Tuesday, March 22, 2011

First Timers

Without getting into specifics, we all remember the "first time" for almost everything we encounter in life.  This past weekend Abby and I entered into the world of English Springer Spaniel Field Trials for the first time.

Over two years ago, I made the decision to train Abby to the level that she needed to be at in order to run in trials.  By no means is Abby strictly a trial dog, nor was I going to be a full time trialer.  We're in this game to extend our hunting season and to bring another level of experience to the fields and coverts that hold wild birds.

We trained hard and often to get to this level but I didn't and couldn't do it alone.  We had plenty of help and encouragement from a short list of people.  First and foremost on that list is my friend and mentor in this game, Tim DeGroff of High Prairie Farms Flushing Spaniels.  I started training with Tim five years ago when I needed training help for Mia.  From that simple beginning to this past weekend, I have learned so much about dogs, shooting, trialing, hunting and everything in between.  Next on that list is my friend Adis of Upland Hunting the Springer Spaniel Way.  He's been a great hunting and training buddy over the past two years.  After that, the likes of John A, Steve Z, Gary S and Dave W have either given timely advice, gunning, or encouragement from a far.  Last, but not least on this list, is my wife, Nichole.  What else can I say as without her, none of this would be possible.

Over the past weekend I had an amazing experience. Abby made it through the first two series of the first trial.  We didn't get called back to the third series but I was very, very happy with those results.

Our first run at the second trial was the highlight of our weekend.  We ran under a very respected and detailed-oriented judge.  Abby was great; she patterned the wind great and showed off her nose.  She had two contacts: one short retrieve and one fly away.  At the end of that run, the judge gave me some helpful advice and told me that I had a very nice dog.  Boy did that make my day!!!

The next day, we ran in a high cross wind and the course held some great scenting due to the rain from the day before.  I was less nervous about this run as I walked to the line.  But once I sent Abby on her run, I knew that this was going to be a challenge.  The cross wind really amped the little girl and she pulled me a little bit farther of the course than where we should have been.  Once I got her to work on the up-wind side, she flushed a cock pheasant.  The bird was hit in the wing and went down over two elevated sections of ground.  As the bird disappeared, the judge tapped me for the retrieve.  Abby took a great line on the retrieve to where she thought the bird might have fallen.  The fall was blind not only to Abby but also to the judge, both gunners and of course, me.  Abby raced about 180 yards and started to make game.  I thought for a moment that she had found the crippled bird but to my surprise a freshly planted cock bird flushed.  Abby was steady on that bird but I failed her as a handler as I told her "back" thinking that she would run deeper on the line.  But she mistook that command as "retrieve" the second bird that flushed.  So right then and there we were done as she broke on the bird.  It was a tough test for any dog and handler but I learned in the trial game that anything can happen at any time.

The weekend was capped off with a 2nd place finish by Tim who handled Dutch in the Open Division of the OK trial.

Here are few photos form this past weekend.

So Blogger is having so trouble with posting photos..........Hopefully this will be fixed!

Getting ready.

To the line.

First Bird!

Great Find, Steady and Honor.

What a Relief!


Armadillo Anyone?

Tim and Dutch.

Walking to the line in the second series of the OK Trial

Here's the Bird that got us into trouble.

Looking for the fall.

Little girl Abby

Thursday, March 3, 2011


In exactly two weeks Abby and I are entering into the world of AKC Licensed Spaniel Field Trials.  We have been working extremely hard in preparation for this.  As I prepare, the thought of the unknown can play some serious mind games with you.  Since I'm a newcomer to the sport, I'm trying to visualize every scenario that might be in store for us.  From the drive to the grounds, to preparing the evenings meals, to the million different variables that a trial can hold and even what to wear.  I'm trying to visualize it all but the only thing I can see is me putting on my socks. Oh well, I still have two weeks to get this straightened out. Hopefully by then, I'll have more than just my socks on.

til next time...