2020 National Amateur Grouse Championship





This year’s National Amateur Grouse Champion came out of the 11 brace. Little Miss Bella, owned and handled by Tim Cavanaugh was paired with Grouse Hill Pepper (Capocci) on Moosehorn. Moosehorn is a tough course for dogs. Not only is it thick making it hard to find dogs, it is has some twist and turns that give both handlers and dogs fits. These two pointers not only had these every day challenges to deal with but also they ran in the heat of the day. Bella and Annie were cut loose and they headed out hard. Both dogs returned shortly and dove back into the cover. Bella would be the first to strike. Her Bell fell silent to the left of the course. The cover being so thick, both the handler and scout went to search. As Tim looked for Bella, a grouse blew out. Soon after, the rest of the brood took flight. Bella was then found standing rock solid. Sometimes birds taking flight is the only way to find a dog on point. With the echo of his blank gun, his first find was in the books and it was a good one. Bella was taken back to the course as Pepper hunted forward. As Bella was sent on, Pepper’s Bell fell silent to the left of the course. As with Bella, trying to find Pepper was a task. The grouse took flight and still it took some minutes to find Pepper standing. As this was all playing out, Bella worked herself out to the front and settled into a forward searching pattern. Her bell fell silent just to the left of the course at 23:00. She looked confident standing underneath the spruce tree. However, Cavanaugh could not produce a bird for her. Cavanaugh decided not to relocate and took her on. Just around the corner, her bell fell silent again. She was tucked underneath some whips, and when the handler and judge worked too her, a grouse erupted out from under their feet and Bella’s second find was recorded at 26:00. Again Bella was returned to the course and forward they went. With over 30 minutes left in the brace, the little liver and white pointer charged forward and busted through the cover. As she went, Pepper made her way forward and caught up to the front. Both dogs fought the heat. Bella responding to her handler when the need arouse which wasn’t often. This pattern and drive continued on until Bella dove down to the left of the course and her bell abruptly stopped at 48:00. As the handler and judged worked toward the dog, a grouse busted out of the cover. While this was going on, Pepper made her way in and unfortunately her day was over after she failed to back. Bella stood solid through this. With the rest of the course to herself, Bella continued forward like she started, strong and with purpose. When time was called, smiles covered the judges and the handlers’ face as they knew a performance had been laid down which would be hard to beat. Impressive job since she has had limited exposure to wild birds, especially grouse. Bella also has the honor of being the 2019 Region #1 Amateur Champion.

The runner up came out of the 17th brace, the last brace of the trial. Rock Solid Romeo (Dix) was scratched early so Grouse Hill Annie (Capocci) had Moosehorn all to herself. Annie took off in style. She glided through the cover in the heat of the day. She worked her way through the right side of the course moving forward. Annie responding to her handler did not need a brace mate to keep her driving forward, she has just one speed and that was full throttle. Capocci took her across the stream and was headed to the barrens when her bell fell silent at 34:00. Annie was found standing but Capocci could not produce a bird. However, on his return to Annie, grouse feathers was located right under her nose. Annie was returned to course and cut loose. She raced forward to the edge of her bell where it fell silent deep to the left at 46:00. With judges in tow, Capocci proceeded on a long search. As he moved up a ravine, a grouse roared out followed by a second. Feeling his dog was close he moved up finding Annie standing like a statue buried in the ferns. Just as he reached her, a third grouse thundered out and the report of the blank gun sealed the deal. Capocci took Annie to the course and cut her loose one last time. When time was called, she was reaching out and running like it wasn’t the hottest day of the trial. This is Annie’s second runner up placement as she took the same honors in the 2019 Northeastern Grouse & Woodcock Championship.

It’s had been quite some time since the National Amateur Grouse Championship was held in New England. A thank you to the New England Bird Dog Club and Tim Kisileski for making this happen. With everything going on in this world, they got much needed support from Lloyd Murray and the Northern New Hampshire Bird Dog Club. Without the availability of the Kilkenny, this championship may not have occurred. The New England Bird Dog Club would like to thank a number of people and companies. A thanks goes out to Purina and Greg Blair for supporting our sport and producing such a quality product. A thank you goes out to Garmin for providing the gifts for this year’s champions. Quality gear that stands up to the test. If it wasn’t for the AFTCA and people such as Piper Huffman, opportunities like this would not exist. With all trials, especially one of this caliber, it takes judges that can handle the walk and knows what it takes to be named a champion in the woods. Bill Bonnetti and Adam Dubriske where up to the task and their effort were more than appreciated. Finally, the New England Bird Dog Club would like to thank all the amateur owners and handler for making this championship possible. We had a strong field of 34 dogs that made the judge’s job difficult.



Day 1

Brace #1 kicked off at Lonesome Ridge. Stokely’s B Ricky (Murray) and Wild Apple White Lighting (Kisieleski) took off out of the gate. Unfortunately is was an hour of exercise as not a bird was seen.

Brace #2 Mooselook Mac (McNulty) and Islander (Kazic) broke away hard up the trail. Islander shot forward. A grouse was seen at 3:00 and Mac had stopped before moving on. Jesse would not let moss grow under his feet as he stayed at the edge of bell. Mac stopped one more time at 28:00 and moved on when handler went to look for him. 3 Grouse were seen.

Brace #3 Rock Solid Tucker (Dix) and Zuke’s Rambling Man (Zukovich) had the first go at Golden Rod. Both dogs ran well. Tucker being a little wider and needing a little coaching around the course. Zuks bell fell silent at 26:00. Zuks was found standing in the open hardwoods. A grouse lifted, then a second, then a third as the handler approached. A fourth bird lifted and landed on a branch right in front of the dog and the first official find of the trial was in the books. Both dogs got back together headed forward. Tucker’s bell stopped at 58:00 with Zuks backing. Dix made his way to his dog and while he was flushing, Zuks decided to help and left his back which ended his day. Dix would end up trying a relocation but nothing was produced.

Brace #4 Wild Apple Spot On (Kisieleski) and Hog Hill Kissame Ace (Cavanaugh) headed out on Pancake. Both dogs ran well. Ace had a stop 18:00 but moved on as he was searched for. Spot had a similar situation where he stopped at 26:00 but moved on while he was searched for. 3 Grouse seen

Brace #5 Springbrook Sweet T (Ogilvie) and All On (Capocci) headed out into the thick cover of Moosehorn. Trixie had stop at 16:00 with T coming in for a back. Capocci not liking her style took her on and T was sent on. Trixie would stop at 29:00 where after a long search, a grouse was produced. T had a moderate race with Trixie finishing well.

Brace #6 Long Gone Dequan (Murray) and Stokely B Jack (Leitch) Quan and Jack ran hard in the warm afternoon on Ammonusuc but nothing was pointed or seen.

Day 2

Brace #7 Ruff Grouse Lilly (Christopher) and Rock Solid Casey (Dix) started off the day. The cool morning indicated that summer was coming to a close. While birds have been hard to point on this course, it sure is a course that a handler can show a dog. The dogs floated through the course as their bells rang out. Lilly had a great race going. Always showing to the front and needed little handling as usual. Unfortunately, she was unable to get a bird point. Casey almost got her opportunity but a pair of grouse lifted just to the right of the course right before she got there. One other grouse was seen.

Brace #8 Chasehill Little Thudd (Kisieleski) Lighting Flash Dude (Arkley) hit the hardwoods. Strong races but neither dog could get either of the 2 grouse that were seen pointed.

Brace #9 Long Gone Porky (Murray) Zuke’s Cappeletti (Zukovich) broke away strong. Porky went right to work as he stopped at 8:00 just as the course goes back into the woods. Murray flushed and as the gallery moved up, the second judge and gallery witnessed a brood of grouse leaving the scene. Porky was taken back to the trail where he quickly went back work. Porky wheeled around at 12:00 and Murray sent a single grouse thundering away. At this point Cap was getting a wide and was headed to the swamp. Murray would have another stop at 33:00 to the left of the course. Murray could not produce a bird so he moved Porky on and then quickly had a stop to flush on a woodcock which only the judge had seen. Porky would finish the brace but faded some in the heat. Zukovich had to call for the tracker.

Brace #10 Brae Val Bearcat Laddie (McClusky) and Paucek’s Little Tommy Tucker (Short) were cut loose. Both dogs ran well. Laddie ran big and covered a lot of ground. Tucker had a shorter race but covered plenty of ground as well. Tucker would stop at 11:00 but nothing was home. No birds were seen on this brace.

Brace #11 Previously Mentioned

Brace #12 Blue Creek Pearl (Raiano) and Stokely B Phoebe (Leitch) ended day 2. Pearl seemed to have stopped early and was searched for a long time. Pearl started up and went forward. Phoebe didn’t have her legs on this day and was picked up. Pearl continued through the course moving nicely in the heavy cover. She stopped at 54:00 and had a pair of grouse walking in front of her. These birds wouldn’t take flight and finally Pearl gave in and moved up ending her bid.

Day 3

Brace #13 Ralphies Reclaimed (Ralph) and Wild Apple Hard Cider (Kisieleski) opened the day. Cider started of slow but opened up and ran a smooth forward race. Ryder had a consistent race but nothing was pointed or even seen.

Brace #14 Springbrook Maximus (Ogilvie) Stoke’s Willie B (Murray) were turned loose. Max was a little short in the beginning before settling in to a nice forward pattern. Willie worked down low and deep. At 28:00 Max cut down to the right and had a hard stop. He was found looking good and in a likely spot but nothing could be produced. Ogilvie tried a relocation without any success. Back on course, Willie was found standing on the course and point was called. Murray sent him on. At 46:00 Max swung to the left and stopped. He didn’t look completely sure so he was sent on. Max ran up into the hardwoods wheeled and locked up. Ogilvie went forward and flushed out in front. As he swung back to Max a grouse lifted, followed by two more. Ogilvie fired with all in order. Both dogs headed forward and when time was called, Max was running strong and forward. 4 grouse seen

Brace #15 Wild Apple Polka Dot (Kisieleski) and Tilden Pond Sam (Townsend) started out quickly. Sam had a stop to the left of the course at 4:00. Townsend could not produce a bird. Dotty stopped at 8:00. Kisieleski produced a brood of 4 grouse with all in order. Dotty went right back to work to the right of the course at 10:00 with a nice find on a brood of 6 grouse. To finish it off, Dotty stopped again at 12:00 with a single grouse out in front of her. After all the smoke cleared, both dogs moved forward. Sam ran well but couldn’t dig anything up. Dotty continued to hunt but faded a little.

Brace #16 Long Gone Juicy (Murray) and Wild Apple Calvados (Kisieleski) both went well. Juju running a larger race. Juju had a stop at 31:00 with Brandy honoring. Murray sent her on but nothing could be pinned down. Both dogs finished without any bird work and nothing was seen.

Brace #17 Previously Mentioned