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Chesley H. Harris, Judging

Judging and Judges

In choosing one’s associates or one’s friends there is a tendency to rule out those who make one feel uncomfortable — to actually assign demerits for unfamiliar behavior unlike one’s own habits, that is.

Is this the way to judge competitors in a field trial? Well…maybe not.

“Anybody with a few prejudices can place a dog that don’t make mistakes,” Chesley Harris once told me. “But it takes somebody that’s killed wild game, followed a relocation crawling in mud, corrected and checkcorded a lot of dogs, and inhaled a lot of dog and — to pick the BEST sumbitch…”

To judge a field trial, I always had a first and second place dog after the first brace, and let them and their successors get bested or not in each succeeding brace. When the last brace was run, I had my two or three winners. Usually my fellow judge agreed to this plan and we tried to keep up with one anothers’ thinking after every brace if possible, and certainly at noon and at dusk.

We ran two grand field trials that way once upon a time in Georgia, posting the three “top” dogs every evening. It worked well for a few years, and then a new collection of club officials came along who preferred that the judges flip back through their notebooks for an hour or so after the last brace ran.

It just was not the same after that.

Turning to the qualities most desirable in a field trial judge, they are obvious…to me, anyway.

First of all, hunting experience on wild upland game with wild upland game bird dogs. Experience developing a winning field trial dog and miles and hours of attendance at major field trials on different upland game birds.

A predilection in favor of the dog as competitor rather than the man handling the dog is absolutely primary, along with the integrity that this suggests. Judges should know “class” when they see it, and place it above sanctity.

Briefly, “class” can be recognized in the gait, reach, forward direction, intensity and rigidity on point and obvious lust of the hunt and courageous stamina. Recognition of a dog’s more efficient use of his scent receptors is a “separating” measure just as the amount of territory hunted individually, are measures.

Kindness, civility and a generosity of spirit are also to be desired in a judge, rather than the qualities of imperious infallibility and dictatorial attitude.

Field trial judges should be proficient riders and be in good health.

And, finally, a good judge must be completely conversant with the Minimum Standards of the FDSB and the AFTCA Rules of Running.



Running Dog


Strideaway is an online publication founded in 2008. We are dedicated to promoting the great sport of American pointing dog field trials, in particular American Field sanctioned trials for pointers and setters. Our objective is to present the voices and ideas of experienced trainers, handlers, breeders and other knowledgeable participants and enthusiasts from the past to the present — amateurs and professionals alike. Whether All-Age or Shooting Dog, Horseback or Walking Trials, we place particular emphasis on wild bird field trials and the dogs that compete in them. We present richly illustrated articles and stories, podcast interviews and other types of media on a regular basis with the hope of providing an ever expanding, searchable archive of information relevant to pointing dog field trials.Read article

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