Field Trial Dogs as Shooting Dogs
First published: August 29, 1953 issue of the American Field
How often have I heard that old expression, “Field trial dogs are no good as shooting dogs.” All the way from Canada to Florida spectators and even some experienced owners of field trial dogs seem to be convinced that this is true.
In January, 1951, the night before Shore’s Brownie Doone was to run in the first brace of the Pinehurst All-Age Stake, the telephone rang and a stranger asked, “Is this George Evans to whom I am speaking?” When I told him I was George Evans, he introduced himself and a friend, then told me he was a friend of Mrs. Livingston’s returning from a shooting trip in South Carolina back to New York. He had never seen a field trial before and asked if he and his friend could rent horses to watch the National Champion run. I assured them that they could.
Despite the fifty-mile drive they had the next morning, they arrived at the trial in plenty of time for the start. At the end of Brownie’s heat, they both rushed up to me with surprise written all over their faces. “Why we could shoot over that dog,” they exclaimed, “and it was really a thrill watching him handle his game.”
They assured me before they left that Brownie had won. [They were pretty good judges for amateurs—he did win.] I am sure as they rode in the gallery behind Brownie, they were thinking entirely about the kind of shooting dog he would be.
A week later Mrs. Livingston and I had our first long talk after the death of her beloved husband. She told me how much she and her friends had enjoyed shooting when they were with me handling the dogs. She wanted me to arrange my field trial schedule so that I would be with her most of the shooting season.
I was flattered but confused as to how I would arrange this. Should I lay up my field trial dogs and try to get the spare time to work them for future trials?
The idea came to me, why not use the field trial dogs to shoot over? This would give them invaluable experience with birds shot over them daily. But would they learn the bad habits of moving up on their game breaking shot, pottering and other things that might cost them a field trial championship later? Would Mrs. Livingston’s friends cooperate with me in flushing their game? Would they be satisfied to wait until a wide-ranging dog was found on point?
They did cooperate in every way. The result was Mrs. Livingston received a great deal more pleasure out of shooting over her field trial winners and there was a natural pride in having her friends shoot over these celebrated field trial winners.
In 1951, 1952 and ’53, we shot over the field trial dogs entirely, the result was I never had a dog break shot each of these years! We more than held our own from Canada to Florida —we won Futurities, we won one to three championships a year and in 1952-53 we won three championships in a row: National Pheasant, Continental and National Championship with three different dogs—Kilsyth Rusty Doone, Kilsyth Dynamite Goodloe and Shore’s Brownie Doone, gaining his second “National” title at Grand Junction.
Shore’s Brownie Doone
Before the Continental Championship, Mr. and Mrs. B. Hollister, lifelong friends of the Livingstons, shot daily over Dynamite for eight days before the trials. As a result, Dynamite delivered as good a bird-finding, wide-ranging race to win the Championship as anyone could wish to see. Before the National Championship, Mr. and Mrs. J. P. Morgan Jr. and Mrs. Livingston, of course, as she is out with us every day, did not realize that their excellent shooting played a big part in having Shore’s Brownie Doone ready to win the big title.
Mr. and Mrs. Mahlon Wallace from St. Louis, long time owners of excellent field trial and shooting dogs were invited by Mrs. Livingston to shoot with us just before I was to leave for the National Championship. Mr. Wallace asked me how the dogs were shaping up for Grand Junction. I replied: “Fine, they are hard as nails and about ready.” When I told him we would shoot over Rusty Doone that afternoon, he was disappointed, for his reply was that field trial dogs were no good to shoot over as they range too far. I am sure he visualized an afternoon of riding by one covey after another while we searched for Rusty somewhere on point.
Kilsyth Rusty Doone
We started the shoot with Rusty and finished up with Geraldine Livingston’s crack two-year-old, Kilsyth Dixie Ace, who had five well-handled bevies. In an hour and forty minutes, Rusty had eleven perfectly handled coveys. On several occasions we walked so Rusty could show Mr. Wallace how a high-class singles bird dog should perform. Mr. Wallace had one of those afternoons that he will remember for a long time. I hope that someone reading this article will ask the Wallace’s why they changed their minds about field trial dogs not being shooting dogs.
Kilsyth Dixie Ace
Kilsyth Jack Citation, one of the fastest and widest-ranging dogs that we have had is a No. 1 shooting dog. In fact, he is one of the Livingston’s favorites. Champion Kilsyth Brownie’s Son and Kilsyth Dixie Sam are also used as gun dogs.
I would not be foolish enough to issue a challenge to meet any three dogs from one kennel in a field trial meet as I might have to eat my words, but I would have challenged any three dogs from any kennel to match Shore’s Brownie Doone, Kilsyth Rusty Doone and Kilsyth Dynamite Goodloe as shooting dogs had Goodloe lived. But if someone wants I can substitute any one of five more field trial winners to take his place as a shooting dog.
Kilsyth Dynamite Goodloe
I am sure in using the field trial dogs to shoot over, I added greatly to Mrs. Livingston’s shooting pleasure. Mrs. Livingston’s guests that love to hunt, and long-time friends of the Livingston family are the strongest supporters of the Kilsyth kennels and follow their field trial fortunes with the keenest interest. One very good friend gave a new name to my scouts and helpers. He called them my “right wing.”
The late Gerald M. Livingston loved to shoot birds over his field trial winners and was one of the best judges of a high-class dog that I have ever known. You field trial owners, after your dog’s best field trial years have passed, try shooting over him. I am sure he will give you several more years of wonderful shooting and pleasure.
At the start of the 1953 National Championship I announced that Brownie Doone would retire from field trial competition if he won or lost. He was awarded the title to climax a noteworthy competitive career.
Although old Brownie will not start again to defend his bird dog championship, he will hunt for his lovely mistress and thrill her with his picture-like points for, it is hoped, some years to come. I am sure that the night of his second win of the National Championship, a hand reached down and caressed his head and a voice said, “Well done, Brownie.” I am sure some day up there, they will hunt together again—Brownie, the superb shooting dog, and his late master who loved a high-class bird dog, our beloved Gerald M. Livingston.
Gerald Livingston with Shore’s Brownie Doone
George Evans with 2x Continental Championship winner Shore’s Brownie Doone
Manor House at Dixie Plantation
Dog Cemetery at Dixie Plantation
Dog Cemetery at Dixie Plantation
George A. Evans was the dog trainer, handler and manager of Dixie Plantation’s Kilsyth Kennels for over thirty years. On a February morning in 1978, he took his own life.
Top photo: George Evans with Kilsyth Dixie Sam, winner of the Pheasant Futurity in 1950.