The Commercial Appeal

Bird dog handler’s story still continues to amaze


There were those who thought Steve Hurdle’s days as a profession­al bird dog handler were over. Some weren’t even sure if he would live as he lay in a hospital bed for 13 days after sustaining an aneurysm in 2006 moments after one of his dogs, Shell Creek Coin, had won the National Championsh­ip of Bird Dogs.

Just minutes after the final photograph had been taken of Hurdle posing with Shell Creek Coin near the steps of Ames Plantation’s Manor House, Hurdle fell to his knees. He remembers the pain of what he said was like getting hit in the back of the head by a hammer.

Stunned spectators and family members watched as Hurdle was airlifted to a hospital where he underwent surgery. During his time in the hospital he was given 44 pints of blood. Well, guess what? Just like he did when he was a national champion rodeo performer in high school and college Hurdle may have gotten thrown off his horse a few times, but he always got back on with even more determinat­ion. In 2012, Hurdle again won the National Championsh­ip, this time with a pointer named Connor’s Button.

Hurdle is back in 2017 for the 118th running of the National Championsh­ip of Bird Dogs . . . and he’s got seven reasons to be even more determined to succeed.

That’s the number of dogs handled by Hurdle listed among those nominated to compete at Ames Plantation near Grand Junction, Tennessee, starting Monday with braces at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.

“That is the greatest number of qualifying dogs by one handler since I’ve been here in 35 years,” said Dr. Rick Carlisle, Ames’ superinten­dent. “And they are all handled by a guy that is lucky to still be alive.”

Hurdle is among several story lines for this year’s National Championsh­ip, including five setters in the field, four handlers with four nomination­s (Larry Huffman, Mark McLean, Randy Anderson and Robin Gates) and Sean Derrig, an amateur owner/handler who has three dogs in the competitio­n.

But it’s Hurdle’s story and his amazing recovery from 2006 to not only win again in 2012, but to have so many of his dogs entered in this year’s field.

Carlisle calls what happened to Hurdle in 2006 one of the most bizarre events in his long career at Ames Plantation, which serves a working field station for the University of Tennessee.

Hurdle, 56, said he remembers getting back up, but fell again.

“I didn’t know what hit me,” he said. “It was like somebody with a hammer hit the back of my head and everything went black.”

The aneurysm burst inside his aorta, the main artery that carries blood from the left ventricle of the heart. Paramedics on the way to the hospital didn’t think Hurdle would make it. He did, though. “The good Lord has a reason for me to be here,” he said. “I have always been taught to work hard in life and just keep going. I have had a lot of obstacles in my life, and I probably brought a lot of them on myself, but I try to take whatever life throws at me and do the right thing.”

Hurdle, who owns Back Home Kennels in Hickory Flat, Mississipp­i, credits his success as a profession­al trainer to people like Hoyt Eaton, Wayne Tate, Fay Thornberry, and, of course his family, especially his wife of almost 20 years, Karen.

“Without my wife and my family supporting me I could not be doing what I am doing,” he said.

What he’ll be doing over the next two weeks will be handling a lot of dogs, all of which he believes have the three essentials needed to win the National Championsh­ip – style, stamina and the ability to locate coveys of quail.

“It’s going to be a lot of work and it’ll be hectic, too,” he said “It takes a lot of time but I am blessed to have these seven dogs and the owners that support them. This business does not make it without the owners that support their dogs.”

Hurdle will handle dogs owned by Rick Stallings (Cassique’s Boss); Doug Arthur and Rachel Blackwell (Coldwater Thunder); Bob Walthall and Thorpe McKenzie (Dazzling and Skyfall); Bob and Sarina Craig, John Sayre and D. Raines Jordan (Mega Blackhawk’s Progeny); Betty Shearouse (Prodigy’s Bonfire) and Robert Craig, Kermicle, Sayre and Jordan (Stardust Chazz).

Through Thursday 42 dogs — including 2016 champion Whippoorwi­ll Justified — have been nominated. Braces were determined Saturday night. Pairings and daily results will be posted on Ames Plantation’s web site (amesplanta­ With no weather delays the champion could be crowned late next week. Two braces will be held each day Monday through Saturday.

Got an outdoors item of note? E-mail Larry Rea at or go to his web site at; listen to Larry Rea on Outdoors on Saturday mornings from 6-7:30 on ESPN 790-AM.

 ?? PROVIDED BY KAREN HURDLE ?? Steve Hurdle is back for the 118th running of the National Championsh­ip of Bird Dogs.
PROVIDED BY KAREN HURDLE Steve Hurdle is back for the 118th running of the National Championsh­ip of Bird Dogs.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States