Mission Valley, Montana – Ideal Area for Retriever Enthusiasts

By Wayne Bleazard
Executive Field Representative


          Ronan, Montana is a small agricultural city in Northwestern Montana located on the Flathead Indian Reservation about 12 miles south of Flathead Lake.  Named after Major Peter Ronan, superintendent of the Flathead Indian Reservation, the area is surrounded by the Mission Mountains and has plenty of the famous Montana fishing rivers and wildlife in the valley.

          The area just west of Ronan has recently been settled by several members of the Retriever Field Trial community.  Back in the ice age, as the glaciers receded, several potholes were left that formed plenty of natural ponds.  The potholes, combined with soil that has a lot of clay, holds the water in the ponds, which works well for retriever enthusiasts.  There are lots of nice rolling hills making excellent terrain for both training and trialing of retrievers.

          Don Remein, one of the top professional trainers in the sport of Retriever Field Trialing, was among the first dog trainers in the area.  Karl Gunzer, another pro who was Don’s assistant several years ago, has also settled in the Mission Valley recently, along with Eric Fangsrud and Carol Kackelmeyer.

          According to Anna Calvert, secretary of the Mission Valley Retriever Club (formerly the Jackson Hole Retriever Club), in today’s declining market, farmers had a difficult time making a living off the ground.  When dog people began coming into the area, the farmers were thrilled to sell their farms, and retriever owners were more than pleased to get land at a very reasonable price.  Needless to say, with all the amateur dog handlers buying up the property, the price of ground quickly escalated.

          Among the amateur handlers in the Mission Valley area are Anna and Larry Calvert, Alice Woodyard, Judy Bly, Carma Futhey, Janet Olson, John Pampy, Bill and Lorna Kolstad, Richard Underwood, Judy Rasmuson, Rich and Leigh Larsen, Bill and Sarita McKnight (whose dog, Moochie, won the 2008 Canadian National Amateur) and Tony and Jan Snow.  Many of these amateurs have developed their property into outstanding field trial training and trialing grounds, while other owners are still in the process of improving theirs.

          While the gorgeous Big Sky country of Montana is outstanding for spring and fall training, the difficult winters are a different game.  Most (if not all) the dog people in Mission Valley head to the warmer climates of Texas, Florida and California during the winter months.

          The Mission Valley Retriever Club held two field trials this year in the area, one in May and the other in August.  They are hopeful that they can hold a National Amateur Retriever Championship on their property in the near future when it is the Mountain Time Zone’s turn to host the trial. 


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