2020 National Championship Halftime Report


From the outside looking in it may seem that the National is a two-week event that just happens each February.  The dogs compete, the winner is announced, everyone goes home, and the National is forgotten about until the following year.  The reality is that, here at Ames, the event goes on year-round.  Even before the competitors are back in their home kennels, before the saddles are dry and the horses are turned out to pasture, preparation for the next National is underway.  The business of the event is a year-round endeavor, as is the establishment and management of the courses which can make or break the next “Grand Running”.  It takes dozens of dedicated individuals, acting both in the spotlight and behind the scenes, working countless hours in what is sometimes the harshest of conditions, to pull of a National Championship.  Since Sunday is an off day for the event, our friend and field trial enthusiast, Steeple Bell, has put together the following acknowledgment and thank you to all those who combine their efforts to make the National one of the most renowned hunting sport events in the country.

First and foremost are this year’s judges, Jadie Rayfield of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, Tom Shenker of Hurtsboro, Alabama, and Dr Stan Wint of Gardner, Kansas. They ride each brace with determination and a keen eye for the dog's performance regardless of the circumstances. So far they've stayed upright in rain showers and bundled up for freezing mornings which are typical for this trial. Let's hope they see a few sunny days in the week to come.

Riding along with the judges is the official reporter, William Smith of Moscow, Tennessee. We can anticipate his report on the first week's running in the next issue of The American Field. It is always appreciated to read the detail of his reports, something that is missed by following social media alone.

The courses are especially muddy this year, and unlikely to dry out before the trial is over, which is an added test of these dog’s endurance. A local gentleman related to me that "on the first of January they said we had been 20 inches of rain over the normal for last year and it has rained damn near every day since." "Every day?" I asked. "All excepting ground hog's day, it snowed then." he replied.

Otherwise the courses are in good condition with more than adequate cover and handlers and scouts need to be eagle-eyed to find the dogs on point in some locations. From this past week's results we see two dogs have finished their three hours, each setting a pretty high mark to beat. One each on the morning and afternoon courses with nearly the same number of bird finds. The week's total shows an ever so slight bias for the afternoon course, with 13 finds on the morning course (8 by one dog) and 19 finds on the afternoon course (9 by one dog).

Throughout the year maintenance of the courses is made by Dr Rick Carlisle, Charlie Frank Bryan and William Smith, aided by Ryan Braddock and other Ames Plantation employees. There has been less mowing than in past years, but the biggest changes made have been in the planting of the food plots. The food plots are planted with a 50-50 mix of teosinte maize and white meat grain sorghum, with a small amount of millex, a pearl millet, added for height and cover. This is the second year for this planting mix and it shows promise of good results. The Plantation also raises a red meat grain sorghum in some of their crop fields which is used as a supplemental broadcast feed when necessary.

Another improvement you may have noticed over the past few years is in the daily social media and website reports. The reporter, William Smith, provides the twice daily brace by brace synopsis of the dog's performances. Jamie Evans, Brad Harter, Ken Blackman, and Larry Garner provide the photos and videos. (Brad's company, Pleasant Hill Productions, makes available a dvd of the year's running and is a sponsor of the trial). Stephen "Steeple" Bell follows the qualifying trial's results throughout the year to write the dog's profiles in advance. And finally Jamie and Dee Evans wrangle it all together to make the posts that you see daily.

New to the social media reports this year was a facebook "live" broadcast of the drawing. This was put together by Dee Evans and Amy Spencer. Amy works in the outreach and communications office of the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, and is a co-host of their program Wildcast.  Wildcast recently filmed an episode about Ames Plantation and the National Championship with Dr. Rick Carlisle. Be sure not to miss that one. We all hope to see more "live" broadcasts in the future.

When you visit the trial in person you will find still another batch of people who help to make things run smoothly. If you arrive early, very early, you will find Brady Thompson making coffee and building the fire in the Reuben Rhea Clubhouse where a sausage and biscuit breakfast is served. Bobby Hanna is the chef and the breakfast is sponsored by the Grand Junction Baptist Church.

Now that Betsy Jones has acquired a well-deserved semi-retired status, Mary McAuslin heads up the clubhouse hospitality. Her team of hosts and hostesses this year include: Betsy Jones, Geneen O'Brian (& Fannie), Marge Shultz, Stephanie Callendrucio of Hickory Valley; Judy Franklin, Ann Baxter-Middleton, and Judy Fisher of Saulsbury; Judy Hamby, Pat McQueen, and Alice Tate of Bolivar; Barney & Mary Jo Gordon and Gerald & Pam Wade of Grand Junction, Tennessee; and Dale & Linda Garner of Shannon, Mississippi.

Once you are out on the courses you will see the Marshalls who guide and control the gallery. This year's Marshalls are Ryan Braddock, Chris Weatherly, and Dr. Rick Carlisle. They are joined by Greg Tapp, the horseback paramedic.

Elsewhere you will see the security team headed up by Aubrey Green. They have all sorts of duties, from traffic control to providing security for the stables and kennels. Aubrey's team is made up by: Kelly Green, Joe Thompson, Zack Parsons, Kerry Kimmery, Jacob Jenkins, Chris Kelley, Marilyn Woody, Moses Allen, Tommy Breeden, and Mike Kee.

A batch of really hardworking guys who remain behind the scenes is the barn crew who saddle and groom the Plantation's horses. They are some of the first to arrive and the last to leave each day: Steven McKeen, Mark Yearwood, Roberto Garza, Michael Fletcher, Daniel Johnson, Jacob Lay, and Chris Rider. 

As a visitor, you may get your mount from the horse wrangler Kerry Kimery of Double K Farms. Each day his team saddles and grooms a dozen or more horses, and ride in the gallery to take care of their clients. Kerry's team includes his daughter Kerri Anne Kimery-Breeden, Katy Dunn, and Squeaky Powell.

Lunches each day are served at the Bryan Hall by Catherine Bowling Dean of "Me and My Tea Room Catering"

In the evenings, visitors may attend several dinners. The first each year is the "Kick Off" dinner on the Sunday night prior to the first day's running at the Bird Dog Museum sponsored by Purina, Garmin, and others. This was followed by the Luke Bryan Memorial Catfish Supper at the museum on the first Thursday. On the second Monday (tomorrow, February 17th this year) there is an "Everyone's Invited" Brunswick stew dinner sponsored by Sportsman's Pride.

Finally, when all the braces have run, everyone gathers around the porch steps of the Ames Manor House to await the announcement of the winner. The honor of just standing there is the goal for all of the owners, but there are pretty big checks, trophies, and other loot to be awarded, too. The purse for this year's winner is $20,000 from the club. This is supplemented with $2,000 from the Bank Of Fayette County and an additional $4,000 check for the winning handler which comes from anonymous donors.

There are several big, shiny trophies on the porch that day. There are the perpetual trophies which remain in the possession of the club, the Julia Colony Ames Memorial and the Cecil S Proctor Memorial trophies. The current trophy up for grabs is known as the Clyde Morton Memorial Cup and must be won three times for the owner to take permanent possession. The owner of the winning dog takes home the M. G. "Mike" Perkins trophy, a replica of the Julia Colony Ames Memorial trophy awarded each year. For more mobile bragging rights, the owner also receives the Waldo E. and Pearl H. Dodge Commemorative Silver Belt Buckle.

Though not on the steps at the time of the award, the owner will receive a commissioned portrait of his dog by the artist Ross Young, which is sponsored by Purina. A year's supply of Purina dog food is also awarded to the owner. Complimentary copies of Brad Harter's video will also come to the owner at a later date.

The breeder of the winning dog is awarded the Whippoorwill Wild Card Memorial Breeder's Award.

In addition to the $6,000 mentioned above, the winning handler receives the Barry H. Sanders Memorial trophy, a coveted sterling silver hat pin sponsored by John and Sue Ivester. Sportsman's Pride awards a year's supply of their 30/20 dog food to the handler. Gun Dog Supply awards a SportDOG brand training collar set to the handler, too.

Everyone; owner, handler, and scout, gets a Garmin Astro 430 and T5 tracking collar set. (Garmin also sponsors the event providing the dog recovery/tracking collars used by the contestants).

And everyone gets a trophy saddle. The owners saddle is a specially engraved Montreal Royal Troopers Saddle, with saddle bags, breast strap, and bridle, from Tucker Trail Saddles. The handlers saddle is a Haggis Trooper from Jack Haggis Saddlery, and the scout's saddle is a Trooper Field Trial Saddle from The Saddle Guy.

The full extent of the sponsorship of those mentioned above is not described in this report, and there are several other behind the scenes sponsors for this year: Predator Management Solutions, Area Wide Communications, and Hendrix Farms. Please have a look at the "Sponsors" column of the AmesPlantation.org website, and if you can, support these fine folks with your business.