On Sunday, May 17th, I ran Puck in the Mid-Coast Maine Field Trial Club’s spring trial. We ran in the Gun Dog Stake and Puck came in first, winning the event.
Image courtesy of Chris Mathan @ the Sportsman’s Cabinet.
Twelve dogs entered the Gun Dog stake and there were six braces in all. Each one was 20 minutes long, compared to the Shooting Dog stakes which were 30 minute events. (for some explanation of what all these terms mean, go here).
We ran in the last brace, paired with a young GSP named Nellie. Nellie is owned by Maine Guide and grouse guru Bob Foshay (firstname.lastname@example.org). Puck ran with Nellie last October when Bob and I spent a great day in the field.
The Gun Dog Stake started at 7am on Sunday morning. The day started out with gray skies and rain. My dog hates rain – so much so that she will not run in a heavy downpour. Luckily, we drew the final brace and by the time we hit the course the clouds had cleared and the sun had come out.
The course started out on on top of a hill and ran down through some typical New England grouse cover, ending at a stream in a valley below. Because this was a spring trial, the trial was run on released quail rather than on wild birds. A lot of cover dog guys hate these “quail trials.” Once you see how the birds act, you understand why.
When pointed, they do not act like wild birds. Instead of holding tight, or moving away from a dog, a released quail will walk in front of dog or even head towards it. The birds are also very hard to flush and during this trial we had several instances where the handler and the judges had to chase quail through the brush before the birds would take to the air.
This type of commotion really tests a dog. In the Shooting Dog stakes, a dog must remain perfectly staunch through the flush and shot (in Cover Dog Trials, a starter pistol is used to simulate gun fire -birds are not killed). In our Gun Dog stake, Puck needed to remain on point and staunch through the flush.
Fortunately, she had three solid finds and the birds behaved themselves. While they were reluctant to flush, they didn’t do anything crazy like run at Puck and strut on a log a few feet in front of her face.
When our brace came up, Puck started off with a few shallow casts to the front. This was her first trial and I think all the people confused her a bit. But after about 5 minutes, she settled into a nice forward hunting pattern, heading towards objectives and checking in on my location.
In my previous posts I mentioned Puck’s big fault – she pauses in the woods, especially when she loses track of me. That fault disappeared in this trial. Puck comes from some very solid field trial stock and I think this event brought out her genetics. Puck ran hard throughout the brace and the longer we ran, the bolder she performed. With a high head and a cracking tale, she pressed ahead and had three solid finds. She was staunch on all of them, and on one she relocated a bird after an unproducive point (one where a birds is not produced).
Overall, Puck had a great run. Luck was on our side that Sunday morning, and like I said, I’m real proud of my little girl.
Here’s a pic of all the dogs that placed in the Gun Dog stake, courtesy of Chris Mathan @ the Sportsman’s Cabinet: