By Guy Billups, Wildrose Texas
To kick off the year I took a trip to Yorkshire, England the last week of January. In contrast to my previous trips to England, the itinerary did not consist of simply watching dogs compete, but actively participating by running a dog myself. The plan was to train, pick up on a driven day, be a part of a walk-up shoot, and culminate in running in the Warter Priory Trial.
Amy and Peter Bates were my fantastic and generous hosts, guiding me through a whirlwind of a week with incredible experiences planned each day. The first thing to do upon arrival was have a cup of tea and talk dog training. This particular conversation was about the commands to be used for my canine partner that week, “Chunk.” While we use “loss” to command our dogs to go on the hunt, “loss” for Chunk meant to cast to our left, “get on” was to our right and “back” was to go further away. Obviously trying to get acclimated to dog and handler was going to be hard in a few day’s time, but with a calibrated vocabulary we went out to meet the dogs and stretch legs a little bit.
The Warter Priory shoot was an incredible experience. Standing in the gun line as hundreds of birds were pushed over head, I experienced a true testament to the steadiness and calm demeanor expected from a British gundog. After what seemed like an eternal flow of birds, the horn sounded and we went to work picking birds, no shopping allowed!
With many more days of training still ahead, Amy got a draw to run in a novice trial, so we loaded up dogs and went over to take in a day trialing. I had the great opportunity to carry game for the Judges. A fantastic experience where I got to see firsthand the obedience required of all competitors and the different types of retrieves asked of the dogs. The experience emphasized how truly well-rounded the dogs emerge from these competitions. Seven dogs were dropped for poor heel work and obedience. I watched a 3-dog eye wipe when a very nice yellow female was given an area to hunt 40 yards into the wood and 30 to 40 yards wide of where the bird was believed to have fallen. Interestingly, listening to that sequence, I couldn’t help but think how many times that exact scenario had occurred during many of my years of hunting. “Hey man, I knocked my bird down over in that direction about by that tree, can you see if your dog can find it?” It was so good to see a true hunt in a situation we have all faced, a dog finding game. Later the same dog was asked to retrieve a bird 80 yards out along a creek, where the dog would have to hold a 5-yard wide line to stay visible to the handler to make the pick. A previous attempt by another dog trying this retrieve jumped into the cover early and began flushing game, resulting in being called up. Dogs must do it all to win this event.
Our next big experience was walk up shooting on the moors. Can I just say….WOW! Peter Bates was kind enough to bring along Hannah Winship, a fantastic dog trainer, and myself to experience this day in the field. With spaniels working hard in front of us and game plentiful, I’m not sure I stopped smiling for two days.
To cap off the incredible trip, my last day I was allowed to compete in a trial run and organized by Amy Bates, by kind permission of Water Priory. The day lived up to everything a trial should be. Fantastic judges, driven game, walk up game, runners, and eye wipes, everything was there for a great day. Though Chunk and I stumbled early, the retrieves were fantastic. Game was plentiful and there were excellent picks over a fence followed by a long descent down a bank. The day was truly a shooting day where the dogs happened to be under judgment to find a winner. This is still such a beautiful concept to me, judging dogs on true shoots where hunting experience and bird sense play such a huge role.
I will conclude that I am still smiling from this trip and have enjoyed sharing the things I learned and experienced with those interested. This will not be my last trip abroad and I anxiously anticipate the next.
Wednesday, Jan 22, 2020
-Arrived to rainy and cool , in Manchester and hopped on the train.
-amy bates picked me up from the York train station
-lunch at snowlandia, go over the schedule,
-take dogs out for the first time
We run 3 permanent blinds alternating, much more liberal hunt areas than I typically
Different tones on left and rights
Typically hunts back quartered
Going to be running a dog named Chunk,
Bit of reading field sports
The opportunity to carry game for judges in a Novice Field trial was incredible. Seeing first hand the level of obedience, and gamefinding ability was incredible.
Carried game for John halstead jr judging. This was a great opportunity to walk in line and observing proper judging
Heel work heel work heel work. 5 dogs actually dropped for heel work. Some that frankly surprised me the standard would be that tight
Nonetheless, next was gamefinding.
As we got down to 3 dogs the judge asked for a dog to hunt an area about 40 yards into the thicket, between two dead trees about 20 yards apart.
“There is possibly a bird between those two dead trees, we have been told one went down, it may be alive and running or dead, please send you dog in and hunt that area.”
This was so fantastic, and typical British field trial retrieve. One dog failed, but the second went in and made great work of the area and left the area a bit to find the bird.
As we narrowed to two a few more retrieves were required, after great retrieves exiting the wood and out into the field
One was dropped for running in, the others finial retrieves was out along the edge of the wood and into the stream. A challenging retrieve asking the handler to maintain control of the dog, keeping from reentering the enticing wood and holding the line to the stream. The dog would eventually fail and no winner would be awarded. A fantastic day to see a nice novice stake in action.
Walked up shooting with Paul Wright. UNBELIEVABLE!!! Spaniels flushing, heavy bracken, heavy heather! Saw heather.
Struggled a bit at first and then settled in. Pheasants, hair, woodcock, also saw grouse.
Chunk made some very nice retrieves. Older black bitch was able to pick a couple of fantastic runners. Younger dogs have to learn and experience game in cover on the chase!
Trial although we stumbled early, the retrieves were fantastic. Game was plentiful. Dogs feed off the intensity and excitement of the handler. Excellent picks over a fence and long, long ways down a bank
Lining-when a dog breaks down the line, go to it and reline! Then run through