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2019 NGSPA Nationals - Amateur Shooting Dog

By Alan Davison
Thursday, April 4th 2019
It all started on Thursday March 28 when I met Keith Bryant at his rig to load up and head to Grovesprings, MO. Earlier in the day he and his wife, Cathy, learned that she had beaten cancer so the trip was starting on the highest of highs!!! Once we had everything loaded - horses, dogs, and gear - we were on our way eastward. We departed at 1:00pm that afternoon and after an uneventful trip pulled into the Sportsmen's Association Field Trial Grounds outside of Grovesprings, MO around 3:00am the following morning. Once we had the animals aired out and tended to we were able to get a few hours of sleep before we were back at it.
Friday morning we were finally able to lay eyes on the new home for the NGSPA National Championships and boy did we like what we were seeing! The Championship Committee did an excellent job getting everything set up and ready to go. This included a large party tent to help supplement the clubhouse, as well as all the other incidentals that make for a quality championship. Later in the afternoon a number of amateur handlers were anxious to finally get a look at the grounds so Michael Patrick gave us a quick ride around the 3 courses and helped us understand the general course layout. The Amateur Championship is the first stake to run and would be the first time that most of the handlers would see these grounds. We had heard a lot of positive comments about the grounds and we were not disappointed. There are 3 courses that include massive cultivated fields with distinctive edges that sometimes included a narrow band of feed strip to keep birds. Included along the edges of these fields are available offshoots where dogs could explore for birds or perhaps enter to their detriment. Outside of these fields are wooded areas. There are also uncultivated, or perhaps fallow fields with natural over-growth that added a bit more depth to the running. Additionally, there are numerous elevation changes to challenge dog, horse, and handler.
Friday's evening festivities included the drawing of the National Amateur Shooting Dog Championship. Sixty of the best German Shorthaired Pointers in the country were drawn. At 2 dogs per brace, an hour running per brace and 6 braces being run each day the Amateur would last for 5 days. The stake manager, Dan DiMambro announced that the 1st brace would breakaway at 8:00am sharp and that 3 braces would run each morning and 3 each afternoon, no more no less. And good luck to all!
Saturday started as advertised, 8:00am sharp the first brace was cast off and the Amateur Championship had started. With the best dogs available we were quickly introduced to the courses and observed how the dogs were going to handle them. Some did well and others struggled. Without going into a blow by blow for each brace I will simply advance to the 16th brace where Tripp and his fellow kennel mate, Tex, were braced together. Yes, that's right, Keith and I traveled all the way from Colorado together and out of all the possibilities we got braced together. Really, what are the odds?
We found ourselves braced in the first brace after Monday's lunch. The stake started well for both of us with each dog making large casts, figuring out the grounds and how they should be attacked. At approximately 8 minutes Tripp had his first find to the front at about 300 yards on a small covey of quail. He handled them nicely and we proceeded on. At about this time Keith lost contact with his dog but kept moving forward in hopes that Tex had moved to the front. Unfortunately, after riding for an additional few minutes it became readily apparent that Tex had not gone forward and Keith asked for the GPS tracking system. Tex was officially out of competition.
Tripp and I continued our pursuit of the ever elusive quail that were available to us. He made some tremendous casts to the front disappearing at times only to show himself further forward right where you would expect him to be. When appropriate he was gathered up to move through some thick areas on the course only to breakout and move aggressive forward. Right up until he didn't, get gathered up that is. Like many old-time field trial grounds, a lot of the areas have names - Sycamore Bottom, Island Field, etc. Unbeknownst to us we were coming up on Vacuum Hollow which is just this side of the creek before you enter the Island Field. I say unbeknownst because had I known I would have handled things a lot differently. Tripp was concluding a beautiful rimming of a field to our left, came out of it to the front of me and proceeded to shoot forward into this narrow draw paralleling the creek I spoke of earlier. Just as he bounded out of sight I overheard the judge say cautiously "I wouldn't let the dog go up there." I quickly moved forward giving my scout the room he needed to try to catch up to Tripp and bring him back but it was quickly apparent that it was too late.
After what seemed like a very long time and was quickly confirmed by the judging panel, Tripp had been gone his allotted time and coupling that with the knowledge of our on-site Handler's Marshall, Andy Daugherty, few if any dogs had been recovered once heading into Vacuum Hollow. Apparently, they take this nasty draw clear to the end and it drops them out onto an occasionally used dirt road. Once I had my GPS in hand and it linked to the collar the dirt road is exactly where he was found. All in all, 30 minutes on the ground with a very nice forward race, hitting all the likely bird cover and having one nice find, not too bad for a dog just under 3 years of age.
So, no success at the inaugural running of the NGSPA National Amateur Shooting Dog Championship; heading home with our tails tucked but our heads held high. With very little discussion Keith and I thought it wise to head out first thing Tuesday morning, making the 12 plus hour journey back to Colorado. We made it home safely with the realization that we both had dogs running in the NGSPA National Open Shooting Dog Championship and with a little luck and the culmination of hard work perhaps one or both of them would prevail.
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