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A Justifiable Winner


By Dr. Nancy Brannon

The 2016 National Champion Field Trialing Bird Dog is Whippoorwill Justified, who simply outpaced all the other dogs in the 117th National Championship, completing the three hours with a record of eight finds. The three-year-old pointer male is owned by Ronnie Spears of Jacksonville, Arkansas and handled by Larry Huffman of Whippoorwill Farm in Michigan City, Mississippi.

Whippoorwill Justified, called “Patch” because of a liver colored spot over one eye, is from the latest litter by 2008 National Champion Whippoorwill Wild Agin and Sparkles, with Bob Walthall as the breeder. Patch made his rookie appearance in the 2016 National.  As a youngster, Patch had five placements in qualifying trials in his first all age year: first in the Benton County (Miss.) Open All Age, second in the Tootsie Hurdle, second at Kentucky Lake, third at the Sunflower Classic, and first at the Prairie Open All Age.

The winning run came in the Eighth Brace on Thursday afternoon, February 11, 2016. The day was sunny; the wind out of the NNE at 11 mph; and the temperature was 52°F at the breakaway. Some may say that those were very favorable weather conditions for a successful run. “Patch” was paired with Dr. Fred Corder’s Cole Train. Cole Train had two finds, but the tracker was called for at 1:33, and that was the end of his run.

The official record shows that “Whippoorwill Justified’s first find was at :13 in Buster Graves food plot just east of Jim Miller. His second find was at :32 north of George Kemp food plot; his next find was at :57 in the last Demonstration food plot next to Sam's Field. Another find at 1:51 in the Junk Pile food plot at Wolf Crossing was followed by a find at 2:05 in a food plot east of Caesar's Ditch field. Justified's sixth find was at 2:32 on top of the terraced field out of Fason bottom just east of A.T.'s. His seventh find came at 2:48 in the south most food plot in Morgan Swamp next to L.B. Big Oak Field. His final find came at 3:04 in the west end of Morgan South Clear Cut.”

Larry Huffman had five Whippoorwill dogs in this year’s National Championship. When Patch made his amazing run, Huffman had already handled Whippoorwill Wild Assault in the Third Brace, and he later ran Ken Blackman’s Whippoorwill Foto Op in the Tenth Brace. Then he handled Whippoorwill Blue Blood in the Twelfth Brace. That left Peg Fornear’s Quester to be run in the Fourteenth Brace. But none of the other dogs matched or exceeded Patch’s performance.

The 2016 National Championship ended on a rainy Monday, February 22, having had only one weather delay this year and with all 47 dogs having their go at the Championship. As Dr. Rick Carlisle read the name of the 2016 Champion from the front porch of the Ames Manor House, an extended Huffman family, who had been waiting in a light rain on the grounds, made their way to the steps for the photography session. As the large family group filled the steps and spilled over onto the lawn, Vera Courtney quipped, “This is all Dr. Huffman’s fault,” referring to Dr. J.D. Huffman and his legacies of winning Whippoorwill bird dogs and a family of bird dog breeders, trainers, and handler – Larry.

Speaking with Commercial Appeal reporter Larry Rhea after the awards ceremony, Huffman and owner Ronnie Spears commented that this was something they had both worked for; it was a good day.

“I'm not sure how many (family members) were on the steps, but it was a lot,” Huffman said with a laugh. “It was a great day for all us. It's good to celebrate with family.”

Of the five dogs that Larry had running this year, he said, “I thought they all had a good chance. He (Patch) was ready and he had been doing well the last two weeks prior to the National.”

Huffman had high praise for the dog. “Patch tries to work with you. The dog likes to do right. He is not outlawish in any way. He runs enough and he comes back. He handles well, and if he got pointed, [scout] Nick [Thompson] would find him. He was always in front of me. He’s a classy dog.”

Owner Ronnie Spears had praise for Huffman: “Nobody could have done a better job than Larry. Larry worked with this dog for two years, and dogs just seem to pick themselves out. They come to the top pretty quickly”

Huffman continued, “This is what my dad breeds dogs to do. Whippoorwill Farm is a great place to work the dogs, and it’s only eight miles from Ames Plantation.”

What were his thoughts as he monitored his competitors dogs’ performances? “I didn’t want to wish anyone bad luck,” but of course he wanted his dog to win. “The weather was a big factor this year. When it’s hot and windy, there’s not much chance of finding birds.”

About the brace: “The last hour is the most important, and Patch was just as strong in the last hour. He had four finds that last hour.”

Owner Ronnie Spears said he has “been doing this for 30 years. This is what everybody wants to achieve. But some never do.”

Huffman was previously on the steps of the manor house in 2008 with National Champion Whippoorwill Wild Agin. He won in 1999 with Whippoorwill Wild Card.

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