On Field Trials

Saturday, September 22nd was a big day for AKC field events in the Lincoln, Nebraska area, so the kids and I hit the road to visit friends and family involved.  Our first stop was the Missouri Valley Brittany Club’s AKC Hunt Test at Yankee Hill Wildlife Management Area just southwest of Lincoln, near Denton.  Although Charles and I lived in Lincoln for a couple of years in the 1990’s, I had never been to this WMA.  It is very nice, lots of good cover and space, I can see why the Nebraska Game and Parks selected it as a new spot to plant pheasant for the youth hunting weekend in October.  Yet I digress.

I was headed to the test to visit with my friend Sally Jo Hoagland from North Platte.  Although she is probably closer to my mom’s age than mine, she is one of the top (if not THE top) Weimaraner breeders in Nebraska (Weimshadow Kennel) and one of the only professional dog trainers in Central Nebraska (Four Paws Dog Training).  We had met at the Grand Island Kennel Club Dog Show earlier in the year after first connecting on Facebook, due to our mutual involvement with NAVHDA and AKC.  It was funny that at the hunt test I not only knew Sally Jo, but probably 90% of the people at the test and what was even funnier is that we were not the only family of spectators.

The hunt test environment is very family friendly, there are usually multiple families with elementary age children running about, so we all look out for one another’s kids and there is never any worry about any of the dogs being mean.  The dogs typically sit quietly in their crates or on their stakeout chains and love to have the kids mess with them.

Following lunch at the hunt test and a good visit with friends and fellow local hunt test junkies, we loaded up and headed north to Branched Oak Field Trial Grounds near Raymond.  Although we had been there for hunt tests in the past, this field trial environment was completely different.  The German Shorthaired Pointer Club of Nebraska’s field trial over last weekend was four days long and had 235 entrants, making it one of the largest AKC field trials of the entire year.  Our “camp” was out in the back 40, so when the kids wanted to go to the clubhouse to get some sweets and sodas, we had to wade through the melee.  As most field trials are on horseback, most of the other camps consisted of a camper/horsetrailer/dogtrailer combo, a stakeout chain of 10-25 dogs and at least one horse.  Anytime someone walked down the dirt road in the midst of the gypsy village, all 235 dogs barked and spazzed out on their chains.  This was with the exception of BB of course, who really wanted her people very close to her in this strange setting.  I don’t think that any of us were comfortable and felt pretty alien: a family with small children and one griffon surrounded by herds of barking shorthairs, German Wirehaired Pointers and Vizsla dogs along with their owners who reminded me of the rodeo crowd; not sure if their faces are red from being sunburned or last night’s whiskey, or both.  The only time that I saw any other women is when they came out of their campers to water their dogs or smoke a cigarette.

A string of German Shorthaired Pointers at the AKC Field Trial on Saturday

Maybe I’m only drawing these caricatures because I was nervous and scared that my 3 year old was going to wade into a pack of freaked out hunting machines.  I don’t want to hurt any field trialer’s feelings and I’m sure we’ll be back for more, so I’ll get more comfortable and quit seeing things that make me want to point them out.  But as the hunt testing environment is where my fellow griffoniers find themselves, I wanted to point out the differences before anyone else decided to strike out into the field trial world.  Not that I have any serious ideas of other griffoniers going this route, as a few of them have raised questions about participation.

Our take on it is that Korthals wanted to breed a foot hunting dog that was faster than the bootlicking continental breeds of his time.  We do not believe that hunt testing does enough to test the athleticism and endurance of the animal, as it is a brief exercise that is only looking for the dog to satisfy the training requirements of the test (search, pointing, retrieving, steadiness, honoring etc.).  Even in NSTRA and BHU trials, the field is too small for it to be a valid test of athleticism.  We intend to continue to participate in walking stakes at AKC field trials and other trialers at the event encouraged Charles to look into American Field’s Region 19 events.

In my brief readings on American Field Region 19, these are events that last longer than an hour and are on open terrain and wild birds, which is a lot like what we are doing for hunting anyway, where we walk for at least an hour before stopping for water and usually two hours before we really stand or sit around for any lengthy period of time.  I would suspect that BB would be the first griffon to ever participate in American Field, should we decide to check it out.

BB placed 4th out of 5 in the Amateur Walking Derby stakes last Saturday, beating out a Vizsla her same age, working the terrain more thoroughly and having the one bird find of the run.  Although we are flying in the face of current convention with the breed, we worry more about the prevelance of designer house pets and conformation show-only dogs than about our involvement in walking stakes at field trials.  I really just wish we could channel the spirit of Korthals to ask him himself, but in the meantime we’ll just keep doing our research to support our methods and having fun with our dogs.

BB’s Fourth Place Ribbon.


TracHer is busy as usual in North Dakota, she’s 7 months old now and been out on a few sharptail grouse and Hungarian Partridge hunts.  She’s even retrieved a few of them!  Most recently, she brought a live rabbit into the house through the doggie door while company was over, luckily they were fellow hunters!

TracHer on left (7 month old Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) with Susan and her old buddy Zephyr with Tom and their limit of sharptail grouse!

TracHer and her bunny (7 month old Wirehaired Pointing Griffon)

TracHer retrieving a sharptail grouse (7 month old Wirehaired Pointing Griffon)

Mike out in Colorado has also been working with TracHer’s “twin” sister Frankie on some pheasants.  He’s been working on steadiness on the point and he says she’s doing a great job!  Both TracHer and Frankie are from our 2012 “C” litter with Sam and Mae.

Mowgli is 18 months old and is from our 2011 “B” litter out of Sue and Sam.  Quite the looker!  I saw his brother Duke’s owner at the movie theater when I was taking the kids to see Finding Nemo 3-D, so hopefully I’ll get to see him soon.

Mowgli (18 month old Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) and his neighbor friend the Dachshund chilling on the deck

Coming Soon to Versatile Hunter

Well in less than a week, we’ll be headed back out to the Sandhills for some more hunting.  There are no words for how terrible Eastern Nebraska has been this year thus far.  The swamps are too dry for early teal and snipe, then the prairie chicken grounds have all been mowed for hay.  Damn drought.  We are going to have to start commuting to not only the Sandhills, but the Rainwater Basin of Central Nebraska, the pheasant fields of South Dakota and Southwestern Nebraska as well as the quail fields of Kansas.  I hope that this is a temporary blip in the hunting situation in this part of the state because I don’t see us moving anytime soon.  But we are in fear of this being the beginning of a total collapse in hunting in Southeastern Nebraska.


Oh and one last thing, be sure to check out the new t-shirt designs on our Shop!!  You can either click the button at the top of the page or go directly to http://www.wirehairedpointinggriffongear.com Buy a shirt to show your griffon pride, 100% made in the USA, from the shirt itself, the artists designs to the embroidery and screenprinting!!