The day would dawn bright and clear for the second running of the Greater Minnesota hunt Test Association’s Minnesota Master Hunt Test Championship. Handlers had gathered from both near and far for the event and the day promised to be one to remember. Not only was the weather absolutely beautiful for the entire day, everyone was eager to have a great day of running dogs on tests that would eventually determine the winner of the title “2008 Minnesota Master Champion.”
Three judges had been selected and given the task of setting tests that would combine elements of both AKC, NAHRA and UKC hunt/field test programs as well as being given the opportunity to stretch the distances out a little perhaps similar to what we find in the field trial game. This event was envisioned as a way where retriever enthusiasts from all of the arenas could come together and enjoy an event where all of the test/trial programs would have representation. To that end, the judges were successful in designing three challenging and well-planned series.
The three judges for the event were Dave Lybeck, Travis Lund, and Jeff VanGeest.
All three series would be run on NDRC North property. With temperature was predicted to top out in the upper 60’s and the skies were to remain clear with light westerly breezes. Both the weather and the grounds were outstanding for the test all we needed were dogs.
The first series of the day was a land series. It began with a quartering test for about 75 yards that culminated with a live flyer launched from a bird box and quickly dispatched by the expert marksmanship of Mr. VanGeest and Mr. Lund. The judges had instructed the handlers to allow the dog to open up with a little hunt and air out a bit. They wanted to see the dog work the filed in an effort to make game. The judges also indicated this test was so much about the dog making a retrieve following the flush, but to test the steadiness of the dog and the control the handler had of their hunting companion. Following the retrieve of the flushed bird, the handlers took their place for the triple that was about to be thrown. As the handlers and dogs surveyed the field the saw numerous goose and mallard silhouette decoys placed across the field. A duck/goose hunt was in the making and the scenario was that you were as usually joinging your hunting companions in the field after having flushed the first mallard from the creek area you had been walking in along. As you approached the decoy set-up your buddies opened up on a passing flock and dropped three birds across the field. The first bird was thrown from right to left from a gun station manned by a single white-jacketed thrower. The first bird fell in moderate cover about 180 yards from the line. The two remaining birds would come from a blind in the middle of the field about 100 yards from the line, the first bird of the momma-poppa was thrown right to left, kind of in the hip-pocket of the memory bird down. The “go” bird was thrown left to right towards the creek. Following the retrieve of all three marks and as the dog was returning with the last bird a diversion shot was fired to set up the blind. The blind was about 125 yards long under the arc of the “go” bird.
Although challenging, all of the dogs were successful through the first series. The most challenging bird in this series appeared to be the 2nd bird down. There were a few dogs that handled, and one dog with a double-handle, but the judges would welcome them to the second series to prove their merit.
The second series would be a double blind. A water blind was set up that had a 50 yard entry into the water followed by a lengthy swim across open water of about 70 yards to a point that the dogs should have been on for about 3-4 strides before going off the backside for another swim to a blind that had been placed at water’s edge. Total distance to this blind was given as 160 yards. The second blind was a land blind that was run from the same point of origin and to the right of the water blind about 75 degrees. The total length of this blind was determined to be 200 yards. To the left of the line stood a group of small trees and brush about 70 yards out. To the right of the line stood another groups of trees and shrubs about 90 yards out. These two groups of trees gave the dog goalposts or a keyhole to navigate, but also room to disappear from the handlers view as they went past the corner of each. Once beyond the second group of trees, the dogs would continue on to the base of the old railroad embankment and up the rise a little to a bird that had been planted on the slope.
Again the dogs had come to play and the handlers challenged the blinds well. Solid work was turned in by all of the dogs and everyone gave their best effort. All but one dog would be invited back to the third and final series.
The third and final series would prove to be very challenging. As the gallery gathered the judges were putting ght finishing touches on a series to include a water triple and blind. The series would be run from near the cemetery on the northwest corner of the property. All marks would be thrown from left to right. All gun stations were hidden. The order of the marks would be right, middle, left. The right hand mark would land in the corner of the pond at 134 yards. The middle mark again landed in the water between two clumps of cattails ay 110 yards. The third mark was thrown from behind a mound and land in the corner of the two-wheel track that ran along the woods. The third mark was 160 yards. This test would begin with a walk-up and the handler would be allowed to sit their dog upon the duck call of the judge following you to the line. Dog who were not accustomed to duck calls from the line were often confused and startled by the lovely feeding chuckles and hail calls of Mr. VanGeest. Following the retrieval of the marks a blind would be planted just to the left of the fall of the first mark. The line to the blind would at first appear to be the most challenging aspect of this test as it included a long down-hill angle entry across a short corner of water, over a narrow spit that was tempting to run down rather than cross over, back into a another short corner of water, across a wider spit of land, through a channel to make a square exit on to a peninsula and another angle entry into the water between cattail stands to both the left and the right of the dog. Finally after making all the retrieves the dog honored to the right of the working dog as the handler was allowed to sit back and relax in a chair that had been provided.
As the work began however it soon became apparent the challenge of this series would not be how well you ran the blind, but if your dog could pick up the marks. Although nearly every dog took a wonderful initial line to the “go” bird and would appear to be well on their way to “smacking” the test, nearly every dog would check up short enroute to the “go” bird and begin to hunt the area down-wind of the gun station the middle mark was being thrown from. Although by the time of the day the wind was nearly imperceptible, there must have been just enough of a remnant of wind to entice all but one dog to hunt the middle bird first rather than continuing on to the bird they had initially been sent to. Most of the field did well with the right hand mark as most handlers chose to go after that long bird on the right rather than trying to force their dog back into the area from where they just came. Most dogs after picking up the right hand bird still had the left long bird to pick up and had to again negotiate both the scent downwind of the #2 gun station, but also the drag back scent that was building in the heavy cover they had to run through. Several handlers had to handle to pick up the left mark and to varying degrees of success. Most of the work on the blind was strong and now dogs broke on the honor.
All but one of the dogs invited to the third series had completed the test and now the judges were charged with deciphering their notes and evaluating the entire days work to determine the winners. The third and final series had proven to be tougher than they had anticipated, but Dave Lybeck quoted another judge who he had known saying he had never scrapped a test because it was too hard, just judged it accordingly. Well, we were all anxious for the results.
As the competitors and small gallery of spectators gathered at the clubhouse for the announcement of the winners the Gordon Schlichting Memorial trophy was displayed as well as the beautiful maroon and gold qualifier ribbons were displayed. The judges arrived and each of the judges expressed their appreciation to the contestants, spectators, workers and the North Dakota Retriever Club for each of their role in the successful event. Finally came the winners!
4th Place – Ole Cottoneyed Joey, BLM owned and handled by Cathryn Barker of Mapleton, ND and member of the NDRC.
3rd Place – Macy’s Magic Moment, BLF owned and handled by Ed Sehn of Minot, ND.
2nd Place – River’s Edge Sara of Buckshot, BLF owned and handled by John Ketzner of Clear Lake, WI and member of the Chippewa Valley Retriever Club.
1st Place – Blackbird’s Blu-Moon River, BLF owned by John and Karen Blackbird, Handled by John of Mora MN and member of more retriever clubs than can be listed here.