Hunting Tests

Sussex Spaniel Club of America's First Hunt Test

The Sussex Spaniel Club of America held their first Spaniel Hunting Test at the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Park in Mazomanie, Wiscosin on July 31 and August 1. The Committee, led by Chair Ann McGloon, has the grounds perfectly groomed for their Spaniel Test. For their initial experience into the sport they limited the number of entries to 22, and their entry exceeded even their most optimistic expectations. The test filled quickly with every eligible breed but one. They had English Springers, Cockers, English Cockers, Clumbers, Field Spaniels and, of course, Sussex Spaniels entered.

The judges, Ron and Bev Haag and Jan and Tim Thomas, were knowledgeable and helpful. They gave all the dogs an ample opportunity to demonstrate their skills and abilities and rewarded the successful dogs and handlers with well deserved qualifying scores.

The events started right on time each morning. The participants and spectators were able to watch the entire bird field for the hunt and flush portion of the tests. The head Marshall, Becky Krueger, kept thing moving smoothly throughout the day. At the junior level, the dogs are expected to show the desire to hunt in an enthusiastic manner and the ability to retriever. For the most part, the junior dogs all showed that they were eager and willing to search the cover for Chukar planted for them in the large field. Those watching were treated to numerous solid successful hunts and some exceptional bird work. Each breed has its own distinctive hunting style, and whether it was an energetic Springer, a careful Sussex or a stolid Clumber, the dogs performed well. After the Junior dogs came the Senior and Master participants. They are expected to show the same enthusiatic hunt and flushing work, but do so with more style and with a more polished performance. One of the best work was done by the Clumber, Bluemoon's Phoenix TD, who found and flushed 4 birds. The most entertaining performance was by Ch. Bluemoons Heart and Soul CD, TD,JH, an Clumber, who found the fallen bird and slowly crept up to the bird before retrieving it to the handler.

The Senior and Master Dogs are also required to perform a "hunt dead" exercise, where thy are set into the field to find and retrieve a dead bird. This is similar to the blind retrieves of the retrieving Breeds, but the dogs must locate the bird without the active assistance of the handlers. Some of the dogs were successful in this portion of the tests, and some require more training to meet the test requirements.

After the bird work on land, the tests moved to a nearby pond for their water work. The dogs are required to perform a retrieve across 30 yards of water. Again, the breed differences were evident. The Springers raced into the water with a splash and dash style. The cockers, of both breeds, were more calm and cautious, but no less enthusiastic. The Clumbers and Sussex made their deliberate water entrances and successfully negotiated the way to the falls. Most of the Spaniels showed the capacity to perform as required.

Several of the dogs earning qualifying scores on Saturday completed their title requirements and moved up in class for Sunday. 2 completed their Junior Hunter titles and moved to Senior Hunter class, and 2 newly titles Senior Hunters moved to Master Hunter.

Overnight, heavy rain and thunderstorms visited the area, but the skies gratefully cleared by the start of the Sunday event. The wet conditions created a challenge for the dogs to successfully flush the birds as required. Several birds were reluctant to fly and were retrieved by the dogs without the required flight. As the field dried out, the birds were more willing to take flight. The highlight of the day was when one chukar, flushed by an energetic English Cocker, flew back towards the gallery and was snatched out of the air, barehanded, by one of the official gunners.

The Sunday tests ran smoothly and the judging was done efficiently, demonstrating the excellent organization of this first time club. Sussex Spaniel Club of America president Doug Horn was on hand and filled in as Marshall, and other miscellaneous tasks, when the need arose.

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