With great anticipation, handlers, owners and spectators eagerly awaited the arrival of March 28, 2017, the beginning of the National Bird Hunters Association Futurity, Jerry Kilgore Puppy Classic and Open Invitational / Breeders Championship. This year’s site was Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park, better known as Rend Lake Recreational Area by local and regional field trialers, between Benton and Sesser, Illinois.

The entries were overwhelming, attracting more dogs to this event than have been in attendance in over twenty years. The weather was very corporative, only losing one afternoon due to threats of thunderstorms and potential heavy rains. However, the forecast was inaccurate, but for the safety of participants and their animals one afternoon was scratched. Temperatures were pleasant with lows in the upper thirties and high in the lower seventies with cloud cover scattered on a few days.

Again, the overwhelming support our NBHA family provided during this event was shocking to Co-Directors; Brian Casey and Bruce Mercer. Never did we expect the support in entries as were received in each of the stakes. Over the past few years the entries in the Futurity stake suffered, attracting between eleven and fourteen dogs. This year, thirty-one dogs were released and the competition was fierce. The Jerry Kilgore Puppy Classic attracted twenty-four entries, ten to twelve dogs greater than past years, and the Open Invitational / Breeders Championship flourished with thirty-seven entries. A whopping ninety-two dogs competed in this year’s event, making it the largest NBHA event of the season.

Without sponsors it is difficult for any field trial to flourish during our current economic state. We want to thank our National sponsors who support NBHA each and every trial. Purina, Garmin, Gun Dog Supply, Gundog Central and Christie Enterprises go above and beyond to provide product, gift certificates and financial support to the NBHA organization. We can’t begin to thank each of you enough for contributions throughout the year. Additional sponsors have partnered with NBHA Futurity allowing greater prize structure, reduction in cost of litter nominating fees and one of a kind owner cash payback. There are; Carpenter Kennels, Cooler Cups; Customs, Erin’s Kennels, Gary Vitali Kennels, Indian Creek Kennels, Ladywood Kennels, McKinney’s Western Store, Mike Reeves, Premier Kennels, Rhett Kermicle Kennels, Santee River Kennels, Shawn Kinkelaar, Steve Tait Art, Summerhill Kennels, Western’s Smokehouse, Whitt Kennels and Wright Kennels. Thank you for being generous and supporting our vision.

We want to recognize our breeders who make the Futurity possible. Your support by nominating litters into the NBHA Futurity assures continued development and enhancement to the Futurity program. Breeders supporting the 31 st NBHA Futurity and 29 th Jerry Kilgore Classic are: Marty Robinson, Sean Derrig, Bobby Phillips, Jim Duncan, Allen Huffman, Justin Crook, Dan Crunk, Dan Hendrickson, Bruce Mercer, Brian Casey, John Ruetschi, Ed Alfaro, Zack Hilton, Mike Click, Tom Waite, Garry Malzone, Chris Munn, Gerald Swaynn, Dr. William Wright, Larry Carpenter, Mark Kohlberg, Matthew Phillips, Chris Ogle, Larry Hedge, Frank Llano, David Kennedy, Tim Penn, Robert Wilson, Charles Kenny, G.C. Trout, Bobby Taylor, Jim Humphrey, Stanley McCain, Debra Dlobik, Lisa Mitchell, Tim Kelly, James Howerton, Greg Isenberg, Joe Barton, Chris Catanzarite, Steve Morgan, Mike McKinney, Earl Drew, Tony King, JD Irvine, Maurice Lindley, James Caldwell, Shaun Rydl, H Charles Maxson, Ralph Niemeyer, Rowdy Harris, Don Heisner, Tim Callahan and Tony Crow. Breeders were represented from nineteen different states.

A special thank you goes out to the owners and handlers for supporting the Futurity and the modified format and participation incentive created this year. Making this trial the largest NBHA trial of the season is an accomplishment achieved by you and your efforts to be a part of a worthy cause. The owners are; Bobby Phillips, Bruce Mercer, Tony Drake, David Emert, Mike Luebke, Tony Crow, Dr. William Wright, Jeff Hainline, Tom Waite, Daniel Bridgewater, Don Heisner, Dean Reinke, Cathy Lewis, Ralph Niemeyer, Rowdy Harris, Bill Osborne, Greg Blair, Chris Ogle, Jack Glover, Danny Althiser, Chris Munn, Zack Hilton, Butch Spelbring, John Avanzato, Ed Marron Jr, Gene Stevens, Bobby Taylor, Stanley McCain, Joe Dahl, Chris Gebhart, Tim Kelley, Steven Heenan, Derba Dlobik, Jake Olszewski, Lisa Mitchell, Randy Zimmer, Burl Hicks, Brian Casey, Ed Afaro, Jullian Stuhr, John Olfson, Ron Levitan, John Dlobik, Ken Jacobsen, Mike Roper, Ken Black, Fran Brown, Marty Robinson, Joe Faggiola, Dave Matthews, Kevin Klein, Tim Penn, Pete LaBella and John Bleeker. The Handlers were; Bobby Phillips, Oscar Whitt, Tom Waite, David Emert, Mike Luebke, Justin Crook, Dr. William Wright, Jeff Hainline, Don Heisner, Ralph Niemeyer, Steven Heenan, Tom Woods. Chris Ogle, Jack Glover, Danny Althiser, Bob Little, Zack Hilton, Butch Spelbring, Garry Malzone, Bobby Taylor, Joe Dahl, Randy Zimmer, Brian Casey, Mike Roper, Ken Black, and Tim Penn.

Thursday evening kicked off a night full of excitement as we held the Futurity dinner in honor of last years Futurity winner, Jeff Hainline and Hainline’s Silver Star. Jeff was presented with a custom framed oil painting of Star and was accompanied by trainer Rhett Kermicle. The evening began with an overwhelming amount of raffle items, silent auction, live auction, followed by a delicious meal. The intent is to not only host a great trial, but to turn the entire stay into an event you can’t afford to miss. Some of the donated items for auction were a half day hunt at Indian Creek Hunting Preserve, donated by Garry Malzone; stud puppies from; Premier Kennels, donated by Bruce Mercer; Santee River Kennels, donated by Mike McKinney and Doyle Hardison and Carpenter Kennels, donated by Larry Carpenter; Stud fee’s to; 2016-2017 Purina Top Shooting Dog, Chelsea’s Thunderbolt, and CH Sinbad Bear, donated by Shawn Kinkelaar; Pine Straw Blackhawk donated by Mike Reeves; Touch’s Knight Rider or House’s Ring of Fire or Touch’s Smooth Rider donated by Keith Wright. There were participants who did not have dogs to run, that came just for the auction items and left with respectively priced items. The judicial team of highly qualified gentlemen included Jim Crouse of Dixon, KY and Keith Lowry of Altamont, IL. Together Jim and Keith bring a resume full of accolades for judging the elite in horseback and walking field trials. Their decisions are well respected nationwide, their dedication is unmatched. We are honored to have their opinion presiding over the field. Jim and Keith collaborated during the Futurity and Championship stakes. In order to create a well-deserved break between the Futurity and Championship, we commissioned two more expert judges to preside over the running of the Jerry Kilgore Puppy classic. Veteran, Bobby Taylor from Windfield Alabama and Zack Hilton, from Effingham Illinois gave their undivided attention to twenty-four, very promising, up and coming field trial competitors. Both judges indicated choosing only four placements out of twenty four entries required lengthy conversations, hair splitting and picking those, who on this day outshined others by the slightest margins.

Representation in the Jerry Kilgore Puppy Classic was attended by fifteen different handlers from sever different states. The difficult decision awarded by the judges awarded veteran handler, Bobby Phillips from Jonesborough, Tennessee winner of the Puppy Classic. Bobby handled Bob’s Miller Gail, English Pointer female, acquired from Earl and Margaret Drew to a forward, very animated race with snappy responsive casts. Gail is very eye appealing with speed to burn. Gail is sired by CH Dunn’s Tried N True, and her dam is Moonlite Magic. Second place went to Beaucoup Creek Buck, a super fancy English Setter male, handled and bred by Don Heisner of Pinckneyville, Illinois. Buck is a product of National Champion, Shadow Oak Bo and Beaucoup Creek Ellie. Buck displayed a forward race with amazing style, always in the cone. Buck was credited with two finds, had a good connection with his handler and responded when asked. Third place was awarded to southern gentleman, Dave Emert from Greer South Carolina, handling Emert’s Sho Me Mo. Mo is a beautiful English Setter male bred by Larry Carpenter who’s sire is Brannigan’s Last Straw, and dam is Hytest Horizon. Mo is a very classy, hard driving dog with amazing handle. Displaying his training, Mo was credited with a high-styling back. Mo seemed to never get out of pocket and was always forward. Fourth place was awarded to Justin Crook who handled Sky Hawk’s Diamond Duke. Duke is a English Setter male bred by David Kennedy, who’s sire is Hytest Palladin and dam is Sky Hawk’s Blues Traveler. Duke had a forward race, responded to handler when called upon, and had a strong finish.

The highly contested Futurity called thirty-one, of NBHA’s top derbies into a head to head competition with only four available placements. The initial series consisted of a thirty minute qualifying series, and a one-hour final series. The judges narrowed the field to eight of the best for the final series. They were; 1st brace: Magic Mist Sydni, handled by Joe Dahl, braced with Premier’s Ultra, handled by Oscar Whitt; 2nd brace was Indian Creek Lefty, handled by Garry Malzone, braced with RZ ZuZu, handled by Randy Zimmer; 3rd brace was Wild Apple Pippin, handled by Bob Little, braced with Flat Woods Iron Lady, handled by Oscar Whitt; 4th brace was Indian Creek Kitty, handled by Garry Malzone, braced with Dale Creek Bail Money, handled by Tom Waite. Two dogs that did not place were very impressive during their bid, but had a severe enough breech of manors that ended each of their bids. They were Indian Creek Lefty, handled by Garry Malzone, and flat Woods Iron Lady, handled by Oscar Whitt. Both dogs are exceptional and will be heard of in years to come.

The winner of the 31st NBHA Futurity is…Wild Apple Pippen, handled by Canadian professional, Bob Little. Pippen is an amazing bird finder who always goes to the birdy locations. His manors on game are very polished. Pippen displayed a strong front running ability, reaching cast after cast. He was scouted very little and handles when called upon. Pippin’s score sheet reads; an unproductive at 11, finds at 20, 28, 36, 41, 48 and 55. He finished going away with plenty left in the tank. A job well done. Second place went to RZ ZuZu handled by Randy Zimmer. ZuZu and Randy are very much in touch with each other. At any time, Randy could call ZuZu off a cast to have him swing to the front. Zuzu is very animated, very fast and a great bird finder. ZuZu’s score sheet reads; backs at 4, 10, and 53; Finds at 17, 29 and 58. ZuZu suffered an unproductive at 22 in a location known for having birds. Randy continues to stay in the winning circle with ZuZu as he placed in the Jerry Kilgore Puppy Classic just a year ago. Third place went to Magic Mist Sydni, a super fancy English Setter female handled by Joe Dahl. Sydni had a minor breech of manors that prevented her from placing higher in the stake, but not enough to remove her from competition in a derby stake. Sydni is very animated, swings to the front with ease and ends one cast with the beginning of another. Sydni has an uncanny way of finding game. Sydni’s score card reads; finds at 24, 29, 41 and 59. A breech of manors at 45 and a divided find at 52. Fourth place went to Premier’s Ultra, handled by Oscar Whitt. Ultra is snappy, very fast, and very animated. She was a bit sticky during certain parts of the course, but made big casts in an independent fashion. Ultra’s score card reads; a find at 22 that put her behind for part of the brace; backs at 41 and 59 and a divided find at 52.

The championship brought out the veterans of the field trial game. Experienced dogs and handlers familiar with one-hour, high profile stakes battled brace after brace to the bitter end. Judges Crouse and Lowry narrowed the field to just two winners, but noted several others could have placed on any given day. The competition in NBHA championship stakes continues to increase. Those who consistently win are very good and have a bit of luck on their side every now and then. As in other organizations, friendly competition in a gentlemen’s sport prevails, and winners are chosen for their performances during their respective hour by those who are looking for qualities they feel are key ingredients to their liking. The winner of the Open Invitational / Breeders Championship is Crow Creek Sugarbaby handled by co-owner, Ken Black. Sugar is no stranger to the winner’s circle. Year after year she continues to win both Open and Amateur Championships at Regional and National levels. During this trial, Sugar was never scouted, always reached for faraway objectives, moved in her tail-cracking way with speed and grace. Never trying to get out of pocket, having an uncanny way around the course and a very good bird finder with extreme style on point. She is a true bird hunters dog. Sugar’s score card reads; finds at 7, 14, 27, 35, 40 and 47. A great performance from a great team. Runner-Up Champion went to Indian Creek Bocephus, handled by Garry Malzone. Bocephus is also no stranger to the championship ring. He is an amazing first year dog with National and Regional Championships as well. Bocephus is a very animated, hard charging athlete who tests the boundaries with far-reaching casts. During this trial, he needed a bit more scouting than the Champion, but kept you standing in the saddle. Bocephus’s score card reads; finds at 6, 10, 26, 31, 35, 40 and 48. At 20 he was found standing in a wooded area with an unusual stance. Garry elected to carry him on because this was not his normal style on game. Bocephus and Garry were definitely on the same page during their hour.

The announcement of Champion and Runner Up was the conclusion of a tremendous field trial. The ninety-one dogs drawn for this event was the largest NBHA trial of the year and of the past nearly twenty years. Again we thank those who supported the new concept. We would like to invite everyone to next year’s running in Cedartown Georgia in mid-February. The Cedartown grounds have been host to two NBHA National Amateur Championships; the NBHA National Open Championship; as well as several NBHA Regional Championships and classic trials. The grounds, barns, clubhouse, hospitality and atmosphere will be unmatched. We hope to see you there.

Pictured…2017 Futurity Winners
Front row (L-R) Bob Little with Wild Apple Pippen, Randy Zimmer with RZ ZuZu, Joe Dahl with Magic Mist Sydni, Oscar Whitt with Premier’s Ultra and Eva Casey.

Back row: Bruce Mercer, Andrea Ward, Jeff Hainline, judge Jim Crouse, Larry Carpenter, Terry Amberson, Bobby Taylor, Mildred Taylor and judge Keith Lowry.