The Mississippi and Tennessee Open Shooting Dog Championships Find New Venues

By Ken Blackman

The sport of competitive sporting dog Field Trials has been on a downward trend across North America for the last decade.  Many reasons for this decline have been discussed over lots of bonfires and adult beverages around the Mid-South.  But through the cooperation of the men and women who still enjoy watching a fine bird dog course the edges of a harvested field and suddenly come to a statuesque pose on the slightest waft of scent the Northern Bobwhite Quail or migrating Woodcock, while sitting upon a smooth gaited Walker or Foxtrotter, the two most prestigious Shooting Dog Championships in our region found new homes to continue. 

The Mississippi Open Shooting Dog (OSD) Championship has been dormant for many years for lack of both a membership committee and a place to contest the crown. Dr. Fred Corder, a physician from Corinth and the owner of Hall of Fame Pointer Gamemaker, and Eddie Taylor, a trainer from Red Banks, collaborated and decided it was time to bring this trial back into prominence on grounds that would lure the best professional handlers of Pointers and Setters to our part of the world.  We enlisted the father and son team of Guy and Burke Hendrix to join the group.  Very successful owners of the John Deere Dealership in Hernando and overseeing a large grain farming operation in Holly Springs, both were active in raising, training and competing in Amateur field trials throughout the Mid-South region.  With the sale of the Dealership, both Guy and Burke found themselves with the time to actively remake the family farmland into a first class training and trialing venue.  With all the right things being done to establish a resident and thriving population of Bobwhite Quail, they felt it was getting right to offer the Mississippi OSD a home. 

With a trial run several years ago, the committee was awarded the right to host an Open Shooting Dog Championship. (a note here, the Shooting Dog format will be covered in more detail in the February Edition of the “Field Trial Review,” available just before the National Championship at Ames).

The Mississippi OSD Championship was held at Hendrix Farm from Wednesday, January, 11th to 13, 2017.  A total 37 of the nation’s best Pointers and Setters handled by Professionals and Amateurs made the event a success – with a helping hand from a group of volunteers we met the challenge of organizing and managing a first-class event on first class grounds. 

January weather can be dicey and variable.  The wild swings we normally expect never happened and our judges, Tom Waite from Burlington, WI and Greg Veatch from Kevil, KY paid rapt attention to all the dogs. They came up with the best performances named the Champion Titanium Jacksin, Pointer male owned by Doug Bauman of Plymouth, WI and deftly handled by Bruce Minard, also from WI, who winters in the Thomasville, GA area.  Named Runner Up was a male Pointer, Not’ta Snowball’s Chance, owned by Rex Garner of Pittsburg, KS and handled by Stacy Perkins, who hails from Galena, KS. 

The Tennessee OSD has been hosted by Clarksville Pointer and Setter Club.  The primary grounds had been the Ft. Campbell Military Base, with several sections of the base utilized by the Field Trial Community for many years.  The areas where field trials are held are wild with native vegetation that holds and protects some of the last vestiges of wild Bobwhite Quail in the north central part of Tennessee and into Kentucky.  Access of the field trial community to hold events there came though the efforts of the late Ben Adams, a retired Army Officer.  His work and leadership is still revered by the club members.  However, when dealing with the military, the schedules to hold trials were constantly subservient to use of all of Ft. Campbell’s area for military exercises.  Over several years, the OSD Championship had to be canceled.  When professional handlers couldn’t count on a consistent schedule, the committee, headed up by Lisa Little, felt it was in the best interest of the sport to relinquish the Championship and allow another committee to keep this major event in contention.  Again, Eddie Taylor urged one of his owners, Dr. Gene Spiotta and Dr. Spiotta’s neighbor in the Dancyville area, Dr. Marion Brown along with Ed Apple, Sr., to organize a committee to take over the Tennessee Open Shooting Dog Championship. 

Fortunately, the Dancyville area is home to one of the most famous (besides Ames Plantation) field trial venues in Southwestern TN.  The West Tennessee Field Trial Club has been hosting events for nearly 70 years on farmlands owned by the Currie Family, Blake Kukar, and Fayette County Mayor Skip Taylor.  The committee was set, and with the stewardship of Bill and Allan Currie, JP Hathcock and Crutcher Stoots, we made a seamless transition.  The sports-woman-ship of Lisa and the Dancyville “Gang” brought this event to a tremendously successful conclusion! 

By matching the Mississippi and Tennessee OSD Championships on succeeding weeks, the field trials could carry over most professionals and a few new entrants.  Having only to pick up and venture less than an hour’s drive north of Holly Springs, the entrants took advantage of proximity and weather. 

This year’s events were blessed by the weather gods with a continuation of good weather (mild temps., cloudy skies and no rain) and the quail cooperated.  Even with most of the grounds in crop production, the owners have embarked on an aggressive prerelease of Bobwhite Quail and regular feeding; the coveys were large and flew like wild birds.  With that success, the owners have banded together to improve the stock and put more cropland into native grasses and cover to ensure large hatches of the Quail. 

In addition to the new OSD Championship, the West TN Open All Age (again see the article in the Field Trial Review), Amateur and the Fayette County Amateur Field Trials are contested on these grounds.  The rest of the year the owners hunt deer, turkey, and squirrel. 

Again, a cadre of volunteers assisted in making the trial a rousing success.  Local Pro Ike Todd, Alan and Bill Currie, Rich Boumeester, a snowbird from Minnesota, and Blake Kukar, made all the contestants comfortable with the courses new to all of the entrants. With a great supper of pork tendereloin, chicken breasts on the grill and all the trimming and deserts, friends Ferrnon and Connie Fergie held everyone over for an evening of fellowship and lots of field trial stories around the fire pit. 

The field trial judges both hail from central Missouri.  Fred Smith of Mt. Grove and Gailen Cooper from Liberty have lots of experience in the judicial saddles.  Looking at 36 of the entries, they agreed on two pointers who are handled by Shawn Kinkelaar, who currently is in the lead for the Purina Points Open Shooting Dog Handler of the Year.  Chelsea’s Thunderbolt, a male Pointer and an offspring of the famous Hall of Fame dog, Whippoorwill Wild Agin, was named Champion with a wide-ranging performance coupled with three perfectly handled covey finds.  Thunderbolt is owned by Dr. Tom Jackson of Carson, North Dakota and George Hickox.  The Runner Up was RJ’s Deicer, a Pointer female owned by Reagan and Kristen Moisson of Milton Wisconsin.  Shawn hales from Effingham, Illinois. 

The sport of Horseback Field Trials is a sport that had its roots in the Memphis area in the late 1800’s.  It exists primarily with the hard work of amateur sportsmen and women.  Horses form the back bone of the sport.  Even pointing dog field trials where the entrants are on foot, use horses to carry the judges and spectators.  By frequenting the schedules, gallery riders can enjoy a sport and see some varied country not normally accessible at other times of the year.

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