By Darron Hendley

A free Youth Field Trial and Birddog Training Seminar will be held at Greenway Sportsman Club, 231 Jan Drive, Union Springs, Alabama, on Saturday, June 26, 2021, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

This event is sponsored by Purina and the Alabama Youth Field Trial Association (AYFTA). This seminar is free for youngsters less than 18 years of age and their families. The National Open Shooting Dog Association, Sedgefields Field Trial Club, Conecuh Station Field Trial Club, and the National Amateur Free-for-All Championship will provide a free lunch. Youngsters will also receive a free copy of the “Guidelines to Field Trial Procedure and Judicial Practice” courtesy of Tony Gibson and free tee-shirts donated by Purina. The seminar will be tailored for boys and girls; both experienced and novice bird dog enthusiasts. Topics will include a wide variety of subjects taught by professional and top amateur dog trainers and handlers.

Topics will include Field Trial Rules and Procedures, Handling Skills, Scouting Skills, Sportsmanship and Etiquette, Bird Dog Breaking and Training, Starting Bird Dog Puppies, Horse Care and Safety, and a Round Table Discussion with a question-and-answer period. This will assuredly be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for youngsters to learn so much in such a short time from experts in the field.

Speakers will include an all-star lineup of some of the country’s best bird dog trainers and handlers. The AYFTA is extremely excited to have the following speakers committed to taking time out of their busy schedules to pass along their expertise to the next generation. Mike Tracey, from Glenville, Pennsylvania, is a third-generation bird dog trainer. Mike’s grandfather Gerald Tracey and father George Tracey are both in the Field Trial Hall of Fame.

Mike followed in their footsteps and began his field trial career at the ripe old age of seven. By age ten, he had won the Pennsylvania Open Puppy Award, and at 13, he won the Pennsylvania Open Shooting Dog of the Year Award. He won his first Open Shooting Dog Championship when he was 17 years old. Mike has won the Purina Open Shooting Dog Handler of the Year 12 times, equaled only by his Hall-of-Fame father, George Tracey.

Mike has won an incredible 136 Open Shooting Dog Championships and 101 Runner-Up Championships in his career and is still going strong. Mike is destined to follow his grandfather and father into the Hall-of-Fame. From Thomasville, Georgia, Tommy Rice is one of the hottest young professional bird dog trainers and handlers in the nation. Since turning pro at 28 years, he has won nine Shooting Dog championships and eight runner-up Shooting Dog championships. All this just since the spring of 2018, including the National Open Shooting Dog Championship.

Larron Copeland, the owner of Showtime Plantation in Bronwood, Georgia, started field trialing as an amateur at the age of 20. He has owned and handled some of the best bird dogs in the country. Copeland won the Purina Amateur All-Age Dog of the year two times. He has won two of the most coveted titles in the sport, the Continental All-Age Championship twice and the Masters All-Age Championship. Jamie Daniels began his bird dog carrier under the tutelage of Hall-of-Famer Fred Dileo at the age of 22. He turned pro with his string of dogs nine years ago.

He raised and trained several of the most impressive bird dogs on the ground today, including Just Irresistible, Dominators Rebel Heir, Dominators Dottedline, and Millers Blindsider, to name a few. In a relatively brief period in the All-Age category, Jamie has already amassed 20 All-Age championships. Union Springs, Alabama native Tony Gibson has done it all in the sport. He has bred, raised, and trained countless bird dogs. He has hunted, trialed, and judged trials all over the country. His beautiful Conecuh Station Plantation hosts several of the most highly competitive field trials in America. No one does more for this sport than Tony Gibson.

In 2016 his dog “Conecuh Station Shoeshine” won the National Open Shooting Dog Championship. Amazingly, Tony is the only amateur to date to win the highly desired Alabama Open Shooting Dog Championship. Tony was recently inducted into the Field Trial Hall-of-Fame, which is the highest honor this sport can bestow. He joined fellow Bullock Countians, Herb Holmes, Bill Hembree, Ed Mack Farrior, John Rex Gates, Lewis B. Maytag, George Harden, Robert Wehle, and Henry Banks to enjoy this prestigious distinction. Chris Sellers, from West Tennessee, has judged several Amateur and Open Shooting Dog Championships, including the Alabama Open, Tennessee Open.

The Weimaraner National Championship and the NGSPA All-Age Invitational. Chris has been instrumental in initiating a youth field trial program in his home state of Tennessee. Chris recently organized a two-day youth training event on Ames Plantation in Grand Junction, Tennessee. A group of young handlers from Alabama traveled to Grand Junction and ran on the hallowed grounds where the professionals compete for The National Championship.

The kids were also taken on a guided tour of the historical plantation and were captivated by knowledgeable speakers in several topics related to field trials, bird dogs, southern history, and quail habitat. Chris has been instrumental in the popular growth of this time-honored sport in young people.

Brian Peterson has for years been a highly successful amateur trainer and handler. He holds positions on several major field trial boards and one of the founding fathers of the Bama Quail Field Trial. Brian takes much pride in breeding and raising his dogs. Brian’s dog, “Lester’s Prime Poison Lane,” took the Purina Amateur Shooting Dog of the Year award.

Brian has won multiple Amateur championships, including the granddaddy of them all, The National Amateur Free-for-All Championship on the fabled Sedgefields Plantation in Union Springs. Hunter McDuffie has been field trialing bird dogs on horseback since he was a teenager. He is now a professional farrier and horse trainer. Few people know as much about horses as Hunter. Hunter also worked as a professional quail hunting guide before regaining his amateur status. He presently serves on the board of directors of several major field trials and is very active in the Alabama Youth Field Trial Association.

He is the current President of the Alabama Field Trial Association. Hunter’s pointer “Exit Wound” won the Purina Amateur Shooting Dog of the Year. Hunter has many notable field trial wins, but most notably, he captured the National Amateur Free-for-All Championship twice and is presently the reigning champion. Accommodations: Hotel accommodations are approximately 40 minutes away on the east side of Montgomery. Tony Gibson and Conecuh Station Plantation have graciously offered free Full Hook-up Campsites. For a campsite, contact Bo Brewer at 334-391-8388. Rooms are also available nearby at Master Rack Lodge. For Master Rack room reservations, contact Steve Maxwell at 334-474-3600. Pre-registration for the seminar will be greatly appreciated so we can plan lunch. Please contact Darron Hendley by call or text at 334-300-5836 or email at dchjd1987@aol.com.

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