Day 1 - Sunday Sept. 16, 2007
As contestants began to arrive at Nilak Kennels near Brighton, ON, members of the Eastern Ontario Labrador Breeders Association (EOLBA) were putting the finishing touches on their year-long activity as host of the first licensed CKC National Master Hunt Test.
Judges Sue Endersby, Garry Taylor and Brian Dempsey had arrived Thursday and, with Chief Marshal John Chevalier, had spent the next few days touring property and devising tests.
After the bitch check, MNRCC President Mark Edwards called the AGM to order. A lively discussion of Master National matters past, present and future ensued. Attendees were especially pleased to welcome Zone I Director Derek Dunn from New Brunswick. Plans for the 2008 National Master to be held in Saskatoon are well under way. It was reported that, as of 2008, AKC MH dogs with two CKC passes will be eligible to compete.
In the evening, contestants, workers, judges and guests enjoyed cocktails and a delicious dinner in town. Chair Jean House welcomed all and thanked her hardworking committee; Finance Chair Pearl McGinn, Secretary Ann Steer and Treasurer Pauline Davidson, as well as many other members of the EOLBA. Landowners were also thanked, especially Dave and Jane Thompson of Nilak Kennels. Jean then introduce Purina rep Tim Crone who graciously presented each handler with a full bag of goodies. Chief Marshal John Chevalier then gave instructions to the handlers and the number of the first dog was drawn. Number 21 will begin.
Day 2 - Monday, Sept 17, 2007
Monday dawned cool but clear, with the promise of a bright high-60’s day – a perfect day for a hunt. The convoy left the staging area at 8:45, traveling to a hill on the north-east side of Nilak property.
The first test was a land triple shot left to right with the wind also left to right, from calm to fairly stiff. Birds were thrown from wingers and were preceded with a call. The first bird down was approximately 87 yds, the second about 93 yds and the third about 101 yds, all thrown left to right. All birds were ducks and there was a substantial number of decoys in the field. The right hand bird was universally well done but both the left and centre “gave the judges something to think about.” A well placed bush caused significant line deviation on both the left bird and the blind, which was run after the marks and was located between the left and centre stations. The centre bird also caused some difficulty as some dogs ran deep or ran up the slope fading right of the mark. The blind was generally well done but some dogs were affected by the early cover, the old falls and the wind. One dog was eliminated, #4.
Our second series, a 100 yd water blind, with a 30 yd downhill entry was held on a nearby pond. There was a call and a shot from the gunner placed off line to the right on a dike which curves through the pond. As the hander approached the running line, the gunner stood, waved his arms and asked for help picking up his downed duck. This diversion, the curve of the dike and the gusting left-to-right wind, as well as an entry through shore and water decoys and an early grassy point in close proximity to the line made this a challenging blind for some dogs. Fortunately Dave Kress kept the gallery entertained with various southern-ism.
Dogs dropped were 5, 18 and 19.
Day 3 - Tuesday , Sept. 18, 2007
Another bright morning dawned with the promise of afternoon heat. The day started somewhatt earlier as it was slated to be a full day.
Our first series of water marks was held at Nilak property on the lower, large pond. It was a triple with the first bird at 78 yards, located directly across from the running line thrown from left to right and landing on land. The second bird was at 95 yards in the corner, thrown with a splash from left to right across a small bay. Bird #3 was a breaker bird thrown from a winger located behind and right of the running dog and thrown directly overhead. The honor was located 15 feet to the left of the line with the handler placing his dog 6 feet away from the bucket which he sat upon.
Dogs 6, 17, 24 were dropped.
The 4th Series started at approximately 1:30 under sunny skies. This was the 2nd land test, a triple with a diversion thrown when the dog returned with the 1st bird Bird #1 was thrown left to right at 122 yards. The line to the mark was on a slight side hill fading to the gun station, quite a few trees and bushes were scattered along the way with a larger low bush in front of the fall area. Wind in the fall area seemed to be left to right as evinced by the wind saves.
Bird #2 was up on the side hill, falling off right to left. the bird was thrown at a 75 degree angle back at 101 yards form the line. The line to the mark angled up the hill. Sprinkled along the way were 1/2 dozen Canada Goose silhouettes.
Bird #3 was thrown right to left uphill from behind a tree with 2 shots fired, one before the launch and one at the top of the arc. This mark landed approximately at 70 yards away. The line to the fall was square up the hill through 10 Snow geese silhouettes scattered about.
Many dogs were tempted by the hill and ran up to the top while some split the difference between Bird #1 and #2 and required some quick thinking and handling by the handler.
Dog #7 was dropped.
Starting dog was #15. The series consisted of a 100 yard land blind and a water blind. The land blind was run through some of the same area as covered by the land marks. The dog was launched from a dike down into a small corner of a pond for a 15 yard swim and then angling up on land at a slight angle up the hill. There were several small bushes and cedar trees on line. As the sun was setting, visibility became somewhat of a problem for the later dogs.
The water blind was run 15 yards from the line for the land blind but on the same dike. The line to the blind angled down the dike with a tight entry into the water and across a small point and immediately into the water again for a 60 yard swim to the far shore of the pond. Wind was blowing left to right but was not a real factor.
Dogs #1 and #15 were dropped.
Day 4 - Wednesday September 19, 2007
Our Upland test day dawned bright and warm. The convoy left Nilak at 8:30 am and traveled to Roseneath Kennels about 30 minutes away.
The judges had selected a field with low cover and random large round hay bales. The gun team flanked the handler with the judges following close behind. As per Ontario hunting rules, everyone wore blaze orange vests and hats. Dog #22 started.
The pheasants were placed in an open-ended wire basket camouflaged with grass. The dogs quartered the field in an L- shape finishing at a piece of high cover in which the bird was hidden. As the dog scented the pheasant, he worked the area, knocking over the basket and releasing the pheasant which flushed upwards for most of the dogs. As the bird flew away, the gun team shot and the dog was required to sit to the shot. After being released by the judges, the dog retrieved the downed bird. In some instances, there were accuracy issues and the birds gained their freedom.
This was an exciting test for all the dogs and is the only time a controlled break is allowed in Master. Unfortunately, the test proved too exciting for two dogs #13, & #22 who did not sit to the flush.
We concluded our pheasant hunt in the afternoon by adjourning to a nearby field again with moderate cover and hay bales. One of our cripples from the morning hunt had landed in this field and our hunting buddy flushed & shot it. As the dog was sent for this bird, our companion spied and shot another. This diversion bird, shot enroute to the blind was then retrieved. Dog #3 started. No dogs were dropped.
The Workers' Party, sponsored by Purina was a well attended and festive affair. The draw for the major raffle prizes had the following winners: Sandie Bond won the Bushnell Range Finder, Judge Brian Dempsey won the TRi-Tronics launcher, and Shirley Greener won the Tritronics collar. Chair Jean House again thanked all the many people responsible for making this National such a success.
Day 5 - Thursday, September 20, 2007
Thursday dawned bright and warm again. We have been blesses with clear skies, warm days & cool nights. The convoy left Nilak at 9 am, traveling to nearby Brighton Wildlife Area. Our final series was held in a stick pond extraordinaire, a water triple with a diversion bird shot on the return of the first mark.
The first bird down was a left to right throw at 75 yards. The second was also a hand throw, right to left at 78 yards. THe third bird was thrown from a visible boat, left to right at 47 yards with a double shot. the diversion winger bird was launched form the road beside the line and fell to the left of the line to the 1st bird. The dog sat in front of the blind, with eh handler behind. A 15 yard wide patch of tullies had been cut in front of the blind with some patches left. This was a very boggy area and hard going for the dogs. Marks were shot form the stations and duck calls preceded the first and second birds. The well-placed marks, the 2 camouflaged stations and the diversion bird as well as the nature of the pond which was extremely hard going with lots of sticks and stumps and small patches of tullies and things that looked liked birds, took its toll on the dogs.
The test dog, #22, did an admirable job - retrieving all birds without a handle. But this was rare as there were many handles on primarily the 2 longer camouflaged birds. Double handles were not uncommon and many needed to handle on the diversion bird, not scored as a mark.
At the conclusion, 11 dogs were awarded the coveted title of National Master Hunter.
Thanks must go to EOLBA for putting on a first-rate National Many people gave of their time. Chief Marshall John Chevalier was always on the go and DAve Thompson and Albert Cole were indispensable. Many workers who came to help were greatly appreciated: Ross McLaughlin, Gary Ridout, Henry Goeree, Jim Green and Al Davidson. Hospitality and meals were excellent and Chair Jean House kept everything flowing seamlessly. Judges Garry taylor, Sue Endersby and Brian Dempsey set fair but challenging tests and all those who participated were proud to be a part of this premier event.
We're all looking forward to 2008 and the 2nd Master National in Saskatoon, August 18 - 24 .
See you there!!