Nice days shooting over the spaniels today. Had to work hard for their finds but all four worked really well
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Yesterday I took part in the North West Counties Field Trials Association Novice Cocker Stake at Blenkinsopp Hall near Haltwhistle. Despite being in Cumbria, a so called local trial, it still took me 2 and a quarter hours to get there. The joys of living in the most inaccessible cul-de-sac in England!
I was out the door around 6:30am for a 9am meet, with the obligatory stop at Southwaite services for a coffee and bacon butty from Greggs before arriving at the meet point around 8:50am. Briefings and the raffle, which I didn’t win, were soon out of the way and we were back in the cars to make the short trip to the starting point of the trial.
I was running at number 12 so thought I’d have quite a long wait, however, dogs number 2 and 4 hadn’t turned up so it wouldn’t be long before I was in. We started the trial in sieves with a rabbit and a few partridges getting up. The early dogs had quite long runs before we reached an area where there were 3 or 4 partridge pens which understandably meant there was a bit more game around.
Dog number 10 was unfortunately put out, I think for failing to find a bird, and I was called over to run under Roy Ellershaw. It was a patch of dense sieves next to a partridge pen and I cast Fern off, immediately powering through with nose down and pace. She soon bumped two partridge up, one of which was shot approximately 20 yards away. It was a runner so Roy told me to send her almost immediately after the fall. She went out straight to it and picked it, she struggled slightly to find me in the number of bodies, or at least I though that’s what it was but more of that late, before delivering to hand.
I cast her off again and she flushed another single partridge, sitting up whilst the gun on my right brought it down maybe 15 yards in front. Roy asked John Bailey who was judging the other side if he would like the retrieve as Wayne Parrington who was running under him needed one, so Fern sat patiently whilst that was brought back to hand. At this point Roy turned to me and asked which side of the bed I got out of this morning and I should go an buy a lottery ticket as all the other dogs had had long runs before their finds!
I cast her off again and she flushed 3 partridge, two breaking right and one breaking left, both sides had shots, me and Fern focused on the one on the right which was missed, but it was the one that came down 40 yards to our left that we were to try and get. Neither me or the dog had seen it come down so I sent Fern back to try and get her on the right side of the wind, however she was pulling to the right towards another partridge pen.
I stopped her and it took two redirections to the left before she was in the area, which to her credit as soon as she was she had it on the way back to me in no time at all. Frustratingly she circled me again before delivering, I couldn’t put my finger on why this was, she’s been fine in terms of delivering to hand. That was my run over under Roy and I was relieved to have got through it. Fern’s gears were continually going up and if she’d have had any more flushes I think I’d have struggled to hold her hunting, she’s a dog on the edge at times.
The next few dogs again had relatively long runs, some going out for running in and failing on retrieves. It wasn’t too long before I was backing up prior to going in under John Bailey. Fran Ardley who was running before me had a long run before finally getting a flush on a rabbit and that was her run done, I was up!!
I’ve entered a few trials now where John has been one of the judges, and I’ve never actually lasted long enough to get a run under him, something which I mentioned when I got called up. I let him know that I’d had three flushes and 2 retrieves under Roy and he jokingly put his book away and said “That’ll do you”. If only it was that easy!
We were again in sieves, slightly less thick this time, and I thought it’d give Fern an opportunity to show herself a bit more and flow. As soon as I cast her off her nose was down, hunting with intent where the rabbit Fran had flushed had run through the sieves. We maybe hunted for a hundred yards or so before we came to the end of the sieve bed. It was lead on and a short walk over to another sieve bed to head back towards the partridge pens.
We had another hunt of 200 yards or so as the only dog as there were only even numbered dogs left, all eyes were on us, before finally flushing a single partridge which was shot around 50 yards out to the left, which was also a runner. “Great” I thought to myself. I sent Fern back as she’d watched it away but pulled to the right towards a partridge pen with birds flapping around in. a quick redirect and she soon picked the bird and was on her way back. She stopped short and put the bird down. “Balls!” I thought to myself. A quick readjust and she came into me, but again circled me before delivering, what was she doing?!?!?!
Handed the bird over to John and that was me done. I’d finished another trial, I was elated. Numbers 14 and 16 again had quite long runs before the trial was declared over, there was to be no run off and it was back to the vehicles for the presentations.
I knew Fern had hunted very well, she was fast, thorough and kept her nose down with a nice action. However, her delivery had gone off the boil today and ultimately that cost me. If she’d have been clean with that I may have been up there.
The dogs were read out from the winner first.
1st: Steve Winspear – Kiltonbeck Cooper
2nd: Simon Ryder – Clarburgh Ben
3rd: Wayne Parrington – Whitebeam Frost Pocket
4th: Hawksbeck Belle –John Park
Certificates of Merit:
Fran Ardley – Crimson Promise
K Gaskell - Lisburn Judy
Frances Brooks - Saxaphone Bounty
Scott Mossop – Creechdale Phoebe of Amberquest
GET IN THERE!!!!! I’d finally got an award. I had to help John out with reading the name out and he said I had to get it changed as it had taken him so long to write it out! I was over the moon. I’ve persevered with her and this is some reward for all the time, money and effort I’ve put into getting her this far.
I spoke with Roy and John after the trial and they both couldn’t believe she was a bitch because of the power she has and said if the retrieves would have been clean I’d have been up there in the placings, probably not first as Steve Winspears dog was a cut above the rest from what I saw.
The drive home was a happy one once again!! I’m starting to think that number 12 is my lucky number. I was number 12 when I got Guns Choice in the Gwynedd Trial a few weeks ago, I was number 12 yesterday, in my 12th trial with Fern, in December the 12th month of the year. I’m not one for being superstitious but I will now only be running if I’m number twelve in December trials haha!