Muddy Waters Hunt Test

Hello friends,

I have been raising golden retrievers since 1982. I have been an outdoor columnist since 1989.

My favorite form of hunting each fall is in a canoe, and after ducks. You would think I would have knowledge of hunt tests for retrievers. Until this past weekend I had zero and this week I am going to write about spending two days at Mead Dog Training area, and watching a hunt test that was run by Muddy Waters Retriever Club which is headquartered out of Junction City.

I have way more to write than I have space, so please forgive me for not being very descriptive.

Saturday, August 4th

High 83, low 56

This story actually began several years ago when our golden retriever ‘Fire’ had pups. I did my homework and found an excellent stud who had an immense background in both field trials and hunt tests.

The last litter that Fire had was with Duke and they put out some pure hunting machines. My stepson, Travis, has Ash who could do double blinds on her first season. I have Ruby, and my neighbors, Paul and Chris Johnson, have Pike.

When Paul and Pike became a part of each other’s lives, it changed Paul’s. The Johnson’s always had goldens, but to be honest they had couch potatoes which they love, but do not hunt.

From Day 1, Paul decided he was going to have Pike trained by a professional trainer and become a waterfowl hunter. The problem is that Paul could not give up Pike for a couple of months, so Paul joined WisIll Hunting Retriever Club which is based out of Bong Recreation area near Kenosha. The Johnsons are seasonal neighbors, and both Paul and Pike, as I, would learn have become ‘hunt test’ machines.

So I pull into Mead DTA and as I said, I have no idea what takes place. There are owners and trainers from as far away as Mississippi. There are 158 dogs of which 112 are labs, 13 are goldens, 10 are chesepeakes, four are poodles, and the rest are either boykins or water spaniels.

I thought this was a competition and I was completely wrong. Again, I apologize for being vague, but space is an issue. So here is my description: Started, seasoned, and finished are the three levels, and basically you are talking beginners to pros – and some beginners are not young and some pros are.

There were two separate days of hunt tests. For a started dog to make it to the seasoned level, it has to ‘pass’ four hunt tests. Almost everyone that was here on Saturday also was on Sunday, as once they are at the seasoned level, they have to pass three hunt tests with each one consuming a very long day.

I spent my time observing all three levels, of which half of each day for each group is on land and the other half is over water.

There is nowhere that I can think of where you are going to see this many well-behaved dogs. Over two days, I never saw a thing that raised an eye brow.

One trainer that I really was impressed with was John Wilson of Wax Lake Retrievers. John bases out of Mississippi and spends his summers training 20 mostly labs in Ohio, as it is much cooler. Wilson was a pure machine, as he worked dog after dog as the goal is to get each one its title, which in the end means a better animal for the owner to hunt with, and vastly ups the dog’s value for stud fee or pups. For this weekend, Wilson was working with seven labs and it was interesting to spend a lot of time around a friend from the south.

Quite possibly the coolest part of this weekend was watching Pike and Paul. I am the registered breeder for Pike, and let me tell you, he is a machine. And I heard it from a lot of judges and dog people as they watched Paul and Pike work.

I knew that Paul Johnson was serious about his dog training, but for a guy that 24 months ago did not know the difference between a blind retrieve and a double, he is incredible at running his best friend.

In all tests, ‘wingers’ machines operated by humans send ducks flying through the air which land on water or in fields. In each test there are either two or three ducks, and for seasoned and finished, there is also a blind retrieve which was hidden before each individual test starts.

There is also a ‘diversion bird’ which in reality is a duck that is sent through the air as a duck is being retrieved. The idea is that the retriever keeps up its retrieve and when he or she has bought back the original ducks that it is retrieving, it finishes with the diversion bird. Like everything else in a hunt test, this is a selfdiscipline exercise.

After a great weekend of watching and visiting with a lot of really good people, I was totally impressed with this very cool sport that connects a trainer and a dog like you cannot imagine.

Unless you see it happen!

Hats off to Muddy Waters!


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