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National Championship for Field Trialing Bird Dogs


By Nancy Brannon, Ph.D.

On February 7 and 8, 2015 excitement filled the Grand Junction, TN area as 48 dogs, including seven setters and 41 pointers were nominated to compete in the annual field trial National Championship for bird dogs. Approximately 50 dogs actually qualified and nearly all of them were nominated to compete. So many setters running in the championship is a rarity, and there was also anticipation for how Shadow Oak Bo would fare. Having won the championship twice in a row (2013 & 2014), there was wonder if he would make it a “triple crown” and win it three times in a row.

The first week’s braces (February 9-14) got off to a good start, with daytime temperatures in the 40s, but early morning lows in the 20s or around the freezing mark. Wednesdays and Saturday’s temperatures reached to the mid-50s. On the first day February 9, there were “Overcast skies and 46° at the start with Dunn's Tried 'N True and Stardust Chazz. The former had a pair of unproductives and was up at 1:36. Chazz tallied three finds and finished the three hours, Conditions were unchanged for the afternoon brace; if anything, it was colder with a north wind when Coldwater Warrior and Lester's Jazz Man were loosed. They shared a find, then Warrior had one other of his own; Jazz Man added three of his own. Coldwater Warrior was picked up at two hours. Lester's Jazz Man finished the three hours,” reported on the Ames Plantation website. On Tuesday, February 10, “Lester's Bodacious had four finds and shared a find with Quester. Quester tallied six finds and shared the find with Bodacious. Both dogs finished the three hours” according to the Ames Plantation report. On Wednesday, “A beautiful afternoon, 50° and sunshine, hardly a precursor to a forecast overnight cold front. Erin's Dog Soldier had six finds and finished the three hours.”

Of the dogs running so far, Stardust Chazz, Lester’s Jazz Man, Lester’s Bodacious, Quester, and Erin’s Dog Soldier were the only ones to have finished the three hours. Quester and Erin’s Dog Soldier had six finds each, but scoring is not just a tally of the finds and finishing the three hours. “All the five dogs who completed the three hours are under consideration,” said Dr. Rick Carlisle, Director of the Ames Plantation and one of three judges for the National Championship. “But the dogs are also judged on their ground race, their hunting ability, the class they show when running and finding birds” – and all factors that make the Amesian Standard. [see the definition posted on Strideaway:]

When winter storm weather hit the mid-south area on February 16, the second week’s braces had to be cancelled due to a combination of sleet, snow, ice, and temperatures in the single digits one night that kept the field trial courses frozen for most of the week. A postponement of one week is unprecedented, according to Dr. Carlisle. “This has never happened before under my tenure,” he said. “Mr. Ames had some extended delays when they were running in January, but the most we’ve delayed is four days.” Riding horses on the icy, frozen ground was quite impossible. “I don’t have a single horse who knows how to ice skate,” Carlisle quippred.

Wondering how the birds are faring during the harsh winter weather and whether or not that will affect the second week’s running, Carlisle felt confident about the quail. “As soon as the ice and sleet stopped on Monday, we started feeding the birds about 1:30 p.m. It takes two and a half days to feed all the birds on both field trial courses, so we kept feeding until about 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday.” He said the person feeding the birds saw four coveys on Tudsday and 7 or 8 coveys on Wednesday. “We’re doing all we can to maintain the birds where they need to be and to keep them alive,” Carlisle reassured.

What do the Ames folks feed the quail? “Grain sorghum,” said Carlisle. It is grown there on Ames Plantation and they maintain about 3,000 bushels to feed the birds. “This is the 11th time we’ve fed them this season,” he continued. “We put out feed before we release birds. We feed every third week before a killing frost, then afterwards, we feed every other week. The birds have been flying well, healthy and robust going into the ice storm. They were in good shape. We may, however, lose the weak ones,” but overall they’re in good shape for the second week’s running, he said.
Plans were to run the second week’s braces starting Monday, February 23, 2015, but Sunday night’s sleet, high temperatures only in the 20s precluded running the day’s braces. Braces finally got underway again on Tuesday, February 24. Looks like this year’s National Champion will be named in March!

For a complete list of the order of running, see

For a brace by brace synopsis, and updated weather reports and other news, see and video from each day’s running are posted on the Ames zenfolio pages: the “Photos from the 2015 National Championship” folder.

Vera Courtney is also posting commentary and photos about the National Championship on her facebook page:

Photo cutlines:
Scout, Nick Thompson and Whitney Hurdle (daughter of handler, Steve Hurdle) give Stardust Chazz a ride to the barn after his three hour run
Photos show the accumulated ice, sleet, and snow at Ames Plantation during the “lost week” of February 16-21, 2015
 (photos by Jamie Evans)

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