The Fifth Annual Orvis Cup was part of the Orvis Family Game Fair Weekend at the Orvis Sandanona Shooting Grounds in Millbrook, New York, on Saturday and Sunday, the 17th and 18th of September. The Game Fair offered all sorts of entertainment and activities, including artists and craftsmen at work, plus events and exhibits for kids and adults. Everything focused on the distinctive country lifestyle—featuring fly-fishing demonstrations, dog-training seminars, birds of prey exhibitions, a variety of hands-on youth programs, and a Land Rover driving course.
Amidst the wildlife demonstrations, sporting art, and hunting dog field trials, lo and behold, there were Deke, Indian, Whiskey, and Luke with President Mike Stewart at the Wildrose Kennels/Sportsman’s Pride tent. Assistant Trainers Craig Korff (Sheboygan Falls, WI), and Tim Clancy (Boston, MA) also brought a brace of dogs each. Tim brought Lucy, Maggie, and Jett (Rob White, MA). Craig brought Buck, Molly, Bess and Tar (Jim Rising, (WVA). What’s more, Danielle Clancy and Kiley brought Roscoe, a DAD in training. In addition some folks visited with dogs, including David and Rhonda Haney, their son, and Bogey.
Twice a day the Wildrose team demonstrated training techniques for gun dogs, adventure dogs, diabetic alert dogs, and shed hunting. The rest of the time the dogs looked pretty for the admiring throngs of people, who wanted to pet them. Mike, Tim, and Craig were busy talking with visitors to the booth and putting on mini-sessions. Danielle also presented on DAD training and Kiley was quite involved, too. At the shows she assisted, including tending dogs and participating in the walk up.
To announce the beginning of each show, Craig shot over the tree line into a bright blue sky. In opening Mike made an introductory presentation, spotlighting each dog and handler and giving some background information on the history and unique features of UK labs, including their exceptional scent detection capacity and retrieving instinct.
As in all of his work with the public Mike presented several tips on obedience work that people could take home and apply to their dogs. As they got into the show activities, Mike, Tim, and Craig had choreographed multiple exercises and they were often all performing at the same time, which made for a fast-moving, action-packed show. From basic heeling exercises to stop-to-the-whistle and to steadiness, they moved on to trailing memory retrieves, circle memory retrieves, and then into more complex scenarios, simulating multiple upland birds being shot and with a continuously flowing series of retrievals. All the while, the handlers threw diversions in the air as the dogs returned to delivery. Quite a lot of gunfire punctuated the activities, giving some bursts of sound as if live game were being shot.
Speaking of live game, Mike brought out his pet pigeon, S.P. (Sportsman’s Pride), in a halter and on a string and cane pole. More action fun! Mike not only made the dogs become alert and steady with his pigeon flights, he buzzed Tim and some of the other handlers, as well.
No show is complete without some adventure dog antics and Deke and Indian showed their playful selves as Mike had them retrieving all sorts of trail-lost paraphernalia. Mike capped off this demonstration by simulating a canoe spill and tossing out all of the gear. He shouted, “Deke, save the beer!” Deke ran to retrieve the cooler pack, ignoring everything else littering the grass.
Showing off the “high air” capabilities of Indian and Luke, Mike had each of them jump a plastic fence. This is a regular routine at the Wildrose shows, so none of us expected any surprises—least of all Mike. However, when Indian approached the fence, he spotted a small hole in it and he pushed his nose through it and flew on through the middle of the fence. (In the slide show, check out Mike’s look of surprise.) On subsequent jumps Indian caught a lot of air for a two-year-old. Reliable Luke continued to show off his high-air ability, clearing the fence with plenty of room to spare.
The show’s finale ws a walk up with lots of sound, action, and retrieves. Of course, the real finale for a lot of spectators was the chance to pet the dogs—even rub their bellies!—as Mike was busy talking to other people of interest.
Meanwhile, between shows visitors came steadily to the booth, oftentimes in greater numbers than the staff could handle. Fortunately, folks had beautiful dogs to admire (and love on!) while they waited to be able to speak to someone. Visitors filled up several pages of a sign-up sheet to receive the electronic journal, so the communications network got a shot in the arm this weekend. And, of course, many people expressed interest in getting dogs. They were directed to call Cathy to initiate that process.
Larry Creekmore, the RV Driver, and Brad Kennedy, National Sales Director of Sportsman’s Pride, provided a great service to Wildrose, not only in transporting Mike, Deke, Indian, Luke, and Whiskey, but also in serving as hosts to all the staff, in pitching in to set up the booth, in helping out during the shows, and in introducing their products to the visitors.
There were some light moments during this mostly hectic time and one of those funny scenes occurred when a man came up to the booth with a Jack Russell terrier, stating that his dog was such a finicky eater that he wouldn’t eat any kind of dog food unless it had gravy poured over it. Brad said, “Well, let’s see what he thinks of this,” and he opened a sample bag of Sportsman’s Pride, offering it to the dog. In a New York minute the dog had thrust his snout in the bag and was chomping away.
A slide show at the bottom of this story presents some highlights of the action. By placing your cursor at the bottom center of the image, you can pause the show or move forward or backward at your own pace, by clicking on the pause square or the arrows.
Next week Mike will return to Sandanona to conduct five days of gundog training, from beginning puppy obedience to finished dog training.
Where is Orvis-Sandanona? About 80 miles north of New York City and 70 south of Albany, Millbrook is located in the foothills of the Taconic and Berkshire Mountains. Everything around and about Millbrook is upstate and upscale. The mid-Hudson Valley is a favorite outdoor recreational area for Northeastern urbanites. Just a few miles due west is the Vanderbilt Mansion and Springwood, FDR’s home, at Hyde Park, a National Historic Site.
The area features farms, gardens, wineries, arboretums, golf courses, an equestrian center, and of course clay-shooting grounds, not only at the Sandanona Shooting Grounds, but also at the Mashopack Preserve Club. But this weekend is all Orvis at Sandanona.
The Orvis Cup, a prestigious competitive shotgunning event, is touted on the Orvis website as “a step back in time to a place where the traditions of the field and the hunt are held in the highest regard, and where wingshooting is a passion that links the past with the present. This venerable sporting institution is the oldest permitted shooting preserve in the country, so old in fact, that the main lodge was built during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson.”
The Cup itself, the competitive clay-shooting event, is a 100-target, Orvis Modified Lewis Class shoot. The event begins on Sunday morning and runs through the day, with prizes awarded in many classes and with two lucky contestants winning drawings for Caesar Guerini shotguns.