After arriving approximately 7:30am, we dogged the field in towards the trial ground with pheasant after pheasant coming out of the wheat. Lucy and Ria my other young dogs had plenty of flushes and I was happy with how they went.
We were back at the meeting point around 8:30am and after a quick bacon butty and a short delay as the judges were stuck in traffic, we loaded up into the beaters wagon and made the short drive to the ground. The first dogs were in a cover crop field, driving it towards the wood where the trial normally begins, and the early dogs had relatively long runs before getting into some game. I was in at number 9 so I knew I’d be in soon.
We started back up within the wood where I’d been put out in the same trial a couple of years ago. The birds tend to run up the hill to the wall at the top of the wood before breaking out onto the sieves and open ground. The dog in front of me had he flush and retrieve and after a short hunt I was called up. I was in under Mark Whitehouse and another judge whos name escapes me! I started my run with Fern sat off the lead whilst the other side hunted a small patch of cover in the wood before we were to move out onto the open ground. The left hand side finished their patch and we moved out of the wood.
I had some shortish gorse to work through, where a hare which had been shot at and ran past us whilst we were backing up had run into. Mark asked me to take the lead off and begin, and immediately Fern was away, nose down and investigating all the gorse before having a lovely contact flush on a cock pheasant which was shot approximately 20 yards to our left in some more gorse. “Send your dog” he said. Out went Fern and after approx. 5 yards she flushed a hair on her outrun, spinning round and taking a couple of steps before sitting. I assumed it was the wounded hare from earlier. I’d unconsciously said “No” even with the whistle in my mouth, and expected to go out, but the judges said carry on. I gave her a cast back and she was straight out and back with the bird with no handling.
We carried on hunting and again she had a lovely contact flush on another cocker bird, this time it was shot over a high dry stone wall with barbed wire along the top approximately 30 yards or so behind us in a grass field. I asked the judges if I could lift her over and then sent her for the bird.
As I was watching her over the wall, it started to crumble on me so I moved sharpish, much to the delight of the judges and keeper haha. Fern went straight out and back with the bird, jumping up and delivering the bird to me atop the wall before I lifted her down over the wire. A short hunt through the remaining gorse and my run was done. She had hunted maybe 20 yards or so and had two good finds and retrieves. I was relatively happy and speaking with both judges after the run, I apologised for saying “No”, I must have been in training mode, to which Mark replied next time use your whistle not your mouth!!! Point taken!
The trial continued and game supply dropped a little, with a couple of the guys having long runs and being tried on birds that from the gallery we knew had glided a long way on. We’d had quite a long wait and I could tell Fern was bubbling up. She was restless and was fidgety on the lead.
We were finally called up into line and had a patch of sieves and light gorse to work alongside a little beck/gutter. She was going nicely, a little sticky at times in the gorse but she looked ok and it wasn’t long before she had a contact flush on a hen pheasant which was shot around 25 yards out in front, and was swiftly picked by Fern. Only problem was I hadn’t told her to go!!!!! Two contacts and a hare in her first run and she decided to run in now? Brilliant!!!
I thanked the judges and made my way back to the gallery, thoroughly disappointed in what had happened. Speaking with Mark after the trial, he explained he probably could have put me out, but understood why it happened and that I wouldn’t have learned anything if he’d have put me out. I give him credit for being so fair and open with me, and he told me I’d be knocked for it under him. Fair enough.
Another trial where she was going well but then has a moment of madness and costs us a placing. The trial was won by Lee Marsden, Ian Clarke in 2nd, Dave Massey in 3rd and Steven Blackwell in 4th. I made the short drive home furious and probably the most dejected I’ve been after a trial