Having spent the better part of the winter in southwest Georgia, I can happily say I did not bear witness to one of the worst winters in memory in the northeastern part of the country. Hit particularly hard was the mid-coast area of Maine with record amounts of snow. And so for a second time, the Mid-Coast Maine Field Trial Club’s popular spring wild bird trial due to run in mid April had to be canceled.
We held our second scheduled trial on the weekend of May 16 and 17 in Prospect, Maine and were blessed with two gorgeous spring days. This was a great improvement over last year’s one-day washout where it poured for the better part of Saturday’s running. Club members and trial attendees met up on the mountain, where there is just enough room for all the trucks, places to stake out dogs between granite boulders, and lunch tables and chairs. Quite a few years ago, we determined the most efficient way to run the trial was to lay the courses out to spill down the mountain through native grouse and woodcock cover, cross the bridge over the brook at the bottom of the hill, then run alongside the brook, enter into a section of denser woods and then head back out along the brook where dogs have the opportunity to show a good finish. The shorter Puppy and Gundog Challenge courses take a somewhat different route midway down. Judges, handlers, marshal and gallery are met and transported by truck back up the mountain to the starting point for the next brace. This makes it much easier on everyone, especially those judging, preventing them from having to climb up and down hills many times over in the two days. There are several small creeks that cross the course so even on hot days there is plenty of water for the dogs to cool off. We couldn’t have a prettier spot for our trial thanks to member Al Robbins who has done a tremendous job maintaining his property that we have used for the trial this past fourteen years. Most of us remember what the grounds were like when the club was first established with makeshift bridges often washing out during spring rains. It was a far cry from how beautifully groomed it is today.
Saturday began with the Open Puppy stake with a good number of entries. Bob Little’s pretty female pointer, Cairds Little Macy Mae took first place honors followed by Craig Doherty’s Wild Apple Spot and Russell Ogilvy’s Spring Brook Maximus; all three showing lots of potential. The Open Shooting Dog was won by Chris Mathan’s Pal’s Kitty Hawk with a well-executed, forward race requiring little handling. Kit, R-U in the International Amateur Woodcock Championship last fall, had five well-located finds, one far-flung on a woodcock showing off her attractive style on point. Second place went to Mike Flewelling’s male pointer Gaurdian also with multiple finds, showing excellent manners and rendering a mature and solid race. Third went to Steve Forrest’s first year female pointer, Wynot Whitney that had a strong showing as a derby last season and will no doubt do more winning. Littermates to Whitney, Al Robbins’ Wynot Atom and Craig Doherty’s Wild Apple Sam placed first and second in the Open Derby with Craig’s Wild Apple Spot in line for third. All these dogs showed the maturity looked for in a spring derby, no doubt, in part due to the fact that all three were hunted over last fall. The shooting dogs and derbies pointed good numbers of birds on Saturday with excellent scenting conditions. The quail were as good as I can ever remember seeing. They flushed like rockets and disappeared over the treetops.
Sunday brought somewhat warmer temperatures and for that reason as well as the increased humidity, the scenting conditions deteriorated towards the middle of the day. We could hear the birds calling but far few were pointed even by seasoned dogs known to be great bird finders. The morning began, as is customary at our spring quail trial, with the non-sanctioned Gundog Challenge. The Open Shooting Dog followed with Russell Ogilvy’s always-competitive female Woodcock Haven Stella taking first place with a fast and exciting race, scouring the course for which she was well rewarded. Her manners on game was exemplary. Following in the second brace, came the second and third place winners. Chris Mathan’s Pal’s Sea Pearl, only days from her eleventh birthday, and Mike Flewelling’s renown bird-finder… rarely out of the winner’s circle, Chasehill Ben Franklin. They lost no time getting right to work, neither requiring much help as they swept the grounds far to the front with Pearl to the extreme. Just as time and course were running out, both bells were heard to stop in the heavier timber. Pearl was soon seen nicely backing Franklin who was pointing into an ugly blow-down. Pearl was shortly moved on, followed by Franklin. Almost immediately, both dogs were stopped again, a divided find with a bird quickly put to flight and twin guns ringing out. Wynot Atom, with a mature, hard-hunting and attractive ground race, punctuated by one late find took first place honors again with littermate Wild Apple Sam doing likewise for second place in the Open Derby. These are very consistent dogs from a litter sired by Craig Doherty’s multiple grouse champion Wild Apple Jack. Third place went to Mike Flewelling’s Sunkhaze Pistol Pete who showed us that there were indeed more birds to be found.
Several other dogs on both days did commendable jobs, had clean birdwork and could easily have placed on another day. Nearly everyone at our spring trial competes in grouse and woodcock championships throughout New England, the Maritimes and further afield.
The Gundog Challenge, in its eleventh year was, as always, well attended. Most of the competitors have run their dogs here on several other occasions and have improved remarkably in their confidence and handling skills. Club member Pat Forrest did an excellent job handling a dog for the first time in this stake. The club is very proud of its continued success and congratulates the winners.
Mid-Coast Maine club members all chip in to make this trial a great success and a lot of fun year after year. It’s always enjoyable to see everyone after a long winter. A special shout-out goes to Nick Kingsbury and his dad, Mark for the many years they have been putting birds out. We never see or hear them come or go and the birds are pointed way off the course path as it should be. Thanks to those who judged — Joe Dahl, Steve Forrest, Al Robbins, Craig Doherty, Russell Ogilvy, Lanny Dellenger, Mike Flewelling, Jeff Mahaney, Al Ladd and Chris Mathan, those who marshaled, transported everyone up the hill, and brought coffee and donuts (with no pink bits). Thanks to Steve Forrest and Pat for helping with secretary duties. Thanks especially to those who came from afar to support our trial. Long-time friends, Frank Joyal and Paul Fuhrman drove all the way from Vermont and Western Massachusetts, the Dellengers came up from Rhode Island and Bob Little came down from New Brunswick. Saturday evening’s potluck supper was delicious, with lots of homemade goodies. Our spring quail trial awards ribbons only. The money saved allows us to offer free lunch, supper and refreshments at all our trials. We look forward to seeing everyone again this fall at the Northeastern Grouse & Woodcock Championship.