Have you ever wondered just how good is your bird dog? Looking for a metric in which to make that measurement? Do yeed another fabulous hobby? Field trials are where you and your four-legged hunting buddy can prove your proficiency in the hunt field.
Henry Horne, Glen Allen Kennels, the same gentleman that got us hooked into this crazy German short-haired pointer (GSP) life, also introduced us to the uber addictive game, National Upland Classic Series (NUCS). NUCS is a “shoot to retrieve” trial that showcases the dog’s hunt ability as well as the handler’s shooting ability. Henry has proudly taken several of his GSPs to championship titles.
Why bother with another hobby? Simple. It gives you more opportunities to work your dog, fine tune your skill sets and, did I mention that it gives you more opportunities to work your dog?
NUCS is just one game out of many. In NUCS, we have three birds, usually chukar, that we must locate within 15 minutes.
The birds may be set out in a random pattern, or they could be set with one in the front, one in the middle and one in the back. It all depends on who is running the tournament.
NUCS divides dogs into divisions such as Amateur (under two years old), Open (over two years old), Flushing, Pointing and Doubles. Dogs are awarded points based on finding and pointing or flushing the bird, retrieval back-to-hand and how quickly it’s all accomplished.
The handler must be able to work well with their dog, methodically and quickly, clearing a field that can be several acres in size. And no tournament series is complete without a national competition and tremendous prizes such as shotguns, Garmin collars, dog boxes and trailers and so much more.
Mike and I have become completely addicted and are already looking forward to our first nationals with Lacy Blues and Kai this March. Field trials help keep our dogs in shape and give us a chance to showcase what they can do. The camaraderie and friendships that form in this sport are another wonderful benefit. With competitions all throughout the mid-Atlantic and as far out as Utah, we love seeing this great country and taking advantage of hunting seasons out west.
Other great games include AKC, NAVHDA, US Complete, UFTA, NSTRA, and BHU just to name a few. NAVHDA and AKC are two testing systems that use a set standard in which to measure the dog’s own merit. The handler is not involved with the shooting of any game which allows for a clearer optic on the dog’s ability without worrying about the ability of the handler to drop game.
One of my student’s and I traveled to Maryland last September with our yearling GSPs and put them in a NAVHDA Natural Ability test. We both proudly came home with a Prize 1! These tests are designed to measure the puppy’s ability to work willingly, use its nose to hunt, track and test for their ability to swim freely. That swimming portion was NO threat as we would regularly swim our pups through the summer for exercise and to expel some of that crazy GSP energy.
Some of the games offer walking tests and some even have horseback trials. It just depends on what you prefer and honestly, how deep you want to dive in with your wallet.
We already have horses but the thought of having to repeatedly get on and off one of my monster, almost 18hh Percherons makes my hips hurt just thinking about it! One unifying factor across all of the tests is that they all offer a youth category. Some of the trials even offer youth scholarships that pay the entry fees for that young person to compete. I can’t think of a better way to get the next generation involved with the sport.
For the new year, consider trying out a new sport, field trials. On January 6th-8th, the Virginia Gun Dog Classic hosted by Glen Allen Kennels and Virginia Shooting Sports will be hosting the NUCS premier east coast competition at Mid-Oak Farm in Cartersville. Handlers from as far away as Kansas and Iowa will be competing for one of the coveted belt buckles.
We will be welcoming several new handlers into the game at this event and will also be dedicating this year’s competition to our beloved friend and competitor, Joseph “Joe” Throckmorton. Joe was a true sportsman and an honorable houndsman. He eagerly answered any questions from any handler and loved to share the ins and outs of how to best play the game. He never said a cross word about anyone. A true gentleman. Being able to spend time with handlers like Joe and Henry are exactly why Mike and I love field trials.
Take a moment to google field trials near you or even better, c’mon out to Mid-Oak and see it all in person! Details can be found on our website VaShootingSports.com. Be sure to bring a friend or family member so they may witness the excitement firsthand.
Kate Ahnstrom, owner of Virginia Shooting Sports is a certified, professional instructor of the Paragon School of Sporting, pro staff Syren/Caesar Guerini, resident pro Orapax Hunting Preserve, Artemis ambassador for Virginia and field staff member of the Sisterhood of the Outdoors. Her tireless dedication to her students’ success is obvious in each and every lesson.
Kate Ahnstrom, owner of Virginia Shooting Sports is a certified, professional instructor of the Paragon School of Sporting, pro staff Syren/Caesar Guerini, resident pro Orapax Hunting Preserve, Artemis ambassador for Va, and field staff member of the Sisterhood of the Outdoors. Her tireless dedication to her students’ success is obvious in each and every lesson.