Throughout the season we’ve had a few practical jokes involving photobombing. Yesterday the ladies stepped up their game (excuse the pun) and on our last walked-up they gave us a memorable picture...
Wishing you all a fun and enjoyable last few days of the season!
Seeing the young beaters on our walked-up days always brings energy and fun to our shooting community. Watching them jump the ditches and streams as they beat their way through the countryside makes me think about the times when we have to take a ‘leap of faith’.
My regular training with my 22 month old Lab, Reggie is progressing well and he has an endearing personality. My inner voice has been saying he’s ready to join the shoot and take in the ambience of the guns and watch the established picking-up dogs in action. Last weekend I was ready to take a leap of faith with him. I have to admit the journey to the shoot was full of mixed emotions. I was scared and fearful of the unknown but also excited with a sense of desire for what’s to come with this young dog. My gut instinct about Reggie was something I trusted and had to follow. And with the support of like minded friends and the Guns our day was a success. Reggie was well behaved and soaked up the exhilaration of the shoot day. I was careful and considerate with his first experience. He was able to have one clean retrieve during the day which brought a tear to my eye and put a huge smile on my face!
I know our journey ahead will be a mixture of challenges and rewards. But my leap of faith assured me that it’s important to listen to my inner voice, enjoy my passion for country pursuits and trust that if I work hard and continue to strengthen the bond with Reg...it will happen!
Gundog trainer and field trial competitor talks about her lifelong love of gundogs...
How were you introduced to gundogs?
I lived in Cornwall for 21 years and spent most of my time surfing. When my Dad moved down to the West Country he had two Labradors. He enjoyed his gundog training and entered a few working tests with his dog, Widget. One day I went to watch him compete and when I saw the dogs in action my jaw dropped. I couldn't believe what I was seeing...it was amazing! I knew then I wanted to train and compete and have my own dog so without any hesitation I left my world of surfing and partying. I got myself a proper job and moved into a little cottage in St Clere. The dogs brought my Dad and I closer together and he knew I was serious about competing so when his dog Widget had a litter he let me have one of the pups. Widget didn't have an easy labour experience and we had to take her to the vets for the final part of the birth. As the last pup popped out I literally caught it in my hands. It wasn't breathing and as I massaged the lifeless pup back from the brink of death I knew this was the one for me. Brook became my first gundog and I spent the next 11 years enjoying our training and competing successfully in tests and trials.
Do you remember your first competition?
Yes, it was 2006 and I entered Brook into a novice working water test. I was new to the test environment and I was literally shaking from head to toe! It was Father’s Day and my Dad said he might come along and watch. I really wanted him to be there but he didn’t turn up. I was gutted as Brook won 1st place! I remember calling him to wish a Happy Father’s Day, along with the best news for him that Brook had just won the water test.
What has been your field trial highlight so far?
There have been a few highlights but recently I finally won 1st place in the Wiltshire Working Gundog Club Open Walked-Up Field Trial with Lowan. She did a phenomenal retrieve which brought tears to my eyes. Lowan's trialling career has been consistent coming 2nd place eleven times - three in an Open, once in an All Aged and seven times in a Novice! It's become a bit of a joke between my partner, Keith Broomfield and I as he shouts out "true to form!" when Lowan gets a 2nd in the awards. I know I've got to set my standards high to win. Being competitive means I want to win! Another highlight was winning an open trial with Purdey and a novice trial in his first season out. I've also won a novice trial with Brook. It was on the same ground in Cornwall where I won my first novice. It’s lucky ground for me!
What motivates you?
Getting that first place! My competitiveness drives me to do well and I keep striving towards the next goal. My love and passion for gundogs is my main motivator. I would love to make Lowan up to a field trial champion.
What are your core training values and approach to training?
Positive approach to training with lots of praise and reward whether that's with food or fuss. You have to teach the dog and show them what you are asking them to do with a positive and consistent calm approach. I start doing short mark and memory retrieves on grass so the dog understands what that means. I keep going until it understands what a memory is and then move onto different terrain which might include over tracks, ditches, little jumps and in cover. I’m building the dog's experience on those memory retrieves and giving it variety. I use the same method for introducing 'backs'. You're providing the dog with the same experience of that task with a variety of terrain.
What is the most common mistake you see in gun dog handling?
Stopping the dog either too soon or not quick enough.
Do you have a favourite dog?
Oh that's a difficult one! Brook is special to me as he was my first dog. He's now 12 years old and enjoying a quieter life although he is still part of my picking up team. He often eye wipes my other dogs as he is a lot slower and more methodical. Purdey is also very special to me. He's known as Pocket Purdey as he is so honest and he would be in my pocket given half the chance! Then there's Oakley, my yellow Lab, he's a lot of fun! Buzz my Spaniel has got to be the best picking up dog I've ever had. Lowan is confident and has a quirky character. I've had a lot of fun with her. She has a super temperament and she's very successful in competitions. Blue is an absolute sweetheart and tries so hard for me. He's an honest dog. My youngster Maddi is 9 months old and has a lot of drive and style. She's Lowan's daughter and she's very keen. I'm quite excited about her! And to complete the family I have Widgeon who is my pet Lab. He won me an Easter egg once! So to answer your question...I don't have a favourite...I love them all!
Who inspires you in the gun dog world?
Keith Broomfield! He’s made up 8 field trial champions and he won the 2011 IGL Championship. I would be over the moon if I could ever achieve what he has achieved!
What else do you keep busy with?
Teaching other people and their dogs. My life revolves around the dogs...walking dogs, training dogs, kennel cleaning, feeding dogs, picking up and competing. When I'm not doing any of these dog related activities I’m looking after Keith!
If you weren't a Gundog Trainer and Field Trial Competitor what else would you be?
A micro biologist. I loved science when I was younger.
You can contact Mell Brooks for training classes of all levels in Hampshire, Somerset and Cornwall through:
Annington Bay Gundogs: http://www.anningtonbaygundogs.com
or Facebook: facebook/AnningtonbayDogTraining
This season I’ve been able to experience several walked-up days. As a novice picker up I’m learning how it differs from the driven day and I’m enjoying the spontaneity and unpredictability of a walked-up day. I’ve realised it can be physically demanding as the team may have to walk long distances but this gives me the opportunity to spend time with friends, enjoy the countryside and my love of wildlife.
This weekend I took a step back and asked some of our Guns why they enjoy a walked up…
"Walked-up shooting feels like natural hunting" says Jim. "It's instinctive. I feel more in tune with the dogs and enjoy watching them work. If they start to take interest in a specific area you know there’s a possibility of something happening."
Wow, where did 2016 go? I can't believe I have been blogging for nearly two years now. I love writing and having my own blog. It has enabled me to combine my passions and brought me closer to many fellow gun dog enthusiasts, handlers and trainers.
I want to say a huge thank you to my readers, friends and family for your support this year. I have had a busy teaching workload in 2016 and I am studying a Masters which has taken priority towards the end of the year. So with an exciting plan for Biddablebardsley I’m hoping to bring you much more this year. One of my aims is to expand the gun dog ‘profile’ page and post interviews and reviews. Throughout the year I want to offer an insight to a variety of people and dogs within the gun dog community. And of course I hope to continue blogging my novice experience of my gun dog journey.
Thanks again for being awesome supporters of my blog and wishing you all a Happy New Year…May all your wishes and dreams come true!