It was undoubtedly one of the warmest summers we can all remember and before it slips completely away, it’s good to reflect on our favourite summer moments and memories. My feature and report in this month's Shooting Gazette reflects on this year's Game Fair and the gundog activities which were the highlight of our sizzling summer of 2018.
The dappled shade of Ashmore woodland was ideal for avoiding the scorching summer heat and the dogs showed spectacular energy throughout the day - URC Hants & South West Intermediate and Veteran Working Test 2018.
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As summer moves into early autumn the field trialling season is fast approaching. The sport demands an all-round performance of the dog and handler which means team work, enthusiasm and consistency are some of the key elements for success. There’s no doubt those involved in trialling have a passion for the sport but having a passion and turning it into winning points are two wholly separate things. I was able to catch up with BASC at the Game Fair 2018 and meet some of the Tower Bird Trophy award winners who have gained the highest amount of points in the field trialing season for 2017-18.
Winner of the Labrador Retriever Section...
BASC Chief Executor Ian Bell was delighted to present the Tower Bird Trophies at the Game Fair. “It’s a great honour to meet and present these awards to handlers who are at the top of their game and the very best in the country.”
Sarah Miles was thrilled to win with her Labrador Retriever Hawksrigg Balgaire of Meonvalley, field name Finlay. “Finlay’s enthusiasm is phenomenal. He’s very honest and has a natural ability. He steps up every time he’s in a trial and he won his first novice at 11months. Finlay has been placed at every field trial he’s been in and I’m really looking forward to the season ahead.” The winners also received an engraved cut glass tumbler which had a picture of the winning dog etched onto it. “I wasn’t expecting to see Finlay’s face on the glass - An extra special touch which means a lot.”
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation offers four national trophies for Gundog Field Trials, named in the memory of the late Noel M (Tim) Sedgwick, the former Editor in Chief of The Shooting Times and Country Magazine who wrote under the pseudonym “Tower Bird”.
There were 3 joint winners (all equal on points) for the HPR section.
Geoff Saint was delighted to accept the award with his German Wired Haired Pointer, Merle Haggard, field name Harry. “We call him happy Harry as he always has a smile on his face and wants to be everyone’s friend. He’s a nice all round dog that wants to work with me and be with me.” Geoff aims to continue trialling with Harry. “I would like to win a Novice and get him into the Open Stakes and ideally get him into the HPR Championships. I won the 2017 Championships with my Hungarian Wirehaired Viszla, Hourra Du Domain St Hubert and I think Harry is every bit as good as my Viszla.”
Peter Howard was thrilled to win with his German Wired Haired Pointer Tickencote a Night Like This, field name Tikka. “I’m looking forward to entering some Open Stakes this year. Tikka has a lovely temperament, she's fast, very biddable and she has a soft mouth which is rare to have all three elements.” Peter also had another reason for visiting the Game Fair. “I’ve just bought a farm and I’m going to become a keeper for the first time ever at the age of 70! The Game Fair is a wealth of information so I’m here to collate as much as I can from the specialists. I realize there’s a lot of hard work involved but it’s exciting times ahead!”
The following winners were unable to make the presentation and will be receiving their prizes at a later date.
Gill Pillinger with her German Short Haired Pointer - Witham Friary Tallahassee.
Mike Forbes with his Cocker Spaniel - Poolgreen Crafty of Omachie.
Gerald Devine with her English Setter - Ballyellen Tango.
Junior gundog handlers Tristan and Sophie Berry were one of 150 people in Dorset who took part in the Working Dog Fun Day at Hawkers Hill, Motcombe, by kind permission of Mr Phil Levers and Mr & Mrs Martin.
12 year old Tristan Berry who won the Junior Handler Award and his 14 year old sister Sophie had the unique opportunity to work their Clumber cross English Springer Spaniels in a variety of fun gundog tests. Both handlers pick up with their 2 year old Clumber crosses on their family shoot and they were delighted to work their dogs on new terrain. “The water test was my favourite" said Trisatn, "Digby loves the water as he can be adventurous.”
A team of dedicated volunteer gundog handlers spent the day offering the local community a chance to try out an array of tests, scurries and fly fishing, raising money for Dorset & Somerset Air Ambulance. Event Organisers Kevin and Nicky Philips said the team wanted to raise money as earlier in the year the Air Ambulance was called to Hawkers Hill when a machine operator had a heart attack and needed an urgent
stent insertion to save his life. “It’s an essential service for people who live and work in the rural community. Our event will hopefully raise awareness of this vital service which is completely self-funded and has no Government funding” said Nicky who is passionate about raising the awareness of the Air Ambulance service.
One member of the volunteer team, Ken Green had a personal reason to be part of the fundraising day. “I’ll never forget the day my wife called whilst I was at work to say a heath fire was close to our house and kennels.” Ken knew his family was in danger as he heard a huge explosion whilst talking to her. “The fire had spread to our neighbour’s car which had gone up in flames. I knew it was only a matter of time before it would reach our house.” By the time Ken had driven home he found the area swamped with fire engines and police cars. “The fire had been put out and the house was ok but there was no sign of my family or the dogs.” For a while Ken was frantic until he was told two Air Ambulances had rescued his wife, children and four gundogs. “My wife told them she didn’t want to leave the dogs behind. The Air Ambulance crew were reluctant to take them at first but once they knew they were highly trained they made make shift leads out of some rope and got them into the second helicopter.”
The fun day, which was sponsored by Snyeds Wonder Dog Food incorporated an auction which included a donation for a 80 bird shoot day for one, shooting lessons and lots of fabulous raffle prizes. Gundog Test Co-ordinator Roland Stacey was pleased to see so many visitors enjoying their dogs and was delighted to discover £3524.24 had been raised from the day.