By Darron Hendley
Fourteen-year-old, Brayden Renfroe of Bullock County, Alabama laid claim to the 2019-2020 Alabama Youth Handler of the Year award in dramatic fashion. Going into March with only one youth trial left on the calendar it appeared that last year’s top youth handler, Addison McDuffie, was poised for yet another claim to the title.
22 dogs were drawn to run in the Shenandoah Youth Field Trial in Union Springs. The large entry resulted in 5 different youth handlers being within striking distance of the leader. The game got interesting, and the cards would fall just right for one of the lucky few.
Brayden and his father, Gabe Renfroe were up early on the day of the Shenandoah Trial. It was a beautiful spring morning, Alabama turkey season was in, and the birds were gobbling! Shortly after daybreak, with his father videoing, Brayden lowered the boom on a big Alabama long beard.
With his adrenaline still pumping, Brayden changed gears and headed to Shenandoah for the youth trial. His dog put on a clinic with a smooth, forward race and clean bird work. The dog was responsive and very pleasing to the eye. It was an exciting performance that was a joy to watch.
At the end of competition, it was clear Brayden earned the top spot in one of the biggest Youth Trials the south has ever seen! What a day!
Brayden is an impressive, well-mannered young man. He is a country boy at heart who loves the outdoors, especially hunting and fishing. He is a natural horseman, and his impressive dog handling skills continue to improve. Parents Gabe and Karla are no-doubt proud!
Brayden’s passions come naturally. His maternal grandfather is nationally renowned professional bird dog trainer, Joe Hicks, now of Lake City, Florida. Joe was at Chinquapin Plantation for many years and handled such field trial greats as Bisco Big Jack and Chinquapin’s Andy.
The Hicks family has been successfully involved in the field trial game for decades. It is inspiring to see Brayden continue the family tradition!
In 2002, The Fitzpatrick Field Trial Club placed into competition the Alabama Youth Handler of the Year Award in memory of John William Barnett. The revolving silver engraved bowl is embossed with the following winners:
2002-03 Emily Atkins
2003-04 Allison Hendley
2004-05 Emily Terrel Dixon
2005-06 Jack Cox
2006-07 Jack Cox
2007-08 Mary Katherine Curry
2008-09 Pete Lanier
2009-10 Walker Davidson
2010-11 Derek Hyder
2011-12 Walker Davidson
2012-13 Dylan Cox
2013-14 Addison McDuffie
2014-15 Emily Strickland
2015-16 Ella Grace Montgomery
2016-17 Addison McDuffie
2017-18 Addison McDuffie
2018-19 Adison McDuffie
Brayden’s name will be added this year due to his third place placement at the Bama Quail trial, third at Flint River and first at Shenandoah.
In 2014, The Cross Keys Field Trial Club placed into competition a revolving trophy for the Runner-up Alabama Youth Handler of the Year in memory of John “Johnny” Capps. Addison McDuffie will receive this Honor for the 2019-2020 season.
Her points were accumulated with a second at Dry Pond, first at Bama Quail and first place at Flint River. Addison is the daughter of Hunter and Mindy McDuffie of Cecil, Alabama. Brayden and Addison will be recognized at the annual Alabama Field Trial Association meeting.
This was a banner year for Alabama Youth Field trials. Eight different handlers earned points in qualifying trials. We had the most qualifying youth trials in our history at 6.
We had the largest entry of any qualified youth trial in Alabama at 22. Thanks to the efforts of people around the country, Youth Field Trials are catching on like wildfire!
The family members and friends that encourage and support these young bird dog enthusiasts are to be commended.
The youth are the future of this great sport. Each year a $1,000 College Scholarship is awarded in memory of Miss Hartley Carter to the Alabama youth handler that accumulates the most points in qualified Alabama youth trials.
This scholarship is funded by a 501(C)(3) non-profit organization in Hartley’s name, The Hartley Carter Foundation.
Thanks to the generous contributions of patrons from around the country, the fund is in good financial stead, and the foundation will continue to fund this endeavor for years to come. Please visit The Hartley Carter Foundation on Facebook.
You can also keep up with Youth Trials around the country on Youth Field Trial Alliance’s Facebook page. It really does take a village.
If you would like to know how to get involved or help promote youth field trials, please contact Darron Hendley at 334-300-5836.