Field Trial and Hunt test stories
A friend had a golden retriever. Both he and the dog were pretty knowledgeable and had trained a lot. It was the Derby, and the mark was a seriously tough single.
The line was down in the trees, hidden from the gallery. But from their vantage point they could see the dogs just after entry into the water, and could see the mark and the dog if it remained on line.
As they watched, the gun went off and the bird was thrown. They turned to the brush where the dog would emerge. Time passed and they wondered what happened. All of a sudden, the dog appeared airborne and hit the water with style. He swam to the mark, pinned it, and returned directly to the handler. Applause could be heard for a job well done.
When the handler came back up to the trucks, he was shaking his head. They asked what was wrong. He said, "oh, we got dropped". And then he said why.
At the line, he called for the bird. Up it went, the gun fired. The judge said his number, the handler released the dog, and the dog looked up in his face. Thank you no, boss. I really don't feel like getting wet today.
The handler turned to the judges and asked, "is it ok if I handle my dog"? Remember, this a Derby, and marking is of prime importance. The judges, knowing that the handler and dog would take a serious deduction, said yes, go ahead and handle the dog if needed.
Well, he did. He reached down, grabbed the dog by the scruff of the neck and in front of the tail, and "handled" him airborne with a serious voiced "BACK". The judges, shocked, said, "You can't do that"! The handler, knowing the outcome already said, "I asked you if I could handle my dog".
And no, I never ran a "rug" in a Field Trial. Any other interesting happenings in the name of competition?
You asked....Way back then
Paul Shumaker always went to the line with a cigarette. He'd light it up in the holding blind as his number was called to the line. I was taking photos one day just off to the left of the line. In his signature stance, bent at the waist, seeming to "whisper" instructions to the dog he brought the butt towards the dogs nose with his right hand, raising his left to signal the gunners. Paul's dogs did not break. Sometime later no smoking was allowed on the line.
I'm going to say it was Pipper's Pacer, I'm not sure but it was a big field trial legend like him. The dog went out on a great triple that had killed a few dogs and hammered it. The handler recieved the last bird, yucked it up with the judges as the dog hiked his leg and peed on the judge's lunch.
One of mine. We were at Lapeer Mi. hunt test. The pond was full of logs, with few options for marks. The dogs had to swim in fairly shallow water about 30 yards, cross a log, retrieve the bird, cross the log and come back. I had the smallest dog, a 45 lb spit fire, Snake Eyes granddaughter. Dixie flew to the log but when she tried to get over it she slipped backwards and under it. Again she tried front legs straining, spread eagle pulling and back legs kicking trying to get over. After several tries, I didn't ask, I blew the whistle and gave her an over around the log. It took a few whisles and verbal overs to convince her to go around. I was a wreck. She got the bird, headed back and again, tried to climb that log, after one try I gave her an over having to move about 15 feet to the right frantically waving an over, to convince her it was OK to go off line. She was exausted but still pumped to go for the second bird in easier water. I don't remember anything being said other than "WOW". I was so proud of her.
The dog and the crate
He was a lanky, very tall, 90 lb male. We were running a Q. first series triple. The flyer, off to our right, was supposed to be thrown from right to left, angled back. All of the dogs received a similar mark.
We came to the line, checked the guns, and I called for the birds. As the flyer came up, it hooked hard right, got shot, and landed directly beyond the guns from the line. The bird did not land in a good spot, but the judges decided to roll with it.
I released the dog and he took a line charging full throttle down the hill. He tore through the tall grass at somewhere close to 30mph. (later I clocked him on level ground and he could run close to that) He came up on the guns so fast he had no time to check down. He took the line, which split the thrower and a gun airborne. Unfortunately the crates where there too. He hit them with his back legs and knocked himself and the birds butt over teakettle. The guns, seeing him coming at only the last second, threw themselves away from the airborne dog.
He did manage to find the mark, and finished the series, but took a serious beating by the crate to get the job done. Later the guys from that station talked with me about their surprise when that dog came through them like that. He was one determined animal.
I was at a hunt test and had successfully gotten my dogs through a challenging master water series. The water test alone had three birds in three seperate ponds, but we managed to get call backs.
I wasn't able to see the test dog for the master land series. I had to go run two dogs over in Senior. While I was at Senior I heard that they were waiting for me to run over at the Master. So I went over. While I was going to the line other previous handlers were trying to give me an idea of what to expect. Apparently, my dogs were the only ones left in the running. Everyone elses had been dropped.
It was a walk up triple. A short 20 yd bird to the left, then a long bird on the right then a go bird down the middle that settled up on top of a small hill. As your dog picked up the middle bird and was running full tilt down the hill coming back to you. They threw out a flyer directly over your dog as a diversion. The dog I was taking to the line was a strapping two year old yellow. He was a bored out 454 that was always looking for a reason to go full throttle. You'd have to grit your teeth at the line just to keep him at idle while the birds came out. He was steady for all three birds and I sent him on his way to the middle bird. He picked it up and was running down that hill. I knew what was coming so I gave a hard come in whistle. But it was to no avail. Out came the flyer and from that point everything went into slow motion. All I saw was a flyer that seemed to hover above the dog "forever". 1 shot 2 shots 3 shots 4 shots, that didn't help matters. Meanwhile, my running dog had hucked the bird he had just picked up like a wad of chewing tobacco. Running underneath the shot flyer like a baseball player with his glove wide open. Saying "I got it ,I got it" He snatched it out of the air before it even hit the ground. Instantaneous laughter came from everyone. Even the judges had practically fallen out of their chairs. One judge remarked that at least I received the highest score for style. No one passed Master that day.
Quail and sugar sand.
I have another – this one gets better every time I tell it.
We were at a hunt test near Boca Raton in Florida (cruel isn’t it). The trees and foliage were dense with few bare spots and soft areas of white sugar sand. The cars and the dogs had a tough time managing the terrain leaving few options for tests. We started with a single, down a hill about 40 yards in a clearing with foot high clumps of brush. It was an over cast day and the light was very flat.
To make the test even more interesting they were throwing live quail, yes quail.
If you’ve ever been down there you know the hunt test crowd is an interesting bunch of old southerners. Not unlike some “life long Alaskans”, independent, opinionated, macho, saggy jeans hanging low and a big wad of chew in one cheek. Not that it’s a bad thing, just makes me roll my eyes and make comments under my breath, “I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck”. I was running 7th . Gunner was about 5 years old with 5 years of field trial training behind him. This was very confined space and we had never fetched a quail. It was crazy. The participants walked back from the test mad, disappointed with out finding the quail, blinking the quail or having to pull the quail out of their dog’s throat. I took a quail from one of the participants to put it back in the box. It was dead. Oops, it slipped from my hands and whispered “Gunner, fetch it up” . He did.
We were at the point where the test may be scratched if no dog could do it. I was hoping it happened before I had to go up. My number was called. Gunner searched for the gunner who was nearly invisible. I pointed him in the right direction and I was sure he had no idea where the gunner was but before he started swinging to look around I called for the bird. The gun went off and just as the bird arched, a beam of sunlight shown on the very spot where the bird lay. Gunner pinned it, ran back up the hill holding the tiny little bird head first with his lips. Yes, that moment does get better with time.
As we moved to the next test with far fewer dogs and handlers, these same guys helped me get my truck out of a pit of sugar sand. They were not so bad.