Running a field trial is a virtual sea of variables that perhaps God Himself has designed and orchestrated to cause confusion to the handler, particularly some new to field trials like myself. This past weekend was a very hard lesson learned, but the lesson for me is “always trust your dog.”
We were running in our first contest of the weekend, the Open Gun Dog stake. Our brace mate was handled by John Rabidou who has produced over 130 field champions and 19 national field champions. This fact is intimidating enough and added to my already nervousness. But my dog ran extremely well. He had the first find and was backed by John’s dog. Then quickly had a second find and then a third find. All the bird work was good, completely steady to wing and shot. But after the third find the judge says to me, “sure would like to see this dog run.”
This statement to me meant my dog was looking good; and as someone new, the judge was trying to give me a pointer about what would best improve our odds for the rest of the course. Having collared my dog after the third find my scout tried to walk him far enough ahead that we would be beyond the immediately “bridy” areas. After a few yards or running forward my dog broke left. I preceded forward hoping, and praying he would pop out in front so the judge could watch him run. Further and further we went when a horse rides up on a gallop and says, "your dog is on point back there."
So we returned for the fourth find. My scout had found the dog, but we could not hear her holler, "point."
Mind you, each find after the first is an opportunity to loose. Crazy things can go wrong with the bird work. On this particular day anything could go wrong because Remi was finding 3 and 4 bird coveys, and to me that is 3 or 4 more chances to dog to get confused and loose steadiness. He is after all barely 3 years old.
So I go through my routine, kicked the birds, fire my gun and Remi turns hard to mark a bird. This is legal, but not the perfect picture the judge is looking for, but still all is well. And so we water the dog, heal him forward, and turn him loose.
Time is drawing down. Remi is running out front, popping in and out of mots, working left and right the 15 to 20 degrees in front when he slams on point. Riding up he is pointing a manmade brush pile. Not only manmade, but on the road practically. In fact it looked like a pile of mesquite logs. I thought to myself, “no way did someone plant a bird there.” As I rode up to within feet of my dog to see if I could see a bird I saw something dart around to the back of the pile.
Again I thought to myself, “must be a mouse, because no one would plant a bird in there.”
Riding my horse past my dog I peered into the other side of the pile when all of a sudden the sound of a bobwhite covey rise broke the silence.
Remi looked, and then took off on a chase ignoring my woe command. Our day was done seconds from the end of the trial. The judges road off, and my scout and I were left to chase down a dog on a mission to catch a quail.
I did not trust my dog, and so I approached this situation completely different from any other time I had done this with my dog. He did what he was supposed to do. I did something stupid by deviating from our routine. I don’t blame the dog. I blame me.
Who knows what the outcome could have been. But had I gotten off my horse and gone with the same repetitive routine of flushing the birds we have done hundreds of times together odds would have been much greater in our favor.
After the class ended I asked the judge where we were before the mistake. He replied, “you were in contention.”
So always trust your dog, and no matter what you think, go through the repetitive motions of attempting to flush the game each and every time. Otherwise you might have the random results of loosing like we did.