SRS Crown Championship Final Series One to Remember
It’s been a great week of retriever work at the 2016 SRS Crown Championship. The weather was warm but sunny and the people of Huntsville showed everyone what southern hospitality is all about. This morning broke clear once again as a crystal blue sky set the stage for a final series for the ages. All of the handlers were experienced veterans, three professionals and one amateur. And they would need all of that experience to tackle the final challenge, a quintuple mark with a water blind to finish it off. This was a pure hunting test with the handler required to empty his shotgun twice. The first mark was on the left and in the water. Marks two and three were on a tight line, the long bird on open ground and the shorter mark landing in heavy cover. The handler then had to reload the shotgun for the final two birds, one straight to the right in high grass and trees and the other farther out and into edge cover near the woods.
First to the line was Lyle Steinman and General, the heavy favorites going into the fourth series. But that down-the-shore triple proved to be a tough assignment and the team dropped into the last spot in the final four. Undaunted, the pair strode confidently to the line and took on the series. General was locked in from the beginning and made short work of the marks without a whistle. Only the blind remained. The dog lined it! Lyle let out a cry of jubilation and the pair was back in contention.
Up next was Clark Kennington and Trigger. They had triumphed in June at the SRS event at Pepper’s Pond in Mayflower, Arkansas, and were looking for another win. Trigger nailed the first bird but had a little trouble on the next two. A few whistles were needed on the blind but it was a solid run.
Amateur handler Tommy Harp only has one dog, his black Labrador Drake. It’s always great to see a man take on the top competition at this level and succeed. Tommy had certainly done that in every series with Drake and now there was one last hill to climb. Drake had a short hunt on the second retrieve but got out of sorts on the third bird in heavy cover and had to be handled to the fourth. Still a great week for the pair.
Finally, Stephen Durrence and Dude made their way to line. This man and dog team has been through it all together and this effort would be Dude’s final SRS run before retirement. The dog was born on April 16, 2006, and at ten and a half was the senior dog of the final series. The crowd was rooting for them; it could be felt in the air. Dude stayed in focus with Stephen on every bird and he marked them all with precision. One by one he picked them up without one mistake and the tension rose in anticipation of the blind. Stephen took his time and lined Dude up carefully. He gave the command with authority that sent the dog speeding for the water that he would cross to retrieve the bird. One whistle was blown and cast given. One more and the excitement built. Whistle three cut through the air and that was it. Dude had his prize and the 2016 Super Retriever Series Crown Championship! A Hollywood script writer could not have crafted a better ending as Stephen knelt with Dude at the line and let the emotions flow.
Congratulations to Stephen Durrence and GRHRCH Big Black Dude II on a wonderful 2016 SRS Crown!
by John Gordon Avery Outdoors