Of Great Grouse Dogs, There Shall Be No End
The Pennsylvania Grouse Trial Club is, amazingly, coming up on its 100th Anniversary. This not only marks the origin of the club but the dawn of all field trials run on ruffed grouse in this country. With this thought in mind, and requests for articles from past issues of the American Field, I reviewed issues from exactly fifty years ago, 1959. Found were numerous quality writings which will be reproduced and posted as pdfs (scroll down) for those interested.
These reports are of grouse trials from New England to Michigan, many of the 1959 trials recounting the history of the Pennsylvania Grouse Dog Club. Herb Cahoon, A.J. Pilon, and William McCarty — some of the best, unbiased and oft praised writers for the American Field and Pennsylvania trial scene — are featured among the authors. Fifty years after the fact it seems apropos to be reviewing these articles and the importance the Pennsylvania Club represents to the field trial grouse dog community and the grouse hunter as we approach the historic 100 Year Anniversary.
I am unabashedly biased and make no amends. Reading through these articles, reports, and discussions solidifies my bias for the Pennsylvania Grouse Dog. It is an unarguable fact that the Pennsylvania Club was the womb from which grouse trialing emerged when initiated in 1911. And as was boldly stated in ads for PA field trials, the “Grouse Trials Are Where The Class Dog Originated.” Reading through these articles, it is without question that the founders of the grouse trialing sport, from the early years to the mid-point of the last century, were looking to run “field trials” — like those that were run in Tennessee and elsewhere in the south, with the same animals, BUT with one exception. They wanted to run them on their cherished ruffed grouse. To do so they highlighted the attributes of an animal that was a field trial dog first and foremost with grouse as its aspiration. What they cherished was a dog that ran with speed, animation, and decisiveness in its way of going and path in getting there. It is often mentioned in performance descriptions that shooting dog (i.e. at the time referring to “hunting dog”) range was not sufficient. It was the dog that ran the country as big as it would allow and superbly handled its game that they sought from the start. They knew animals possessing these attributes were the ones that would allow them to produce tomorrow’s improved field trial grouse dog and a better grouse hunting bird dog. They knew that to press forward with improvement in the breeds required testing those qualities to the limit. With that goal in mind they selected grounds, eventually finding the now 60 year old home to grouse trials in northwestern PA — Marienville. Today, it is the Marienville grounds that still test the limits of the field trial grouse dog like no other. And it is due to the intentions and efforts of the “forefathers of grouse trials” that we can say, as long as we have field trials in Pennsylvania and Marienville: “Of Great Grouse Dogs, There Shall Be No End.”
Attached here is the first article of interest reviewed from August 1959. It contains a discussion of the 1958 PA Grouse Championship with a good synopsis, from the horse’s mouth so to speak, of the history of the PA Grouse Trial Club and a great look back to the 1921 National Grouse Dog (now Pennsylvania) Championship. More reports from the 1959 grouse trials across the country and discussions of the Marienville venue will follow in the coming winter months.