My UK Adventure – Day 2
Today we got up early and hit the road for a 2 hour drive to an English field trial that was taking place today. Jacky runs her dogs in field trials but not this day. The way the English field trials work is they take place during their hunting season. You send in an application to run a field trial, your name gets put in a draw with about 100 other names. Out of 100 names only 10-12 names get drawn, you then need to let them know if you are going to participate or not. If you can’t run that day they will then draw another name, this all may be done the day before the trial. The trials may be a distance away like 5 hours so one must have their gear loaded and ready for the trip if you get called. Your name doesn’t get drawn very often so you take it when you can get it. The field trials are correlated with the English shoots which are the gunners shooting the pheasants, the beater who are the guys that walk through the fields pushing the pheasants to the gunners with their sticks and flags beating the cover, the participants in the field trial, the extra dog handlers and their dogs to pick up the extra birds, the markers who mark where the birds go down and tell the judges, the game keepers that take care of all the pheasants, the dealers who buy the pheasants and resell them to the local butchers or restaurants. This isn’t a cheap sport but an interesting one for an American.
We arrived at the field where the field trial was taking place. There were guys and gals participating in today’s event, they were all made up in their English attire which was either brown or green tweed clothes. I stuck out like a sore thumb with my brown old duck camo rain suit. They understood when Jacky introduced me as her friend from America. They were all very warm and welcoming. The participants mingled with the shooters and the handlers, the beaters were already out and about corralling the birds. The one thing that sticks out in my memory was seeing the shooters standing outside drinking their tea or coffee in a true tea cup and saucer. I was in a whole other culture which I never experienced before and it was so surreal. I really enjoyed hanging back and listing to the English talk and admired their accents. I smiled and giggled inside when a English man was telling a story to a English gal and she would throw her head around and go yea, yea, yea, yea,yea while he was talking. It was like she was telling him to get on with his story or was being polite and saying yea, yea, yea instead of piss off!
Off we went to follow along and watch the trial. The first part of the test was their version of a walk up. What that entailed was the participants, shooters, judges, markers all stood in a line spread out from each other and they would walk through a sugar beet field flushing up the birds as they walked. Let me tell you it isn’t easy to walk on sugar beets, they are slippery devils when wet. When a bird got up the shooters would shoot the bird, the markers would mark the bird down and the participant dogs all needed to sit quietly as this was all going on until the judge released one of the dogs to go pick up the mark. Sometimes there might not be any birds in the field, so you dog might not get to retrieve anything. After the shooters shoot the birds and the markers tell the judges where a bird is then the judge will tell one participant with their dog the general area of the fall and the dog needs to stay in that area and retrieve the bird. If it can’t find that bird then it is eliminated, and the next dog in line gets to try and find the bird. If the dogs can’t find the bird and the judge goes over there and finds the bird then both dogs get eliminated and it is called a judges eye wipe.
After the walk up was done everyone piled into a covered wagon and was taken to the next field. This was a wide open harvested field. The shooters had their spots where they stood in the field the participants and judges stood in the line fence and waited until all the shooting was done. This was an amazing site. The beaters were walking through the adjacent fields and were pushing the birds to the shooters. The birds were flying over by the hundreds. The birds had to be high enough to shoot as they wouldn’t shoot and any low fliers for the safety off all the people at the trial. The dogs had to continue to sit next to their handler and not move or make any noise. The dogs are all off leash. Once the judge has seen that your dog completed that part of the test then they excuse you and you can leave the line. Once all the shooting is done then the markers tell the judges where the birds went down and the field trial begins again. There were four judges and they each had two participants and dogs assigned to them at one time. At one point two judges would tell the participants what to do and two judges would be down in the field where the birds were and would judge the dogs when they would be down by the birds. The retrieves may be in the open field, they may be in the next field which was in full cover, and they may be in the woods you never knew where the judge was going to have you send your dog. When it was time to run one dog would run and the other dog would be off leash sitting next to his handler watching. The judge would say there is a bird down by that big oak tree at the end of the field I want your dog to pick that one up. The participant would then send their dog and handle their dog to the mark in the straightest line possible, once in the area the dog needed to hunt a very tight area so it wouldn’t run amuck and just pick up any bird down since there may be many birds in the area. If the dog picks up a different bird it isn’t necessary out it is just graded down. If the judge tells you to get your dog in the woods and your dog doesn’t go into the woods then it gets eliminated. They keep running the dogs until they have a good idea as to which one is going to win the competition. They may have a trial where no dogs win.
There was one more field we went to and the shooters shot the birds and the dogs continued to compete. The judges had seen all the dogs work and had a good idea who the winner was so they called the test done. After it was done everyone hung around and had tea or coffee, cakes or cookies and mingled with each other. At this time the judges asked me if the American field trials were anything like this and I said “not at all” I went on to explain how ours were run. They asked if theirs or ours were harder and I had to say that the American field trials are much harder. After that was done it was time to load up in the wagon and go back to the club house for the results. It has been a raining season and was raining today so the fields were soft. The wagon we had ended up getting stuck and it wasn’t going anywhere’s. As it was turning around and getting stuck a gal got out of what would be our driver’s side door and I said to Jacky “it isn’t no wonder that truck and wagon got stuck a lady was driving” she looked at me and then I go “oh….she wasn’t driving, you guys don’t drive on that side of the vehicle”. Jacky just laughed at me as I couldn’t get used to the way they drove over there.
Back at the club house there was more tea, coffee and snacks. The secretary had nice words to say to everyone and had nice gifts for the judges which I think were bottles of booze. The winner was announced; a nice yellow lab male won the field trial today. Jacky was glad we stuck around to find out who the winner was as she had her eye on that male and is thinking he would be a good match to her dog, well he just proved himself today.
This was an amazing day. I’m so glad Jacky had this day planned as it was very interesting to see how they so field trials across the pond being that I run my dogs in American trials this was a wonderful experience. My favorite part was watching the judges and markers point their walking sticks in the direction of the falls and have a discussion as to where the bird was. Everyone had walking sticks but me. I felt alittle out of place. I really enjoyed myself despite the rain and cold weather. Off to Starbucks to warm up on the ride home.