On December 7, 2008 the Maryland Waterfowlers Association held it’s third annual Maryland Gundog Championship in Trappe, MD. This event is open to all breeds and is specifically oriented towards finding the best gunning dog. The event features a simple yet effective scoring system that separates the dogs. All dogs are handled to the marks and only whistle commands are used to mark the dogs down. That is until the final series where in addition to the number of whistle commands given the dogs are timed to see who can complete the retrieves in the shortest amount of time. Here is how this years event unfolded.
It was cold and blustery with northwest winds up to 30 mph; a real ducking day for the 16 stalwart dog-handler teams. They were judged by Mike Galante from Preston and Matt Mahoney of Oxford, both experienced dog men and avid waterfowlers. Sponsored by Avery Outdoors, who provided a variety of prizes for each entrant and some phenomenal prizes for finalists there was more at stake than just a trophy and pride. However the winner would also receive a beautiful crystal trophy and retain possession of the perpetual Mayors Trophy, named for Steve Meyer (aka ” The Mayor of Seneca”) founder of MDWFA. Also sponsoring the event wasTudor Farms, who generously donated enough mallards so that 2 live :” flyers” could be shot in each series. The flyers presented not only realistic hunt conditions but also a challenge for the handlers to steady their dogs in every series.
In the first series the dog was required to pick up a short blind (unseen bird) bird. Then on return 2 fliers were shot simultaneously. This distraction proved to be the separating factor for some of the entries. After retrieving the first three birds a longer blind retrieve was run downwind from the short flyer’s fall. A real challenge for these very intense canine competitors. Since a penalty was assessed for each whistle blown, the best jobs were handed in by dogs who took straight lines to each bird.
The next series two more fliers, 180 degrees apart were shot by the gunners. This time the dogs worked over water on a pond that is actually hunted during the regular waterfowl season. Then a long blind over land and water was required. The challenges for the first two series, although difficult, did exactly what they were intended to do. Separate the dogs and handlers from the field. This separation allowed the judges to tally the whistle commands used and announce that only half of the original field of 16 dogs would return for the final series.
The final series was a triple marked retrieve using two flyers plus a short bird thrown behind the dog. But before any marked retrieve could be picked up, a long blind across the pond was used to challenge the handler’s ability to control their dog and send them in a direction that required the dog to trust the handler. If any of the first three birds were brought back the dog was dropped. This so called “poison bird blind” is the mark of a truly trained “finished” retriever who must do as its handler asks rather than what instinct dictates. A testament to the quality of teams in the finals only one dog was dropped for picking up a poison bird first and this dog had been a previous year’s winner! To assure a clear winner and to further challenge the teams, the final round was timed in the case a tie in the number of whistles needed to complete the tasks was recorded. As expected there was a tie and the winner was decided by time. Toots, owned and handled by Mike Boyle of Elkton was crowned as the Maryland Gundog Champion for 2008. Congratulations to Mike and Toots for outstanding work!
The Maryland Waterfowlers Association would like to thank all of the volunteers and especially Butch Chambers who organized and ran the event. If you are interested in entering next years event simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and an application will be sent to you once the 2009 event is set.