The contest that determines the top “pointing dog” in the country has named a new winner.
Coldwater Thunder, a female pointer earned the title 2021 National Champion of Field Trialing Bird Dogs. The announcement was made on Saturday, Feb. 13, on the front steps of the historic Ames Plantation Manor House following a multi-day contest. Coldwater Thunder is owned by Doug Arthur, Billy Blackwell, and Rachel and David Russell. She was handled by Steve Hurdle.
The National Championship of Field Trialing Bird Dogs tests the hunting skills, strength and endurance of an elite group of canines, who are judged on how well they run an expansive course and how many coveys of quail they find. Coldwater Thunder, who was the only female to qualify in 2021, had four finds and completed the full three-hour course.
“She traversed the course always subservient to her handler and always hunting, going to the likely places,” wrote William Smith, National Championship reporter. “She was motionless on each find as her quarry took to the air and she stood for the shot. She ranged over the course seemingly with ease as her untiring gate ate up the country.”
This was the first win for the seven-year-old white, liver and ticked pointer, but her fourth time to run in the National. This was the third championship for her handler, Steve Hurdle.
Historic event looked different
This year marked the 122nd running of the National Championship, which has been held at Ames Plantation in Grand Junction, Tenn., since 1915. Dogs run the championship course in pairs, with a morning and afternoon brace each day. Championship officials say the 2021 contest, which began February 8 and ended February 13, was notable for harsh weather conditions, especially towards the end of the trial. Frigid temperatures and an ice storm canceled competition on Feb. 11 and made the course even more challenging for the remainder of the braces.
A total of 21 dogs were slated to compete in the 2021 contest, although two dogs ended up being pulled from competition due to weather concerns. It was a significantly smaller field of competitors than a typical year. Rick Carlisle, director of Ames Plantation said it was the lowest number of entries since 1946, when 18 dogs competed for the title.
COVID-19 was a big factor in the smaller pool of entries. More than 20 qualifying events were canceled due to COVID concerns. Additionally, of the dogs that qualified since last year’s National, two died over the summer and six were sick or injured. Among those on the injured list, last year’s winner, Miller’s Speed Dial.
Also, due to COVID-19, many events and activities surrounding the championship were canceled or limited. The drawing for the order of the running, which typically takes place before a standing-room-only crowd, was closed to the public and instead streamed through Facebook Live. Spectators were able to ride on horseback in the gallery as is tradition.
For more information on the 2021 National Championship, including photos, videos and a brief summary of each brace, visit amesplantation.org. The website also offers more information on the prestigious history of The National Championship.