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2017 National Champion: Lester’s Sunny Hill Jo


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By William Smith

Lester's Sunny Hill Jo bested the field of 43 aspirants to claim the 2017 National Championship.  Jo is a powerfully built muscular orange and mostly white four-year-old pointer male.  During his three hour bid for the championship he ran with speed, power, and purpose.  He was seldom out of contact with his handler as he searched the likely places for his elusive quarry.  His efforts were rewarded with three finds in his first hour, one find and a back of his brace mate in the second hour, and three finds in the third hour.  He stood with head high with a poker straight tail on his seven finds with faultless manners that displayed his training.  He started strong and he was strong throughout his endeavor.  His performance, without question, earned him the title of National Champion. 
From the official account of Jo’s run:

Jo ran in the 14th brace, Monday afternoon February 20, 2017. Lester's Sunny Hill Jo had: “A find at 0:35 east of the Horseshoe. A find at 0:51 at the old Agronomy Shed. A find at 0:58 in the north end of the Watertruck Field. An unproductive at 1:14 in the Dairy Pasture. A back at 1:25. A find at 1:53 south of Agronomy and north of Wolf Crossing. A find at 2:02 in the graveyard Piece. A find at 2:12 at the east end of the Jack Harris Cabin Field. A find at 2:21 in the South Caesar Ditch Field at the base of Cox's Ridge east side. Finished the three hours.”
Lester’s Sunny Hill Jo: The Dog With A Super Nose

By Nancy Brannon, Ph.D.

Gary Lester was still out on the field trial course, in the “road gallery,” listening for news of Jill’s (Whippoorwill Foto Op) run when he got a phone call. The phone call’s good news was that “Jo” had won the National Championship and Lester was ecstatic! “I’ve just got another National Champion!” he proudly announced.

This year marked the fourth time Lester has been on the green steps of the Ames Manor House to accept a National Championship award. “This is one of my favorite spots this time of year,” he commented about the occasion. Just year before last (2015) he accepted the National Championship award for Miller’s Dialing In. In 2009, he was on the steps accepting the trophies for Lester’s Snowatch. “I was very blessed to have him,” Lester said of Lester’s Snowatch, and “another great dog,” he said of Miller’s Dialing In. His first time on the steps was in 2002 when he scouted Miller’s True Spirit for Ferrell Miller. That was a benchmark in his bird dog training and handling career when he got a “taste” of working a National Champion.

“I’m real happy!” Lester exclaimed. “But there are a lot of us who work this game together. I just love it!”

Dr. Carlisle began the ceremony, as usual, with recognition and thanks for all, especially sponsors, who make the National Championship a successful field trial. As he did in 2015, Lester took a few moments on the steps to offer a prayer of thanks for all the blessings he enjoys, for the land, the landowners, the dogs, and all involved in this sport. Then it was time for the photography session with multiple shots of all the people involved with this one champion dog.

Talking with reporters about this year’s National Championship experience, Lester talked about his preparation for the National, traveling to south Georgia and north Florida to work his dogs. “If you want a dog to work on the edge, or go into the thicket, you’ve got to work him in those places and show him where he can find birds. The big deal in finding birds in the cover is to get off the path and go into the cover. This kind of training has been our success,” he said.

Talking specifically about Jo, Lester had heaps of praise for the dog. “Jo is very biddable and he has a Super Nose. I have so much confidence in this dog, and I felt good about his performance.

“This is a great dog, but he’s a hard luck dog.” Lester talked about the several times when the dog turned in a good performance and he thought he had won a field trial, but didn’t. At one, “The judge didn’t like the way I handled him,” Lester commented. But at Ames, it all came together.

Asked if there was a special moment in his run, Lester talked about how Jo hit the bean fields and “took them like I wanted him to.” Birds were flushed and Jo kept working the road on the course. Lester came upon him about midway in his run, “And there he was on point. He had made a tremendous cast. But the birds had walked away from him. He eased up a little to say ‘here they are, boss,’ and there were the birds!” That was a highlight for Lester and the moment he knew he had a very special dog. The dog with the Super Nose, as Lester characterizes him.

Lester continued, “I get to do what I love. I love the land, too. I’m a farmer. And I get to go to all these great plantations across the southeast [to work dogs]. God is very good to me!”

What are future plans for Jo? Next is the Carroll County Field Trial, near Huntington, TN March 16-19, and, of course, he’ll be back at Ames next February for a try at another National Championship.

For photos of each day’s braces, visit the Ames Plantation photo website:

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