Troy lab ‘one shell shot’ from national championship
Being ranked among the top five flushing dogs in the world, should have been good enough for Pike County trainer Doug Williams and Jason Browder but it wasn’t.
Knowing that the championship was only shotgun shell away kind of took the wind out of their sails – but only for a while.
“It was hard to lose like that but we’re still ranked in the top five and that’s something to be proud off, but we were, oh, so close,” Williams said.
The United Field Trialers Association National Championships were held Feb. 14-21 at Double Head Resort at Town Creek, Alabama and crowned pointing and flushing national champions.
“Going into this year’s national flushing event, we knew it was going to be the hardest challenge we had ever faced,” Williams said.
“The top dogs from the OLN Bird Dog Challenge, the National Upland Classic and the United Field Trialers Association were in the mix. So the best dogs in the world would all be in one place.”
Williams said the season started with 112 dogs and came down to 61 dogs at the national event.
“In the semi-finals, we ran three birds on Thursday and Friday and the top scores advanced to Saturday,” Williams said.
“Creek got in the top 20 finals on two 14-minute, three bird runs with no extra shell shots. That was a solid run but nothing like the four- to six-minute runs of the dogs ahead of us.”
Craig Williams’ Tuff, another Doug Williams-trained dog, made it to the top 20.
“Tuff made it to the top 20 with two solid six-minute runs and finished fifth in the semi-finals, while Creek just made it,” Williams said.
Tuff was number two in last year’s nationals and was the only dog in the top five from last year to be in the top 20 again this year.
“That’s how tough these dogs are,” Williams said.
“And all of the fields were rather large and hilly and, with the stress of the clock ticking, all of that takes a toll on you. Looking for birds and hunting plays on your mind. In this game, if you shoot one extra shell at a quail, you’re done.”
On Saturday morning, Williams said he knew, if they were going to have a chance of winning or getting a top-five gold cup, they would have to “go for broke” and let the dogs range our farther to cover more field and reduce the run time.
“We came out of the blind on the B field and Creek made a great flush in his first minute,” Williams said.
“I shot the quail and he got it back to my hand and we were off.”
Creek found the next bird with three minutes on the clock. Williams shot the quail and Creek made a quick retrieve.
“All we needed was one more and he found it in the fourth minute and made a flush in the air and nailed the bird himself,” Williams said.
“A safety was awarded and he delivered to hand.
“We got out in five minutes and everyone could not believe we did it since we had not run under 14 minutes all week.”
Thing looked good for Williams and Creek going into the A field.
“We were on the bubble,” Williams said. “We were the team to beat.”
The first bird was flushed, shot and retrieved in under two minutes.
The second bird was flushed, caught in the air for a safety and delivered.
“All we needed was one more and we were going to win,” Williams said.
“We headed to the other end of the field and Creek went in to flush and the quail rolled out in a 15-mile-an-hour wind.”
“The quail broke right and was hit and crippled but still up in the wind.”
“ Creek marked it and was headed to it out of bounds. I had to make the decision of a lifetime in the shooting dog word – let the dog, hopefully, catch it and save the shell 10 points or, if he didn’t get it, we would go down in flames.”
Williams said Creek was in pursuit but the bird had left inbounds.
A dog can go out but not the handler during a run.
The bird got out around 45 yards and was leaving gun range.
“I decided to take the shot. Creek ran the quail down where it fell out of bounds and delivered it to hand,” Williams said.
“The clock stopped at 11 minutes and I just felt in my gut that I blew it. Three birds, four shells.”
At the starting line, Williams said the gallery of handlers all told him they would have done the same thing.
“But it cost me the championship,” Williams said.
“Creek had really showed out and that was the closest to winning a national or world title I had come in my life.”
“A sick feeling came over me. Maybe I should have let him chase the quail. But for Creek being new to the game and being in the top five was great.”
When the dust settled, first place was 336 points and Creek had 326.
“If I had not shot, we would have had 336 points and Creek had the other dogs beat on combined time,” Williams said.
“One shotgun shell cost me thousands of dollars, prizes and, most of all, Top Shooting Flushing dog in the World.”
Williams wonders if he’ll ever be able to shake this one.
Probably not, but he and Creek came home with the Fourth Gold Cup and Creek is back home in Troy with his owner, Jason Browder.
“I just wonder if Creek knows just how close we came to being champions of the world or was he just hunting for fun?” Williams said.
“But Creek will always be special to me because we came so close to winning it all.”