Field tri­als and tribu­la­tions

Shooting Gazette - - Gundog update gundogs -

A lot of peo­ple be­ing asked to judge field tri­als have lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence in the shoot­ing field. As the stew­ard of the beat is more of­ten than not the game­keeper, one can soon be caught out if one thinks the flush­ing point is where the loo is.

Know­ing what good dog work is never goes in or out of fash­ion, but the nu­ances of han­dling and the stan­dard of dog work has changed. One of the hard­est things to sec­ond-guess is what the judge con­sid­ers to be the ‘area’. If they are more used to judg­ing work­ing tests, they may con­sider the area to be smaller than it might be in a trial, bear­ing in mind a dummy can’t run. This is where hav­ing a sound knowl­edge of shoot­ing comes into play.

Also, dogs are in a trial to com­pete, not pick-up. Pick­ers-up are there to do just that, so judges must be able to de­cide in a split sec­ond whether the re­trieve is suit­able for the trial. When a judge can make those sorts of de­ci­sions, the keeper will be con­fi­dent and more likely to en­joy hav­ing tri­als on his shoot. When you are the lead­ing judge in a field trial you need to be able to fully re­late to the stew­ard of the beat re­gard­ing how and where the birds will be fly­ing, and so on, and to ex­plain with con­fi­dence what you re­quire for the trial.

We need keep­ers and landown­ers to wel­come tri­als, not look upon them with ir­ri­ta­tion. Or in­deed to by

Amy Bates

view them as “a load of peo­ple wast­ing my time be­cause they don’t know what to do”, as one keeper said to me when a trial was out of con­trol be­cause the judges were los­ing the plot. Hav­ing the re­spect of the keeper is para­mount.

It’s also im­por­tant that field trial judges run their own dogs. If a judge hasn’t run a dog for many years, their per­spec­tive when de­sign­ing re­trieves may well be lack­ing. In a walked-up trial, the re­trieve is what it is, but in a driven trial they are de­signed by the skill and knowl­edge of the judges. Not want­ing to ‘over­cook’ re­trieves on a driven stake can mean that judges set up bland, easy re­trieves. On the other hand, over­cook­ing a re­trieve can re­sult in ask­ing for the im­pos­si­ble.

Amy some­times won­ders about the suit­abil­ity of some field trial judges.

Should the send­ing judge be the most ex­pe­ri­enced of the pair? Judg­ing is not and should not be taken lightly, so when you are asked to judge a field trial, ask your­self if you are up to the job. Maybe you need a re­fresher course – please be hon­est with your­self.

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