left at 14, out on the left broomsedge shoulder, an initial pair of birds rising for the initial flush, the much larger remainder exploding at the shot. Daniels, in the meantime, acknowledged he had lost connection with his dog and came for his retrieval unit at 14. Down through the westward turn, Shamrock swung up from the live oak swale beneath the rotator field and then cross over into the mosaic of cover crop fields on the upper left side of the course. Nevertheless, by the time the gallery had passed the final rotator field to the north at 37, a brief conversation with the judges prompted Eisenhart to ask for his retrieval unit.
The twenty-fourth brace comprised Strut Nation (Jordan) and Melrose Ramblin Man (Chastain). On the third course at Nonami as well, this brace echoed the 6th brace of the 2014 edition of this Championship featuring Just Irresistible (Daniels) and Chinquapin Reward (Sykes) where the two dogs carded eleven independent finds in their shared hour, eight of which came between 20 and 48. This is to say, that the third course on Nonami at just the right feeding moment can yield as many birds as anywhere. Strut Nation and Ramblin Man also carded eleven finds between them: seven for Strut Nation and four for Ramblin Man. Strut Nation's would take place at 3, 13, 17, 31, 34, 49 and 53; Ramblin Man would card at 4, 20 a relocation that would prove unproductive, 32, 36, and 51. In 2014, despite his numerous finds (and it should be mentioned that his bracemate was very much in consideration, as well), Just Irresistible earned runner-up that year in no small part because he was always seen moving forward, and moving at speed, in between finds. And while Ramblin Man had done an admirable job in the warmth of the afternoon, it was the reason the judges nevertheless singled out Strut Nation for an honorable mention -- always pushing forward, always a bird dog.
This would be much the same scenario the following morning albeit under the very different conditions on the first course at Nilo for the twenty-fifth brace featuring Dunn's True Reign (Eisenhart), with proud owner Claudia McNamee riding in support, and Miller's Stray Bullet (Norman). Between them the dogs carded twelve finds in a bird-finding jamboree -- seven for True Reign, five for Stray Bullet. True Reign would card finds at 5, 20, 23, an unproductive at 31, finds 36, 38, and 48, all with the exception of the third find which produced a pair, large covey finds. Stray Bullet recorded a relocation to an unproductive at 4, then finds at 12, 27, 31 and and 36, an honor at 38, and a final find at 47. Stray Bullet had performed admirably but the final 12 minutes demonstrated the gap between the two dogs' performances -- Stray Bullet easily gathered up at the call of time, True Reign finally with the time and room to run, then slipping away and unable to be returned to judgment. As with Tried'N True, he had impressed the judges with his undiminished moxie, his relentless crusade to find birds.
The penultimate brace would bring Erin's Lone Star Law (Eisenhart) and Marques Armed Robber (Henry). Headed southwest at the onset, both dogs would engage high gear. On the left side, near a field trail at 10, underneath a big live oak, a single bird produced ahead of the stylish dog. Armed Robber would appear from the left side as this concluded but would be guided out of harm. Passing the Big Cypress Lake and approaching the power line, Armed Robber would come to a stop at 4 looking into an oaky thicket, Law honoring nicely. Sadly, though, all the flushing and relocation efforts proved fruitless. Law would come to a stop of his own again at 19, a covey flushed ahead of him out of the broomsedge on the edge of a narrow cover field. Sent on once more, he came to a further stop and with a successful covey flush ahead of him, Eisenhart elected to end his dog's bid. And with that, aware his charge had not tackled the course as directly as he needed to, Henry also elected to pick up his dog.
The twenty-seventh and final brace drew Wildhawk (Judd Carlton) as a bye. All that can be said is a broad, but brief summary. As the course headed south and southwest past the blowdown corner, Wildhawk swung wide and remained consistently forward as the dampness in the air that had proved a boon to the dogs in the first two braces burned off, leaving the ground dry and dusty, as well. Despite a solid ground effort, by the time the course completed the southward arc of the Cooleewahee Way, Carlton elected to pick up his dog at 30.
Albany, Ga., March 6
Judges: Hoss Early and John Hicks
MASTERS OPEN QUAIL CHAMPIONSHIP [One-Hour Heats] --
48 Pointers and 5 Setters
Winner--CROWN'S BLACK ICE, 1651922, pointer female, by Great River Magnum--Miss Strut. Tracy Swearingen & Stephens Walker, owners; Tracy Swearingen, handler.
Runner-Up--TOUCH'S MALCOLM STORY, 1675103, pointer male, by Touch's Knight Rider--Blackhawk's Sunflower. Alex Rickert, owner; Mark McLean, handler.
Some Notes From the Masters
"Although the smell of the bird dog undoubtedly varies only in degree from our own, it is so vastly superior that the dog must literally 'live in another world,' and its scenting abilities are doubtless affected by conditions we can but dimly comprehend." -- Herbert Stoddard, The Bobwhite Quail: Its Habits, Preservation, and Increase (1931), p.60.
"Once in a great while, albeit not for very long, I have a desire to own an all-age, field-trial dog, a crackerjack flamenco dancer with quick feet, a flaring nose, and a whalebone rib cage; a dog that owns the ground it runs on and the wind on which birds fly. I want a dog whose casts give reason to the landscape, a dog that shakes at the delirium of discovery and imposes on birds the fortitude of its resolve..." -- Guy de la Vald ne, For a Handful of Feathers (1995), p. 126.
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While I would be remiss in not expressing my gratitude to the Southern Field Trial Club for their hospitality and repeated invitation to report one of the premier wild-bird trials on the calendar, this sidebar is a brief panegyric to two great dogs: 7x CH 10x RU True Confidence, and 6x CH 3x RU Dominator's Rebel Heir. As noted in the main report, both dogs would make their final competition run here at the 2021 Masters Quail Championship. It is my pleasure to revisit one of each of their performances in tribute, performances that despite their own incredible patronage, neither owner (Frank Lanasa or Jim Hamilton) was able to witness.
To be candid, True Confidence never had a great showing at the Masters. But I had the pleasure of watching him take his second-consecutive Top Qualifier at the Continental Championship in 2020 with a unrelenting race and five perfect finds at 12, 31, 39, 55, and 58 -- the first of which a limb find a quarter-mile out to the west.
The other remarkable detail that set him apart on that morning during that hour was that his bracemate had only tallied a solitary find in his hour. Despite the number of finds, Bob's race showed an intensity and commitment that, despite coming out of the twenty-seventh brace, he eclipsed those of the many, fewer-find dogs that had preceded him. The five finds merely punctuated an hour filled with both speed, intelligence, and flow -- a performance that maintained its commanding momentum from start to finish. As I noted in the original report: "To paraphrase Don Meredith, with his powerful, forward race, easy handle, and multiple immaculate, imposing finds, there were no ifs or buts, True Confidence had laid down a performance that was candy, nuts, and Christmas."
By contrast, Dominator's Rebel Heir won the Masters Quail Championship twice -- in 2015 and 2017 -- the first of which while still a Derby. That first win remains, in my opinion, the most dominant performance in the nine years I have reported this Championship. Similar to True Confidence at the 2020 Continental, Rebel Heir came out of a late brace, in his case the twenty-sixth, to claim his laurels literally in the last minute and in doing so raise expectations for what was always possible. Starting midway through the first course on Blue Springs, while that unexpected mid-course start meant that there was less time for strategy, it also meant that the dogs and handlers received the best parts of course one and course two.
As I wrote in 2015: " . . . Rebel Heir establish[ed] a pattern of absences before consistently showing well to the front." His ground-race was a series of flickers, of glimpses, of him pushing forward on the outer edge of the next field, never taking the conventional route that arguably his bracemate had, but instead daring it all, and daring his handler and scout to keep track of him -- although with his precocious sense of the front there was little that needed to be done except find him standing. The image that remains with me is watching him rim the edge of the Allison Swamp out to the north before he disappeared from view, to be found pointed at 59 just beyond Rabbit Bluff to the east, the birds still there for his handler to flush.
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Both Stoddard's and de la Vald --ne's books are cyclical, prose poems not merely to the past history of quail, but very much to the future. While "For a Handful of Feathers" is more obviously a work of poetic dedication to a sporting life with quail, The "Bobwhite Quail" is no less a practical act of love. And such it was this year at the 2021 Masters when two great competitors retired, and whether we look back to their indelible performances, or forward to the achievements of their progeny, we are reminded that this was merely another bright moment in a calendar of love for bird dogs and quail.