The National Championship…..and we watched the winner

Steve Hurdle handles 2012 National Champion Connor’s E Z Button.

A fun aspect of living for a time in another part of the country is to take advantage of what that area offers. Here in western Tennessee, Jerry and I are close to Grand Junction, which is home to the Ames Plantation and the site of the National Championship.

This year marked the 113th running of this celebrated competition, which is one of few in the country with three-hour braces. Thirty-four dogs competed in 17 braces over nine days. Last year’s champion, Touch’s Whiteout, scratched.


Randy Downs steadies Gamemaker at the morning breakaway while Fred Corder waits on his horse.

It was thrilling to be around big-name handlers like Sean Derrig, Luke Eisenhart, Colvin Davis, Robin Gates, Randy Downs, Steve Hurdle and Gary Lester. Another big draw was to see—firsthand—famous dogs like Gamemaker, In The Shadow, the setter Shadow Oak Bo and all the Erin pointers. Plus it was cool to see all the gear and the big horse trailers necessary for competition at this level.

Jerry and I chose to go on the first Friday so we could watch Gamemaker (Rock Acre Buckwheat x Therapy’s Little Bess), a handsome liver-and-white pointer owned and handled by Fred Corder, scouted by Randy Downs.


Gamemaker was braced with Connor’s E Z Button, owned by David O’Connor and handled by Steve Hurdle.

Gamemaker, Fred Corder, Steve Hurdle and Button pause at a crossing.

What an exciting brace. Button had six finds; Gamemaker had five. In the waning minutes of the brace, Gamemaker was hit by a truck when he ran across a road. But he got up, shook himself off and finished with just a slight limp.

The three judges (in orange) and the gallery cross a road on the Ames Plantation.

And, several days later on the white front porch of the Ames Plantation, Connor’s E Z Button was named this year’s National Champion.  

Chris Mathan of The Sportsman’s Cabinet and Strideaway was with us. Jerry and Ben McKean, a friend from Minnesota, rode the following Tuesday to see In The Shadow and Erin’s Whiskey River.

Busman’s holiday to Georgia

The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only one page.

–St. Augustine

Earlier this winter, Jerry and I took some time off and traveled to Georgia. The warm climate was one draw, as was the opportunity to see historic quail plantations set in piney woods. Several days in a cottage on an island off the coast near Savannah was also on the itinerary.

Here are the highlights of our trip.

Best puppy/exercise pens

Dog trainers in Georgia are serious about their puppy raising. At most of the plantations and training facilities, it was clear that much time, money and energy is spent on giving puppies a good start in life.

What struck us most were the really big, really nice puppy pens. There was ample space for a dozen or more puppies to exercise, play, rest and find shade. One plantation had fenced an area about the size of a football field.

For the record, all the litters we saw were pointers.


Chance to see old friends

Jim Tande and Chuck Wingard have been friends of ours for a long time—going back to the late 1980s/early 1990s when we were all field trialing in the grouse woods. We’ve gotten puppies from their litters and they’ve bought from us. We’ve bred dams to their sires and vice-verse. An auspicious start to our pointer line was when Jim’s extraordinary CH Northern Dancer (call name War) was bred to a 6X grouse champion from Maine, Vanidestine’s Rail Lady, and produced our CH Dance Smartly.

Jim and Chuck have moved on to horseback shooting dog and all age competition and, since both are now retired from careers with the U.S. Forest Service, they spend winters near Arlington, Georgia.

Jerry and I spent a fun day with Jim and his wife, Kathy. They gave us a fabulous tour of southwestern Georgia and many of its plantations.


Venerable quail plantations

The main quail plantation area stretches from Americus in the north, through Albany and south to Tallahassee, Florida. The heart is Thomasville, Georgia.

We saw fancy gates, long driveways lined with live oaks, beautiful plantation homes complete with tall columns and wrap-around porches. We saw original dog wagons, vast stretches of piney woods and even a dog cemetery.

We toured the famous Pinebloom, a 20,000-acre plantation that was the setting for Tom Wolfe’s excellent book, A Man in Full.

The history of quail plantations is equally fascinating. As far back as the 1880s, newly rich, northern business owners discovered the area.

Finding plentiful game birds–particularly turkey, dove, and quail–they first leased then began purchasing small parcels of farm land and forests, consolidating them into thousands of acres of hunting plantations–larger than any of the antebellum cotton plantations…

Because the area remained somewhat isolated after the Civil War, it retained many vestiges of antebellum plantation life, a life that the new plantation owners sought to emulate and the old ones wished to preserve. The region today contains more than a hundred working quail hunting plantations, proving more durable than the cotton kingdom they replaced.

~ Susan Hamburger, Ph.D., from a paper presented at the North American Society for Sport History Annual Conference, May 27, 1996


Tybee Island and Savannah

We squeezed in some days at the beginning of our trip to spend time on Tybee Island and tour the area.

Tybee Island is a small island connected to Savannah and the mainland by 18 miles of bridges over marshes, the Intracoastal Waterway and various channels and rivers.

Savannah is the oldest city in Georgia. It was founded in 1733 by a group of English colonists who traveled under the auspices of King George II, after whom the state is named. The city plan was agreed upon before the ship left England and was based on London’s squares. Twenty-two of the original 24 squares remain.

Savannah had block after block of beautifully maintained townhomes. I could live in any one of them, although preferably one with a curving staircase and plenty of intricate wrought iron.

Tennessee 2012: February photo album and training report

Training has been going very well here in the mid South. Our put-out coveys are surviving nicely and there are more wild coveys than last year. Plus, the weather has been perfect for working dogs.

Of the 15 setters in this group, 14 are of the Houston line and one is by Hytest Skyhawk. Even though there are only a few pointers, the quality is high.

I have taken a few photos when possible, but sometimes things happen too fast to get the camera out.  Enjoy!

Bicolor lespedeza strip along pine row.

Creek edge and corn stubble.

Northwoods Carly Simon points quail in bicolor.

Chuck (Bill and Ryan Westfall, owners) points on field edge.

Chuck hunts the bicolor strip.

Hannah Montana (Bill Heig, owner) on point.

Joe Montana (Bill Heig, owner) on point.

Harmon (Ben McKean, owner) on point.

Kit (Austin Figgins, owner) on point.

Northwoods Kiss backs Northwoods Aerosmith.

Northwoods Aerosmith points covey.

What I’m reading: How to Afford Veterinary Care

How to Afford Veterinary Care Without Mortgaging the Kids, by Dr. James L. Busby, is a refreshing view on modern veterinary care for dogs. Busby is a retired vet from Bemidji, Minnesota, and bases his opinion on more than 40 years of practice. He covers major topics including monthly medication, teeth cleaning, annual examinations, vaccinations, elective surgery, and much more.

The book also provides low-cost alternatives for routine preventative care—some that we’ve been using for years. For that reason alone, the book is worth the price.

For more information about Dr. Busby and his book, visit:

Northwoods Birds Dogs    53370 Duxbury Road, Sandstone, Minnesota 55072
Jerry: 651-492-7312     |      Betsy: 651-769-3159     |           |      Directions
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