The Incomparable Susan Peters!
6 x Ch. Susan Peters still holds the record for Canadian prairie championships.
Nearly 50 years after her death in 1962, Susan Peters is still acknowledged as one of the greatest bird dogs ever to roam the Canadian prairies. Those who saw and knew her have never forgotten her. Words like “sensational”, “enrapture” and “ecstasies” were not used lightly in those days to describe a dog’s performances.
John Rex Gates, one of the most successful handlers of modern times and the son of the great John S. Gates, trainer and handler of Susan Peters recalls her with the utmost respect. “She was highly intelligent. The greatest thing she did —consistently—was that she always had the wind right before she went to a bush (bluff). And she always ran to the front, hunting all the time.”
John Rex’s younger sister, Sheila Wheaton, whose own fame as a breeder has yet to be acknowledged, told me: “When you turned her loose, she just went from bluff to bluff hunting chickens. Sensational on the ground and sensational on her birds…she took your breath away!”
From Colvin Davis “She conquered the prairies and what she did will probably never be beat. She was a master at handling chickens.”
John Rex Gates, Sheila Gates (now Wheaton) with Susan Peters, Colvin Davis
Bill Allen who reported many of her great performances has this memory of her:
“Over a twenty year span, Susan Peters was the best and most consistent prairie All-Age field trial dog I ever saw.
In both 30 minute stakes and one hour grinds, she used her time better than any dog I ever saw in Canada and won more times under many different judges; some more seasoned than others.
She seemed to have been bred and appointed primarily for Manitoba’s and Saskatchewan’s tribulations and post graduate exams.
Of course, she quieted all the whispers about “not liking” quail hunting when she won the Continental Quail Championship on the Livingstons’ bird wealthy Dixie Plantation, bristling up when her amateur owner, Henry Weil flushed her last covey with John S. Gates out of pocket searching for her.
In my experience, I never saw “Sis” go on the “wrong” side of a bush or bluff, wind-and-scent-wise. I never saw her go INTO cover on the prairie. She handled Hungarian partridge just as crisply also, nailing them as they ran.
Without a cautious bone in her, she sailed and sifted and slammed into style, surpassing all her many challengers. “Sis” was tough and swift and never was head-trailed to an objective by even the craftiest canine colleague.
And, most of the handlers of her day cried calf-rope after her second all-age year. They paid her high, bitter compliment. Usually they would appoint a “spy” and stay in the trucks during even “SUPERSTAR” braces. Not when Susan Peters was down.
Galleries are never huge anywhere on the prairie. But when Susan Peters competed, regardless of heat, wind or course, almost everybody rode.”
And finally to quote John S. Gates, the late veteran Leesburg, GA handler: “Sis was an outstanding competitor with sparkling performances and the greatest chicken dog ever to come to Canada.”
In all Susan Peters chalked up half-a-dozen championships, as noted in the list of her placements:
2nd Dominion Open Derby, 1954
1st Piney Woods Open Derby, 1954
3rd Georgia Open All-Age, 1955
1st Stone Mountain Open Derby, 1955
1st All-America Open All-Age, 1955
Winner Border International Chicken Championship, 1955
1st Crab Orchard Open All-Age, 1955
2nd Piney Woods Open All-Age, 1955
2nd West Alabama Open All-Age, 1955
2nd All-America Open All-Age, 1956
Winner, Dominion Chicken Championship, 1956
2nd Southern Club’s Open All-Age, 1957
Winner Border International Chicken Championship, 1957
Winner, Continental Quail Championship, 1959
Winner, Dominion Chicken Championship, 1959
1st All-America Open All-Age, 1960
R-U All-America Chicken Championship, 1960
Winner, Dominion Chicken Championship, 1960
Her eighteen placements include eleven firsts. It is notable that in the last half dozen placements, four were victories in championship competition, one an All-Age first on chickens and also runner-up honors in the hotly contested All-America Chicken Championship of 1960.
The sensational exhibitions of roaming the prairies, finding and handling chicken in a style to enrapture beholders hallmarked the greatness of Susan Peters. But she was also adept at pointing quail. The late Cecil Proctor went into ecstasies describing the marvelous bird-finding performance she gave in the Crab Orchard Open All-Age in November of 1955, following the Quail Futurity. Sis was hot that day! Her effort to win the Continental crown at Quitman, GA in the hour and fifty minute heats was another sparkling rendition. Susan never won the National at Grand Junction, though a time or two she started as though she intended to add that title to her collection.
Susan Peters, with six championship crowns, shall have enduring fame in field trial history. The Weil color-bearer takes rank with the great chicken dogs like McKinley, Senator P, Alford’s John, down the years to such as Comanche Zig Field and more recent winners like Titan, et. al.
1955 Border Chicken Championship, Reporter Sam A. Magee
A brilliant array of class chicken dogs strutted their stuff in the 1955 renewal of the Border International Chicken Championship and it required a truly scintillating performance on the part of Susan Peters to annex the title. The white and liver daughter of Ch. Satilla Wahoo Pete, carrying the colors of Henry E. Weil of Paducah, Ky., and handled most ably by John Gates, rendered a distinguished account of herself, scoring three finds, handled flawlessly, and her race was one long to be remembered.
Susan Peters—The Tuxedo Queen. Down at 12:32. This brace took in a lot of country. The sun was shining by now but the wind continued unabated. I though Gambo had run the winning race on Friday afternoon but unless something beyond compare turns up in the next day and a half, Susan Peters had it by a prairie mile, Her first cast carried her far ahead and at 12:35 point was called for her. When reached she was standing bold as a lion, with a covey of chickens pinned, and was steady. She was watered at 12:50, surged on ahead with renewed vigor and at 12:50 point was called for her away out. She had her covey pinned again and was style personified. At 1:12 Susan had her third find and again she was a fitting subject for an Osthaus painting; standing high and bold, she had a covey of chickens perfectly located. She was watered at 1:22 and at take up time was a half mile ahead and running strong. An almost perfect chicken dog race with three nicely-spaced covey finds.
1955 Crab Orchard Open All-Age Stake, Reporter William F. Brown
Susan Peters, classy young white and liver pointer bitch, a veritable sensation in the 1955 chicken trials on the prairies, now has demonstrated that she is fully as sparkling on bob-white quail. This determined first year all-age, owned by Henry E. Weil of Paducah, Ky., developed and handled by John S. Gates, scored four thrilling bevy finds to capture premier honors in the popular Crab Orchard Field Trial Club’s Open All-Age stake. This feature always follows the Quail Futurity and attracts a large and string field. This year was no exception and to say the stake was successful, is to put it mildly…
Fortville—Susan Peters.—Sent away at 2:15, Susan lost no time in getting down to business, shortly skirted orchard of an old house site, hit scent and
roaded a few yards to establish a stylish stand. Joe came into the vicinity, crowded up alongside, which Susan didn’t like, advancing a half step as she froze rigidly and the setter stopped a bit ahead of Susan, though not expressing awareness of the presence of birds. Gates flushed a well-located and large bevy, both dogs steady, Susan impressing because of the trying circumstances. She quickly headed across open field to adjoining hedge, turned eastward and suddenly into a high-tailed point at low briers. Her head position indicated proximity to the birds and Gates produced a bevy only a foot or two from Susan’s nose and her behavior was flawless. All this transpired within seven minutes. At 2:30 Susan pointed at wire fence, turned ahead as gates approached, but focused on the location of the game, which was perfectly indicated and manners were above criticism. Susan revealed a successful technique: she skirted fence rows, hedges and wood lines swiftly, intelligently, sustained her casts and pointed her game with resolution and style. She had the disposition to reach out; handler and scout rode hard at times to keep her to the front and a complete comprehension of her handling response was not obtained under the circumstances, although there was not to cavil about. On the final swing north of oak grove, Susan pointed suddenly with exquisite style. A bevy was ridden up en route to her, birds flying over the stand, but Susan relaxed not one iota. Gates walked in and put up the bevy she had pinned. The cover was dense, the going rough from here on in, but Susan went along with
handler as he hurried her toward the forward gallery. Four deer were jumped near apple orchard flanking the woods but no interference with
the dogs. Susan’s strong race and four bevies without semblance of an error prompted tongues to wag.
1959 Continental Open Championship, Reporter Bill Allen
Susan Peters, white and liver pointer damsel with a flashy and hectic career, fulfilled the fondest hopes of her Paducah, Ky., owner, Henry E. Weil, and won the 64th annual Continental Open Championship, completed on the quail-full 33,000 acres if Mrs. G.M. Livingston’s Dixie Plantation, Monday, January 26.
1959 Dominion Chicken Trials, Reporter Bill Allen
Susan Peters, handsome white and liver pointer bitch, owned by Henry E. Weil of Paducah, Ky., and handled by John Gates, gave the performance of her career, insofar as this writer knows it, to win the Dominion Chicken Championship over the best grounds Canada had to offer this year in a program ending September 18. “Sis” ran her most forward, unblemished race for an hour and produced exceptional chicken finds twice on a day when the sharptailed grouse were flying like bullbats at the whisper of a horse hoof in the grass.
The brilliant heat of the winner was a race ever to be recalled. Susan Peters is no stranger to field trial fame. The six year old female accounted for her fifth crown in winning this title. Acknowledged a superior prairie performer, “Sis” has won four championships on chicken and also the Continental Quail Championship.
1960 Dominion Chicken Trials, Reporter Bill Allen
Susan Peters, certainly one of bird dogdom’s most consistent performers on sharp-tailed grouse, completely eclipsed 45 of the best All-Age pointers and setters alive, to win her unparalleled third Dominion Chicken Championship. The event was completed Sunday, September 18, over the Pierson-Gainsborough grounds. She had five faultless finds on chicken during an hour of dauntless hunting.
From the American Field, August 4, 1962
Susan Peters, celebrated white and liver pointer bitch, one of the all-time chicken greats, died on July 22 in a Minot, N.D. hospital. Word of her passing came from her fond owner, Henry E. Weil of Puducah, KY.
“ ‘Sis’ died last Sunday. I saw her en route to the prairies with John Gates and she looked fine. There was no indication of trouble, but Sis took sick shortly after arriving in Broomhill and though she was promptly taken to the hospital where a kidney condition was diagnosed, a blood clot developed and hastened her death.
John S. Gates, Lucy and Henry Weil, John Rex Gates
“I need not tell of the keen regret with which this information is sent. John planned to run her again in the Canadian chicken championships. She gave me a great amount of pleasure, and both John and I shall miss her.”
Susan Peters was nine years old. She was bred by John Gates, whelped May 2, 1953, sired by Satilla Wahoo Pete x Sheila’s Dot, a famed mating that has accounted for no less than eleven winners. Susan Peters was the first to attract national attention, but others came along, notably Satilla Midnight Sun, Medallion, LeBaron, Rena Valentine, et al. Indeed Sheila’s Dot is the dam of fourteen winners, the other three by Greenwood Bill.
Ch. Medallion, littermate to Susan Peters
Ch. Satilla Midnight Sun, littermate to Susan Peters, 1960 Winner of the Border International Championship
Of course, John Gates knew all about these individuals and he placed Susan Peters with Henry Weil, Sis’ sole owner throughout her illustrious career which saw her score her first win, a second in the Dominion Open Derby, in 1954. Hardly a season passed since that Susan Peters did not add to her record. When she reached an age where thought was given to her retirement, owner and handler discovered that she was still great on prairie chickens, and the records bear this out, for she won the Dominion title in 1956, 1959 and again in 1960!
It is recalled that in 1961 on the prairies Susan Peters acquitted herself commendably, as Bill Allen reported, and though she was over nine that summer, one can understand that Henry Weil and John Gates were not going to deny her the chance in this season’s prairie events, knowing how Susan loved the plains, the color and competition of the chicken trials.
Susan Peters was bred to Sarasota in the spring of 1959 and whelped four puppies on June 27. In 1961, she was bred to Lucy’s Lad, also owned by Henry Weil, and on May 28. She whelped two male pups.
Like many performance females, her legacy was not in her production record, particularly having whelped only six puppies in all. Her genetic strength was evidenced through her male littermates. For examples, while doing this research, I saw that Medallion produced Medallion II, another dog who won on the prairies…
Since her demise, those who knew her and had the marvelous opportunity to witness her thrilling performances, have yearned to see her elected to the Field Trial Hall of Fame. Each year the numbers dwindle in proportion to those who still remember Susan Peters. Strideaway believes recognition for this truly extraordinary All-Age bird dog is long overdue. Please cast your HOF vote for Susan Peters!
Photos and excerpts of reports courtesy of the American Field. Kate Morton, Henry Weil’s daughter supplied newspaper clippings from copies of the American Field prior to 1959.