The first National Amateur Championship was held in Thomasville, NC, on January 14, 1918 and a bad weather delay reduced the starting field from 12 to seven. The winner was found in Fairy Beau, a blue belton and tan ticked setter dog, owned and handled by Harry D. Kirkover. Beau had 12 all-age placements to his credit at this point and he had also been a success on the bench. The 45 lb. “near Llewellin” notched 2 finds in the first series, one find in the second series and an all-age race to garner this first amateur title.
In the early years the Championship was held primarily in the southeast. By the mid ’50s it had been run in the following states: Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, and California. Through this time the number of AFTCA clubs grew to 46 by 1928, 74 by 1941, and there were 163 clubs by 1953. In the early years, the National Amateur Championship was the only chance for members to show their dogs in a championship trial. By the late ’30s the desire for opportunities to gain the title Champion by competing closer to home became the impetus for the formation of regional events.
This same growth evolved into new amateur championships contested on different upland game birds. It was necessary for the National Amateur Championship to become the National Amateur Quail Championship, as the scope of National Amateur Championships was expanded to pheasant, sharp-tailed grouse, woodcock, ruffed grouse, chucker and prairie chicken. These now included events for shooting dogs as well as all-age competitors.
Today the National Amateur Quail Championship enjoys the longest history in our sport. Presently, qualifications for competing are either placement in a one-hour, continuous course all-age trial or a first place placement in a 30-minute all-age event. The dog must be owned and handled by an amateur handler. Heats of one and one-half hour assure the quality of this historic and prestigious titular event. In 1959, past AFTCA President, Field Trial Hall of Fame member, and National Championship judge, Cecil S. Proctor spent months planning for what he described as the “greatest quail event in the history of the Association” (AFTCA) to be contested over Dixie Plantation. Since 2007, Dixie Plantation has hosted The National Amateur Quail Championship. Dixie, with its wild birds and history in the horseback field trial world is a fitting home for this glamorous competition.