78th Grand National Grouse Futurity
By Thor Kain
Sunday October 30th 2022 dawned cool and crisp in the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire. Grouse trial competitors’ amateur and pro had come from regions far and near to turn loose their top prospects in the Grand National Grouse Futurity. The year prior, a breeder planned a breeding to their female that they felt would produce winners and Champions on the grouse trial circuit. They then nominated the dam and later on the litter. The following January the owners then pay a forfeit to keep their pup eligible for the Futurity. Futurities are breeders stakes and the thought and hope that a litter has what it takes to produce winning Grouse trial dogs is put to the test each year at the running of the Grand National Grouse Futurity.
Judging the 78th running of the GNG Futurity was this reporter and I was accompanied by a capable and knowledgeable judging partner in Bill Ballin from Norwich, New York. After every brace our discussions were easy as we were always on the same page. Stake manager duties were handled by Rhode Island pro, John Stolgitis. John had the courses flowing nicely through cover while allowing for opportunities to show a dog. Speaking of the courses they were in great shape and on behalf of the competitors and the Grand National Grouse directors and members I would like to thank, Lloyd Murray, Tony Bly, John Stolgitis, Deb Kennedy, Russel Oglivie and many more who spent countless hours getting the famed Kilkenny grounds ready for not only the Futurity but also the Grand National Grouse Championship that follows the Futurity.
There were birds seen on every course and some had multiple seen and pointed on them. 4th place was Ralphy’s Chasehill Rip, bred by John Stolgitis, owned by Brian Ralph and handled by John Stolgitis. Rip ran in the final brace on the Beaverhole course. Usually a course full of birds it lacked them this day but with two minutes left to go in his half hour, Rip stopped to the left of the course on a rise and shortly after a grouse was seen leaving and handler fired, all with shooting dog manners. Rips runs with speed and style and a little bit of a slow start to his brace kept him from placing higher but the potential to go on and do great things is there and was on display. 3rd place went to Long Gone Juniper, bred owned and handled by none other than Lloyd Murray. Lloyd is known for a few things including being a diehard Red Sox fan and an equally loyal Democrat but the name Lloyd Murray is most known for setters and grouse hunting. I don’t think anyone spends more hours’ grouse hunting than Lloyd and his hunting partner Tony Bly and it’s hard to think of anyone more synonymous with the word Setter than Lloyd. His passion for setters and grouse is deep rooted and goes back to his grandfather. Juniper ran in the 1st brace and from the time she was cut loose it was obvious she knows there are wild birds out there and she knows where to look for them. At the halfway mark her bell stopped but she didn’t look sure. Lloyd tried whistling her on but she wasn’t budging se he decided to take a look. I followed him in and noted something moving in the heavy cover but couldn’t tell what it was. Lloyd flushed to no avail and before relocating I mentioned seeing something moving towards the fir trees on the way in. He relocated Juniper she shot forward towards the firs and shortly after a grouse was seen gliding out the back, Lloyd fired and the first find of the 78th Grouse Futurity was in the books. Juniper ran hard and continued on her quest for more birds. Two grouse flushed wildly at the top of the hill but no more would be handled by the dogs. Juniper finished her half hour hunting hard, a solid effort that earned her a spot on the podium. Earning the red ribbon was Ralphy’s Chasehill Molly owned by Brian Ralph, bred and handled by John Stolgitis. She ran with speed and style from the breakaway and hit the cover hard. At the 10-minute mark we hadn’t heard her bell in a minute or two. John dispatched Brian to scout to the right of the course and decided to take a look himself. We found Molly standing high and tight and John flushed a tight sitting woodcock with Molly maintaining perfect manners. She really turned it up another gear after her find with big sweeping casts covering whole hillsides and showing way to the front. She finished strong and had both myself and fellow Judge Bill Ballin happy to have witnessed such a strong derby performance. Chasehill Wicked Wilma was the winner of the 78th running of this Futurity and rightfully so. To say she dominated the stake and set herself far and above the rest of the field would not be an overstatement. She is proudly owned by Harley McClung and bred and handled by John Stolgitis. She ran a true all out race with tail cracking hard as she cast to the far depths of the course. She was not seen or heard from around the 15-minute mark in the general area that Juniper had her find earlier in the stake. It took a few minutes of looking to locate her buried in the fir trees and a grouse was put to wing, shot fired, Wilma having perfect manners. She too hit another gear and was hammering to the front as we went up the big hill. When the course turned right she faded to the front no doubt headed towards the other handler and dog. We did our best to catch up and eventually did so at time. Judge Ballin commented that she came charging to the front and was ROLLING! It was no doubt that she was the winner. North Country Soda Pop and Chasehill Wango Tango were closest to the winners. Soda Pop is owned by Nick and Emily Hamel, bred by Lance Bressler and trained/handled by New Hamphire pro Adam Dubriske. She’s got speed and style and had an accurately located woodcock find during her run. Wango Tango is owned by Allen Raino and bred/ handled by John Stolgitis. His ground effort was strong and had he came up with a bird he’d have been in the ribbons.
As highlighted earlier a Futurity is a breeder’s stake. First, Second and Fourth place were all out of the same breeding of Panola Bacon to Chasehill Little Izzy. This is a repeat breeding with several from the first litter already titled. Both sire and dam are Champions grouse dogs as are their parents and so on. John started his line with multiple time Champion Beaver Meadow Benjamin who sired the most famous dog in his line, Chasehill Little Bud and kept it going through Daddys Little Boy Butch and now Bacon and Izzy. The number of championships this line has amassed on wild birds is staggering. It further highlights the importance of Futurities and the breeding’s enrolled in them bettering the breed. It looks like the Chasehill line is still going to be a force to reckon with in the future as this crop of derbies moves up.
Many thanks are due to Nestle Purina and our rep Greg Blair for their generous support of all Grand National Grouse events. From paying for ads to supplying food to the winners they go the extra mile to help our sport. As mentioned earlier John Stolgitis handled stake manager duties and we thank him for that. Joe Cammisa, Norm Meeder and Dave Duell were on hand to offer a hand anywhere it was needed. The three of them traveled from Pennsylvania together. None of the three are exactly spring chickens but it was noted that they seemed as they were sixteen and on their first road trip, in a good, having the time of their lives way. As Futurity secretary I would like to remind everyone to please nominate litters and support the Grouse Futurity. Hope to see everyone at the Puppy Classic this spring.