The National Cocker Championships

By: Executive Field Rep. Tom Meyer

The National Cocker Championships is the culmination of hundreds of hours, thousands of miles all invested in qualifications on the contestants part, preparations and planning on the event committee’s part. This is liken to the world series of Cockers, to say the committee hit a homerun on this event is an understatement. Being somewhat familiar with the possible fields and venue planned for the event it was an interesting drive up from the Manchester airport. The fall colors were still very prevalent, looking at the wooded areas, open fields and predicted weather gave the sense that this event had all the potential of a positive outcome.

The first and second series scheduled at Hussey Well field, set the tone. These grounds were located adjacent to North Conway, NH. The cover consisted of native grasses, brome, switch some golden rod and Willow hedgerows, surrounded by woods and active creek beds. The first series temps. started in the 20’s with frost that soon dissipated with the rising Sun, the scenting conditions appeared to be adequate at the start, but varied throughout the day. The game birds used for the first and second series were strong full feathered pheasants. The course was a large horseshoe shape that took approximately one hour and fifteen minutes to complete. There were 74 dogs that started the first series by mid-afternoon it was evident that the plan was to start the second series. The second series began at 4:00 with 64 dogs called to the start. Approximately 25 dogs completed the second before sunset. The scenting varied throughout the day with obvious areas of the course better or worse than others. The performances were varied as well. The gunners were an experienced group and did stellar job, with many demonstrations as why they were selected. It was also evident that the quality of competing dogs was going to give the judges a book full of good performances from which to choose. The day was called at 5:45.

The second day started with 40 dogs remaining in the second series. The morning temperature was in the 40’s with some ground fog and the hope for a bit of a breeze. The scenting and bird finding improved from the previous day with many strong finds and the bird production was very good. The guns gave the dogs an excellent opportunity to test their abilities. The series moved along in a timely fashion with the second series completed at approximately 1:00 PM.

The plan at this time was to move the event to Fryeburg, Maine for the third and fourth series to start Thursday at 8:00 AM. The committee has planned for a Shot gunning demonstration by one of its major sponsors Benelli that was to begin at 2:30 PM. This attracted approximately 200 people including many competitors and local folks, it was enjoyable and informative. This allowed time for the relocation, the judge’s call backs and preparation for the evenings’ banquet.

The third and fourth series was on private property. 30 dogs were called to the third series. The course was laid out in a mature woods, adjacent to a tributary of the Saco River. There was an abundance of cover the entire length of the course that meandered through Cottonwood, Ash and Willow trees with several small creek beds to navigate. The course was purported to be 1800 Yards long which according to my calculations over one mile in length. The initial first run had a large gallery as the visitors and contestants viewed the course. The game birds used were strong chukar’s the woods were such that when flushed the birds were airborne quickly so after a few humbling shots the gunner’s adjusted nicely and made it possible for many opportunities to test the dogs retrieving abilities.

The dogs did what was expected of this diligent, persistent and exciting breed. Those of us who stayed in the gallery the entire day knew the judges were enjoying themselves, but moreover were aware that this was going to be no easy task as one good performance after another was put before them, as evidenced by 24 dogs called back for the fourth series. There was literally no break in the action between series, the committee and its workers were spot on, the participants were cooperative in all ways. The fourth series concluded at approximately 2:30 and the fifth series call backs followed shortly thereafter as the group was making preparations to relocate at the fifth series site.

The fifth series was just north of the first and second series site. 16 dogs were called to the fifth. The backdrop was the White Mountains with Mount Washington as the focal point. The course was an abandoned apple orchard that had the course set to run along an outer edge to end when we got to the banks of the Saco River. There were no flags just a starting and finishing point. It was laid out to be run one way then pick up at the end and return only to start again. It was a bit time consuming but fair for all. The game birds used were a mixed bag of Rooster and hen pheasants that produced several runners and exciting times for some and not so exciting for others. The event moved nicely with all dogs getting an opportunity to show their abilities. The cover was orchard grass and some brome, the birds and dogs were free to roam at will. There were some very nice performances, going to be a tough job for the judges. The fifth series was completed as the sunset over the mountains a very pleasant conclusion to the fifth and final land series of the 2012 Cocker National Championship.

The water test, along with the placements is scheduled in the morning at Brownfield, ME. After what seemed like a long drive, mostly because of the fog I arrived at the water test site. The venue was perfect about as picturesque as you can imagine. The water was calm as a mirror with large pine trees surrounding the entire area. There were 13 dogs called to water and after all was done 11 passed the water and if I were to guess this may have changed one of the possible placements. The placements were done in the picnic pavilion at waters’ edge and if you were to have a fitting end to such a well-organized well-executed event this was it.

Chairman Terry Oliver and each and every member of his committee (of which there were many and all present I might add) are to be thanked and congratulated for a job well done. Placements and awards can be viewed at www.fieldcockers.com