They call it ‘the game’. Many of the hunting dog clubs out there are all about the individual achievement of each animal. While you may sometimes run with another dog and handler, you are competing for an overall win. NSTRA field trials are run a little different. The National Shoot to Retrieve Association is all about beating your opponent on the field. Each successful bird find and retrieve is worth points. You have one goal, and that is to find the birds before your brace mate does, in a half hour. Of course, getting to the bird first is just the start. From there you need to have near flawless dog handling if you want to earn the points. NSTRA is fast paced, and shows off the best a dog has to offer. The dog-handler relationship has to be finely tuned. To win, a dog has to be on its game, and it has to be consistent. The handler too, must manage their dog in a way that lets the judges know that they are in control, but are not controlling. You can read all of the rules HERE.
This past weekend at the NSTRA Michigan Regional Elimination, the heat was on. 34 dogs started the day on Saturday. By days end, there were only 6 left to compete. It is amazing how much emotions, good and bad, can flair when competition at this level unfolds. On Sunday morning, the 6 finalists ran 3 braces to determine the the top dogs of the region. Out of 6 came 4: 3 runner ups, and a champion. Out of those 4, 2 dogs compete in the “big dance” so-to-speak. The final run of the day is between the two top scoring dogs of the semi-final round. This brace run for one hour, and 10 birds are placed in the field. Only one dog-handler team can be crowned regional champion.