Anna Katherine Schalk ~ 2023 – 2024 NBHA R-U Youth Handler of the Year

Anna Katherine Schalk ~ 2023 – 2024 NBHA R-U Youth Handler of the Year

Jun 12th, 2024 | Awards and Scholarships, NBHA

By Mary Sue Schalk

Anna Katherine Schalk, or AK, hasn’t lived a day in her life without interaction with a dog. Although she just turned three on February 2, 2024 she can name all the dogs in her granddaddy’s kennel of over 30 English Cockers, Pointers and a few English Setters. AK and her mother, Mary Sue Schalk, spend most days of the week helping Grandaddy, Mike Crouse, do the work necessary to care for bird dogs and maintain the property for wildlife. Her attention span may not be that of an adult, but her ability to be an active participant at Crouse Kennel is remarkable. Her curiosity and enthusiasm for what Momma and Grandaddy do are what put her in the role of handler this past field trial season.

AK can do and will do. As the Crouse Kennel team was preparing to host their first National Bird Hunters Association event in the fall of 2023 AK was posed the question, “Do you want to run Allie (Crouse’s Irish Tropper) in the field trial?” Only two at the time, there was no hesitation in her “yes”!  Having walked puppies from the time she could walk the concept was not out of reach. AK practiced walking/running and blowing her whistle and then competed in both the West Kentucky Field Trial Club Amateur and Open Puppy Stakes with her puppies, Allie and Claire. She was braced with Terry Boatright and Brian Strockrahm for her first competitions. She ran, she sang to the dogs, she ended up on her momma’s shoulders, on a Kubota with her daddy, in the judge’s saddle with Granddaddy then back up front handling her dogs. For all who were there to enjoy, her performance was a thrill.  

She also competed in Illinois State Classic Open Puppy Stake running Crouse’s Irish Trooper and Crouse’s Buffalo Junction. She again handled with enthusiasm from the ground, her momma’s shoulders and from Judge Eryn Pearson’s saddle which is a much better place to point out your dog in a walking stake. Crouse’s Buffalo Junction came in the money that day, but the best show was again AK.  

May her passion for bird dogs and competitive spirit continue to grow and thrive!