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Shadow Oak Bo Wins Again!


By Brad Harter

For only the second time in 112 years (since 1902), a setter has won the National Championship two years in a row. February 21, 2014 was an exciting day for owner “Butch” Houston as he, once again, was showered with congratulations for his setter’s win, and handler robin Gates and scout Luke Eisenhart beamed with pride about Bo’s performance.

Bo made history last year when he captured the National Championship crown after a 43-year dry spell for the setter breed. The last setter to win the grand champion title had been Johnny Crocket in 1970. Bo’s 2013 win had been challenged by other fine performances this year, but when the dust settled, the orange and white setter from South Georgia was named the winner. Bo had pointed seven times and had backed his brace mate on four other occasions.  His finds at the three minute mark and at the very end of his three hours displayed his ability to stay focused on the most important task of finding and pointing birds.

Bo’s automatic requalification returned him to Ames Plantation to defend his title for the 115th running. Bo had been drawn to run on the first Saturday afternoon at the end of the first week. But an ice storm the first week had delayed the running a half day, pushing Bo to the morning course on the first Monday of the second week. The weather had improved considerably by the second week, allowing the birds to move about and feed for the first time in many days.

Bo’s brace mate, Miller’s Happy Jack, was lost to the right side of the course before the first road crossing. That left Bo with the course all to himself for the remainder of the three hours. Bo took full advantage of that opportunity, quickly settling into a bird hunting frame of mind. When the cover and terrain allowed, Bo took the course to its limits. Where the terrain and cover appeared to hold birds, Bo left little unchecked. His first find came after crossing Buford-Ellington Road when we entered the new pond basin area. Bo was standing in a mowed strip a good 40 yards from a broom sedge patch of cover. The location of these birds was perfect and Robin Gates, Bo’s handler, put a large covey of nearly 20 birds to wing!

When he crossed Turner Road, Bo took the large Turner crop field to the far end, appearing as small as an aspirin tablet nearly a 1,000 yards to the front. The Turner Pines have an undergrowth of Bi-Color Lespedeza and that is where Bo was spotted next, pointing a covey which had not been seen once during the first week. Again, Bo’s location and manners were perfection! Bo was figuring out that the birds were feeding and Bi-Color might be the key. His third find came in heavy Bi-Color to the right of the course, where, once more, Bo’s location and manners were perfection. In the Mary Scott Loop, Bo was spotted pointing in heavy cover. A rabbit bolted from the cover, nearly running into the rigid setter. But Bo stood unmoved.

 Bo was zeroing in on cover and this paid off - just before entering the lowlands for find number four directly ahead on the course. Number five came straight ahead on the course with Bo standing some ten yards off the cover.

Birds appeared to shut off from feeding, so Bo started to make some big swings to the front while always staying in contact with his handler.

As the course wound back into the lowlands from a different direction, Bo was seen pointed to the left side with the wind to his advantage. Handler Robin Gates spotted a fresh roost directly in front of Bo, but he continued to flush in ever enlarging circles. When nothing could be produced Robin tapped Bo on the head asking him to relocate. The setter immediately backed up, swinging out to the right where he could use the wind to his advantage. Forty yards farther on, Bo zeroed in on the birds, pinning this scattered feeding covey in a heavy thicket. As Robin approached, the birds boiled out from the backside of the thicket for a perfect piece of work.

Bo was still not done! For the next 45 minutes, Bo was intensely settled into bird searching mode. When we entered the Edward Clark North field near Rube Scott Road, Bo went into the left corner where he could use the wind to his advantage. Bo wheeled and pointed into a briar patch where he had his seventh and final covey, this bunch also located to perfection.

With time left on the clock, Bo never let down rimming the field edges, always on his mission to find game. When the call of pickup came Bo was to the front digging into the same type of cover that had paid dividends for his entire three hours.

In the remaining days of the National, fourteen more dogs would challenge Bo’s performance. Although some of these dogs would come close, in the eyes of the three judges none of these challengers came as close to the Amesian Standard as Bo had displayed in his three hours.

This win made history a second time! The last setter to win back-to-back National Championships was a tough little female from nearby Hickory Valley, TN named Sioux. However, there were some major differences in these two wins.  Sioux had won the title in 1901 against 9 other contenders, all of which were setters. In 1902, when Sioux won her back-to-back titles, there was only one other dog in the stake and the brace was 3 ½ hours long. The other difference is that there was only one brace in 1902 with Sioux’s handler, Jim Avent, handling both Sioux and her kennel mate at the same time.

Bo’s back-to-back wins came against 75 other contenders while Sioux’s two titles came against only ten contenders. While Sioux was considered by many in her era to be the greatest bird dog of her time, Bo’s admirers recognize Bo as one of the leading setter performers in recent years!

Handler Robin Gates spoke highly of Bo: “He’s a remarkable bird dog! He was just born with bird sense; he has a lot of natural ability. He’s a great athlete!”

Will Bo return to defend his title and become the first setter in history to capture three National Champion crowns in a row? At the 2014 honors ceremony, owner “Butch” Houston predicted that Bo definitely would be back in 2015. “And if we win next year, which I expect we’ll do, Rick [Carlisle] has promised me that I’ll get a big bottle of the [Bird Dog] whiskey!” Stay tuned for 116th running of the National next February to see if the field trialing world has its first Triple Crown winner.

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