Bird Dogs & Training  |  07/08/2013

Don't be intimidated by Breed Clubs, Hunt Tests and Field Trials

John Zeman of the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of Minnesota.

John Zeman of the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of Minnesota.

I’ve previously written about the challenges in finding places to run a bird dog during the nesting season.  That post prompted John Zeman of the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of Minnesota to contact me and invite me to the group’s training day last month.  I’ve always been intimated about the prospect of attending a dog group’s event because my focus is on hunting my dogs not trialing or testing my dogs.  However, I attended a field trial put on by Ben & Scott Berg this spring that I enjoyed, so I decided to take Zeman up on his gracious invitation.

In talking with fellow Pheasants Forever members, hunting buddies and bird dog enthusiasts, I don’t think I’m alone in my intimidation of the hunt test and field trial scene.  I’m not a pro trainer, my dogs have largely been trained by me, and as such they display my mistakes and inadequacies for more expert eyes to witness and frown upon.  To my relief, I’ve found in Zeman and the Minnesota shorthair club the same welcoming friendliness I first experienced in the Berg group.  I also took away a few observations I wasn’t expecting.

Hunters Too.  For some reason, I always thought people who enjoy testing/trialing their dogs don’t really care about actually hunting much.  I’ve found that assumption to be completely inaccurate.  In general, trialers/testers care more about style than I do (I’ll shoot a bumped bird without hesitation because I want meat on the table more than a dog that’s steady to wing and shot), I can tell you without reservation all trialers/testers enjoy the hunt and care about habitat.  As is often the case in today’s society, we get hung up on semantics too often. Hunters, trialers, and testers share the same passions and concerns about habitat and the future of bird hunting.

Friends with Benefits.  I learned a ton about dog training during my two pups’ three runs over the trial course accompanied by Zeman.  In addition to training guidance, we also shared stories of hunts past and special hunting spots.  I also learned about different breeds of dogs, different reputable breeders and different ways of bird hunting (on horseback).

Horsing Around.  My dogs had never met a horse prior to Saturday.  The training day included horses, which I’m told are commonplace at field trials.  It was interesting to see my dogs scent the horse and struggle to focus on hunting with a horse walking the field with us.

Dan Voss and his Gordon setter.

Dan Voss and his Gordon setter.

Gordon Setters.  My expectation in attending a German Shorthaired Pointer Club event was that all the pups in attendance would be shorthairs.  To my pleasant surprise, there were a variety of breeds including two of my other favorites, German wirehairs and Gordon setters.  And in response to the ribbing I took for Pheasants Forever not publishing enough photos of Gordons, I’ve included Dan Voss’ good looking pup in this post.

When I met Zeman for the first time on Saturday, he was wearing his Pheasants Forever Rooster Booster hat.  In response to his support of Pheasants Forever and his gracious invitation to attend Saturday’s festivities, I’ve joined the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of Minnesota.  I encourage all the readers of this blog to join their local dog club representing their favorite breed.  You never know, you may meet a new friend who leads you to a new hunting spot or bird dog gem.

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.