HEAT TRIES SPANIELS' METTLE
at Green Valley's Hunt Test
We had never seen such lush and challenging cover here. It was deceptively short cover, barely coming to the knees. However, trying to wade through the stiff undergrowth gave you a fine appreciation of the determination a dog had to have to shove its way through this tangle.
Combine this with the blazing Indian summer weather that weekend and you had yourself quite a difficult test. But more about this later.
I like to think people enter hunt tests to test their dogs and learn new Spaniels and hunting but, most of all, I like to believe they come because they ENJOY the event. Terry Andrews and his wife, Laurie, began their first hunt test weekend by camping in their trailer in this gorgeous, sort of desolate spot on the huge Suisun Marsh, far from freeways, TVs and clanging phones. Sitting out having an evening sunset cocktail and enjoying
Grizzly is also a virtual bird paradise with nearly 200 species of birds. Experts consider this is one of the most important wetlands on the west coast of North America. It consists of 12,500 acres located in the Suisun Marsh estuary, which is the largest continuous estuarine marsh in the lower 48 states. This area includes tidal wetlands, managed marshes and seasonal ponds. There are 75 miles of roads and trails. Tule elk, otters and bald eagles are among the many animals found here. It also is well know for its great fishing; striped bass are caught in Montezuma Slough and fisherman regularly line the banks in the early morning hours along the miles of roadway sloughs. Driving out, you also compete with bird watchers, notoriously bad drivers as they weave down the road, trying to catch sight of one of the many bird species.
We began our hunt tests here at Grizzly Island Wildlife Area in 1992 at the end of the serious drought from 1987 to 1992. However, I am now very happy to report--the cover is back!
As Sunday was reported to be warmer than Saturday (high 90s), we began at 8 a.m. with the Master dogs, 7 entries, and all comported themselves in style, finding the hen pheasants quickly and efficiently. Seniors, 6 dogs, followed. Then a slight course change to try to avoid presenting Junior dogs with pheasants and we finished up with our 5 juniors. By the time we ran the hunt dead for Senior and Master dogs, it was definitely getting hot. Due to an unexpectedly good turnoutf for our lunch, we had to put away squirrel away plates of food for the judges as they was danger of nothing being left by the time they came in. Especially popular was the two smoked pheasants brought by the Lacketts. With food supply duly demonished, we drove out the 6 miles to Dutton's Pond to complete the test at the water. This pond was built for retriever tests and is well suited to setting up Spaniel Master blinds. As this was a new venue for us, there were a few glitches when a few of the dogs were drawn off by glimses of the bird thrower and gunner in the bushes. No problems were encountered with water entry or depth, two problems we had dealt with at our previous water site, Pond 14.
The agency that oversees Grizzly, California Dept of Fish & Game, had notified us earlier in the week that we would have to change the water test as Pond 14 had a leak and they couldn't keep water in it for more than a day. The funny bit about this is that it is a HUGE pond, acres and acres of water, and I can imagine trying to find a hole in that large a diked pond would be a big job.
Our judges, Gordon Breitbarth and Gunther Boettcher, being the professionals they are, tallied their scores very quickly and ribbons were handed out to those qualifying (see Marked Catalog). We must have set a record for the number of finishing titles on the day of our test -- we had SEVEN new titlists.
The Senior Hunters to finished their S.H. title were "Tilly" handled by Sally Lackett, "Coyote" with Dolores Blake, "Shiloh" with Wayne Meyers and "Mickey" with Sarah Anderson. New Junior Hunters (J.H.) were "Jett" handled by Barbara Anderson, "Moss" with Jeff DiBene and "Kobe" with Joe Valentino.
Kudos to our gunners, Harry Linsenbach and Ron Jones; I heard nothing but praise about their work. Our planters, Kristen Green and Richard Lackett, worked tirelessly in hot conditions. Gordon provided his usual fabulous birds.
The long, hot but satisfying day was capped by calling off the winners of our raffle. A variety of items including bird theme fabric dog bed, picture frame, pheasant print and duck picture were carted off by the lucky winners.
One of two memories I will carry with me from the event was the discovery of an intact snake skin on part of the hunt course. It was inspected, found not to have rattles and we all breathed a sigh. I understand that skin provided entertainment to the gallery all day long as youngsters latched onto it and found it an amusing toy.
The last happened as I was returning a pocket-sized radio to Barbara Boettcher from whom Green Valley had borrowed a pair of radios for the bird planters to communicate with the marshal. I apologized to Barb that I wasn't sure where the other radio had gotten to. She said "that's simple; I'll find it!" She proceeds to page the other radio. As we were standing near the test headquarters, a minute later out bursts Richard from the nearby Port-A-Potty, saying "Geez, give me a BREAK!" We all cracked up laughing.
--Diane Tebault for Green Valley Spaniel Club