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I have been blessed with several great dogs over the past 30+ years and fortunate enough to put them with top retriever trainers. I gained from them a tremendous amount of experience and learned how to train and handle my dogs to a higher standard.
While I had my dogs at home I was part of a very successful training group which included a N.R.C. and N.A.R.C. judge, double header winners, the 2005 N.A.F.C. winner, along with several other great amateur trainers.
In the mid '90's I founded Dog's Afield, a family run retriever training supply business. While there, I designed and manufactured the first winger; the Day's End Shur-Toss launcher. I also designed the Day's End Six-Shooter primer pistol, the Shur-Flyte launcher, holding blinds, a shotgun safety stand, and primer reloads.
After I sold the business 2008, I decided to fulfill my dream by giving up my amateur status and begin training retrievers for other people. This allowed me to help others enjoy a sport that's been so good me and that I dearly love.
You can read my full bio below: "How it all began..."
How it all began...
The late Phillip Freeman one of my closest friends and duck/deer hunting buddies changed my life forever. He was the cause of my wife and me going to the dogs. It all started about 1980 when Phillip invited me to go with him and shoot flyers at a local field trial. He told me they would feed us lunch and dinner. That sounded good to me, so I went. This was the first field trial I’d seen. We shot fliers once or twice a year for the next couple of years. Neither of us had a retriever, but we did get to see some famous dogs and great dog work of that time.
Meanwhile Phillip and I were trying to hunt every pot hole, swamp and Wildlife Management Area in Georgia. Problem was Georgia is not in one of the main migration flyways and the duck hunting was poor except for some resident wood ducks and a few crazy mallards and gadwalls that got lost from their flyway. However, we loved it so much that we hunted ducks and geese east from the North Carolina Sound to West Texas and north from the Upper peninsular of Michigan to south Louisiana. Since we didn’t have a duck dog I became our retriever because I was about six inches taller than Phillip. After a couple of years picking up ducks in ice cold water, I told him that I’d had enough and was going to get me a duck dog.
Well a couple of weeks after I made that statement the Jasper county Ducks Unlimited Chapter was having their annual banquet and since Phillip was a member he got two tickets knowing that we would be at the deer camp that weekend. At this particular D U banquet an eight week old yellow female Lab puppy was donated to be auctioned. Yes, Phillip twisted my arm a little and I let him talk me into buying that little yellow puppy. I named her Sandy Sue and so it began. My life would forever be changed.
I also let Phillip twist my other arm and talk me into becoming a founding member of two hunt test clubs, Great Southern, a NAHRA club and the Old South Hunting Retriever Club, an UKC/HRC club which is still very active today. At that time I wasn’t interested in field trials where a dog was sent to pick up a duck further than I could shoot a deer with my 30-06. My true interest was duck and goose hunting and my dog training knowledge was limited to a book “Water Dog” by Richard A Wolters. The hunt test game was new and fun and my dogs thought they were actually hunting.
Sandy Sue was a good meat dog and after breeding her to another very good hunting dog name Coal, my wife Jean kept a black female puppy and named it Days End Coal Black Sadie which became triple titled; with MHR,“NAHRA”, MH, “AKC” and the 33rd Grand Hunting Retriever Champion, “GRHRCH”. I got even with my buddy Phillip by giving him a puppy that he named Magnum. They were a great team.
In the spring of 1990 Jean and I purchased 64 acres and while clearing around the lake Sandy was run over and died. I was devastated and depressed by the loss and it was so bad I wouldn’t even help Jean with Sadie’s training. I did not want to get attached to another dog. Finely after nearly a year had passed Jean insisted that I get another dog. She really just wanted me to throw birds for her. I said that if I got another puppy that it would be a yellow female out of M.D Houston or Marathon Man. She found a litter sired by M.D. Houston and the bitch was out of Marathon Man. Whelped July 7th, 1991, Jean bought the last female puppy of the litter sight unseen and had it delta-Dashed to Atlanta. When Jean pulled that little yellow ball of fur out of the crate it was all over for me, love at first sight. She was almost white and had the blackest little nose I’d ever seen. Jean named her Super Sue.
Super Sue was a very quick learner. By the time she was three years old, she and Coal Black Sadie had successfully completed a NAHRA Invitational and Super Sue passed the 1994 Master National thanks to Richard McDonald their trainer and mentor. By that time I knew that she was special. I also realized I didn’t have the training knowledge to take her much further than hunt test. I contacted Mike Lardy of Handjem Kennel and he invited me to bring her to his winter training grounds in Florida for evaluation. It was a tremendous experience and a turning point for Sue and I. Mike advised me to take her to Andy Attar to train for field trials which I did and at that point realized that I had stepped into a whole new world of dog training. Andy a wonderful PRO field trial trainer and teacher who showed tremendous patience with me. He said that Super Sue was easy to train, however he had reservations about me "ha ha". He also trained several of Jean and my other dogs; Grace, Maggie and Nike. I will always be thankful to him and treasure his friendship for sharing his knowledge by teaching me and being a mentor.
In 1996 Sue turned five years old and we began running field trials. Although I had stopped running hunt test with Phillip so I could train for field trials, we continued to chase ducks and geese all over the country during hunting season. Three years later I began training with Jamie Balesdent from Canada who wintered in Leesburg, Georgia. He’d come down early November and stay later in the spring so that made it very easy and convenient for me and my dogs to train with him. I appreciate all the dog knowledge he taught me.
From 1996 to 2001 Super Sue earned 83&1/2 All Age points with the titles FC and AFC and qualified for five nationals plus a first place finish in the ESPN Great Outdoor Games in 2001. She had a litter of eight puppies including Day’s End Northern Express “Pepper” who won the 2005 Amateur National Championship Stake handled by her owner Jane Sutter. Super Sue set a standard that I strive for in every dog I train.
Sadly Phillip died of a massive heart attack October 10, 1999 while checking out a swamp for the coming duck season. I am blessed and thankful to have so many good memories of my hunting buddy and best friend. Jean and I will always be grateful to Phillip for changing our lives and us "going to the dogs”.