Meet Your Judges (2017)

Region 1 – Connecticut

Jack Belicka

I would like to thank all the members of Region 1 who voted for me to judge the Master National. It’s an honor and a privilege to represent you and I am deeply humbled by your confidence in my judging ability.

My uncle introduced me to duck hunting in the Long Island Sound in Greenwich CT when I was in my teens. I loved it and became an avid duck hunter with my first Golden. After graduation, I was a tool and die designer in the powdered metal industry and several years later joined the Greenwich Police Department. One day on call, I drove by a house with ten Goldens and just couldn’t resist stopping in.

Come to find out, it was owned by Mrs. Torch Flynn who encouraged me to get in the game. She introduced me to Pat Sadler, who sold me my first Master Hunter. Coincidentally, I attended a Duck’s Unlimited dinner where the guest speaker was Richard A. Wolters. Just listening to him and reading his books made me realize I was hooked.

Nick Michelson took a chance on me. I joined his group and various other training groups. I entered AKC Hunt Tests, Field Trials and NAHRA. If I hadn’t put the time and effort in, I would never have gotten the enjoyment of watching field dogs do what they were breed to do.

In 2003, Frank Prendergast encouraged me to take the next step to the Master National in Thomasville, GA. It was such a great experience seeing the best of the best. I knew I wanted to judge the Master National.

My judging began with an AKC Jr. Hunt Test. After that, I attended seminars, did my apprenticeship and am now an AKC 24 pt. judge. I enjoy judging very much and want to give back to the sport so others can experience what I have. I believe in judging with a high standard, while being fair and consistent. There are no tricks in the real game of hunting and I believe there shouldn’t be in hunt tests. The tie will always go to the dog.

Our dogs are my wife’s and my family, and they live in the house with us. We currently have two Goldens, Nick is 7 ½ and Flash is 4 ½ years old. Nick ran in the 2013 MN in Cheraw, SC. Both Nick and Flash just qualified in the Master Amateur Retriever Invitational in Cairo, Ga. 20017.

As a judge, I believe in straight forward challenging marking situations. Blinds require good handler/dog teamwork. I know the hard work and time it takes to qualify for the Master National and I wish all the team players the best of luck. Enjoy your opportunity and have a lot of fun!

Region 1 – Maryland

Roger Everett

I would like to thank all the member clubs in Region 1 for their confidence in me to judge the 2017 Master National.

I have been involved in retriever hunt tests since 2003 when I entered my 5-year old chocolate Lab hunting dog in a Junior stake. Have been hooked ever since. Have trained and Master titled six chocolate Labs and four of those have competed in the Master National.

I shot my first duck in 1963 at age 10. Have been addicted to waterfowl hunting ever since. Having a well- trained retriever adds so much enjoyment and sense of accomplishment to a hunt. Really makes you proud when your dog completes a difficult retrieve.

I am a member of the following organizations: Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, National Rifle Association, National Wild Turkey Federation, Pinelands Retriever Club of New Jersey, Del Bay Retriever Club and First State Retriever Club.

I enjoy encouraging new retriever owners to get involved in the sport. I have gained many wonderful friendships during the past years with people who share my passion.

Good luck to all participants at this year’s Master National, may you enjoy memories that will last a lifetime.

Region 1 – North Carolina

Laurice Williams

It is a true honor to have been selected to represent Region #1 as a judge at the 2017 Master National in Texas. Thank you Region 1 clubs for electing me! I appreciate your confidence and support and will strive to represent you at the highest standards and professionalism.

It’s exciting to me to be part of the group of judges that have been elected for this year’s Master National event. I have had the pleasure to meet all of them and spend some limited time with most. I am in awe of the professionalism of each of my co-judges but what really stands out is their passion for the sport and the desire to “pull for the dogs”

My wife Becky and I have been married for 39 years. We have 3 grown children. Living at home are 2 Chessies, Marlyn and Tuffy two labs, Deter and Daisy and the King of the Roost, a Chihuahua named Ace.

We have 4 grandchildren who we love to spoil. I am a life member of Ducks Unlimited, serving as Area Chairman of our local DU Chapter., (National Top 100) serve on the state DU committee (Retriever Chairman), Master Mason, (Past Master), and retired on June 1st from DuPont after 35 years. Retirement lasted two days before I started working with DAK Americas as a Production Superintendent. We also own a small Blackberry farm that really keeps us busy. “The Berry Patch NC”:

I have been an avid hunter all my life. My biggest hunting passion is bear hunting with hounds. I come from a long line of houndsmen and wing shooters. Whether following behind a pointer in the field all day, wading in a beaver pond with a retriever, listening to a pack of hounds chase a coon, fox or bear, I strongly believe that a dog must be part of all hunting. Not to get into controversy with my fellow sportsmen but my relatives just didn’t hunt without a dog involved, period.

I got started in the retriever game when I decided that my Lab, a yellow talented retrieving machine named Lucky, lacked a lot of obedience and manners. I started reading books, asking questions and talking with people all with the intent of trying to make Lucky a better hunting partner.

I soon hooked up with some friends who knew a lot more about retriever training than I. A few retrievers later and after making a lot of mistakes I found myself joining a “Retriever Club”. Soon I was hooked on the retriever Hunt Test Game all in the name of having a better hunting companion.

When I got into judging it was not my intent to become a judge. I wanted to “learn what the judges were looking for”, so I attended a seminar. I soon decided I would give a little back to the sport that I had fell in love with. For some unknown reason I was and still am asked to judge often. I have had the privilege of judging at all levels, from a club’s training day, to the weekend hunt test, a WC or WCX, breed specialty, state competitions and even the Golden Retriever and Chesapeake National Specialties.

I take my judging responsibilities very serious. I think all levels of the hunt test game in their own way are equality important. I believe in the AKC standards and feel we as judges have an obligation to judge to those standards. We should strive to keep the integrity of the retriever breeds at the highest level and continue to do our part to assure the breed’s progress toward improvement.

The biggest benefit to my involvement with the retrievers has by far been the friendships I have made and the people I have met. Some of the best folks are retriever people! I would never have met so many good people and created so many friendships!

I am looking forward to this year’s Master Nationals, but it’s not about me. It’s about the dogs that have earned the right to be there. It’s about the handlers that have worked so hard to get their team ready at the highest level. I’ll strive to be fair and consistent and to give every team a chance to shine.

Hopefully everyone will do the work to the best of their ability and at the end of the week earn that ribbon and plate they have worked so hard for. But if for some reason they are not up to the standard at this time … well remember my motto… “I love to hand out ribbons but I hate to give them away.”

Region 2 – Indiana

Blake Lemish

I feel very honored to be selected as a judge for the 2017 Master National and want to thank everyone for their confidence in having me represent Region 2. I’m looking forward to meeting and working with all the judges selected for this year’s event.

My wife Susan and I have been married for 33 years and have a son, Bradley, who lives in Kansas City, MO with his wife, Tess. Our other family members include labs: Sydney, Ellie, Stormy and Mike, a Chihuahua named Archie, an eclectus parrot called Louie and a Newfoundland; Jack, who is a hunt test favorite. In my free time I enjoy hunting and fishing and have had my private pilots license since 2005. I try to incorporate flying to judging assignments and it comes in handy when we visit our son and daughter-in-law.

I have had hunting dogs all of my life at a competition level starting with beagles then moving on to coon hounds. I have worked for Con-Way Freight for 26 years. Once I began working nights, I bought my first lab after I went duck hunting with my uncle. I friend referred me to a breeder; Chris Cornelius. After a road trip to Ohio, I got my first 7 week old lab puppy as a hunting companion and she ended up becoming a 4 time Master National qualifier; Grassy Creek Casey, who is also a member of the Master National Hall of Fame. We are now on our fifth generation of Grassy Creek Labradors.

I have been a member of the Backwater Retriever Club for almost 20 years and currently serve as President of the club. Backwater Retriever Club hosted the 2000 Master National in North Webster, IN. My thoughts for running and judging hunt tests include fair, straight up marking tests with well placed birds and challenging blinds; staying away from tricking the dogs or their handlers. I want to wish all the owners and handlers the best of luck at this year’s Master National. See you in Texas!

Region 2 – Wisconsin

Jimmy Olszewski

I would like to thank Region 2 for electing me to be one of the judges for the 2017 Master National in Texas. I am honored that you have the confidence in my abilities to be a fair and impartial Master judge. The Master National program is great for judging dogs to the best of their abilities according to the guidelines set by the AKC and I am proud to be a part of this judging experience. Thank you

I have been involved in the AKC hunt test program since 1979 running and judging.  In 1979 I joined Fox Valley Retriever Club and served as president, vice president and chairman throughout the years. I have also served West Allis Kennel Club as chairman, vice president. Through these years I have traveled all over the country, met a lot of  great people, made many friends, and judged a lot of dogs, but  most of all I always have fun and have  made a lot of great memories.

I grew up training and hunting with my dad in Wisconsin. I have passed on my training knowledge and experiences to my four children, who all have dogs of their own now. As soon as they could walk they were in the field or duck blind hunting and training with me.  My two daughters Melissa and Michele can throw a bird with the best of them and my two sons Joe and Jake are my running and hunting sidekicks. They are also two of the best shooters I know.

I have hunted all my dogs as much as I can in the past 35 years in Canada, North and South Dakota and Wisconsin. I have had a lot of dogs over the years and each one has been a faithful hunting companion. Now I have a couple of master dogs and went to the Master National in 2015. We went out. In 2016 we made it to the end with a good run, but did not get a plate.

In my judging career I have always believed in setting up a fair and challenging test and follow all of the AKC rules.  I am committed to holding the dogs to a standard of excellence.
I look forward to judging your dogs and good luck to everyone. Thank you.

Region 2 – Kentucky

Helen Romain

I am honored to have been selected by Region 2 to judge the upcoming 2017 Master National. I am looking forward to revisiting these beautiful test grounds this time as a judge.

I became involved with the AKC Hunting Tests for retrievers in the mid 80’s after being invited to a Central Kentucky Retriever Club training day. From that day forward I have been an active participating member of CKRC. I was involved in obedience trials prior to that.

My husband, Clifford, and I have had Golden Retrievers for most of our 48 years of married life. In the early 90’s we purchased our first Labrador and have had several since then. Presently we own a Golden, black Lab and a yellow Lab. All are Master Hunters.

I have owned and trained and qualified many Master Hunters. My personal dog Torch passed two Master National tests, one in Thomasville, Georgia and another in Oklahoma. She ended her Master National career after running at Big Woods. She was diagnosed with cancer shortly after that.

We were partners in a local hunting club located on the Ohio River bottoms and our dogs were used extensively there. The hunting test proved valuable in keeping them fit and ready for their real jobs.

After retiring my husband and I both trained and ran dogs as well as judged many hunt tests. Five years ago we made a major lifestyle change and moved to Lake Barkley, Kentucky. Here we spend our retirement training our own dogs, fishing and playing on the water with grandkids.

I truly enjoy judging the retriever test. I can think of very few things that are more enjoyable than a day in the field with dogs and friends. I strive to be a fair and conscientious judge. I will test the dogs in respect for the AKC rules and regulations. I hope to make the test challenging and enjoyable for the dog and handler.

A good marking dog is invaluable and I expect to see the accomplished retriever show accurate marking skills as well as inherent abilities in locating the birds. On blind retrieves a dog should respond readily to his handlers’ commands. I judge the dog and handler as a team throughout the test and when that team works in sync with one another they are a joy to judge.

I appreciate and understand the dedication, time and hard work the handlers have spent preparing for the MN. I wish each of you the very best and I look forward to seeing you in Texas.

Region 3 – Idaho

Laura Foster

I want to thank the handlers and clubs from Region 3 for selecting me to be one of the judges for the 2017 Master National. It is both an honor and a privilege, and I look forward to seeing the dog and handler teams that have worked so hard to qualify to run.

My husband Allyn and I have been married for 32 years and we have one son, Andrew who lives nearby. We currently have two black Labs, a chocolate Lab, and a yellow Lab. Three are Master Hunters, two are QA2 and our young one is working to attain her Master title next year.

My involvement with AKC Hunting Tests began in 1987 when Allyn and I purchased our first Lab puppy with the intent of training it to be a hunting dog and a companion. We contacted a local pro trainer to inquire about training, but instead found ourselves in a very dedicated training group and were soon introduced to AKC Hunting Tests. (Training six days a week for 3 or 4 hours was the norm.)

It was only a matter of months before we purchased a second puppy so we could both be fully involved (and a little competitive with each other). We joined the Idaho Retriever Club in 1987, and have been members ever since. After watching my first Master test that spring, I knew that my goal was to train and run my dogs at the Master level.

I have been a member of the Idaho Retriever Club since 1987 and joined Treasure Valley Hunting Retriever Club soon after it was formed. Over the years, I have been club secretary, hunt test secretary, co-chaired hunt tests, marshalled, thrown birds, shot birds, judged etc.

My husband and I still train and run our dogs as a team and have had six Master Hunters, three of which have been QA2. Three of our Master hunters have been completely amateur trained and run, and three have had very limited pro training. I know the time, effort, and expense that it takes to train a dog to the level of a truly finished retriever and I find great satisfaction in training and running my own dog.

In 2010 I ran my chocolate Lab, Wyldfire’s High Tech CFO MH QA2 ( Penny) at the Master National in Corning, California. Even though we went out near the end of the week, it was an awesome experience and I will never forget the excitement and the nervousness of taking her to the line at the Master National.

In 2016, I had two dogs qualified to run the Master National and one qualified to run the 2017 Master Amateur Invitational.

I am an avid pheasant hunter and love to watch a good dog work in the field. My favorite hunts are on a quiet snowy day when the birds are holding tight and the dogs have to work hard to dig them out of the cover.

While judging I believe in always being fair to the dog. I like challenging tests that are fun to run, with good bird placement and good crisp handling on blinds. I enjoy watching a dog and handler take on a challenging test as a cohesive team and successfully complete it!

Good luck to all the dog’s and handlers that have worked so hard to qualify to run at the Master National this year!

Region 3 – Nebraska

Gary Kavan

I have been an avid upland and waterfowl hunter my entire life, which is what brought me to the sport of Hunting Retrievers. Since it’s conception in 1985, I have been an active participate in the AKC Hunt Test program.  

I was instrumental in bringing the Hunt Test program to the Missouri Valley Hunt Club, Valley Nebraska, where I was serving at that time as a member of the Board of Directors.  I have amateur owned, trained and handled seven dogs to their Master title, qualifying for the first Master National in 1991 with my dog FC AFC Yukon’s Genuine Jesse MH.

In 2013 I ran and qualified our dog Bur Oak’s Here’s Winston MH at the Master National at Fall River, Kansas.  I currently own three Chesapeake’s with my better half (Heidi Henningson), two of which already have completed their Master titles, and our young dog is currently running Masters.

I am a member of the American Chesapeake Club, the Missouri Valley Hunt Club, and the Metro Alliance Retriever Club.   Currently I am serving on the Board of the Nebraska Dog and Hunt Club.   I am the Delegate to the American Kennel Club for this organization.

To the Members and Clubs of Region 3, thank you for your support and confidence in allowing me to represent our Region in judging the 2017 Master National.

I wish all of the 2017 handlers a safe and successful Master National.  Take time to enjoy the event, the dog work and most importantly, have fun!

Region 3 – Idaho

Dale Langhorne

Having previously judged the 2015 Master National for Region 4, I especially want to thank all the clubs and members of my new Region 3 who voted for me to judge the 2017 Master National. Again it is truly an honor and privilege to represent you and I am deeply humbled by your confidence in me. I also congratulate my co-judges and look forward to a fun 2017 Master National in Texas.

I have been involved in the AKC hunt test program since 1992 when my wife Maggie and I got our first Chesapeake puppy “Fremont’s Jumpin Jake Flash CDX MH. I am blessed that my wife Maggie shares my passion for retrievers and hunting. Together we have raised, trained (with lots of help), hunted, competed, titled and judged retrievers in field events for some 25 + years. Our kennel Deepwater Chesapeake’s has produced some outstanding hunt test, field trial and just plain good hunting companions over the years.

I have competed in the 2006 and 2014 Master National’s and as stated judged the 2015 Master National in Cheraw, S. C. Maggie and I continue to raise, train and compete Chesapeake’s from our lovely Indian Valley, Idaho property.

I have served over the years in many capacities for many clubs and know the efforts required to put on a successful event. Many thanks to the Master National Officers and Board Members for their hard work putting on this year’s event. When I was previously asked if I would want to judge another Master National I said “heck yes”, I had a great time in 2015 in S.C. Meeting new people and their dogs was loads of fun. I sincerely hope the contestants that ran under me enjoyed their experience.

As a judge I believe in challenging and innovative marking situations, blinds that require good handler/dog teamwork and training and line manners representative of an obedient dog. I love to watch how the handler/dog teams work together and I learn much from these experiences.

I love to see talented dogs drive to the mark or hold that line to the blind. I love to see handlers that put as much into the effort as their four legged partners. The MH dogs I have owned and the MH dogs I have judged demonstrate traits and abilities that would make any hunter proud. Isn’t that the purpose of all this.

To all the competitors I well know the challenges and sacrifices you have faced to get here. You should all be very proud of yourselves and your dogs. Congratulations and the very best of luck. And once again remember to have fun!

Region 4 – California

Wendy Rowan

It is an honor and my privilege to judge the 2017 Master National in Texas. I want to thank the Region 4 clubs for granting me this privilege. I am looking forward to judging, seeing old friends and experience the Master National as a judge.

I love working with dogs and seeing how training can bring out their natural abilities. My first Lab Charlie introduced me to the Hunt Test Program. I have participated in competitive obedience, tracking, therapy dog program, confirmation, NAHRA, UKC and AKC hunt test programs, as well as AKC field trials with show and field Labradors.

Buddy (CH Marits Slippery Round the Bend, MH, MRH,CD) was my first Labrador to receive a Master Hunter title. This accomplishment took a lot of work and the belief that that my beautiful show dog would and could earn his Master title. To this day he is still the only Labrador Champion Master Hunter to have earned 3 Master titles – NAHRA, UKC and AKC.

I was convinced that my next dog should come from Field Trial lines and that is when Rip (Rebel Ridge Let’em Rip, MH, MH4,QA2) came into my life. Everything I learned from training Buddy help me with Rip. He loved to work, run drills and had tons of desire. He was a very consistent dog who only failed 2 hunt tests and one Master National.

Unfortunately Rip was qualified and ready to run what would have been his 5th Master National, but due to a shoulder injury he had to retire. We lost Rip the following year. Rip also participated in Field Trials and became QA2 and a Jam in the Open.

My current dog Sky (Baysides Blue Sky’s the Limit) is my high octane young dog that is presently in training for Field Trials. I continue to participate in Hunt Test as well.

I am a student of the sport and have been fortunate to be able to work with local professionals who have helped me learn the sport. I have always handled my dogs as I enjoy the thrill of working as a team with my dog. I know how it is to walk in your shoes at the Master National and I will be cheering for you and your dog.

When judging I want to see a dog and a handler working together as they walk to the line and in the field. I look for a dog that displays a high desire/intensity to retrieve the bird. I don’t like tests with tricks as I feel well placed marks and challenging blinds are all that are needed when judging a dog’s ability. When you leave the line I want you to come away with a feeling of accomplishment and that you and your dog were fairly challenged.

I live in Walnut Creek California (San Francisco Bay area) with my husband Paul. Although Paul does not participate in the sport he supports me in my passion/obsession and spoils the dogs. I work full-time for BB&T Insurance Services of California as an Account Executive in the Employee Benefits Division. Working with the dogs is my form of stress release.

Qualifying for the Master National is a great accomplishment and I want to congratulate you. I look forward seeing you and your dog on the line. Good Luck, breath and most of all have fun and enjoy your time on the line!

Region 4 – Oregon

Steve Souder

Thank you to the handlers and clubs in Region 4 that selected me to represent them as a 2017 Master National judge. I am honored to judge in this national event and hope to make you proud. I look forward to meeting and working with the other judges selected from around the country at the event in Texas.

I am a sportsman and love the outdoors. I am a hunter and fisherman and enjoy the shotgun sports. I was born and raised in Oregon (GO DUCKS) where I had the opportunity to experience great outdoor sports. Hunting: deer, elk, duck, goose, pheasant, grouse, and quail. Fishing: trout, steelhead and salmon. The sport I am most passionate about is training retrievers and competing in the hunt test program.

My start in the dog world began with a springer spaniel (Hank) that was our family dog that I trained and hunted with in the 80’s. In the early 90’s my wife, Susan, and I purchased a yellow lab, Sam SH, for our daughter Elaine. We went to a local retriever club meeting at the Roseburg Rod and Gun Club and then started running NAHRA events and later AKC Hunt Tests.

We were hooked! First came Dan MH, then Toby SH, Indy MH, Apollo MH, and Susan’s Chase MH which she ran and titled. We are currently training two dogs, Cooper SH a two-year-old and Blue JH a one-and-a-half year old. Our dogs are our family and our lifelong commitment.

The joy and challenges we both get in training and testing our own dogs is immeasurable. We have made many friends in the retriever community in the years we have been playing this game. I was fortunate to compete in the Master National in 2010 with Indy and 2014 with Apollo. Both times, I was unsuccessful but had great learning experiences. Not everyone can compete in the Nationals every year because of circumstances and sometimes life gets in the way.

Bob Klusman was my first mentor. He had the first titled Master Hunter lab on the west coast and was an early Master National Judge. He knew dogs and was instrumental in developing our local club, “The Umpqua Valley Retriever Club”.

I have had many mentors, teachers and friends helping me develop my dogs and philosophy about training and judging along the way. Thank you and you know who you are. Thanks also to the Tuesday training group.

I believe that Marking and Memory are important and try to set up tests with good bird placement and use terrain and cover to set up challenging marks. I believe that dogs should mark the birds and not mark off the holding blinds.

Good luck to all the dogs and handlers at this event. Thank you to all the people behind the scene at the Master National, and to the participant workers that make the event successful by hard work, determination and the hope their own dogs will qualify.

Region 4 – California

Janet Wood

Congratulations to all the dog/handler teams that have qualified for the 2017 Master National. What a wonderful accomplishment! Come, give it your best, and have a great time with the Master National family.

My heartfelt thanks to the clubs in Region 4 for selecting me to judge this year. I consider it an honor to judge these spectacular retrievers, and being trusted to judge the best of the best is a dream come true.

Having served on the Master National Board of Directors I have an appreciation of all that goes into putting on a world-class event of this size. My hat is off to the Master National Board, the local host clubs, and the countless volunteers who give so much to make it happen.

After close to 20 years I still find training, handling, and testing retrievers to be a fascinating, intellectually challenging sport. I never stop being amazed at what our dogs are capable of.

As a judge I want to set up tests that are challenging without being overwhelming. In my mind there are three critical elements of focus: 1) Dog focus – in watching birds go down and in taking direction 2) Handler focus – we cannot ask more of our dog than we are willing to give ourselves, and should come to the line with our full attention, and 3) Judge’s focus. I as a judge owe each and every team that comes before me my full attention and consideration.

I want to give the last dog the same focus I gave the first!

Personally, I am owned by three Goldens. I am proud to say my 14+ year old Roxie currently holds the retriever record for Master passes at 96. Her daughter Keeper is chasing mom’s record with 78 passes. And hopefully 17-month old Nicks will follow in their footsteps. I admit to being a total ‘Hunt Test junkie’!

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