I was in at Number 1, and after my first ever trial a couple of weeks ago, wasn’t as nervous as last time out. At first it looked as if we were going to be starting in a bracken-bottomed wood, ideal ground, however we bypassed this and ended up in a field of canary grass. I had to ask the keeper what this stuff was as we don’t have it up here in Cumbria!! Fern looked at me as if to say “What the hell is this Dad?” I was a little worried about this stuff as not only would it have been nigh on impossible for me and the dog to mark a fallen bird, but it was very difficult to see the dog working and she could have easily gone AWOL. I was in under Ralph Edwards and he told me to cast her off, I needn’t have worried, she ploughed through the grass and kept within sight and earshot. It was handy she was smashing through it so fast, as I was able to track her by sound rather than sight. We ran through the canary grass until the end of the field, a run of 10 minutes or so, with not a bird in sight for either myself or number 2. I wasn’t too disappointed by that as a retrieve could have proven to be very difficult.
We were then told we were going back to where we had came from and we going into the bracken-bottomed wood. I cast her off and she was immediately into the brambles, bracken and rhododendron bushes that were interspersed throughout the wood. There were a couple of deep gulley traversing the wood, and I had to pull the judge out of one of them on the way! Fern was going well and after approximately 20 minutes the judge pulled us up. Being new to the trialling game I immediately thought “balls, what have I done wrong?” However, Ralph said it wasn’t my fault, there was no game and I was just going to run the dog into the ground. He commented that I’d got good marks for her hunting but I needed to get a flush and retrieve on the other side. My run finished approximately 10 past ten and I tried to relax, before my second run which turned out to be at approximately 1:30pm.
Game was absent until around 12 when the first dogs had flushes at the end of the wood where I had begun. We then moved to a strip of game crop where the dogs were immediately into game, and then onto another felled wood which led into another bracken-bottomed wood. Game supply was the limiting factor for a few dogs, with a couple having two blank runs, however, we hit a bit of game just as I was backing up.
I was in for my second run under James Luxford who made me feel at ease. Fern had had a long wait so I wasn’t sure how she’d go. Cast her off into some thick bramble and shrubs and she immediately flushed two pheasants, of which a hen bird was shot in front. Ralph Edwards had marked the fall and James asked me to call my dog out from where she was and send her from where we were. I was relieved at this as there was no way she would have marked it from inside the wall of bramble.
I cast her out and she took a good line, she was a bit to the right so I stopped her and cast her into the wind towards the bird which had fallen further into the wood in thick cover. At that point I just had to leave her to it and hope she’d use her own head/nose to find it. After what felt like an eternity, but in reality was 15 seconds or so, James told me she had it and was on her way back. Quick pip on the whistle to let her know where I was as I still couldn’t see her, hands out wide and in she came. Hen bird delivered to hand and I was chuffed. I’d got the flush and retrieve I needed.
I thought that may have been me, given the lack of game, but James wanted to see a bit more of her hunting as the cover had been so dense. Cast her off again and after about 50 yards she started pulling, I knew there was something about. Next minute she flushed a cock bird and sat. The gun shot it and it was a runner, I could just see the left wing bend up as the bird hit the floor. It hit the ground about 30 yards out and immediately jumped up and ran. Before I was asked to send her she decided she knew best and that bird needed to be retrieved. I can’t repeat the words I uttered under my breath! That was my run over.
Left the line gutted, knowing I had had a good first run and had got the all important flush and retrieve on my second run. I spoke to the judges at the end and they gave me good feedback and complimented Fern on how she’d worked. Similar to my first run a couple of weeks ago, temptation had got the better of her and she flicked me the V! Up until she was put out, she was on an A and an A-, 1st and 2nd finished on two As, so I wasn’t far away, which made the 3 hour drive home even more unbearable.
We’ll try again tomorrow, running in the Lancs and Merseyside AV novice, hopefully it’s third time lucky!