Cover Trial Tuneup Weekend – 4/5 & 4/6

Wow– what a great weekend. I ran my English Pointer for about 2.5 hours up around Portland, Maine and we moved 12-15 woodcock and a grouse. I’m tuning Puck up for a Cover Trial in May. This is going to be our first field trial and I’m pretty excited about it.

It was gray, dreary, and in the 40s on our training day, typical spring weather in northern in New England. Even though it was April, there was still a lot of winter in the woods. As I stomped through my coverts, my snowshoes crashed through some drifts that left my knees buried in the snow.

The deep snow caused Puck some trouble, too. In spots, the snow came up to her ears. But she struggled through it, pressing forward, and finding birds. Puck’s a five year old English Pointer from Autumn Memory Kennels. She’s a real sweet dog and very smart. She has a lot Elhew style, a mild temperment, and a ton of heart. She’s out of Elhew Discovery and Autumn Memory Wildfire. Elhew Snakefoot is her grandfather on both sides (X Elhew Calamity Anne on the dad’s side, X Elhew Autumn Whisper on her mom’s).

She was steady to wing and shot on just about all of her finds. Here she is pointing a woodcock that was hanging at the edge of a field. She’s a little diffident here, like she couldn’t get a real lock on the bird:

Puck pointing a woodcock

Southern Maine had over 100″ of snow this year. There’s still a lot of snow in woods:

Snow in souther Maine

Here’s Puck pointing another woodcock. She’s more confident here:

Puck pointing a woodcockk

What I know about Cover Trials

Not much. I’ve been to a couple Cover Trials, but I’ve never run a dog in. I’ve been able to figure out a little from attending these trials (like the fact that the people at Cover Trials are very friendly and helpful).

One of the folks from the last trial I attended pointed out this website to me as a good place for more info, too.

Cover Trials are field trials run on wild grouse and woodcock in their natural covers. They are made up of different “stakes.” These are the actual competitions the dogs run. There are several different kinds of stakes. So far, these are the ones I’ve been able to figure out: Puppy (dogs age 6 to 18 months), Derby (dog up to 2 1/2 years old) , Shooting Dog (finished dogs, steady to wing & shot), and Gun Dog stakes (these dogs do NOT need to be steady to wing & shot). There are also stakes for different kinds of handlers: “amateur” for guys like me and “open” for amateurs and professionals.

During the stakes, the dogs wear just a regular collar and a bell (no e-collars or trackers). They run together in braces (pairs) over a course that wanders through the cover on a set path. Handlers walk the path with their dogs out in front. Some whistle or call to their dogs to keep them on the course.

Rather than running a mechanical, sweeping pattern, the dogs are supposed to hunt objectives. This means they should hunt birdy looking areas and skip sections that are unlikely to produce a point. The dogs must point any birds that they find, honor any points they come upon, and in Shooting Dog stakes, stay steady through flush and shot.

From what I’ve seen, Cover Dog trials are a lot like real hunting. The dogs are judged on their style and biddability in the field, along with their ability to establish a point and hold a bird. To test a dog’s steadiness to wing and shot, blank pistols are fired on the flush. Because the birds are not shot, retrieving is not part of the game.

Puck and I are going to run on May 18th. We’re going to have another tune up weekend April 19-20th and I’ll let you know how it goes.


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