I typically do not spend a great deal of time on the computer as I choose to spend a majority of my, oh so precious, free time working my dogs or enjoying other outdoor activity. However, I was recently surfing the internet and during this particular surfing session I browsed through some of the archived articles from the Spaniel Journal website and decided to give them a read.
After reading these articles, I must admit, I was a bit irritated. Actually, I was irritated to the point that I felt compelled to write a response to the articles. I am not anything close to a writer and guarantee this will not be as eloquent as the articles that I read, but I hope it gets my point across.
Relatively speaking, I am pretty new to the springer field trial game. I currently am the secretary for the Stillwater Valley ESS club in the Mid-East and have two dogs that I am campaigning. My oldest is soon to be nine and has accumulated six points during her trial career to date. She has been a great first dog for me as her incredibly strong will has allowed me to make some mistakes as an inexperienced trainer that some dogs with lesser spirit and drive may not have dealt with so favorably. My youngest will be three in mid-February. She attained her first placement, a win, in her second of three trials that she has competed in - a feat I attribute more to her breeding and natural talent than I do to my training ability. I enjoy the fact that I am still learning and treasure every training session and trial.
"There are many good guns that shoot in the trials in which I participate. I see a number of them gunning nationals each year. This wouldn't happen if they were "B" guns. I also highly doubt that any gun enters a trial just waiting to drop a bird on a dog's head or believes anything except that he is going to "fold every bird up like a lawn chair". Occasional misses and wing tips happen."
I give this brief background to highlight the fact that even though some may believe me to be a newbie to the game, I have been involved for almost ten years. I agree this does not make me an expert by any means and I do not claim to be one. I do, however, believe it allows me to form a somewhat educated and objective opinion in regard to some of the things happening in the game today, and also to respond to the articles that I read on the Spaniel Journal website.
The first article I would like to discuss addressed gunning in trials. First, let me say that I agree on the premise that good gunning is essential to a well run trial. We all want to have every bird flushed by our dogs safely shot so that it provides a nice retrieve without causing undue temptation to our brace mate's dog on honor. No one ever wants to be "gunned out" of a trial. Sometimes, though, it happens. It has happened to me. Was I happy about it? No. But I am a realist and as such I understand that sometimes do-do happens.
I don't believe it happens because of the extensive use of substandard guns. There are many good guns that shoot in the trials in which I participate. I see a number of them gunning nationals each year. This wouldn't happen if they were "B" guns. I also highly doubt that any gun enters a trial just waiting to drop a bird on a dog's head or believes anything except that he is going to "fold every bird up like a lawn chair". Occasional misses and wing tips happen. Occasionally, a bird gets dropped too close to a dog. I see many guns pull themselves when they miss two consecutive birds. Personally, I think this is reasonable. Again, would I like to see every bird shot that my dog flushes? Well, yes. But if we are all honest, I bet there are very few, if any, of us that can say they did not miss at least once while hunting wild birds this past season. The miss is something that is always going to be part of the game. If we wanted to eliminate it, we might as well use dead birds flung from a thrower and blanked.
I also don't believe that we are heading in the wrong direction. Gunning seminars are in place to help assure that qualified guns are in the field at every trial. This is a training ground for new guns. We have to have some type of training for new guns and the sport must continue to bring up new guns. Just in case anyone hasn't noticed, we don't have too many youngsters in our midst. In much the same way that we should introduce new people into the outdoors, we also need to introduce new people into our beloved sport of field trialing. This includes gunning.
I can only call it how I see it, but from where I sit, the article definitely came off to me more as "sour grapes", than constructive criticism of gunning in today's trials.
The next article I would like to discuss addressed field trials at hunt clubs. I have run my dogs in trials at hunt clubs. As the article described, the accommodations usually are quite nice and a hot sandwich or bowl of soup can hit the spot on some of those colder trial days. I don't believe that this is really the reason clubs use these sites for trials. I also don't believe it is just because it is easy or convenient. I believe it is because it is much more difficult to secure private ground than some people would like to believe and finding the time to do so is not easy with people's busy schedules.
Many landowners are very reluctant to host a field trial in the litigation happy society that we live in. Some do not want to disturb their grounds. Let's face it. A typical two day trial can do some damage to grounds. The buggy used by the planter leaves a two-track that can take more than a season to recover. Even participants and spectators in the gallery can damage the field on a wet muddy day. Oh, and let's not forget our vehicles. Ruts are the norm when it is wet. A good number of landowners do not want to deal with worrying about a lawsuit or damage to their property.
According to the article, the clubs have to take the time and find the landowners who will allow a trial on their property. This is easier said than done. This can take a good amount of time. Many people do not have much of this to spare. The extra time they do have gets consumed quickly with work commitments, kids, grandkids and even training their dogs. If a club has grounds that work for their trial (like at a hunt club), identifying new grounds often becomes difficult to find or make time for.
The club that I am involved with is very fortunate. We have our trial on private land owned by one of our club officers who is also an active field trialer. His cover is excellent CRP and I have even heard people complain about his grounds. My point... I don't care where you run a trial because the cover is too heavy, the cover is too light, there is no under growth, there are mowed strips, there are food plots... and blah, blah, blah!!!! People are always going to complain about grounds. I don't care if it is on private land or if it is at a hunt club.
As a matter of fact, people are always going to find something to complain about. It isn't just limited to grounds or guns. It may be judges, birds, bird planters and the list goes on and on. Typically, the complaining starts when something has not gone someone's way. We all do it. The difference, in my opinion, is if all that someone does is complain, whether verbally or on paper, without really getting involved, I do not believe that he or she has anything to complain about. It doesn't matter how long they have "been in the game". It doesn't matter if they have "done their time". There is always work to be done. Putting on a trial is not a simple thing to do. There is a lot that goes into it. Complaining does not get it done. Just showing up and running your dog does not get it done. Getting involved and helping does. If people are not willing to do this... well, maybe they should stay home or find some other way to spend their free time.