We had a short drive to where the trial was to take place, up a rough track which tested one of the lady competitors (who shall remain nameless!) and onto the moor. The trial was to take place in mainly sieves and white grass with the expected quarry to be rabbits and partridge, ideal ground. The weather looked like it would warm up with pretty clear skies, so I was hoping for an earlyish run at number 8.
The judges for the day were Davy Lissett and Bob Crowther and we were soon underway, starting in a sieve bed on a sloped field. A couple of the early dogs went out for various things and it wasn’t too long before I was backing up. The dog that was in before me had a couple of nice finds and retrieves and that was his run done. I was up, in under Bob Crowther to start with.
I had a patch of sieves running towards a wall approximately 50-60 yards away which was interspersed with white grass. Ideal ground for showing Ferns pace in. We had a backwind beat and on the first cast Fern went out and worked the wind nicely, coming back towards me before going out again. At this point she was pulling me around a bit, something I’ve never really had with her before, and I found myself using my whistle a lot more than normal. We reached the dry stone wall without a find and turned up the wall before hunting back through sieves higher up the hill.
Fern was still pulling me about at this point as there were large gaps between the patches of sieves, however I wanted her to hunt all the grass out too in case a rabbit was sat tight. A loose rabbit was put up by the gun on my right and was shot out in front. One cast and Fern was out and back with it.
We carried on and she started to settle down a little before having a text book contact flush from a small patch of sieves. The rabbit was shot around 35 yards out to my left after taking an arcing run from where it was put up on my right. Bob told me to send her. She went out on the line the rabbit had run out of the sieves and for some reason I thought she was going the wrong way, so I stopped her and cast her left. She hit the line again in the bottom of a small gulley (the rabbit was shot on a hilly mound beyond the gulley). Again I stopped her and she took two handles before picking the rabbit. In hindsight I should have left her on the original line. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. She brought it back and that was my run done.
I wasn’t too happy with the first run. I felt she’d pulled me all over the place and took a lot more holding than she normally does. I returned to the gallery and gave Fern a drink and then I as the temperature was rising. After my run there were a couple of dogs with quite long runs before I was called over to back up again. Similar to my first run it was white grass with patches of sieves. Fern went a lot better on her second run, needing very little whistle, methodically hunting each patch of sieves through towards a wall.
A snipe was shot on the other side approximately 35 yards out and Fern had sat out in the open on the edge of our beat after taking a while to sit down. David asked me to walk over to her and I thought I was out but he wanted to make sure she stayed there as to not disturb the other dog. I knew I’d be knocked down for this but was glad to still be in the trial.
Remarkably it was a copy of what happened at the North West Counties trial a few weeks ago, it was Steve Brewer with Chyknell Partridge which was asked to pick the snipe. It took a few casts to pick the snipe which are notoriously difficult anyway, and I was willing Steve on as I didn’t want to have to try on it! We carried on towards the wall, before I was asked to put my lead on whilst the other side caught up. Just as I did a rabbit was shot at by the wall off the other dogs nose, however the dog wasn’t sent as the gun wasn’t sure and they didn’t want to disturb game.
At this point I was asked to hunt the sieves down a wall towards a gateway before we’d go into the next field. From here it went down hill! Before I took my lead off, Fern flushed a rabbit which ran through the cover we were about to work, so as soon as I cast her off she wanted to pull on that line, I managed to hold her but it was hard work. We reached the end of the sieves where the gun thought the rabbit had went and sure enough Fern popped up with an obviously wounded rabbit. I thought that’d be it, however Davy Lissett said just check a patch of sieves on the opposite side of a small track. It must have been no more than 6 foot square. In Fern went and out popped a rabbit heading back towards us, seeing us then doubling back past the dog who took a couple of paces before sitting. A couple too many! That was us out. Balls!!
I got some good feedback from the judges, but she definitely wasn’t herself yesterday. She didn’t have the pace she normally shows and was difficult to control. A couple of times through the trial there were dogs sniffing her and “chattering” so whether she’s coming into season and this is messing with her head we’ll have to see.
1st: Chyknell Partridge – Owned by Joe Shotton and handled by Steve Brewer
2nd: Amtosk Countach –Martin Smee
3rd: Zamyender Restormal – Linda Hudson
4th: White Beam Frost Pocket – Wayne Parrington
Creccamarsh Ocre – C Wilson
Westerdron Smudge – J Wardrope