I felt fortunate to chat with Robin Gates and to see CH Shadow Oak Bo up close after the morning’s braces at the 2015 Continental All-Age Championship.
Betsy and I were excited to watch two-time National Champion Shadow Oak Bo compete at the 2015 Continental All-Age Championship held at the Dixie Plantation in northern Florida. Though I had watched him before, I couldn’t miss an opportunity for another look.
Bo is handled by professional Robin Gates and co-owned by Butch Housten and John Dorminy.
Bo, who had just turned nine years of age, hunted the course hard and far, yet handled easily as he hunted from one birdy location to another. He had four finds on coveys, one where the birds were unseen by the judges and two that required relocations.
I was very impressed with Bo’s relocations. Both times, he was on point to the front. After thorough flushing attempts, Robin released the dog and Bo was masterful. He moved positively yet cautiously, exuding confidence that he knew his job. After 40 – 75 yard relocations, Bo pinned the coveys. Robin moved in quickly to flush and the birds were right where Bo indicated. Again, in both instances, the quail flushed from a wide area, indicating they were a feeding, moving group—not the kind that are easy to keep on the ground.
Bo finished his hour well, perhaps not as strong as Robin would have liked and not good enough for a placement but clearly showed us why he’s had such a long, successful career. Interestingly, Bo was being treated for a good-sized abscess on the side of his rib cage due possibly caused by a migrating grass awn.
After the morning’s running, Betsy and I walked to the kennel area. Robin handed Bo a treat as he opened the kennel door. We chatted with Robin who then offered to let us see Bo.
Physically, Bo is a specimen—strong and solid. He is a gentle dog with deep, sensitive eyes that convey intelligence and calmness.
If there is one word to describe Bo’s personality, it is calmness. He was calm on the dog wagon; calm prior to his brace when being outfitted with the Garmin; calm after his brace; and calm while we petted him and chatted with Robin. Most importantly, Bo was calm—yet also composed and intense—on point.
We were happy with everything we observed about Bo. It’s easy to see why he’s so outstanding in field trials. We wish him the best.
“Dam Row” is the first three runs on the south side where Vixen, Chablis and Carly live.
So far, so good.
Dams of three of our five planned litters for 2015 came into season in January. Within two weeks, Northwoods Carly Simon and Northwoods Chablis had been bred and Northwoods Vixen had been surgically inseminated.
Jerry and I can confirm that all three are definitely pregnant. But when we added whelp dates to our Google calendar, we realized we might be a little sleep deprived later in March.
March 17: Northwoods Carly Simon by Northwoods Grits
March 23: Northwoods Chablis by Northwoods Blue Ox
Mach 24: Northwoods Vixen by Rock Acre Blackhawk
Carly, Chablis and Vixen are very healthy and, until March, Jerry will continue a light exercise routine so they stay in good shape.
On this crisp, sunny morning, setters Carly and Chablis enjoy their new chew toys while Vixen, the pointer in the background, prefers the warmth of her house.
The dog handler (in orange vest) flushes as two hunters move into position over a classic point by one of the best in our string, Northwoods Carly Simon (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2011) during a guided hunt on a private quail plantation.
The adage “Time flies when you’re having fun” could not be truer for our winter in Georgia. Between training puppies and young dogs, conditioning older dogs, guiding foot, jeep and horseback hunts, riding braces at field trials, caring for 28 dogs and two horses and the day-to-day work of running a business, Betsy and I are definitely busy and are definitely having fun.
Due in large part to Matt Moehle who was hired last spring as the property manager, the grounds of the farm we lease are dramatically improved. Matt has burned, mowed, chopped and fed and, as a result, there are twice as many wild coveys. The habitat is excellent for put-out covey survival, too. It is truly exciting to see such progress in just one season.
The English cocker Yoshi has been fun to train for flushing and retrieving. He is all puppy—happy, playful and earnest.
As Betsy wrote in “Training puppies on Georgia bobwhite quail” on January 16, we’ve been working a nice group of puppies. Three litters (two sired by Northwoods Grits to Houston’s Belle’s Choice and I’m Blue ; one by Blue Riptide x Carly Simon) are typical of our dogs—they hunt hard, point and back on their own by six months of age. Mercury, a handsome, strapping male by Parmigiano x Rum Rickey is developing more slowly but shows exciting potential. Our out-crossed puppies by Shadow Oak Bo and Chardonnay have a ton of point, naturally back and move with beautiful, easy gaits.
Also with us is a talented group of derbies (one-and-one-half-year-olds). Three pointers out of Elhew G Force x Vixen, NW Smooch, Audi and Jaguar, and the setter Rolls Royce (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice) are progressing extremely well. Most are steady to wing and shotgun and solid on backs, too. I’ve used them during guided hunts where there is lots of commotion—multiple people flushing and shooting, others watching, horses, mule wagons, jeeps and other dogs. Such experiences do much to make a bullet-proof dog.
During a training session on our farm, NW Smooch (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013) points with poise, style and intensity.
It’s been a fun experience to train Yoshi, an English cocker spaniel. Yoshi is a personable, energetic puppy and loves to flush and retrieve quail. I used him on a guided hunt and he did an admirable job.
Again this year I’ve been fortunate to be part of a client’s hunts on private plantations. These hunts are the real deal—all on wild quail—with hunters and dog handlers on horseback and a mule-drawn dog wagon. I’ve handled our client’s dogs and our dogs in braces with plantation dogs and it gives me an ideal comparison. I’m proud to report that all do very well and are only bested by a veteran pointer. Another testament to our dogs’ talent is that many handlers express interest in buying a puppy—even a setter puppy!
Ahniwake Grace (Northwoods Blue Ox x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2010) is used exclusively on private quail plantation hunts where she typically out-birds her bracemates.
Our star performers include:
• Jeter and Carly Simon (Shaquille x Choice)
• Ahniwake Grace (Blue Ox x Choice)
• Grits and Axel (Blue Ox x Chablis)
• Merrimac’s Blu Monday (Blue Ox x Houston’s Belle)
Another fun aspect of our winter has been hosting several clients from around the country. Betsy and I give them a tour of our place and, in the evening, invite them to some of our favorite restaurants in Thomasville.
Along the driveway leading to the heart of the Dixie Plantation in Greenville, Florida, a sign reminds everyone to be cautious during the running of the Continental All-Age Championship.
Finally, we rode (me on horseback and Betsy on the dog wagon) several half-days at the prestigious Continental Championship held on the Dixie Plantation.
Handler Luke Eisenhart prepares Houston’s Blackjack for his brace. Tracking collars are permitted but the receiver is held by the judges until after time.
Before the sun had cleared the tall pines early on a crisp Florida morning, CH Shadow Oak Bo was loaded into the dog wagon for his brace, second in the day’s running in the 2015 Continental Open All-Age Championship. He sat in the box, big brown eyes calmly observing all the commotion as the seventh day of the prestigious field trial got underway.
This was familiar territory for Bo. In 2011, he won this trial and in 2012 he was named runner-up champion. Bo also won back-to-back National Championships in 2013 and 2014.
While waiting in the dog box, CH Shadow Oak Bo serenely surveys the scene during a the morning’s running of the Continental All-Age Championship.
At 10:05 a.m., Robin Gates, Bo’s trainer and handler, placed the dog back in dog wagon but not before Bo had three bobwhite covey finds—two on masterful relocations. Gates commented, “He did a good job.”
The Continental Field Trial
The Continental Field Trial Club was formed in 1895 in Chicago so this year marked the 120th. In addition to the all-age competition, an open derby was held. The prestigious trial drew the best amateur and professional trainers/handlers in the country and not merely for bragging rights. The purses were substantial—$15,000 for the all-age champion and $6,000 for the derby winner.
The list of pros was impressive and included, besides Robin Gates and others, Hall-of-Famer Garland Priddy, 2012 top all-age handler Luke Eisenhart and Richie Robertson. Sean Derrig and Gary Lester, top amateurs, had dogs entered. Even Ferrel Miller, owner, trainer and handler of the famous Miller dogs, came to watch.
The entrance sign to the Dixie Plantation on Livingston Road, decorated with drawings of bobwhite quail, pretty much says it all: owned and managed by Tall Timbers and home of the Continental Field Trial.
The Dixie Plantation
The history of the Dixie Plantation is similar to other bobwhite quail plantations in the Red Hills Region, an area rich in natural resources in southwestern Georgia/northwestern Florida. In the early 1900s, wealthy businessmen and their families rode the train from their northern homes as far south as possible…and the tracks ended in Thomasville, Georgia.
Gerald Livingston was the son and heir of Cranston Livingston II, an investor in the Northern Pacific Railway. Livingston and his wife Eleanor lived in New York City where he ran the stock brokerage firm of Livinston & Co. In 1910, Livingston first traveled to the area on a hunting trip and later, in 1926, the couple purchased the first piece of property (7,500 acres) and named it the Dixie Plantation.
The lush cover on the Dixie Plantation can be thick with brambles, broom sedge, wire grass and other plants. The overhead canopy is live oaks draped with Spanish moss and longleaf or loblolly pines.
During the 1930s, Livingston bought additional property and the plantation increased to more than 18,000 acres and straddled the Florida/Georgia line.
The gallery is often large and can get spread out, especially when a dog is on point. Often a handler not in the brace will ride along and road his dogs.
The Continental and the Dixie
The tie between the Continental Field Trial Club and the Dixie Plantation goes back 78 years. Livingston had always been an avid sportsman, hunting with his pointers off horseback. When he was president of the Continental, he first hosted the trial at the Dixie in 1937.
After Livingston died in 1950, his heirs continued running the plantation and continued to host the Continental. In 2013, plantation ownership passed to Tall Timbers Research & Land Conservancy but Livingston’s legacy is still honored. Randy Floyd is President/Treasurer of the club and has run the trial for 18 years. He also works for Tall Timbers at the Dixie Plantation.
Water tanks are placed at strategic locations on the courses. They are of multiple use—horses drink, trial dogs are dunked before their brace and roading dogs plop in to drink and cool off.
The vast piney woods of the Dixie is a true challenge. To win, a dog needs to cover acres of lush, thick cover, show consistently and point multiple coveys of wild quail, all while the handler rides about 75 yards ahead of the judges and sings to his dog. Even the scout’s job is limited to riding to each side, ensuring that the dog isn’t passed by while on point.
The all-age circuit is dominated by pointer males and the Continental was no different. Of the 88 dogs entered, here’s the breakdown.
• pointer males: 66
• pointer females: 12
• setter males: 9
• setter females: 1
Of the many extraordinary champion dogs, Jerry and I were especially excited to see three. We, together with Paul Hauge, our partner in numerous dog ventures, bred Northwoods Chardonnay (owned by Paul) to frozen semen of Shadow Oak Bo. Chardonnay whelped eight and we have four puppies with us for the winter.
Scout Tommy Davis leads Houston’s Blackjack to the breakaway for his brace in the middle of a dry, sunny afternoon.
CH Houston’s Blackjack (CH Can’t Go Wrong x CH Houston’s Belle, 2008), again bred by Paul, Jerry and me, is now owned by Paul and campaigned on the all-age circuit by Luke Eisenhart. Jack ran in the middle brace on a dry, calm afternoon. At 35 minutes, he had the first find but was picked up because he moved about six inches on the flush. “The birds were right under him,” Luke remarked.
True Confidence, owned by Frank LaNasa and handled by Luke Eisenhart, is held by Luke’s scout, Tommy Davis, just prior to the breakaway.
CH True Confidence (call name Bob) is owned by good friend and partner in our North Dakota camp, Frank LaNasa. Bob is a multiple champion in prairie trials and this winter Frank placed Bob with Luke. On a brisk morning, Bob ran a strong forward race, had a nice limb find and an unproductive in a known covey location.
The Continental usually has a thrilling finish. The main running consists of one-hour braces which are really just qualifying heats. At the discretion of the judges, dogs are called back for one-hour and 50-minute finals. The extremely competent judges this year, Harold Ray and Doug Vaughn, named 12 dogs for the finals. As much as we rooted for “our” dogs—Bo, Jack and Bob—none was in the call back.
By the end of Saturday’s running, Luke’s pointer Erin’s Wild Justice, owned by Allen Linder, was named champion and Miller’s Dialing In, owned and handled by Gary Lester, was runner-up.
Congratulations to Luke, Allen, Gary and their champion dogs!