2019 National Champion: Dunn’s Tried N True

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By Nancy Brannon

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It’s a wrap! Dunn’s Tried N True is the official 2019 National Champion – the announcement made on Wednesday afternoon, February 20, 2019 after the conclusion of the last brace. “Jack” bested the field of 34 dogs in this year’s 120th running of the competition.

“This year had almost as much rain as last year,” noted Dr. Rick Carlisle on the green steps of the Ames Manor House. But there was only one rain delay: the 16th brace on Tuesday afternoon, February 19, was cancelled due to heavy rainfall and lightening on the field trial course. There were, indeed, heavy rains overnight, such that the Wednesday morning brace, February 20, 2019 was delayed until 9:00 a.m. This was the brace featuring Shadow’s Next Exit and Cole Train.

At this year’s National Championship, the first dog to turn in a three-hour performance was Dominator’s Rebel Heir in the first brace, with three game finds. In brace five, Miller’s Speed Dial finished the three hours, but with only one find. In brace seven, Lester’s Jazz Man ran the three hours, and totaled three finds.

Then on Valentine’s Day afternoon, Touch’s Spaceman, handled by Randy Anderson, upped the ante with five finds and a good three-hour run. He possibly had a sixth find, but the birds were not officially seen, so no credit was given.

On the next afternoon, February 15, Coldwater Thunder tied the score with five finds, completing the three hours in a solid performance.

But the clincher came on Monday morning, February 18, in brace thirteen, when Dunn’s Tried N True, aka “Jack,” scored seven finds, finishing the three hours with a strong race.

Jack’s bracemate, Stardust Chaz, had a divided find at :08 on the east end of the Joe Woody field in bicolor, and a second find at :26 on the north side of the Turner House Place in pines.  However, handler Steve Hurdle requested the tracker at 1:25, and the game was over for Chaz.

Jack continued his performance, having had a divided find at :08 on the east end of the Joe Woody field. His second game contact came at :24 in a feed strip near Turner Road in the L B Avent House Place Field. At :40 he pointed just south of Turner Pines. His fourth find came at 1:11 in the Lowlands at the ditch crossing. Tried N True struck again at 1:32 on the south end of the Tennessee Field and twelve minutes later in a feed patch in the Supermarket Field. His seventh and final game contact came at 2:08 in a feed patch in Keegan Bottom. He finished the three hours with a strong race.

There were only four braces remaining in the 2019 National, but none of the dogs in the following braces would have much bird work, nor would finish the three hours.

It all came down to the last brace in which 2016 National Champion Whippoowill Justified, “Patch,” handled by Larry Huffman, was paired with 2017-2018 National Champion Lester’s Sunny Hill Jo, handled by Gary Lester. Would one of the former National Champions put in another championship performance? Weather conditions were not the best, with 2-3 inches of rain having been dumped in the area on Tuesday and drizzle still coming down Wednesday afternoon on very sloppy course conditions. Despite these conditions, the champions did their best, with “Patch” scoring three finds and an unproductive and “Jo” scoring three finds, two unproductives, and a back. Yet, realizing that their dogs could not exceed Dunn’s Tried N True’s performance, both handlers picked up their dogs with only 20 minutes remaining in the three hours. From this point, it was fairly certain to most spectators that Dunn’s Tried N True would be the next champion.

At the awards ceremony, it was obvious that Jack’s owners Will and Rita Dunn were ecstatic about their dog’s win! I asked handler Luke Eisenhart what was the secret to winning the National Championship. “Luck!” he quickly responded, with a quick qualification to that comment. “Preparation, working the dog right, and having birds moving,” he added. He, too, was delighted with the dog’s performance. “The birds kept moving and he kept on pointing them.”

Interviewed by videographer Brad Harter, Luke and Brad talked about Jack’s “relocation” and that it was “pretty impressive.” At one of his finds, Jack was pointed, but evidently the birds had walked off. Luke couldn’t get any birds in the air. Looking around, Luke saw some really good cover where he thought the birds might be, so Luke “tapped him on the head” and tried to get him to relocate to the covert. But the dog did not want to go there. Luke wanted the dog to go left, but Jack wanted to go right. Luke kept trying to get Jack to relocate, and Jack was being obedient to his handler.  Luke finally gave up and let the dog go the direction he preferred.  Jack went to the right and, soon, birds were located. The dog knew where the birds were and he found them!

All in all, it was a flawless performance. Jack handled all seven finds well and had a strong finish. He showed his willingness to work for his handler by changing direction whenever he saw Luke change direction on his horse. Brad Harter commented, “He’s always been an impressive dog who wanted to work for you. And, certainly, he got the right breaks, losing his bracemate being one of them.”

Luke said, “He wanted to work for me from the get go. The birds kept moving and he kept finding them. He remembered where the feed strips were and went there looking for birds. It was a pretty smooth three hours. I’m tickled to death with him!”

Will Dunn commented that Jack was “strong throughout the trial. I was a little worried at the two-hour mark and I’m glad Tommy [Davis] was scouting. Luke had the dog prepared and I’m awfully proud of him! The birds were where the dog was pointing the whole time; it was a great relocation! The dog knew where the birds were.”

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