Dec 18 2015
Jan 20 2013 -- Updated some Michigan trial dates
Jan. 5th - Updated Points Standings for the different Awards
Sept. 5th - Updated Fall Field Trila Dates
Updated Hall of Fame Page
Aug 13th - A new Essay uploaded to the Essays page today.
July 26th - A new Essay uploaded to the Essays page today.
July 15th - A new issue of Woody's Online Journal Uploaded to the page today.
Video to go along with the Humor Page article posted July 12th
Named after famed artist, writer, and field trialer William Harnden Foster, the W. H. Foster Award debuted in the 1998 - 1999 season. Foster, who is perhaps best known for his classic book "New England Grouse Shooting", bucked the trend of his era by preferring pointers for his grouse trialing and shooting wants. He passed away of a heart attack while judging a cover championship.
Being that an award honoring the top setter in grouse and woodcock trials had been around since 1989, two Massachusetts stalwarts Fred Wills and William Kerns decided that an award that included ALL dogs, regardless of breed, was necessary. They chose the name "William H. Foster" and an appropriate choice it was.
When a dog is named a winner in any Open American Field Grouse or Woodcock Championship, or in three designated grouse and woodcock classics, the dog is given a "points score" based upon the amount of dogs at the stake.* The season runs from the Fall of one year to the end of Spring of the next. The points are then tallied and the award given to the dog that accumulated the most points. The winner is honored with a plaque and modest purse.
The purpose of this web site is to promote the sport of grouse and woodcock trialing, to publicize W.H. Foster Award and to help raise funds for this award. We hope that you enjoy the various sections including Woody B's Online Journal.
*The full formula is described here in "What's the Points?"
"It was the toughest assignment I ever had," he said. In a bright Rhode Island evening at the Northeast Woodcock Championship in 1998, I attached a small wired microphone to the shirt of Frank Foss, set a video camera on a tripod and began asking him questions. Frank reported trials as far back as the 1930's and was the reporter for the inaugural running of the Grand National Grouse Championship in 1943.
But that 'toughest assignment' that Foss spoke of came a year earlier. Frank was judging the new England Open Grouse Championship in 1941. Both judges and the reporter were on foot. Foss turned around to say something to the reporter when he saw the reporter pitch backward and fall to the ground. "Dr. Neachem was in the gallery," Foss recalled, "I can still see him kneeling there and looking up and saying, 'This man is dead.'" 'This man' - the man lying there, was William Harnden Foster. Foss had to finish Foster's reporting assignment.
Born in Andover, Massachusetts on July 22, 1886, Foster showed a talent for art early. After graduating from Punchard High in Andover, MA, he studied art at the Museum Of Fine Arts in Boston for three years and then studied another three years at Howard Pyle Art Colony in Delaware. His first work was published by Scribners on a series of trains titled "All in a Day's Run". He did the paintings while still studying under Pyle, who suggested that he show them to Scribner's Magazine to see if they might be interested in publishing them. They were, and asked him to write a few words to go along with them. That began his writing career to go along with his painting. He was then commissioned by Scribners to cover the building of the Panama Canal.
The following year a series of Foster paintings of what were
then called "aero planes" was published by Scribners.
W.H. Foster was also, from his early days, an avid sportsman. Eventually his association with the National Sportsman Magazine brought him into contact with a number of noted sportsmen and conservationists. During this period he and several associates developed a method for practicing shooting moving objects which came to be called "Skeet." (Foster is in the Skeet Hall Of Fame.)
And for much of his adult life William Harnden Foster was also interested in wing shooting, bird dogs, and field trials. Field Trial Hall Of Fame reporter William Bruette noted, "Mr. Foster's interest in the New England Field trials was constant and primarily directed to the introduction of a higher class conception of the working grouse dog." In time Foster collected his thoughts on wing shooting and grouse and dogs in book called New England Grouse Shooting. Filled with history , wisdom, and stunning illustrations by the author himself, the book is still one of the great classics of our sport.
In New England Grouse Shooting, Foster expressed sentiments that hit home to most of us grouse dog enthusiasts. "Grouse hunting without a dog," he wrote, "Is not grouse hunting at all." We sympathize. And when he writes, "Hunting with a good dog during the shooting season is the essence of the sport and because of the shortness of the season many grouse hunters continue to follow the grouse with their dogs, fully absorbed in watching the work and continued training, with no sense of loss because the gun is packed away at home..." we nod in agreement. When concern was expressed that the development of high class grouse dogs might result in too many birds being killed, Foster wrote, "As the grouse hunter's interest in better dogs increases he becomes more careful of the only bird on which a grouse dog can be made and thus becomes more sparing in his shooting in order to preserve a supply of game that is more important to his future sport alive than dead."
When we speak of the William Harnden Foster Award as the 'top cover dog' award, or any 'top dog' award for that matter, we are not speaking in absolute terms as to the 'best' dog. Rather, we are talking about determining a 'top dog according to a formula.' The 'best' dog is much more a matter of personal opinion and much more elusive.
This is not to degrade the dogs that have won these awards for I believe that to be even 'in the running' for an award, a dog has accomplished a lot and has entered the elite. I merely state the fact that regardless of how you try to determine the 'top' dog, ultimately, we must rely upon some type of mathematical formula which can at best 'approximate' the success of various dogs on a particular circuit rather than accurately determine with absolute certainty, THE best dog.
The truth is that different awards use different formulae to determine a top dog. Obviously, different formulae might result in a different dog winning. Moreover, the formulae almost always figure the number of dogs into the calculation and critics are quick to point out the many large stakes that are not competitive, and many small stakes that yield outstanding performances. Additionally, in some cases, a runner-up performs so close to a great championship performance that hairs are split by the judges to separate them, while in other cases a runner-up might barely clear the bar of acceptable performance in a championship. But in either case, the runner -up is dealt with, points-wise, in the exact same manner. Also a Champion in one stake may have actually had a lesser performance than a runner-up in another stake. And we could go on and on with the criticisms. So we do the best we can.
That we attempt to honor a top dog is good thing to do, despite the imperfections inherent in any such attempt. The advantage of a mathematical formula is that all subjectivity is removed, the formula applies to all equally, and everyone knows where a particular dog stands in the rankings if they choose to do the easy calculations. To compensate for criticisms listed above that all championship performances are not equal, someone at the 'top dog award' would have decide to give more points... or less points ... based on some subjective assessment of the 'true' quality of a stake, or compare the title-winning performance of a dog in Minnesota to a dog that won in New Brunswick. This is simply not possible to do and would not be desirable even if it were possible. Top dog awards let the judges determine the winners, and all the winners are then dealt with by the exact same formula. And much like judging a field trial performance, top dog awards develop criteria and determine a top dog based upon those criteria. Neither determining the winner at a specific trial by subjective judging, nor determining a top dog are foolproof, but as stated previous, a dog that is in the running for a top dog award has accomplished a lot and has entered the elite.
The formula by which the William Harnden Foster Award is determined is as follows.
Champion: 12 X the number of dogs.
Runner Up: 8 X the number of dogs
Classic Winner: 8 X number of dogs
R-U Classic: 4 X number of dogs
We are proud to announce that, beginning with the 2006-2007 season, Nestle-Purina will be sponsoring the William Harnden Foster Award. Thanks To John Stolgitis and Purina Rep. Dean Reinke, a deal was recently struck and we are most appreciative of Purina's Support. Through that support the handler of the winning dog will receive $1,000 dollars and a year's supply of dog food for the winning dog.
Also as part of this sponsorship deal, we are introducing the inaugural Purina Top Cover Dog Derby Award. The handler of the winning dog will receive $500 and a year's supply of dog food for the winning dog.
The Officers for the Award are:
President: Jeff Crum, MacDonald, PA
Secretary: Scott Syphrit, Brookville, PA
Treasurer: John Stolgitis, Ashaway, RI
Mike Flewelling, Holden, ME
Joe McCarl, Guys Mills, PA
Ryan Frame, Clearfield, PA
Chuck Langstaff, Lansing, MI
Honorary Director At Large
Paul Horchen, Dubois, PA
We will still be doing a few fundraisers here and there to pay for plaques, and the web site. But this really does relieve a lot of the pressure. Thanks again Dean Reinke, Bob West, and Purina!