I had the great fortune of participating in a sporting dog trial in Germany this spring. A business associate of mine was one of the judges, or training to be a judge, I was never quite sure how that worked. He was also the breeder of one of the dogs in the trial. In total, there were 20 dogs and owners divided into 5 groups of 4 with several judges in each group. The predominant breed used was called the Deutsch Drataahr (know in North America as German Wirehair Pointer). Other dog breeds were allowed. All dogs were just one year old. The dogs went through a series of trials, one by one, with judges watching closely.
The first trial was to test pointing skills. Dogs walked a tree line and had to hold a point on a rabbit or a bird for 4 seconds to score well. Each trial produced 11 or 12 points as a maximum with defined criteria. Being young dogs, some had difficulty holding point until their master arrived at their side and they often spooked the bird/rabbit. The second trial was the Gun Test. Actually, I have no idea what the test was called as everyone was speaking German, quickly, and I was left to guess what the object of the trail was. In the Gun Test, the dog and one hunter simply walked about 50 paces into a field, then two shots were fired into the air to see if the dog would run away. Interestingly, all guns were double barreled shot guns. All dogs passed this test, I think. The third trial was Track a Rabbit. This was the longest trial, most difficult to judge, and the trial that likely had the greatest variation in scores for the dogs. Everyone spread out width wise across a cropped field, dog all on leashes, to flush rabbits. When a rabbit took off, the judges would call a nearby dog and it would be put on the trail. Dogs were judged by how long they tracked the rabbit, how they acted when they lost the trail, and how quickly they regained the trail. Some dogs took off for 10 minutes on the track. Others had a difficult time getting on trail and were finished in a minute or two. The dog that eventually won the trial, spent about 15 minutes on the trail, across two fields, through a tree line, under two fences, and a road. When he lost the scent, he went on a circular search pattern until he found it again, then he was at full speed again.
At the end of the field trials, they did a physical inspection of the dogs, checked teeth, and matched tattoos to the breeders records. In the end, from the trial of 4 dogs I participated in, the dog bred by my business associate finished at the top of the group and among the top of the whole trial. At the conclusion of the field trial, all participants and judges met back at a country restaurant for a few pints of beer and a meal. Owners were given their score cards. One of the most interesting parts was at the conclusion of each field trial, Pointing, Gun Test, and Rabbit Track, the head judge would do a dog by dog report. Not understanding most of what he said, it sounded like he was scolding the dogs and their owners for every mistake, and maybe offering suggestions on how to improve their score.
Other interesting observations were made. If you want to hunt pheasant, almost every field we entered held at least 10 of the prize game birds. Every time we flushed one, my trigger finger reached for the safety on the gun that was missing from my hands. I love hunting pheasant. Here was pheasant hunting paradise, and me without a gun (I’m working on my invite to return for the fall). We also spooks a number of Roe Deer (no idea if I spelled that correctly). They are a small deer with a short pair of antlers. I understand they make their way onto the plates of many a German hunter. These are usually hunted from short hunting stands (ironically called ‘tall stands’) about 10-12 feet high and usually positioned against a tree or in a bush line.
I’m looking forward to my next return to Germany, next time scheduled during hunting season, when my business associate assures me there is ample supply of Roe Deer, Red Deer (much like Elk), pheasant, and wild boar to satisfy any itchy trigger finger. I am trying to return the favor by inviting him to a meeting in Saskatchewan in early September for the start of the legendary snow goose migration near the Quill Lakes. To those who allowed me along on their dog trial, ‘Danke ein Auf Wiedersehen’. By the way, the only English you will need in Canada is ‘Take ‘em!’.