Wildrose Kennels Annual British Working Test 2005

The weather for the 2005 Wildrose British Open Championship was spectacular. Clear blue skies and temperatures, perhaps a bit warm for retrievers, welcomed a large gallery and sixteen of the best hunting retrievers we have seen entered to date. The trial, which was composed of six series, was run under British Kennel Club rules where the best gamefinding retrieve is the dog of choice, exactly the type hunting companion one would wish to accompany you to the field or blind. The judges valued dogs which displayed steadiness and quiet behaviors, a good nose, strong hunting skills and one which marked and handled well-a retriever that could effectively locate game and get it to hand, in the bag quickly.

All entries with the exception of one beautiful Boykin Spaniel, were labs. Contenders represented a number of states from Maine, Texas to Wisconsin and various states between. We opened the morning with the water test.

Series I - Water Test
This test consisted of scoring a mark, a blind, a diversion and honoring. The mark was thrown with a shot across a lake containing an island and channels, plenty of factors to influence the dog. A blind was the first retrieve after the mark was down. The blind was also on the far bank across channel about 50 yards. The majority of the dogs pulled to the cover of the channels and required handling to correct their line to the blind but a couple lined it perfectly. On completion, the mark was picked. Upon return, a diversion bird (bumper) with a shot fell tight to the line. Several dogs were influenced by this ploy. The final score came from the dog's ability to honor the next dog to run the test. Most dogs sat quietly without correction, off leash while honoring the working retriever.

Series II
A 4-dog static line (still) was formed across a large grass field with lanes of heavy grasses, which bordered a wooded area. A launcher bumper was shot from the field 40 yards away deep into the woods. The bumper disappeared high into the trees falling 20 yards deep providing the dog only a brief visual of the bumper for part of the flight path. The successful retriever had to mark selectively by sound, hold a true line through the cover driving deep in the woods and then be a good hunter in order to locate the bumper.

There were a lot of good dogs at this trial and most had little trouble with the retrieve. We had a couple of dogs that whined a bit and a few that broke down at the woods' edge finding it difficult to drive through the physiological barriers. The handler just could not see the dog to handle at that point due to the grass cover. Clay Black's little Boykin showed great upland potential as she made short work of this challenge… just her cup of tea.

Series III
The test was run over open ground up short grass (a hay field) with a pond in the middle. A shot and high mark was thrown from the levy into the water. The dog could catch a glimpse of the bird in the air but not see the fall area. The 120-yard mark was run first followed by a blind placed fairly tight to the right of the line to the mark. The blind was at 90 yards across open ground hidden in front of a round hay bale.

Several dogs found the mark difficult as their line broke down at the base of the pond levy. Some needed to be handled to the top of the levy. Several dogs did "slam" the mark without assistance. Bill Billups HRCH Wildrose Teal made an impressive drive straight through a huge thick briar thicket on the levy, no deviation, no hesitation. Others skirted the bramble, but not this tough little gal.

Several dogs picked the blind nicely only requiring a couple of handles. It became evident that the cumulative scores thus far would produce a tight grouping of very nice dogs.

Unfortunately, only nine dogs could be carried forward this late in the day. Several nice gundog were left behind that had been quite competitive.

Series 4
A walk up in thick woods was conducted for a line of 4 dogs then again for 5. Two bird throwers were forward well out of sight. A shot was fired and a feathered bumper thrown about 30 yards out. Successful dogs had to mark by sound and hunt a tight pattern. Marking, hunting skills and heel work were carefully scrutinized. Here, dogs with an exceptional nose and hunting experience prevailed, yet all dogs were so good judges could make no eliminating determination so all nine were carried forward.

Series 5
Another multi-dog line walk up. A long walk up across a grass field was conducted to test heel work and a couple of dogs did show some problems. Next, a shot was fired across a field of high, dense grass and the bumper was thrown. Just afterward, double bumpers along with a 12-guage shot were fired from bumper boys directly in front of the line. The dog was required to pick the mark ignoring the diversion and the other dogs as they ran in front of the entire line. Josh DeWitt's Claret made a clean pick of the mark, perfect, without distraction and in short order. Several others did well but this series did eliminate all but 5 dogs. It was challenging.

Series 6
A long water mark was shot into flooded timber over 120 yards out. The dog was required to negotiate a steep bank into the water, swim in open water around 90 yards, then punch through thick brush into the woodlands to hunt the bird. The dog only had a glimpse of the mark in flight and could not see the exact place of fall. Moreover, once inside the timber, it proved impossible to handle the dog due to the dense woodlands.

Several dogs failed to enter the tick edge of the woodlands. Those that did drive through were required to put on a good hunt without assistance to succeed. Dogs with duck hunting experiences over water and timber prevailed. They knew from experience to get into those woods. This was just the type scenario that is played out in the field each hunting season.

One of the most impressive entries of the entire trial was Scrap, a retriever of unbelievable heart and fortitude, running with only three legs, owned and trained by John Atkinson, Houston, Mississippi. This handicapped contender put on an amazing performance through all 5 series, now at the woods edge he got blocked by fallen timber and with only one rear leg could not push through. He panicked a bit and missed the retrieve to the dismay of the entire gallery.

Run Off After the 6th, two dogs held scores too close to call for 1st and 2nd. A single blind was set up for the showdown. The retrieve required the dog to cross 40 yards of open water to a far bank, cross another 50 yards of open ground to the general area of the "bird." The blind was in very thick cover at a base of a tree behind a 4-strand barbed wire fence bordered on both sides by very thick cover.

Options: 1. Line the dog parallel to the fall area through the gate and fence then handle with a hard left cast into the fall area.
2. Line directly for the fall area through the grass lanes under the fence into the fall area. In both cases, contact with the dog was lost at the gate entrance or at the grass lane, therefore the "hunter" had to do the rest.

After repeated, noble attempts, neither finalist could secure the bird. These dogs were exhausted mentally and physically. Both hunted hard, stayed at it until called up and handled well. Remember these dogs had not been in the truck between series. They had been in the field from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. with only one hour off for lunch break. No trial expects this much focus and patience from a dog, only a UK trial. These dogs were zapped yet they continued on. Brilliant!

1st - Craig Korff with Molly, Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin
2nd - Diego Gimenez with Shadow, Huntsville, Alabama
3rd - Bruce Cook with Slick, Livingston, Alabama
4th - Josh DeWitt with Claret, Terre Haute, Indiana

A special recognition as the Gallery Favorite - Scrap and John Atkinson, Houston, Miss.

Well done to all the fine contenders running this year. And many thanks to those attending in the gallery!

Please see the awards photo soon to be posted on our web site. www.uklabs.com, under Events, Wildrose British Working Test.

Wildrose British Championship, 2005 From left to right:
Vic Barlow, judge, John Atkinson and Scrap (Gallery Award),
Diego Gimenez and Shadow (2nd place), Craig Korff and
Molly (1st place), Josh DeWitt and Claret (4th place),
Bruce Cook and Slick (3rd place) and Mike Stewart, judge