|Ruby and Randy|
The weekend started out like any other, although the importance was, perhaps, a little farther up the scale. The NSTRA trial season in Georgia (National Shoot to Retrieve Field Trial Assoc.) starts in September and finishes in the spring, usually March or April. This year, our final trial for the season was on the weekend starting March 1, 2019. That Friday, we all met near Ball Ground, GA at Gary Garrett's Farm, Gold and Grass Farm, to begin the festivities.
|Thank you, Gary Garrett!|
To qualify to run the final trial, The Georgia Region Elimination Trial, a dog must already be a NSTRA Champion or he must have placed in a NSTRA trial during the trial year. It's called the "Elimination Trial" because it is the first step in eliminating dogs, all over the country, to send on to a another trial to determine a National Champion. It is also used to determine a local, or Regional, Champion.
I had 4 dogs qualify to the Regional this year. Ruby (9yr Brit/F), Cap (8yr Brit/M), Shack (5yr Brit/M), and Pearl (5yr Brit/F). Ruby and Cap are multiple champions, Shack and Pearl are still coming up, but both had finishes throughout the trial year.
Pearl was eliminated, during her first brace, when she picked up her first two birds. Her Elimination Trial lasted less than 4 minutes! It took me longer to do the "walk of shame" off the field, than it did for her to disqualify.
Cap, Ruby, and Shack performed better and made some "cuts" (after a run, only a certain number of dogs advance- they "make the cut"). But, later on, Cap and Shack didn't make the cut, either. (To be completely truthful, Cap didn't make the cut because I, the handler, made a mistake, and cost him a lot of points. He was one dog below the cut line. Shack decided to not listen to me (again, my fault, and a training issue) and passed up a back to lose the points necessary to make the cut.). So, by noon on Sunday, the only dog I had in the fight was Ruby.
From a 44 dog start, by noon on Sunday we were down to 16 dogs. After a few more braces, we cut it to the Final 8, then Final 2. Ruby kept finding more birds each run! By 5:30p, it was Ruby and a very powerful male Setter from Tennessee. The final brace would be on a huge field, with twice the number of birds, and for 1 hour. This would be her 4th run of the day, 6th run of the weekend. She was fit. She was always a lean dog, and I keep her in shape with roading and proper nutrition. But, she also just turned 9 years old. After several braces, she started a slight limp in her right front leg, from a touch of arthritis. I rested her and the limp disappeared. She was ready.
The rain finally quit, as we went to the line, but the ground was soft and mushy. The field was very large and had fingers extending off either end to smaller fields. It called for a little handling to determine the best plan. Off the line, I had a great plan in my head. But "great plans never survive contact with the enemy" (Prussian Field Marshal Helmuth von Multke 1800-1891), and today was no exception. Ruby immediately turned right and took off, full speed, into a fescue field. Normally, she would quarter back and forth, but right then she was running straight line through the fescue, heading uphill to one of the little fingers! I decided to let her do her thing, and just tried to keep up. One, two, three- she found three birds in full stride following a track through the green fescue. Another one back in the adjoining field in tall broomsedge put us up to 4. I had to get her back to the main field (I heard my bracemate shoot several times, and I was getting nervous.) So, I whistled her up, and directed her back to the big field. A few minutes later, with her well ahead of me and the judge following her closely on an ATV, she locked up in a big clump. 5 birds on the card now. I knew a likely location where another bird might be, and I headed that way. But, Ruby was one step ahead of me still, perhaps she remembered running this field a few years ago. I saw her way ahead, turning left around some trees with the judge on her tail, headed to the likely area. A few seconds later, the judge yelled "point!". It was our 6th, and final, bird. The old girl had done it. Again. For the second time (2016 and 2019), Ruby was the Georgia Regional Champion.
|Ruby (me), Izzy (Gary Drinnan), and Bee (Gene Pritchett)|
You can listen to the podcast with its surprising ending. It is Episode 3 of the podcast "A Bird Hunter's Thought- Turn "Em Loose". Give it a listen, like, share, and Subscribe.