Hunting & Heritage,Bird Dogs & Training  |  09/08/2011

My First Bird Dog - Why Attend a Hunt Test or Field Trial?

As a few readers in my previous post correctly guessed, the Springer spaniel is a breed in consideration to become my first bird dog. And after having her heart melt for an English cocker spaniel at the most recent National Pheasant Fest (okay, ditto for me), Kaily – my partner and half financer in getting a pup – and I decided we should investigate these two breed avenues a litter further.
Having hunted behind a dozen or so breeds, I’ve witnessed a few exceptional springers, including Wolf, the late companion of longtime Pheasants Forever Journal Editor Mark Herwig. But I’ve never hunted behind a cocker, and Kaily’s only seen metro-walk-in-the-park springers, so we decided our best bet to get further acquainted with these breeds during the non-hunting season was to attend a Spaniel Hunt Test (just an FYI, Hunt Tests are open to all AKC registered Spaniels, including Boykin, Field, Clumber, etc.).
My goals were simple: To watch dogs work, ask as many questions of participating dog handlers as humanly possible in a half day and not get sucked into buying a dog on the spot. I accomplished all three, though Kaily came dangerously close to caving on the third goal.
The biggest apprehension leading into the event was that I’d be imposing on this exclusive club of dog owners and they’d see me as an outsider – hey, confidence isn’t always in full supply. As you can probably guess, I couldn’t have been more wrong. We were greeted with smiles, questions were answered, references were made, dogs were watched and I got Kaily away from the litter of puppies that all-too-conveniently happened to be there just in time. A final decision has yet to be made, but we certainly feel more equipped to make the right pick for us having been active spectators at the Hunt Test.
Have any of your bird dog searches led you to check out a Hunt Test or Field Trial?
Previous “My First Bird Dog” posts
Just Show Me the DOGFAX
Gun Dog Experts’ #1 Piece of Advice
What I’m Looking For
Introducing “My First Bird Dog”
Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauck.