This last weekend, on a farm in North Georgia, we held the Georgia Regional NSTRA Championships. As I've written before, NSTRA is my field trial of choice, mainly because it more replicates hunting and I can make the transition from hunting around the country to a NSTRA field trial easier than other venues (hunt tests, AKC, Walking Field Trials, American Field, UFTA, BDC, etc.)
Amazingly, the weather turned cold the day prior to the trial and stayed there throughout. Spring in the South can be warmish, but Thursday the rain hit and the temps plummeted to 28 degrees Saturday morning! It was absolutely perfect for my dogs. To win this trial a dog must run 5 times, with the final run of one hour. That's 3 hours of hard running, obedience and classy pointing and retrieving. The heat is a tremendous obstacle on a normal day. A cool weekend is a blessing.
Ruby's High Point Female for 2014-2015 Award
BJ and me accepting the plaque for the High Point Female Dog (Ruby)
First and Third place For Cap and Ruby
Third and Fourth Place for Cap and Ruby
Cap on Point!
But the format made for a long day for me, running two dogs through the Final 6 and one dog in the Final Hour. In order to qualify for the Finals, Cap had to make a cut, based on scores, from 38 dogs to 16. Then, another cut to the Final 6. After all that, another run was made to take the top two dogs, based on judge's scores and have them run a 1 hour brace with 10 birds hidden in the 80-100 ac. fields. Cap, of course, made it to the Finals. Ruby, my Brit female, made the first three cuts as well- to the final 16 and, then the Final 6. Her scores had her finishing 6th overall.
Jeff Keck and me in Blind for Final Hour
Final Hour Judges and Officials
Jeff and I left the blind for a one hour brace in a double-sized field with twice the number of quail hidden. I was beat and Cap was a little worn, as well. I figured, if we were this tired, Jeff and Trim were tired, as well. We gave it our best shot and didn't give up anything. At the end of the day, Jeff Keck and Trim (Setter/Male) found 6 birds and had a back for the best overall score and the Championship! Cap and I did the best we could and the better dog and handler won.
Final Hour Start
Final Four- Cap is the only Short Tail in the Bunch!
The Whole Crowd
Jeff/Brenda Keck and Trim (Setter/Male)
Georgia Region NSTRA Champions 2015!
An added bonus to the long weekend was that Cap gained his second Championship! It is well deserved for the little guy. He rode home inside the truck and slept on the bed last night. Only six months until bird season!
When hunting ends in the South, the field trials start up. I usually limit trialing during hunting season and look forward to working my dogs at field trials after all the states shut down their seasons. Typically, this means February or March.
Scott/Chip and Cap/me in the blind.
I like the NSTRA format of field trials since it more closely replicates bird hunting. Shotguns are used and birds are shot and retrieved. I've witnessed long and passionate debates about different venues and formats for field trials- many times the words heat up! Boys and girls, it's not worth the effort. My choice is NSTRA.
Cap waiting to run.
Judges and bird planter conferring.
Basically, two handlers and their dogs sit in a blind while birds (most usually quail, but other gamebird species can be used) are hidden in a large (approx. 40 ac.) field. The dogs are called out and turned loose to find the birds. Judges follow each dog and score them on the Find, Retrieve, Back (or, Honor), Ground Coverage, and Obedience. Each "brace" of two dogs runs for 30 min.
Bird Planter filling up!
Unwanted intruder- Eastern Diamondback.
Of course, volumes can be filled discussing the nuances and other rules, but that is it in a nutshell. Like my Daddy used to say, "It ain't rocket science!" I've been associated with NSTRA since 1992, or 1991, I'm not sure, it was so long ago. I've had great dogs, good dogs and others. The nice thing about this is, on any given day, an average dog can turn it on and beat the tar out of a National Champion. After all, these are dogs, not machines. Heck, I know of a dog, probably the best on the ground right now, who was beaten by a bench, show Setter- long hair and all! (We still chuckle about that one!)
Cap and I are getting ready for another run.
When the scores are totaled, the placements are awarded first, second and third. Points are given for the placements, and when the totals are high enough, a NSTRA Championship is awarded.
Whichever format you choose, keep the dog in the field. He will love you all the more for it.
Heading to the Line.
Start Line Action
I put this video in because I love it! Mearns Quail flush- AZ 2014