The Field Gundog Awards 2018 was hotly contested, with entries from exemplary retrievers, family companions and wicked gundogs. The judges have tussled over the entries and the results are in
The Field Gundog Awards 2018, in association with Skinner’s Pet Foods, attracted a wide variety of entries from every type of gundog. Some were from old hands that executed particularly fine retrieves last season worthy of recognition. Others are part-time gundogs that spend the majority of their time as trusty, family companions. Some were new to the field, some were noble and some were just naughty (and well trained enough to know better…) But there was one, very clear uniting factor across the enormous variety of entries we were delighted to receive. Fielders love their gundogs.
This year’s Gundog Awards was hotly contested, but the judges have tussled over the entries and the results are in. We are very pleased to announce the winning and highly commended entries of The Field Gundog Awards 2018.
Thank you to all those that entered The Field Gundog Awards 2018. With the season about to start, keep alert for the very best gundogs in the field. We look forward to receiving your entries in 2019.
THE FIELD GUNDOG AWARDS 2018 WINNERS AND HIGHLY COMMENDED
CATEGORY 1: OUTSTANDING RETRIEVE BY ANY RETRIEVING BREED DURING THE 2017/18 SEASON
WINNER: Newt and Anthony Sheppard
Three-year-old flatcoat retriever Newt impressed the judges with this exceptionally brave retrieve. The entry was supported by a strong witness statement which claimed to have seen many of the owners flatcoats work, but never with the courage of the following instance:
“We were shooting at Wakefield Lodge in Northamptonshire on 27th December. We had a very exciting drive with fast high birds falling in a flooded lake behind. Newt, loves water and after the drive was straight in to retrieve a cock pheasant. I walked out on the causeway, which is about 15 yards wide between the two lakes. Suddenly Newt disappeared under the water.
“There was then splashing from behind me on the other side of the causeway – to both my and Newt’s total amazement he bounced up to the surface like a cork out of a champagne bottle still with the cock pheasant firmly in his mouth but looking very bewildered.
“He had been sucked through an over full three foot pipe under the causeway to bob to the surface. I think he survived because he did not let go of the bird so did not swallow water. It was very lucky there was no obstacle to trap him during his 15-yard underwater retrieve!
“He is still as keen on water as ever and has been re-christened the ‘submarine’!”
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Poppy and Ben Redman
Five-year-old labrador Poppy impressed with her experience and skill. Poppy has done over 200 days picking up now, and her owner claims she is the best of his six dogs by far and has always out worked the rest.
“We were stood high above the drive when I saw a cock bird hit and come down. It was obvious Poppy had seen it too and I saw it start to run so I sent her. The slope we were on was a 24% gradient so it was a fair drop down.
CATEGORY 2: OUTSTANDING WORK BY A SPANIEL (SPRINGER OR COCKER) DURING THE 2017/18 SEASON
WINNER: Dixie and Vanessa Tate
The judges were impressed by Dixie’s inspiring story.
“Dixie has picked up in our shoot for 4 years. In November 2016 she went blind overnight. We had been picking up on the Saturday and Monday she was blind. Diagnosed with acute Gluacoma. 2 weeks later she had both eyes removed and 1 week later she was back beating on our shoot. Last season she was beating and picking up. She retrieved 3 ducks of which 1 was a runner. She absolutely lives for the shooting season. She is amazing- never give up on your dog as they never give up on you.”
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Minstrel and Brian Seage
Minstrel’s super retrieve saw the judges award him Highly Commended in this strongly contested category.
“The cock pheasant was a good high bird but at an unexpected angle and, dead in the air, dropped into a muddy lane well behind the line. Minstrel, a 5 year old, male, Cocker Spaniel, bred in the far West of Cornwall, negotiated a stock fence, jumped over the bank and hedge behind it and disappeared into the lane. There appeared to be no way back, but after a few minutes he appeared at a gate in the stock fence about 60 yards from me, scrambled through it with his bird and delivered it to hand. He has amazing instinct and a massive determination to retrieve his bird.”
CATEGORY 3: OUTSTANDING WORK BY ANY POINTING BREED DURING THE 2017/18 SEASON
WINNER: Dora and Laura Wolfenden
Dora’s owner was advised by her grouse gamekeeper husband to get a retriever as her first gundog – which she cheerfully ignored and instead decided upon Hungarian wirehaired vizsla Dora, “Dora the Moorland Explorer”, an incredibly special dog who impressed the judges with the following work.
“It was on a shoot day where I couldn’t take Dora as she was in season, but one of the guns shot a snipe and after a lot of dogs, including the picking up dogs had gone over the ground it was decided the snipe was not to be found. I hate for any bird to be shot not to be found so I took Dora back the next morning after a heavy downpour overnight. My husband said I was being ridiculous, but we went to the second to last butt, I sent her in the direction the gun vaguely said he thought it was and she found it straight away. My smile couldn’t have been bigger when I showed my doubting husband. I only wish she could have been there on the day to get some glory for her find, but that is typical of Dora, she just quietly goes about her business, no fuss, just doing her job.”
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Zulu and Terry Harris
Zulu is an impressive, old hand – and the judges were delighted to award him highly commended for his skill and experience.
“At 12 years of age Zulu won his 44th field trial award, which included winning the April 2017 Southern, and Western Counties Field Trial Society’s Pointer and Setter Open Stake for the third time. In September 2017 he took on the role as “schoolmaster” to myself, a novice handler, and won a Certificate of Merit in the Pointer Club Breed Stake at Sandringham, Norfolk. This was our first field competition together and one I will never forget. His special qualities are an overwhelming desire to please, great bird sense, a fantastic nose and great determination to find game. Now turned 13 years of age, Zulu continues to be a valuable member of our shooting and grouse counting team.”
CATEGORY 4: OUTSTANDING WORK BY ANY RARE BREED DURING THE 2017/18 SEASON
WINNER: Laura and Larry Wilks
Laura is a rare but impressive breed, and the judges were delighted to award her winner in this category.
“She is a Epagneul de Pont Audemer or ‘Ponto’ for short. There are only three in the UK but I am sure anyone that sees her work will be intrigued by her character and surprised by her ability. Her training went well and we decided to take her with us on a trip to Brittany, Chateau Val. Jocelyn had arranged two days shooting and our party of two guns joined with Claude the region Chef du Chasse and his friend Maurice along with their Brittany and Epagnuel Francaise. They did not know what breed Laura was and were very sceptical given her size whether or not she could cope with the Reeves pheasant. She had already completed two retrieves when at the end of a clearing all three dogs came on point, each backing the other, on command the Brittany and Francaise flushed a Reeves and it flew on over Claude’s head with both dogs in hot pursuit, but not Laura, she remained motionless, ‘en arret’ I called to Claude, ‘Non’, came the reply, Brenda sent Laura to flush and the hen Reeves flew from her hiding place just in time for Claude to reload and drop the bird, which Laura duly retrieved and returned to the bag before our two French runaways had re appeared. It was an amazing two days with 14 Reeves in the bag and an offer to purchase Laura from Claude who said she was exceptional. Praise indeed for a relatively unknown breed. Laura has continued to surprise us and is a constant on our shooting days at, Over Whitacre, Six Ashes and Honiley Estate. Her ability has endeared her to everyone and we hope to import another later this year.”
CATEGORY 5: THE BEST AMATEUR PICKER-UP
WINNER: Peter Smith
Peter Smith impressed the judges with his vast experience, love of the countryside and the glowing accounts from those that nominated him.
“Peter is a true countryman, a shooting man for over 60 years, with a great love of training and working Spaniels, mainly English Springer Spaniels, some of which he bred, plus a few Cockers. Peter has run three shoots, one for 36 years, another was in the Purdey Awards in 2002.
“Peter is exceptionally conscientious regarding the retrieval of missing, possibly injured birds. Nothing is too much trouble, no report of a missing bird left unchecked. Always late for elevenses and last to return at the end of the day, Peter and his dogs often successfully pick up those last, difficult to find, missing birds. Maybe it was coincidence but on Peter’s first picking-up day here the bag record was broken. We then had our best ever season. There was a feeling that fewer birds were being lost.
“But Peter is not just an exceptional picker-up. He is more than ready to be involved in and contribute his knowledge to other areas of our shoot. He leads our annual farmland birds count for the GWCT, sharing his wealth of experience in bird identification and national surveys. For last season, he produced a wonderful 14 month shoot calendar, depicting just about everyone on the shoot, plus their dogs, raising over £600 for the GWCT in the process.
“Peter is a diligent and reliable picker-up, a brilliant trainer of his much-loved spaniels, a mentor for novices, a contributor of knowledge and time, an enthusiast of excellence in picking-up and, above all, he has respect for the welfare of quarry and of his dogs. We can’t imagine a better picker-up.”
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Jane Pighills
The judges were impressed with Jane Pihills and cocker Candy’s work in the field, especially considering that this season was their first outing.
“Candy is a two year old Black and Tan cocker spaniel. She was given to me as a present from my husband.
“I have always enjoyed shooting but never have much time as I am involved in our local Hunt – so miss out on Saturdays. However this year due to the extreme wet in our area hunting has been frequently cancelled so I thought I would see if I could take Candy out shooting. Having got permission from the Head keeper, I took my place well behind the professional pickers up and waited.
“The Drives came and went and Candy sat like a rock beside me not making a sound – just intently watching it all. The second day out we took up our place. Third Drive a partridge fell just behind us – the picker up in front of me turned and told me to let her off and see what happened. I did, waited nervously and suddenly over the hill Candy appeared proudly carrying the bird. She came right to me and dropped it. The thrill of that moment was tremendous – I was hooked and so was she. From then on we went out every day we could and she worked very hard.
“My commands are not always very clear or correct but she never lets me down and tries hard to interpret what I am asking her to do!”
CATEGORY 6: THE BEST FAMILY GUNDOG
WINNER: Remi and Laura Croft
Remi impressed the judges as the definition of a family gundog – she helped her owner in the face of a family breakdown, brought together a new family and is now a key part in bringing on the next generation of fieldsports lovers – her owner’s four-year-old daughter, Georgia. As well as all of this, Remi proved herself a superb picking-up dog during her first season.
“Remi belongs to my partner Laura Croft. She is Laura’s first ever Gundog and she was bought as a result of a family breakdown. It’s fair to say Remi is definitely a member of the family and she is everything to Laura. Being able to get out and train Remi during her puppy days definitely helped Laura find herself and eventually find me. I first met Laura and Remi at Thoresby Game Fair when Remi was only 6 months old. I was running an older dog and we hit it off from there, so I owe Remi a lot too. An all too frequent fixture on our family bed in the evening, there is nothing more Remi enjoys than a cuddle up on the sofa with Laura.
“Remi has also been instrumental in teaching Laura’s daughter Georgia about Gundogs, training and game shooting. Georgia is 4 and Remi is her best friend. Whether throwing a toy for her, or carrying dummies when training they are inseparable! So much so that Georgia has even run Remi in a scurry even beating her mums time!
“When the shooting season came around, I’m sure Laura was full of nerves when she was asked to pick up on a local syndicate shoot. Remi never let Laura down, whether it was early season ducks, October partridges or late season pheasants Remi picked them all with consummate alpomb, regularly finding lost birds in the deepest of cover. Laura and Remi have already been asked back for the following season and I’m certain they will be even better.”
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Aero and Andrew Frost
The judges were impressed by how Aero switches between the role of gundog and family dog, and the story of how the family started picking-up.
“We got Aero five years ago with the idea to him being just our families pet, but he has ended up being so much more. As a family we decided we wanted a dog, one small problem our eldest daughter Emilie (6) was scared of dogs. A chance meeting with Woodhaydown gun dogs at The Berkshire show started a program of coaching Emilie to overcome her fear. After five months Emilie was ready, and started visiting a litter of puppies at Woodhaydown gun dogs weekly to begin building a bond. The day arrived to choose one Emilie sat amongst the litter on an upturned bucket with puppies bouncing all over the place, one quietly climbed onto her lap and went to sleep , it was Aero. The bond was there.
“With three girls under five in the house to deal with Aero’s life was anything but quiet,he was dressed up as a baby ,pulled around in his bed like a car always part of the girls games he took it all in his stride never leaving the girls alone. He comforts them when they are upset, listens to all their problems and stories he was turning out to be the perfect family dog.
“During the shooting season Emilie started to venture out to understand what all the great training she was doing with Aero was to be used for. When Emilie was just nine years old Aero joined her picking up at Faccombe estate. Into their second season together Aero and Emilie were becoming an important part of the picking up team at Faccombe, and they have now completed their third season, never missing a Saturday from September to January.
“Aero has changed our families life so much,from just wanting a dog he has opened doors onto a world we knew nothing about. ”
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Ralph and Heather Woodhead
Nominated by his ‘grandparents’, Ralph impressed with the enormous role he plays within the family.
“As grandparents as it were to Ralph, my husband and I nominate him for bringing sunshine into our lives, indeed to all our family members. My son Luke and my husband John enjoy shooting during the season with Ralph, I am sure they all get withdrawal symptoms when the shooting season ends. I too join them on occasions.
“Ralph is so intelligent, in fact we are waiting for the day he turns around and speaks, as that would not surprise us at all.. We are now all looking forward to a baby granddaughter due this year, Ralph too…. it will just make our whole family complete.”
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Butty and Anita Jarvis
Though entered into a different class, Butty impressed with her strong working instincts, despite being from show-stock, and how she has introduced her family to the world of shooting.
“Butty was brought home as a ‘normal’ pet Labrador of show-stock breeding. Early on we could see that Butty was different, very intelligent, clever, easy to train and a stand out from the rest. I decided to take her to Gundog Training classes and see what prevailed. As it happened she proved to be a natural and we really both enjoyed it. We went to join our local shoot picking up. What a joy this has been, great people, lovely social life and spending the day working as part of a team with your dog …there’s no better way to spend a winters day.
“We then started to compete in Working Tests during the spring and summer seasons. We won our first Certificate of Merit in April 2015, I felt like we had won the lottery. Our success continued in 2016 with getting placed in various Novice working tests throughout the UK. Then came the Labrador Retriever Club Centenary Show in June. We completed the team working tests and then we were in the show ring for the first time. I have no experience in showing, so I recruited my friend Philly to handle her, and they came a very respectable 4th .
“The very same friend asked me last year if I was going to entre her in Crufts this year in the BASC “Best Working Bitch” category. Well why not? The judge pulled eight bitches of the 26 entries into the middle of the ring and we were in the final 8, that was enough for me. My little yellow show stock came 2nd, at Crufts, that’s some going for any dog but to win an award in the gamekeepers ring is everything. I’m still on cloud 9 and feel 10ft tall.
“Butty has taught me so much on our journey together and she continues to do so, she has given me confidence that I never had before, I’ve even started creating my own range of feather brooches, mostly from pheasant from our shoot, and my life has never been the same since that little bundle of fluff arrived in July 2011.”
CATEGORY 7: THE NAUGHTIEST GUNDOG
WINNER: Trigger and Polly Mazzarella
The tale of Trigger and Peter Rabbit gave the judges a good chuckle and serves as a perfect reminder that there is no such thing as the perfectly behaved gundog.
“Roll back to 2017, he was a little over a year old. Basic training was becoming a breeze and we had become very cocky. However, a little humility was going so serve us both well.
“That morning we walked the dogs on the normal route. We noticed rabbits had been left from a lamping session over night. Trigger sniffed, but told to leave, perfect recall. Carry on our way – no problems.
“Walked the dogs again in the evening with my fiancé, Dan. Trigger noticed rabbits again. Trying to be cocky and seeing if he would fetch it, I used the “fetch it” command, dog picks up said rabbit, retrieves straight to hand – amazing feeling. I set up a seen retrieve with said rabbit. I send Trigger back for it. Absolutely perfect. Runs straight out to rabbit, holds well, and great delivery. We set up another seen retrieve. I send Trigger back for it, he runs straight out to it turns round, immediately goes into play bow position and starts mouthing poor Peter Rabbit. I try to recall but to no avail. Start walking towards Trigger calmly. Trigger now thought this would be a great game to play, runs around with rabbit, crunching and mouthing while sending me in circles trying to get hold of either him or the rabbit. Frustrated I storm off and Trigger, wondering where I am going off to in a hurry, follows suit, with rabbit and delivers to hand.
“I take Trigger away so that Dan can dispose of rabbit carcass. Thinking we are now free of danger being 100ft away I let Trigger off the lead. He thinks I have sent him for a memory retrieve and recall is pointless. The words “no” or “leave” are useless also. He goes straight to the site where the rabbit was dumped (which was thick with nettle at the time) emerges about 10 seconds later and retrieves it. Thankfully it was delivered straight to hand.
“Thinking I can do a better job of chucking the rabbit away, I walk 150ft across a field to a tree and place rabbit at the bottom of it. I walk back and we walk to another field on the other side of our usual walk. We go over a sty, across a path, through a gate (that I tried to teach Trigger the command “over” with to little success as he proceeded to go through the gap in the gate and get stuck) and into the field.
“Thinking that we are safe enough now surely, I let Trigger off the lead. Trigger orientates himself by sniffing, try to call him back so we can carry on but he takes one look at me and then bombs back in the direction that we came. My voice was hoarse from screaming the words “no”, “leave” and whistling as loud as I could however it was too late. You guessed it, he jumps the gate with the finesse of a gazelle goes under the sty and out into the field. I watch with utter disbelief and bet Dan that if he retrieves this that he will have to pour me a strong drink when I get home. Watching from 150ft away, he finds, the rabbit, which at this point is a very soggy mess and returns ever so triumphantly. He drops it at my feet, stares at it a second, looks at me and then carries on out in front as if nothing ever happened!”
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Chloe and Betty Featherstone
The judges were amused by Chloe’s shooting day antics, which has seen her become very well known as a naughty gundog.
“Despite Betty’s integral flagging position in the beating line, Chloe regularly abandons her post, usually making a beeline straight through the drive. Beating is somewhat beneath Chloe, who prefers to go and fraternise with the guns. Sometimes she half lends a hand with picking up duties, mainly with the objective of making things harder for the retrievers. She can just about being herself to pick up a dead bird, but only if she is then going to hide or bury the bird to give the labs a more challenging time. Despite her attendance with the guns during the drive , usually as the final horn sounds she disappears to find a vantage point and observe the picking up havoc that she has caused.
“Chloe is a very much loved pet . And a source of much affection and amusement on shoot days . But she really is ‘Chloe “soooooo naughty” Featherstone’.”
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Nelson and Philip Wolstenholme
The amusing entry detailing Nelson’s offences amused the judges, and confirmed the accusation that ‘the defendant is not a hound of sound character’.
“The misdeeds of the accused are chronicled below:
- He did willingly and with malice of forethought, knowingly pinch some cheese, taken without owner consent and is further charged of acting in a furtive and duplicitous manner so as to permanently deprive another of aforementioned dairy product.
- Did defecate in a manner most horrible on an antique carpet thereby rendering it foul and unusable.
- Slyly concealed himself in owner’s vehicle to avail himself of seat belt chewing opportunity and further did allow himself to be locked therein; thereby taunting aforementioned vehicle owner who was denied access or ability to admonish the accused or get him to stop.
- To the pecuniary disadvantage of his owner, did knowingly dispose of Her Majesty’s currency to the tune of £200 by ingestion together with the purse in which said monies were held.
- Against building Regulation 0E-D0G, did undermine the integrity of a building by gnawing at the superstructure thereof rendering it most perilous.
- Is known to have produced great wobbliness in a kitchen chair by consuming 3 of its legs.
- Did most egregiously and with much malevolence dismantle a television remote control and consume the batteries therein and is charged accordingly.
- Does habitually produce poisonous gaseous omissions in enclosed environments in contravention of the 1925 Geneva Protocol on biological weaponry.
- Did procure for his own advantage, the breasts of two partridges whilst concealing evidence in a cunning and deceitful manner.”
CATEGORY 8: THE BEST GUNDOG THAT DOES NOT BELONG TO A GUNDOG BREED
WINNER: Jools Bolton and Pepsi
Pepsi the cockapoo impressed the judges with her natural instinct to work, despite raised eyebrows when she joined the line.
“When we first took Pepsi to Underley, there were inevitably lots of raised eyebrows and a few snide comments. By the end of that season, she had won the Award for the Best Retrieve of The Season.
“She is everyone’s favourite gun dog and is often called on to find the elusive “runner: at the end of a drive. She usually comes up trumps!”
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Ruby and Antonia Baillie
The judges were impressed by Ruby’s position as honourary spaniel on her shoot, despite being a terrier.
“Equally keen at beating, this persistent patterdale quivers with excitement and has learnt from her big brother spaniel over the years. No cover is too thick when she smells out a pheasant, she’s a valued member of the beating team at our local farm shoot, an honourary spaniel!”
CATEGORY 9: GUNDOG PHOTOGRAPH OF THE YEAR
WINNER: Francesca Allen and Paddy
The judges loved this beautifully taken action shot of Paddy at work.
“Paddy was our first Springer and gundog, we have had him from 8 weeks, he has been a total natural and he is a cracking game keeping dog. He manages to switch between dogging in through the summer and picking up in the winter. In this particular photo he had a busy drive and picked many birds, delivering one by one like an unstoppable rebot. His nose is phenomenal and he is passing his genes onto many offspring. He’s a cuddly special boy and a total pleasure to own and train.”
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Maria Langham and Fergus
The judges were impressed by this dramatic, technical shot, which perfectly demonstrates the grit and determination of a gundog at work.
“We arranged an outdoor photography session of working dog Fergus to capture him in action, whilst also capturing his personality as a true working dog who is also a beloved best friend to his owner, and family.
“Fergus is the most beautiful working dog I’ve met who was so relaxed in front of the camera, and professional in his work. He also has a unique, beautiful personality which he displayed in front of the camera.”
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Georgina Preston and Hebe
The judges loved this atmospheric image, praising the wonderful highlight in the eyes, water droplets on the fur and the vechile hinting to the action.
“This was Hebe’s first day out, on the Chargot Keeper’s Day”