Burton’s Fleetfoot Ginger Scores Brilliant Win
Champions have been crowned and champions will be crowned, but happenings and events surrounding the 1946 renewal of the Grand National Grouse Dog Championship, including the Champion that crowned himself, Burton’s Fleetfoot Ginger, will provide topics for conversation for years and years to come…
In besting the efforts of 24 contestants and following the judges’ requirements of a grouse dog champion, Ginger checked in with a phenomenal scorecard. In his qualifying hour, Ginger did not necessarily set the woods afire. Running a birdless course, Ginger managed to hold the eye and no serious faults could be scored against him, notwithstanding the fact that inconsistency at times, robbed him of perfection. But his final two hours left nothing to be desired. And since the work of champions should bear inspection, perhaps we can dispense with a general smather of words in preference to a breakdown of characteristics as displayed in winning the crown.
Brains: A sensible dog, Ginger keeps his mind on his work. His third contact with game proved that point. A gallery confusion reigned on all sides, the dog refused to relax and forget the task at hand. He pointed a grouse within twenty feet of the horses, and roadsiders jumped atop cars and trucks to view the work.
Nose: Five birds were seen or heard on his course during the two hours—four of them were kicked out in front of four rock-solid points, and the fifth would have been had not the bird been walked up before Ginger had time to pin it.
Stamina: His finish ending the qualifying hour was equal to the best seen. At the completion of his two hour grind, Ginger was whaling away in a swamp, and didn’t care to be picked up. Good showmanship. Strickland fired a shot.
Speed: Ginger is fast.
Range: He demonstrated a yearn for distant climes, and did get out there, but Strickland held a tight line in the finals. Then, too, none other an authority than the late Al Hochwalt told us “a dog’s legs should be long enough to take him to his birds…” Ginger’s legs took him to more birds than any other contestant in the stake.
Style: (Running) Ginger has a very attractive way of going. Head level; tail high and merry. His gait, however, is odd. Short-legged in front, Ginger pounds or chops as he goes. It’s hard to fault him here, for his method of picking ’em up and setting ’em down has no effect on his stamina. Aside from his downhill stand near the cars, where he slid into point level, Ginger towered over his birds with commanding style. Going to game, Ginger dispenses with all preliminary signals; no feathering, no fussing on ground scent. Absolutely cold, his attitude is indicative of, “Here’s one!” Then, too, there was none of that touch-and-go stuff about his bird work. Each time he was rock-solid and each time his handler walked in front of him to kick his birds out. The kind that hits ’em and makes ’em stay put.
Manners: Never has it been the grouse clans privilege to view a dog whose conduct at wing and shot bared higher polish and finish. Not once did Strickland caution the dog nor was the slightest precautionary gesture visible.
Handling: Ginger stayed in front consistently and showed to advantage, but there were times when Ginger proved to be hard to bend: and as stated previously, Strickland held a tight line on his charge in the second series.
Sense of Direction: Though seldom mentioned, a keen sense of direction is one of the component parts of a class grouse dog. Like some men who are blessed with an ever-present knowledge of where they are in the woods, Ginger, too, runs without the aid of a compass. That happy faculty of always showing to the front; only once in three hours did the dog report from the rear.
Application: Very often we are forced to say that a dog accepted his opportunities on game, but in Ginger’s case it was clearly demonstrated that here we had a dog that made up his own field trial breaks. Each and every find came as the result of diligent searching. It was a warm midafternoon as Ginger searched for two hours. He dug his birds out; they were buried deep in the shady swamps…
Summing up his work, we find that Ginger ran a total of three hours in winning the crown. He had five perfect contacts with game (in the second series); the first a clean stop to flush, followed by four finds handled as the book called for. Throughout he demonstrated range, speed and style.
Second Series Contestants
Grand National Grouse Championship, Nov 6, 1946
Held at Gladwin State Game Refuge, Prudenville, Michigan
Judges: William T. McCarty, Elias C. Vail, William T. Windsor
One hour qualifying heats, two hour finals
22 setters, 3 pointers
50 Years of Grand National Grouse Championships available from Dave Fletcher (see List of Books)