I participated in the First Annual Mrs. Cleo Watson Memorial Hunt Test which was hosted by South Mississippi HRC (SMHRC) on October 19th and 20th,2013. To say that I had a good time would be a huge understatement.
We arrived on the grounds early Saturday morning and many of the members of SMHRC were scurrying around getting last-minute preparations completed before all of the hunt test participants arrived. I would like to add that Richard aka Splash_em was doing an AWESOME job supervising.
I was running only one dog, Jack,and this day we were attempting to earn his 500th HRC point so that I can get that coveted “free” jacket. I only entered the HT for Saturday because I felt like I should approach this as optimistically as possible.
Saturday morning we ran the land portion of the test. The setting was a farm pond with thick vegetation around the borders with lily pads, clumps of grass, stumps and logs scattered throughout. It actually looked like a really good place to hunt ducks. The setup consisted of three marks and a blind.No problem, just pick up three marks, run the blind and then wait for the land series. When I arrived at the line Jack seemed to have justa little extra “pep” in his step (I contributed this to the cooler weather). I began my duck calling sequence to start the test. Since this was Jack's 500 point test I decided to make it memorable for him and do a little extra calling. I was only about 1.5 minutes into my calling sequence when the first bird came out unexpectedly, kinda like real hunting! Jack stayed there with me and watched all three birds splash. We picked them up clean then ran the blind clean!
I took Jack back to the truck and visited with my friend Alan Sandifer for a while and during our discussion we heard lots of cheering going on up where the upland was being held. I discovered that RTF's very own GulfCoast had just earned 500 points on his dog HRCH Ellie Mae MH! Congratulations Mark! Then Alan let the cat out of the bag by saying “we've got a ribbon for you too”. Of course I kept my poker face BUT dammit Alan really knows how to put the pressure on a guy! So, now EVERYONE knows that I am running Jack for his 500 points today, failure will be humiliating!
That afternoon while I am waiting to run the land series the anticipation builds and every time I go tothe truck to check on Jack he just seems more and more pumped. I had a talk with him and reminded him that this is a team sport and that I am the captain of the team! He agreed.
So we are finally called to the line. A gently-rolling hayfield with cover approximately 15” high. A triple around the horn, a blind, a diversion and an honor. After my calling sequence on the water series the judges decided that the land series would begin with a gunshot, NO duck call. It just so happens that I REALLY enjoy blowing my duck call and I am sure others enjoy hearing it, as I get numerous compliments afterwards. Anyway, we're at the line and me and the handler of the honor dog begin the test by each shooting a popper. Everything is good, I send Jack for the first bird and he front-foots it! HOWEVER, he doesn't immediately pick it up, first he hikes his leg a pees on it and the picks it up. I have seen him exhibit this behavior before and it is about to get ugly. This is where Jack decides that HE is the captain of the team. Luckily we kept it together good enough to finish the test and honored for the next working dog. It was sort of a relief to finally get Jack's 500 points. “Sort of” because if you know the group I hang around with then you know that no good deed, or accomplishment, goes unpunished.
At the banquet GulfCoast received a 500 point ribbon this ribbon is GRAND SIZE! Then he backed up to a huge cooler full of ice and water and laid back in it! Normally I would have thought that behavior was quite amusing but not when I'm half-way expecting a big ribbon too. Eventually my name was called and sure enough I was presented with a HUGE GRAND-SIZED RIBBON! This ribbon was much nicer than those given away at the 2012 Fall Grand. Splash_em offered to hold my ribbon so that I may take the ice cold bath that GulfCoast had just demonstrated. I had a choice, I could go peacefully or I could go down fighting, I chose peacefully. So I fell back into the ice and water and then someone added 5 more gallons on top of my head and I got stuck in the cooler! Eventually Jack Gravely and someone else came to my aid and helped me out of the icy bath.
Sunday I decided to run the upland test. I drove up to the test site and got Jack out so that I could air him and the lo and behold he flushed 5 chukars! One after another, he was running wild and having a good time. I couldn't blow a whistle for fear of interrupting someone's test. This was the last thing that I needed before running the upland. I ran upland under a judge who is known as “THE GREAT PUMPKIN”. Upland was fun and it was quickly over for me and Jack. I borrowed an unlucky hat from Thad Simmons but didn't know it. I wasn't informed about the hat's history until I left the line alongside the Great Pumpkin. Anyway it was fun and I will be back.
For those of you who don't know Thad, he is a great guy. He works all night baking cookies up in atree (he is a Keebler elf) and then trains dogs all day he is quite an accomplished trainer.
Sunday I was afforded the opportunity to pour gallons and gallons of water over the following handlers for obtaining titles:
Gray Land (Fishduck's son), Zack Gravely (Splash_em's son), Sonya Edwards (GulfCoast's much betterhalf), McKenna Smith, and several others.
Overall I had an awesome time. The test grounds were beautiful and the members of SMHRC did a great job hosting the event.
Mandy Cieslinski obtained 1,000 points on one of her dogs at this HT. Sorry, I don't know which dog, I missed this part of the ribbon ceremony because I was changing clothes at my truck! Congratulations Mandy!