Just got back from our weekend of festivities at the Katahdin German Shorthair Pointer Club Hunt Test at Sharpe's Farm in Hopkinton, NH. Well, the short version is that sadly none of the work to try and encourage Momo to staunch up on point seemed to work. And sadly, he didn't put together a good enough run on either day. Whatever my gripes with a couple of judges, I wouldn't have qualified Momo either. Tough to admit, but honest.
A few observations: Sharpe's Farm is a beautiful spot originally donated to the State (and maintained by the Corps of Engineers) by Rich & Dot Stevenson (if I remembered the name accurately from the plaque). The Junior birdfield is generally in the front field and can be readily seen from the picnic shelter and parking lot area -- and so great for newcomers wanting to see what hunt tests look like. But in late May, everything at Sharpe's is blooming like crazy... it smelled fantastic of honeysuckles and mountain laurels... but when high pollen is combined with low wind, and humidity only varied by a thunder shower (on Saturday morning), things get really tough -- especially because wet birds will throw off even less scent and will not want to fly. As an indicator, I don't think any dogs qualified in the Senior and Master braces on Saturday -- I think a single shot was fired over the course of the 4 braces.
I'll keep the specifics of each run, but will offer the following observations that may help aspiring dog handlers. I think Momo gets frustrated with the hunt test format. He has been the slower dog in a brace on each of the four times out -- and so, if the other dog hits a point first, he then has to honor that dog (and then watch that dog have a bird flushed and shot for it, and then go for its own retrieve). If he's already honored the dog in the backfield and now has to honor one or more times in the birdfield, he gets impatient to get a bird in the air so it can be shot for him to retrieve it. But neither wandering into another dog's point after being called to 'woah' or creeping on his own point will get your dog qualified at Senior Hunter.
I would also suggest that hunt test handlers carry a rock or a short stick or a heavy hat they can throw with accuracy. You are required to follow through on all birds encountered in the backfield -- and so if you can see a quail in the open about to run into a thicket of thin, closely packed trees, chuck something at the bird to make it fly so you can fire your pistol before your dog gets driven crazy and starts to creep. The pictorial highlight from the weekend is this pic is from Sunday morning. I had Momo out early by himself to see if we could find a bird left over from the day before to see if he would staunch up. And to be honest, he was great despite the bird (between the two main boughs) running from side to side. A well-thrown hat got that sucker in the air.
The same is probably true for Jozsi: his second run was marked by less attentiveness to my whistle -- and he definitely did not want to stop hunting this morning (which earned him a '10' for hunting, but a '6' for trainability). And so I might suggest that folks who already hunt their dogs consider maybe doing a single hunt test a weekend. As cool as it has been to tick off Jozsi and Momo's JH titles over the course of two weekends, the second day will be harder on the handler for anything other than an excellent dog -- and may require more post-test skill repair.
By contrast, Jozsi bombed through his two final JH legs. He also scoured the adjoining treelines, hedgerows, and probably most of the county. For all his toute vitesse, he is starting to acquire some style... it's so great to watch him get birdy and then set up in his nice high style. He needs more birds and more hunting to help get his nose finely-tuned -- but he really looks great (when you can focus on the blur!). All Hail the Junior Hunter!! Did I mention that he's still only 12mos old?
So, I may give Momo a complete bird-break for a month or so -- and then probably hunt him a couple of times to remind him that happy dads and happy dogs are what it's actually really all about. (I just figured out that he's essentially been in training since January 3rd and is probably a little burned out on it, too.) I will probably still take Jozsi up to the Connecticut Valley Vizsla Club Hunting Dog Stakes at the end of June just to see if he can put those afterburners to good use!
In other news, Alberto Contador became the first foreigner to win the Giro d'Italia in 15 years. For a guy that supposedly didn't train for it, he came out pretty well! Despite an awesome ride by Danilo Di Luca on Friday to reduce his gap behind Contador to 4secs, 'The Killer' lost almost four minutes on Saturday after trying so hard the day before. In fantasy cycling land, while I'm disappointed I picked Sylvester Szmyd over Emanuele Sella, I still selected #'s 1, 2, 8, and 10 in the final classification.