The Field Gundog Awards 2017 saw entries from exemplary retrievers, fine family companions and wonderfully wicked gundogs. The judges have been through the entries and the results are in

The Field Gundog Awards 2017, in association with Skinner’s Pet Foods, was met with the enthusiasm and variety we expected of Field readers. From the finest companion to smalls, to the most outstanding retriever and the naughtiest in the field, all were eligible and the entries came flooding in. The judges have tussled over the entries, comparing the exemplary gundogs to the persistent, the unexpected to the extraordinary and the wilful to the downright wicked and the results are in. Read on for The Field Gundog Awards 2017 winners and highly commended.

Thank you to all that entered The Field Gundog Awards 2017. With The Twelfth opening the season tomorrow, remember to stay alert for the very best gundogs in the field. We look forward to receiving your entries in 2018.

THE FIELD GUNDOG AWARDS 2017 WINNERS AND HIGHLY COMMENDED

The winner of each category will be invited to a special celebratory lunch at Burghley Horse Trials, where The Field will be hosting a gundog demonstration in the main arena. Winners will be presented with a rosette and a year’s supply of Skinner’s dog food. We hope to see as many of the winners, human and canine, there as possible. And if you are attending Burghley Horse Trials this year, do come and say hello at The Field stand at A23.

CATEGORY 1: OUTSTANDING RETRIEVE BY ANY RETRIEVING BREED DURING THE 2016/17 SEASON

Winner

Roy and Lucinda Southern

The Field Gundog Awards. Roy

Roy and Lucinda’s bond is impressive, despite their limited training time.

Roy is a black labrador who works as part of a picking up team on a variety of shoots throughout the season. Roy is handled by Lucinda Southern although he does not belong to Lucinda or live with her which limits their training time and demonstrates their extraordinary relationship in the field. The judges were impressed by Roy’s outstanding work during the 2016/17 season:

“A bird was shot in front of the line to the left and Lucinda deployed her first dog out Jelly.  Whilst sending the dog another bird was winged and landed off the end of the line behind, unseen by Lucinda and Roy.  The radio went that there was a bird down off the end of the line, without further delay Roy was sent.  As Roy went beyond the end of the line it became apparent there was a large steep, almost ravine gulley in front of him with rocks and water in the bottom.  The dog struggled to scramble up the other side and kept slipping but undeterred he kept going, all the time Lucinda knew time was of the essence to recover this bird.  After crossing the large gulley there was a criss-cross of two further gulleys and still the dog kept the line crossing both, as he appeared out of the far gulley a bird flushed to his right and the gun started to get excitable saying that must be the bird.  Roy didn’t dwell on this but pulled on a further scent, eventually coming to a small stream like water course where he pulled left and tracked the bird for a good 80 yards before a lively capture.  The distance this dog had travelled on the retrieve with minimal commands from the handler and a good nose was truly an outstanding testimonial to the relationship between dog and handler”.

Highly commended

Luna and Megan Borthwick

The Field Gundog Awards. Luna

Luna’s best retrieve of the season earned a round of applause from the guns.

Luna is a fantastic all rounder dog, working as a beating dog and peg dog and a previous winner of the Crufts gamekeeper class. The judges were impressed in this retrieve which saw Luna recieve a round of applause from the guns:

“Near the end of the drive a high pheasant was winged by a gun and I knew it would be a very difficult retrieve in such tough cover. As soon as the drive had finished Megan was asked if she try to cover the area where bird had first dropped, knowing it could have run on a long way in the time it took to get on. I wasn’t at all surprised when after 5 minutes Luna came flying back though the cover with the winged bird and jumped a 5 bar gate to retrieve it to Megan.”

CATEGORY 2: OUTSTANDING WORK BY A SPANIEL (SPRINGER OR COCKER) DURING THE 2016/17 SEASON

Winner

Tess and Robert Kerr-Bonner

The Field Gundog Awards. Tess

Tess was nervous of loud noises but is now an excellent all-round gundog.

Tess had a tough start to life, returned to her breeder by her initial owners and nervous of loud noises. But she settled in well to her new home and training continued, and three and a half years later Tess had become a fully working dog, picking up pheasants and partridge, hunting woodcock and wild pheasants, working on the grouse moors in Scotland, Yorkshire and Cumbria and taking on walked up, drive and duck flighting. However, it was Tess’ work while out stalking that really impressed the judges:

“We were walking single file through a mature oak wood, when Tess stopped and proceeded to take on the pose of a Meerkat, peering intently into the late summer foliage.  I took a quick look but given we were not exactly stalking in terms of the noise we were producing, concluded a pheasant had raised her interest and was about to press on when she looked at me imploringly and then  back at the cover, to which she now held her gaze, still on her back legs, albeit appearing to try and stand on her very toes in an effort to get a better view.

It was then as the sun for a split second shone through the canopy overhead I made out the russet red patch of the back of a Roe deer, the sex of which I could not ascertain.  Within a second the browsing deer raised its head and the small antlers of a young buck provided me with the chance to give my friend the indication to get ready.  Within a matter of seconds the deer had moved into his line of sight and he took over from there.  Despite anticipating it, the report of the rifle still came as a shock and it was only at this point that Tess sat back down.  With the cull buck running some 30 yards from the heart and lung shot and waiting a couple of minutes I was content to let her have the track and we followed to find her standing next to deer.  Despite there being no discernible wind that day, Tess had picked up sufficient scent to indicate to a deer some twenty yards away, very accurately “pointing” the quarry located in thick cover.”

Highly commended

Rolo and Rory Gordon

The Field Gundog Awards. Rolo

Rolo is an incredibly hard-working cocker who is relied upon for those difficult retrieves.

Rolo is an impressive, multi-talented working cocker. After losing his kennel mate he became solely responsible for dogging in around 500 acres each morning single handed. Rolo will be out dogging in the boundaries into the drives before breakfast and then beats and picks up on every drive during the day. Rolo also goes rabbiting, lamping for rabbits and can be found in the pigeon hide, and is so reliable that comments of “can you just send Rolo” are often made. The judges were impressed by this retrieve:

“On walked up day I shot a long cock bird behind, seeing it drop on the ride and run to the left. Working Rolo back to ride, he kept moving right so was stopped and pushed left; this was repeated three times until I gave up and let him work off to the right and called in Phil with his dog from the left to work the ride as I walked up to meet him. On getting to the ride I could see Rolo out to the right (well just his bum and tail) as the rest was firmly squeezed into a rabbit hole. Two pips on the whistle prompted him to emerge with the cock bird which had run right, and straight down a rabbit hole. This retrieve sums up Rolo, never gives up, great worker and usually proves me wrong.”

CATEGORY 3: OUTSTANDING WORK BY ANY POINTING BREED DURING THE 2016/17 SEASON

Winner

Jerzi and Lucie Hustler

The Field Gundog Awards. Jerzi

Jerzi is a much loved family pet and a committed working dog.

Jerzi is an impressive German shorthaired pointed, much adored at home and in the field. Jerzi is a favourite with many of her owners’ B&B guests, always welcoming them with a wagging tail, while also being a focused and committed working dog. Jerzi picks up for three different shoots and has worked on several walked up days. Jerzi has also field trialled regularly at Open standard with excellent results.

“I shot a duck on our moat drive which went down 400 yds away across two fields landing in a field of rape.  This was the last drive of the day and Lucie took Jerzi over and worked a large area until the duck was retrieved and returned to the game cart just in time before the final bag count!  We can always rely on Jerzi to retrieve those difficult and lost birds.”

Highly commended

Jessy and Larry Wilks

The FIeld Gundog Awards. Jessy

Jessy is her owner’s go-to dog when the going gets tough.

Jessy is a German longhaired pointer, an exceptional hunter and always her owner’s go-to dog when the going gets tough. It was a retrieve in Northumberland with three guns and two handlgers working HPRs on lowland moor for partridge that really impressed the judges:

“She came on point in a shallow grass area on the edge of the moor and I swear I couldn’t believe that a bird could hide where she was pointing, she was adamant I have a bird! We approached and on instruction, Jessy drove forward and a singleton leapt from cover right in front of her nose. I raised my gun and fired, Jessy instantly sat and watched and waited for her reward. I swore I had hit the bird but it flew on down the valley over a sheep fence and continued on up the far side, still it flew and then dropped like a stone some 250yds   from where it took off. With just a single command of fetch we all watched in admiration as Jessy raced down the hill over the fence and straight to the fallen bird and without further fuss returned over the fence and brought her prize to Brenda.”

CATEGORY 4: OUTSTANDING WORK BY ANY RARE BREED DURING THE 2016/17 SEASON

Winner

Rigg and John and Jane Smith-Bodden

The Field Gundog Awards. Rigg

Rigg was the first clumber spaniel to win at AV level since 1911.

Rigg is an impressive clumber spaniel, who made history when he achieved first place in an Any Variety Spaniel Novice Field Trial, winning against 15 springers in the stake and the first win at AV level by any clumber spaniel since 1911. Rigg was unable to start competing at open level though under Kennel Club rules, which demanded attention to create a level playing field for all spaniel types. The Kennel Club swiftly altered the rules, allowing any minor breed to compete at AV Open level. Rigg is also a day to day working dog with huge game finding and scenting ability.

“It is no surprise to me that Rigg has had this great success at AV levels. He is the best hunting clumber I’ve seen, is a great game finder and can really take good lines on runners. Rigg’s trialling progress is the achievement which will persuade many to take a fresk look at clumbers but it’s important to realise that the dog is also a fantastic everyday gundog. Those who have seen him on various shoots across the country have been vastly impressed.”

Highly commended

Ruby and Nicole Brul-Walker

The Field Gundog Awards. Ruby

The work of Ruby and Storm harks back to the original work of French spaniels.

Ruby is a two year old French spaniel, who has been training under her owner, Nigel Melfi, who is falconer and has had a fantastic year working under Storm the Peregrine falcon. Ruby and Storm have an impressive partnership and their work harks back to the original work of a French spaniel.

“Ruby is just 2 years old and has spent time doing grouse counting on Shap Moor to hone her pointing skills. All good hunting and quartering skills for working with Storm, the peregrine falcon. Once on a solid point, Storm is released and as he climbs and circles the ground Ruby flushed a pheasant out. Storm then put in a speeding stop to catch the pheasant.”

CATEGORY 5: THE BEST AMATEUR PICKER-UP

Winner

Roger Milbank

The Field Gundog Awards. Roger Milbank

Roger Milbank caught the bug for picking up in 1979.

Roger Milbank first caught the bug for picking up in 1979, when delivering to a farm the owner noticed Roger had his first ever gundog in the van and invited him to his shoot. Roger has now been the Head Picker-Up on his shoot for the last twenty years, looking after 16 other people and working his team of three labradors and two flatcoats.

“He intends to continue to be a part of this great tradition as long as his little legs will get him around! Since leaving the Royal Navy (Fleet Air Arm) after 25 years’ service, this has been a big part of his life, saying “I enjoy it as much now as I did when I first started”. He is seventy nine years young and can still (with his dogs) run circles around most other pickers up. I don’t know anyone else that has served the sport this long, a true gent and a friend to all.”

Highly commended

Ben Carter

The Field Gundog Awards. Ben Carter

Ben Carter and his team of dogs’ ability in the field is impressive.

Ben Carter is from Cottenham, Cambridgeshire and has impressed in his time picking up at several places but mainly at Vesteys at Little Thurlow.

“His attention to detail coupled with an amazing ability not only of his own bred dogs but of himself is second to none. He is always polite to the guns and all ways seems to be at the right place at the right time, he is always last back to the game larder after looking for that ‘lost bird’. After over 40 years of field sports I have never met anyone to match him.”

CATEGORY 6: THE BEST FAMILY GUNDOG

Winner

Charlie and David Beckenham

The Field Gundog Awards. Charlie

Charlie realised his owner’s long lived ambition to own a working gundog, but is a pet first and foremost.

Charlie is a show bred golden retriever, though his owner had a long held ambition to have a working gundog. After a bad experience with a trainer who was particularly rough with Charlie’s older half-brother Dudley, David gave up hope of owning a gundog as he wanted to the dogs to be family pets first and foremost. However, Charlie loved carrying things in his mouth, had a strong hunt instinct and clearly seemed different. After six training sessions they were out on their first shoot and are now regular pickers up on their local shoots, where all of the other dogs are labradors, and they have had the chance to help in the main gundog arena at The Game Fair as well as field trials and working tests.

“I feel truly privileged to be out in the wonderful countryside watching my dog do what he was bred to do. And as for Charlie, well he seems to love being out on a shoot putting his nose to work to find birds which would otherwise have been lost.

“Despite all of this, Charlie is first and foremost a family pet, he enjoys a cuddle. If I am working from home he will sleep under my desk (he is there right now as I am writing this). In the evening, he will sleep on the feet of one of the family. Charlie loves to hide shoes but he only takes one of the pair. They can be found in the garden, under the bed or at the bottom of their toy basket. At the weekends, he and Duds are allowed upstairs and they both love the chance to get onto the bed, or possibly in the bed! Both dogs are regulars at our local pub where they are welcomed by customers and staff alike. There is a view that we all have a once in a lifetime dog and I do wonder if Charlie is just that. He is still hard work and constantly tests the boundaries but would I change him in anyway? Not a chance!”

Highly commended

Wispa and Caroline Archer

The Field Gundog Awards. Wispa

Wispa is an impressive all-round gundog for his whole family.

Wispa is a fabulous all-rounder and an excellent working dog for his whole family. He is regularly out picking-up with his 9-year old owner Harri and his mother, as well as sitting on the peg with Harri’s father and while he is a machine in the field, he has the gentlest nature and is a loving family dog at home.

“When we first met Wispa and Harri for training we knew there was a special bond.  Harri works Wispa as well as any adult handler; it’s amazing they’re such a young partnership!  It’s definitely due to their close relationship and the big part Wispa plays in Harri’s life.  They are completely at one with each other and it’s great to see a working dog so loved and cherished by his family. “

Highly commended

Isla and Johanna Page

The Field Gundog Awards. Isla

Isla is a fantastic all round gundog and will even tolerate being dressed as a bee for charity.

Isla, known as Weasel, is a fantastic all round gundog and the first dog her owner trained to the gun. She will beat all day and retrieve anything asked of her, while she has also done well in scurries, working tests and trials with silverware to her name.

“She has always been a key part of my family, lives indoors and is quite happy being a sofa surfer or relaxing in front of the fire. She tolerates wearing stupid Christmas jumpers, dressing up as a bee for a charity fun day and adores children. She has been a fabulous mother and produced some stunning puppies which are all out working and doing agility at high levels. She also helped rear a little of corgi puppies that were abandoned by their mother!

“I’ve gone from having a blonde bundle of 8 week old trouble to a fabulous all round Gundog. She will beat all day and tackle any bramble bush with enthusiasm. Works hard to find and retrieve runners and will enter water with no hesitation to retrieve. She will retrieve anything she is asked. Ducks, Pheasant, Partridge, Rabbits and Woodcock are all no problem, nor is any obstacle that gets in her way! She is a true pocket rocket and always brings a smile to people’s faces when she greets them with sheer delight.”

CATEGORY 7: THE NAUGHTIEST GUNDOG

Winner

Molly and Jacqueline Boyd

The Field Gundog Awards. Molly

Jacqueline and Molly on beaters’ day – but minus white pheasant.

Molly is cocker spaniel that regularly picks up with her owner at a local shoot. They had a great season and had learnt huge amounts, so come beater’s day Jacqueline had great confidence in Molly’s ability. Unfortunately Molly had other plans:

“As the beaters made their way to the end of the covert, a flush and the cry “whitey” was heard.  Now, that in itself wasn’t a problem and i saw the white bird casually fly over the guns and drop in the dyke about 50 meters to my right.  Almost at the same time, two (or maybe three) birds were neatly dropped and marked in front of me, but there was one runner who made his way towards the dyke, so I sent Molly for the runner. Like a bullet, she went out and I smugly watched her speed out to where the runner had dropped into the dyke, and i watched her carry on, stopping about 50 meters along and diving straight into the dyke.  At this point, I realised my whistle had fallen out of my mouth and my chin was somewhere on the floor.

“Before I even got a chance to replace said whistle and start the frantic recall blowing, the little dog had flushed the white pheasant out of the dyke and was coursing it across the field behind me, the bird flying about 2 meters off the ground.  Of course the stop whistle, turn whistle and recall whistle, all broken.  Even a yelled “Molly” in my classiest Aberdeen fishwife growl had absolutely no effect and I stood pretty helplessly watching her follow the bird until it dropped into a dyke at the other side of the field well behind me.

“At that point I thought it was sorted and my wee dog would regain her senses and return to me.  The whistle for the end of the drive was then blown.  Watching carefully,  you can imagine my horror when Molly reappeared out of the dyke, with said white pheasant in her mouth.  She then proceeded (and while I appreciate all the science about how dogs think and their cognitive abilities, I’m still convinced she was full of intent here) to return to me, not via the most direct and obvious route back across the field, no.  Instead she trotted around the field boundary, past my fellow pickers up and past at least two guns, proudly carrying her “prize”.  Of course, by this point EVERYONE knew what had happened, so i tried to keep cool, took the bird off her, swept and picked the rest of our area and made the walk of shame back to the game cart… All the time, Molly trotted about with a slightly superior look on her wee face…”

Highly commended

Mungo and Flora Wilson

The Field Gundog Awards. Mungo

Mungo at just 9 weeks, he is now 17 months old.

Mungo the NSDTR may be a good worker, but he has left his owners rather shame faced on more that one occassion…

“I have many reasons why Mungo should be naughtiest gundog. 1st: catching and eating a  squirrel, aged only 6 months. Yes, you read that correctly! He was smaller than a springer spaniel, yet showed off his speed/reactions in a vicious chase. 2nd: he’s also eaten the dyson… 3rd: he had a go at humping our fully-grown ram. 4th: jumping into other peoples’ cars… 5th: the pooping, he is a dog who lets it all out.”

CATEGORY 8: THE BEST GUNDOG THAT DOES NOT BELONG TO A GUNDOG BREED

Winner

Tinker and Brian and Sophie Paterson

The Field Gundog Awards. Tinker

Tinker the German Shepherd has been a working gundog for four years.

Tinker is a German Shepherd and has been shooting with her owners for four years and has proven herself very impressive in the field despite looking perhaps little out of place.

“Tinker is as well trained as any spaniel and certainly more disciplined and under control. She is steady on the peg and marks each bird and responds to hand signals and whistle. She retrieves over water and is very persistent after runners as she has a superb nose. Her record to date is 45 minutes  pursuing a cock in a 900 acre overgrown wood. We nearly missed lunch that day as we thought we had lost her !!”

Highly commended

Fig and Kate Moorsom

The Field Gundog Awards. Fig

Fig is a self-taught working gundog.

Fig is Jack Russell Terrier works at shoots all over the country, and has become quite the celebrity in the field. Although her owners had no intention of Fig being a working dog, and didn’t train her as such, Fig took it upon herself to show the labradors and spaniels how it is done.

“Fig is a completely self taught gun dog who learned by closely observing the other dogs on our shoot days while staying firmly at Phil’s heel. She tolerated this for a couple of seasons until the day she broke rank!

“It was our first driven day of the season in Gloucestershire. Phil, not shooting that day, was armed with his camera and stood on the end of the line with Fig by his side. I was the end gun and the first bird that came over was a hen pheasant which I brought down with the second barrel and it landed in some shoulder height bracken behind me. To Phil’s horror, Fig went straight in after the bird. Something she had never down before. To our relief and astonishment, she returned moments later and retrieved the bird softly to hand! Phil’s face was a picture!

“From that day forward Fig was a working gun dog. She excels at picking up where she has become locally famous for her ability to find birds that the spaniels and labs have missed!”

Highly commended

Alfie and Helen Kozakiewicz

The Field Gundog Awards. Alfie

Being a lap dog and totally deaf didn’t stop Alfie becoming a beating dog and doing everything the working spaniels do.

Alfie is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and came from show lines with 13 champions. But Alfie had other ideas, knowing he was destined to be a beating dog – and he hasn’t let the fact he is totally deaf stop him.

“Alfie is far from the toy dog/lap dog Cavaliers are characterised to be. Alfie can complete a 9 mile days shoot like all the gundogs on the shoot. Alfie is often photographed by new guns as they cannot believe that a Cavalier is doing the same job as a working dog. Alfie was given a special mention at our shoot meal for being such a special dog!

“What makes Alfie even more special is that; Alfie is totally deaf. Alfie uses this to his advantage; as he relays upon his nose more and finds birds that other beating and picking up dogs have often missed.”

Thank you once again to all who entered The Field Gundog Awards 2017.